"Raw Pace" (circles) = split information for each mile ... "smoothed" (plus signs) = pace averaged over adjacent miles ... "smoother" (filled area) = further re-averaged pace data

October Toast

The 2004 Marine Corps Marathon is a struggle for me almost from the start. I cross the finish line after five and a half hours, slower than in any previous marathon. (OK, there was a 26.2 mile solo "Zimmarathon" on 29 Aug 2004 that took me a little over six hours; see HoofTime (31 Aug 2004).) Overall it's a good experience --- but the huge crowds and hypercommercial atmosphere remind me how much more I enjoy low-key local distance running events ... or simply jogging alone through the woods.

The weather is the main factor: near-record high temperatures (starting in mid-60's F and rising to upper-70's F) and oppressive humidity until mid-day when a front comes through and brings dryer (but not cooler) air. This is the first marathon in which I think seriously about quitting, beginning at mile 5 (!) and persisting until about mile 20, at which point I figure that I may as well just go on to the finish. I have the pleasure of riding to/from the race and starting with Adam Safir, a runner (and triathlete) who lives only a mile from my home but whom I have heretofore only met electronically (he's a funny and thoughtful person --- see ). About the 6.5 mile mark I realize that I need to cut my pace significantly and start taking walk breaks, so I give Adam my blessings and he goes on to finish ~20 minutes in front of me.

Before the race I dither about footwear and eventually decide to wear two pairs of socks. That choice likely saves me from blisters, in spite of iffy soles less than a month after a 50 mile experiment (see Tussey Mountainback 2004 (8 Oct 2004)) where I suffered significant foot woes. In an attempt to preempt leg cramps I drink large quantities of water and sports-drinks (Gatorade, Powerade, etc.) before the race and at aid stations every 2-3 miles. I also suck down packets of cake-frosting-like vitamin-mineral-energy-goo concoctions (Honey Stinger, Clif Shots, GU, etc.). I bring 2 packets with me in my pouch and eat them at miles 4 and 8, then take 3 more from a Marine at mile 14 and consume them, plus a couple more that I pick up unopened from the street. They seem to help: in spite of much sweating I only began to get cramps in my calves after mile 21. That pain is relatively mild and responds well to extra walk breaks. (I speculate that sodium and/or potassium loss is a major factor in my suffering.)

At Mile 24 Sharon McNary, a Clif Bar pace group leader, overtakes me. She is attempting, without much luck, to do the mental arithmetic of subtracting 4:59:52 from 5:02:17 --- a feat that may seem less than arduous from the perspective of an armchair observer, but which is in fact rather challenging after you've jogged a few dozen miles in the sun. I help Sharon with the math and we discover that she's more than 2 minutes ahead of schedule for a 5:30 finish time.

So 5.5 hours becomes my impromptu goal as well. Sharon is great fun to run with: she sings comic songs, waves a baton in the air bearing multiple balloons, tells silly jokes, shouts encouragement, and chants cadences for those near her to repeat. I tag along until mile marker 26 when my legs request a bonus walk break in recompense for their good work thus far. I grant them their wish, and then "sprint" the final hundred yards to cross the line.

Miscellaneous Moments

Biggest Lesson Relearned

No bad spell lasts forever!

Official Stats

Best Memory

On Thursday, three days before the race, I walk toward the hotel where race packets (containing numbered bibs, sensor chips, commemorative shirts, etc.) are being distributed. A young lady --- short, somewhat chubby --- is staggering along the sidewalk in the same direction. She suffers, apparently, from muscular dystrophy or some other neuromotor disease. She takes a step, trips, and falls forward onto her hands and knees. I try to help her back to her feet, but she gently brushes me off.

"Thank you," she says, "I can make it."

I see her behind me later, in the long lines that snake through the hotel concourse toward the packet pickup area. She smiles and waves ...

(see also Bless the Leathernecks (28 Oct 2002), Rocky Run (17 Nov 2002), Marathon in the Parks 2003 (11 Nov 2003), Washington Birthday Marathon 2004 (23 Feb 2004), Medallic Memories (22 Aug 2004), ... ))

TopicRunning - TopicPersonalHistory - 2004-11-07

(correlates: Comments on 2008-09-21 - Bachman Valley Half Marathon, RockCreekParkMarathon2005, PeepingSam, ...)

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