Every year, Rosslyn hosts the Finish Festival for the U.S. Marine Corps Marathon (MCM). In honor of this special event, we've been featuring articles about one of life's most freeing and accessible fitness activities: running! In this fourth and final piece, we meet Brennan DeWitt, a member of the Rosslyn BID team and MCM runner. Learn about her experiences running the marathon, which she's completed three times!
Every Monday morning, as the Rosslyn BID's financial associate Brennan DeWitt crunches numbers, tracks down purchase orders, and pays bills, she share bits and pieces of her weekend with other team members who sit nearby. As everyone takes part in this ritual that happens in most 9-5 offices — the chatter about overindulging, traveling, kids, errands — there's one thing about Brennan's weekend stories that always stands out.
Whether she took a trip, went out with her friends, or shuttled her athletic daughters to one of their many sporting events, chances are she ran. Or biked. Or swam. A lot.
This five-time marathoner and (relatively new) triathlete is passionate about running, physical fitness and maintaining a sense of well-being.
DeWitt ran her first MCM, which was also her first marathon, in 2001. It was slightly more than a month after September 11. She joined Team in Training to raise funds for leukemia research and treatment. She remembers that, for security reasons, helicopters followed the runners throughout the race. And the Pentagon was draped in an American flag, a sight that moved her deeply.
Since then, she's run the MCM two more times, the Walt Disney World Marathon once and the New Orleans Mardi Gras Marathon once. The MCM is, by far, her favorite.
It's so well-organized, and the Marines and the crowd are always super supportive," she says. "It's a great location, too."
The race begins at the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial. DeWitt says the start is always fun: As the runners pass through Rosslyn, everyone is excited and feeling fresh. The Rosslyn BID Ambassadors, dressed in purple, are a familiar sight as they collect clothes discarded by runners, which will then will be cleaned and donated to A-SPAN (Arlington Street People's Assistance Network).
DeWitt remembers little details from each time she's run the MCM. During the 2015 marathon, she saw a donkey standing along the course in downtown D.C. that had a Marine Corps blanket on its back. "That made me laugh," she says.
Last year, she remembers the heat. "I got dehydrated and was really miserable," she says. "A few years ago a friend of mine got dehydrated while running the marathon and said she couldn't see. I thought she was crazy. Then, last year it happened to me. I kept blinking my eyes but everything was very blurry. I took a break at the water stop and that helped me feel better. I just kept running and it wore off."
DeWitt usually starts getting tired around mile 17 or 18, which is around the I-395 Bridge.
"That bridge is horrible," she says. "It's uphill, there are no water stops, and it's long. There's no shade. If it's sunny, it's even worse. At that point, you've been running for three hours. I'm looking at my feet and just trying to lift them. I don't think I'm gonna make it until I see the Pentagon. And then it's like, 'Yeah. I got this!'"
Throughout the race, she alternates between running with people and running by herself, listening to music.
"It's easy to jump in on conversations with other runners," she says. "It's always about encouraging each other, especially if you see someone who's having a hard time."
During her first marathon, she ate sour orange gummy candy to keep her energy up. Later, she learned about Gu, salt tablets and performance gels. These days, her favorite treats during a marathon involve caffeine. She's partial to an ice-cold Starbucks Refresher Drink.
"If you're at the marathon cheering on your friend, be sure to take them a treat," she says. "It should be something they can't get on the course. Every runner likes something different: Some want Gatorade, others want 5-hour ENERGY, others want lemonade. Generally . . . something icy and fresh."
She also likes it when people stand along the course holding signs — especially funny ones:
So, how does it feel to finish?
“I feel complete elation. I’m also usually over-caffeinated and exhausted,” she says. “After I finish, I always have a drink (a margarita) and a big Italian sub. Then I go home, take a bath and sleep.”
And does DeWitt have any words of advice for first-time marathoners?
"Try to maintain positive thoughts," she says. "Remember, you've trained for this. You have to trust the training. And set a realistic goal for yourself."
If you decide to go cheer for the runners as they finish the marathon in Rosslyn, you can download some signs we created here. Easy! Many finishers return to the starting point, Iwo Jima, around 11 a.m., so you don't have to get up early to be there for them.