Miles 1794-1819, The Marine Corps Marathon (Part 2)
(Part 2 of 3)
Mile 10-Philip Ciulla
I got back up to speed faster than I expected. On M Street in Georgetown I caught up with the fella that stopped to help me and thanked him for his concern.
Wisconsin Avenue dropped down sharply and I took it easy on the hill. The numbness was fading from my knees, but remarkably, I didn’t feel any dire pain. Everything else hurt, mind you, from my bleeding elbows and hands to road burn on my chest and forearms, to my shoulders and back, which had caught the shock of the fall. Remarkably, my thumbs hurt worse than anything. They were already red and throbbing. They must have whipped against the pavement as I tried to catch myself.
We turned left and ran underneath the Whitehurst Freeway then turned right onto Potomac Parkway.
I wasn’t wearing an iPod, but the Theme from Rocky started playing in my head. In my opinion, there is no better piece of music to run to, no sound more inspiring, even when it’s only looping through one’s imagination. I moved away from feeling unsure about things and back into a state of certainty.
We cruised past the Watergate Complex. I had no idea it was still a hotel. How about that?
Mile 11-Bonnie J. Monte
Bonnie’s mile began, appropriately, behind the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. That place is huge!
The sidewalks became crowded with people who’d walked across the Memorial Bridge from the Start area. They were wonderful! So many people offered encouragement and support along this stretch and I couldn’t help but smile.
“Keep it up, Paddy!!!”
“Paddy Runs for Haiti-Woohooo!!!!”
I felt it. I absorbed it. I used it. I rode the tide of positivity like a surfer rides a wave, letting it push me down the road. I clapped and cheered back, “Thank You!….All Right!” and that made people cheer even more. It was incredible!
My support crew was supposed to be here somewhere, too. I hoped I wouldn’t miss them amidst all the other people.
Joe made sure that wouldn’t happen. Just after passing the Lincoln Memorial, I heard his unmistakable bellow,
They were up ahead, cheering hard and waving the banner like champs; just the thing I needed to inspire me for the next section of the course. I nearly spat out a mouthful of gummi bears cheering back at them. It’s awesome to feel people you love supporting you like that. It’s a feeling I wish everyone could experience at some time in their lives.
The crowds and noise began to fade as we headed south on Ohio Drive towards Hain’s Point.
Mile 12-Mary Trotter
We ran along the Potomac near the FDR Memorial. Near the mouth of the Tidal Basin, a pair of handcyclists pulled up next to me. The lead guy was having a tough time. He was busy shouting for people to get out of his way, which was no simple job since some runners were wearing earphones. They couldn’t hear the guy unless he was right behind them screaming his head off. To make his job even harder, his buddy was evidently a newbie.
“CLEAR THE LEFT!” the lead guy shouted hoarsely, ”CLEEEEEARRR THE LEEEEEEEEEEEEFT!!!!”
Then to his buddy,“Downshift for the bridge, Billy……Downshift.”
“Clear the-I SAID DOWNSHIFT DAMMIT!!!!”
“AW, DAMMIT BILLY, JUST DO IT!!! Clear the-WATCH OUT!!!!!”
It certainly a day that would test everyone…
We crossed a little bridge and passed the George Mason Memorial, one of my favorites. A statue depicts the founding father sitting idly on a stone bench in a moment of quiet repose, legs crossed, hat off, like he’s just taking a break and enjoying the day.
We kept going south along the river and though the road wasn’t particularly exciting, it was at least shady and flat.
I was still passing people at a gradual rate, which was encouraging; even more so because by this time I was among the serious runners. Nobody here was in an old cotton T-shirt from a Turkey Trot 5k, these were real runners wearing hi-tech performance shorts and matching dri-fit shirts, with fancy chronograph/GPS/heart monitors strapped to their wrists. I was punching above my weight again.
Mile 13-Ellery Klein
Hain’s point marks the southern end of the long, narrow island on the south side of the Tidal Basin. Besides the Jefferson Memorial and a highway interchange, the island is mostly taken up by the East Potomac Park Golf Course. Massie told me that this was another dead zone offering very little in terms of scenery and no crowd support whatsoever. Though the river was nice to look at, his description was otherwise accurate. Knowing what to expect helped a lot, though. In a way, the quiet was kind of nice. It made it easy to focus on running calmly and evenly.
I chugged along behind a Danish Royal Engineer for a while. He was at least 6'4 and nothing but muscle. The guy was huge!
Someone had written out signs with encouraging messages and put them along the road. They were wonderful and whoever put them up has a big hug coming to them. I remember a few of the messages:
“You’re stronger than you think!”
“Chuck Norris never ran a marathon!”
“I don’t know you, but I am so proud of you.”
If I could meet the person who put up those signs I’d say, ”I don’t know you, but I am so grateful to you.” Those signs were great motivation.
I grabbed a sports gel from a Marine at a food station.
“Thank You, Marine!”
The Marines were pretty awesome.
Mile 14-Colin McPhillamy
The race was half over!
A group of people had been stationed at the end of Hain’s Point, or Hate’s Point, as Massie called it, just to add some life to an area otherwise devoid of spectators. They were great! They cheered and clanged cowbells and noisemakers.
They were led by a woman who was….extremely enthusiastic. Like frighteningly enthusiastic. Like Italian-soccer-fan-about-to-win-the-world-cup-crazy-enthusiastic. She was literally jumping up and down, shouting into a bullhorn, but I don’t think the device could cope with her output. It actually made her softer! Nevertheless, I appreciated her zeal and was glad she and her bullhorn had come out for us.
We made the turn and started the run back towards the National Mall. I pulled up next to a lean, muscled guy wearing a white running visor, hi-tech shades and a coordinated black and brown running kit. He looked like a serious, no-nonsense competitor. I was caught off guard when he asked me in a broad Appalachian Accent,
“Did you fall?”
If an elderly Asian woman in a kimono and slippers walked up to me and started reciting Beowulf in the original Anglo-Saxon, I could not have been more surprised than I was when this gentleman spoke. The voice and the appearance were so incongruous.
“I sure did.” I said.
“I fell once, too.” he said and amazingly, he described how he was running in another marathon when he snagged his foot on a metal hoop lying in the road and got taken to the pavement.
“That’s the exact same thing that happened to me!” I said incredulously.
Mile 15-Rich Dionne
I looked down to see how my knees were doing. Blood had run down both legs and soaked into my socks. Though other parts of me still hurt, especially my throbbing thumbs, (I can’t believe how much they hurt!) surprisingly, my knees weren’t painful at all.
Suddenly, a big white and green Sea King Helicopter swept low and loud right over the top of us. I swear I saw the Presidential seal glinting off the side of it. Had the President just given us a flyover? Maybe he was checking in to see how Massie was doing?
Despite the presidential benison this was, unfortunately, where I hit the first wall. That ease of stride wasn’t coming like it had been and I was working to maintain my pace. An empty kernel of fear grew inside me, telling me I didn’t have enough gas to get to the finish. I stayed calm, told myself to run as fast or slow as I needed to, and that I was definitely, definitely going to finish. In my head, I turned up the volume on the Rocky music to drown out the other voices. The Support Crew were supposed to be just up ahead; hopefully they’d give me a lift.
Mile 16-Kathleen and Kathryn Ferrara
We continued around the Tidal Basin and turned left onto Independence Avenue. While crossing the Kutz Bridge, I looked at the Jefferson Memorial across the water to the south. I took a picture in my mind, to remember just how beautiful it was this morning.
I saw a woman holding a sign that said “There will come a day when you can’t do this. Today is not that day.”
I know all this motivational shit sounds so cheesy, but you gotta buy into it. It’s so helpful and inspiring and, to me, all the positivity and the focus on simply doing your best epitomizes what I like most about running.
There were even fewer runners around me now so it was easy to look down the road and find the Support Crew. I saw the banner from a long way away and forgot all about being tired. This time I could get over to their side of the road and get some high-fives. I wanted to stop and hug them all and tell them all how much I appreciated their love and support, but I had to keep moving. The 3-Hour Marathon was still a possibility.
Not far down the road, we made a U-turn around the median and headed back down the other side of Independence Avenue.
Mile 17-Celeste Ciulla
Mom, Joe and Denise gave me high-fives and a huge cheer as I went by. To catch me going the other way, they’d had only to turn around. I was so glad they were there. I got some energy back and forgot about being tired for a while. A few yards further on, a Mom crossing the street with her kids nearly ran into me. That was all I needed; to fall down twice!
Independence Avenue took us near the Korean War Memorial and also the huge WWII Memorial. I kept chugging towards the Washington Monument.
I was sliding further down the slope of tiredness and spent a lot of this mile motivating myself, coaching myself into keeping up the pace.
The marching band from Spotsylvania High School was stationed here. I really appreciate them for getting up and coming out to entertain us, but they sounded like they’d rather be anywhere other than playing music for runners on a chilly autumn day in Washington. The weary music they played was right in line with how I was feeling.
We turned onto 15th street near the Washington Monument, crossed the Mall then made a right turn onto Madison Avenue. Last December, from that very corner, 15th and Madison, Denise and I stood in the cold while the President’s motorcade drove by.
My original strategy, concocted weeks ago, probably while I was lounging comfortably on a porch in New Jersey sipping a glass of wine, was to take it easy over the early parts of the course and then really open it up here on the Mall. (I realize that’s not a particularly complex strategy, but give me a break, it’s running, not chess) That plan, basic as it was, was out the window at this point. I was struggling to maintain my current pace, let alone put out any speed.
We cruised past some of the Smithsonian buildings including the Museums of American and Natural History as well as the National Archives.
The Mall was not particularly crowded with spectators, which surprised me. For some reason I thought that people would be flocking here.
Concludes in Part 3 here:
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