This was my tenth year running this race - so I'm probably a bit biased.
Packet Pickup was smooth as usual. I stopped by on my lunch break on Friday and it was a quick process. The expo is huge, but it's really geared towards military families, and this year, I was less impressed by the wares. There were tons of freebies though. I just didn't need to collect any more water bottles!
Race morning came as normal. I will admit, I wasn’t super motivated to run. As has become my routine, I planned to arrive at a local parking garage by 6 am. Definitely earlier than I needed to be there, but as roads are shut down, it’s just easier to get there and be ready to go.
Things were a bit different for the race this year due to some road construction. It meant that the course was different and the start was a bit different. They added two additional start waves to help thin out the crowds. Typically, we would have gathered in grouped corrals in the Pentagon parking lot, and then led to the start. Due to the construction, the corrals were lined up in a straight line from the start. Since I was in the 9th wave, the brand new pink wave, that meant the start was a hike away. Some people opted to not go to the corral and instead wait for the corral to come past them, but we opted to go to the corral and wait.
As per usual, the wheelchair racers were finishing before we started, and just as we got to race start, the race winners were coming in to the finish as well. That’s aways a bit funny and a bit demoralizing. Mostly, I was jealous they were done.
While this year’s race wasn’t as hot as last year’s, the humidity was ridiculous. My weather app said the humidity was 90%; the race announcer said it was 100%. Either way, it was disgusting. The race started and I started my intervals and within ten minutes, I was dripping sweat.
I opted to run with a handheld water bottle for this race. Nowhere near enough fluid to get me through the race, but more than enough to get me between water stops. And I was definitely glad I had it. The first water stop was around the two mile mark and they were out of water cups (though I believe they had cups of Gatorade). Volunteers were pouring water into mouths, into cupped hands, and in my case, into my water bottle. Due to the heat, people were taking multiple cups (not blaming them – it’s just what happened) which meant they ran out by the late corrals. I had my bottle refilled and went on my way.
Due to the rerouted course, there was one spot where the race came to an absolute standstill. I’ve never had that happen in this race before, even with 35,000 racers. It didn’t last long, but it was certainly a surprise.
At one point, I ended up running alongside a vision impaired runner and his guides. I was so impressed with their process. The runner and one guide were each holding onto a large ring, and it was seamless how the guide would call out directions. The second guide ran right behind them, blocking anyone from attempting to cut between them. They moved as this tight little pack and it was so cool to see.
This race is always so organized, thanks to the amazing volunteers and the organization of the Army. So I was really surprised when we got to mile 7 and there was no more Gatorade at the stop. I don’t typically use it, but was shocked that they were out. That said, there was plenty of water everywhere, which was great since by that point, I was ready to pour it on myself. Which I did.
This year, thanks to injury, I was slow enough that I saw the cutoff after it was closed. Around mile 5 or so, if you’re behind required pace, they divert the course because of roads that have to be re-opened. This only cuts about two miles off of the race. I’m usually enough ahead of it that I don’t see it, but this year, the diversion was in place by the time I looped back to that spot. This unfortunately had an impact on my race. At the beginning of a race, you’re always passing people and being passed, but by midway or so, things have usually settled out. Sure, you are still being passed or passing, but not to a great extent. However, when a group of slower people is diverted, that whole process has to start over. For the most part, it wasn’t problematic, but I definitely got caught behind a few packs of walkers who didn’t realize they shouldn’t take up the whole course.
The hardest part of this race for a lot of people is the bridge near the end. It’s the same bridge that destroys people at Marine Corps Marathon. I don’t usually have an issue with this bridge. Not so this year. I was starting to get fatigued and I was just mentally tired of running, so this bridge felt so very long. It felt great to get off the bridge.
I got my second wind sometime around mile 8.5, mostly because I knew I was getting close to being done. Plus by that point, you’re back with the crowds again, which definitely helps motivate. And finally, FINALLY, I was done. I crossed the finish line and was handed a bottle of water. I made my way through the crowds, got my finishers coin, and walked towards the food. They seemed to have a ton of extra food this year, as usually by the time I finish, pickings are slim. The volunteers were also pushing water like crazy. I was still finishing my first bottle when I was handed two more bottles. The food offered was all packaged - cookies, bagels, muffins, and a fruit cup, plus bananas. Nothing too fancy, but quick and easy.
All in all, I was super delighted to be able to finish, and I will certainly be back for my 11th running next year!