Friday, October 30, 2015

2015 Marine Corps Marathon Race Report

(TV turns on)

Scene: Marine Corps Marathon Finish Line, 2015. Runners have completed their 26.2 mile run, and have been given a medal from a United States Marine. They are making their way through the finish area.  But a camera crew is there as well, led by an anchorman-like dude.  The newsie is attempting to fit in by wearing running suit that looks like he should be headed to the BadaBing for a bit of Fuggedaboutit.

"Greetings! For Major Marathon Movers TV (MMMtv) I'm your host, Bart McStrongChin! We're here at the finish line for none other than the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon! I see crossing my path right now, everyone's favorite inept runner  . . . TAI FUNG! He's a noted DC run blogger who . . . "

. . . dude, don't call me a run blogger.  I'm a Run BLAHGGER. Have you seen the drivel I produce? Also, move your camera out of my face. NOW. I just ran my worst marathon time ever and I'm in no mood to talk.

"But sir!"

Look, I have an extra Gu packet, and I heard that squirting it into someone's eye might sting. Hmm, at least I THINK the person who told me was talking about Gu. It sure sounded close to that phonetically.

"Um, if we could just take a moment for our audience here at MMMtv to ask you about your experience? Also, how did you know to correct my spelling of Blogger, since we're talking?"

First, take a moment to bite me.  Next, as for knowing what letters you were using, let's just say I would hope that any readers viewers on TV would, you know, suspend disbelief.

Please no talking or texting during this performance

(waves a banana in Tai's face)


"Great!  Ok, how many times have you run the Marine Corps Marathon, which I'll abbreviate as MCM?"

This is my 6th time running MCM, and 9th marathon total. My personal best was 2 years ago here, when I finished in 3 hours and 59 minutes. Tell me why we're abbreviating SPEECH to each other?

"Never mind that. What were conditions like at the start for you today?"

Well, I'll tell you, Bart, they were a big flaming pile of dog doo doo. Dog doo doo with rain before the start, and which lasted until roughly mile 9. I got to the Pentagon at the same time I do every year for MCM, and I'm quite used to the crowds going through the turnstiles, as well as making their way to the Runner's Village at the start. But this year, we all just . . . stopped.

"Stopped what?"


"And started doing what?"

Milling, piling up, and freaking the hell out. Because by this point we had, like, an hour to race start, and we were STANDING STILL. This was bad. Once we got under an hour, time starts to really fly by, especially if you haven't checked your bags and made a pre-race pit stop.

"What did you do?"

What COULD I do? I stood there absolutely losing my mind.  I've NEVER, not ONCE been late to the start of a race. All while we were in security, we watched the skydivers land, saw the V-22 Ospreys do their fly over, and heard the howitzers fire. I didn't pass the magnetometers (which got turned off) until just before the start. Under 5 minutes, by my watch. I didn't cross the start line until roughly 20 minutes AFTER the howitzer fired and the race began.

"20 minutes?"


"That seems like a lot."

It felt WAY longer as each second went by, as I was still holding my drop bag for the UPS truck.

Yes. I'll bet. Anyway, there are many stories about the security line snafu I'm sure people at home could Google and read about if they were so inclined. Let's get back to your experience with the race, Oh Great and Powerful RunBLAHGGER.

Um, ok. What happened to your quotation marks, by the way?

My fingers were getting tired from doing air quotes when I spoke.

I wondered about that.  Anyway, I checked my bags with the UPS drivers, . . . peed . . . somewhere . . . and found myself in the rear with the gear. I was back there with people in costumes, walkers, and the general party atmosphere of people in the 6+ hour corral. I had hoped to be in the 4:30 corral, based on my last 20 mile "easy" long run.

Wow! How far back were you?

I just said how far. Way the hell back there. Why are you asking again?

I am a terrible reporter, and I don't know what "Rear with the gear," means.

You're a terrible reporter for covering me as a news event, that's for sure. I was way WAY in the back. With people who are, each and every one of them, fine competitors, but who at times were going slower than me, and often 3-4 abreast. It also means that they would tend to just STOP running at seemingly random times, and otherwise a little inexperienced at this stuff. But they were having fun, as I and a few thousand of my closest friends tried to dash in between or around them.

So what did you do once you got going?

I took off too fast, and weaved WAY too much at the start of this race. It was awful. I ran the first 5 miles averaging 10 minutes a mile, which isn't horrible, but doesn't account for how much "East-West" running I did, instead of just "North-South." I weaved constantly, shooting through gaps here and there, and then trying to settle. But if I settled TOO long, I'd realize I was going too slow, and had to work through traffic again.

How far did you get?

I was using pace groups as a guide. I caught an "unofficial" 6 hour pacer pretty quickly (he was taking 3 friends to their first sub-6), and then the 5:30 pacer after a bit. I passed them, kept working, and was finally getting faster.  But the crowds to work through in Rock Creek Park were thick . . . and angry.


This was the most bitter I've seen or heard people doing MCM. The Navy Marathon team had to REALLY work through crowds even pre-mile 5, and people were screaming to get right as the team members passed on the left. The Navy guys were fine, but everybody was snapping and grousing at each other and we jostled and tried to make up time. It wasn't a super communal time to say the least.

That doesn't sound fun.

A lot of it wasn't, at least through mile 10. In Rock Creek Park, a woman and guy got into it as he was passing people. She said, in response to something he complained to her about, "I'm in my lane!" He said something back, and pushed on faster. She called out as he went on, "GOOD LUCK IN THE OLYMPICS!"

Sarcasm. The runner's weapon.

Yeah. I'd already flushed my race hopes, but still wanted to have fun and at least put up a time I wasn't ashamed over. I hit mile 10 averaging a faster time of 9:45ish per mile, and felt like I was finally through the worst of the traffic. By that point I'd passed the 5 hour pace group, the 4:45 pace group, and I'd even passed the 4:30 pace group.

Were there any high points during this part of the race?

Oh, easily the Blue Mile at 12. I'd worn blue almost head to toe for this race, including the Run to Remember gear, instead of my usual Nats stuff.

Can we get the control truck to put the photo up as a graphic?

It was just staggering to have SO many people look at you and scream, "GO TEAM BLUE!" while you passed them.

When did you hit the Half Marathon point?

It was at 2 hours 12 minutes, and that was right about where I'd want to be for a sub-4:30 marathon. Assuming, of course, that I hadn't blown my legs out for 13 miles running in/out of crowds.

Uh oh.

Yup. It wasn't great. Miles 10-18 were living in the 10 minutes per mile zone, some closer to 10 flat, others closer to 10:30. I had not one but TWO loving support teams meet me at different points along mile 18, so I was just happy as a clam to stop, greet, wave, and smile there.

The support of family and friends must be huge to a runner.

It is. Even within groups of runners themselves. It gets us through training, and makes life easier for sure.

I bet it helped during this race, right?

Absolutely. Not just at Mile 18. Another time was when I came along some more friends just before mile 20, waiting at the start of the dreaded 14th street Bridge. Here, let me "hold a picture on my phone up to your camera" (wink wink).

Well, they seem fun.

They're a blast, and great runners!

Did you meet anyone else?

Yes! theSaraD had Leah along with her for a portion of the race; I'd met Leah at the Cherry Blossom Expo when I volunteered there. Sara and Leah offered to run with me across the 14th Street Bridge, and, no lie, probably saved my race. I was ok, but not super motivated. Instead, we got into a great chat, and the next thing I knew, we were coming OFF the bridge. I'll just say it, those those two basically PULLED me across the 14th Street bridge like they were a motorboat, and I was the Go-Go's.

You seem quite pleased with yourself with that line.

I am.

Was your target audience for that joke people who are aged 95 years old and up?

Maybe. Or maybe I love that joke so much I'll hold my phone with my original tweet right up to your camera AGAIN, because it is a GREAT JOKE:

I still don't get the reference. Did you speak with a semicolon AND a hyperlink earlier, by the way, despite this being a totally impromptu TV interview?

I'm quite good at what I do.

Anyway.  What happened when you got off the bridge?

ANOTHER friend of mine, CCRuns (aka Clythie, of RunCookEatRepeat) was working the water stop around Mile 21, just after you leave the bridge. Clythie cracks me up because she's smart and funny, and has the particularly good quality of thinking I'M funny. That last bit might undercut the "she's smart" part with some people, but works for me. It was great. We had a mini-reunion/intro, and then Sara, Leah, and I were back off again.

Did you stay with Sara and Leah the rest of the way?

BAHAHAHAHA! Good one. They're fast. I thanked them for keeping me going, but was just in a foul mood and wanted to run/walk/stew my way to the finish. So I was alone by mile 23, with a mere 3 miles to go before the final hill.

What would you say was the line of the race?

That happened BEFORE the race, while I was still on a Metro car to the start:


Right? I guess it beats getting Gu in your eye, so to speak.

Is there any other line you can think of that was, say, a little more meaningful, and a little less dick or jizz related?

Those are pretty (turns to camera) HARD to top (turns back), but probably this one I read before I was even on a Metro train. It struck a cord with me, and inspired me:

(which quoted)

That's a good line. Not a lot of people can fire off 26.2 miles.  You should be grateful instead of bitter, don't you think?

Probably.  And in 20 days, I've got a 50K trail race to run.

So what you're saying is that you're profoundly damaged?

I would have guessed that was obvious when I "spoke" using a semicolon.

What was the finish like?

It was a highlight. Despite just getting under four hours two years ago, this race was a struggle to get under FIVE hours, a lot of which I attribute to my undertraining, but a whole helluva lot has to do with the start. But after taking it easy at 23 and 24, I cranked it up harder, and finished in under five hours. The Marines were fantastic, and I was happy to just have, as Adam Lesser pointed out, the ability to run a marathon at all. I'm done, and I had fun. That has to count for something.

So with the race over for you, what's next?

I'm going to meet up with fellow MCM runner, and a dear friend, Jennifer. We're going to find a mountain of carbs in pizza form as soon as this interview is over and I make my way to the UPS truck. We hung out at the Expo Friday, and had brunch with a bunch of her friends Saturday, including @RunsOnCokeZero. After the suckage of this race today, I'm pretty sure our time chatting and snarking might be the highlight of this entire weekend. Here's a pic we had at the Expo, let me hold my phone up again:

She did NOT want to take this picture with me, but she's a good sport

That sign looks like it says "Oprah."

No it doesn't. How did you get your job? Shouldn't you be investigating corruption or wrongdoing instead of waiting around a marathon finish line? Get some real answers!

What's your real name?

Wow, that's random. Did you think that would work?

It was worth a shot.

Fine. It's Hugh.

Hugh? Your name is Hugh?

Hugh G. Rection.

Aaaaaaaaand, that's a wrap, why the hell did we pick this guy to interview, I went to JOURNALISM SCHOOL DAMMIT cut the feed I don't know why we wo--!


(TV turns off)