When the Marine Corps Marathon went virtual I initially planned to defer to next year, in the hopes that a live event would be able to be held by then. But I was torn because this year’s race had a special finisher’s medal for the 45th anniversary that contains volcanic ash from Iwo Jima. Normally, I don’t care about finisher’s medals. But this one was really cool. And then my fellow wild mountain chicken, Charlotte, told me she and her dad were planning to run their virtual race in Bedford and invited me to join in.
So this special medal and the promise of running with friends is how I ended up shivering outside of an eye doctor’s office in Bedford far too early on a crisp October Sunday morning. I was accompanied by Charlotte, Brandy, and Charlotte’s dad, Larry. Our course had been concocted by Char and her dad, and I had been promised a history lesson of Bedford as we ran.
We started our run just before 6:50 AM. It was a chilly 39 degrees and we were ready to get moving. In the early miles we were fairly quiet as we settled into our pace. We ran by a house whose blow up Halloween decoration was still up. It looked so cool in the dawn light.
I was having fun running in a totally new place and taking in my surroundings. I had worked back and forth with Char and her dad to map out our course and I was finally seeing it in person. As we approached mile 3, we saw our crew: my dad and Christine. It was still early and I was still sleepy!
We ran down to the end of a dead end road and I took a quick pee break in the bushes. Then we came back down past our crew and headed onto Independence, which was the busiest road we would run on. We ran single file down the road towards our turnaround on a long, gradual uphill. My hamstring had gotten a little aggravated at Allison Woods, and it was already talking to me on that uphill.
Between miles 5 and 6 we turned onto a road that had less traffic. As we ran down the road, I saw the most vultures I’ve ever seen all in one place. It was very ominous looking. One even spread out it’s wings and made a big show as we ran by – I felt like Snoop Dogg should be there narrating the scene. (YouTube Snoop Dogg Plant Earth if you don’t know what I’m talking about)
Around mile 7 we ran by a sign that said “You’re Here!” I’m not sure why, but I found this really funny, because we still had nearly 20 miles to go. I burst out laughing as we ran by it.
Between miles 8 and 9, we linked back up with our crew. Lauren and her little boy had made it to town, and it was great to see them. I dropped off some trash at my dad’s truck and picked up some more snacks. I was still good on fluids, as I hadn’t been drinking as much with the colder temperatures.
From there we headed onto a section that went by the hospital and into a residential area. We started hitting some bigger hills and my hamstring started screaming at me. Somewhere through here my piriformis joined in, so that was a real joy. But I decided to just accept that it was going to be how it was going to be. We settled into a rhythm of walking the uphills and running the flats and downs – just like trail running. Brandy, Char, and her dad are all really fast walkers and I had to work hard to keep up when we were walking! Usually, I would start to fall behind and would have to jog to catch up. We also got some distraction and motivation through here when Char’s dad’s wife, Janet, drove up alongside us. She had an American flag displayed through the sun roof and would honk occasionally to keep us moving.
All of the houses in this area were gorgeous, and the mountains in the distance were picturesque. I was running along, just taking it all in. I also thought it was funny seeing some of the political sign “wars” between some of the houses. Before I knew it, we were headed towards our halfway point. Along the way, we made a quick stop at Char’s dad’s house (potty break #2 for me). We then rolled back into our crew spot just before mile 13. This time, I was ready to refill one of my flasks with more Tailwind. Throughout this run I primarily fueled with Tailwind. I also had one Huma gel, two or three oatmeal cream pies, and some Swedish fish.
From here, we made our way back to our starting point around mile 14ish. We were about 3 hours into our run and I was still feeling really fresh.
All of our crew joined in with us for our next mile. Char and her dad recreated the Marine Corps Marathon blue mile by incorporating walking by the Bedford Boys memorial flags that line Main Street in Bedford. We also passed by Green’s Drug Store. It was special to share this together as a group, runners and crew.
We returned back to our starting point, and I took another quick bathroom break at the gas station (that’s pee break #3 if you’re counting). From here, we headed down College St. and towards mile 16. I loved all of the houses along here. They were old and historical looking, and each one was unique. Charlotte told me some of the history about them as we passed.
Getting a tour of Bedford from two of its own all day was truly fantastic. The route really showcased the town. I especially loved running alongside Char’s dad, who has lived in Bedford practically his whole life, and hearing all of his stories. Char and her dad also knew almost everyone we passed during the day, and would tell Brandy and me little tidbits about each of them.
As we got into more of our out and backs at mile 16, I was still having a great time but the miles were feeling a little longer. Again, we were hitting some bigger hills. In total, we climbed around 1800 feet for the day – quite a lot for a road marathon!
As we climbed up a really big hill at mile 17ish, Charlotte said something about a little camp at the top. I could see some people gathered up there, but I didn’t realize they were our people until we got there. What a nice surprise! I wasn’t expecting to see them again until mile 21 or so. We were on an out and back section and got to see them again at mile 18.5 ish.
Our surprises for the day weren’t over yet. As we were passing back by our crew at mile 18.5, our Meg’s Miles friend Felix showed up! Felix lives over in Lynchburg and he drove out to Bedford to surprise us and join us for some miles!
Felix would go on to join us for the final 7 miles, which was awesome and totally unexpected. We saw our crew again by the Primary School, around mile 21, as we headed out on another out and back. We still had plenty of hills to tackle in the final 10K. Felix and I had a good time challenging ourselves to run up the hills through this section. Then we would regroup and continue on.
I had some Coke from a little 8 oz can when we passed by our crew at mile 21, and finished most of it when we returned to our crew at mile 23. There was just a 5K left to run. My upper hamstring and priformis hurt so much at this point. But I still felt strong and despite those pains, it felt good to push.
Just before mile 25, Felix and I ran up a huge hill to the Welcome Center. I had to pee (again), so I ran past our turn and to the Welcome Center. Our crew was there in the parking lot and someone laughed at me for needing another restroom break. Felix waited for me on the corner and Brandy, Char, and Char’s dad passed by while I was inside. I linked back up with Felix and we had fun hammering to catch up with them on an out and back to the elementary school. On the way back, we met up with our crew and Janet passed out flags to each of us for our finish up a very big hill to the D-Day Memorial. This was it. Homestretch.
Charlotte had let us know that she had been contacted by a lot of media about our virtual run, her family’s connection to the Bedford Boys, and our finish at the D-Day Memorial. Sure enough, I got my third surprise of the day as we rounded the corner at the top of the hill and there were so many cameras. I said “oh, Charlotte.” I felt so nervous about our run being covered by the media. But at the same time, it was very cool that they were covering it.
We circled around the road at the memorial and hit 26.2 miles, as we made our way back to the Overlord Arch for our finish. We were all quiet through here. The D-Day Memorial is a powerful place, with the sounds of bullets hitting the water. You think of how scary that day must have been for those soldiers who stormed the beaches at Normandy – many of them still boys. I think we were all reflecting on our day and the significance of our run and where we were finishing. We finished our day walking under the Overlord Arch, completing our virtual Marine Corps Marathon run in 6:44 and change.
The media took some photos, and then Brandy and I stepped to the side as Char and her dad did interviews. Afterwards, we spent some time together with our crew and toured the rest of the memorial. All in all, it was an excellent day with perfect weather and the best people.
With our finish at the memorial, I reflected on how countless men and women have sacrificed their lives for our freedom. We commemorate those valiant souls and are thankful for the life they’ve allowed us to live. Life has looked very different in 2020. The pandemic has changed the way we live and has disrupted normal things, such as running a large road marathon with 30,000 of our closest friends. But one thing that I have seen exemplified over and over again is the resilience of the human spirit. We have found ways to stay connected and ways to carry on in a new normal. We continue to walk through difficult times and greet each day with a fighting spirit. And I think that’s one of many tangible ways we can honor the service and sacrifice of our military. Oorah!