November 12, 2014

Spectating Marine Corps Marathon

It was a last minute decision to head up to DC to spectate for this year's Marine Corps Marathon. I had thought about going for weeks leading up to the race but I couldn't make the logistics work in my head. I had my last 20 mile training run on tap for that weekend, needed a place for my pup to stay, and needed to find my own lodging in DC. A text message one morning at work changed all of that when Adam found us a hotel over the metro in Crystal City and secured a spot at Paddy's favorite pet hotel. To say I was grateful for him helping to work this out is an understatement, but let's get back to the spectating shall we?

It was a simply picture perfect fall weekend in DC, the kind that makes for spectacular photos and perfect racing conditions.

Race morning, Dad walked Mom over to the start so I could get a little extra rest following my long run the day before and I was grateful for that! Adam and I met Dad for some coffee and then headed over to the metro.

Mile 1 Viewing: Our first stop was in Roslyn to catch Mom around mile 1-1.5. It was a simple trip over and we were easily able to find the race course by the stream of runners and cheering fans. We spent about 15 minutes here cheering.  I spotted Colleen, Maggie, Katie, and Mom, and loved seeing all of them off on their races!

Mile 5 Viewing: Next up, we decided that we could catch Mom at the Kennedy Center around mile 10.  We took the metro over to Foggy Bottom and meandered back down to the race course. To our surprise (and excitement), we realized we would be able to see Mom around mile 5 just as the race course turned out to Rock Creek Parkway.  Again, we saw Mom but she was less smiley this time…she expressed her frustration with a crowded race course, which bummed me out a bit.

Mile 10 Viewing: Next it was time for a quick bathroom stop at a nearby convenience store and then we walked over to the stretch around the Kennedy Center.  We were here for a while before Mom arrived  so we got to see tons of runners which was awesome.  And yet again, I saw Colleen looking strong!
Does he look familiar? Bart Yasso was across the road from us cheering!

Mom looked great during this stretch and we even got a picture of her blazing by!
Orange shirt is me, green shirt is Dad and white shirt
on the course is Mom!
After seeing Mom around mile 10, we had a while before we would see her again on the Mall so we elected to walk over. It was such a gorgeous day and the fresh fall air was intoxicating. During our walk over, we decided it was time for some refueling so we munched on apple slices and peanut butter crackers. Hey, spectating is hard work and snacks were a necessity!

Mile 16 Viewing: We had a pretty amazing view at the base of the Washington Monument just as the runners turned up toward the mall. It was also a primo spot because this was the mileage where we planned to do a banana handoff for Mom. Yes, this was a high pressure event. Dad, Adam, and I each had a banana to ensure the handoff was successful and we followed Mom's instructions to pre-peel it. Little known fact about Mom is that she cannot open a banana - crazy right! By now the runner tracker was working so I was able to track Mom closely. A mile in advance, Adam was able to cross the road, which was no easy task with a constant stream of runners, and Dad and I spread out in case the first person missed Mom. I gave Adam a 2 minute warning (yes, this is like an NFL game!) and we waited. I spotted Mom before she turned the corner and since she was on Adam's side of the road, Adam was able to catch her to offer her a precious banana but she wasn't interested. We all turned and laughed about our well-orchestrated plan for nothing!  We then decided that a few other runners might want a banana and within a nanosecond of yelling "who wants a banana?", they were gone!
Runners as far as the eye could see!
Next up, mile 19! We were able to easily find a cheering spot right before the water stop before the 14th street bridge and patiently waited for Mom. And at long last, we got some really good photos of her! She seemed smiley and looked strong so I was surprised to learn after the race that she felt terrible at this spot.

Finish Line Viewing: We took the metro from the Smithsonian stop back to the finish line at Roslyn, hoping to catch Mom at the finish. It was a really long meandering walk back from metro to the Finish line area of the race course, so be warned! The crowds were thick at the end of the race course, but I was able to stake out a very small spot crouching down at the base of the final hill. When Mom came by, I would swear I was shaking my cowbell in her face but she was in the zone and never saw me.
Amazing views from the hills at the finish line!
Getting ready to cheer Mom in for the finish!
It broke my heart that Mom was disappointed in her race and so sad after she finished. After some big hugs and encouragement, she cheered up and we enjoyed the finish line festival. She called her coach and got a little more encouragement which seemed to help. Her legs were hurting her a lot and we checked out the massage line…it was really, really long so we improvised with a calf massage on the curb.

 While I know she wished her race experience had been different, we were REALLY proud of her!

For future spectators, how we metro'ed around:
- Blue Line from Crystal City to Rosslyn for mile 1-2 viewing
- Blue Line from Rosslyn to Foggy Bottom-GWU for mile 5 and mile 10 viewing
- Walked up to Washington Monument for mile 16 viewing
- Walked across mall to Smithsonion area/base of 14th street bridge for mile 19 viewing
- Metro'ed from Smithsonian to Roslyn for finish line viewing

Spectating Essentials:
- Snacks
- Water
- Coffee!
- Comfy shoes and weather-appropriate clothing
- Phone with portable charger for runner tracking and map capabilities
- Cheering "tools" like posters, balloons, bull horns, cowbells, etc.

Read Mom's Marine Corps Marathon race recap here and Marine Corps Marathon by the numbers here.

Ever spectated a marathon?  Did it inspire you?


  1. Sorry she didn't have a great race experience, but I'm sure she was sooooo happy that you were able to make the trip! And amazing job on getting to see her at so many different spots! Reading your recap kinda makes me want to do this race...unlike my spectating the NYCM which kinda makes me never want to do that one lol

  2. Having run this race the same year you did, I really want to go back and spectate! I'm so sad Mom didn't have that great of a race! But she's a rockstar nonetheless!

  3. Great job spectating! You got some fantastic pictures! I was so glad I got to see Pam in the morning- sorry I missed you!

  4. Wow, what an incredible experience to be able to see your mom several times during the race! Spectating races is definitely inspiring, especially at a race as large and meaningful as MCM. It still makes me sad that your mom didn't have a great MCM experience, but I'm glad that I got to see her on the course and cheer her on!

  5. I just spectated a friend running the NYCM-wow is that hard work haha! We all were exhausted when it was over :) Great ideas in your list for spectating. Definitely needed a phone charger (I guess the tracking app drained my battery so fast?) and I really wish I had packed a cow bell or something of that sort. My hands and voice started to hurt from cheering so much. Didn't really think I'd be cheering that much for other people but it was so inspiring to watch all those runners battle such brutal conditions!

  6. Love the "little known fact" about the lack of banana peeling skill (sorry Pam!), but come to think of it I HATE bananas and NEVER eat them, so for all I know I can't peel one either! And it's too funny that you guys put so much effort into your banana hand off plan and then she didn't want one!

    I know as a runner during NYCM, my spectators having balloons I could pick out was AWESOME, I was able to spot them so easily!

  7. This must have been an awesome race to spectate, but I sometimes think about how exhausting it can be to try to spot your runner along the course! But it can be SO inspiring -- after I finished the Hartford Half Marathon last year, and hung around to watch all of the marathoners come in, it was the first time I knew that I was SO ready to run a marathon! I'm going to be spectating my BF during the Philadelphia Marathon in a couple of weeks, and it's my first time actually spectating a full race...I'm actually a little nervous about it! Haha

  8. I'm sorry Pam didn't have a great race, but looks like you had a great time spectating. It was watching my first NYC Marathon that inspired me to run one myself! I also went out to cheer runners at the impromptu marathon in Central Park after the 2012 NYC Marathon was canceled. I had a friend running his first marathon in that day--he'd raised 8,000 for the Brain Tumor Foundation (after losing his father to a brain tumor) and felt he owed it to his donors to run a marathon as promised. Then, this year I watched 50,000 runners cross the NYC finish, cheering many of them across. Watching a marathon *might* be more fun than running one!

  9. I absolutely love DC and have had the MCM in the back of my mind for awhile but right now, I've sworn off fulls, lol. I loved your spectator recap.

  10. Looks like you had some great spectating views. I heard they were doing massages but I didn't have time to wait in line since we had to check out of hotel right always. Were the massages complimentary?

  11. So glad you were able to watch your mom run! I loved having my friend and bf out on the course cheering me on (and giving me snacks). It was something I looked forward to throughout the race. Your banana story was pretty funny.

  12. I love DC and would love to specate a big race (I've done more running than cheering)! That's great that you were able to watch your mom run :)
    Karen @karenlovestorun

  13. You ladies are a real inspiration. I've been training for the Disney Marathon since last winter and check in here regularly to stay pumped up. Keep up the good work!

  14. Thanks so much for shouting to me! You really have no idea how badly I needed that at that particular moment!!