Last Spring, my friends and I decided on racing California International Marathon and a series of tune-up races leading up to it. The first was Army 10-Miler on October 8th. I was late in the game on registration for this race which usually fills very quickly, but luckily I was able to get in just before registration closed.
The Wednesday before the race, we had a solid 10×1000 workout that set high expectations for the race. These expectations were soon tempered by weather forecast which crept warmer as the week progressed.
I arrived in DC around 4 in the afternoon for the race expo. In hindsight, I should have arrive much earlier after encountering heavy traffic from Quantico to the expo parking lot. The race expo was at the DC armory and shared a parking lot with RFK stadium and spectators were starting to arrive for a Redskins game.
Outside the expo, a transport helicopter, a Bradley vehicle and missile launcher were on display for the crowd. The expo itself filled the entire floor of the armory building and was very busy. Although the race expo lasted until 6, most of the Army 10 miler branded items were nearly packed up by the time I got there. The rest of the expo was pretty typical race vendor fare, so I was disappointed to see this section packed up early.
My trouble hydrating for a hot race is anything I drink beforehand results in many, many trips to the restroom. I tried to mitigate this by drinking one gatorade before going to sleep and another at 5am, 3 hours before race time hoping that would give enough time for the morning potty dance.
I arrived at the Pentagon at 7am with plenty of time to check my bags, go through security, and one last trip to the portajohns. I lined up in Corral A about 7 rows back finding some runners with similar race numbers, as ATM assigns numbers based on your predicted finish time. My original race plan was 6:15 pace but I couldn’t remember what I submitted. At any rate, I was pretty close to the front.
The race began with great pageantry including motivational speeches from the acting Secretary of the Army, the Sargent Major of the Army, a presentation of colors, a convocation prayer, the National Anthem and a flyover of Apache helicopters. All of the speakers bragged it was the third largest 10 mile race in the world. At 35,000 runners there are bigger races?
The race corrals were on one side of VA-110 and the other side was clear for warmups if you jumped the median. I felt thirsty at the starting line and elected not to run a warmup and further dehydrate.
After the hand cart athletes left, we advanced forward and suddenly I was maybe 20-25 rows back, maybe a little further than I wanted, the elite starters must have joined in front.
The race went past Arlington Cemetery then over the Arlington bridge. We crossed into the city and north towards the Watergate hotel then followed the river south under the Kennedy Center. Around mile 3 the rain started, but just a light drizzle for most of the race.
Around mile 4, I grabbed water then immediately had to use the portajohn, losing a minute-ugh!
We ran through a park, past the Tidal Basin and Holocaust museum and down Independence past the Smithsonian museums. The race looped around and back Independence then followed the 14th street bridge back to Arlington, we agreed this was the longest bridge ever.
There was a hand cart athlete behind us heading on to the bridge. All of the hand carts had a runner escort. We had a short downhill and the escort yelled at us to get out of the way as the cart coasted downhill.
The cart never ended up passing before I hit the next uphill. I heard the escort yell CURB. The course was not very wheelchair friendly, the athlete went over a curb. This one was just a big (maybe 4″) drop, however there were other places before the finish where we had to jump up and over a median.
Earlier in the race, around mile 4, I passed a blind runner with an escort. Just because you can’t see doesn’t mean you can’t go fast! That gives some perspective to the times that I’m timid doing tempo runs before dawn on the greenway. This guy is charging hard and fast through the darkness relying only on the cues from his pacer!
In the middle of the bridge was the first runner I saw who was laying the road with medics because of the heat. The race was stopped at 10:08 and the course was shortened for the remaining runners because of the heat and official times were not recorded.
The race dropped off the freeway around mile 8 and went by a band and a crowd taking shelter under the overpass. Crowd support was great throughout the race and definitely helped push me to the finish!
The race curves around the Pentagon and finally the finish line. The finish area was in one of the enormous Pentagon parking lots. We didn’t stay long and ventured back gear check, thankful for the first time for the warm weather. The mile walk would have been horrible in the cold!