Today was the thirty-fifth running of the Marine Corps Marathon in the metro D.C. area. The 2009 Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) was the last marathon that I ran, and it was the day that I announced to the world that I was pregnant. My friend Katie found out when she picked me up at the airport in Baltimore two days earlier, while my family received letters in the mail on Saturday afternoon. I typed a lengthy post before I flew up to BWI, and Mr. Andi posted it for me during the race on Sunday. I was 16 weeks pregnant at the time, and the medal I earned that day hangs in Nathan’s room instead of with my other race medals.
A lot of my running friends were doing the MCM today and I kept up with them via our online forum home, Facebook, runner tracking, and the live video feed on the MCM website. The race started at 8am ET and at around 2:30, several of us were watching and tracking together (virtually) when the video switched to a man in a yellow singlet accompanied by another man carrying an American flag. They were obviously at the back of the pack. The man in yellow didn’t appear to be doing very well, and we all hoped he would finish, as those of us who had run the course before knew he still had a ways to go. All of our runners made it in (we celebrated!), but we continued to watch the live feed. At around 3:30, we saw two different runners in front of a police car and we got a little sad, thinking they were the last runners on the course and that the man in the yellow singlet hadn’t made it. The road was completely empty of runners, yet the camera didn’t switch to the finish line shots, and we were getting a little aggravated.
Suddenly, the camera started moving backwards down the course, but there still weren’t any runners. We kept watching and then, in the distance, we spotted a flag! Slowly, our yellow singlet runner and his flag-toting companion came into focus, an hour and ten minutes after we had first spotted him. We began a forum-posting frenzy, cheering on this man we didn’t know. He stopped and started what seemed like a hundred times and his body was, for lack of a better description, lopsided. We looked up his race number and learned that his name was Bob Dolphin, he was from Renton, WA, was 81 years old, and a former Marine. His yellow singlet identified him as a Marathon Maniac, so within minutes we had learned that he began running in his 50s and has completed 475 marathons (for more on Bob, click here). The flagbearer’s name was Ray (per his shirt) and he appeared to be the designated escort to the last place runner. We all sat glued to our monitors, posting messages to each other on the forum, as Bob struggled to finish. In the final stretch of the race, Bob was flanked by Marines on each side, and Ray handed the flag to Bob, who took it across the finish line at 4:06 ET. I wept. My friends wept. It was gut wrenching to watch. It was inspiring.
After watching the MCM finish, I went out to do my own long run (mercifully shorter than Bob’s), and as I was running I thought a lot about Bob. Most people wouldn’t expect an 81 year old man to run one mile, and certainly no one would expect him to be able to run 26 miles. Many faster runners would look down their noses at anyone who would take eight hours to complete a marathon. But Bob did the marathon, and he did it on his own timetable. Other than my friends, I couldn’t name another individual who ran the marathon today. Bob reminded me of special kids. They don’t do things the way other people to do, and they won’t meet the typical timetables in a lot of areas. But they will persevere and meet their goals, and those goals will be all the sweeter just for the attempt.
Semper fi, Bob.