Wednesday, October 30, 2013

MCM 10K: Then and Now

My first 10K was the 2006 Marine Corps Marathon 10K. The race itself was a mess. The marathon and the 10K both shared the same starting line, except they headed in opposite directions. So we were all lined up behind the marathoners (because where else were we supposed to line up?) and then after the marathon start, we were told to turn around and walk backwards until all 10K racers were behind the start line/balloon arch.

This basically left the slower runners at the front of the race and presumably faster runners toward the rear. Brilliant.

I spent the first half mile running around people already walking the race. The middle of the race I don't really remember. But I do remember the last turn before heading up the hill to the Iwo Jima Memorial: somehow, all the runners wound up in the right lane of the divided highway, and Marines were directing us to cross the grass-covered median to make the left turn onto Marshall Drive. Uhm, really?

Nevertheless, I hit my goal time and accomplished a new race distance. Wheee!

Since then, I've called the MCM 10K the ignored stepchild of the MCM, so it's kind of a surprise to me that I registered for this year's 10K. I can't even remember what thought process led me to the start line this year, although I suspect that I was enticed by the proximity of the start line to my home and also the course going over the dreaded 14th Street Bridge at mile 2.

Anyway, the 2013 race: I'd spent the 3 days prior to race day in New Hampshire, eating, drinking, and sleeping erratically. And my training this season was maintenance at best. So I didn't have high expectations for my run on Sunday. It was supposed to be a training (hah) run, and I planned to run the 1.5 miles to the start. I mean, I even had a frittata for breakfast. Who eats a frittata on race day??Basically, it was a huge question mark in my head whether I'd finish this race in under an hour.

So, I ran down to the Mall, did the port-o-potty thing, and then swung my legs over the metal barrier to get into the corral. Almost 4 minutes after the pistol went off, 7000 of my close friends and I crossed the start line.

The most noticeable thing for the next 5 miles is how blank and yet present my mind was. I noticed the turns around the Mall, the rhythm of the drum corps as I made my way onto the bridge, and the bridge itself (which, while boring, is pretty manageable in the first half of a race in comparison to the last half, which is where it hits in the Army Ten Miler and practically ever other race in VA/DC). I remember the turn off the bridge, the small loop around Crystal City, and then running around the Pentagon.

Things were feeling good.

And then, on cue, at mile 5, my legs turned lead.

Sweet baby deity, I realized, this was going to hurt. And there was still that annoying hill up to the finish.

I started picking out people to pass, like the dude wearing the inflatable cowboy riding a horse costume.

Turning up the hill, I was reminded of the first time I ran up it, when a spectator yelled at a runner near me, "Use your arms!" and I thought, "Hey! I have arms, too!"

And then there it was, the finish. And the clock. I squeaked in with my slowest 10K time, just under an hour, which was perfectly fine to me.