Spectator Sport

Waking up this Sunday felt odd to me, as it should have—it was the first time in six years where on the day of the Marine Corps Marathon, I slept in. I’d run the race four years in a row, 2002 through 2005, with varying results. And while I’d gotten my best performance yet in 2005, I’d decided that with the chaos of the newly expanded field that year (upping the number of registrations from 22,000 to 30,000) that until things were under control, I’d find other races to run. In 2006, working for AIDS Marathon meant that I was out on the field from 5am to 5pm; hardly a restful break from MCM. So this year, everything would be a little different.

I’d remembered last year that the Metro was an utter madhouse even an hour and a half after the race began; Pam, Brent, and I had set up a cheering station at mile 2.5 before heading into Crystal City to establish our new base camp there, and that was negotiating with a pair of bicycles to boot. Oof. So when Laura and I made plans to meet at Crystal City, I decided that three hours would be plenty of time to get to our spot and avoid the chaos.

Oh, stop laughing. Yes, I was still being naive. The Metro was crushed full of people, well beyond capacity as every last millimeter was taken up by human flesh. Saying it was an uncomfortable ride was an understatement, but eventually we arrived and began to watch for our friends—in our pace group, Andreas, Dave, Dvora, Erika, and Paul were all running, plus I was planning to keep my eyes open for good friends (and fellow trainees) Carla and Karen.

Marathon GlimpseEven as a spectator, the large numbers of runners meant that watching was nothing short of chaotic. The one half-decent picture I managed to snap was actually pretty late into the day, if only because earlier the throngs of people meant you couldn’t get a good shot of the scene; just a mess of limbs and technical fabrics moving by in a blur. It also meant it was hard trying to see our friends. I don’t think it’s a small coincidence that the two we never saw (Dave and Erika) weren’t wearing their old AIDS Marathon singlets; being able to pick out that bright yellow made life much easier.

Being at the point on the course where miles 22 and 23.5 (or so) intersected meant it was interesting to see the different form that runners were in. Some people blasted through both parts of the course with the greatest of ease, while others were clearly out of fuel, stumbling along as best they could. One poor runner got a sudden, massive cramp right in front of us and came to an immediate stop with a look of pain on his face. After a minute of massaging it, he moved on, slowly and awkwardly at first but then some small amount of grace returning with time.

In addition to seeing most of whom I’d hoped to (Andreas, Dvora, Paul, Carla, Karen) there were a couple of nice surprises as well; Karen Kelly, whom I’d worked with at AIDS Marathon, was trucking along with such ease you’d have thought she did a marathon every day. Seeing Beechy (an AIDS Marathon staffer who transferred to the Chicago office earlier in the year after the DC office closed) was another nice surprise; the glee on his face as he gave me a big hug was heartening.

It was a fun, if more than a little tiring day. I’m jazzed about the Outer Banks Marathon on November 11th, now, especially with another trip to the podiatrist under my belt yesterday. Fingers crossed, this could be a good one.

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