My favorite race of the year is the Marine Corps 10K, run on the same day as the Marine Corps Marathon – everything from the start on the National Mall to the finish at Iwo Jima and the U.S. Marines on hand to pass out medals is just iconic. I ran the race in-person before the pandemic, ran it twice as a virtual event – good to keep up with it, but not the same – and this year was back (woefully undertrained as usual, but at least I had months worth of Peloton to draw upon) toeing the start line at the National Gallery of Art. And this year was extra special because we had two events to enjoy – starting on Saturday with the MCM Kids’ Run.
Nugget ran the virtual MCM Kids’ Run – then called the “Semper Fun Run” – in 2020, and when I asked him if he was interested in trying out his first in-person race he was all about it. The guy has yet to meet a sport he didn’t immediately love (and excel at) and I suspected he would be all about this. (He also has three medals already on his Jurassic Park-themed medal rack and has been itching to add more.) So I signed him up and on Saturday morning, Steve, Peanut, Nugget and I made our way down to Long Bridge Park in Arlington.
We took our time checking out the scene, listening to music, and taking pictures – and Nugget got a balloon from the Navy Federal tent at the race-day expo – until his wave was called and it was time to send my little runner through to the corrals! Did I cry a tiny bit? You know I did.
He just looked so big and brave walking through the check-in tent and getting ready to tackle his first race. Sniff! After he was settled in the corral, we found a spot to watch the runners take off – just a partially obstructed view, but we were able to see him cross the start line. Once he was off and away, we left the start area to find a good spot to stand and watch the finish (the course was secure and kids-only – except for race staff – so we couldn’t cheer him on mid-race). Steve and Peanut set up near the finishers’ area, but I found a space to squeeze in by the last corner on the course. I was behind a man, who kindly told me to let him know if I saw my kid and he would step aside so I could hop in front and take a picture. I thanked him, and he asked what Nugget was wearing – so I said a blue shirt and reddish-orange shorts, and my new friend pointed and said, “Is that him?” No, it couldn’t be, I said, he just started the race a few minutes ago and he’s just a little guy. But I peered at the little runner coming down the last hill and – wait! It was him!
Over the finish line in just around seven minutes – unreal! And he started near the back of the crowd and had to weave through a bunch of kids, so he must have actually picked up speed and been clocking closer to a six minute mile by the end. The kid is just insane.
He had an absolute blast and proudly wore his race shirt and medal all afternoon and all the next day – and he’s been begging me to sign him up for another race ever since. I asked him if the race bug had bit him and he said “Pretty hard.” Steve, for his part, jokingly groaned that we drove thirty minutes each way for Nugget to run seven, and made me promise that his next race will be closer to home. (I found a turkey trot with a 1-mile kids’ run – and race medals – about ten minutes from my house, so that’s the next one. Nugget could definitely train for and run a 5K at his age, given his level of interest and activity, but I would rather play it safe and stick to the 1-mile distance until he’s eight. He agrees!)
Saturday’s fun wasn’t the end of the weekend excitement, either. On Sunday morning, at the crack of dawn, we all piled into the car and Steve and the kids dropped me off on the National Mall for my race. Someday I would love to run the full Marine Corps Marathon, but for now a 10K is better suited to my busy life.
The course was just as fun and beautiful as I remembered! Running past the Capitol as the sun comes up – always a thrill. I’ve been living in the D.C. area since 2003 – except for a three-year hiatus in Western New York – and it never gets old. I still have those I can’t believe I live here moments on the regular, and this is definitely one of them.
After the Capitol, the course heads back up the Mall toward the Washington Monument, snakes through a few D.C. streets, and then heads for Arlington via the 14th Street Bridge. I’ve heard that this bridge is an absolute bear at mile 20 of the marathon, but at mile 2 of the 10K it’s not that bad.
Once in Arlington, the course winds through Crystal City (I did consider peeling off to my office and getting an Uber ride home, but decided to stick it out) and then ends up on highways for the last couple of miles. Those last few kilometers are a bit of a slog, and I looked forward to hitting the – now empty – Marine Corps Marathon starting corrals, because that meant we were hitting the last stretch.
Mile 26! Someday.
One more corner to go! The course ends on a hideous uphill – woof. I was dragging up the hill until I saw Steve and the kids waving and cheering. I ran to them for hugs and high-fives, then set off on the last 0.1 mile stretch to the finish line with an extra kick in my step.
Tired and bedraggled but proud! It felt so good to be back out absorbing that race day energy – I hadn’t run a race in-person since before the pandemic. Definitely high time to get back out there. And now I’m fired up and ready to run that turkey trot (a little better trained this time, hopefully).
If you’re a runner, what’s your favorite race?