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Marine Corps Marathon Race Recap

I finished the Marine Corps Marathon today!

Overall, I had a very positive race experience. Get ready, because this is going to be a lengthy race recap!

I woke up naturally this morning at 5 a.m. I can’t tell you how much my early morning BodyPump and yoga classes have helped me adjust to early morning exercise. This was especially integral today because I woke up before my alarm and my body was on its normal schedule. I felt really good. I showered and ate breakfast (I was actually hungry!) and my stomach felt perfect. A race day miracle!

After breakfast I got all decked out in my race gear and we packed up to leave.

Our timing worked out wonderfully. We left the hotel around 6:40, walked to the Metro, took it two stops up to the start and walked about a mile to the start. We arrived right as it was time to line up.

I know that not everyone shares my feelings but I cannot stand getting to races too early. Especially when it’s cold out. I was so happy that we didn’t have a lot of time to stand around and get cold or nervous. We had quite a ways to walk to get down towards the corral that I wanted to be in. I was amazed by the amount of people. There were something like 35,000 runners in this year’s race!

I hopped into the 4:00 corral and got ready to go!

They shot off a giant cannon and it was time to run. It only took about 5 minutes to cross the starting line. I’d heard it can take as long as 22 so I was pleased with that.

This is by far the biggest race I have ever run. The Marine Corps Marathon is the fourth largest in the country and eighth largest in the world. It was quite an experience and quite different from my first marathon with only 900 marathoners! I was never alone. I was constantly running alongside a big group and the crowd support was amazing. Also, it was a beautiful day in DC and the weather was absolutely perfect. I was never hot or cold and even tossed my long sleeved tee and gloves by mile three.

Brandon was the official news reporter/photographer of Peanut Butter Runner and was the best spectator ever. He did such a good job with photos, Twitter updates and seeing me multiple times on the course. If you ever have the chance to support a friend in a race, DO IT. The promise of seeing familiar faces on the course really helps to motivate and comfort runners.

The first time I saw Brandon was mile 10.5 and I was feeling 100% amazing.

I was pacing a sub-four marathon for the first 16 miles of the race, running an average 8:50 pace. I hit the half at 1:58. I was feeling so strong and confident. I saw Brandon again at mile 16 and my right hip was really cramping. Things proceeded to go downhill from there.

At mile 18 I had a decision to make. Stop and go to the bathroom and give up hope for sub-four or keep moving. I was feeling really rough and really needed to go so I stopped. This ended up costing me at least four minutes due to lines and my unwillingness to pop a squat in the middle of the National Mall (if only some of my fellow racers had shared my modesty).

After my stop, I had a hard time getting my body moving again but the promise of Emily waiting at mile 19 was all I needed to suck it up and go.

I put on my brave face and a big smile and gave Emily a big wave and scream. Thank you, Emily for sending me this great picture!!! And thank you for trekking all the way to the Mall to cheer us on. Again, I just can’t even say enough how nice it is to see familiar faces on the course. Check out Emily’s awesome Marine Corps Marathon Cheerleading post.

Brandon said he was waiting at mile 20 before I crossed back over the bridge but somehow I missed him. I’m actually kind of thankful that I did miss him because I may have fallen apart. Crossing that bridge was definitely the low point of the race for me. It took every single bit of mental and physical toughness that I possessed to keep moving.

I took more walking breaks than I care to admit between miles 20-24. I just kept thinking about how good it would feel to cross the finish line and all of the encouraging messages that I was getting. A really sweet Tweet from my parents at mile 24 (they joined Twitter just to follow me – so did my grandmother!!!)  is what finally gave me the push I needed to finish strong.

I made it to mile 26 and then made the turn to the finish. Luckily, I was mentally ready for this but you have to run up a short, steep hill to the finish line. IT.WAS.BRUTAL. I was giving it my all but felt like I was moving in slow motion. Soon enough, it was all over and I crossed the finish line.

Garmin time was 4:19:11 and a distance of 26.63.  The course was measured correctly but there is just no way to avoid running over with the crowds and the distance. I tried to follow the HTP Tangent Strategy but that was hopeless in a race this size. So I ran almost a half mile over and even though it doesn’t seem like a big deal, mentally it was! Chip time was 4:19:08. I finished 7, 294 out of 21, 855 finishers and 1,988 out of 8,659 women. Crazy, huh?

All I wanted to do when I crossed the finish was see Brandon. I immediately called him, broke down in tears and said, “Where are you? I need to see you NOW.” We met up with each other pretty quickly and I assumed this position in the grass for a solid half hour.

I called my parents and my grandmother and nibbled on a bagel and banana and rehashed the whole race with Brandon – the good (everything until mile 18), the bad (realizing at mile 18 I had to give up on my sub-four goal) and the ugly (miles 20-24 when I seriously wanted to quit). He was so sweet and kept reassuring me that I rocked it. Don’t get me wrong, I am THRILLED with setting a 25 minute PR from my first marathon but it was tough to watch a four hour finish time slip away.

And then the same thing happened that always happens after long runs. I got SO cold (and it wasn’t cold outside) and bundled up with my fleece and Brandon’s sweater.

I finally got myself vertical and was so happy to discover that all things considered, I felt really good. No nausea and it wasn’t super painful to walk. This is a huge improvement over my first marathon. I felt like death after that one so the fact that I felt so good after this one was an achievement in itself.

A photo opp with Marines may or may not have enticed me to get up.

So serious! 😉

And then I gave my guy a big thank you and kiss for being such an amazing husband, spectator and supporter.

I would not have made it through this weekend without him!

I read before the marathon that the finish area was a nightmare to get out of and they weren’t kidding. We tried to get on the Metro but the line was around the block. Instead, we lined up in Chipotle for some food.

Vegetarian burrito bowl. Yum.

We attempted the Metro again but the situation hadn’t improved. We decided to start walking back to the hotel. Thankfully, we came across another Metro station about a mile into our walk that had no wait. We made it back to the hotel around 4 and since then I have just showered and worked on my recap. We’re going to go out for a good dinner tonight and I promise you that dessert will be a must!

And I leave you with this picture. Which I think sums up how most of us felt post race. This guy was passed out in the middle of the road, beer in hand.

And again, thank you, thank you, thank you – a MILLION TIMES – for all of your support and encouragement over the last couple weeks and today.


A big, huge CONGRATULATIONS to fellow Charlotte bloggers Jen and Caitlin on their finishes in the Spinx Marathon on Saturday. Check out their race recaps!

{ 82 comments… add one }
  • lindsay October 31, 2010, 7:07 pm

    Congrats!! What a great race with great support! Rest up, ice up, and enjoy your evening.

  • Jackie (ananda prana) October 31, 2010, 7:07 pm

    Congratulations on the PR! I loved catching up on everyone’s recaps this weekend – it looks like you all had amazing races 🙂

  • Kira October 31, 2010, 7:08 pm

    CONGRATULATIONS! I know it must be hard to think about what could’ve been, but you did an awesome job and are an inspiration to me and many others. Enjoy your dessert tonight!

    • Jen November 1, 2010, 10:15 pm

      Thanks Kira. I really appreciate your comment. I am too hard on myself sometimes and after a lot of reflection on the long (7 hour) car ride home, I came to the conclusion that I’m just so happy that I was able to be a part of such an amazing race on a beautiful day in DC! And I’m just so happy that my recovery is going so well. I feel great!

  • Cate October 31, 2010, 7:09 pm

    Congratulations!!! I love that photo with the Marines!

  • Becky October 31, 2010, 7:14 pm

    Congrats on an amazing race!

  • Jen October 31, 2010, 7:15 pm

    Congrats Jen! I am SO happy for you! Way to give it your all and finish strong!

    But I’m sorry to hear we had such similar experiences in the later part of the race 🙁 And I totally know how you felt post-marathon and all you wanted was Brandon. After my race, I just started screaming “Jeff!” for a few minutes until he found me.

    Enjoy your yummy dinner and dessert tonight- you earned it!

    • Jen November 1, 2010, 10:17 pm

      Thanks, Jen! When I couldn’t immediately find Brandon, I called my mom and totally broke down. Bad move – my parents were so worried! It’s so weird how flooded with emotion you are after you cross the finish.

  • Nicole - Yuppie Yogini October 31, 2010, 7:17 pm

    Good job Jen!! Despite not making your goal time, you did amazing! I’m so in awe of all you marathoners–it takes so much physical & mental strength to run such a long distance. Now you have the marathon out of the way and you can be all about your yoga! 🙂

    Btw, the picture of the guy in the street is awesome!

    • Jen November 1, 2010, 10:20 pm

      Thank you so much, Nicole. I felt so totally prepared for this marathon but NOTHING prepared me for the wall I slammed into at mile 20. I definitely did not experience that during my first marathon. I’ve reflected with several friends that I don’t think anything can prepare you for miles 20-26. It takes sheer willpower and mental toughness to get through.

      WAY TO GO on you 5K. 8:30ish pace = awesome! And you are such a good friend to get up so early to go down and cheer on Caitlin and Jen!

  • LIZZY October 31, 2010, 7:21 pm

    Congrats on your PR and a strong race!!! I hope Ill be as strong next week in NYC. Your post was really inspirational!

    • Jen November 1, 2010, 10:20 pm

      Thanks Lizzy and GOOD LUCK at NYC. Can’t wait to read your race recap!

  • Becca October 31, 2010, 7:24 pm

    I love reading your blog and was rooting for you today. Congrats on your race!

  • ashley October 31, 2010, 7:37 pm

    Omigoodness. This post made me weepy! I am so proud of you! You are such an inspiration even to non-runners like me! And Brandon, you are a fabulous husband! Enjoy that dessert tonight and the rest of your time in DC!

    • Jen November 1, 2010, 10:21 pm

      Thank you, Ashley. I just wanted to give you a big hug when I read your comment last night. I was so exhausted and all the nice comments were just too much!!!!

  • Mary Ann October 31, 2010, 7:40 pm

    Congratulations on a great marathon! You did it! I loved your post and your wonderful support from your husband. They make it worth all the pain!

  • Pure2raw Twins October 31, 2010, 7:55 pm

    Congrats girl!! Great job!!! ~ Lori

  • Kristin October 31, 2010, 8:06 pm

    How AWESOME! I was thinking about you today and knew you would finish strong!

    • Jen November 1, 2010, 10:22 pm

      Thank you Kristin!!!! MISS YOU!

  • Brittney October 31, 2010, 8:07 pm

    Wooooo Hooooo! Great job Jen! So inspiring 🙂

  • Suzette October 31, 2010, 8:09 pm

    Congrat! So happy for you! You look just great. This was truly inspiring!!

  • Josie October 31, 2010, 8:11 pm

    Congrats, Jen!!!! I was thinking about you all day today, and was keeping up w/your tweets all morning. Awesome job!!

    • Jen November 1, 2010, 10:23 pm

      Thank you Josie! I can’t even tell you how much all of the encouraging messages helped me get through. This marathon was truly just a surreal experience.

  • Natalie October 31, 2010, 8:20 pm

    Yay Jen!!! Congratulations!!! That is so amazing, you do not look like you just ran a marathon in your post-race pictures!!! 4:19 is absolutely amazing to me!!

  • Lauren October 31, 2010, 8:26 pm

    Jen- thanks for sharing this… and being so open and honest. You are such an inspiration. Enjoy your evening!

  • Jenn October 31, 2010, 8:51 pm

    Congratulations! You are awesome. Mile 20 of the MCM is a killer but you conquered it.

    • Jen November 1, 2010, 10:24 pm

      Thanks Jenn. I pretty much felt like I was on a death march over the bridge at mile 20 but crossing the finish made it totally worth it! 😀

  • S @ extremebalance.net/blog October 31, 2010, 9:11 pm

    Awesome job! Truly—a marathon is a pretty epic thing to do, but when you’re around runners… it can make you forget that. 🙂 And I *love* how it’s like they train the Marine Corps not to smile in photos—but the guy on the right can’t help it.

    • Jen November 1, 2010, 10:26 pm

      I totally had that same conversation with my husband today. I’m friends with so many other runners that I feel like a marathon is just a normal thing to accomplish – but it totally isn’t. It takes so much determination and dedication. I’m kicking myself for being so hard on myself about letting a sub-4 finish go. I finished a marathon, beat my previous PR and felt great after. What more can I ask for!?

      And yes, the Marines were too cute. They were great on the course – SO supportive and motivational.

  • Lee October 31, 2010, 10:19 pm

    Great job!!

  • Erin (Travel, Eat, Repeat) October 31, 2010, 10:48 pm

    Awesome job! I love reading all of these marathon recaps and being inspired that maybe one day I’ll be writing my own. Thanks for sharing.

    • Jen November 1, 2010, 10:27 pm

      Thanks Erin. I know, every time I read race recaps it makes me want to go out and cross a finish line!!!

  • Abby October 31, 2010, 10:59 pm

    Congratulations! I haven’t really left you any comments before, but I’ve followed your blog for a while and I was definitely sending you good vibes for this run!

    • Jen November 1, 2010, 10:27 pm

      Thank you so much, Abby! I can’t even tell you guys how much your supportive and encouraging comments motivated me!

  • janae @hungryrunnergirl.com November 1, 2010, 10:50 am

    Great job on your marathon!! I love reading your blog and this is the first time I have commented! That is crazy that yoga and pump have trained your body to naturally wake up at 5 a.m. Way to finish strong when it got tough! You look to good to have just run a marathon, not fair!

    • Jen November 1, 2010, 10:28 pm

      Janae – thank you so much for your comment. The secret to looking passable after running is wearing a hat and faking a smile! 😀

  • lauren November 1, 2010, 12:45 pm

    You rocked it! And gave me great motivation to run my first on December 11th. 🙂

    • Jen November 1, 2010, 10:29 pm

      Thank you Lauren! I can’t WAIT to read your first marathon race recap next month!!!!!! GOOD LUCK!

  • skinnyrunner November 1, 2010, 12:50 pm

    congratulations on finishing the race! a marathon is tough business and sometimes finishing is the hardest thing to do.

  • Claudie November 1, 2010, 1:24 pm

    Congratulations once again! 🙂 YOU ARE GREAT!!

    PS: btw, it was really fun following your guy’s tweets while you were racing! if only I can convince my hubby to do the same for me! hehe

    • Jen November 1, 2010, 10:30 pm

      Thank you Claudie. I so appreciated your awesome Tweets yesterday. Brandon did such a great job with the updates! My friends, family and readers were eating them up! It was so fun for me to go back and read them all!

  • Amanda November 1, 2010, 2:09 pm

    Congrats girl!
    Just discovered your blog! I love that you put your weekly workouts on the sidebar.
    Hopefully you’ll be doing some resting this week!

    • Jen November 1, 2010, 10:31 pm

      Amanda – thank you so much for checking out my blog and for commenting! I am definitely planning some rest days this week and LOTS of yoga!

  • Jen November 1, 2010, 3:53 pm



  • Krista (kristastes) November 1, 2010, 4:02 pm

    Hey! I read Emily’s blog and that’s how I found yours today — just wanted to say congratulations!! Awesome job! 🙂

    • Jen November 1, 2010, 10:31 pm

      Thank you so much Krista! I love Emily and she was so sweet to come cheer me on!

  • Lisa November 1, 2010, 5:54 pm

    Jen, I felt very similar to you during the race. Great for the first 13.1, hated my life for miles 18-25. 25-26 was good because the end was in sight. Then, that terrible terrible MOUNTAIN after the 26 mile marker! Holy moly! My stomach was a mess right after, but by mid afternoon I bounced back and was feeling much better.
    Hope your body/legs are feeling alright today! Way to push through girl!!!

  • Emma (Sweet Tooth Runner) November 1, 2010, 6:03 pm

    WELL DONE! Great recap- you ran an awesome race! And finishing 1,988 out of 8,659 women is AMAZING! As is beating your PR by 25 minutes!!! I’m in awe! 😀

    • Jen November 1, 2010, 10:32 pm

      Emma – I just wanted to tell you that I was having a really rough ride home today and when I received your comment it totally put everything in perspective and made me feel awesome. THANK YOU!

  • Carolyn November 1, 2010, 10:50 pm

    Congratulations on your accomplishment!! I always enjoy reading your blog and I’ve been looking forward to your race recap. It definitely sounds like you ran a great race. You were focused and determined even when it wasn’t easy. Its been inspiring to read about your preparation and now your race! Thanks for sharing it with us!

  • yukiko November 2, 2010, 3:55 pm

    I just wanted to say hi because I was running after you and seeing your logo on your T-shirts.
    and I actually had a peanuts butter in my pouch.
    today, I decided to find out what is peanuts butter running means. so here I am.

    congrats and maybe see you next year. I just singed up Disney marathon.

  • natalie (the sweets life) November 2, 2010, 4:16 pm

    WAY TO GO! I so enjoyed reading your recap and could relate as I felt the same during much of my race at Chicago a few weeks ago. I’m glad to hear you weren’t in as much pain after your second. Hopefully I can say the same for me next time. Again, congrats! You rock!!!

    • Jen November 4, 2010, 5:18 pm

      Natalie, thank you SO much for your comment. I loved that all the Chicago marathoners were a few weeks before us – reading all of your race recaps totally pumped me up! You will rock your second marathon, I’m sure! Hope your injury is healing!

  • Tracy November 2, 2010, 5:48 pm

    Congrats Jen! Awesome re-cap, and you should be so proud for completing 2 marathons – period! Don’t be hard on yourself, you rocked it.

    When I finished my marathon since they cut the course short 2 or 3 miles (boo) because of the rain, John missed watching me finish b/c he was timing me and figured I still had 20 minutes. So I was alone for like 25 minutes trying to find him, in the rain. It was HORRIBLE! Kudos to Brandon for being such a good “cheerleader.” I think any spouse who puts up with marathon training and traveling to watch the race deserves major props. It’s not easy!

  • Renae November 2, 2010, 6:17 pm

    Great recap! I’ve yet to put it into words but you really summed it up nicely! I had a very similar experience – got to the half at 1:58 then had to take a few slower miles in. Congratulations on a fantastic finish!!

    • Jen November 4, 2010, 5:17 pm

      Thanks for your comment! Did you run MCM too!!??

  • Lee January 9, 2011, 9:32 pm

    I, too ran MCM this year. It was my second, with my first being thunder road in Charlotte 12/08. The crazy thing is that we had the exact sMe time for MCM this year AND I actually remember seeing you on the course in the 20’s and thinking how much I loved your shirt because I love peanut butter. Ha! Th things you think about in a marathon. Love your blog, live in Charleston, SC with my husband and 3 little boys.

    • Jen January 10, 2011, 4:56 pm

      Lee – that is so cool that we had the same time and you saw me on the course. Thank you for leaving a comment! I love Charleston. We actually lived there for a year after college and got married there. We’re going to be visiting next weekend! Happy running!!!

  • Chels R. October 20, 2011, 4:36 pm

    GREAT recap! I am running the Marine Corps Marathon in a little over a week, coming up there all the way from TX. This will be marathon #3 for me. I am getting so excited! I will definitely brace myself for that bridge & looking fwd to taking pics w/ the Marines at the end! So cool!

  • Kira October 15, 2012, 10:00 pm

    Just re-read this since I’m running MCM in < 2 weeks! I hope we also have nice weather.

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