Sunday, October 19, 2014

Spectator Guide for the Marine Corps Marathon

Last year Rick ran the Marine Corps Marathon and I'd like to share my spectating plan with you because it worked out very well for us. We saw him three times during the race, and then met up at the Finish Line Festival in the family link-up area. Freddy was four at the time - too big for a stroller, too small for a lot of walking.

(if you are looking for a runner's guide instead of a spectator's guide, click here)

General Tips:
  • Get your metro cards in advance of the race and make sure they are pre-loaded with enough money. Plan your stops and know your stations ahead of time.
  • Know what your runner is wearing - color of shirt, color of shoes, etc. You can prime your mind to scan the approaching crowd of runners for the right outfit.
  • Know your runner's predicted pace and calculate location times and finish times:
    • If a runner has a 10:30 pace and you will be at mile 15, it should take 2 hours and 37 minutes for them to reach you (if they run exactly that pace)
    • A 10:30 pace would have a finish time of 4:35, so you can start paying extra attention after you see the 4:30 pace group pass you (pace groups usually have a prominent sign)
    • Most runners will not run exactly this pace, so keep generous time margins around your estimates!
    • Sign up for runner tracking so you know where your runner is on the course and how close they are to their predicted pace.
  • Dress in layers - you will be cheering for a long time and the weather can change
  • Bring snacks & water
  • Make a creative sign
  • Fully charge your phone & bring a back-up power source if you have one. You'll be taking pictures, checking race progress, sending texts - you will be amazed how fast your battery power dwindles.
  • Bring a giant, distinctive balloon with a long string so your runner can spot you from a distance!
Simba came with us to MCM 2013

Cookie Monster came to Nike Women's Half

Viewing locations for MCM:
  • Maximum viewing locations, "small child/limited walking" plan:
    • Take the metro to the Smithsonian station (Orange, Blue, Silver lines)
    • Exit on the "Mall" side (Jefferson & 12th)
    • Walk West along Jefferson to Jefferson & 15th
    • Walk South along 15th to 15th & Maine Ave. Do not cross Maine.
    • Fly your balloon high for spectator spot #1, which is just past Mile 15. You will be on the runner's right.

Spectator spot #1, photo credit Dickson Mercer

    • After spotting your runner, walk north along 15th to 15th & Independence. Do not cross Independence.
    • Fly your balloon high for spectator spot #2, which is at Mile 17. You will be on the runner's right.

    • After spotting your runner, walk east along Independence to 14th & Independence. Do not cross 14th.
    • Fly your balloon high for spectator spot #3, which is about 1/4 of a mile before Mile 20. You will be on the runner's right.

Spectator spot #3, photo credit: Dickson Mercer

    • Walk back to Smithsonian Metro and head to Rosslyn Metro for the Finish Line Festival and Family Link-up. Rosslyn is accessible by Orange, Blue, and Silver line.
Meeting in the Family Link-up Area
photo credit: Dickson Mercer

  • Maximum viewing locations, "no small child/lots of walking ok" plan. If you do not have a small child with you like I did, you could supplement the above with:
    • The Start Line: although the start line is by the Arlington Cemetery Metro, that station won't open until 8:30 (after the race start). So this option includes a brisk walk from the Pentagon Metro to the Start, followed by: 
      • either a brisk walk back to the Pentagon Metro or a wait until the Arlington Cemetery Metro opens at 8:30; or
      • a walk across the Memorial Bridge to view your runner at 10.5 (followed by a bit of a walk to the viewing locations described above)
    • The Finish Line: instead of going to Rosslyn for the Finish Line Festival, one could head to the actual Finish Line. This option includes a brisk walk from the Rosslyn Metro to the Finish Line. (Note: the finish line is very crowded)

Spectator viewing locations noted above are marked by stars

Good luck spectating and have fun! If you want to read about our spectating adventures from last year, check out this story by Dickson Mercer of RunWashington Magazine. We had a blast!

Rick running MCM 2013


  1. Great post!! You are right... we are planning twins :)

    1. Yes, we are! I loved your post with all the different spectator location ideas.

  2. Great suggestions here! Really interesting to see the factors from the supporters' point of view.

  3. Your mentioned spots are exactly where my husband and friends met me! Our friends are DC residents, so from their apartment, they walked to Mile 10, and just kept going. It is awesome, as a runner, to know you have people waiting at a particular spot. When you (the runner) see them, you are energized! Thank you for supporting us and our crazy love affair with running!

  4. Your guides are the best! Thanks for sharing! :-)

  5. My husband ran the MCM this morning. I am so thankful for your spectator guide with kids. We didn't go last year to support him because I was very overwhelmed with how to figure out where to go and would I see him, etc while dragging the kids all over. We got to see him 3x and everyone was so excited!!! I couldn't have done it without you and really appreciate you taking the time to clearly note instructions on how to get from place to place.

    1. Thank you for telling me this - it means so much to me! I'm so glad you and your kids were able to cheer for you husband this morning. Those are special memories for all of you :)