We left West Virginia on Friday morning en route to my sisters house in Virginia. On Friday evening my sister made some yummy carb loading food for us and we chowed down and then spent some time visiting and just enjoying being around each other. We started to discuss the Metro and how we would need to coordinate the routes the next to get us where we needed to go the following day for packet pick up. I will openly admit that I am not geographically strong.....AT ALL so riding the Metro in a big city with no experience and tons of runners everywhere made me a little uneasy but with my big sis by my side surely we could figure it out.
First things first - two of my girlfriends (Katie and Melissa) from high school were planning to come over for breakfast with my sisters and I and we had some awesome food prepared for the occasion (thanks to Angel). It was so awesome seeing them and just catching up. Their Dad was one of my first soccer coaches so we go way back! It was so much fun and a great way to start our crazy morning.
Here we are - Katie, me and Melissa
After brunch the girls dropped Catina and I off at the Convention center to pick up our packets. It was front door service with a Metro step by step lesson on the side (thanks girls!) I am sure Catina and I would have figured it out but it would have taken SO much longer.
Happy to be on the Metro with packets in hand!
The little girls had a blast together and we had a blast watching them have a blast together - so much fun!
Race morning we were up bright and early to get back to the Metro and make sure we got to the starting point in time. We woke up at 5:00 with a planned departure time of 5:30. We both felt a little sickish the morning of the run which is totally normal before a big run. We made it to the St. Jude Heroes booth and had our team photo taken (which I don't have a copy of yet but when I do I will be sure to share it with you). After our group photo we made our way to the start line. There were SO many people y'all - it was insane. Most of what we saw were men and women in uniform - hence the name. The Marine Corps marathon is the #5 largest marathon in the US with 30,000 runners participating in the run. When we first got into our coral it was pretty empty but before we knew it it was full and fast. Montel Williams was our emcee for the morning which is just, well - funny for some reason. Ha ha. Someone from the Jersey Boys musical sang the national anthem and two aircraft's called Ospreys flew overhead before the cannon blew to signify the beginning of the race. Those plane/helicopters were so cool. I wish you could have seen them but the best thing I can give you is a youtube video clip. They are insane. They convert from helicopter mode to plane mode - for real. Check them out. These were directly over us before we started and it was awesome to see.
When the cannon blew and I knew it was time to go I just thought "well, here goes nothing" and about 10 minutes later when the crowd directly in front of us was actually able to put one foot in front of the other...we took off. There were so many incredible things about this race it's hard to know where to begin so I will resort to a list of sorts (what can I say...I'm a list maker).
-it was so, so, so organized - love organization. We knew where we needed to go, new where our coral was, where the water stops were, what our mile/split times were, etc.
-the crowd support was one of my favorite things about this run and will remain one of the most amazing things about it - they were just pouring off of the lawn and sidewalks everywhere - all cheering for us - all their to offer support - it was nuts and so inspiring! For those of you who go to races and yell for people you don't know - we runners appreciate it more than you know!
-the weather was perfect - sunshine with few clouds and in the low 60's - gorgeous!
-we ran by incredible scenery - the white house, the pentagon, the Washington Monument, the Smithsonian, etc. etc.
-The military outpouring was awesome - the marines who volunteered to do water stops, cheer us on, place our medals around our necks and just be there for support were incredible. They were so positive and so encouraging and I just kept thinking - you are cheering for me? Oh my word - you deserve the applause. Sheesh!
-The amount of charities represented at this event was seriously impressive. You name it - they were there: hometown heroes, semper fi wounded soldier fund, diabetes association, tnt, cancer society, St. Judes, Make a Wish, etc. etc. So cool!
-My oldest sister Angel running with me from mile 25-26 and keeping me going because I was ready to quit!
-Besides the fact that our St. Judes Heroes Team raised a total of $170,870 and St. Judes teams at races across the country are raising similar amounts there was one more thing that I witnessed at the race that I must share with you all.
-In most big races there are opportunities for wheelchair participants to start prior to runners and compete and complete just as runners do and it is always a really cool thing to see. Possibly because this was the Marine Corps Marathon - there were more wheelchair participants than I had ever seen. Possibly veterans, possibly recently wounded soldiers, possibly seasoned wheelchair racers - whose to say? The wheelchair participants started 10 minutes prior to us runners which is a small window and because of that we ended up mixed up at several points during the run. At one of those points my sister and I realized through talking to another runner that the group of wheelchair cyclists we were approaching had a "blind cyclist" in the group. What?!?! I COULD NOT believe that y'all. Blind? Riding 26.2 miles with amputations on a racing wheelchair - BLIND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! As soon as we got next to them it was like nothing I had ever seen. It was a guy...maybe 27, maybe 28 who very obviously had recently undergone his amputations and he was wired with a helmet so that he could hear a fellow cyclists instructions "a little left, a little right, brake, etc." His eyes were fixated and it appeared as though his loss in sight was due to a trauma.
This is what the racing wheelchairs look like. They are totally operated by a hand wheel that is above the front wheel.
Was he in Iraq fighting for our freedom? Was he a normal 20 year old brave enough to sacrifice his life so we could live here in the US and now he is without legs, and blind? What would I do? Would I be racing in a marathon trusting my fellow soldiers to show me the way with their voices? Would I be that determined? Would I be that strong? I don't know. It was amazing. He was a hero. They are our heroes. He was one man and I just felt convicted - they are everywhere...I just happen to see him. I was so emotional...so choked up....so inspired. It left me breathless - literally. I thought to myself at mile 23 when I wanted to walk and my legs were throbbing, locking up even - if that guy can do what he is doing....if the kids we have raised money for can fight cancer every day - I CAN DO THIS....and I did. I finished the race in 4 hours and 21 minutes. It was an incredible feeling to cross the finish line. It was incredible to see what I saw and to have a new appreciation for our soldiers and just for human life and determination in general. Heroes - they are everywhere around us and not always who we think they would be. My sister Catina finished in a "speedy" 4:14.
-It was awesome to have Angel there at multiple times during the race yelling for us and encouraging us and it was nice to see our hubbies and kiddo's outside of the children's village at mile 23 when we needed encouragement most.
Maggie and Kennedy riding the "train"
This is what a day of watching runners will do to a girl!
Finishers! We both said we are happy to have made some personal best record times because they will remain our best - we aren't doing this again! =)
For all of you who donated, encouraged, prayed and supported - THANK YOU! It has been an awesome journey and I appreciate you being such a huge part of it!