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This year was the 40th Anniversary of the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.. In this race recap we give the history of this amazing marathon and talk with a retired Marine colonel who has ran it every year since its inception.
We also take you to our MTA meet up (via Trevor’s digital recorder).
Race Recap: The 2015 Marine Corps Marathon
The 2015 Marine Corps Marathon was held October 25, 2015. The lottery for this race opens at the end of March every year and Trevor and I were both happy to be selected for our second MCM.
Highlights from the Decades
The Founding Father of the MCM is Col. James Fowler who died this year at age 84. His idea was to promote community goodwill, showcase the Marine Corps which would serve as a recruiting tool and give local Marines a chance to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
There are currently two men who have run all 40 marathons and they’re known as the Ground Pounders: retired Col. Al Richmond of Arlington, Virginia and retired Col. Will Brown of Raleigh, North Carolina. (You will hear Al Richmond on the podcast).
The following historical info comes from Salute—The Official Program of the MCM given to each runner at packet pickup.
- The 1970’s- The race started in 1976 as the Marine Corps Reserve Marathon with 1,018 finishers. Entry fee was $2.00.
- The 1980’s- Jim Fixx (the man who started the national jogging craze) was the guest speaker. In 1982 registration rose to $10 and this included some post-race food. Hotel costs were $38 a night. In 1989 there were 10,000 finishers.
- The 1990’s- In 1994 Oprah Winfrey famously ran the MCM at age 40 finishing in 4:29. She said, “It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had. It’s better than an Emmy, I tell you.” In 1997 the computer chip timer was also first used. In 1998 the first website was launched.
- The 2000’s- The 2000 race filled in 3 days and the kids run began. In 2002 a lottery registration was started along with the Runner’s Club. In 2014 actor Sean Astin ran MCM and spoke at the opening ceremony.
The expo was held at a new location this year at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and the venue provided more space and eliminated the need for the security scan before going in.
One downside was that parking was VERY hard to find so we’d recommend taking the metro or other public transportation to the expo. The expo was well marked so that packet pick up was straightforward and easy. This year we got a red, mock neck long sleeve shirt (perfect for those with skinny necks).
We walked around the expo for an hour and a half and the kids participated in several spin the wheel games provided by certain vendors. We also got to spend time at the Generation UCAN booth (a podcast sponsor) talking to the company co-founder and got a sample of the new Cinnamon Delite flavor, some UCAN bars and tried the new triple berry electrolyte drink.
MTA Meet up
The MTA meet up was again held at Steve and Vivian’s house and we had a great group of around 30 people in attendance. People brought snack items and drinks and we spent time visiting and getting to know each other. After that we went and checked into our hotel. Trevor’s dad Sheldon was there to watch our boys during the race.
A group of us left our hotel around 5:30 am, got on the metro to the Pentagon stop without problems, walked nearly a mile to the starting area and were in the security line by 6am. Our best MCM tip is to get there 2 hours early like they tell you in the pre-race information!! There was a long security bottleneck as thousands of runners and spectators had to get funneled through 2 scanners and have bags checked.
The weather was on the cool side in the low 40’s and a gentle rain started while we were in the security line. Fortunately we had plenty of warm throwaway clothes and Wendy had provided plastic trash bags for all.
There was an awesome flyover by two Marine Osprey aircraft as well as a skydive to the start with a 7,800 square foot American Flag—the largest flag to be carried in a performance jump.
The start corrals are not controlled and most runners line themselves up according to the pace flags and pace groups. We were in the 4:30 pace area of the corrals and it took 10 minutes to cross start line.
The course is very crowded during the first few miles and remains busy during most of the race. I decided after running it for the second time that like most large marathons this is not an ideal PR course. There can be a lot of weaving around runners to achieve your desired pace. Because they have the Beat the Bridge spot at mile 20 which you have to attain by 1:15pm (14:00 pace) some walkers will line up ahead in the corrals so that they have more time.
Highlights from the Course
The MCM course is simply amazing. The organizers do a great job of running you past the most iconic Washington, D.C. buildings and landmarks.
The biggest hill happens up until mile 2.5 before dropping into some small hills, a long flat section and some final small hills. The final section up to the finish line is also uphill.
One of the most moving sections of the marathon is the Blue Mile. Here volunteers, many with a personal connection, wear blue shirts and carry American flags near photographs of Marines, Sailors, Airmen and Soldiers who have been killed on duty or while in combat.
There were many spots with lots of spectators—just a few areas through the park and over the bridge that didn’t have many spectators. Some people ran in costume- a hot dog and bun; Rosie the Riveter: mustard and ketchup: lots of patriotic costumes; a deflategate juggler dressed as Tom Brady and more.
There were the usual motivational posters and some clever ones as well. One was Star Wars themed and said, “Pain leads to the DNF side.”
The marathon finishes just past the US Marine War Memorial and includes a final uphill push to the finish line. Each runner is presented with a medal and handshake by a Marine Officer. I finished in 4:30:19 and Trevor, who was protecting his Achilles, finished in 5:42:53.
The medal is awesome with the traditional eagle, globe, and anchor with a nice lanyard. Then there are bags handed out to carry everything, finisher jackets (disposable) to wear, food boxes, water, and sports drink.
There is a considerable walk to the family meet up area and gear check which goes by the finish festival and beer tent. They were handing out watermelon cups and ice cream along the way too.
This year the Marine Corps War Memorial finish line welcomed 23,194 finishers, the third largest field in the event’s history.
The race shuttles and metro entrance are located just after the MCM festival area in Rosslyn. There are a couple bands that perform near this area as well. I waited around 1.5 hours for Trevor in the family meet up area and checked on some of my coaching clients via runner tracking who were running the race. Then we got in the long metro line, rode back to our stop and walked to the hotel to shower, rest and go out to eat later.