MCM Part 2, 8-11 a.m.
805. The start line inflatables are icons for how huge the Marine Corps Marathon is for runners. The announcer is telling us it's the fourth largest crowd in marathon history (anywhere). Music kicks in to pump up those of us who might possibly, per chance, still be calm. Ha!
Jeanne and I work our way up the side of the elite runners, the fast runners and the almost fast runners; beyond the Scarlet group altogether. I glanced once or twice at the crowds to see if Bex or Rich are there. Ha again! I see an ambulance in the middle of the runners over the crest of a rise, still a ways up. I am heartened and lead Jeanne on.
810. There's the ambulance. It's the only one around and it has '14' on it. Where's Michelle? I give Jeanne a hug and wish her well. She trudges off to the deepest end of slow pace group runners. I head to the side and look around. No sign of Michelle. I flip open my phone and it rings and rings. Finally she answers and we both start waving our arms in the air to find each other. AHHHHhhhhh!
815. Marines show off their new airplanes in a flyover. Big prop birds. I am curious what their specialty is. I leave my cell phone with M's hubby. He and Dad look relaxed and prepared. Michelle looks confident and focused. I fall into that mentality too. We bid adieu and wade out into the crowd to avoid the barricades down range from us. We kill time talking about our strategy. My watch is set for 9:50 timer repeats. We both expect a slow start and plenty of chances to catch up and maintain the smooth and strong race pace to reach our goals. We both believe we can do it.
840. We move up to the corrals vacated by the Scarlet wave that has already begun. I am wishing I had a 50 gallon garbage bag to haul off all the left behind sweatshirts, caps and gloves. In fact, I think that thought several times over the next two miles as we come across dropped duds for a long ways.
855 Rosslyn. We start, heading out of Arlington Cemetery to Rosslyn in a big slow wave. I avoid clothing, lines of walkers blocking the road, slow runners and the usual congestion of a big race. We stay together and look forward to heating up a little so we can drop our extra clothing. At an overpass, Michelle's hubby and dad were up there all alone. We waved and hollered and Dad unrolled his handmade cheer sign but held it upside down. We and everybody else starting hollering to him to turn it over. We snickered our way under the bridge and he still had it wrong; but eventually the runners behind us all cheered as he finally got it right. That was a hoot. The first mile we took for what it was - slow 11:11.
906 Lee Highway. Traffic was jammed along the highway as we ascended the most serious hills of the course. The road was smooth but the crowd was tough to navigate. There was one runner pushing a three seat jog stroller, two seats filled with kids and the other with supplies. Brave man, he was. At the crest of the hill we reached the two mile marker in 10:55. I was starting to perspire instead of shiver.
917, Mile 3. We zipped through some wide streets with a few slopes and turned downhill to run for the river. The road was becoming less thoroughfare and more residential so we were liking it. Closer to target, we hit the mile marker at 9:59.
927 Key Bridge. The crowd around us had that weekend long run frame of mind, it seemed, cruising along; some feeling frisky and passing in a flurry. There were no spectators, just a shady down slope route to water. I asked Michelle when she expected we might see Hubby and Dad again and she told me they'd be at the Key Bridge. We started to strip off our gloves and top shirts in anticipation. I jumped the road onto a grassy shoulder at one point to pass a slew of slowpokes. M followed. It reminded me of cross country and then of uneven ground and sprained ankles. I got back on the road. Mile 4 and M's men were right at the bridge along with a bevy of supporters. A quick stop to drop clothes went quickly and we had our first on-pace mile of 9:50.
937 Georgetown. Crossing the bridge was pleasant. We were able to cool off finally and the crossing was quick and scenic as we gazed upon the approaching architecture of Georgetown. A sweep down the main business street included a lot more cheering fans, a Starbucks we entertained a thought to stop at, and a realization that we would not be back to Virginia for awhile. Before long we hit Mile 5 in 9:55. M said it was time for Gu.
947 Orange Mile 6. Michelle started talking about the "next port-a-potty" but each one we passed had a line. While in the loop of roads that put us on Rock Creek Parkway I indulged in some orange slices offered by volunteers. Soon we were climbing the gradual slope up through Rock Creek. Fans were along the route cheering, the most successful situated under overpasses where their cheers echoed off the concrete. First wave runners were already coming back down the parkway as we went up. We found some pace and my timer beeped sooner than before as we crossed the marker in 9:22.
956 Rock Creek Parkway. How much prettier could it be running in this park with all the fall colors overhead, woods on both sides, trails off to somewhere and a marching band in the median playing cadence for us? Well we won't call it pretty but Michelle said she was detouring into the underbrush. I did the same and, in granting her more privacy, I went further down the embankment, practically to the creek. Little did I know how badly I needed to go. By the time I got back up to the road Michelle was already running on. She stopped and looked around and my panic abated. We kept on together but lost a minute to the woods. 10:35.
1006 Mile 8. We crested the parkway and turned back down. There was the man with the three kid jog stroller again plugging away. We took water close to the 8 mile mark and were on cruise control. No more clothes to shed. No more potty stops. Let's rock. 9:17. Whoa! That may have been too much rocking.
1015 Mile 9. So where will we see Dad and Hubby next? Michelle told me exactly where and sure enough they were at the base of Rock Creek Parkway holding up their day glo signs of encouragement. These guys were exhibiting some very punctual performance. We were good, didn't need anything and waved to them as we passed by. 9:31 pace.
1024 Kennedy Performing Arts Center. The air was cooler. The crowds were thinner and the road was flat. It was a nice stretch of running before the Gauntlet of Love up ahead on the Mall. 9:32. Making up time fairly well.
1034 The White House. We had an appointment to see W but we were late so skipped it. The immense and frothy crowds of spectators made running along Constitution Ave. an experience to remember. I soon realized I was running with a celebrity because everybody kept saying, "Go Michelle," or some variation every 40 yards or so. Oh; wait a minute. This savvy running chick had her name taped to her shirt. That's how she does it. Time: 9:08. Good grief. We were smoking. All that smooth, strong and s-l-o-w talk I'd given myself was getting lost in the cheers.
1043 Can I see my congressman? We approached Capitol Hill passing museums and people by the Metro load. We had some water in this mile to cool us down which was becoming necessary. We got back to some reality pace in 9:33.
1052 Smithsonian. The halfway mark was up ahead. As we turned west on the return leg parallel Independenence Avenue I began to feel the forecast wind blow. It started to become an annoyance. Michelle was not as bothered it seemed but I labored a little more to keep up. We hit M13 in 9:58 and a 2:10 half marathon time.
1102 WWII Memorial. I never saw the memorial but it was there, just beyond the Washington Monument. Like the military support team they are, M's hubby and dad were there at the 14th mile marker ready to change out fluid supplies for Michelle. She opted to drop her belt and plug on from there. I took on some Gatorade with appreciation and paused for an unattractive picture (me, not Michelle).
We reached the Studdlies (as Michelle calls them) in 10:57. The headwind must have been a factor. Yeah. That's it. It was then that Michelle asked me if I minded if we went on at our own pace. I said no, absolutely not; and she put in her ear buds and moved on. I slipped in right behind her heading for the Tidal Basin. That was the last time I saw her until X-Y-Z.