Runners, Eagles, and the USMC
Sunday May 15, 2011
Every year, the Marine Corps Half Marathon comes to town. The course they choose runs right by my house, so I go out to watch and cheer. There is a Marine Corps base not too far from here, and many of the employees there make it a point to participate. The event also draws some national class runners and other notables (this year it’s Drew Carey). The usual top local runner has chosen this year to start after everyone else. He is raising money for a charity, and gets donations for every runner he passes. He starts with over seven thousand runners in front of him.
Like last year, it’s a beautiful morning. As usual a Marine Corps Sergeant and a local Police officer block off the roads and monitor the corner near the house. They keep traffic off the road, and also keep an eye on the runners. I hear the ‘slap, slap, slap, slap’ of a runner passing through the dip in the road. The dip (in the road, the runner is not a dip) passes under the local highway, and the runners comes up a small hill. The first runner goes by, I glance at the clock and it is 7:52 AM. We’re fairly close to the nine mile mark, so this guy is under a six-minute pace, maybe faster depending on when the race started, and on when he crossed the starting line.
The lead runner is followed about two minutes later by a second runner. Another minute, then two more runners come by. Four more in the next minute. I count off the first ten, and note that the tenth runner is female, only five minutes behind the lead runner. There is a lot less separation between the lead runners this year. The same as last year, the occasional ‘slap, slap, slap, slap’ of running shoes on pavement becomes constant, and herds of runners go by. One hollers out, ‘Hi Jim’ and too late I try to pick the sole lone voice out of the herd and take her picture. If it was who I think it was, she is doubly lucky, her father is a senior Marine officer, and she also gets to work for the Marine Corps.
Other runners carrying flags go by, I try to take pictures, but my camera fails me. Others run by in costume of sorts, wearing horned helmets that remind me of Gimli the dwarf. Many runners holler out 'Thank You for your Service' to the Staff Sergeant stationed on the corner. He hollers back, encouraging them in their run. I notice that many of the runners towards the back of the pack start running again when they see him, clearly motivated by his presence.
I eventually get distracted and begin noticing all the weeds in my yard, and the birds fishing over the river. One looks suspiciously like an eagle. It is definitely not the usual seagull, duck, vulture, or heron that fly over. It might also be a falcon of some sort. Either way, it is a really big bird and new to the area. It patrols, up and down the river, occasionally appearing to stop in mid-air, its huge wings flapping to hold it temporarily in place before it dives down towards the river. Hung in mid-air like that, I notice it has white markings on it's breast. A second really big bird appears and is nice enough to land on a tree visible from where I watch the runners. Sitting in one spot, it appears to have white markings on it's head. When there is a break in the passing herds, I cross the street to take a picture. The day has turned into yet another beautiful Mid-May morning.
Sunday Morning 09:55 AM May 15, 2011
The tools and gloves for weeding are in the house, and it is near the end of the race. The paper published the road opening time as 9:55 AM. I step back out to see if the race will end here the same way it did last year, with complaints from those who are seeking to get to church on time. Sure enough, there is a gentleman approaching the Marine Sergeant stationed there to monitor traffic, and in a repeat of last year asks if it is ‘ok’ to open the road long enough to get an elderly lady, 96 years of age, to church on time. I fail to hear the Sergeant’s response as the road crew comes chugging up the hill to retrieve the cones that mark the road as closed. Their timing is impeccable this year, and prevents a recurrence of the loud discussions of last year.
All is well, and I go pick weeds. Various folks go by on their way to church, or back-trace the racecourse, nearly all saying good morning as I begin to sweat. A gentleman in a wheel-chair comes by, I assume heading to church. I ask if he knew that the runner’s race is preceded by a wheel-chair race. The lead pair was nearly wheel-to-wheel when they came by, and moving at an admirable rate of speed. He says he might try that. I tell him that they are using low slung long wheel-base chairs driven by arm pedals.
Runners, Eagles, Marines, and folks religiously attending church. What a great way to start the day.
Marine Corps Hymn
FitnezzJim also has articles for the Marine Half-marathon for years 2010, 2013, and 2015.
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