The day before the marathon, it was snowing in the late afternoon but fortunately cleared around 9pm (the storm moved North and 10 million people lost power). We woke Sunday morning to a brisk 34F temperature, combined with a strong 20 mph wind. Wind chill was somewhere in the 20s.
Like many of the 39,000 runners, we took the Metro to the start at the Pentagon. After a .75 mile walk in the dark, we arrived at the sweat check. The Marines had built out numerous warming tents, helping to ward off the cold for a bit. As the 8am start neared, we stripped off the outer layers and checked them (along with dry clothes) and headed to the start. I think it was at this point that I lost feeling in my toes.
The starting line was quite crowded, and as I'd read, the corrals were a mere suggestion which seemed to ignored by most people (if you run this next year, my advice is to head to the front and avoid all the walkers in the 3:30 corral). Once the starting gun went off, the crowd moved across the starting line fairly quickly. Clothes, hats and gloves littered the course from this point until Mile 7 or 8; I've never seen so many items discarded.
My feet thawed out after a bit and things warmed up to about 45F - still windy, but more than bearable. The course wound through Virginia, crosssed into Georgetown at Mile 4 and through some beautiful part of Rock Creek Park. We encounted the two biggest hills at Mile 2.5 and Mile 7, after which we only had the hill at the finish to conquer.
Miles 10 - 20 were incredible. We ran past the Lincoln Memorial and into a throng of screaming people. The majority of the distance through this part of D.C. was packed with people and incredibly scenic at the same time. I hardly noticed the miles melting away.
We crossed back into Viriginia at Mile 21 and ran through the "blah" part of the course - an out-and-back through a hotel area. The final mile returned to the starting area and ended on an uphill to the Iwo Jima momunment. This last 0.2 miles looks pretty easy on the map, but it was actually really hard. The finish line was just past the crest of the hill - ouch.
Post-race was a bit of a hike to Rosslyn, but it felt good to keep moving. The change into dry clothes was great as it was cold/windy. The Metro and taxi lines were incredlby long so we ended up walking about 2 miles back across the bridge into D.C. and through Georgetown to our hotel.
Overall, here's how the run rates in my book:
Organization – Incredibly well organized and staffed (organized by the Marines, whaddya expect?). Grade: A
Course - Wow, just wow. Great, scenic course. Lincoln Memorial. Congress. Smithsonian museums, crowds four deep in some spots.. Grade: A
Aid-stations - Very large, with Gatorade and water that didn't come from a gardenhose! Pretty insane due to number of people. Oranges (?) distributed randomly with wet peels all over the pavement.. Grade: A-
Swag – Great medal, incredibly bad red long sleeve cotton shirt.. Grade: B