The Marine Corps Marathon 10k: Giant Squirrels and Inspiration

This morning I ran my second Marine Corps Marathon 10k.

The MCM is a favorite race in D.C. and while people come from all over to do the full marathon, 10,000 runners come out to do the 10k that finishes in the same spot: the Iwo Jima Memorial.

Yes, that’s an inspirational sight, but you have to run straight up a steep hill to get there so sometimes you can’t take it all in properly because you’re too busy trying not to vomit. At least I've heard that can happen. But let’s start at the beginning.

I signed up alone for this race because I didn't know anyone else who wanted to do it but I knew it'd still be fun even running it on my own. Immediately, I started chatted with other runners around me, so it was totally fine. I started my trek to the start line by riding the metro, where the man sitting next to me saw me putting my money and keys into my Spibelt wristband and he commented on how handy the accessory was. That conversation spurred another man who was standing nearby to lean in and also admire the wrist band, and soon we were like a group of girls huddled at the sinks in the women’s bathroom checking out Brittany’s new bracelet. Ooooh – I love that, where’d you get it?! Ah, runners. We get excited by strange things.

I didn’t even have to think about where I was going because I could just follow the throngs of people getting of the metro in running clothes. I strolled directly into a port-a-john line since the lines were so long I knew I should get a head start. It was raining and suddenly all these umbrellas popped out in the line in front of me– who brings umbrellas with them in a race? Clearly I still have much to learn in this racing world.

I never made it to the port-a –john.

I mean, not like that, like I couldn’t hold it, just that I still had 20 people in front of me when I heard the race announcer yell “One minute to start!”

That startled me because I totally had in my head that the race started at 8:00 a.m., when it actually started at 7:55 a.m., which forced me to abandon my place in line and try to smoosh my way onto the course as the giant cannon thing went off, signaling the start of the race. (They use those for the Army 10 Miler as well, which always seems like a bad idea to me, given so many combat vets run both of these races and probably the last thing they want is to hear a giant BOOM and then see smoke, but eh - it’s tradition.)

Besides the start time, I was also confused on how far a 10k is, apparently. When we passed Mile Three I remember telling myself I only had 2/3rds of the race left to go (math: not my strong suit). A woman behind me belted out Bon Jovi’s “Oooooh! We’re halfway theeeeere!” and I realized – oh yeah three is half of six…. Which is how many miles a 10k is.

This is my brain on no coffee.

I entertained myself by looking for floss sticks and people I might know. I saw one Team Red White and Blue friend, but didn’t recognize anyone else until the end when I saw– Jose! Jose is the friend I “ran” into during the Army Ten Miler a couple years ago and we now try to make it a tradition to randomly find each other in races so we can catch up. I suppose we could just coordinate beforehand and actually plan to run together, but it’s more fun this way. It’s like a real life Where’s Waldo. 

Another thing I saw during the race? This guy:

Yep. That’s a giant squirrel. Not like a real squirrel, but a human inexplicably dressed as a giant squirrel, who was also wearing a shirt that said “pray for the priests.” So not only was it a giant squirrel, it was a giant Catholic squirrel, which was odd since everyone knows most squirrels are Presbyterian.

In related news: I've now added "giant squirrel" to the list of characters who have been faster than me in a race.

Anyway, I also ran behind a woman on her cell phone, which of course I had to document since – girl, I feel you:

woman today.

Dana's official race photo years ago.

Then I experienced the inspirational moments I always have during a military-affiliated race. An amputee on a hand cycle passed me at one point, I came up behind a double amputee actually running the race:

And of course the marines cheering us on along the course are awesome:

Near the end, there was even a biker gang cheering along the course. And finally I got to the best part - the Marines who congratulate you and put a medal around your neck at the end:

Have you ever had a better end-of-race reception than this?? (ok, fine, getting a Tiffany's necklace at the end of the Nike Women's Half marathon was slightly better, but that's an unfair comparison. Nothing can top fine jewelry. Not even an adorably happy Marine.)

I have to say, the MCM has the best post-race goodies as well. Dunkin Donuts, ice cream, free chap stick and hand sanitizer, reusable grocery bags, a whole box of food…. all kinds of things. And it’s on the way to the metro so it doesn’t require me to do anything but shuffle along in the direction I need to go anyway and be handed free items as I go.  It's like a really lazy Halloween night. Here are the spoils I had when I got home:

Here's what was inside the box (it included cheese, you guys. Best. Race. Ever.)

And finally, we also got a sweet rain jacket thingy at the end, complete with the phrase we all earned today: