Marathon Date: October 24, 1999
My Age: 63
My Finish Time: 4:39
Marathon Rating: Most Historic Route
Memorable Moment: Finish at USMC Monument
1. Do not make air and hotel reservations until you have registered for the marathon.
2. Rest for at least 2 days after the marathon before flying home.
3. Take 2 weeks off of running after the marathon.
USMC Marathon selection and registration: After much deliberation and many hours on the Internet looking at the hundreds of worldwide marathons that will be run in 1999, I decided that my first marathon for kidney cancer research would be in the US and it would be the USMC marathon: “the people’s marathon” held on October 24, 1999. The reason that I chose the USMC marathon was because I am a former Marine and I felt it would be great to meet and run with so many other Marines – once a Marine always a Marine – Semper Fidelis, which means always faithful.
After finally making my marathon selection I thought that registering on-line would take a few minutes- boy was I wrong. During the on-line registration process I was told that I would not be able to register for the marathon as it was already booked and they had closed the on-line registration. I told them that I had already made my air and hotel registrations and had paid for them a month ago – which was a big mistake – making and paying for air and hotel without being registered for the marathon. I was told to call back in 2 days to see if someone had cancelled and if there was an opening I would be able to register for the race. I called back and was relieved to find out that there was an opening and I could now register. After finally registering it seemed like it took forever for me to get confirmation of my registration and it took at least 2 more months before I received my Bib# 13499
USMC Marathon Training Program: All of my USMC marathon training was done while I was living in Lexington, Massachusetts. My pre-USMC training program included the following races:
04/25/99 10k race – finish time = 51:41
05/23/99 10k race – finish time = 51:19
06/05/99 10k race – finish time = 56:39
07/15/99 8k race – finish time = 41:17
08/07/99 10k race – finish time = 51:53
09/25/99 11 miles – finish time = 1:31 * Relay race
Although I had finished the Boston marathon 2 times as a “Bandit” I never had a marathon-training program. I made sure for the USMC marathon that I would not make the same mistakes that I made for the previous Boston marathons and with the help of a number of seasoned marathoners I was able to put together an 18-week, 750-mile, training program.
Prior to starting my training I had a physical to ensure that I was fit to run – there were no problems that would stop me from running the marathon. I started my 18-week 750-mile training program while I was living in Lexington, Massachusetts where I was a member of the “Concord Runners” and would run with them every Saturday – a great group. I was able to train 6 days a week during my 18 week training program even though there were days of less than ideal weather – rain, wind, muggy, and cold – typical New England weather. I was very fortunate that during my training I avoided any major injuries – just the normal aches and pains of marathon runners.
During my training I also ran six races to help me prepare me for the USMC marathon. I ran 6 days a week with 1 day of rest and my longest runs were 20, 21, and 22 miles. After completing my 750-mile training program I tapered my last week of training and felt that I was ready to finish the USMC marathon in a creditable time for my age.
USMC Marathon Travel:
I was fortunate to get a room at the Hyatt Regency in Crystal City Virginia. The hotel was only 15 minutes from the start of the race using the Metro and the marathon Expo was located in the hotel – it was an n excellent hotel and a great location. I arrived at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Crystal City, Virginia on Friday October 22nd where I stayed for 4 days – leaving for home on October 26th – the day after the marathon.
USMC Marathon Highlights:
When I went to the marathon Expo it was already packed with people waiting in line to get their chip and Bib# – it took about another 2 hours for me to get my Bib# and chip as they could not find my registration information. After walking through the Expo and visiting a number of booths I went to get a cup of coffee before going out for a short run. At the coffee shop I ended up sharing a table with the Commanding General of the Quantico Virginia base, USMC brigadier General Leif Hendrickson and his wife. I had a great conversation with the General about the Marine Corps and how it has changed since I went to Boot Camp in 1956 at Parris Island South Carolina. That evening I went out to an Italian restaurant for my Pasta to get loaded up on my carbohydrates for the marathon. The next day, the day before the marathon, I just stayed in the hotel and relaxed – in the evening I went out with a group of runners that I had met for a “Pasta Party”. After my meal it was back to the hotel and in bed by 10:00pm to get some rest before the big day.
On the day of the marathon I woke up at 6:00 am to get ready for the marathon – stopped by the restaurant and had a bagel and a banana prior to getting on the packed Metro for the 15 minute ride to the start of the marathon. I arrived at the marathon 1 hour before the marathons start time of 8:00 am there were about 18,000 runners. I ended up pretty far back in the pack of runners and was not able to move either forward or back – once you were settled you were not able to move. The weather was cool at the start, which is great weather to run a marathon. Standing near the USMC Iwo Jima Monument waiting for the start of the race made me proud to say that I am a former Marine. The race started at the Iwo Jima Monument in Virginia, where the countdown began and before you knew it the Cannon went off to start the 24th USMC marathon. The race begins and ends at the Iwo Jima Monument. It took me over 10 minutes of, mostly walking, to get to the start line and once I crossed the start line I was able to start a very slow jog.
The first 8 miles of the racecourse took me close to the Arlington cemetery and the Pentagon, then around the Pentagon, before heading back to the starting line. After passing the start line the course crossed the Potomac river over Key Bridge arriving in Georgetown at mile 8. At mile 9 we went by the Kennedy Center and the Lincoln Memorial and then turned onto Constitution Avenue just before mile 10.
Along the way people were yelling at me “go Johnny” because I had my brother’s name on my hat.
The crowds were very large and very loud, up to and past, the US Capital, which helped to push me on to the ½ waypoint in the marathon. I reached the ½ way point in a time of 2:09 [9:50 pace] which if I kept it up I would finish the marathon in a time of around 4:18. Miles 14 through 22 took me south all the way to Hains Point where there were very few spectators to cheer you on. I was able to keep my 9:50 pace up to mile 19 but at mile 20 I hit “the wall” my body was telling me that I would not be able to keep up the 9:50 pace that I had set in the first ½ of the marathon. At this point in the race my goal was to simply finish the race because the most grueling parts of the race were yet to come.
Mile 23 at the 14th street bridge marked the start of the most challenging 3 miles in the marathon. The on-ramp to the bridge is steep and all cement – I began to feel very sharp pains in my Quads and Hamstrings and it took everything I had to keep me from stopping and walking the rest of the way. Once over the bridge I found a little more energy because of the encouragement from the crowds and I was able to continue the last 2 ½ miles without stopping. Ahead of me was the most daunting part of the race, the infamous USMC marathons last ¼ mile. It took me past the marathon start line and then I quickly had to start running up a very steep hill and then around a long circle that seemed to go on forever. The crowds along the hill were very large so that only a few runners at a time could climb the hill but the enthusiasm and encouragement of the crowd gave me the boost that I need to overcome my last obstacle on the way to the finish line. Once I turned the corner I could see the finish line – and just in time because I did not have the strength to go any further.
I was so elated when I finally crossed the finish line that I went right past the area where the USMC 2nd Lieutenants removed all of the finishers chips from their running shoe. I had to go back and wait in line to get a seat while the Marine Lieutenant removed my chip; after my chip was removed I found it very difficult to get up from the seat, as my legs were so tight. I tried walking around and managed to get some food to eat – after eating I tried to do some stretching to work out all of my aches and pains. I went to the marathon results board to check my official finish time – it was 4:39:55 and I came in 48th out of 127 males in my age group of 60 to 64. My legs were like rubber and my Quads, Hamstrings, and Shins hurt so bad that it was very difficult to walk.
The USMC marathon was a challenge to finish but it was truly a great experience. The Marines and the organizers did an outstanding job in managing the event.
It was starting to get cold out and I really wanted to get something to eat. I walked to the Metro station, which was around a ¼ of a mile from the finish line; it was a very painful walk which took me over an hour. When I finally got to the Metro station there was a long line of people waiting to get on the down escalator to get to the trains. Once I got to the escalator I found out why there was a line to get on it – the escalator was broken and it was quite a distance to the bottom. The only way I could get down the escalator was to walk sideways because I could not lift my legs – all you could hear was people cursing and moaning because the escalator was broken. When I got on the Metro to go back to my hotel it was packed with runners and there were no available seats so I had to stand for the 15-minute ride to my stop. It took a while after getting off the Metro but I made it back to my hotel and immediately went to my room to shower and change to go get something to eat. When I went downstairs to eat at the hotel restaurant it was about 4:00 pm and by the time I finished eating it was about 5:30 pm. I paid my bill went back to my room took a couple of Advil laid down on the bed about 6:30 pm the next thing I remember is waking up the next morning at 6:00 am.
When I got back to Lexington I did not do any running for 2 weeks in order to rest all of my aches and pains and when I started running again it was very short and easy runs. I beat my personal marathon best finish goal time of 4:45 by 6 minutes and I did it by running all 26.2 miles. During the first week of December I started the planning process for next years worldwide marathon  for kidney cancer research, my 2nd worldwide marathon, which would take place somewhere in Europe.