Flashback Blog(s): The Marathon Chronicles

Luke Skywalker kicks ass on the Sail Barge
Nevertheless, I’m taking all my old blog entries and their friends.

As I near the final migration of old blogs from the original kessel korner, I figured the original logs detailing the training Agent Bun and I underwent for our Marine Corps Marathon run in 2005 was worth saving.

However, since there are several blogs about it, instead of publishing an unimaginably-long post to encapsulate everything from beginning to end, I’ve published an actual archive of pages so that if you want to read them all, you can.

If you don’t want to, then whatever. I think they’re interesting, but then I also lived the experience. I can understand if you don’t want to browse my recollections of ankle damage, dead toenails and insane Star Wars–inspired cadences. In the finest tradition of James Fenimore Cooper, below I offer first the last of the chronicles of what was endured in 2005: the Marine Corps Marathon itself.

So peruse below for the links to the detailed pieces as pages on this site. The collected archive for these recollections is the menu option called The Marathon Chronicles »

It’s still a treasured memory and something of which I’m still proud. Agent Bun even framed my runner’s number and finisher’s medal as a gift that year, and I’ve got it hanging in my office. We weren’t world–beaters, but considering we finished in a respectable time that was quicker than our projected pace, we did pretty well. I consider it our finest pre–children moment in our marriage.

Flashback Blog: The Long-Overdue “Yay I Ran the Marthon” Entry

Originally published on the original kessel korner at blogs.starwars.com/kesseljunkie on November 27, 2005.

Wookiee Beachhead
This is the original image I used on the blog. Isolated, the Wookiee does actually look like he’s celebrating. (Copyright Lucasfilm, 2005, though I have this sneaking suspicion Kashyyyk might actually not exist.)

Oh, the agony of the feet, the ankles, knees and lower back. Did I mention the sunburn?

October 30, 2005 dawned cold and clear. A night of fitful sleep gave way to a crisp morning and a big smile from my wife as she gently coaxed me from fitful sleep. It was our one-year wedding anniversary.

Our first year together was full of joy, love, trial and error. Mainly, it was a whirlwind of time, going by quicker than planned and giving way to a beautiful Fall day. Stacey handed me a lovely card as I groggily awoke.

The previous night, I had stayed up playing Star Wars:Battlefront, hopping into an AT-AT to stomp on rebels. I waged an efficient campaign for the Separatists as well, conquering the galaxy in record time.

I had stayed up playing my Xbox all night because I was nervous. October 30 was not just our first wedding anniversary, but the Marine Corps Marathon. Stacey and I had trained since April to pass that 26.2 mile marker and now the day was here. Her mother flew up from Florida to cheer us on and we carefully laid out our gear the night before. I taped a Darth Vader action figure (1996 edition, with removable helmet and right hand) to the strap of my Camelbak.

We arrived at S. Eads and Army-Navy Drive near the Pentagon early, to meet with four runners from our training group who had chosen to join us in the marathon at a 3:1 split. (Read the earlier blogs for an explanation of a “split” in the Galloway training program).

There was a Metro accident and so one of the runners to meet with us, Rebecca, could not meet with us on time. So I, Stacey, Robin, Victoria and Sam all set out to Runner’s World with my mother-in-law. She was going to take pics, video and carry emergency supplies through the day.

While in line for the port-a-potties, I heard someone call my name from the other line. It was Shelly, the sister of my former boss. She had not changed a bit, except for looking a little leaner – fairly understandable for someone who was running her third marathon. We chatted and caught up on a few things, and wished each other luck. She was gunning for 4 hours 30, and we were gunning for beating 6. I hope she did well.

R. Lee Ermey was the guest speaker, and it was cool hearing him speak as we approached the start line. There is a special kind of calm panic that overtakes you. You realize that your last opportunity to run away is sneaking past you.

We started. We cheered. We realized that in the first few miles, you have little to no chance of keeping your normal pace. There is such a throng of people that you’re pretty much stutter-stepping your way through it all.

But all of us stuck together and were in fine spirits as we moved through Rosslyn and beyond. I got a chuckle out of someone’s sign that stated “Hurry up – the Redskins game starts at 1:00”. (They lost in a shutout to the New York Giants, arguably the most painful part of the day for me.)

Things were great through the first few miles. We overtook and passed our training group on our way into Georgetown. We passed one woman who had trained with us, who was debating whether to take her…um, percoset to make it through the rest of the race. Tip: don’t take narcotics on a long run. As we later found out, she did not finish. I feel bad for her, but…yeah. Percoset.

I chatted up a ton of sci-fi and fantasy stuff with Robin, and we all traded anecdotes as we went along. We passed Linda (my mother-in-law) at the Lincoln Memorial, as well as Stacey’s good friend Stephanie. We passed them again just past the 14 mile marker.

I tossed them an empty water bottle. When I came back up from that, a woman had stepped in front of me. You see, many people get into a groove and then sort of ignore everyone around them. Had I kept stride, I would have knocked down and then crushed this woman, who was at least a foot shorter than I. So I twisted around her as I ran.

I wound up twisting my leg. This came back to haunt me two days after the marathon, when I could not even walk down a flight of stairs. It sucked. The pain was so bad, I went to the emergency room. But that’s another story, and it happened later. I shook off the pain in the race because let me tell you…when you have gone past the halfway point, there ain’t no point in stopping.

Miles 16 – 19 were murder. It was the least populated part of the race for spectators, and without their cheers of encouragement, your energy drains quickly. Robin started to fade back, and being the mercenaries that we are, the rest of us pushed on. By this point, it was getting hotter, the sun was beating down on a cloudless day and we all were starting to feel it.

Then at Mile 20, we “beat the bridge” – mainly, we got to a key point on the race where, once you hit it, they can’t turn you back. The bridge was murder – sunny and hot, with no help or crowds. It was the hardest mile I have ever run.

We lost Sam as he faded back – to be later diagnosed with severe dehydration. So it was Victoria, Stacey and me going into Crystal City. At this point, Victoria pulled ahead and I started to wane. Stacey was hurting, too. But we knew only three miles remained.

At mile 25, we walked for an extra four minutes because my twisted knee caught up and I was having real trouble walking. But I got back into our rhythm with Stacey’s encouragement and we set off once more.

As we closed in on Mile 26, it was pure adrenaline. It was the only way through the pain.

As you pass the Mile 26 marker, you’re 0.2 miles from the Iwo Jima Memorial. It’s stirring. Everyone is packed in, cheering on the runners. The crowd gets tight as you move into a small path going uphill.

Stacey started crying, and I started barking encouragement at her, clapping my hands and telling her she was doing great. The cheer was for myself as well, because it took my mind off the pain.

We finished the way we wanted to – hand in hand at the finish line. We have a shot of us, crossing, hands clasped, gamely attempting smiles.

I have never been more proud of my wife. We finished our first (and likely only) marathon in 5 hours, 37 minutes and 22 seconds. Later, we limped and iced, heated and hydrated, and then took 31 October off…to sleep.

Later, I went to the emergency room and an orthopedist to figure out my leg. I am now switched to this new orthopedist because his whole take was exactly opposite the emergency room: stop the vicodin (I only ever took one – vile stuff), deal with the pain and take care of myself. My kind of doctor!

I lost three toenails over the ensuing weeks, and my left ankle is still tricked out with a little tendonitis. Oh, and for the sunburn – I wore a headband on the big day, and forgot to put on sunscreen. I therefore spend weeks with a red forehead and scalp, with a pure white band of flesh just above my brow. And you can’t cover that up at work – so I assure you, I looked ridiculous.

I still run with Robin, our friend from the training group, and Stacey and I are now going to the gym together about 4 times a week as we have grown accustomed to our new, leaner bodies.

And I’m back on the long, arduous trip to my black belt. If I can do 26.2, I can get that in the next two years. It’ll be just as tough, and it’ll be just as rewarding – if not moreso.

But I can’t do it hand-in-hand with Stacey. And nothing will ever top that.

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