It seems fitting to post my Marine Corps Marathon Race Recap on Veterans Day. Thank you to those who are/have served and protected our country! It was an surreal experience to have Marines thanking you for running a marathon when you’re thanking them for something so much more important than that.
If I had written this post a week ago it would have been a lot different and probably included a lot of curse words. And if you’re in it for the short version I’ll say this: Marathon 2 – Amy 0.
So Marine Corps Marathon weekend began with an early flight to Washington DC. I met my parents at the airport and we took the same flight (they connected in ATL from FL). It was a quick flight and we checked into the hotel with ease, grabbed lunch and headed straight to the Expo. Since I was part of the Runner’s World VIP experience I didn’t go through the packet pick up line, I just went straight to their booth. I wanted to snag some of the brooks race gear but the line to check out was over 2.5 hours so I now I have to wait until they put it on their website in mid November.
We didn’t spend too much time at the expo, I picked up some nuun with the race specific bottle (I do this for every race) and my mom snagged new shoes and the stick. I wasn’t feeling good at this point, so we went back to the hotel for a little relaxation (and a migraine pill) before dinner. We had a nice dinner at Tupelo Honey and went to bed early. I got a lot of sleep this night and spent all day Saturday in the hotel room while my parents went site seeing.
I only left the room for lunch and then a little while later so housekeeping could clean the room. My parents came back around 6, and I ordered in room dining for dinner, and we sadly watched the FSU football game. I organized everything for race day the night before so I could eat, get dressed and get to the race early since I had a place to hang out in warmth in the Runner’s World area.
Well faulty metal detectors had another plan for me that involved 1.5 hours in line for security, sweating and packed in to a huge crowd. To say I was stressed out is an understatement. I made it to the runner’s world tent as the race was starting (still a 10 min walk away from the start). They helped me strip off all my throw away layers and grab all my stuff out that I needed. They stored my bag and I quickly hit up the port a potty and made my way to the start.
I never really took the time to collect myself and I just jumped in with the 5 hour group and herded forward (a little foreshadowing hint hint). So I started the race sweating with no liquids for two hours (while standing) with a light rain. I knew the first four miles would be hilly so I planned at taking those slower, and I would see my parents around the first mile. The course was definitely packed with people but I kept trudging forward. I was hoping to get into a groove in the first mile but it just never happened. The rain continued for the first couple miles and the humidity was really thick.
Around mile 3 (during some of the good downhills) I found my friend, Ashley, running. She was planning on running about the same pace as me so we started running together. We spotted my parents at mile 4 and waved hi and turned to cross the key bridge into Georgetown. We were pointing out some of the shops we wished we could have stopped at and it was nice to have someone nearby I knew.
I forgot to take my salt pill for almost half a mile (which was a big mistake with the conditions), and I started to not feel so great as we turned into Rock Creek parkway. The course was packed at this point but we were pretty much able to stay together but we were weaving more than I would have liked. I also should have started picking up the pace more here but I just couldn’t. We had a guy behind us who sounded like darth Vader breathing and thankfully he didn’t stay behind us for too long.
The park was pretty uneventful and boring. Still lots of of weaving around and it seemed to go on forever. We finally made it out of the park and I knew we were heading towards my parents and somewhere along the way we’d see Ashley’s fiancé, Ed. We saw my parents at 10 and Ed around 11, by then I was really on the struggle bus. At mile 8 I told Ashley I wasn’t feeling too good. I realized I needed electrolytes and started taking in more salt pills and Gatorade more often.
Mile 12 is the wear blue mile that is lined with posters of fallen marines and family members/volunteers holding America flags lining the course. This is where I fell apart and let Ashley go ahead. I just didn’t feel good and I wondered how I was going to finish this race. We were out on Hains point, which is normally a “boring” part of the course but it went faster then it did when I ran the cherry blossom 10-miler. However I started walking a little after the half way point. I just tried to kept pushing forward knowing I would see my parents again at 16.
The crowd support started coming back at this point and that helped but it was getting hotter and I still hadn’t gotten my fluids/salt levels to the right balance yet. I made it to 16 and stopped and hugged my parents. They gave me a pep talk and I kept moving. Around 17 I made it to the national mall, there wasn’t as many spectators as I thought there would be but it was also lunch time so I can’t blame them for that. I started getting cramps in my quads and had to stop to stretch them out. I pretty much had these the rest of the way off and on. The only thing that made me smile during this part of the course (this is like 13 year old boy humor) was remembering it’s the 2nd race where I’ve run in the shape of a penis and this was that part. I giggled a little bit and tried to keep moving.
We finally turned off of the national mall and my mom had texted me (I had on my Apple Watch but was only paying attention to my mom and Jes) that they were at mile 20 right before the bridge. My mom realized how bummed I looked at mile 16 when she told me they’d see me at the finish so they made it to mile 20. I waved and told my mom I was feeling better and started heading over the bridge.
By this point I felt better mentally but my body was pretty done. The bridge was long and seemed never ending but I ran the flat and downhill parts and walked the uphill. It was hot and the sun was bright by now but I made it over the bridge, waved at the oiselle cowbell corner and headed into Crystal City. While on the bridge a woman from an ATL running store that I know, said hi and we went back and forth with our different run/walk pacing. It’s so crazy that I found two people I know on a course of 30,000.
Crystal City had a lot of crowd support and I started to pick up the pace and not walk as much. I really just wanted it to be over. I also ran out of water along here so I was desperate around the 24 mile mark and was happy for the last water stop. I had them fill up my water bottle so I would be good for the rest of the way. The course turned towards the Pentagon and where my morning panic occurred. I only stopped to walk once in the last two miles and I was so ready for it be over. I saw my parents right at mile 26, gave them a smile and turned to run up the hill to the finish.
The clock was 5:39:31 for marathon #2. Honestly I was hoping for around 4:40, so yes I was disappointed for a few days. But I took over an hour and 15 minutes off my marathon time! And that’s something to be proud of! The marathon is such a beast and has so many variables that I’m still figuring out, it took me 6 half marathons to finally have a break through there, so hopefully the 3rd time be the charm for the marathon.
I’ve realized more than anything how important the mindset is for the marathon. I think if I had taken a minute to collect myself, taken a deep breath and focused I may have had a better result. Hindsight is 20/20 but I can remember this for next time. The main disappointment I have from this race is not enjoying the course. I was in a beautiful, historic town and I didn’t pay attention to it.
So I made it across the finish line and I’m so grateful for my parents and their spectating! They made it to 6 spots on the course, stood out in the rain and held up the foam fingers I bought them. I’m also so appreciative of all the tweets, texts, Facebook posts/comments! It means so much to have support near and far!
So hopefully a what’s next post is coming soon!