A Tale of Two Races

The Beginning

Before I jump in, I wanted to give a shout out to the Happy Philosopher, since this post was born out of a chat I had with him at last year’s FinCon. It’s funny how a simple mention of a story while talking with a friend can lead into a full on discussion about life. Thanks HP for providing me the inspiration to tell this story.

The First Race

It was a chilly morning.  Mr. Wow and I were up at the crack of dawn to catch the train and ride to the Pentagon Metro Station to the start line of the race.

Once there, the butterflies began to stir in my stomach.  Being that this was our second marathon, we knew what we were getting ourselves into.

Bloody nipples anyone?

Regardless, I still found myself a little nervous before the start of the race.

The months of training which included many miles of pounding on the pavement, constantly sore muscles, hundreds of ice packs, gallons of gatorade, and mountains of bandaids and goos, all boiled down to this day.

I double checked my shoe laces and queued up my playlist, starting with Hansen’s “MmmBop” to get me going.  Yep, you read that right.  My playlist started with a one-hit wonder boy band and I’m proud of it.

We made our way to the back of the pack waiting at the starting line.

The start gun fired.

We were off.

The first 5 or so miles went off without a hitch.  We were in a rhythm and hitting our stride.  I remember looking at Mr.Wow and saying, “I feel great… We got this!”

Well We Didn’t “Have This”

A few miles later, the entire race came scratching to a halt.

It was right around the 8 mile marker.  The course went up a slight hill and then turned 180 degrees right back down the hill.

Now for all the runners out there, I know you understand being in your rhythm and how much it messes with you to be forced to stop or cut off by another runner.  Its extremely difficult to get back in sync when this happens.

Since we had to double back, the race lane narrowed and due to the amount of runners, there was no where else to go.  We were ultimately forced to walk the remainder of the hill until we reached the top where we could start running again.  To put it lightly, it was frustrating.

After the turn, we started running again and regained our rhythm. We continued the race mile after mile, still a little derailed from being forced to walk back at the hill.

Soon enough we were approaching the 17th mile.  Less than 10 to go. For me, mile 15-20 was the hardest portion of the race.  The wheels were starting to come off, but I just kept pushing through.

Cut Off Again?

Then all of a sudden, some guy who had been running on the right side of the road, made a quick veer to the left.  He completely cut us off, while he sprinted to the left side of the road.

Once again, it messed with our rhythm.

It was so rude. Why did he cut us off like that when there was plenty of room on the road?

Gosh it was frustrating!

But Mr. Wow and I kept on running (well and some walking too).  We made it all the way to the end, the finish line was in sight.

Within feet of the finish line, we were stopped one more time.

Geez, I mean, come on.

There were so many times that we were stopped during the race and then to have it happen right at the finish line. All I wanted to do was cross and be done.

I was dreaming of that ice, cold beer at the end. Guess it would have to wait a few more minutes.

Things Aren’t Always As They Seem

While everything I just mentioned truly happened, the reasons they did might surprise you. Let’s rewind and I’ll fill you in on more of the details.

The Other Race

It was October 27, 2013. The race was the Marine Corp Marathon. They call it “The People’s Marathon“. (If you click on the link, scroll to the bottom to see the video, but be ready for chills and maybe some tears).

If you have ever run this race, you know the exact feel that I am talking about. If you haven’t, I’ll try to the paint the picture as vividly as possible.

Washington Monument getting a facelift

Despite being up early and standing in the cold waiting for the gun time, the energy at the race was threw the roof.  There was so much passion and patriotism every way you turned.

You were surrounded by a sea of red, white, and blue and American flags.  In addition, members of the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps were there, as well as their supporters, families, and friends.

My parents had flown out from the west coast to join Mr. Wow’s family to support us as we raced.

The race was already epic in so many ways.

It was hard not to have all the feels, even before the race started.

The race ran all throughout Washington D.C. and the surrounding areas. It started right outside of the Pentagon and weaved around, passing many important buildings and monuments, including the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, Washington Monument, US Capital Building, Ulysses S. Grant Memorial, Martin Luther King Memorial, and ended at the Marine Corps War Memorial.

Running by the Capitol building

The air was chilly, but it actually made for perfect running weather.

I was nervous, but as soon as we were making our way to the start line, those nerves turned into excitement.

The start gun fired and we were off. I couldn’t help but notice that many people wore “In Memory Of” shirts. Others were there supporting those who are currently in the military, while others were supporting those who had been injured.

There were soldiers dressed in full gear, running in formation.

There were veterans in arm bikes, running on a blade or being pushed in a wheelchair, who had suffered injuries in war.

The water stations were manned by current active and reserve duty soldiers, wearing full military gear.

Inspired and motivated by the energy around us, the beginning of the race went off without a hitch.

The First Incident

Then around mile 8, like I mentioned before, the race came to a screeching halt.  Everyone in front of me starting walking.

As we approached the turn back, I noticed the reason.

There was a veteran amputee in an arm bike who was struggling to make it up the hill. The entire race had stopped behind him to encourage him on.

Nobody pushed him out of their way or sprinted past him. Nobody outwardly got upset at him for messing up their running stride or time. Everybody banded together, cheering loudly to inspire him to keep going, despite his struggles to make it up the hill.

As soon as he made it up the hill, he was off like lightning and the race continued like nothing ever happened.

Wow, I just got teary writing that down. It was one of the most amazing sights I had ever seen.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial

The Second Offense

At mile 17 I noticed something different along the race.

This portion of the race was lined with hundreds of posters of soldiers who have been killed in action. It is called “The Blue Mile“.  Step after step there was a poster with a soldier’s picture and then the years of his life and where he had been killed.

I was immediately overtook with emotion during this stretch of the race.

Remember the guy I was talking about earlier that cut us off when there was clearly so much room on the road?

Well, we quickly found out that he cut us off because he had just found his son’s poster and was running over to salute him.  He was even wearing a shirt with his son’s picture on it.

I watched as this man kneeled down beside the poster, prayed, and then broke down in tears.  It wasn’t an easy sight to stomach.  I admit that my eyes were not dry after seeing this.

I remember having the thought of being initially frustrated that he had cut us off.

After realizing the reason, I couldn’t believe I initially was upset. I couldn’t even imagine what that man had gone through emotionally and suddenly my frustration for being cut off quickly disappeared into thin air.

And this scene continued with more and more people throughout the entire mile. This was one of the most emotional miles that I have ever run before.

I don’t think the pictures even do it justice, but the emotionality of this stretch of the race is unavoidable.

The Home Stretch; The Last Stop Before the Finish Line

As we approached the end of the race, I saw Mr. Wow’s mother and niece just before the finish line, cheering for us.  We were spent from running, but eager to cross that line.  A few feet before, Mr. Wow grabbed my hand and stopped me from crossing the finish line.  He stumbled and then somehow managed to get down on one knee.

With all the emotion from the race, the fatigue from just running 26.2 miles, and having our family there, I was just trying to process what all was going on.

His mother yelled to him to finish the race, since the rest of our family was waiting just on the other side.  He attempted to stand back up, but instead was met with a seizing calf muscle and ultimately found himself tripping over a cone.

Once on the other side of the race, he knelt down again, this time pulling out a ring.

Suffering from dehydration and utter exhaustion, he didn’t even have the ability to ask the question. He just kinda of stared at me, shaking, and wincing in pain as he attempted to maintain the kneeling position.

Without a doubt in my mind, I quickly answered the non-existent question with a big “Yes” and helped him stand back up.

We received our medals for completing the race and then went to meet up with our families for some post race celebrations.

For those of you who have run a long distance race before, you know how your hands and body swell up.  Well, I’d like to point out that my hands were so swollen at the end of the race, that if you zoom in on my finger, you’ll notice that I couldn’t get the ring over my knuckle. Haha!

First picture of us as an engaged couple

What Does This All Mean

The purpose of this post was to discuss how things that happen in life aren’t always what they seem.

The car who just cut you off on the street or the man who ran into you while in line at the grocery store. Every one is going through something; everyone is dealing with something in their lives that you are unaware of.

You will never really know what their story is, but what you can know is that their actions are probably guided by the things they are going through in their lives.

Maybe that car who cut you off had a sick child in the backseat and the parents were just trying to get to the hospital as soon as they could.

And maybe the man at the grocery story had just lost a family member due to cancer and was trying to purchase some food for a quiet meal at home.

The first race I depicted was frustrating, to say the least.

The actual race was anything but.

Point being, things in life are never exactly how they seem (this video is well worth the watch).  We might not know exactly what is happening while it is happening, all we need to know is that everyone has a story.  While we can’t control what happens to us, we can control how we react.

Jefferson Memorial

Side note: The Marine Corps Marathon will be run this coming weekend (October 28) in Washington D.C.  If any of you are running it, good luck. Enjoy the energy and embrace all the feels that this race brings.  If any of you are by chance in the area and not running, you should definitely check it out, it is way worth it. If any of you are looking for an awesome marathon to do, I would highly recommend this one. Ooh-rah!


  • Steveark October 24, 2018 at 5:16 am

    When I ran the Marine Corps marathon I noticed a group of people running in formation ahead of me. When I closed on them it was four soldiers in full battle gear running with a wheel chair racer in the center of the formation. I had noticed two of them had something strapped to the back of their packs, it was their wounded buddy’s prosthetic legs. Yeah, I cried for a solid mile after I passed them. Great post Mrs. Wow! Great race.
    Steveark recently posted…“You Wrote Me a Letter”

    • Mrs WoW October 25, 2018 at 7:17 am

      What a touching experience! So cool to see the inspiration and support that this race provides for our military.

  • 5am Joel October 24, 2018 at 5:28 am

    You guys are amazing. Love all your experiences and outlook on life. Thanks so much for sharing – great post.
    5am Joel recently posted…Chain of Wealth Podcast!

    • Mrs WoW October 25, 2018 at 7:15 am

      Right back at ya Joel! Glad to call you a friend.

  • Fritz @ TheRetirementManifesto October 24, 2018 at 5:36 am

    Wow, Mrs. Wow. You brought real tears as I read this post. Awesome story, extremely well written. Not too often I get real tears as I read.

    And, bloddy nipples? That’s what band-aid’s are for! (I did the Flying Pig marathon in Cincinnati in 3:56 “back in the day”, discovered the band-aid trick after one too many runs with bloody nipples!).

    Thanks for a beautiful post this morning. God Bless America.

    • Mrs WoW October 25, 2018 at 7:15 am

      You have made me cry with your writing so many times Fritz, so I’m happy to know that I was finally able to return the favor. Thank you so much for your amazingly kind words!

  • Dave @ Accidental FIRE October 24, 2018 at 5:56 am

    Great stuff!! I’ve been cut-off like that in races a few times and I’m sure the person probably had a reason for doing it.

    I last did the MCM in 2010, it’s such a great race!
    Dave @ Accidental FIRE recently posted…How I Smartphone

    • Mrs WoW October 25, 2018 at 7:11 am

      Its easy to think that people are just being rude, but I’d guess most things happen for a specific reason and not just someone wanting to be mean. I absolutely love the MCM as well, such a cool atmosphere. Definitely a race I’ll remember.

  • Money Beagle October 24, 2018 at 6:25 am

    What an awesome story. Thanks for sharing!
    Money Beagle recently posted…Everyone Might Get Lucky Every Once In A While

    • Mrs WoW October 25, 2018 at 7:09 am

      Thank you! Appreciate you stopping by.

  • TheHappyPhilosopher October 24, 2018 at 8:15 am

    I thought this reminded me of This Is Water!

    Great post 🙂

    • Mrs WoW October 25, 2018 at 7:09 am

      Thanks for the inspiration. I don’t know if I would have written this post if it wasn’t for our conversation. BTW, the water video was amazing!

  • Mr. Couch October 24, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    Love this. Wish I could always keep this sort of bigger picture perspectively in mind when I’m ticked off about something silly. I am making progress as I get older though!

    • Mrs WoW October 25, 2018 at 7:08 am

      Its a tough skill to have, but definitely something that I am working on as well.

  • Ms. Fiology October 25, 2018 at 4:14 am

    Mrs. WoW, this is my favorite post you’ve written!! Oh my! Thanks for taking the time to share that special race with us and more importantly sharing it from two totally different perspectives. What an amazing way to start off your lives as husband and wife.

    We never know what kind of battle someone else is facing but if we slow down enough we might get a glimpse. Furthermore, we might make someone’s journey easier by giving grace.

    Thanks for starting my day off with tears!
    Ms. Fiology recently posted…Less Leads to More
    Ms. Fiology recently posted…Less Leads to More

    • Mrs WoW October 25, 2018 at 7:07 am

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read it and for commenting with such kind words! Makes my day!

  • Vicki@MakeSmarterDecisions October 25, 2018 at 3:47 pm

    This was amazing! We ran the Marine Corps Marathon in 2009. It was DEFINITELY a moving experience. I love how you shared your experience and reminded us that what might be inconvenient to us could be something much more than that to someone else. Didn’t know you got engaged there! What a beautiful story (and yeah, I remember how it felt after that climb at the end of the race too!)
    Vicki@MakeSmarterDecisions recently posted…I Just Took a Teaching Job…No Fooling

    • Mrs WoW October 26, 2018 at 6:22 am

      I love hearing how many people have run this race and knowing that you guys all totally get the vibe of this race as well. It is completely different than any other race that I have run and it seems like quite a few of us FIRE folks have also run it. And that last .2 uphill was killer!

  • Amy @ LifeZemplified October 26, 2018 at 8:20 am

    Wonderful story…just WOW! Thanks for sharing! ❤️

    • Mrs WoW October 26, 2018 at 4:54 pm

      Thanks Amy! Much appreciated.

  • Joy Hughes October 28, 2018 at 4:28 pm

    Wow awesome post. It’s amazing how opening ourselves up to the experience can bring almost miraculous connections with people around us. I had a similar experience with the Team in Training marathon program; definitely mountain-top experiences I will never forget. Thank you for the reminder!

    • Mrs WoW October 30, 2018 at 6:58 am

      100% agree. If I had failed to stop, look around, and really feel the energy and see the sights around me, I would have missed out on so many amazing moments. Haven’t done the Team in Training marathon, but I’m sure it gives off similar feels.

  • FIRECracker October 29, 2018 at 3:12 pm

    So much win in this post! I was mesmerized and couldn’t stop reading. This part especially–it made me tear up: “There was a veteran amputee in an arm bike who was struggling to make it up the hill. The entire race had stopped behind him to encourage him on.”

    Thanks so much for sharing this inspirational experience and for reminding us all to have compassion and resilience. You guys rock!

    • Mrs WoW October 30, 2018 at 6:56 am

      That part got me as I was writing it too. Guess it’s a good thing when your own writing gets the tears moving.

  • Kpeds October 29, 2018 at 7:20 pm

    You highlighted one of our more unhelpful cognitive biases. The fundamental attribution error. It’s how we tend to attribute someone’s bad behavior to some feature of their disposition rather than the situation they find themselves in.

    We also tend to do the oppotiste when thinking of our own behavior, we downplay our faults and blame the situation and preserve our ego.

    We all do this and it is helpful to remember this annoying feature of our brains.

    Thanks for sharing your story

    • Mrs WoW October 30, 2018 at 6:54 am

      I feel like it is something that I need to continue to work on and improve upon. It’s easy to get caught up in life and own own little bubble of experience and we often forget that everyone is dealing with something that we don’t know about. Thanks for stopping by Kpeds!

      • kpeds October 30, 2018 at 5:16 pm

        I do too. I work with residents and there is often a lot of conflicting opinions and difficult decisions to make in medicine and recognizing reasoning errors in yourself is a big part of learning how to be a doctor.

        Your way of telling that story is much more compelling than what I usually say!
        kpeds recently posted…Big City Rent, The Anti-FI

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  • Danielle Ogilvie November 11, 2018 at 5:25 am

    This was such a beautiful post! That uphill moment behind the amputee veteran, I wish I could’ve witnessed that. So heartwarming
    Danielle Ogilvie recently posted…Comparison of Kitchen Worktop Materials


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