Marine Corps Marathon: Race Recap (aka I DID IT)
It’s here. The race that was 2 years in the making. I’m going to start with a HUGE spoiler alert… I Finished!! After having to defer last year, there wasn’t much that could keep me from crossing that finish line.
On Friday evening, Bestie aka Wifey and I met up at the DC Convention Center to pick up our packets together. And really to get feedback on which expo gear to buy. The question wasn’t whether to buy something but what to buy. I ended up getting the jacket, a 1/4 zip, a t-shirt, and visor. So safe to say I did some damage.
Packet pick up itself was a breeze. No line, walked right up got packet then meandered over to the unisex mock shirts. They’re red this year, which I was pumped about because last year when the hubby ran MCM they were unmentionable brown. (so gross) While there we walked around a bit, grabbed a quick dinner in the area then headed out in hopes of getting lots of sleep.
Unfortunately, a few days before the Marathon my throat started to tickle and my nose started to run and boom next thing I know I’m sick and it’s literally Friday night on October 23rd less than 36 hours out from the race. Poor Timing. I had been taking cold medicine and blowing my nose constantly but really I just needed to let this thing ride out for a few days, which I didn’t have. I was super bummed went I awoke on Saturday morning with a full blown cold, I barely slept because I couldn’t stop coughing, my sinuses were pounding, I had chills, and I had no appetite just to name a few symptoms… I spent all day Saturday on the couch drinking tea, taking meds, and eating matzo ball soup (it has curative powers).
That evening I laid out all my gear and reviewed the race plan with the family. I had worked out a route that I would see either my hubby or my fam between each of the water stops so that way I wouldn’t have to wear a giant belt and could carry a smaller handheld.
Sunday morning I woke up… still sick, but adrenaline was pushing me through. There was nothing that would stop me. The race starts behind the Pentagon. It’s a hike to walk there, really no matter where you go. I had planned on meeting wifey before the start but there was some congestion due to new security measures at the start. We ended up waiting around in a mass for quite awhile before all hell broke loose and the group that I was with somehow pushed through the side to show that we didn’t have bags. (yeah bit of a mess)
Once through the herd, I quickly found a restroom and starting shedding throwaways. I’d already missed the start but I was able to see the airmen jump from copters with American flags (F*** yeah America) No really I had a very USA USA moment.
I crossed the start line around 8:15am and we were off! There were people everywhere! The first few miles weave through Arlington and Rosslyn. These miles are pretty much straight uphill. I studied the course, I should have been ready, but I was still caught off guard by the hills and how they never ended, okay well they do end.. at mile 3.
After mile 3 we began the greatest downhill in the history of downhills. It was almost a full mile and it felt glorious. After those frist few miles it’s almost all smooth sailing elevation wise. I was able to see my parents and big sis at mile 1 and the hubby was at mile 1.5ish. I have to admit seeing their smiling faces all day, really helped make this experience more enjoyable.
I saw my parents and sis again just after mile marker 4, before cross the Key Bridge into Georgetown. Running through Georgetown was fantastic. There were great crowds but it was extra unique because most DC races do not go through Georgetown. After a small jaunt on M street, we ran towards the Georgetown waterfront to begin the out and back route along Rock Creek Parkway. Just before getting on Rock Creek Parkway I saw my hubby with iced Gatorade and lots of tissues. He also informed me that my time was lagging a bit and that I needed to try to pick up the pace. At that moment, I knew I had to punch it through the Rock Creek Parkway portion however, that was going to be difficult because I was operating on almost no sleep and was having trouble breathing. Also knowing that he would be around mile 9.5 when I exited gave me the extra push I needed to really power through miles 6-9.5.
My race strategy was to break the course into 4 5 milers and 2 5ks. This allowed me to mentally handle the course, otherwise I would likely have spun into madness. When I saw hubby, I knew that part 2 of the race would need to be a bit faster, especially after using the first 5 miles or so as a warm up. The Rock Creek Park portion of the race is very much a run in the “woods.” It’s a highway, but it’s heavily wooded and quite beautiful. Upon exiting I knew that time wise, I was in a much better place.
At mile 10, runners are passing under the Kennedy Center following a similar route that the ATM takes. until it veers and you’re running towards Hains Point. “Oh Joy, Hains Point,” said no one ever. I did incorporate this into my long runs, which helped but nothing can prepare someone for the blue mile.
The Blue Mile is at mile 12. it’s an entire mile that is dedicated to fallen Armed Services Members and their families. I couldn’t help but choke up during this portion of the race. Seeing the names and faces of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country is truly humbling.
Mile 13 is the half way point and also the tip of Hains Point. This is where most people myself included think, “I’m only half way done.”
On the return from Hains Point on the way back to the Tidal Basin, I bumped in the hubby again. Who told me I was much better with time and to just concentrate on not over exerting myself (as he handed me more tissues). I was actually shocked by how quickly Hains Point faded into the distance as I headed back over to the Lincoln Memorial. This portion of the course is very DC. We were making our way into monument and museum land. At around mile 16 at the turn around on Independence Avenue, I saw my parents again. I was rough. I was having serious trouble breathing and quickly loosing steam. I think my family could see this.
So, my Dad jumped in. Yes, he did. He held my handheld water bottle, grabbed an extra water bottle from my fam, bloks, gu, and made a plan to meet back up with them at the bridge. That’s right, the plan was for him to get me to the bridge (again not sure why… I was fine on time). Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed those 4 miles. I also bumped into my friend Stephanie cheering with my hubby around mile 18 on the National Mall. The 2 ran alongside on the sidewalk for a bit too. They crossed the Mall instead of looping the Capitol’s Reflecting Pool with us. On the other side, I bid farewell to Stephanie. However, Hubby stayed on the sidewalk and kept pace with my Dad and I.
Then it happened, we began to approach the 14th street bridge, in plenty of time. I had expected some signage or something to indicate that I had beaten the Bridge. But there was nothing, Family was diverted and I began the trudge over the 14th Street Bridge. I felt like a member of the herd from the Walking Dead. The rain has cause some blisters to develop on my feet, but that’s par for the course. I noticed another girl who was power walking and tried to keep her close by, in order to make sure that my pace didn’t completely drop off. In my delusion, I contemplated striking up a convo but then realized that I wasn’t capable of logical thought and shouldn’t communicate with humans.
Boom. Bridge. Done. That means, that no matter what, I was finishing. The last 6 miles are no joke. It was a serious mental game. Between the blisters, the dizziness, coughing, sneezing, and nausea, I wasn’t feeling very well.
Around mile 23 in Crystal City I accosted a random woman and begged her for pretzels. Thank you kind stranger! I spent the next half mile licking/biting the salt off. I was seriously getting dizzy, which was likely due to being sick. Then like magic, Hubby was there at mile 23! He was like a magician. At first, I thought I was hallucinating. But I was just so happy to see him. We walked together for a bit before I took the final detour that would take me towards the Pentagon and the last 2 miles in Arlington.
The last 2ish miles through the back of Crystal City, Arlington, and the Pentagon are relatively smooth. The last stretch is literally repeating the start of the course, which is surreal. Then I saw it, Mile Marker 26 and the infamous final hill. (It wasn’t so bad.) I started the hill power walking then punched it up a gear and decided I was going to run in the finish.
Crossing that finish line was a roller coaster of emotions. I had worked so hard to finish this race and was so proud of my accomplishment. I was somewhat peeved that I was only 4 minutes faster than the marathon I didn’t train for 2 years ago. More importantly I was thankful for my amazing family and friends that provided so much support not only on race day but for the last 5 months of training. Lastly, I was humbled but the outpouring of encouragement for the men and women of our Armed Services who came out to either run or provide support. This race is by far one of the best I have ever run.
Post race I met up with the family, saw wifey, fell into Hubby’s arms and enjoyed a few sips of beer. After basking in the glory for a bit, Hubby and the fam made our way back to my house. We ordered chipotle and I took a shower. Unfortunately, I was still a bit nauseous so eating didn’t really happen for me until the next day.
As my family pointed out, I finished and I was smiling from ear-to-ear all day. I set a goal and accomplished it. So maybe I had to make a few adjustments to my race strategy, but I am so glad that I poured my heart into this race.
One clear benefit of actually training is that by Wednesday I was walking normally again and was in heels Friday 🙂 Recovery was much smoother. I had some walking issues on Sunday evening and Monday but other than that it’s been a breeze. I have to admit that the blisters shredded my feet and they’re still kind of gross. Also my big toe nail is dark purple, so that should make for some interesting pedicures this winter.
Have you run MCM before? Ever run a race while sick? How long do you usually train for a marathon?