36th MCM – A Volunteer’s Review

The 36th Marine Corps Marathon is over and it was unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed in my life. It was a day of determination, focus, happiness, joy and spirit. But let me back up and start from the beginning.

Mom got to my house at 4:30 am Sunday morning. The metro opened at 5:00, so we wanted to make sure we were there to catch the first train. The metro ride went off uneventfully. It was still pitch black outside when we reached the Pentagon stop.

After a short charter bus ride and cold, dark walk, we arrived at Runner’s Village. We wandered around the dark parking lot for a while before we finally saw brown UPS trucks faintly outlined in the distance. It took a while but we found our volunteer spot.

We paired up with a UPS driver named Tony and got to work. Our jobs were pretty easy. Take the runner’s clear bag and make sure the sticker from their running bib was attached to the bag. We tied off each bag and handed  them to Tony and his wife, who was also volunteering.

There were over 20 UPS trucks lined up for baggage drop off. Every single UPS driver was a volunteer and was not paid for their time and work at the race. Pretty awesome if you ask me. Together with the UPS drivers, Marines and other volunteers, mom and I worked right up until race time.

We took bags, talked to runners and gave high fives. The parking lot was alive with excitement and anticipation. I was surprised by the amount of runners who stripped down to basically nothing before giving us their bags. I guess they didn’t want to bother with throw-away clothes. I was cold just looking at them!

At 8:00 on the dot, the trucks closed and we were finished with our duties. All of the Marines and UPS drivers were super nice and we got free volunteer shirts out of the deal.

We wanted to catch some of the race, so we walked towards the start line and made our way into DC. There was lots of dancing involved and lots of stops to take pictures.

We walked straight up the corrals and through the start line. It looked like an Apocalypse happened. There was so many discarded clothes along the way.

We made our way up the exit for the Memorial Bridge and to the round about in between Arlington Cemetary and the bridge. It was so cool to be able to walk in the streets when usually they are so busy and full of traffic.

 Spectators were everywhere. We could hear commentary from the 10k over in Rosslyn. The sun was bright over the Potomac and took the chill out of the air. It was a beautiful morning.

Mom and I walked across the Memorial Bridge and enjoyed the views along the way. Often times, I get so caught up in the traffic and congestion of our area, and I forget how beautiful it is. I definitely took the time to appreciate Northern VA and DC that morning.

Once we rounded the back of the Lincoln Memorial, we got an awesome view of the runners at mile 10. Seeing those runners gave me chills. They were all working so hard, pushing themselves to the limit. We got there in time to see the 3:15  pace group. I was blown away. I could never imagine running a FULL marathon in 3 hours and 15 minutes! These people were hard core.

We saw lots of people in costumes.

And lots of people who touched your heart. You have seen nothing until you have seen Marine with one arm and no legs participating in a marathon and doing it at a sub-4 pace. It was beyond words.

The energy was contagious. Mom and I jumped right in line and cheered for the runners. All around people were cheering, shaking their cowbells and carrying signs. It was course support like I’ve never seen.

After cheering in one spot for a while, we made our way across the mall and caught the same group of runners at mile 16. They were still going strong and looking great. We kept walking and ran into the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial. I thought it was beautiful and in a perfect location on the river.

As we walked, we just kept cheering for runners. A lot of them would respond with a fist pump or a wave. DC was alive with the colors of fall and the hard work of 40,000 athletes.

It was a spectacular sight.

After a few hours of cheering, mom and I were losing our steam. After 6 hours of working and walking, we were spent. So we headed to the Smithsonian metro and made our way back home.

It was an awesome morning. I wish I could express the impact it had on me. People are amazing and are capable of such great things. It’s very easy to give up in certain situations. You’re sick, overweight, old, have a disease, bad knees, you hate running, it’s cold…none of these excuses hold up when you see what a lot of these people overcame to get out there on Sunday and run 26.2 miles.

I am so glad mom and I witnessed the race this weekend. I hope next year, I am on the other side and I am one of the runners being cheered on by all the wonderful spectators.

The 36th Marine Corps Marathon was great event. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Marines put on a good race. Ooh-rah!

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