The Starting Line: No corrals here folks, you self-seed. There will be large banners with estimated finish time so you can properly line up. It's a zoo but it's truly organized, trust me on this one. And it took us about 10-12 minutes to get across the starting line after the Howitzer was fired.
Roslyn (miles 1-3): This is where the big hills are, people. Let them help you reign in your speed. Roslyn will be packed with tons of spectators which is fun and I remember seeing some great signs last year.
Georgetown (miles 4.5-5.5): I remember some hills in here and lots of spectators. What I actually remember most is that the road was really wet from a water station. That's random, I know!
Rock Creek Parkway (miles 6-9.5): This part of the course was very crowded, but also very scenic. You're running on a tree-lined road and there's little else to see except for runners on all sides of you. Turn off your music and soak in the sounds of the thumping feet. And be cautious of the hand cyclists. Because of the hills in here, they definitely had challenges navigating the major crowds.
Kennedy Center (mile 10.5): We passed the Kennedy Center last year right after the orange slices stop and I remember this point well. I anticipated seeing a friend spectating here, but she turned out to be elsewhere on the course. There's great spectators in here.
Haines Point (miles 11-15): People warned me that this could be a tough area of the course. If it's windy, you're likely to feel it because you're more exposed. I really loved this section for a few reasons. The Mile to Remember (mile 12) is incredible. Do yourself (and your fellow Americans) a favor and turn off your music. Take in the photos of the fallen service men and women. Take in the line of American flags. It's really moving.
The Monuments and the Mall (miles 16-19): This was the most awesome section of the course for me. I loved seeing the heart of DC and I also had some wonderful spectators on the mall. The spectators are wall-to-wall on the course through this section so enjoy it. You may laugh but you will need that crowd energy as you turn to head over the bridge. Speaking of the bridge...
The 14th Street Bridge (mile 20): This may feel like the longest mile of the race. The bridge can break you. It is quiet. There are no spectators and you have a 10k to go. I tried to take in the views of Crystal City and stay upbeat. When you come off the ramp off the bridge, don't look right....the finish line is that direction and it's too soon to start daydreaming about the finish.
Crystal City (miles 22-24): You will get another small taste of hills through here. Despite the crowds here, I found this section of the course to be very quiet. In fact, I threw my hands in the air at one point and yelled at the crowd to cheer for us! The best part of Crystal City is the munchkin station as you head back toward the Pentagon. I wasn't feeling this last year but I know tons of people loved this aid station!
The Pentagon (mile 24.5): You'll exit Crystal City under the 395 overpass an run toward the Pentagon. I remember this stretch from last year. Feeling so close that I could almost taste the finish line Gatorade. There's a great DJ set up in front of the Pentagon and a fabulous Marine who told us 1.2 miles to go when we got back on the onramp to the finish.
The finish (mile 26.2...duh!): I was warned about the final hill up to the finish line. In my head, it was Everest and in reality, it wasn't that bad. The crowds approaching the finish were INSANE and they were encroaching on the road quite a bit so be prepared for it to feel a bit narrow all of a sudden.
If you're running the Marine Corps Marathon this weekend, I wish you the best day on earth! This was one of the best days of my life and I hope it lives up to (my) hype!
Interested in reading more? Here are a few of my posts from last year.
2013 Marine Corps Marathon Race Recap
My Top 5 Marine Corps Marathon Moments
Marine Corps Marathon by the Numbers
My Taper Plan
Are you running Marine Corps? Getting excited??