Fame, Francois, Fever, and Family – Marine Corps Marathon Weekend, Part 3

Sorry to leave you guys hanging on the last one. I got a few angry texts about that, but there’s too many stories from Marine Corps.

As the Marine Corps Marathon began, I was excited. I had no intentions of going out and killing it that day, but I thought a sub-5 marathon was a realistic goal, depending on how the weather turned out. The forecast for the day seemed to imply that we would be contending with some bad winds, but no one was quite sure about the rain. Only time would tell. The early miles of the race took us through the business center of Northern Virginia, and the first 3 miles or so of the race were uphill. Although the grade was never too steep, it took more out of us than we thought and it was quite a warm up for me and my shin splints, which definitely did not appreciate the start.

We were quickly impressed by really hard core Marines (and various other members of the Armed Forces) running in full gear, including these guys who were running with the gear, including their helmets and head sets. The head sets seemed excessive.

p1000816-14 Not grey shirt guy. Other guys.

JC, Kate and I were all running together, but at mile 2, I started to feel sick. It never happens that early, so I was very concerned, but I didn’t say anything. I had some Oreos with me and just kind of hoped it would go away, or at least be tolerable until I saw T-Rex Mom and Jackie at Mile 10. At the second water stop, I had run up a bit ahead of JC and Kate to get some water while they stopped and got Gatorade, and a few feet in front of me, a guy went down. Some other runners around him started shouting for a medic, but no one seemed to hear, so I ran over to the Marines and the leader of the water stop and told them what was going on. It was hard to tell whether the guy had slipped and fallen or was having a heart attack or seizure, since he was kind of shaking, but I felt that I had done my good deed for the day. A crowd was forming around him and I’m no nurse or doctor, so I went on, having been assured the medics were on their way.

We caught up to Joe from the Marathon Show around mile 5, and he talked about Kate and I on his show! The final podcast hasn’t come out yet, but it was pretty exciting. He was once again the nicest person ever. Also on this part of the course, we were running behind two women who were wearing shirts with the same picture on them of a fallen soldier. One woman was the wife of the soldier, and the other was her mother. Reading the sweet things on the back of their shirts made me cry. They were so dedicated, so strong, and so determined to honor the memory of this woman’s husband. Everyone experiences physical pain during a race, and many of us have run through emotional pain, but I cannot imagine running through pain like that. It made me think of Teota, whose son we were running in memory of, and I could not possibly imagine what she and so many others like her must be feeling during this race. Talk about a humbling experience.

598758_10151137502817633_1443575545_n1-14

This race was filled with emotional (and physical) highs and lows. Coming down the hill around mile 8, we heard a familiar voice singing very loudly and all of a sudden a shout of “IS THAT T-REX?” and Vrnda “Boom Box” Bailey, Maricar, and Lu-E. Epic Maniacs reunion in Georgetown!

404590_458051124236326_171034813_n-1-2 This group of people makes me soooooooo happy!

We ran along with them for a little while until we hit M Street in Georgetown. I was running along, minding my own business, when to my left I all of a sudden hear, “Um, are you T-Rex Runner?” And I was pretty surprised, but I of course said that I was, and I met Nicole, who reads my blog! She came across it while planning for her first marathon (which just so happened to be Marine Corps – and she TOTALLY KILLED IT!) and looking for race recaps about what to expect. She’s been reading ever since!

p1000817-14 People saying hi to me at races makes me feel extremely cool and extremely awkward all at once.

I really need to practice having conversations with people I meet on the course, because I never really know what to say when someone recognizes me. I am so unprepared for celebrity. The conversation usually goes something like this:

Reader: “Are you T-Rex Runner? I love your blog!”

Me: “Really? Why?  Are you sure?  Oh, cool! Thank you! I’m Danielle, it’s nice to meet you. What is your name?”

I literally have to force myself not to say something really awkward. I really love when people introduce themselves; I just am constantly surprised by it. Note to self: work on people skills.  I have this all-consuming fear of people being totally underwhelmed when they meet me in person, as I think I am much more entertaining via the written word, so I somehow make myself even more awkward than normal in some type of weird self-fulfilling prophecy. So that being said, totally introduce yourselves to me at races so that a) I can practice not being awkward b) you can hear me say something potentially bizarre. Fun for everyone!

Team T-Rex was waiting for me a little past mile 9, and I was glad to see my mom and Jackie and my Sprite. They were holding a big T-Rex Runner sign, and my mom got real excited every time someone shouted out that they read my blog. I think she was waiting to be recognized. Right around this time, I heard someone say “T-Rex?!” and saw this man running towards me that I recognized from the interwebs wearing a Kentucky Derby Half Marathon shirt! Sure enough, it was Glenn, another random man from the interwebs, who was running his first marathon at Marine Corps! He met up with Otter and Dan back in Kentucky, so that’s where we come full circle.

Pretty much the best part of the race happened at mile 10, when I heard a guy shout “Hey! Do you want a beer?” I didn’t know if he was talking to me or not, but I said “Hell yeah I do!” and turned around.

Guy: “WHOA! Hey, are you married?”

Me: “No, I’m divorced. ”

Guy: “Alright, I’ll take it! I’m Francois. It’s French.”

So Francois and his friends were pretty much the best people ever, and they very generously gave me and Kate beer while simultaneously hitting on us and loving the BEER socks we were wearing. In the picture below, Francois is the man wearing the snorkeling mask on his head. Sorry AJ, this is obviously my soul mate, although I’m very certain his name is not actually Francois.

p1000819-14 Yes, that’s Bud Diesel and PBR. Team T-Rex goes big.

We spent far too much time goofing off with Francois and his friends, but then it was time to go. As we ran off, he shouted “I LOVE YOU! Come back! We would have beautiful children!” Ego boost of the day award goes to Francois.

Around mile 14 or so, we were coming around the tip of a peninsula and I could see some bathrooms on the other side. I told JC and Kate that I was going to run ahead and go to the bathrooms, and they agreed to wait for me. When I got over there, I thought the bathrooms were on the right side, so I was looking on the right when they were really on the left. I completely missed them and realized it about half a mile too late. I didn’t know what to do, so I decided to just wait for Kate and JC where I was, although they were actually back at the porta potties shouting into EVERY ONE because they thought I had died in there. Eventually I ran back and found them and they were extremely relieved that I was not dead while also disturbed that I had somehow missed a giant row of porta potties. Oops.

Around this time, we found Jennifer, who gave me Sprite in Chicago and saved the day, who was running with her friend Ben, a veteran of the Marines. She took this picture of me, which is perhaps my favorite race picture ever.

617229_10151210306628232_774509373_o-14 Any picture where I look skinny and relatively happy is a winner for me. 175975_10151212355928232_949359617_o-14 Better picture of the whole group (except Jennifer, who by the way is much taller than I remembered)

I also started to feel worse. I was starting to get very strangely hot – like it was 100 degrees and humid outside instead of 55 and very windy and cold. By mile 16, I knew the race was essentially over for me. I felt like I was going to pass out for no apparent reason. I was nauseous, and the fact that I was getting hot was making it worse. We had walked around so much the day before that my hips were absolutely killing me, but that was really the least of my problems. It was the same old story all over again – every step made me feel like I was going to throw up. I knew Kate couldn’t walk that much for that long, so I sent her on ahead. JC gamely promised to stay with me, and thank God he did. I probably would have quit this race without him, and that is really saying something considering how much I hate quitting.

We saw Team T-Rex again near mile 18, and right around this time, the Prez ran by again! This time, he was reminded by T-Rex Mom that they know each other recognized T-Rex Mom and she was very pleased by this. We took a picture while I was pathetically , but he hasn’t posted them yet. Wahhhhhh.

We were running near the monuments and past the capitol building at this point, which was pretty cool even for someone who has spent a lot of time in D.C. The course held so many memories for me from so many different years and phases of my life – some very happy, and some very sad. There did seem to randomly be a large number of Kansas State fans along the course, and since that’s where I’m getting my Master’s degree, I had to stop and take a picture. Also somewhere in this area, I met another fan of the blog whose name I cannot remember thanks to my delirium. Sorry about that! I promise I really do love you.

p1000821-14 Might as well, we were walking anyway.

While on the bridge back into Virgina sometime around mile 21, we ended up seeing a bunch of other Maniacs, including Jeff, who was pretty sure I was going to die. This could be because I was so hot that I was literally placing my forehead and face on the metal guardrail of the bridge because it was freezing cold and I was burning up. Imagine this image – it is just as ridiculous as it sounds. I don’t think anyone believed that I was hot because everyone else was very cold until JC actually touched my skin and couldn’t believe how hot it was. I know now that I was getting sick, but I didn’t know it at the time. As of this moment, I have bronchitis, so that’s fun. At least I’m not crazy and just randomly hot.

We saw Kate at her mile 24 or so and our mile 21, and she was looking strong and I told her I might die. She is used to this behavior and unimpressed by it. We saw Jackie a little bit past mile 22, and I told her I was really hot and asked if she had my spare pair of socks that I had given to my mom. She didn’t, because T-Rex Mom had left her to go check out of the hotel, and I was very sad because I really wanted to take the BEER socks off in hopes it would make me cool off a bit even though I knew it wouldn’t matter. She immediately said “Here, take my socks!” and took off her shoes and socks and handed them to me, no questions asked. That is a true friend right there.

p10008093-14 This photo deserves to be repeated because my mom and Jackie really are fantastic marathon spectators. I couldn’t have gotten through the race without them!

Shortly after giving Jackie my camera and my very sweaty socks, Lu-E, JC, and I came upon a group playing my favorite song, Gangnam Style. Of COURSE this happened after I had given up my camera. We danced for way, way too long, but at this point, time was no longer even remotely a factor. I did my best imitation of the elevator guy from the music video for an amount of time that I’m sure was extremely uncomfortable for everyone involved.

elevator-14 This is my best move.

I can’t remember exactly what mile it occurred, but at some point JC and I sat down on some concrete barriers and watched the runners go by and we cheered them on. We thanked the veterans that were running. We called out people’s names as they ran by. People looked at us like we were nuts, but it was really fun. I mean, if I’m going to feel like crap, I might as well have fun while I’m at it, right? The sub-5 goal was quickly looking more like sub-6. Haters gonna hate.

We came upon two more Maniacs just before mile 25 that were struggling as much as I was. It didn’t seem to be anyone’s best day. We walked and ran with them for awhile, until it came time for a T-Rex at mile 25. I told them that JC and I had to run the last 1.2 miles, and one of the women decided to try and run it in with us. It’s funny what a huge difference there was between this race and Chicago. In Chicago, I ran my fastest during the last 1.2 miles of the race. In this one, I was just trying to move forward in something that could generally pass as a running motion.

Of course, the last 0.2 miles of the course are up a very asinine hill. Jackie was waiting there to cheer us on, and I honestly think she could have walked faster than I was running at that point, but whatever. I did my T-Rex.

image-14 I had shed my visor, arm warmers, and socks over the course of the race. IT WAS 55 DEGREES AND WINDY.

JC and I jumped as we crossed the finish line, but the race photos aren’t out yet so I don’t know if they caught it. We went to go get our medals, which are put on by an actual Marine. The Marine put on my medal and then saluted me. I almost lost it and immediately teared up and awkwardly ran away. I was SO HOT that I didn’t even want my finisher jacket thingy (it’s like a space blanket, but swankier), but I took it anyway since I knew I would use it at another race. Good thing I did, because the finisher area was a complete disaster. Although we could see Jackie through the fence, it was yet another one of those races with the mile-long fenced in finisher’s area that you cannot escape. You have to walk allllll the way to the end, and depending on which way you are trying to go to leave, allllll the way back to the finish line to meet up with people. COME ON RACE DIRECTORS. STOP DOING THIS. I finally saw a hole in the fence with a Marine standing over near it. “Excuse me, sir? Are you guarding this hole?” I don’t think Marines are allowed to laugh, but I’m pretty sure he would have if he could. He said “Yes ma’am” and smiled at me and then moved over so I could escape. FINALLY FREE.

I’m going to spare you the discussion of the nightmare that is the finisher’s area at MCM. Suffice to say it took us almost two hours to finally be picked up from a random hotel by T-Rex Mom, who had to call a cab to our actual hotel because the wait for them near the finisher’s area was HOURS long and the Metro was just as backed up. Somehow, everything ended up working out and Kate managed to get a last minute flight out of DC to New York and eventually Jacksonville, while T-Rex Mom and I drove back to Columbia in a rental car. It was a mess, but Hurricane Sandy didn’t bother us too much at all at the end of the day.

I’ll leave you with a picture I saw posted on the Maniacs facebook page of a woman I don’t even know, but who I feel completely sums up the spirit of this race.

veronica-14 The caption of this photo was: “My friend Veronica completed her first marathon today at the Marine Corps Marathon to honor her husband and fallen hero, SSGT Javier Ortiz Rivera. Thanks to all the Maniacs who encouraged her along the way; I was tracking her progress on the MCM website throughout the race. Seeing this photo of her presenting a medal to her husband in heaven is priceless!”

During this race, I ran near soldiers in full gear. I ran by veterans with multiple amputations. I ran with family members and friends of fallen soldiers and those who are still serving. I was handed water by Marines, cheered by them, and saluted by them. I thought of my friends and family who are currently serving right now and they sacrifices that they and their families have made to protect our country. While this race was awful for me physically (I finished in a very impressive 5:52…hold your applause), it was very refreshing mentally. This race reminded me to be proud to be an American, as cheesy as that sounds. With election season upon us (PLEASE GOD MAKE IT STOP), it’s easy to be bitter and hateful and cynical about the opposite party, all parties, and the election in general. If you’re like me, you might not agree with either path and feel really uneasy about the future of our country. But at the end of the day, our country and our people are strong. Don’t believe me? Run this race and watch our soldiers and their families and tell me you aren’t amazed by their strength.

Or watch me do the elevator dance from Gangnam Style. Either way.