Saturday, August 21, 2010


Anyone who has run the Marine Corps Marathon knows a thing or two about the 14th Street Bridge.

First and foremost, this is the bridge that runners have to be across before the six hour mark or else they will not be allowed to finish the race. That's right, the bridge is re-opened to traffic six hours after the start of the race. If you don't "beat the bridge", they taxi you across the bridge by car and allow you to finish. But in fact you do not actually finish the marathon - you come up about 1.5 miles short.

I was worried we might not beat the bridge the first time I ran the MCM; however, we crossed it with time to spare.

Other important things to know about the 14th Street Bridge:

1. usually there is a great food stop around mile 22 right after you cross the bridge. In 2005 there were Subway cookies and in 2006 there were Sport Beans. I have always looked forward to the mile 22 food during the MCM. It, along with fresh oranges at mile 6, is my favorite part of the race.

2. shortly after exiting the bridge, runners enter Crystal City. The fans in CC are great. And there is free beer for all runners. That's right a group (mostly guys) sits on the side of the course with a keg and they offer dixie cups of beer to all runners. During my first MCM, I started to hear rumors of beer at mile 22 around mile 19. Really? Beer for runners? It was crazy entering CC only to see that there was beer and that runners were drinking it - with 4.2 miles to go.

For me, personally, the 14th Street Bridge has some running significance. During my first MCM I tripped running up the on-ramp and really hurt my toe. I was so tired and had never run more than 20 miles. Running up the on-ramp I simply lost focus and fell. It hurt. I hate that bridge! A nice, slightly drunk spectator sitting on the bridge offered me Advil and gatorade after falling. I was surprised by his kindness, but passed. I'm not one to take drugs from a stranger. In 2006, I had a great run until I reached the bridge. With less than five miles to go, I considered not finishing the marathon while running across the bridge. I had no motivation left inside of me. D was thankfully running with me. He encouraged me across the bridge and once we were in CC I was spurred on by the crowd. Truth be told, that bridge was nearly the end of my 2006 race.

My reason for talking about the 14th Street Bridge is because the bridge played a major part in my 15 mile run today. I set out from home this morning about an hour later than planned. I totally forgot to set my alarm. I hit the road around 7:15am. My first 8.25 miles were raced as part of the Mama Goes Masters virtual race (yes, I ran two of the three distances in a 72 hour period). First 8.25 miles was at a 9:52 pace - not as fast as I'd hoped, but not bad. I'll take it.

I finished my 8.25 miles at the on-ramp to the 14th Street Bridge in Virginia. I was ready to head back into the District and home. My plan was to walk the on-ramp to the bridge. I had fears of falling again and I also needed some slower speeds to break open my power bar. I was chomping away on my mid-run snack and gearing up to run again when I stumbled upon a pile of puke.

And when I see puke it makes me want to puke.

Fighting the need to puke I kept walking. Several minutes later I thought I was ready to run again; stomach was settling. That's when the smell hit me; the smell of crap (literally I'm talking about poop). DC has an old sewage system and when it rains too hard the sewage system overflows into the stormwater drainage system (the two systems are in fact combined). We had crazy hard rains earlier this week. The rains caused the sewage to drain into the Potomac. And the big barges underneath the 14th Street Bridge served as a dam for all the poop. So running over the bridge one smelled several days old raw sewage. The smell made me want to throw up AGAIN.

So I continued to walk.

I ended up walking the entire length of the bridge.

I went back to running at the off-ramp. I refilled my water bottle at the Jefferson Memorial and ran home from there. It was a long, uphill run home.

I did walk one steep incline knowing I wouldn't finish the rest of the run if I ran that specific hill.

I wanted to quit about 1000 times between the Jefferson Memorial and home, but I kept plugging along. When I was about three miles from the end of my run I started to feel really good. I stopped for a water refill and chugged along until my desired end.

I walked about a mile home from there.

Post-run I snacked on granola bars and scrambled eggs. I've had two bottles of gatorade and too many glasses to count of water. For lunch we had carmelized onions and sauteed cabbage with fresh lemon squeezed on top. It was wonderful.

I have a headache from dehydration, which I typically get after any run longer than 10 miles.

All in all, it was a good run except for the 14th Street Bridge.

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