The number one thing I hear about the Marine Corps Marathon from others who have run it or been involved is that the course support is unparalleled in any other race they've run. Just recently I ran the Towpath Marathon Half on my beloved Towpath Trail - but I had the option to make the full marathon distance in that race series my first full instead of running MCM. When I thought about how few places there would be on the Towpath for spectators, and how much lovely-but-lonely distance there would be between those spots, I realized that no matter how much I enjoyed my Towpath races, that was not the right setting for my first attempt at 26.2 miles. My realization was proven when I ran the half and only passed ONE spectator spot. The full marathon had a few more places, but at no point are people actually able to, like, spread out along the course and cheer you through whole sections.
Marine Corps will be vastly different. While there are some stretches that apparently have very few spectators, the majority of the course will be in a huge city with tons and tons of course support. If it's not local spectators or runners' supporters, it's Marines there to cheer and encourage. According to the MCM website, there will be live music along the course as well. Almost every step of my marathon will be surrounded by people, as well as the sights and sounds of a famous big-city race. It's exciting to think about - but a little worrisome.
I know I've told myself before that I'd just be "one-and-done" on long race distances. For example, after my first half marathon waaaaaaay back, I said "that's it, no more!" And yet, here I am, seven of twelve months down on my half-marathon-every-month goal, sooooo.... When I say this may be my only marathon, I'm not sure how set I really am on making that call. In some ways it's very fitting for me to have my full in DC if that's my only full, since I'm trying to do a half marathon in every state (eventually), and I think it's almost poetic: fifty states at the half and the crowning DC jewel as a full. On the other hand, I know what it's like to catch the bug, so to speak, and know there's a chance my competitive side will finish MCM and think golly jeepers, I can do better than THAT time! It'll happen no matter how fast I cover my first marathon, and even my coworkers know it.
But what happens when I start looking at doing another marathon, get through all the training, show up on race day - and find that MCM was the biggest, bestest, most excitingest marathon EVER? Between a combination of course support, monumental scenic setting, and the whole newness factor of a first marathon, there's a very real chance that no other marathon will live up to all of the hype and excitement that has been building for me since back in March when I first threw in my bid to join the 41st Marine Corps Marathon. If my next attempt isn't as big of a deal, I'm actually a little worried I wouldn't even be able to make it through the course. That would make me one sad panda.
Either way, for better or for worse or for ruining my idea of what running a marathon should feel like for years to come, MCM is less than a week away. Taper has been interesting and a little worrisome, but the worst nerves are probably yet to come. I'm leaving on Thursday morning for DC, hitting the Expo on Friday to get my bib, then planning on taking Saturday as easily as possible at my brother's house (this will probably involve a lot of board games and possibly some Disney sing-alongs). Sunday is the big day........
Multi-marathoners, does your first full leave a big impact on your perception of marathon racing? Have you ever run a race that you thought nothing could ever compare to afterwards? What happened next time you ran? I'm gonna survive this thing, right?