November 01, 2010

In the words of a marathon finisher...

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to present to you a guest columnist, Mr. Kern Hoff, MCM finisher and avid squirrel watcher. Mr. Hoff is contributing a piece today regarding his personal experience of training for and running the 35th annual Marine Corps Marathon. Pictures and more recap tomorrow!

"On an April morning ealier this year, I was listening to the announcements in our newly joined running club. We were welcoming new members to Capitol Hill Running Club, and a particular opportunity caught my attention. The registration for the 35th Marine Corps Marathon was approaching, and the club had a few reserved slots available. I thought, "why not?"

The first Marine Corps Marathon was held on November 7, 1976. That year's race welcomed 1,175 runners, and has grown to a little over 30,000 starters in this year's edition. The Marine Corps Marathon is the fourth largest marathon held in the U.S. and the eighth largest in the world. It has gained the nickname, "The People's Marathon," because it is the largest marathon that doesn't offer cash prizes.

Throughout the spring and summer, Emily and I had the benefit of excellent trainers. The Capitol Hill Runnign Club is coordinated by the Marine Corps liason office on Capitol Hill. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday they provided the early morning motivation to get us going. Often times, they were a little more amped up than I prefer. And thats alot, because I usually consider myself full-tilt, full-time. The Marines scheduled routes and distances that would gradually get us in shape to compete in the race. Emily's favorite route was a loop that headed west from the Capitol toward the Washington Monument, then north around the White House. As we passed the White House at the early hour, you could catch the scent of cookin' bacon. As you can imagine this would steal her attention, and a little coaxing was usually needed to get her back on track.

Early race-day morning, I headed to the Pentagon for the big race. Riding the Metro, I noticed the anxiety in the other runners' faces. This was really encouraging. I arrived at the Pentagon around 6:45 for the 8:00 start. I will never understand why folks began warming-up an hour before a race that takes four hours to complete. The participants were grouped at the start according to their expected finish. There was a F-14 fly-over and Dr. Jill Biden was the Official Starter.

I can't recall much about the four and a half hours and 26.2 miles, because everything was surreal. There is alot of telling yourself, "just keep going." I remember the most popular costume was "Where's Waldo." I was passed around mile 19 by a running hotdog. I don't recall seeing any squirrels. And I barely finished ahead of a Special Forces member who set a Guiness Record for completing the entire marathon wearing a gas mask. The best piece of advice I would give anyone planning on running a marathon is don't."

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