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.
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.