I went through my pre-race routine like a zombie–Foot Works applied to the soles of my feet, lube to the groin region, band-aids to the nipples. I got dressed and choked down a bagel with peanut butter, chasing it with sports drink. Thank goodness this was the seventh time I had done this. The routine was comforting and easy to follow at such an ungodly hour.
Just before 5:00, I headed out for the ten minute walk to the Metro station. There was a slight drizzle in the air, but the temperature was moderate and vindicated my clothing choices–a slightly heavier pair of shorts with a compression brief and a long-sleeve tech shirt with my Team Fox T-shirt over the top.
At the last second, I grabbed my new Team Fox hat, leaving the 26.2 hat behind. I was breaking the first rule of race day: never do anything new or different. But I figured a new hat wasn’t going to ruin the day.
When I got onto the platform at the Tyson’s Corners station, there was no sign of any normal, sensible human beings, not even would-be spectators–just 25 other runners quietly milling around, trying to stay warm and loose. We boarded the train, and at each successive stop, more and more similar creatures boarded.
Unlike the day before, the journey to the Roslyn station went by quickly. Here, the crowd was big but not unwieldy, and I followed the crush on to the Blue Line train to the Pentagon station. One quick stop, and we were back out into the darkness for the mile-long walk to the start line.
Eventually, we came upon a security checkpoint. It only held us up for about ten minutes–with Marine efficiency, our bags were searched, we walked through a metal detector and we were back on our way. Later, I heard that the Blue Line trains experienced a significant delay and that one of the checkpoints experienced technical problems that delayed a large number of runners and forced them to miss the start. We early birds, it seems, caught our worms just in time.
But getting to the start line on time wasn’t the only benefit of being early. At the Runner’s Village, I was greeted by row upon row of portapotties. With no lines. And clean interiors.
If there is a runner’s heaven, surely it looks something like this.
Now, the wait began. My anxiety got the better of me, and rather than find a place to sit and relax, I wandered around for most of the time. Trying as best I could to keep to my pre-race routine, I stretched and did a short run before sheltering under a bridge during a brief drizzle. All the time, I wasn’t really conscious of how big this whole event was.
Even by the time we were eventually called to our corrals, I still hadn’t really managed to take it all in. That all changed in an instant when five paratroopers, each dragging behind them enormous American flags, made pinpoint landings near my corral, and two Marine Ospreys made a treetop-high pass over our heads.
Now, finally, I realized I was a part of something very big and very, very special. And as driven as I was to try and achieve a qualifying time for Boston, when the gun finally went off, I ran over the start mat determined to savor each mile as much as possible.
Team Fox Update
It’s been a little over a week since I crossed the Marathon finish line, and a few more donations have trickled in, making this year’s Team Fox fundraiser the best ever! This year’s total currently stands at $1,637.40, which means that we have now raised a staggering $5,103.50 in the four years since I began this craziness!
If you want to keep the momentum going, though, you can still make donations up to the end of the year. Just go to my fundraising page and make your contribution to help eliminate Parkinson’s!
How do you get over pre-race nerves? Was there a time when you were overawed by the occasion? Send me your thoughts and I’ll feature them in the next, and last, Semper Currens.