Marine Corps Marathon – The Ultimate Spectator’s Race! #37thMCM

I was extremely excited to be taking my 7 year old (soon to be 8 on Halloween – today!) with us to D.C. to watch Jeff run the Marine Corps Marathon last weekend. Jeff and I often take running trips without her so this was the first time where I could relax and hang out with her while Jeff ran (yup, it’s good to be me).

We surprised Samantha by signing her up for the kid’s 1 mile run that was on Saturday – she seemed to take it okay – until she started running. She has no concept of pacing herself (not sure many 7 year olds do) and as I followed on the outside of the course in as many places as I could – I saw her walking and looking at me saying “I can’t, I’m tired”.

Proud finisher!!

Then someone would pass her and she would take off sprinting. I was thrilled for her when she finished and she was pretty proud of the medal…she also declared that she will NEVER run a marathon. All in all the kid’s race was wonderfully put together and I felt completely at ease that she was protected while running the course that was completely lined with Marine’s – I would highly recommend this run!

Our hotel, the Residence Inn at Pentagon City, was perfectly situated across the street from the Pentagon (we literally had a view of the Pentagon from our room!). Samantha and I hit the hotel pool and the mall (walked 1 ½ blocks) while Jeff attempted to rest. I spent some time after dinner mapping out my plan to see Jeff on the course as many times as we could. I think it took me over an hour to pack 2 backpacks of extra clothes, gloves, ponchos, maps, metro cards, snacks, and drinks just for Samantha and I to take on our journey the next day.

Long walk in the dark…

Samantha was ready to go as soon as she woke up at 6:15am, I was not – it was too early and dark…and I wanted to see how easy it was to get on that super-close shuttle I saw the day before. We procrastinated in the room until 7:00am and then we were off. I immediately asked a group of Marines across the street from the hotel if the shuttles were running for spectators – they replied that there were no shuttles – huh?! I wasn’t concerned about me, just about my 7 year old dragging her feet the entire way to the start. So I didn’t tell her how far the walk was and we set out with hundreds of other runners and spectators to make the 1.8 mile trek to the start line. About ¾ of a mile in came the first, “My legs hurt!” comment –ugh…I urged her to be a bit quieter because there were many people around us that were running 26.2 miles! It was a long, slow walk – but it was memorable. We could see the day breaking beyond the landscape of the city as the silhouettes of those behind us looked like a mob of people evacuating away from the tall buildings.

We made it to the start!

When we finally got to the start line it was horribly crowded and I clung to Samantha with a death grip (as she continually pulled away). I told her we would go up on the bank to see the start and as she headed that way I had to change our plan as I noticed dozens of runners using the bank as a port-a-potty (no shocker to me, but didn’t want to explain it to the child just yet!). We made our way around the 4:00 – 4:30 pace marker and the flood of runners began their race as the music blared. I’ve been a MCM spectator in the past – but I think it has been about 10 years ago – and boy have things changed! Watching 25K eager runners proceed to the starting mat was awesome – I was inspired and I was motivated – and yes, by now I was horribly jealous!

We knew we wouldn’t see Jeff in the crowd of runners – so after about 10 minutes we climbed up another bank and proceeded with hundreds of other spectators across the Memorial Bridge.

Treking across the Memorial Bridge…

We arrived around the Lincoln Memorial just in time to see some of the lead wheel chair racers – what a great sight to see them whizzing around the corner.



I decided we had time to do some sightseeing and so we headed to the Lincoln Memorial to snap some pictures and make a pit stop! We then made our way just before the 11 mile marker on Ohio Drive, SW and waited for Jeff. Samantha was certain he was last as hundreds of runners made their way by us. She sat on the curb and rang her cow bell (which someone kindly gave us the day prior!).

Posing on the Lincoln Memorial steps…

I had this thing timed our perfectly – about 15 minutes later, here comes Jeff! And luckily he saw us! We packed up our map and headed to our next location – we made our way to Independence Ave just before mile 16 – and just like clockwork we spotted him again! He slapped Samantha’s hand as he ran by and we cheered him on. Now I become a bit confused as to where we should go next…so we stop just after mile 17 around 15th and Independence and literally 3 minutes later here comes Jeff again! I was so tickled that I had this down so easily! This really is a spectators course! We found our way to Jefferson Davis Drive, just after mile 19, and waited it out again – about 20 minutes this time before we spotted our runner! Smiling this time – yeah!

Enough walking for now, we head to the Smithsonian metro (which was directly behind us) and hop on the train. I thought I had it all figured out and was beaming as we jumped off at the Crystal City stop – but…as we walked down the hill out of the metro station I spotted Jeff running by – DRATS! I’m irritated now…and have no clue what to do…and to top it off…I’m a bit disoriented as my phone battery is almost dead and I have no idea which way to go. So we get back on the metro…Samantha keeps asking me what stop we are getting off on – I can’t decide…so we stay on until the Arlington Cemetary stop – mile 25 1/2 on the course. I am sure we have missed him and he is done by now…but then I get the text telling me his projected finish is 3:57 – he has slowed down. I’m worried now and wish I was out there running with him. I even call Jeff’s Mom to ensure I didn’t miss a text/email regarding his finish and ask her to call me on my 1990s flip cell phone that I have with me as a spare – dang battery in my smartphone is making me angry. At mile 25 1/2 (which is also the starting line) it is mobbed with spectators cheering. Samantha finds yet another steep bank and rolls up and down and runs up and down…she is occupied…and I look at the mob of runners without taking my eye off her. I keep checking my phone and I get more anxious as the minutes tick away…he’s fallen off pace…I hope he is ok…and then here he comes…I am soooo happy to see him and at this point he actually looks good and he waves. I’m thrilled he is almost finished!

Mile 25.5…looking good!

Samantha and I head back to the metro and proceed quickly back to the Pentagon City station because we have to check out of the hotel. As I step onto the metro – Jeff calls…I’m extremely proud of him and happy for him, but I know he was hoping to run faster – we talk for a minute and agree to meet back closer to the hotel. The finish area is packed and I decided not to try to go over that way since we had to get out of our hotel – and we wanted to get out of town before Hurricane Sandy arrived (lucky for us we live 1 1/2 hours away). I later learn about how awful Jeff felt for the last few miles and I’m just thankful he finished. I know he is capable of a faster marathon, but for now he is stuck with yet another 3:58 finish. Setting aside time, he ran the MCM – one of the largest, well-known marathons ever – and he is pretty darn proud of that huge medal that a Marine put around his neck – and I can’t say as I blame him…marathon #3 for Jeff is complete!

To sum it up – the MCM is a wonderful spectator marathon and so easy to navigate around. I was bummed we missed seeing Jeff at the  location in Crystal City like I planned, but very happy that we saw him all the other times….and extremely happy the weather held out!  I highly recommend family and friends to go with your runners to this event – you will enjoy the race and the sights of DC at the same time!

Cutest cheerleader on the course…


  1. I’ve had mixed thoughts about MCM, but posts like this make me reconsider. I think my son would love a trip like this. But then again I’ve also internally said I’m taking time off from a marathon. :)