Mile 10 took us by the Kennedy Center, and then we proceeded along the Potomac to what Chris had warned me was a long, boring section of the course (granted, when he ran previously the course was different, and Haines Point was more towards mile 18-20). Haines Point is a massive golf course on a piece of land shaped like a fang; what makes it difficult is the lack of crowds. Fortunately, there was a gel stop and a water station, and people had come out before the race started to put up A LOT of entertaining signs.
As we started on to the Point, we were met with the sight of about 20-30 Gold Star Moms lining the side of the road, all wearing blue shirts (part of the "Run to Remember" movement to never forget those military members who have died). Some were holding signs of support, and others were holding photos of loved ones no longer with us. I was struck again and again by the realization that so many didn't even see their 25th birthday.
It was also on this stretch of the course that we hit the halfway mark; our split was 2:34:34, right where we wanted to be as far as pacing (not too fast, and with plenty of cushion to Beat the Bridge). The wind really picked up on this section, especially as we made the turn back towards downtown. Everyone was slowing a bit, and we were hopeful that things would die down once we had city buildings around us again.
Miles 16-18 took us around the Tidal Basin, up and down Independence Avenue, and along the Mall in front of many of the Smithsonian Museums. This stretch brought back many memories of school field trips to see the Hope Diamond, the tattered American flag that once flew over Fort McHenry, Fonzie's jacket, and the Apollo Lunar Module. These museums are truly a national treasure! It was also along this stretch that we hit the first of our time-sensitive deadlines, Beat the Gauntlet (mile 17.5). We had to reach this point in less than 4 hours and 20 minutes; we made it in about 3:30.
We continued down Madison Drive, running right in front of the Capitol building before heading down the other side of the Mall. Then the turn onto 14th Street and mile marker 20---we did it! We Beat the Bridge, and with plenty of time to spare--you have to arrive in under 5 hours 5 minutes or they pick you up in a bus and your race is over :-(. We managed it in about 4 hours. Yay!
Of course, after the elation of "missing the bus", as it were, things got tough. We never ran more than 20 miles in training, so this was all uncharted territory. My right hip and hamstring had been bothering me off and on since about mile 15 and we'd already stopped to stretch twice. Chris seemed okay, but confessed he was starting to feel it in his knees and feet. We ran on to the 21 mile mark, and I finally told Chris I had to walk for a bit. I felt a little disappointed having to walk, but I really felt at that point if I didn't ease up, I might not make it to the finish.
We walked about a mile; this was another terribly boring part of the course with no crowd support, just the whoosh of speeding cars on the highway next to us (also making us feel extra extra slow). But we could not feel too badly for ourselves as while we were walking, we saw a woman struggling to push a handcycle over the bridge. The front wheel had a flat tire and a bent rim, and it was VERY slow going for her. Fortunately, two men on bicycles approached her and offered assistance; I do not know how her race ended, but I hope she was able to finish.
We started running again just before mile 22 (back in VA), and boy was it painful to start up again! But somehow, once we got back in the rhythm, running actually felt better than walking. At this point we could see the Pentagon, but before we made it there we had to run through Crystal City. I am still not sure why it is called this, but whatever. All I know is the crowds were incredible here, blasting loud, uplifting music and really cheering us on. We both felt reinvigorated at this point and full of energy.
This good feeling lasted about two miles. We declined to eat the Dunkin' Donuts Munchkins offered at mile 24, though we certainly stepped on plenty of them. Right after this food station, I had to stop and stretch again. My hip was aching again and my right hamstring felt like it was about to cramp, which I wanted to avoid at all costs! I once again told Chris I needed to walk a little, and he supported me and stayed right with me. I'm sure it was difficult for him, especially as we were so close to the finish, but we had agreed to finish together no matter what and our team wasn't going to fall apart now.
We walked along the Pentagon, and truth be told at this point there were plenty of people with the same idea. Some seemed upset at the thought of missing time goals; a few were genuinely struggling and unsure if they could make it to the end. Everyone along the road was offering encouragement and reminding us how close we were to the finish. The sky was darkening, the wind was picking up, and it felt like the temperature had dropped 10 degrees; I was at the point where I either needed a jacket or to start running again just to warm up!
At this moment we could see the 25 mile sign, and that was definitely the inspiration we needed to pick up the pace. No way were we walking the last 1.2 miles---we had to run it in strong. The crowds were thick again, yelling and cheering and ringing cowbells all over the place. We were feeling excited and happy---we could do this! As we turned toward the Iwo Jima Monument for one last hill, we were joined by our Fisher House coach, Stacy. She congratulated us and directed us up the road to the FINISH LINE. Marines lined the way, clapping, whooping, and extending their hands for high-fives. Chris and I joined hands and crossed the finish line together, just as we'd imagined when we'd started training 30 weeks before.
Official finish time: 5:27:31 (almost exactly 1 hour slower than my time 10 years ago)
Place 18597/8 of 23515 finishers
Immediately after the finish, we received our medals, which have a cool spinny thing in the middle. They are also huge, like Flavor Flav's clock:
After picking up our warming jackets and a box of snacks, we headed back to the Fisher House tent. My legs were quite stiff and I wasn't sure if I should sit down, but my feet were so sore I gave in. Chris and I signed up for complimentary massages (heavenly) and had some Gatorade and snacks before walking back to our hotel. We packed, showered, and dressed in our MCM shirts, ready for the drive home.
Splits, for those who are interested:
|5k: 00:37:56||10k: 01:15:05||15k: 01:51:21|
|20k: 02:26:46||Half: 02:34:34||25k: 03:02:59|
|30k: 03:43:02||35k: 04:25:44||40k: 05:09:49|
Overall pace 12:30/mile
Thanks again to everyone who offered their support during our training and fundraising efforts. We thought of all of you often along the way, especially on race day.