Friday, August 1, 2014

Marine Corps Marathon 2007

The Marine Corps Marathon Expo was huge. This was the biggest marathon event I'd been at to this point, so I was pretty impressed. Still am impressed, by the way; the organization of this marathon is a testament to the hard work of the countless marines who get involved, and obviously to the skill and commitment of the organizers as well.

Loved some of the little touches at the expo such as the Marine Corps motorcycle pictured above. The Marine Corps Marathon is called "The People's Marathon"  and, like a marine, it lives up to the billing. The flyovers of some of the coolest planes in the world at the beginning was worth the price of admission alone. Things like a welcome note from the president of the United States in the participant literature, the wandering Abe Lincoln at the expo, put a stamp on this event. The hills in this one aren't ridiculous, but they do keep the top elite types out of the race, so this emphasizes that it's about the rest of us and about giving it the old boot camp effort. Even the drill sergeant near the end (just before a crazy steep hill that leads up to the finish line) was encouraging, demanding, and, shockingly, smiling.

The Marine Corps Marathon is one of the big ones, and it was the biggest I had run to date at that time. So I was (and still am) impressed by the crowd of runners that never thinned out, and by the unending statues and monuments that I'd only seen on TV or in movies before. The spectators were awesome, but I have to admit I was paying more attention to the monuments. It was an absolutely perfect day, sunny, not too warm, a soft autumn feel to the air.

Two things were not so great about the race. After crossing the finish line, we had to stop for quite a while (over 10 minutes, not sure of the exact time) in a standing crowd bottlenecked to go through food lines. There was no alternative route around, either. I had to sit down or keep moving, and there was nowhere to sit and nowhere to go.

The other negative was the wait for shuttle buses at the end. We waited, no exaggeration, for over 2 hours. Although we had fun chatting to the guy who runs Cooperstown (he ran the marathon as well), we'd have much rather been back at our room.

There was enough Marine involvement to put a clear brand to the event, but at all times everyone was made to feel welcome. I think for me that was the key; all of those huge hulking Marines smiling and totally committed to making sure questions were answered, directions given, water stations run seamlessly. Can't emphasize enough how important that is to the feel of a race, the sense that everyone involved is enthusiastic.
Pictures with a full dress Marine and bulldog at the Iwo Jima memorial at the end was a pretty cool idea that the organizers set up. .

We spent the week following the marathon touring around the Mall, visiting pretty much every museum, the legislature, etc. Touring the Smithsonian was one of the best vacations for me ever. That alone made the trip worthwhile. If the marathon itself totally sucked, it would still have been an enormously satisfying trip. I think everyone should visit this king of all museums; modern Western civilization is all here, endlessly fascinating.

Would I run this one again? Hell yes. I will one day, guaranteed.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

First Toronto Yonge Street 10K

This race wasn't even on my radar before I was talked into signing up for it in 2012. I tend to run very few 10 km races, for one thing. So when a friend whom I had been badgering to start running suggested the Toronto Yonge Street 10k, I reluctantly agreed to run it with him.

See, I had this erroneous idea that running a 10k would somehow screw up my marathon training. After all, I ran ten km training runs three times a week, and longer runs of 20 to 30 km on weekends. What would be the point, right?

So I spiced it up a bit. Stayed at my daughter's place the night before, ran 8 km to the starting line and 5 km back to her place post-race. Made the race part of a long run. I needn't have done that, though, because it was more than enough fun and challenge without that extra mileage.

First and foremost, seeing the excitement and nervousness of my friend at the starting line of his first 10k race was really cool. Talking him down (while also trying to drive him crazy with fear, of course; who said I'm a sympathetic kind of guy??) was loads of fun. And, like every race with a lot of entrants, the excitement and camaraderie of the starting area is always worth the experience.

The Toronto Yonge Street 10k is fast. With a net downhill gradient and a virtually straight beeline down the most famous, most well-known street in Canada, you almost can't NOT get a PR (read that twice). The crowds are impressive in both size and enthusiasm. The weather in mid-April is perfect for a fast race. What's not to love?

So, yes, I gave it all I had and turned in a PR performance. My wife and kid were on the sidelines at about the halfway mark, so it was a great photo op as well. I had one of the most memorable races ever, lots of hoots and hollers and just plain fun running going on all around me. It was a party; runners could just Go For It, unlike the marathons I was accustomed to running in which pacing and control are paramount.

My friend came across the finish line five minutes later, out of breath and ecstatic from his impressive triumph. We hung out for a while with other friends who met us at the finish (and partook of the amazing bagels and other post-run fuel that was better than most marathons offer). And guess what? This focus on speed helped to expand my training focus for my Fall marathon such that I turned in a PR in that baby as well!

I'm excited about running the Toronto Yonge Street 10k in April 2014 in part because it was such a cool experience two years ago. It'll be a challenge coming off a significant injury, which is even better. It also comes at a strategically beneficial time in my training for my Spring marathon this year. Let's get on with the training!