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The Marine Corps Marathon is an annual 26.2 mile (42 K) road running race held in Washington, D.C. Its also known as "The People's Marathon" since there is no prize money and no elite wave. I guess all the professionals go to the Chicago Marathon which is held the same weekend (at least this year). This year's race, on 22 October 2000, was the 25th anniversary of the first race, and it was my second marathon.

The race begins and ends at the Marine Corps War Memorial (the Iwo Jima Monument). The course goes south from the start past Arlington Cemetery and the Pentagon, then around Pentagon City before heading north again. After passing the starting line again, the course crosses Potomac River over Key Bridge arriving in Georgetown at mile 8. One runs past the Watergate apartments and the Kennedy Center toward the Lincoln Memorial.

Turning onto Constitution Avenue just before mile 10 is perhaps the most exciting part, where the crowds are lined up from the Lincoln Memorial all the way to the U.S. Capitol. The run around the Capitol itself is boring, but then one finds the crowds again when the course turns back west to run along south part of the Mall. The course then heads south all the way to Hains Point; although the spectators were just scattered about East Potomac Park the scenery was very nice. The turnaround at Hains Point comes at mile 18 and, heading north, one can see runners both ahead and behind on the course as the course circles around the Jefferson Memorial.

The miles 23 marker is on the 14th Street Bridge. In my opinion this bridge marked the start of the most grueling part of the run. The on-ramp to the bridge is steep and never before has every single muscle in my legs screamed with pain from so much lactic acid. Somehow the pain subsided enough to keep me from stopping as we passed the Pentagon again. Miles 24 to 26 were spent by me in survival mode. The course heads north along the now-familiar Route 110 passing Arlington Cemetery again (I never saw the cemetery from the road).

As most people learn in the hour before the start of the race from MCM veterans, the hardest part of the race is the last half mile where one runs past the starting line, turns a corner into a very steep hill and runs around a long circle. Indeed, running up the hill was like climbing five flights of stairs. The crowds here were packed, but curiously subdued compared to their counterparts at the finish of the New York City Marathon. There were cheers and surges of excitement, but not quite at the same energy level as in Central Park. The finish is especially tortuous because, running around a big circle, one doesn't see the finish line until nearly there. So as I passed the 26 mile marker, muscles screaming and left foot throbbing, I really, really wanted to see the finish line so I could visualize pounding my way there and estimate just how many more steps I needed until I could collapse on the comfortable, soft, warm, welcoming pavement and take a long nap.

Anyway, I did make it to the finish. In fact I chopped off 18 minutes from my 1999 NYC Marathon time for a new Personal Record.

This was a very well-organized race and, in spite of its challenges, a wonderful course. Although I'm still starry-eyed and nostalgic about my first marathon in NYC, this was an equally rewarding experience.

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