Posted in fitness, marathon, Marine Corps Marathon, MCM, recap, running, runwiththemarines

Marine Corps Marathon Recap

I had a surprisingly decent sleep the night before the marathon. Granted, I kept waking up about once an hour, but I felt eerily rested. I woke before my 4:30 alarm and located some coffee in my cousin’s apartment (my liquid gold), and my pre-race chow (bagel and EnergyBits). At 5:30, I departed for the Shaw-Howard Univ. Metro station. (which was a 10-second walk from the apartment). The station was empty, save for maybe two or three other travelers. I found a young woman lacing up her sneakers and instantly made a new friend (she told me that the UPS bag sticker was on the back of the bib, which was news to me! <— note to those running in the future).

Once the metro let us off at the Pentagon station, it was about another mile and change walk to the corrals. Tents, UPS trucks and port-a-potties dominated the huge parking lot. I dropped off my stuff, then made a beeline for the potties for the first of about eight pee trips during the day. I walked over to the corrals and realized that 1. I was insanely early, and 2. It was breezy and I had no addditional warm up clothes with me. (BIG mistake…by the time we lined up for pre-race ceremony things, I was shivering and shaking.)

Pre-race anthem was done by United We Sing, and being a veteran anthem singer myself, I absolutely approved this version: it was short, to the point, and done with gorgeous harmonies. The parachuters did a great job with the American flags, and the military aircraft was an impressive touch.

The Howitzer fired and we slowly shuffled to the start line. It took about twenty minutes to get from my spot in the 5:30 corral to the start line. (I had originally shifted near the ClifBar 5:30 pace group, but lost them almost immediately.) I crossed the start and realized that the next 26.2 were mine for the taking.


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I had studied the course elevation chart and knew that the first 5K was going to be uphill and arduous. Lee Highway at Mile 2 was steep and hilly. I held back a TON during this, reaching the 5K around 40 minutes in. 10712719_730850420303714_7540210190051947440_n

(The downhill part was awesome!) The crowd support during this first part was fantastic. (And, as always, there were So. Many. PUPPIES!!! :D) 1621755_730850446970378_1827664118086434666_n

Miles 4 and 5 went past the waterfront by Georgetown University and provided great scenery and delicious smells as we went down M Street. I found two women to run with for a little bit, running with 1:1 Galloway intervals. Running through Potomac Parkway was wonderful; this was a scenic, tree-lined, forest-y, shady kind of run. The sun had not quite kicked in, but it was creeping up. At this point, I needed to pee. Again. I also needed to take some EnergyBits to keep up my energy. I had a terrible time trying to hold a cup of water in one hand, tear the runner’s bag open with my teeth, and run all at the same time. I had to stop (and thus losing my interval girls), take my Bits, and pee. I lost a ton of time and my groove trying to do this. (I’m a person who can’t think straight if I have to go to the bathroom. The world essentially has to stop and restart after I get done.)

 

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At this point, the runner grumpies started to get to me. I wasn’t even at the halfway mark and I was pissed off at the world. Mile 12 was dedicated to Team Blue (wear blue to remember those who have fallen) and was lined up with American flags. It was significant and touching, but I didn’t get lost in the sights too much. Halfway came around and I was on Haines point. Humourous signs lined up the sides of the roads and provided much needed giggles and happiness. (One of the best signs was “Run like the person behind you has Ebola.”) I also found a pack of Sigma Kappa brothers cheering, and upon recognizing that they were Greek, I shouted, “Everyone gets a high five!!” and ran down the line for high fives.

1925189_730850596970363_23775239605698309_n10710975_730850573637032_3212737196771477628_nThe race had started to get hot and sunny at this point, and while there was a strong breeze, there were no clouds in sight. Just before the National Mall, I began to observe my watch more and more, determined to Beat the Bridge. (MCM 101: Make it to the 14th St. Bridge by 1:15 PM and you’re safe from being swept.) Once again, I had to lose time by peeing. (Those Marines certainly know how to keep you hydrated!) I took more bits before hitting the Mall. Around Mile 16, I noted that it was around noon. Hour and fifteen minutes to go.

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Being near the back of the pack, I kept looking around behind me to see how many runners were still there, and where the pace vehicles were at. At a couple of points, they were on the other side of the road that I was running in the opposite direction on. (If seeing pacers doesn’t motivate a runner to go faster, I don’t know what does.) Passing by the Washington Monument, I proceeded down the National Mall towards the Capitol Building (which I kept mistaking for the White House the entire time I was there). I saw a small group of Alpha Phi Omega brothers that I shared cheers with on Mile 17 🙂10685560_730850713637018_7866336727615202433_n

Heading back up on Miles 18 and 19, I began to run with two other women. We were all calling out times to each other and to those around us, encouraging each other that, “We were going to maaaaaaake it!” with regards to the Bridge. 12:55 hit and we were a mile out. We kept scaling the hill that was right before the bridge, wondering, “Is this the spot? Is…*this* the spot? When are we saaaaaafe?!” (Note to race coordinators: there should be blinking signs, balloons, and Hollywood-style spotlights at the “safe zone”.) We saw the Mile 20 marker in the distance and agreed to take pictures of each other when we got there as proof that we Beat the Bridge!

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Once pictures were done, we began to trek across the 14th Street Bridge, which is a lot longer than it looks. There was NO cloud cover, the sun was beating down on us, and I could feel my skin frying. It was 1:15 at this point, and knowing that I was safe, I didn’t care about my pace at all. As I slowed down to a steady walk and my big toenails began to feel the strain, the runner grumpies resumed and I knew that the last 10K was going to be the most arduous. Crystal City was beautiful, but a pain in the butt. Being a “turtle”, I could tell that the majority of the crowds had dispersed from earlier. (Even when I was running down the National Mall, the crowds were sparse, and pedestrians were risking walking across the road in front of us, which was highly annoying.) Before Mile 23, there was this humongous water sprayer that cooled us down, but once again, I found it annoying. Between 23 and 24, a spectator called out that even though we were at the back of the pack, we were doing fine and that “you’re almost there!”

{Spectator etiquette: First of all, don’t shout out where our location is in reference to everyone else. Yes, we’re at the back, but don’t make us feel inadequate by pointing out the obvious. Also, unless we are on the last mile, we are not “almost there”.}

10354088_730850736970349_2425747227096470059_nThat last 10K had me counting down the miles. Finally, the final ascent by Arlington National Cemetery was conquered and I crossed the finish line. I could officially call myself a marathoner! 1901705_730850773637012_8415929836316732961_n

My time was 6:51:51. I had improved my 10K and half times by about five minutes for each. (1:21 and 3:01 respectively.)

As I rested on the grass by the Iwo Jima memorial, I told myself that this was a one-and-done deal. As the likes and comments and favorites came flooding through my social media, it didn’t relinquish the pent up tension that had built over the second half of the race. I was grouchy and I knew it. I’m not sure of what this “runner’s high” elation that others experience feels like, but I had the opposite. From now on, I’m definitely sticking with anything below a half.

I am happy that I set out and accomplished this race. With all races, it had its highs and lows. Congrats to those who participated and extra thanks to those who allowed me to run with them.

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Next up: Recovery. Then Glass Slipper 2015. Yaaaaaaaay Disney!

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2 thoughts on “Marine Corps Marathon Recap

  1. The pre-race walking around to the corrals/potties was obnoxious, but I think that’s how it is at any major race. (I know at Disney it’s like that, as well.) I got a little sunburned and maybe a little windburn due to the weather (as my tight and peeling skin is now indicating, haha!).

    A lot of runners that I talked to along the course were complaining that their Garmins or athletic watches seemed off. I wish race coordinators would explain the mile markers better (such as, “When you see the sign with X-number on it, that is the mile you JUST completed, and now you’re gonna start the next mile once you cross it.”)

    Congrats to you, as well!! I wish I could take you to Disney with me. We’d have a blast! 😀 ❤

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  2. I was freezing at the start too! And see, I KNEW we walked over a mile before we even started the race. There is so much exercise before and after the race that you don’t account for. At least I didn’t. And I’m glad you mentioned the sun and heat that came later. For a minute there I felt like I was back in soflo again. What happened to the “nice cold northern race” thing? Put that in the file with “flat race.” You did great! Disney will be a breeze for you now.

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