WASHINGTON, D.C. — They breathed in amazing sites and exhaled great reward.
On Oct. 25, East County residents Julia DeCastro and Leslie Swart wound their way through Arlington Cemetery and Georgetown University, along the Potomac River and past the U.S. Capitol toward the finish line of the Marine Corps Marathon held in Arlington, Va.
“It’s a huge accomplishment, and to see the city and the people there running is amazing,” said DeCastro, who ran in the race last year for the first time. “It’s definitely a ‘Proud to be an American’ marathon.”
The race was Swart’s first competitive try at a 26.2-mile run, and she couldn’t have had more fun.
“There’s a crowd the whole entire race,” she said. “It’s just amazing. At the end, you’re running up a hill, which is an extremely steep hill, but everyone at the end of race is just really cheering you on.”
Swart said they could have finished with a better time, but she slowed the pace.
“My phone has video on it, and I was trying to get my family to share in my experience,” Swart said. “I kept clicking and sending it while I was running. I got some good footage. It’s just so exciting.”
The women ran in honor of Marines who were killed in combat this year.
“This year is cool because we (got to run for them),” DeCastro said.
DeCastro and Swart became friends after meeting at the YMCA about a year ago. Around that time, DeCastro, who had run several half-marathons, decided to run the Marine Corps Marathon with other friends from the YMCA.
They returned with stories of people running with prosthetic limbs and of parents carrying their children across the finish line.
The excitement was contagious.
“I didn’t have any intentions of doing a marathon, but when they came back, they were so excited,” Swart said. “I decided I would just do (the training) with (Julia).”
Three times a week, they laced up their tennis shoes and hit the pavement by 4:30 a.m.
Although the training schedule was intense, Swart said she was content simply running with her friend as moral support and companionship. But then, at practice mile 18, she reluctantly agreed to run this year’s race.
“And it didn’t want to commit then, either,” she said. “I’ve just really enjoyed it and the comradery and having a long run done before you start your day.”
With the race over, Swart said she and DeCastro will continue training, though now they’ll probably work toward improving their time rather than just finishing the race. Because as much as she resisted running a marathon, Swart now is eager to try others.
“I’ve got the bug now,” she said.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].