This past weekend I ran the Army Ten-Miler (ATM), a 10-mile road race in Washington, D.C. that starts and finishes at the Pentagon, passing by landmarks including the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, and the Capitol Building.
Since the inaugural race in 1985 the ATM has grown from 1,379 finishers to 26,069 finishers in 2015. Nearly 375,000 runners have participated since the race began, and only one man, 65-year-old U.S. Army Col. (Ret.) Lew Goldberg, has run every Army Ten-Miler since 1985.
Since 2006, I’ve run the race four times. I ran the race with shoes in 2006 (1:13:05) and without shoes in 2011 (1:17:29) and 2012 (1:12:06), and in Vibrams for the 2013 race (1:11:50). This year, for my fifth running, I went with a pair of Brooks Pure Flow.
Sunday morning I woke at 5:00 AM, hit the showers, then the head, and left for the Metro with Jim. From the Pentagon Metro stop we dropped off our clothes at garment check and made our way to the bathroom (shocker) before walking down to Wave 1. Upon arrival, after not seeing a bathroom, we walked back to Wave 3, used the Port-a-John and returned to Wave 1. Not long after our return I noticed a line of bathrooms not far from the start and proceeded to go a few more times prior the start of the race. Seriously, greasy food was not a good choice.
Just before 8AM the countdown began, the cannon fired, and Jim and I were off. For the first mile we were shoulder-to-shoulder with runners jostling for position along a flat downhill road. After a short 6:59 mile we crossed the first mile and turned up the clover leaf on-ramp leading to a cobble stone road and Arlington Memorial Bridge. Plenty of bystanders cheered us on as we made our way to the northwest side of the Lincoln Memorial and mile 2 in 6:45.
We tried our best to stick with each other before we couldn’t. Seriously, anytime we left any kind of separation between the two of us there were 15 runners filling the void. Knowing it wasn’t going to improve we both went on without the other.
I strolled down Constitution Avenue NW, snagged a cup of water from a volunteer (on my third attempt) and turned up Virginia Avenue NW where I hit a long uphill to Watergate reaching mile 3 in 7:00 flat. A quarter mile later, as it does most years, my Garmin took a dive as I passed under the Kennedy Center. That said, my times for the rest of the race are based on my best guess and computational skills.
After Kennedy, I grabbed another cup of water at mile 4 (~7 pace) and turned up Ohio Drive Southwest towards Independence Avenue SW. About 7 minutes later I passed mile 5 and the Washington Monument. My legs were feeling pretty good, but I had a bit of a twinge in my left glute. Nothing bad though.
As I ran the fifth mile on my way towards numero seis my foot started to hurt. I looked down and noticed a dark spot and a small clump of dark ooze seeping through my shoe’s mesh. I’d find out later that something in my shoe was sawing away at my big toe’s cuticle (I don’t wear socks). Needless to say, the remainder of the race was a wee bit uncomfortable. As for my time, given that my 10K split was 7:01 pace, I’m putting my pace for mile 6 around 7:15.
The seventh mile took me back down the south side of the National Mall and eventually to 14th Street SW (i.e. the Arland D. Williams Jr. Memorial Bridge). I hit 8 at 7:15ish pace and then was overwhelmed with a wonderfully awful feeling. The greasy food from the day before was looking for a way out. So as not to oblige I slowed down a little and did the runner clench when necessary. Miraculously I was able to muster a 7:10ish mile for both 8 and 9.
The last mile was a fun. And by fun I mean it was horribly uncomfortable. Not only was my toe thumping in pain, but my bowels were telling my eyes to start looking. Somehow, the runner part of my brain overcame my colon’s influence, and I finished up the race in 1:11:09 (7:07 pace).
Once I crossed the finish line the feeling down below subsided. I figured I’d have about ten minutes before my intestinal engines started up again so I hung around for a couple of minutes to wait for Jim. When he did, I quickly grabbed a finisher medal and made a B-line for the potty.
In the end, I bested my previous best time by 41 seconds. My legs felt great and I’m confident that I’ll improve again next year (bowels permitting).
One more thing…
In case you were dying to know. This is what my toe looked like when I pulled it from my shoe.