Race Review: Surf City Marathon/Huntington Beach - Finisher!

On Superbowl Sunday, February 7, 2016  we ran the 20th edition of the "Surf City Marathon" in Huntington Beach, CA

Some of the marathon crew wanted a winter race and our usual options didn't line up on our various calendars (and the weather didn't cooperate either). We searched around for something that would be warm, not hot, and dry. After several years of looking at Surf City, we decided to go for it this year. At a very pricey $145 for the event, I skeptically pressed the "Register" button and signed up.

Race day

The race had an early start at 6:30am - the forecast high was 80F, so the earlier the better! As parking was supposed to be a challenge we went on parking recon after the expo. The effort paid off nicely when we pulled into a nice spot on the street at 5am and walked to the start. When the race gun fired, it was a pleasant 48F.

The first two miles of the race were flat and fast, running along PCH in the cool ocean air. We took a quick right turn at Mile 3 and ran smack dab into a large group of high school kids cheering so loud I thought I'd won the marathon! It's funny how crowd support quickens your step a bit and fires you up, even at Mile 3. We took another few right turns and hit the only set of hills in the marathon. Miles 5 - 8 went through Huntington Beach Central Park which was nice and shady (particularly relative to what was coming up). After Mile 8, the course took us back down the hill and onto PCH to start Mile 10.

Running north on PCH, we hit the turnaround about Mile 12.5 and then ran back south to Mile 15.5. This was easily my least favorite part of the race - almost 6 miles on 6 lanes of black top. No shade and the temperature getting increasingly warmer.

We left PCH and ran north along the path at Bolsa Chica State Beach to Mile 20.5, essentially retracing our steps along PCH but this time with a view of the ocean and without the 6 lanes of black top :-). The ocean views were great and the breeze helped to cut the heat a bit. A quick turnaround and then another 5 miles south retracing our steps. 

At Mile 25.5, we exited the beach path and headed south on PCH to the finish line. Conditions at the finish were in the low 80s - February in SoCal.

Post-finish we rushed to pickup our drop-off bags, shower and head the airport for a quick bite. Fortunately we had a live stream of the Superbowl on the plane and caught the 2nd half at home.

Overall, here's how the run rates in my book:

Organization – Well organized, marked course and great support. Grade: A

Course - Some nice parts however the PCH portion, almost 10 miles, is pretty lousy. But hey, finding a marathon in February that is dry and warm isn'tn easy. Grade: C

Aid-stations - Many aid stations, fully stocked. Plenty of water and electrolites. Grade: A

Swag – Nice medal and dri-fit long sleeve shirt.  Grade: A

Price - Incredibly steep. Grade: D

Race Review: Florence Marathon - Finisher

On Sunday, November 29, 2015 we ran the 32nd edition of the Florence Marathon.

Florence was our last stop in Italy and after 11 days touring, it was time for the marathon. Everyone tried to have a lazy day on Saturday to rest up and recover from the miles of walking and running every day. We headed out to the expo to pick up our bibs. The expo was on the marathon course so we made sure to scout out the neighborhood and get a general feel for the run (although we missed the hill at Mile 20). The usual excitement of an expo, this time all in Italian. There were just over 9000 runners and over 90% were Italian (there were 50 Americans in total). So ... *everything* was in Italian. Which made it a lot more fun :-)

Race day

We were staying close to the start of the point-to-point race. It was late November and anything is possible but fortunately it was dry and relatively warm (~40F) with light winds. The race started beside the Arno river promptly at 8am in several waves. Each wave began with a cheer and great crowd support. Before I knew it, we were off ... and promptly split off into groups of 1 or 2 or 3. I wouldn't see some of my fellow travellers until the finish line!

Kilometers 1 - 5 were pretty straightforward - fun neighborhoods, lots to see. We ran past the main train station and into Parco del Cascine around 5.5k. I wasn't sure how this part of the run was going to go as the map looked like we would just doing loops and mentally, that can be tough. Seeing the Kenyans exiting as we were entering the park is normal stuff as they are easily twice as fast as I am. However watching the other runners loop by you over and over can kill your morale. Luckily, this run was well thought out as the park was large enough that you didn't see the other parts of the loop until you were upon them. Five miles here was great - beautiful trees, nice paths and best of all, the first stop in the park had hot tea. Some of the group found this to be a treat and made sure to hit it at every stop they could. I just stuck with the Italian-style gatorade, which was ... fizzy. But it was quite good! 

After exiting the park, we crossed the Arno and after a few miles, crossed under the old city gate and past the walls that used to protect Florentinians from the attacking Siennans hundreds of years ago. We ran through town up towards the Boboli Gardens and the Piatti Palace. We then headed East along the Arno and crossed it again at Kilometer 21 - the halfway point of the marathon!

The next 10k took us through various neighborhoods in Florence, past the Academia and up to the site of the expo at Stadio Comunale. This part of the run was interesting but has lots of turns so you have to pay attention. There was a not-nice surprise waiting at Mile 20 -- a pedestrian bridge over the railway. Steep hill at Mile 20, ugh, who is the sadist that put this on the course?!

The last 7k of the marathon had an amazing number of important sites - the Duomo (and the amazing dome built by Brunelleschi), Campanile, statue of David and crossing Ponte Vecchio just before Kilometer 40.

The last 2k went by in a flash and before I knew it I was across the finish line. Quick trip to pickup our drop-off bags, shower, dinner, pack and then head to airport in the morning. Crazy trip but a great marathon!

Overall, here's how the run rates in my book:

Organization – Well organized, marked course and great support. Grade: A

Course - A lot of turns! See a number of Florence neighborhoods and listen to the locals yell "die die die!" as you run by (which apparently means "go go go"). Grade: A

Aid-stations - Many aid stations, fully stocked. Plenty of water, hot tea, bananas and fizzy electrolites. Grade: A

Swag – Nice medal and dri-fit short sleeve shirt.  Grade: A

Race Review: L.A. Marathon - Finisher

On Sunday, March 15, 2015 we ran the Los Angeles Marathon, something I never thought I would do.

I have to confess, LA isn't my favorite place. Just the thought of the town brings visions of traffic jams, smog and urban sprawl. When one of our buddies suggested we do a group weekend there and schedule it around the marathon, my vote was a solid "no way". I lost. 

Fast forward six months and it was time to head to LA. We had rented a house near Venice Beach and bit by bit everyone turned up. To orient ourselves to LA (and have some fun before the marathon) we went to Universal Studios on Friday. The weather was warm (a harbinger of what was to come) but pleasant for the time of year. A good time was had by all, however, I would personally recommend that you stay off the Minion rollercoaster -- it made me turn green.

Saturday was the day to keep our feet up, rest and hydrate. First we had to hit the expo to pick up race packets and look for fun race shirts (sponsored by asics, so they had some good ones). We had been receiving email the last few days about the potential for hot weather but the news on Saturday took everything up a few notches. Suddenly we were all being blasted with "Be careful" and "plan ahead" email from the Race director. This freaked everyone out. By the afternoon, the announcement was made that the race would still have the same start time of 7am but they were eliminating the "wave" starts. This meant that we could start earlier (good) but that it would be a complete zoo at the start with a mix of runners and walkers, all moving at different speeds (bad). 

Our Saturday night dinner was quiet instead of the usual rowdy "let's all get pumped up" vibe the group usually has during a pre-race meal. There was quite a bit of discussion about race strategy, should we run/not run and an overall feeling of ... well, impending doom. As the group got ready (you probably know this already, but never wait until the day of to prepare) we took an inventory - we had salt tablets (new for some us and I really don't like to try something new on race day), bandanas that hold ice (great for ultras apparently), plenty of fluids and a solid race plan.

Race day

The race is point to point, so we rose early, left the house at 4:30am and headed to Santa Monica to catch the bus to Dodger Stadium (as a Giants fan, I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to make this journey. Somewhere I was sure that I would see Kruk and Kuip there, scowling at us and yelling "We see you!")

The race started right on time at 7am and as advertised, there was only 1 wave -- everyone at once. The temperature was a warm 75F but the sun wasn't up yet. The first few miles of the course had some moderate hills but the main issue was watching your feet. Lots of people, all going at a different pace. At times, the runners in front would suddenly part like the Red Sea and you would have to quickly dodge a walker. A little crazy.

We hit Mile 7 about 8:30 and were very happy to see some of the group cheering us on with signs and words of encouragement. Funny but sometimes that makes all the difference. At this point, we were taking salt tablets once an hour and besides the initial GI feeling of ugh, everyone was feeling strong and on plan.

Miles 10 - 14 were fun - incredible crowd support, plenty of tourist attractions (Gruman's theater, Hollywood, Sunset Strip). All the while we were hitting a series of rollers; the course was never really flat. After Mile 14, we made our way down a series of hills to Beverly Hills. The sun was out in full force by this and the temperature was rising. The crowds were great, cheering everyone on and squirting the runners with water (the Fire Dept even opened some hydrants and had hoses going as well). 

Mile 20 came and I hit the wall hard. The course crossed over the 405 freeway here and there are no trees or shade to speak of -- due to the street configuration, there weren't even crowds or hoses. It got really hot; all the ice in my bandana and the cubes under my hat had melted. Time to bust out some mental toughness! 

We pushed on and ran through Brentwood, starting at Mile 22. The crowds returned, ready to keep the runners wet and cool. There were trees. The course even started to head downhill towards the Pacific Ocean. Life was good :-)

Soon we could see the final left turn onto Ocean Avenue/Highway 1. Santa Monica is such a beautiful sight and that day didn't disappoint. The coast was great, the rides on the pier were packed and the finish line half a mile ahead. At this point, your adrenaline takes over and before I knew it, I was across the finish line, standing in front of some seriously cool machines that quickly reduced my body temperature. Finishing temperature was almost 90F.

Overall, here's how the run rates in my book:

Organization – Well organized, marked course and great support. Grade: A

Course - Didn't think I'd like it, came away loving it. Great way to see lots of different neighborhoods in LA. Grade: A

Aid-stations - Many aid stations, fully stocked. This was a critical aspect of the race due to the heat. I understand they had issues in previous years but 2015 was very well done. Grade: A+

Swag – Nice medal and dri-fit short sleeve shirt.  Grade: B+

Race Review: Prague Marathon - Finisher!

On Sunday, January 11, 2014 we ran the Prague Marathon, in the beautiful Czech Republic.

Prior to race day, we made sure to take in a walking tour of Old Town and the surrounding neighborhoods to make sure we had a good understanding of the many historical areas the race travels through. This was a really good idea and I highly recommend it.

Here's the official race video that shows some of the amazing sights

Race day

The race started at 9:00 am just off the Old Town Square. 9:00 is a late start for me as I usually run early so I tried to sleep a bit later than normal and worked on fueling. The latter turned out well but sleeping in on race morning didn't work -- too much adrenaline! Temps were in the low 40s with high humidity and a forecast intermittent rain.

The start was amazing - we ran west through Old Town Square and almost immediately crossed the Vltava river. A quick left turn, headed south and just past Mile 2, across the Charles Bridge. This bridge is usually full of tourists, but today it was all runners, all going the same direction. An amazing sight to see (the video above does a good job capturing it). We then crossed (again) over the Vltava and headed north along the river for the next 5 miles.

The elevation of the course was pretty consistent, a few hills but nothing of significance.

At Mile 8, we crossed the Vltava again and headed south. We ran along the river, had a quick out-and-back loop from miles 16 - 19 and kept going. I had not ventured this far south in Prague and it was neat to see the buildings and various statues along the route. Crowds were out cheering, and continued to do so even during the rain showers. The rain was nice because it would get very humid, then rain, then the temperature would drop and the cycle would start again. Things never got too wet; the lower humidity was nice.

Crossing the river two more times, we ran mostly along the water and took in sights like the colorful buildings below that are amazing to see.

Finally, we took a left turn, ran down the cobblestone Staromestske Namesti, into the Square and through the finish line. Great run!

Overall, here's how the run rates in my book:

Organization – Well organized, marked course (was worried I'd get lost and don't speak Czech but had no problems). Grade: A

Course - 26.2 miles of an 11th century city, most of it with a view of the river. Grade: A

Aid-stations - Many aid stations, fully stocked. No Gatorade. Fun volunteers. Grade: B

Swag – Nice medal and dri-fit short sleeve shirt.  Grade: B+

Bonus - Got to run in Prague

Crystal Springs Marathon - Finisher!

On Saturday January 11, 2014 we ran the Crystal Springs Marathon, my 20th marathon but first trail marathon. Yes, I was a bit nervous about getting lost or wiping out on a tree root.

The race started at 8:30am in Huddart Park. Temps were in the low 40s with a forecast for possible rain after 11am. Distances were 50k, marathon and 22 miles - the majority of runners were doing the 22 miler but there were a decent number of marathon and ultra runners as well.

From the start, we took a flat/downhill 1.5 mile single track to warm up our quads for what was next - 5 miles of some serious uphill! The trail, full of switchbacks, climbed approximately 1600 feet with some steep sections. We crossed the road (Skyline) and had some nice downhill then hard uphill to the aid station. 

What a welcome sight - not only was there an opportunity to refill fluids (it was still cool, but pretty humid so everyone was loading up on fluids) but since this was an ultra we had all the "good stuff" - M&Ms, peanut butter sandwiches, Coke and Reese's. Yum! We then headed to the next aid station, 6 miles away, on a single track trail, high above a canyon that made me a bit dizzy looking down. The trail was technical and required a solid level of concentration to avoid taking a fall. We reached the second aid station and loaded up on fluid and goodies.

Next came a 4 mile add-on for the marathon and ultra - 2 miles of downhill switchbacks and then 2 miles back up to the aid station. 1200 feet of elevation change in total. My quads were starting to scream so I just kept thinking about reaching the top and loading up on electrolytes and a Reese's. At the top, it started to rain intermittently, but we stayed dry under the cover of the trees.

We made it back to the first/last aid station, caught the score of the Seahawks/Saints game (3-0, first quarter) and then headed out for our last 5.7 miles. There was one incline of significance, but the rest was downhill on switchback single track through the woods - beautiful. At the finish, everyone grabbed some hot soup, assorted protein and carbs then hit the road.

Overall, here's how the run rates in my book:

Organization – Well organized, marked course (was worried I'd get lost but had no problems). Grade: A

Course - 26.2 miles of trees, a few views of the Bay . Grade: B

Aid-stations - Four aid-stations with water that wasn't from a garden hose. No Gatorade. Fun volunteers. Grade: B

Swag – Nice medal and dri-fit short sleeve shirt.  Grade: B+

Bonus - I won the raffle and got a new pair of trail shoes. Grade A

Santa Barbara Marathon - Finisher!

On Saturday November 23, 2012, we ran the Santa Barbara Marathon (yep, Saturday, not Sunday)
The day started off early with a 4am wake-up call for some of the runners. We left for the shuttle spot at UCSB at 5:30am, with temps in the low 40s and 10 mph winds. The shuttles were taking both full and half marathoners to their respective starting points. The half was supposed to start at 7:15, the full at 7:30.
Busses for the full were flawless; almost no waiting, direct to Dos Pueblos High School where we were able to hang out in the warm gym until the starting gun went off. The half had some challenges with logistics which caused both events to start 20+ minutes later than planned. Overall, there were about 1000 full and 5000 half runners. When we started just before 8am, the temps were low 50s and sunny.
The initial 9 mile loop was fairly flat, passing the Santa Barbara Airport, UCSB, Isla Vista (where we got a brief peak at the ocean) and then back past the high school. We then headed south towards the Wharf.
A significant part of the course was on the eastern side of Hwy 101, which meant we didn't see the coast - at all. However, the sun was out, the wind (which would be a factor at the finish) was still calm and the course had beautiful orange groves and other scenery that is hard to beat in November.
Miles 9-14 or so were on a bike path that kept me on my toes; bridges, turns, dips, etc. Miles 21 - 23 were mostly downhill with the only significant hill at Mile 23. We had heard about the 170 feet of incline, but didn't think much of it based on the map. Chris was able to (as usual) cruise right up the hill. I was left crawling on my knees, begging for it to end. Ok, not really, but it kind of felt that way :-)

Once we hit the top of the hill the ocean re-appeared, which was fantastic. We ran past La Mesa and Shoreline parks, which had great ocean views and made it all worth it. The adrenaline kicked in hard and the last 2.5 miles (downhill) made for a fast, but windy finish just past Leadbetter Beach.
Overall, here's how the run rates in my book:

Organization – Well organized, marked course. Full marathon transportation was fine but race started late. Grade: B

Course - A few scenic views, spectacular ocean views for last 2.5 miles . Grade: B

Aid-stations - Frequent aid-stations with water that wasn't from a garden hose. No Gatorade. Plenty of volunteers. Grade: B

Swag – Nice medal and dri-fit short sleeve shirt.  Grade: B+

San Luis Obispo Marathon - Finisher!

Two weeks ago, 4/22/2012, I ran the inagural San Luis Obispo Marathon.
As it was the first time there has been an official marathonin San Luis, I came expecting some bumps in the road (incorrect mileage, missing water stops, etc). There were approximately 800 marathoners and probably 1000 half-marathon participants.
The full started at 6:00AM, with the half starting 30 mins later at 6:30. The weather had been quite warm the previous few days but thankfully temps were in the low 50s with a nice marine layer that would last most of the race.

We stayed just a few blocks from the start so the logistics were nice and simple. No bus to catch at 4am, just a short 10 minute walk in the dark. The race started at 6am on the dot. We ran the initial 3 miles through downtown and then hit the first big hill between Miles 3 and 4.

Once we hit Mile 5, the scenery began to change into the beautiful wine country of the Edna Valley. The course was green with a number of vineyards on the way out to Mile 13. There were a lot of rolling hills, some fairly steep.

After a brief out and back for Miles 12 and 13, we headed West and then back towards town. The hills didn't let up! By Mile 20, my calves were screaming and my quads were hoping the rollers were coming to an end.

At Mile 23, we re-entered town and had a net downhill to the finish. There were a few uphills, especially having to climb up to a footbridge to go over the railyard and a sadistic last hill at Mile 25.8 (who does that?!?) The last half mile was all down hill and made for a very fast finish.

Overall, here's how the run rates in my book:

Organization – Well organized, marked course. The expected inagural challenges were nowhere to be found. Grade: A

Course - Scenic Edna Valley. Big hills in multiple spots. Grade: B+

Aid-stations - Frequent aid-stations with water that wasn't from a garden hose. No Gatorade. Plenty of volunteers. Grade: B

Swag – Nice medal and dri-fit long sleeve shirt.  Grade: B+

Race Review: Redding Marathon - Finisher!

Two weeks ago, 1/15/2012, I ran the Redding Marathon, six weeks after running the California International Marathon (CIM). This was my third marathon in 78 days, qualifying me to be a Marathon Maniac!

The marathon was small, with about 500 runners and 100 three-person relay teams.. The weather was cool (40F), dry with little wind. As this was a January race in Northern California at an elevation of 1000 feet, I was happy there wasn't snow on the ground.

We got up at 5:30am and took the 7am bus from the finish to the start. The driver didn't get lost and we arrived with plenty of time. The starting line was the top of the Shasta Dam, which turns out to the second largest dam in the United States. They opened the Visitors Center where everyone hung out until race time, which was nice as it was warm! With five minutes to go, they asked us all to head to starting line.

The race began on time and was well-organized. The first 1.5 miles of the course went directly across the top of Shasta Dam and then headed steeply downhill to the river's edge (outflow of the dam) for another mile. Once we got to the level of the river, we ran along a "Rails to Trails" route that followed the river for approximately 23 miles. The views were incredibly beautful and the numbers of marathoners was small enough that it felt more like a nice long run than a race.

We ran through the old train tunnel at Mile 4 (stopping for photos of course) and continued on to the first set of hills at Mile 12. Along the way we were on the lookout for ice on the course - parts of the trail were in the shade and were slippery for the first few hours of the run. Miles 12 - 14 had some hard hills; we also passed the first hand-off for the relay so there were lots of kills (me) after that.

After another mile long hill from 15 to 16, we did an out and back then headed across the Ribbon Bridge at Mile 22.

The last four miles followed along the Sacramento River through downtown Redding and we finished by crossing the Sundial Bridge.

Overall, here's how the run rates in my book:

Organization – Well organized, marked course. Grade: A

Course - Beautiful, remote course. Big hills at Miles12-14. Grade: A-

Aid-stations - Fewer stations than a large marathon, but spaced apart approximately every 2 or 2.5 miles. Well stocked, super friendly volunteers. Water that wasn't from a hose and Gatorade (the Smurf one) that wasn't too strong. Grade: B+

Swag – Great medal, nice dri-fit long sleeve shirt.  Grade: B+

Race Review: CIM 2011 - Finisher!

Last Sunday, 12/4/2011, I ran the California International Marathon (CIM), five weeks after running the Marine Corp Marathon.
Revisiting the race that was easily my biggest bonk ever was a bit intimidating. I went over my running plan fifty times to make sure I wouldn't suffer the same outcome (plus my wife wasn't going to pace me the last 13 miles like last time).

CIM had 8000 marathoners and 1000 relay people this year (full as usual). The weather was cool (36F), dry with no wind. As a bonus, the CIM folks decided to become the marathon with the most port-a-potties in the U.S. (apparently 1 unit for every 26 runners).

We got up at 3:30am and took the 5:30am bus from the host hotel to the start. Our bus driver got lost in the dark as did a number of the others. Luckily we made it to the starting line with plenty of time to spare. Riders were allowed to remain on the bus until 5 minutes before the start, which was nice.

The race began on time and was well-organized. The event is billed as a fast net downhill race ("A very fast course, if not THE FASTEST, course in the country") which is true, however, there are a number of rolling hills in the first 20 miles or so.

After a 0.5 mile downhill start, the course followed various semi-rural roads, always with a not-too-steep incline followed by a not-too-steep-but-a-little-steeper-than-the-incline decline. I worked to maintain a consistent pace and not charge ahead on the downhills.

Luckily, I had some amazing crowd support at Miles 8 and 21 which gave me something to look forward to during the race.

The rollers end at just about Mile 20 when you pass through "The Wall". The last 6 miles of the course are extremely flat and many runners fly on this last part of the course. Those of us with screaming quads cheered as the kills multiplied!

The last few miles were rough but somehow I crossed the finish line intact. My legs were killing me from the rolling hills but I managed to avoid repeating a major bonk. Tired but happy I closed the book on my 13th marathon and slept in the car on the way home.

Overall, here's how the run rates in my book:

Organization – Well organized, marked course with good crowd support. Grade: A

Course - Rolling hills. Make sure to train for them. A few scenic spots. Last six miles are the best part. Grade: B

Aid-stations - Well distributed and staffed. Water in garbage cans, from rubber hoses. Ultima. Yuck. Grade: C+

Swag – Great medal, nice dri-fit long sleeve shirt.  Grade: B+

Race Review: Marine Corp Marathon - Finisher!

We ran the Marine Corp Marathon in Virginia/Washington D.C. on 10/30/2011 - something to check off the ol' bucket list!

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