Well, Sunday, Oct. 27, marked the end of the race season for me, the 38th Marine Corps Marathon, my annual swan song.
You know I donít set out to write about record times, or preach about unobtainable goals, but give you a peek into my humble little running life. So if youíre not absolutely convinced you should give running a go after reading this, please see the attendant.
Because Sunday was by far, one of the best days of my life.
Back track to March, when I managed to fight my way through the online registration process, and secure my spot in the marathon. Hands shaking in fact, as I hit the confirm purchase button, knowing the last weekend in October Iíd be running 26.2 miles. Not 26.3 as some people jest, because that would just be crazy.
Now fast forward just a little too early July when my 16-week marathon training officially started. I stuck to the plan (mostly) and over the summer ran when it was cool out, and diligently tracked my miles. Soon July became August, and August became September. And before I knew it, there were less than 50 days till the marathon. Yikes!!
Long runs seemed to consume my weekends toward the end. Friends would drop me off, and pick me up in very random locations.
I saw most of Rochester during my training, and quite a bit of Ontario County as well Ė 12, 14, 16, 18, 20 miles at a time. I didnít run those long runs for speed, just ran to log on the miles, knowing that on race day, everything would come together.
I drove down to Washington, D.C., hoping that last yearís marathon wasnít a fluke, and I actually had the ability to run a marathon more than once. Who really wants to be one and done, right? Iím convinced thereís more stress with running your second marathon than your first. Your first you only want to finish, your second you want to finish and look good doing it. And thatís where the training comes in, where the amount of work directly relates to your performance. Not saying there arenít people who have the natural ability to run a marathon, but most people have to work for it. My friend said to me just the other day, you donít just get to the Super Bowl, it takes a few years to build up the team.
So what made this race so great? What made it one of the most memorable five hours of my life?
From the moment I got in line at the DC Armory with a few thousand other runners to pick up my bib, and searched the expo for the perfect Marine Corps Marathon sweatshirt, every bit was equally amazing. The smiles were contagious, and each and every Marine was so proud to be a part of the weekend. Now obviously things would be different if I hadnít prepared, if I didnít do the work, if I came in weak.
But I was ready. I was ready to soak in the day. I was ready to run.
From the moment my alarm went off race morning, I knew I was absolutely going to enjoy the day, enjoy the run and remember as much as I could. Because no photographer is going to capture it all (no offense to the photographers reading this.) But nothing will ever capture the cheering, or the high-fives that absolute strangers are giving you. When I tell you thousands, and thousands, and thousands, and thousands of people are cheering you on, Iím not lying, Iím not even exaggerating.
Talk about living for the applause. This was it. Five hours of pure adrenaline, beginning when the howitzer went off.
And this is where Iím saying you have to enjoy the day, because in a few blinks I was at the finish line.
I zipped through Roslyn and flew over the Key Bridge. Helicopters were buzzing around and before I knew it, I was running through beautiful Georgetown. Blink again, and I was headed through Rock Creek Park (with 30,000 other runners) and underneath the back of the Kennedy Center along the Potomac. Blink again, and I was halfway done, on my way to Haynes Point, surrounded by hundreds of Marines and volunteers that lined the way with American flags and memorials to fallen soldiers.
Blink again, and I was circling the Mall, enjoying the awe-inspiring views of the Jefferson Memorial, the Capitol building (needless to say there were hundreds of signs that said ďYou run better than CongressĒ) and sooner than expected, I was headed over the 14th Street bridge on the way to Crystal City ó knowing I was in the homestretch.
Running those last few miles alongside the Pentagon, and coming up to Arlington Cemetery, I got choked up ó same point as I did last year, knowing that in a few minutes it would be over. Months and months of mental and physical training would be over.
I began to tear up, and it got a little harder to breathe as I turned the last corner, ready to give it one last push to the Iwo Jima Memorial. I crossed the finish line, hands in the air, recognizing Iíd pushed myself for all the right reasons and it was truly an amazing day. Of course, a few hundred Marines in uniform didnít hurt things.
Start planning your goals for next year, dream bigger than you ever have, and Iíll see you at the finish line.
Nicole LeClair Jones is the Special Events Coordinator for Camp Good Days and Special Times, which serves children and families affected by cancer. Sheís the mother of two young children, and an avid runner (5:50 a.m. youíll find her running somewhere) Contact her at reporternick@gmail.com if youíre ever looking for a running partner or if youíve got a story idea.