Now that my endorphins have settled and my feet have returned to a semi-functioning state, I can say definitively that my Marine Corps Marathon experience was a success. Sunday morning brought clear skies, great weather, and hordes of eager runners ready to hit the trail.
After clearing security at the starting area near Memorial Avenue in Arlington, I joined the mass of runners peering up to the sky to watch skydivers, including Medal of Honor recipient Ret. Marine Cpl. William Kyle Carpenter, descend to Earth before the 7:55 AM start. Carpenter went on to compete in the race, along with the honorary starter, actor Sean Astin from Rudy and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Once the opening ceremonies were complete, the patter of nearly 60,000 sneakers sounded as runners slowly made it to the start line to begin their races. The weather continued to be agreeably sunny and cool; the only minor complaint I could offer is the gusty winds I encountered while crossing the I-395 bridge back into Crystal City between miles 20 and 21. Many people seemed to putter out on this bit, walking the length of the bridge or even pulling to side to stretch cramping legs.
Most of the course—winding its way through Georgetown, up and down Rock Creek Parkway and through South Potomac Park, and down the mall before finally ending in Rosslyn next to the Marine Corps War Memorial—was much more scenic than the bridge, which helped distract me from my throbbing feet. And when questions like “Why am I doing this?” and “I can still say I ran a marathon even if I walk a few miles, right?” popped into my head, they were quickly dispelled by the cheers of thousands of volunteers and spectators lining the roads, holding hilarious posters and shouting encouragement. That—okay, and the motivation of unlimited pizza brunch awaiting me after the race—kept me pushing to the finish line.
Fittingly, the Armed Forces were well represented at the top of the podium, with two members of the Army finishing first in the men and women’s categories. US Army Specialist Samuel Kosgei, 30, from Junction City, Kansas, finished first in the men’s category at 2:22:11 in his inaugural MCM race. New Jersey native and US Army Capt. Meghan Curran, 29, snagged first place in the women’s division with a time of 2:51:46, all the more impressive for her being a first-time marathoner. Arlington natives Michael Wardian, an ultramarathoner, and Graham Tribble came in fourth and fifth overall, respectively, finishing ten seconds apart (2:25:45 and 2:25:52).
And me? I was just happy to come close to catching Oprah Winfrey, who ran the race in 1994 in 4:29:15. I came in just 14 seconds later. Looks like I have a new goal to beat next year.