Written by Ann Brennan
It has been 17 years since I ran my first marathon, the Marine Corps Marathon. All of these years and marathons later, the Marine Corps Marathon is still my favorite. This weekend I will be running it for the 7th time. If this year lives up to past years, more than half the field will be first time marathoners. So, I have a little advice.
1. First and foremost, the advice I give to anybody before a first time event, there is only one first time. Enjoy it. Enjoy every minute of it, which means that you cannot, even for a minute let a negative thought enter your brain. If you find yourself heading to the dark side, stop and remind yourself that this is your first time and the negative thoughts will mar your beautiful memory.
2. This entire race is a photo opportunity. I am not one for carrying my own camera but I never miss an opportunity to pose for the camera. The photographers at this race have been doing it for a long time. They have picked amazing views to get the best shots so do not miss the chance to have your photo taken on the bridge heading into Georgetown, on Haines Point by the water or most importantly as you leave the Capitol. The photos from this race are priceless.
3. Thank the Marines. These young men and women have mostly been voluntold to be there this weekend. They work very hard but more importantly they are fighting for our country. Most of us will never be in their position, most will not have a spouse or child who serves. So take a minute and thank the Marines for being there for us on Sunday and the rest of the year as well.
4. There are tons of port-a-potties on this course so there is no reason to pee on the side of the road or in the woods. Wait a minute and you will find a potty for sure.
5. The only downside to this race is that the first 8 miles are a little hilly. Not a lot hilly but enough to make you nervous. Don’t worry. They don’t last.
6.Use the crowds. If you happen to go through a quiet spot, speak up and ask for the praise. It will come. The first time I ran this race I thought I was a rockstar. It is an incredible feeling to have so many people out there cheering for you.
7. Unless you have trained with the fuel on the course, bring your own. Don’t risk stomach upset for the convenience of not carrying something.
8. The last .2 of this race is uphill. Not slightly uphill but properly “piss you off” uphill. Gut it out. Ranger up. Get it done. The crowd at the top is enough to bring tears to your eyes.
9. Don’t rush through the finish area. The Marines work hard to make it a great experience. Get your photos, your medals and your hugs. Enjoy the moment.
10. Take your time getting to the Metro to head home. There is a line the entire day. It never gets better. So, take your time and enjoy the final moments of the marathon before waiting in line.
I have had bad experiences at MCM – the year I messed up my IT band enough to impress the Corpsman at the end. Great ones – the one where I PR’d by 20 minutes. And weird ones – the one I ran without realizing that queasy feeling was morning sickness. But I keep going back. This race is like no other. It is a race to remember.