Saturday, March 21, 2009

PRESS/National Marathon...starts in less than 2 hours

Washington, DC. 

I'm sitting at the laptop, typing a few notes and feeling a lot of jitters. The weather is really chilly here in DC this morning. The good people at say it will be about 32 degrees for the starting gun here in about 90 minutes. 

This has been a busy week on a lot of levels and I have the bags under my eyes this morning to prove it. Working near all-nighters during marathon week isn't ideal, but that's life. 

NBC did a great piece on the 10-12-100 Campaign this past Thursday.

We shot the piece out at Hains Point, which has been a DC landmark for many years. DC natives will always remember it as being the home of the famous statue "The Awakening" which was featured in many movies and a famous Reebok ad featuring DC native and Georgetown star miler, Chris Lukezic. I missed seeing it out there, but the shot went great and I think NBC reporter, Michael Flynn, is not only a great guy, but also a young journalist on the rise--look for big things from him.

Also, the Spring Issue of Capitol File hit news stands earlier this week. I sat down with Editor Sherry Moeller a while back and I am so appreciative of the kind, well-worded article she wrote. Sherry really captured the spirit of our conversation and the over-arching goals and sentiment of this year-long endeavor. Check it out online at and pick up a copy at your local bookstore today.

Okay. I'd better get off the laptop and get my things together. There's a tentative plan to do another pre-race interview with NBC at the start line, so that's got to be all for now. 

Those of you outside the DC area can check out the race course and follow a lot of the action at

Number three on the horizon. 

God Bless. 

Doug Eldridge
DLE Sports

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Recap: Pensacola Marathon

It's been just over a month since I completed the Pensacola Marathon on Feb. 15, down in Northwest Florida. While I regret the month that has passed since the race, I've been inundated with long hours and a lot of business travel over the last 30 days. Given the current economic climate, having a busy work life is truly a blessing...more on that in a latter posting. 

So on a rainy, humid day in the old Spanish town of Pensacola, I completed the second marathon in the 10-12-100 Campaign with both a faster time and a far better feel for my fitness than I'd felt when typing my last entry, a few short hours before the starting gun went off. 

Admittedly, this tact is equal parts, humility, deprecation, nerves and a very self-effacing analysis of where I am (fitness wise) on the morning of a marathon. As I've said over and over, you just can't fake your way through a marathon. On that particular morning--and with four days until my next marathon, the National Marathon here in DC--you just have to be realistic with where you are in your training and racing, as that provides an accurat
e meter stick as to how you will do on race day. With office all-nighters, airport layovers, and murderous road trips to see clients, sometimes it is what it is when it comes to fitness.

All of that is to say that I didn't expect much from Pensacola, in the way of race results. After running 3:32 in Miami, I had modest expectations for my follow up effort, some 3 weeks later in the panhandle. Nonetheless, I was fortunate to have my Mom come down for this one. To her credit, my Mom has always been my most avid, unwavering supporter and was always the lone parent sitting in the stands, camcorder in hand. Whether rain, snow, wind or oppressive heat, she was always there. As such, it was nice to have her along for the trip and the broader journey over the course of this year. 
So after the last blog posting, we headed over to the start of the race, which was along the water front and just off the central Spanish town square. At times, it was drizzling and at times, it was raining sideways. Everyone was sitting in idling cars and those who actually did brave the pre-race elements did so with garbage bags with armhole cut-outs. For anyone that's done marathons, Ironmans, etc. you know that the last thing you want is wet shoes for the start of a 3+ hour race. Not only will it feel like running with cinderblocks on your feet, but your socks will create blisters and the limp often seen at mile 21 will become a sheer crawl. So we waited until the last possible minute, then I walked up to the line, snapped a couple quick pics and took off on the first of two 13 mile loops. 

Because the half marathon did one loop and then stepped off, it made for a nice quick tempo for my first lap. After running with the 8-minute group in Miami, I was running blind in Pensacola and went with what felt comfortable, which on that morning was at or just under a 7:50 tempo. Despite the weather, Pensacola is a pretty town and the tree canopies, military monuments, and Spanish heritage provided a lot to look at while racking up the miles. The community and volunteers were also spirited and were always vocal in their support...believe me, that helps during the latter miles of a marathon. (As an aside, I'd like to draw special attention to Pensacola native, Corrie Lynn Schweigert's parents who literally drove to each intersection and screamed and cheered for their daughter as she made her way around the half-marathon course. That type of enthusiasm is infectious and is what makes small-venue marathons so enjoyable to do.)

I came thru the half way mark well under my predicted 1:45 time and gave a wink and a smile to my mom who was positioned at the start, midpoint and finish line. She would later say that she was surprised to see me so early, but after years of watching me compete, she knows when I'm on good form. I think she also enjoyed talking to locals who had read the feature story that the Pensacola News Journal ran on me, the day before. (I'll provide a link.) Regardless, I felt great and was off for lap #2, following a substantial thinning of the herd, after the half-marathoners stepped off the course, their job complete.

I kept on pace through about mile 23 at which point I went over 8 min pace for the first time. Admittedly, those last few miles (especially the last four) were brutal. I drew special strength from the young enlisted soldiers that stood guard at literally every single turn-in along the course, be it form a parking lot, office building, etc. They were there to guard against errant motorist turning onto the course and injuring runners. The rain was driving down hard, but they stood at attention, offering a buffered word of encouragement as I raced along, passing several runners in the closing miles. Their stoicism, discipline and quiet sense of honor helped refocus me when most people mentally unravel in the closing miles of a marathon.

I crossed the line in 3:26:28, which meant an overall pace of 7:53. Given my well-placed apprehension only a few hours prior, I was certainly pleased with the result. What was even more poignant given the overarching purpose of this 10-12-100 Campaign is that the finish line was at the center of a series of military monuments commemorating Pensacola's Vietnam vets (with a wall very similar to the famous Wall here in DC, but which list just the names of those fallen soldiers from Northwest Florida), WWI, and WWII. As I staggered around and gathered my wits, I looked down to see a series of plaques honoring the young men and women who were killed in action (KIA) during Operation Enduring Freedom. I crouched down, and began reading some of the names, while my Mom began snapping pics. I could only smile. It was meant for me to see that plaque when I did. I felt energized and refocused. Mom pointed out that I no longer had color and that I should put back on my warm-ups. Now, looking back at the post-race pics, she was right--my face was rung out, my skin tone had a sickly pallor and my arms and legs were covered with goose bumps.

After a hot shower and a great visit with my Aunt (Beck-Beck), Uncle (Uncle Sandy) and my 93-year old grandmother, whom I've always called Honeybunch, we headed back to the hotel and I crashed hard. The next morning, however, we realized that I'd inadvertently booked my Mom and I on separate returning flights, which meant I would be routed through Memphis and she'd go through Atlanta. Though it seemed like a bad error at the time (my Mom isn't the biggest fan of flying, much less by herself) it turned out to yield a memorable story.

When my mom made it to her gate in Atlanta, a couple young soldiers sat down around her, all of whom were on a brief trip back to the states to see their families before heading back to Afghanistan. The guys were giddy and my Mom is an engaging southern lady, so conversation was inevitable. When the conversation turned to her, she explained that she'd been down in Pensacola for the marathon. Eventually, she got around to explaining the background and purpose of the 10-12-100 Campaign. She said that to a man, they became silent, almost eerily so. When she was finished, one of them spoke up with a lump in his throat and said, 

"Tell your son thank you. We will take this story back with us. We wish there were more people like your son willing to speak out on our behalf. Tell him, he's not alone during his runs. He's got thousands of us right there with him."

When my Mom--who has never been prone to exaggeration--told me this story, I was quite literally speechless. Neither of us said anything. The story spoke volumes and in the end, it was far more captivating than anything I could say in response, about the race or about the 10-12-100 campaign itself. Their reaction and words were both vindication and validation all at once. 

The training miles hurt. The marathons are even more painful. But that chance encounter my Mom had as a result of my booking error, produced a story that I'll draw from in the coming months and countless miles that stand before me over the course of this year. 

Indeed, they are not alone; nor am I. 

10-12-100 is a Campaign of inclusion. Whether uniformed or civilian, we all stand under the same flag. 

Two down. Eight to go.

Doug Eldridge
DLE Sports