Jordan Tropf just wanted to see what he could do.
Turns out, he could win the Marine Corps Marathon.
Leading from the start, the 27-year-old Silver Spring resident built a lead of a 1:26 at the halfway point and went on to win by 70 seconds in 2:27:43, much of the second half coming in a driving rain.
“I felt good, so I went early, but nobody went with me,” he said. “I got a little worried after a while, because there are always a lot of good people back there and they can get you in the second half.”
Tropf is in the second year of his orthopedic surgery residency at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, which typically involves two 24-hour days each week. That limits the consistent training he can do, and, like last week when he got out of work just at the Baltimore Marathon was starting, has limited his racing opportunities.
“I’ve had some amazing workouts, but I’ve also has some of the worst workouts of my life the past two months,” he said the day before the race. “I have no idea what I’ll run, it’s been a tough year so far, with a lot more responsibility than last year. I wanted to do a goal race. It helps to do focused training even when I’m busy.”
Though he estimates he topped out at 90 miles leading up to Marine Corps, he isn’t sure, because he stopped tracking his workouts.
“It’s demoralizing to see all of those zeros,” he said. “But I don’t want to crush a workout beforehand and then be tired at work. Then you come home and just feel like total butt, so that hoses two days each time.”
He used to be able to run eight miles each way to work, which was ideal for his training, but those days are over.
The inconsistent schedule makes it hard to train any other way but solo, but he’s used to it, taking up marathons when injuries kept him from running cross country at the Naval Academy. He started off with Marine Corps in 2011, and finished as high as fourth in 2015. He was sixth last year.
“This is my favorite race in the world,” he said. “I love running in D.C., there are parts of the course I used to run when I’d visit my wife when she was in college. The Blue Mile is amazing.”
In the spring, he combined an Ironman in Africa, followed by the Boston Marathon a week later, then the Big Sur International Marathon two weeks after that, which he won in a personal record 2:25:23.
He was on pace to break that time at the half, coming through in 1:11:20, but miles 15-20 wore on him.
“I was pretty toasted,” he said. “Luckily it’s easy, mentally, to run through the monuments, so that helped me out a lot. The wind on Hains Point was brutal,” even moreso for Tropf’s tall stature.
Getting some feedback from spectators at mile 20 helped boost his confidence.
“I focused on knowing if I could run a good half hour, I could win it,” he said. “I felt like I was undertrained, but I knew I could gut it out.”
Behind him, British Marine Corp. Adam Stokes and U.S. Marine Maj. Sean Barrett ran most of the first half alongside each other until mile 15, when Matt O’Neil took Barrett’s place.
“Matt kept me in the race,” Stokes said. “I was really struggling around 12, the wind was tough. I was able to latch onto him and take a breather.”
It was Stokes’ fourth Marine Corps since he started running again in 2013 following a period of recreational drinking when he joined the Royal Marines. A native of Bristol, England, he is stationed in Plymouth. He finished in 2:28:59.
“This was hard for everyone out there, and we got off easy, finishing the course fast,” he said. “What people who are still out there doing, that’s what inspires me.”
He also got a charge from the number of spectators who lined the course, even in the rain.
“A few years ago I ran Berlin, and there were more people out here today than there were then,” he said.
Stokes, 34, moved ahead of O’Neil at mile 18.
“I didn’t plan to make a move, I think I was just feeling a little bit better than Matt,” Stokes said.
O’Neil, 24, of Woodbridge, agreed.
“I didn’t want to get greedy, I was doing about what I could, and I just wanted to finish on the podium,” he said. “There were times I thought everything would fall apart again, like last year.”
He knew he probably wouldn’t be able to keep his Marine Corps race series streak going, but in the past year since he had dropped out of Marine Corps Marathon at mile 19, he had won the Medal of Honor 8k, 17.75k, Belleau Wood 8k and the Devil Dog Double, which combined the Historic Half with the Semper Five. He’s a St. John Paul the Great alumnus who ran at the University of Mount Union in Ohio. He is an assistant manager at Virginia Runner in Woodbridge.
“I probably went out faster than I should have, but I don’t regret it,” he said. “Considering the conditions, I wasn’t going to run 2:25 (he ran 2:31:30 for third). When it got hard, I kept thinking about how the Nats have been staying in the fight since May. I can do eight more miles.”