Luck of the Irish Sprinter

On most race mornings, I roll out of bed an hour before the start time, lace up my Asics and hightail it over to a Central Park starting line, basking in the unrivaled ease and carbon neutrality of my eight-block commute.

On this race morning (and in the 12 hours proceeding it), I took a taxi to New York Penn Station, a train to Baltimore Penn Station, woke up at 4 a.m., drove to a Quantico park n’ ride, boarded a shuttle bus and hightailed it over to a Prince William Forest Park starting line, basking in exhaustion as I tried to dig my way out of a carbon footprint the size of Texas.

But sheer ridiculousness of my commute aside, running in this morning’s Marine Corps Irish Sprint 10K was undeniably worth it. That’s because besides Gatorade and turkey noodle soup and a box of the best post-race snack foods I’ve ever received, all runners to cross this morning’s finish line were handed something even more significant:

This Golden Ticket may not earn me a really creepy afternoon with Gene Wilder and/or Johnny Depp, but it does guarantee me something even more coveted: a spot in the sold-out 2012 Marine Corps Marathon in October! While other would-be marathoners were hitting refresh over and over last week in an attempt to secure one of 30,000 available online slots in the 2 hours and 41 minutes before it sold out, I was sitting idly by, waiting for my St. Patrick’s Day race to do all the hard work for me. 

Or so I thought. Turns out, running this morning’s “easy, little 10K” wasn’t the walk in the park I was expecting. Although the course map came complete with comforting phrases like “mostly flat” and “downhill on asphalt” and “free petting zoo at Mile 4,” the vast majority of the route turned out to be a muddy, narrow, uphill trail, complete with rapid mountain lions and strategically placed ninja assassins (perhaps an exaggeration.)

Seriously though: I never before knew roads could go up forever without coming down. Apparently Quantico, Virginia, defies the laws of physics.

Panting and cursing and fending off ninja attacks, I somehow powered through, but I was pretty positive there was no way I was logging a new PR on this challenging course. So imagine my disbelief when I somehow stumbled my way across the finish line as the clock chimed 52:47, a 50-second improvement from my last 10K! I don’t know whether it was the promise of a Golden Ticket and/or green beer at the finish line that kept me going, or whether it was the knowledge that my speedy mother was right on my tail, but I plowed through for a surprisingly strong finish. Or maybe it was just some good old fashioned Irish-heritage luck!

Of course, my chiseled mother crossed the finish line, too, meaning my family now has not one but two Golden Tickets to its name. She says the Marine Corps Marathon isn’t on her schedule this fall, but take one look at this photo and just try tell me she isn’t at least toying with the idea:

I’m now off to downtown Baltimore for another kind of marathon: an Irishwoman’s St. Patrick’s Day bachelorette party. In case I don’t make it out alive, thank you all for your loyal readership.

How are you celebrating your 1/16th Irish bloodline tonight?

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