Wow, I’m not even sure where to start with this recap. Marine Corp Marathon ended up being an experience completely different than I ever expected. I had hoped to get this published the day after the race, but it’s taken a few days to come back to reality and actually reflect on the race…so I guess I’ll just start at the beginning (please forgive me, this is a long one…but you really need the entire story)
If any of you have been following my training recaps, ya’ll know that I’ve been dealing with several physcial issues throughout the course of training. I honestly wasn’t even sure I would make it to toe the start line of the 39th MCM, but with the help of my amazing chiropractor, I finally got there. My hip had been nagging for about 6 weeks, and I didn’t run at all for the last 2 weeks of training, so I was hopeful, but trying to be realistic about my goals. I had started with lofty goals of a 4 hour, maybe even a sub-4 marathon way back when I started, which finally got switched to a just finish and then a “beat Oprah” goal, which was perfectly acceptable considering all of the physical adversity I had faced. Two days before the marathon I headed into the chiro for my last day of body work before the big day…
That night I went to the expo with my training partner and long time friend of 12 years. The expo was a complete breeze, we walked right in and spend some good time at the expo after getting some swag at the Brooks store.
The one place that I really wanted to make sure I went to was the Wear Blue: Run to Remember booth. I was planning on wearing one of their shirts but I really wanted to be able to put a name on the back and run in honor of a fallen soldier. I couldn’t find their booth anywhere and the expo was about to shut down. As we were walking towards the exit I saw a woman wearing the shirt and who looked like she was working at the booth. I chased her down yelling, “Ms. Blue, Ms. Blue”….luckily she turned around and I was able to follow her to the booth. When we got there she asked what she could help with and I told her that I really wanted to run in honor of someone. I wasn’t sure if they had names they were able to give out or not, but figured it was worth a shot. She handed me a blank bib and said I could write whomever I wanted on it. I told her that I didn’t have anyone, that’s why I was there, for them to help me out with a name. She looked at me while tearing up and said “I have someone”. She wrote down a name and it was quite obvious that she had a connection to this person. When she handed it over to me I asked her if she knew this person, because she was clearly a bit emotional. She said that it was a friend’s son and that she was so happy that I would run for him and that she would make sure to tell the family. It was really a powerful moment, for both of us I believe. So I dedicated my run to 1Lt Jonam Russell.
On Saturday we headed down to the Pentagon for the Kids Run! So much fun! Mini #1 did great for his first 1 mile run all by himself!
Alright, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Sunday morning I got up around 5am, got dressed packed up my stuff, picked up my training buddy and headed to the metro. We arrived at the Pentagon and made the 2 mile trek to the starting area. I don’t typically need to use the bathrooms before a race, I don’t drink much in the morning because I hate standing in the lines, but HAD I needed to, there were PLENTY of porta-johns. I really didn’t hear too many complaints in this department.
Guess who I saw?? I ran into Helly!! I had known she was running and we had been in touch but had never made a plan to meet. Apparently she found me by spotting me in my robe! (I had posted a pic on Instagram!) It was so great to finally meet her in person!
And I also ran into Rich! I’ve been following him since last year before MCM in 2013. He recognized me from my robe as well!
After we parted ways, I gathered with my MRTT ladies for a fun group picture…we all wore bathrobes as throwaways. The weather was cool-ish and we really didn’t need the bathrobes for long. We had anticipated it being much cooler than it ended up being.
Shortly after, we went our separate ways and headed to the start line. The crowd as usual is amazing. The music was great, people were getting pumped up. We watched the Medal of Honor recipient Kyle Carpenter (and if you haven’t read about him, I highly suggest you do…such an incredible inspiration) parachute into the start line carrying a 7,800 square foot American Flag…
Which was followed by an Osprey fly by…
The howitzer sounded at 7:55 am and we were off…..well, about 15 minutes later we were off. That’s how long it took us to cross the start line. It was extremely congested, much more so than I remember last year. Our plan was to start out at a very conservative pace for the first 5-8 miles because of the elevation gain (It’s pretty much all up hill for the first 5 miles). I had actually made a pace band based on the specific elevation and course profile! You can find the website HERE! You can pick out the exact marathon you are running and the goal time and it will give you mile splits based on the course conditions (i.e. hills, downhills, etc). I discovered the website at the last minute so it was too late to order one, so I just printed it out and used packing tape to laminate it so the paper didn’t get too sweaty and gross. I didn’t wear it as a band, but kept it in my pocket for reference.
I had made the decision to NOT wear my hydration vest for the race, despite using it to train with. Last year I had trained all summer with a hydration vest but then they banned them, so I ended up using a handheld and did just fine. I figured I would do the same this year (I feel like a hydration makes me lose my form after a certain amount of miles). Instead of the handheld, I went with the fuel belt which turns out was a HUGE mistake. Within the first 2 miles it started bouncing around (which it had never done before during training) and I was getting extremely annoyed by it. I made the decision at Mile 3 to ditch it when I came upon my MRTT ladies cheering.
Unfortunately this would end up haunting me the rest of the race.
We headed up Rock Creek Parkway, one of my favorite parts of the course. Not sure why exactly because it’s on a steady incline and the crowd support dies down a bit, but it is just so pretty. Saw some fun costumes:
And some incredibly inspiring people:
We had a great thing going, I felt good, and I was on cloud nine. I saw my family right after mile 10. They couldn’t get a spot down on the road so they were on the Memorial Bridge cheering from above. It was such a boost to see them. At this point I was stopping at every water station and drinking one to two cups of water. My friend Lisa was wearing her fuel belt and let me take some swigs of her Nuun whenever I thought I needed it. I was hesitant to take Gatorade at the water stops because I don’t like Gatorade and was afraid of it messing with my tummy.
We headed into Hains Point (Miles 11-14) which is notorious for being an emotional place. It’s a peninsula and there is very little, if any crowd support. Wear Blue: Run to Remember lines up on the side with signs of pictures of military members killed in action. After you pass the signs there were just tons of people lined up with American Flags cheering everyone one. Emotions were raw for a lot of people in this portion of the race and a lot of silence while passing the photos of those killed. Very powerful.
I hit the Half marathon point with a 9:38 min/mi pace and was still feeling great, although it was warming up significantly. I was starting to get thirsty more often and was definitely starting to slow down a bit because of it.
I saw my family again at Mile 16..
Definitely a HUGE boost. It’s hard work to drag those two boys around all over the city, and I am indebted to my husband and my parents for being so supportive!!
After hitting Mile 16 we start to make our way into the National Mall area where the crowds get totally insane. At mile 17 I saw Christine from We Run Disney!! She was there cheering on her mom, Pam! Somehow she spotted me and shouted my name! So fun to see her!
Enter Mile 18…this is where things to start to unravel. My hip flexor was starting to tighten up, so I stopped to stretch it out and I don’t think I ever came back from that stop. Believe it or not, with all of the “injuries” that I dealt with during training, NONE of them bothered me during the race. My hip felt great the entire time. When I started running again, I just could not get my legs moving again and all of my energy was gone. I told my friend Lisa to go on ahead without me. We had made a deal the day before the race that we would run our own race and that if one of us wasn’t doing well that the other one would go ahead…but she refused to leave me. She would turn out to be the ONLY reason I crossed that finish line. I knew that the dreaded 14th Street Bridge was coming up and I started sinking deeper into this black hole in my head, I was in a VERY dark place and wasn’t sure I was going to be able to come out of it. My right quad started cramping terribly. I had never experienced a muscle cramp before and oh holy hell, this was miserable. I had to stop several times in the next mile to try and massage it but unfortunately with no results. I knew I was getting dehydrated and realized that I hadn’t been taking in enough electrolytes and with the warm temps, I was losing salt quickly.
My family was waiting again for me at mile 20, right before I hit the bridge.
I saw my husband and just wrapped my arms around him and just let my body go limp. I started balling, saying “I can’t go on”, “I’m done”. Poor Mini #1, he was so concerned when he saw me as a blubbering mess and wanted to know why mommy was crying.
There are no words for the emotions I was feeling at this point. Sadness, frustration, defeat and exhaustion. I had hit the proverbial WALL both mentally and physically. I had NEVER experienced the wall before.
As soon as I left my family, we headed to the bridge. I had been wearing my headphones with one ear bud in and one out, but at this point I put the other ear bud in, head down and pushed ahead. Ironically, one of the songs I had added to my playlist because I thought it would be a good motivator came on as soon as I got on that bridge… It was amazingly inspiring and I would listen to it on repeat for the next several miles…
I had to stop several more times over the bridge to massage my quad, but Lisa STILL refused to leave my side.
We entered into Miles 22-24 where I knew a ton of my MRTT friends would be cheering us on. I was scanning the crowd frantically because I needed them terribly. As soon as I saw them I started sobbing uncontrollably. The emotions took over again and I told them all that I couldn’t go on and that I was totally done, I couldn’t go any further. They were absolutely amazing and all gave me a huge pep talk that made me feel like I could conquer the world…
That lasted about the 10 seconds that I was actually with them and as soon as they were long behind me, I was back in the doldrums again. My legs were cramping worse and I kept telling Lisa to go ahead, but she still refused.
We came out of Crystal City and into the home stretch around the Pentagon and SLAM, we were running into a brick wall with the wind. I started walking and was going to just walk the rest of the way to the finish. Lisa looked at me and said,
“We have come 25 miles, you are NOT going to quit now. Get those legs moving for that soldier on your back. LET’s GO. You WILL do this.”
She was right. I was running for LT Russell and for all of those that couldn’t run anymore.
I just started crying again and shuffled my feet the best that I could with my cramping quad. We finally came to mile 26. I was in an incredible amount of pain with my cramping leg, I was feeling the lowest of the low. As I rounded the corner to go up the last hill to the finish.
I was done.
I didn’t even care if I crossed the finish.
I was ready to walk off the course.
Lisa grabbed me by the arm and literally dragged me up the hill and across the finish line. I crossed the finish line and immediately burst into tears, and I’m talking a sobbing, blubbering mess. I couldn’t breathe or catch my breath. The tears just kept coming and coming. I wrapped my arms around Lisa and didn’t want to let go. If it wasn’t for her I would have walked off that course 8 miles ago. I had never been so happy to be done running. The emotions were so incredibly raw.
Crying because I was happy I was done.
Crying because I was sad that I had the experience I had.
Guilty because I had held my friend back.
Angry because I felt like I done this to myself.
Had I not ditched my fuel belt and had the proper electrolytes would this never have happened?
I had fueled properly, taking a gel every 3-4 miles so that wasn’t it.
I don’t think I’ll ever know the answer.
Everyone keeps saying to me “you had a great race! You set a 15 minute PR!!” Yes, I did set a 15 minute PR, coming in at exactly 4:28, but I still am saying to this day that it was a terrible race. It’s not all about time, it’s about the journey and all of the hard work that goes into the victory lap that is the marathon.
I’m sad that I didn’t enjoy the experience. The experience is what it is all about and unfortunately, the last 8 miles took that away from me. I am proud of myself that I was able to perservere and finish and even finish with a good time (despite a secret goal of 4:00). This just goes to show you, no matter how well you do during training, you NEVER know what will happen on race day. I thought my long runs were actually decent and were completely setting me up for at least a 4:15 marathon. That is the beauty AND the beast of a marathon, you really don’t know how that day is going to treat you. Unfortunately, this one chewed me up and spit me out.
A huge thank you goes out to my family who came out to support me and battled the crowds to only see me for a few split seconds before I was gone. To the MRTT ladies who brought every ounce of enthusiasm they had to support our wonderful mamas along the course…you were invaluable.
But what this race really comes down to for me it the true friendship that was displayed from my friend Lisa. This was HER first marathon and I know she was feeling strong and could have crushed this race. But she sacrificed that and stayed with me the entire time and for that I am forever indebted to her. This is the true face of the spirit of the marathon.
[Tweet “MCM Recap: The good, the bad and the very ugly #runwiththemarines #fitfluential #sweatpink #motherrunner”]
I remember last year after MCM, I wanted nothing to do with running for at least 2 weeks. I didn’t want to think about, it let alone plan another race. I enjoyed that experience but yet I still felt that way. I had a terrible experience this time around, but all I can think about it how I want to crush it in Paris. And you know what? The next day, I got a text from my friend Lisa…
Holy shit. We’re going to Paris.
Who else has hit the proverbial Wall?
Have you ever done something different on race day that ultimately hurt you in the end?
I’d love to hear any thoughts that you might have. Ever had an experience like this?