A running commitment

It was still dark on Sunday morning when Sarah Muntzing, Rachel Mastandrea and Lindsay Gordon laced up their running shoes. The sun was just beginning to rise and the three women could already tell it was going to be the perfect day to run their first marathon.

“It’s just another run,” Mastandrea said. “I’ll talk you through it.”

The 34th annual Marine Corps Marathon kicked off Sunday at 7:50 a.m. near Arlington National Cemetery. With the bang of a cannon and an enthusiastic “Oorah!” from the crowd, the three slowly picked up pace with 20,900 other runners there to prove something to themselves and to their country.

After four-and-a-half hours, their goal time, Muntzing and Mastandrea crossed the finish line. Gordon, having pressed ahead of her running mates halfway through the marathon, finished soon before.

“Miles 12 and 20 were the hardest. You just can’t listen to your legs,” Muntzing said afterward.

A member of the GW Road Runners, Muntzing said she was inspired to sign up for the marathon after watching a friend run it in 2008. She proposed that she, Mastandrea and Gordon, also members of Road Runners, register for the 2009 marathon and adapt the group’s schedule to accommodate their training. Muntzing said the goal was never to race or beat a record, just to complete all 26.2 miles.

“Anyone can be a runner,” Muntzing said, “And if they don’t believe me, they should watch the Marine Corps Marathon.”

Mastandrea, a sophomore double majoring in marketing and sport event & hospitality management, said she and Muntzing trained separately over the summer using a conditioning schedule they found online last spring. The circuit had them run four to seven miles on weekdays and longer, 10-mile runs on weekends with occasional 20-mile stints.

Once back to school, Road Runners gave them the training ground they needed to complete the Marine Corps Marathon.

Mondays replaced weekends as the trio’s long-run days, while Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays became the Road Runners’ regular meeting days. Each workout consisted of four to six-mile runs that began at the Lerner Health & Wellness Center and circled around D.C.’s neighborhoods. Common routes took the group through Adam’s Morgan, the National Mall and the back roads of Georgetown.

“We are probably the best group to ask for directions because we know all the streets,” said Muntzing, a junior majoring in anthropology.

The Road Runners attract about 10 students to their workouts each week. To garner interest, they had a three-mile “fun run” in September, followed by a bagel breakfast and interest meeting in University Yard.

Senior Hannah Bearce took a different route, and trained with her family over the summer and her roommate while at school. Training since May, Bearce said she did the marathon as a life experience.

“If I can do this then I’ll be done. I’ll get it off my bucket list,” Bearce said.

Bearce said the race went very well – she finished in less than five hours, faster than she anticipated.

“It was amazing. The crowds were at perfect spots. I would feel ready to quit and then I would round a corner and see a huge crowd and then I would keep going,” Bearce said.

GW had more than just student runners participating in the marathon – EMeRG provided standby emergency medical care to participants of the race via one ambulance, one bike crew and several other individuals working in the medical tent. They were recruited by the Arlington County Fire Department, which was in charge of all emergency medical operations for the marathon. Participating in the event gave EMeRG members experience beyond the Foggy Bottom bubble, said Meredith Ferfolia, EMeRG’s assistant coordinator for public relations.

“Any special event provides additional opportunity to improve and perfect patient care,” Ferfolia said.

In addition, Ferfolia said three EMeRG members participated in the marathon as runners.

Shannon O’Reilly contributed to this report.

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