At the start of the year, as part of my smart-goal style New Year’s resolutions, I made a list of races that I was going to train for and run. Things started out really well, and I knocked out the D.C. Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon, the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler, and the Wine Country Half-Marathon, only missing the Kentucky Derby Half Marathon off that list because I got stranded in Ottawa due to a storm.
Things were going so well that somewhere along the line, I made the decision to go for a really big goal and knock out what would have been my 10th full marathon with the Marine Corps Marathon. Scott decided to join me, and we joined up with one of our favorite charities, the Friends 4 Michael Foundation, to run the MCM.
Friends 4 Michael was established by a very, very special young man, the son of my research advisor back when I was an assistant professor at West Point. When he was diagnosed at 11 with a brain tumor, he began receiving lots of gifts and donations. And he decided to start a foundation to help share those gifts with other children and their families needing help. Sadly, Michael passed at age 13. But today, the charity keeps alive his memory and his work, raising money to care for families struggling with children afflicted with brain tumors, and raising money to search out a cure.
Long story short, we ran to support Michael and his organization. I seriously cannot think of a charity that does more for families in need. And we look forward to supporting them more in the future. But this year, the MCM just wasn’t happening for us. We ran the MCM 10K instead.
As both a driven person and one who likes to tackle things regularly that are outside my comfort zone, you would think I’d be more comfortable with saying, “I can’t.” It’s still an extraordinarily difficult pill to swallow. However, at the end of the summer, Scott started a new job and I moved into a supervisorial position at work, and we just didn’t hit the training rhythm we had before. I was lucky to be able to knock out three solid runs a week, but I rarely could make time to do more than 5 miles. We felt that on the Army Ten Miler – along with feeling the ridiculous heat that day.
We sat down after the Army Ten Miler and realized just how hard it would be to complete 16.2 more miles than we’d run that day. Ten years ago, I would have gutted it out. But this time, we made the decision to downgrade to the other race being run the same day as the Marine Corps Marathon – the MCM 10K. And there’s no describing how glad I am we made that decision!
The 10K is a beautiful course. You start at the Capital Mall and basically pick up the MCM course at mile 19, making a few course deviations that catch you up at just about the same finish point. You still get that last charge up the hill toward the War Memorial in Arlington, you still get a lot of the monument and capital views, and you still get to run with some really amazing people and great cheer squads along the way. You just do it for 20 miles less than the marathon runners.
The thing is, as an older woman told us while we were riding the Metro in, there is no “just” or “only” about getting out and doing one of these races. It’s easy to say that we’re “just” doing the 10K, or, as we were talking about service time, “only” serving 5 or 6 years. But you can also say you’re “only” doing a marathon and not an ultra or an ironman race. Comparison is the thief of joy, and when you compare, you forget that you’re actually out there doing something. There is always someone doing more, but you’re doing what you can that day, and that’s worth something.
We got out there. We ran the 10K together and both achieved personal bests at the end. We cheered on a lot of people, ran into a lot of friends out on the course, and high-fived a whole lot of fresh-faced Marine second lieutenants and lance corporals on the way up the 60-foot hill at the finish. We raised money for one of our favorite charities. And we enjoyed some amazing, amazing fall weather.
This race isn’t the one I set out to run earlier this year. It doesn’t scratch “10th Marathon” off my to-do list. But it’s a race I’m really glad we ran, and one I would gladly run again. That’s a success in my book.
The MCM and MCM10K are set up assuming you’re going to take advantage of the early Metro opening that day. The Metro starts up at 6:00am, and I highly recommend you use it rather than trying to drive anywhere. Driving in the city sucks on a good day, but when most of the roads are blocked off, just forget it. Also, for the 10K, you start and end miles apart, so finding parking would be a pain.
We parked at the Metro and rode in to the Smithsonian stop, ran the race, walked through the finish festival in Rosslyn, and caught the Metro from Rosslyn back down to our stop.
The course itself is fairly flat, with only about a 60 foot range of elevation change. You go up a few light inclines on your way down to the I-395 bridge, but nothing that will slow you down all that much. The biggest incline is the hill at the finish line. There, you see the point of all the “take that hill” slogans stamped on marketing materials!
By the Numbers
- 6.2 planned miles
- 6.35 according to RunKeeper Pro
- About 8,000 participants in the 10K, 30,000 in the Marine Corps Marathon
- The youngest 10K runner was 8
- The oldest 10K runner was 86 #lifegoals
- Waves are broken up by expected finish time, choose on your honor
- About 60 feet total elevation change
- This year’s starting temperature was 46 degrees and we finished at 55
- The humidity was 93% but we definitely didn’t feel it like in the 10M
- We kept our pace within +/- :15, which is the steadiest we’ve been!
That wraps our year of races – although we just discovered in an MCM Expo handout that there’s a MCM 10K Turkey Trot on November 18th that we just might have to sign up for!
We wish you all a wonderful week!