Marine Corps Marathon – Kids Race & Spectator Review

Warning – this is a LONG post! :)

“It’s okay if I’m not first – right, Mommy?” Samantha asked me about 15 minutes prior to her heat for the Healthy Kids Run last Saturday, 10/26. I smiled. Yup, I realize she is competitive by nature – but she is also competitive because she sees how Jeff and I race – and she hears us talking about our race times. And yeah, I might have told her that she should be able to run 1 mile without a problem since she has run a few 5Ks! She inched her way to the front of the pack and soon they were off! We waited by the fencing for her to pass – she looked strong and determined. I ran to the back of the parking lot to ring the cow bell and cheer for her, she kept a good pace. We all forgot to time her, we are thinking it was around 9 minutes.

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When she finished she was close to the front of her heat’s pack. She got a nice medal and a yummy snack bag. The kids race is very secure. The entire 1 mile course is fenced off and Marines line critical points and some are even on the course running with the kids. At the finish, the kids are funneled under a tent and into corrals corresponding to the last digit of their number. The parents have to show a claim ticket that matches the child’s number before they are released from the Marine’s. It kind of sounded funny as the Marine shouted “who has 14250?”, “who has 23542?”, who has “54235?” – as the kids waited patiently for their parents to “claim” them. The shuttle to and from the race site was – okay – there was miscommunication in the line on the way back and 2 buses loaded behind us…but all in all, this event  is extremely organized and the medal is very cool!

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The next morning I hear the clank of the microwave door shutting as Jeff eats his oatmeal at O-dark-thirty. UGH! Of course I wanted to tell him to KEEP IT DOWN – but my lazy butt was laying in the warm bed and I soon drifted back to sleep. Seemed like 5 minutes later Jeff was whispering “I’m leaving now – you think it is too early? It is 5:40?” HUH? WHAT? EARLY? Yes, of course it is too early – go back to bed and wake me up at 9am! Oh right, he was running a marathon…so what really came out of my mouth was “No, I don’t think it is too early”. I figured I should get up, so I cranked up the heat and got myself ready. Waking up the 8 year old 20 minutes later was a chore – she was more cranky then me  (if that is possible in the morning) and she spent 15 minutes fixing her hair! Finally at 6:40 we were out the door as we met Jeff’s Mom Ramona for our trek to the start line.

We were about 1 ½ miles from the start line – as we made our way through the Pentagon parking lot we could see the silhouettes of hundreds of people heading over the bridge in front of us – the sun just coming up made the outline of their figures dark as they marched, in what looked like single file, as they evacuated Washington, DC. What a view and how beautiful it was as the sky brightened with every step we made. All around us were runners – dressed in shorts, tights, sweatshirts, tank tops, and trash bags – it was one of those mornings where a runner struggles with what to wear. I longed to be one of the m, to be in my running attire, with a MCM bib proudly displayed on my shirt – I quickly pushed my selfish thoughts aside as we made our way to the security checkpoint. The line seemed daunting, but it didn’t take too long as we were filtered through to the Marines where we had to dump everything in our bags – the doughnut, the scone, the candy, everything! We then arrived at runners village  – Ramona couldn’t believe the port-a-potty lines! Samantha didn’t care – she wanted to use one, but we persuaded her to wait.

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We made our way to the start line staging area just in time to see the skydivers jumping out with American flags – breathtaking! We were lucky to position ourselves to the left of the starting line and in front of it – easy access to climb the bank in preparation for our next viewing area. Soon the runners were off – hundreds of eager, happy faces bouncing up and down in a tight pack – they all looked the same, where was Jeff? He picked out a bright green hat to wear – should be easy to spot him…and it was! Soon we saw him, smiling – heading right for us! We were thrilled to see him and he looked ready to conquer the 26.2 miles ahead of him. As thousands and thousands of runners continued across the start line, we stood in awe of the excitement. Every single runner was on their own mission today.

 

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I had a plan mapped out, so we made our way across the 14th street bridge. This is where we have a bit of a wait for the runners – so we played tourists for awhile and visited the Lincoln Memorial to snap some pictures. It was a gorgeous day and the sun was now warming us up as we decided where to stand next to see Jeff. We waited around mile 10.5 – we received his 10K split and knew precisely what time we would see him. And…we were right – there he was! But with his earbuds in, the tight pack of runners around him, and the loud cheering of the spectators he was unable to hear our screams of encouragement. We also missed our opportunity to exchange his water bottle – but we saw him – looking good!

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We watched some of the race leaders as we made our way to stand around mile 15.5. We could see the Jefferson Memorial just across the tidal basin from us – and we found a nice place to sit on the Kutz Bridge. We were spot on – soon Jeff was in sight. Samantha grabbed his water bottle and was able to make the exchange as if Jeff was grabbing his bottle from an elite water stop!

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And we were off…this time we quickly made our way up by the Washington Monument by mile marker 17. We couldn’t miss him here! Or could we – as we spotted him we noticed he was on the opposite side of the street…ugh…we all waved, screamed, and cheered…luckily he saw us – we probably looked like crazy people! He ran over and asked me to run with him for a few minutes. I so wished I had on my running pants and not jeans – at least I had on sneakers! He took a few sips of my water, said he wasn’t feeling the greatest…

CIMG4826but I knew he could do this. I ran back to my cheering team and we headed down Constitution Avenue to mile 19. I decided to dump my jacket and backpack and ran down the sidewalk against the race looking for Jeff. He seemed glad when I found him, but that was short-lived when he found a local running friend on the course and kind of dismissed me! I was just glad he was feeling better and had found someone to run with.

Ramona, Samantha, and I made our way to the Metro and after a longer wait than expected we boarded a grossly overcrowded train headed to Arlington Cemetery. Last year I made another stop in Crystal City, but it was hard to get there on time to see Jeff…this year Jeff’s Dad Jimmy was already in the Crystal City/Arlington area at mile 22 and 23.5 – so I opted to skip that stop. We had a “situation” getting off the metro because I didn’t have enough fare cards – UGH – and the 8 year old wouldn’t just go through the terminal directly in front of me so we could get going…I was trapped on one side of the exit and them on the other – and the metro attendant did not let me go through. I was not happy! The fare card machine was not working, so I grabbed an already used smart pass and hoped it worked…I think it did…or I may have been just a tad close to the women in front of me… We exited the metro and I knew exactly where to go to be at mile 25.5. We hit another snag when we had to go through a security checkpoint to get close to the course. They made us dump our small backpacks and told us we could not repack them, we had to carry all the contents with us. Huh?! Some people were getting through, the protocol differed from table to table at the checkpoint. Even the Marine’s working the checkpoint were arguing a bit about how the rules kept changing. We complied and made our way down to the course. Security is number one, and we did not argue.

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Close for comfort on the metro….

Luckily Jeff’s Dad kept us posted on Jeff’s progress through Arlington – so we had it timed out pretty good and had a great view of him running past us. To us, he looked great! His pace had fallen off and I knew he would be happy to finish but would wish he were faster – as most runners do. I was thrilled when he called me right after he finished and got his medal – he was exhausted, but proud! We walked the 1 ½ miles back to the hotel, picked up Jimmy, and headed to 23rd street to pick Jeff up after he got off the shuttle.

We were incredibly happy and proud to see him (and his awesome medal)! Another marathon done! We walked over 8 miles around the city that day – and got some awesome views of Jeff. Samantha was a little trooper keeping up with us the entire day – I was proud of her too for making the trek around the city. Next year maybe I will run the marathon too, if not someday…it’s an incredible race, a great spectator race, but I would like to experience it from the other side too.

 

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Jeff’s cheerleaders!