As most students and midshipmen were preparing for parents’ weekend, some of us were packing our bags for the nation’s capital to run in the 36th Marine Corps Marathon. Early Saturday morning, the day before the race, Lt. Col. Larson, Gunnery Sgt. Abrego, and midshipmen Sage D’Aprile ’12, Andrew Watson ’13, Paul Maloney ’13, Kieren Merek ’13, Benjamin Fulton ’13, Doug Heinzel ’13, Liam Traver ’14, Atticus Moll ’14, and I—all of whom were first time marathoners—loaded up and headed down to Washington, D.C. Merek’s parents graciously put most of us up for the night and treated us to a hearty spaghetti dinner.
On race day, we made our way to the starting line nice and early in the less than comfortable mid-30 degree weather. But fortunately by 8 am when the gun sounded for the start, adrenaline levels had skyrocketed, making the cold unnoticeable. Nothing is more motivating than the thousands of cheering spectators lining the streets; the second lieutenants from The Basic School encouraging runners with water, sport gel, fruit, and, by the end, donuts and beer; and the countless historical monuments passed on the way ranging from the U.S. Capitol to the new Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial. Most of us hit the “hump” around mile 20 when crossing the river into Virginia. The pace dropped significantly, and muscles started giving way. I was amazed by the little things that inspired me by this point, whether it be a stranger yelling, “Go RPI!”, or the embarrassment of being passed by someone in a shark or whoopee cushion costume. Nevertheless, all 11 of us pushed through to the end and up the hill to the finish line at the Iwo Jima Memorial. As we crossed the line, each of us were congratulated by a Marine and given a finisher’s medal. Standing at the base of the monument was one of the most satisfying moments I have ever experienced.
After the race, we met up at the tent of the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, who sponsored us, and got some much needed food, drink, and rest. We were also able to meet up with second lieutenants Hays and Liu, RPI’s most recently commissioned Marines. Even the ride back to RPI the following morning was enjoyable: We were telling stories from the race or getting stares as we did the “marathon hobble” across the Applebee’s and rest-stop parking lots. Every single one of us, including Gunnery Sgt. Abrego, had a great time, and I guarantee some of us will be out there next year. The Marine Corps atmosphere is challenging, but the satisfying nature of the race made competing in the marathon the experience of a lifetime. Semper Fi!