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Finish What You’ve Started, Part II

Did you read part one yet? If not, go here: http://wp.me/p3N8MQ-kI

All caught up? Yay! Let’s go…


 

Tuesday was the day. The day I was going to finish the rest of the MCM course. The route I was taking was going to consist of starting at Army Navy Drive (just after the bridge segments on the original course), going through Crystal City, and heading towards the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery. Sounds simple in context, right?

Not so simple when there’s no course already marked off for you and people telling you where to go.

I took the Metro in to Crystal City and found myself walking around in circles trying to find my starting spot. I pulled up the Google Maps app and started navigating around the city, eventually finding S. Eads Drive and heading towards my destination.

Did I mention Crystal City is kind of creepy, even in broad daylight?

Eventually, I found it. Time to go!

I took off into the city, and after a couple of wrong turns, finally found myself on Crystal Drive. The crowds down here were much more sparse and this gave me more room to move. I ran down to 23rd street and looped back around, heading towards Long Bridge Park. (The directions call for Long Bridge Drive to 10th St. South, etc., and not running through the park per se …but I’m not passing up scenic adventures!)

The walkway for the park (middle picture) was long and near desolate. It ran parallel to a set of train tracks and the Potomac River. There are soccer fields for athletes to practice on, and Crystal City loomed in the background. On this stretch, I took advantage of the openness and sprinted to the pulse of the music, heading down some steps and around one of the lower fields toward Boundary Channel Drive.

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Found this on the route. It was a sign.

 

Exiting the park, I got to run in the grass when the sidewalk disappeared. Traffic wasn’t too bad, and I reached a median and a very familiar bridge to run under that I recognized in 2014. I exited and saw the Pentagon on my left.

My Google Maps were pointing me in the direction of the Pentagon Access Road. I kept running myself in circles and across the road at least five times trying to find it. At one point, I went about a quarter mile down Boundary Channel Drive, then turned around and went back the way I came. Eventually, I put two and two together and followed the road around the Pentagon. (Once again, deviating from the actual instructions on the MCM website.) At this point I had typed in “current location to ANC” and was following those instructions. I had about two miles to go (apparently…it never really ends up being two miles). I slowed up walking around the Pentagon and walked towards its Memorial…

…and saw bathrooms. YAY!

(Anyone else get super excited about bathrooms on their running courses?)

I stepped back out and continued on, consulting my maps again. I was So. Close. at this point. All I had to do was find Patton Drive and I’d be good to go!

Yeah, not so easy.

I saw ANC on my right, and started trekking up the hill that ran parallel to it, not knowing I was about to run into the Marine Corps HQ at Henderson Hall.

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I tried running through their gated opening, aaaaaand got stopped. Naturally.

I finished the run to the top of the hill and went all the way back down. There was another opening at the bottom of the hill. Maybe I’ll go through that one.

I dashed over to their security guard and asked if pedestrians were allowed to go through that entrance. He replied, “Oh yeah, sure! Just no running through the cemetery.”

“Oh yes, absolutely. Respect for the dead and all that.” I responded.

…so I was in. YAY!

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This was my first time ever being IN the cemetery, and I took it in as an experience. The simple white headstones were aligned precisely with their predecessors in long rows that dotted the green landscape. There was a sense of quiet and revere that accompanied the atmosphere, especially along Eisenhower Drive where there weren’t many people (around Sections 70, 69, 68, etc.).

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At one point, I saw Marines and their horse-drawn caisson pulling a coffin draped in black. Out of respect, I didn’t take pictures of this, but merely stood silently as they passed. Soon after, I heard the rifle volleys in the distance. Chills.

I followed Eisenhower Drive all the way through….and ended up right where I stopped the night before. I knew where I was. The Iwo was just ahead. I couldn’t believe I was almost there. I took one hell of a route, but damn it, I was actually going to finish this!

I kept trekking, almost falling on my face down the steps on Custis Walk. I couldn’t help but notice the amount of wildlife that was fluttering around, specifically the robins. I’m pretty sure winter has evaded most of us this year.

I kept straight through this portion of the ANC…and saw it. The familiar right-hand turn that MCM finishers take to get across the finish line…

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I walked towards it, took the picture, and realized, “Oh nuts. There’s still traffic on this road….ooooh sidewalk!” I backtracked a bit and used the walkways to end up FINALLY at the Iwo Jima.

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It took me two months, a lot of antagonizing, thinking, and overanalyzing my performance…but I finally finished what I started. I took a few wrong turns along the way that led to a much more scenic route, and I think it helped to enhance this experience (which turned out to be ten miles. Woohoo!). There’s no shiny medal commemorating what I have done, only these here blog posts. I feel like I’ve quenched the feelings of unfinished closure, and can say:

Mission Accomplished.


 

After-run thoughts…

Welp, it’s done. About time!

I’m glad I took the time during this vacation and ran the last part of the race. I managed to make an 8.2 mile route into a 16.2 mile route. I’m okay with this.

For the week that I was down in D.C., I managed to put 47.2 miles on my legs (with two rest days). Apparently, that’s relatively high mileage for a marathoner during training. I leave for Disney next week, and I’m somewhat comfortable with tapering a little before race day.

This experience was a great lesson in perseverance. I could have easily said, “I’m going to wallow over the fact I got swept and let it fester in my mind for the next billion years.” But I got out there and did something about it. It also goes to show that “not all those who wander are lost”…there were quite a few detours, but they all pointed to the right area in the end. Take the more scenic route; you might not get a chance to do it again. Grit and tenacity go a long way, too. Both days, the weather was far chillier than expected. There were hills, people, cars, more people, uneven terrain, smells of food stuffs…but I kept going and logged those miles. Mentally, I asked myself why the hell I was even doing this. Then I reminded myself, “’cause you’re gonna finish what you started, that’s what.”

And I did.

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