Everything that lead up to the start of the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon was kind of eh. But the Runner’s World Challenge was, hands down, the most pleasant part!
Due to a case of plantar fasciitis that came up for the first time in my life 2 weeks before race day, I did not go out to the shake-out run, the first part of the RWC weekend. I really wanted to but it didn’t seem wise when my race plan was essentially to start the race, hope for the best, and use sheer determination and willpower to carry me to the end. The first I saw of the RWC team was at the expo and the Runner’s World booth. I didn’t linger there but they were very nice and helpful.
Like I said in my initial lead up post, I also decided not to go to the strategy seminar because, yeah, I already had a strategy (don’t quit!) and I had a paper to write for school. I was bummed about it but that’s how it goes. I didn’t get to really experience the Runner’s World Challenge part until race day morning. I got to the tent early, maybe before 6am. There were a dozen or so people in the tent already. The tent smelled like coffee (I have just entered heaven). And it was WAY warmer than outside.
There were bagels, cream cheese, bananas I think, coffee, and water. I was starting to get really nervous and was in my own little world. I sat at an empty table to nibble nervously on a bagel. Internally, I was scolding myself for not being more social. But I was so worried I wouldn’t finish that I didn’t think I could muster good cheer with complete strangers. A bit later one woman was walking past and said hi and asked how it was going. I said “not bad” and that I was tired. More like I was tired of freaking out inside my head. But I thought to myself, ok, stop being antisocial! So when she came by again I asked her if she was running the race too. Yeah, this is why I keep my mouth shut usually. Because I say too many brilliant things when I decide to talk. Like asking whether someone in run gear in a marathon tent is about to run the marathon.
Well she was a runner. But she wasn’t just a runner, she was an editor at Runner’s World Magazine! She said her name was Christine Fennessy and, yes, she was running. We got to talking and I found out she was there with her husband, Keith, who I had met in passing at the expo (he’s the guy on the right in my RWC booth pic!). She said Keith was running without really having trained for it and that she was formerly a cyclist. We talked for a while, even about non-running things, and it was great to not retreat within my own head for my usual mental slideshow of race worries. It’s funny because something about her reminded me a lot about my military buddies and I asked her if she had ever been in the service. She hadn’t, but she was really interested in military stuff and we chatted about that for a while too.
A little before the opening ceremony started they started to collect all of our bags to take them to the finish line for us. I’ve never checked a bag at a race before because it always seemed like a hassle and kind of sketchy to hand over your stuff to someone and expect to get it back later. But it was different to hand it over to this group. It seemed like more of a sure thing. Then, none other than Bart Yasso came over to our table and sort of randomly asked me if I wanted this giant trash bag to use because of the rain. I did!! I was too busy freaking about my leg that I hadn’t done much in the way of preparing for the rain or cold. I took the bag, which came down to my feet, and poked a head hole and arm holes. It turned out to be amazing. Just perfect for the long wait before crossing the start.
Christine and Keith and I made our way up to the start. They were both lining up further up from where I planned to start so we said goodbye and they said they’d see me at the finish line festival. I didn’t want to say to them “Um, maybe.” But I thought it was cool that they assumed they’d see me there and that I’d finish. They were such a happy, positive bunch! Everyone I met there with Runner’s World was. Clearly whoever hires people at Runner’s World picks the most positive, cheery people that show up. And I’m also convinced they only hire people who can run great marathons in their sleep. Christine denied it but then proved me right in the end!
I did finish the race after all. Which was good because I really wanted to hear how everyone’s race went!
The Runner’s World Challenge people told me that I would see the flags at the end telling me where to go and that they would be looking out for us by our bibs. I was relying pretty heavily on this since I’m never in a great frame of mind after a marathon. I knew it was up Wilson Blvd though and I at least know that street. They had signs throughout and it was really easy, even with me feeling out of it.
The finish line party was in the Hyatt there on Wilson. You go up and you can grab your bag, sign up for a massage if you want, and get some food. There are also bathrooms there to change and get yourself sorted. I first went to grab some food and then I went to change into some compression socks. They had a couple of casseroles there, which I wasn’t up for after just having finished, and they had wraps. I think they had 3 different kinds of wraps and I had the chicken one. It was really good to have that protein after the race. They had banquet tables there and a bunch of people were finished and eating together. I think I may have been one of the last ones to arrive but if that’s true then I don’t want to know!
When I was out in the hallway putting on my compression socks I ran into Keith again! I asked him how it had gone for him. He was completely happy with it and said it went well but then started talking about how Christine had BQ’d! He was really excited but I was like, ok, a Runner’s World Magazine editor BQ’d. Isn’t that a prerequisite for employment with them? Isn’t that like someone saying that their doctor friend has a medical degree?? But no, turns out it’s not! This was Christine’s first BQ! Wow. She was so calm and normal before the race! When she lined up at the start it was like she was just going out to pay the parking meter and she’d be back in a sec. Her race story was amazing. I hope she writes about it soon. I told her I hoped David Willey, Editor-in-Chief of Runner’s World, gave out bonuses back at headquarters for his editors getting BQs. Hey, if not for that, then maybe a bonus for being the happiest, nicest group of runners I’ve ever met!
The Runner’s World Challenge/Runner’s World VIP, which they are now calling it, was definitely something I would do again. Even if you only partake in half of what they offer (like I did) it’s worth it. And I’m from the DC area so I wasn’t as dependent on having support around there as other people may have been, and I still thought it was worth it. At races like Big Sur and LA Marathon, and now Chicago which they just announced, it would be even more of a draw for me to have that support.
Thank you to all the Runner’s World staff for making this such a great event!
For those of you who want to hear about my race, check out my utterly boring tale of failure and pain here.