Marine Corps Marathon 2018: Race Report
After 48 of these things, I think I’m getting the hang of them!
The Marine Corps Marathon was great!! It’s been on my bucket list for awhile, and when my friend Andrea from Colorado texted me to say “I got peer pressured into another marathon” I knew I had to throw my hat in the ring and see if I could get in via lottery. Spoiler: I did.
It had been awhile since I focused my training, so I was eager to do that this summer. I started with trying to follow a Pfitzinger plan, but I was pretty spotty on all the workouts. I’d pick and choose, but ultimately decided I wasn’t really prepared to dive into a full-on “advanced marathoning” training plan. I am really trying to be more kind to myself. I know I’m not the runner I used to be, and so I really wanted to forgive myself and recapture my love for marathoning. Ultimately I spend a lot of time and money at this hobby, so I may as well enjoy it and not get all stressed about it!
In all, training went pretty well. I had some super training runs – including a scheduled 15 miler that became close to an 18 miler since I felt so good and loved the route. That’s always a good sign! 🙂 As well as a bit of yoga and chiropractic, I felt pretty strong going into the race.
Sara and I arrived in DC on Thursday, and met our friend Andrea from Colorado for dinner. It was great to catch up – we miss her! The next morning we went to the race expo and picked up an amazingly tacky race shirt. Participants also received a patch, and it was really cool to see folks walking around the expo with MCM jackets and vests on, covered with patches. We wandered the area for a bit, and then headed back into the city – to visit another running shop 🙂 After that, we headed back to the Airbnb to relax a bit before heading over to my friend Natalie’s for dinner. Natalie is a friend from Columbus, although I’ve only seen her twice since I moved away – once in 2009 when I was playing roller derby in Baltimore, and then in 2013 when we went on a trip to Panama together. We’ve each met and married our wives since then, so it was fun to make those introductions. It’s like we’re grown-ups now! 🙂
On Saturday it was pouring when we got up and started sightseeing. We went to the Holocaust museum (particularly tragic when we found out that there had been an attack on a synagogue in the US on that day!), and then met with Andrea and her friends to do a hop-on, hop-off bus tour for awhile. After a late lunch we stopped by another running store, and then went our separate ways to get ready for the race.
We had booked an airbnb that was one stop away from the race start (for me) and two stops away from the finish. The race was set to start at 7:55, but they recommended to get there 90 min early to go through security, etc. We left our airbnb at 6:20, stopped by starbucks and were on our way! Sara had further to go for her 10K start, but they weren’t anticipating the same congestion.
It was forecast to be in the 50s, so I wore a tank top, New Balance shorts, a Colorado buff and my Nike Zoom flys. These shoes are the bomb! I wore a stuff bra with brix maple syrup fuel, and some xact nutrition chews. Look at me, with the Canadian fuel sources 🙂 I also carried my phone in my shorts pocket for after, and wore my boston marathon space blanket and arm sleeves to the start.
I waited for over a half hour for a portapotty at the start, and then sped through the runners village parking lot to drop off my bag and head right to the start. Because I had NO time to wait around, I took off my space blanket and armsleeves and checked them. Honestly, it was a bit of a disaster at the start, much less organized than I would have expected. I just barely made it jogging to my corral (3:30-3:59) for the start.
I knew that Othman from Denver was pacing the 3:45 pace group, and I was toying with running with that group, but I didn’t see the group at the start. But I was ok with that, because I really just wanted to feel good running this race. I had been reading Deena Kastor’s “Let Your Mind Run” book on the plane, and I really just wanted to feel gratitude and power through this run, rather than weighing myself down with any negative thoughts or worries. As such, I also didn’t bring my headphones.
Also, HOW FREAKING COOL IS THIS? Deena Kastor wished me a good race??
I NEVER used to run with headphones, but over the past few years I’ve started doing it more. I wanted to return to that place of running and being connected with the event and the people around me and my own energy, rather than trying to hide behind it, or “borrow” the energy of the music to propel me forward.
Ok, ok, so the actual running.
Well, it’s a marathon, so do I remember a lot of it.. sorta 🙂
I remember that there were a LOT of people for the first few miles. It was tough to get into a cadence. That was ok at the start, though, since the first few miles were uphill. It allowed me to run nice and comfortable. It was really nice to not really have a target pace, and just to run as I felt.
There were a lot of handcycles and disabled athletes in this race, which always makes me very emotional. I’d definitely like to find out if there is an Achilles group in Ottawa I can be part of.
Since I started in the 3:30-3:49 corral, I was pretty surprised to come up on the 4:15 pace group around mile 5! Overall I felt pretty good and just kept trucking along. I would glance at my watch from time to time, but I never used it to really adjust anything. I let my body dictate my pace.
The great thing about the Brix fluid is that it’s in a closeable container. So unlike a gel package that gets sticky and gooey, I could close this and put it back in my bra. Not sure what spectators thought, but it was convenient for me!
I also took in gatorade during the course, and felt pretty good throughout. They were giving out carboom at mile 13 and mile 23 (or so). I took one small amount and was instantly sorry. It was really think and sickly sweet. I’ll stick to my syrup! 🙂
One of the best known parts of the Marine Corps Marathon is mile 12, known as “the blue mile”. You’re on a pretty isolated part of the course away from spectators, and they line the path with photographs of fallen officers. It was pretty sobering, and I was appreciative that even the runners around me stopped chatting during this time, out of respect.
Then right after the blue mile, we entered a section lined with American flags and excited volunteers hooting and hollering. It was really well done – it helped amp up the runners and had an ambience of hope and energy.
Speaking on spectators, this course was pretty great. Tons of folks out there cheering, and some great signs. Most notable were those that poked fun at the shirts we got –
“you trained five months for THAT SHIRT”?
(at mile 22) “You still look better than that shirt”
“Smile! You may be on next year’s shirt”.
Ha! Maybe it was on purpose – a momento that brought us together 🙂
Before starting the race, Sara had told me to smile wide and gesture at the photographers, which I did. It definitely reflected how I felt inside, and it was great to express it. I do so love marathons. Not to say I did it, but just because I CAN. I can get up, lace on shoes, and keep my body moving at a decent clip for HOURS. That’s pretty freaking cool.
The miles ticked by, and I was thrilled around mile 16 to have that feeling of “only 10 miles to go!” Unlike some races where I go out too aggressively and I feel a drain on my energy and abilities, I felt like I could run forever. I was definitely in a comfort zone.
One thing I found annoying, that threw me off a bit, was that we passed the start of the 10K at mile 18. So here’s the thing. 10K is 6.2 miles. The two races ended at the same place. So I was left wondering where we were going to make up the extra two miles, and why we couldn’t just run the same course as the 10Kers. For whatever reason, this really bugged me. Ah well – I guess if that’s all I have to worry about at mile 18 of a marathon, I’m going ok!
We ran over this huge bridge (sign leading onto the bridge – “I cannot tell a lie – this bridge sucks!”) and then turned into Crystal City. At this point it was actually starting to get a little warm, and I was glad I was in a tank and shorts, unlike some people who were in long sleeves and tights (!!?!). In a few out-and-back pieces I’d seen the 3:45 pace group (oh yes, at some point I passed the 4 hours group), and I knew I wasn’t going to catch them. Again – I wasn’t racing to try to achieve a certain time; I really wanted to finish this race feeling good.
We ran through the starting area, which had been so dark three and a half hours before. I didn’t love that, but at least it was somewhat familiar. And soon enough, I could hear the announcers up ahead. I made the final left turn onto an uphill. I’d gone the entire race without stopping (except during one water stop) but I’ll tell you, that hill was dumb! But I was close to being finished so I mustered whatever I had left and headed into the finishing chute. Done! I knew I’d missed 3:45, but not by much!
After I got my medal and the thin finishers jacket (not much more substantial than a space blanket), I turned to walk through the athletes area and there was Sara waiting for me. She’s really really great at spotting me at finish lines, for which I’m terribly grateful. I was feeling ok, just slow. We got me some water and I picked up my checked bag, where I ran into Othman. He’d brought his group in at 3:44:5x. Pretty perfect!
Although I had other friends running, Sara and I were both fading fast, so we decided to head back to our airbnb. I was pleasantly surprised that my feet and legs felt great, and I had really run a strong run.
Yes – as I said on facebook, this run felt like one from a decade ago. I ran my race, soaked in the atmosphere and let my body do what it was capable of. Looking at my splits, I ran an incredibly even paced race – my first mile was the slowest (9:15), and my fastest was at mile 19 (8:12)??
Honestly, I’m so thrilled at how it went, but also a little surprised? I know there is so much more I could have done in terms of training, cross-training, or recovery. Yet the ole body apparently knows what to do.. maybe especially when I let my mind lead the way?
Although I had a breakthrough marathon when I was training with a coach 6 years ago, I really suffered with insecurities and deflated expectations afterwards. This race really made me feel like I may be over it. Part of it included adding “Masters PRs” to my blog. As of last year, my records reset. I am proud of this race, but I know I can also improve on it. And I will! Not because this wasn’t good enough, but because I know I am capable of more, and I’m eager to see what my body and mind will lead me to achieve.
So yeah, great race. I can’t wait til the next one! (So far I don’t have anything scheduled til May. Think I can wait that long??!?!?)