I Won a Race - Sort of

Those who have read my story may recall that I'm one of 4 people who have finished all the Marine Corps Marathons in Washington, DC, starting in 1976. I'm the youngster of the group at 66. The others are 70, 72 and 74. The 37th race was last Sunday and we all finished, but not in our usual order. Traditionally, the oldest guy, who has fast genes, finished well ahead of the rest of us. I was usually second behind him. The race has nicknamed us the Groundpounders, a play on the slang for a Marine infantryman.

The weather was fine. Hurricane Sandy didn't affect us. I may have started too fast and started to feel bad around mile 8. I had to resort to taking short walking breaks, which I've never done in a marathon. Walking is standard procedure for me in longer races, but I was dismayed to have to start in a marathon.

At the halfway point at 13 miles I had the same feeling most have at that point. You feel like you've expended 75% of your physical and mental energy, but you're only 50% done. All you do is keep slogging. Around 18 miles I passed an old scrawny guy who ran with a hunched over gait, but was still moving well. The back of his T-shirt had a hand lettered message: "A Co 1st Bn. 5th Marines KOREA". The guy was into his 80's! I told myself to quit bitching and keep running.

Around 21 Miles I had the feeling many have at that point. To quote the great running writer George Sheehan, "The body has forgotten how and the mind can't remember why." Then the most amazing thing happened. I caught the fast guy! We chatted for a bit and he told me to run ahead, since I looked strong. He wasn't hurt, just having an age related slow day. He's a real nice guy and I felt badly about passing him, but not for long. It was a race after all.

That energized me and I ran most of the last 5 miles. At the finish line the announcer didn't have to say, "And here's today's Groundpounders Winner". I said it to myself. My time was 5:37.