|"Today you're a leaf on the wind!" I tell dear friend Kate Abbott as I abandon her at mile 18 of the Marine Corps Marathon. Kate goes on to finish in about 3:51:31, a Boston Qualifying (BQ) time — hooray! It's a massive improvement of her prior marathon personal record (PR), more than 10 minutes faster than she's ever run that distance. Yay Kate!|
Likewise comrade Jennifer Weiland sets a monster marathon PR today, 3:46:19, just short of a BQ for her age/sex cohort. Maybe she can try again at the upcoming Northern Central Trail Marathon, where we met 11 months ago and where she first finished sub-4 hours? Kudos and best of luck, Ms. J!
At 7:30am there are thin patches of ice on the bridge over the Beltway as I jog to Forest Glen Metro station. Part of the Red Line is single-tracking on Sunday morning and I arrive in Rosslyn a few minutes behind schedule. Plan: go to the middle of the Key Bridge, mile ~4.5 of the MCM, and expose myself — or more precisely, stand so that my crimson shirt and shorts are visible to the 20,000+ passing racers, in hopes that Jennifer or Kate or someone else who knows me will shout, so I can join them. A photographer nearby recognizes me from MCRRC, and when Rebecca Rosenberg, Emaad Burki, and Ken Swab appear he points them out. I leap from the shore into the current and trot along for half a mile or so. Rebecca and I chat; she's gliding under ~10 min/mi now, and accelerates later to finish in 4:14:04. Ken comes in 4:29:49 and Emaad is 4:20:21. Congratulations to all! (see GPS track file for this segment)
We figure out that Kate and Jennifer are an unknown distance ahead, so just after mile 5 when the course loops back I leave the cheery trio to wait on Macarthur Blvd near mile marker 8. Fast folk blast down the hill. Keith Knipling and several others greet me by name. (Apparently I'm recognizable enough that I shouldn't try to take any shortcuts in a real race.) Many shout their regards to "Santa Claus" or "ZZ Top" or simply "Bearded Man".
Then comrade Abbott materializes — hooray! We run a mile together; Kate's great, feeling strong, building up a time cushion by cruising at ~8:45 min/mi. Besides encouraging words I try to offer candy, gels, electrolyte capsules, etc., but she's doesn't need anything. Then as we descend Wisconsin Av to the Whitehurst Fwy near the Potomac, another surprise: Jennifer appears from behind us! We all run together for a while, but near mile 10 Jennifer wants to go a little faster. With Kate's permission, I accelerate to stay with her.
Jennifer and I talk and trot along at ~8:15-8:30 min/mi pace for half a dozen miles. I bump into her and almost knock her down at mile 12. We compare toenail counts — her 8 trumps my 9. Her son Asher's fourth birthday party is today, so she has to hurry home. We concur on the inspirational virtue of Lady Gaga's song "Edge of Glory" as we pass the end of Hains Point where huge speakers play mega-amplified music. "It's a good day," Jennifer says. "We should be happy that we can run." I concur.
"It's all good," I quote friend Caren Jew, and then cite the proverb, "Any day is a good day on this side of the grass." At an aid station near race mile 12 Jennifer grabs chocolate energy gels and gets icky goo on her fingers. I make her wipe them off on my cotton gloves. About mile 14 we spy Ft McNair across the water, which reminds Jennifer of the time she saw President Obama visiting there. At mile 15 I can't keep up the pace any more and bid her good-bye. She pauses to give me a big hug, then canters briskly out of sight. (see GPS trackfile for segments with Kate and Jennifer)
I catch my breath and tie Jennifer's extra outer shirts around my waist, to take home and wash. Within a few seconds Kate appears again — she was closer behind us than I expected. We run together back to the Lincoln Memorial where the course hooks again and heads along the north side of the Mall. "You're looking more buxom than usual!" I observe. Kate reveals that she's been storing excess gear up there (cf. my analogous anecdote HatBulge).
We make it past mile 18 together, but now I'm close to exhaustion. I take Kate's gloves and cap, give her a heartfelt benediction, and drop into a walk toward Union Station as she turns the corner in front of the Capitol building and heads into the final eight miles of her race. (see GPS trackfile for final segment with Kate)
Flocks of 10k medalists fill the train on the homeward trip. By the time I get back to my station I'm recovered enough to jog home, where I monitor results and vicariously celebrate Kate's and Jennifer's success. Some day maybe I'll go sub-4!
^z - 2011-11-11