2017 Marine Corps Marathon Recap

I didn’t enter Marine Corps Marathon weekend with high expectations. With my resentment towards the 26.2 distance aggrandizing since the WDW Marathon in January, I honestly just wanted to get in and get out with minimal injury. Having flashbacks of my 2015 experience in DC still fresh in my mind, I didn’t care what my pace was. I wanted to cross that finish line and be done.

I slept terribly the night before, getting about four hours total. Chris and I woke up around 4:45, and before I knew it, it was 5:45 and we were out the door, heading to the Metro. I swear, no matter how much time you give yourself to get ready, it’s never enough!

We arrived at the Metro slightly after six. I was sort of excited to ride, as MCM partnered with WMATA to open the Metro two hours early to accommodate the runners, with extra Blue and Yellow trains to the Pentagon station. Okay, so we’ll have trains operating every five minutes or so, easy peasy. I won’t have to freak out about being late.

I should’ve known better. This is DC Metro, after all. The first train didn’t arrive until 6:30 AM.

We arrived at Pentagon station by 6:45, and it was a madhouse. With each arriving train, the platform got more crowded. The crowds were moving at a snail’s pace to begin with, probably due to those not being prepared in advance with their Metro cards to tap out of the station. It took us about 15 minutes to exit.

Following the swarm of runners to the starting area, the sun started to cast a beautiful yellow and orange glow in the sky. Rosslyn was off in the distance and its buildings were reflecting the rays as a sort of welcoming beacon for us. The weather was slightly chilly, but that was going to change quickly once the sun peaked. After walking roughly over a mile, we came upon the UPS drop off location.

Over the booming speakers, we heard: “If you’re here and running the 10K…ouch!” -announcer guy

(The MCM 10K, which is also on my list, was taking place IN the city as the last 6.2 miles of the marathon course. If a 10Ker was at the Pentagon, well…)

Chris and I found our other Kappa Kappa Psi brothers and running buddies, Lauren, and her husband, Patrick (who was playing support crew with our other friends Chris and Ema). After a quick picture, we headed to the starting area.

With the fear of being swept fresh on our minds, and after careful analysis of our previous races and paces from this year, we decided to line up around the 5:00 area. We’d have a somewhat decent barrier between us and the sweeper vehicles, and be in the vicinity of the 5:00 and 5:30 pace groups in case we wanted to join.

The parachuters did their performances, and the Ospreys did their flyover to the cheers of the crowds. At 7:55, the Howitzer fired, and the race began!

Sort of.

Any Marine Corps Marathon veteran will tell you that it takes, on average, twenty minutes from the time the Howitzer fires until you cross the start line. So it’s a perfect representation of the military: hurry up and wait.

Around 8:17am or so, the three of us finally started our journey! First stop: Rosslyn.

I posted several times on social media that the first 5K for this race is the worst. It has the most elevation changes, and staying conservative will be beneficial in the later miles. The crowds were ample and puppies even moreso. We stayed steady, walking the hills and running the flat areas. The energy was amplified, and, trust me, greatly appreciated. We hit the 5K mark and descended into Spout Run along miles 3.5-4 on the GW Parkway. (This turned out to be my best mile of the whole damn race.) The views of Georgetown University were gorgeous as we headed towards Key Bridge.

The crowds started to thin a little as we ran down M Street in Georgetown and flew down Wisconsin Ave.

Our next stop was Rock Creek Park, and I was starting to feel a little fatigued. Lauren and Chris were definitely faster than I was, whether running or speed walking, so I tried to keep up the best I could.

RCP was shady and pretty as always. Having run the same route during several other DC races, I knew what to expect. The turn around at mile 7 led to a nice downhill (same downhill as NAFHALF and halfway up the evil hill from RnR DC), and back into the shade. As we headed past mile 8, we saw the sweeper busses coming up the other side. Already?! There’s no way in hell I was getting on that bus this year.

My lower back was starting to hurt, and it was getting harder to keep up with Chris and Lauren. I didn’t want to bog them down with my slowness, so I told Chris to just go ahead without me. He didn’t want to leave me behind but I didn’t want to screw up their race plans. I watched them get farther away, and I had no doubt that they would finish their first marathons strong and in one piece.

The sun was starting to rage around mile 10 as I headed toward Hains Point. I was starting to feel dehydrated and weak, and slowed to mainly walking with some running bursts in between. My new friend, Christine, whom I met post-expo and is also Ms. United States: District of Columbia, caught up with me around mile 11.5 and we shared some encouraging words before taking off for the Blue Mile at mile 12.

I’m glad I wore sunglasses for this race; I got really emotional watching other runners stopping by the signs of their loved ones and just pausing to reflect.

I also got a lot of high fives in this section, which was great because I was about to fall over.

I wasn’t planning on taking Run Gum until the halfway point, but I took it just before I entered this section. Holy crap, was that a bad idea. I didn’t have water to wash the flavors down, so the sugars coated my mouth and throat and felt thick and suffocating. This error would affect the rest of my race as the ensuing dehydration made me feel sick and gross.

My half split was a 3:09, which is surprisingly decent compared to some of my other half splits over the years.

The second half of the race was torture. My stomach and back weren’t cooperating, the sun was blazing, and I was so ready to be done. However, just past the halfway mark was the Funny Sign Mile. I was SOOOOO happy that they didn’t take these down prematurely, unlike in 2015 when everything seemed to disappear after all the faster runners went through.

The objective here to focus on was making it to the “D.C. Gauntlet” at Mile 17 by 12:33. I had about 45 minutes to make it three miles. Not an easy feat when you feel like dying and are walking the entire distance. The pace car (white car with colored handprints) was annoyingly riding alongside of us (and we honestly didn’t know if it was the official pace car or what it was doing), but I was just happy to not see those stupid sweeper busses riding my ass.

I saw fellow Kappa Kappa Psi brother Katelyn at Mile 16! 💙💙💛

I came up on mile 16 and, after taking liquids, thought I had to go to the bathroom. I stepped in and tried to go. Nothing happened. At this point, I knew I was going to be diverted past the first gauntlet and to the bridge. I took a moment, gathered myself, and got back on the course. Even with the copious amount of liquids I ingested, it still felt like it wasn’t enough. It would actually be several more miles before I saw water again.

I missed the cutoff for the D.C. Gauntlet by 13 minutes, and to be technical, I’m not considered an “official finisher” due to this. Cutting across Jefferson Drive and right to the Beat the Bridge portion at mile 19.5, we slowpokes merged in with the bulk of the other runners here, and rejoiced over the fire hydrant that happened to be open and spraying water about. I also heard my fellow Team Shenangians member, Meghan, cheering me on as I went to the bridge.

The 14th Street Bridge…I had no doubt I’d get over this, as I started around 12:50-ish. Still walking, the sun was beating down on us, and its effects were affecting all of us. Still feeling ultra dehydrated, I was very tempted to ask another runner if they had water I could take a quick sip of. Embarrassing as it was, I ran around asking random support groups if they had water. One of them—I didn’t quite catch a name—actually seemed reluctant to give me a bottle, but they did. If it wasn’t for that water, I probably would have dropped on the bridge…or over the bridge.

I got over the bridge and into Crystal City at 1:36, 13 minutes before that cutoff. As I was heading in, I felt a tap on my shoulder, and it was Chris! He was soooo confused as to how I got ahead of him, and I told him I got diverted. Still confused, I told him I’d explain later, and he started getting ahead of me. He was a man on a mission at this point, and I knew he’d finish. I asked where Lauren was, and he said she was behind him a ways.

During the Crystal City section (and at other points on the course), I had other runners come up to me and ask if I was @runDisneyBelle, seeing as they had seen my flat runner on social media. One of them was @runnerchick29! Trust me, I am ALWAYS happy to meet other runners on course. Look for the bow and say hi 🙂

Having run MCM before, I can tell you that no matter how many fire hydrants and hoses were open, Crystal City is awful. It’s neverending, and runners drop like flies. The crowds were really good this year, had lots of food, and I caught quick glimpse of the medal from a distance. I knew had to finish (and to justify buying the jacket prematurely!). I swing around Mile 23, and saw Lauren on the other side of the road! I ran over to her and we were just like, “…mehhhhh….when’s it gonna be overrrr?”

Yeah. We were so over it by this point.

The last 5K was just as brutal as the first 5K, but with water and animal crackers, and more sun. By the time Mile 25 arrived, we had swung back to where we had started about 6.5 hours prior. This time, we’d be taking the hill to the Iwo.

I ran into fellow Shenanigator Kristin here, and it was a great boost to get us to the finish!

Left up the hill…

Support crew selfie!


So I crossed the finish line for my fourth marathon, if you can even call it that. Due to being diverted from those miles in the city, the Xacte splits actually calculated predicted pace for the 30K and 35K marks for me. I appreciate its generosity as it gave me 12:33/ppm and 13:17/ppm respectively.

I got across that finish line and my “time” was a 6:41:43. To me, that’s all that matters at this point. Mission Accomplished. Woohoo.

I’ll jump on my soapbox for a moment and shout I AM SO PROUD OF LAUREN AND CHRIS FOR FINISHING THEIR FIRST MARATHON! Chris kicked my ass by twenty minutes and Lauren finished just a couple minutes behind me. I am SO proud of my fellow brothers for accomplishing their goals.

Christine also came over and celebrated with us!!


Christina’s Post-Race Thoughts:

1. I say this after every marathon, that I’m done and completely over the 26.2 distance. Then I find myself toeing the line for another full. But after this one, I feel like I am truly done. I got my “redemption” by crossing the finish line for this race. I didn’t get swept, nor did I die due to the heat. Calculating the miles from Metro excitement and heading to the start line, it gave me roughly 27-ish miles post race, according to my Garmin pedometer. I will call that a win.

Getting back to future marathons…I am supposed to do Chicago next year due to deferring this year. However, I would have to repay $195 just to claim my deferral. That’s literally a fifth of my rent and over two days’ worth of work! With this being the biggest reason to skip, and the ever growing resentment towards the distance, I am 99% certain that I will not be attending Chicago 2018. Let me also remind you all that I will also not be running in Disney in January for Marathon Weekend. I ran the last two years and abhor the course. Why continue doing a distance that I cannot stand, and dealing with the, “I’m so done with this.” angry feeling before, during, and after the race?

2. Weather all around the nation has been obnoxiously hot this year. I suggest to race officials that an additional water stop be put on the bridge for future races. For those like me who got diverted at 17, we did not get the convenience of the two water points that were in the D.C. Gauntlet. We went from the mile 16 water stop to mile 21.75 without water in the blazing sun.

3. Major thanks to everyone who came out and cheered for us during this race, even for us turtles in the back. Trust me, we greatly appreciate it. Cheers are not reserved for just the fastest runners on a course.

4. I was disappointed to see so many vendors packing up their stuff as I made my way into the Finisher’s Festival. I understand y’all have places to go and things to do, but we turtles would like to partake in what you have to offer, as well! I wanted bacon and watermelon.



Congrats to everyone who finished this weekend! It was an arduous course, and the weather moreso. Great job of Charging the District, Beating the Bridge, and Taking the Iwo. You ran with purpose and finished with pride. Extra confetti to the first timers! You deserve it!!

Thanks for a great racecation, D.C. Until next time…

The Weekly Review

Going to try something new here in the form of a Weekly Review. (Named as such until I can think of something cooler. Maybe I’ll bring back the runDisneyBelle Review…better alliteration…)

Thoughts on the Week:

-2017 is flying by way too fast. I cannot believe that TOMORROW IS APRIL 1ST. Just…wow. Where has this year gone?! I feel like I turn around and lo and behold, it’s Friday. (and this is after thinking that every day of the week is Thursday.)

 

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DC is blooming! Caught these tulips in Lafayette Park.

 

-I’m closing in on my one-year anniversary here in Washington D.C. on Monday (woooo). I’ve never been able to say that I’ve been with a company for an entire year, since I’ve spent most of my 20’s in university (that equates to semester assistantships/jobs or something seasonal in the retail/restaurant industry). I’m mentally preparing a more in-depth retrospect of my past year for Monday, so stay tuned.

 

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Meanwhile, in running land…

 

Welcome to Marine Corps Marathon Lottery Week! This is a pretty suspenseful week as marathon hopefuls put their names into the abyss in hopes that they get picked to run The People’s Marathon (also known as The Marathon of the Monuments). Above is my “The waiting game sucks. Let’s play Hungry Hungry Hippos!” face.

So I waited and waited some more. Thursday was MCM Notification Day (aka “Break Your Refresh Key Day)…

And there was celebration! I am SO happy to have been picked for the 42nd MCM, and for good reason: it was my first marathon. And it was also the marathon where I got my first DNF in 2015. It is going to mean SO much to exact revenge on the course that did me in. Must do. Can do. Will do.

 

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It is also Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Miler weekend!! Also known as the Runner’s Rite of Spring, the CUCB 10M draws runners from national and international fields, with large prize pools and fast times. The CUCB course, which will take place in D.C. around the Tidal Basin, Rock Creek Park, and Hains Point, is super flat with an elevation change of only 31 feet at most, so there will be exciting racing within the elite field. There will also be a 5K run/walk after the 10 Milers have taken off. There will be roughly 16,000 participants (almost like a runDisney race!), and hopefully the remaining blossoms haven’t fallen off the trees yet. Temperatures are projected to be in the low to mid 40’s on race morning with sunshine (which is like a heat wave compared to Rock ‘n’ Roll DC a few weeks ago), so we should be good to go!


 

Congrats to the MCM Class of 2017! Let’s get out there and rock it! And good luck to everyone racing this weekend!

Anything notable happen to you this week?

 

‘T’was the Night Before The MCM Lottery…

And here we are. The night before MCM lottery.

If this is your first time attempting this lottery, congrats! You’re one of us crazies!

One of us. One of us…

In all seriousness, the Marine Corps Marathon lottery is a day of epic suspense. Starting at noon, the process will begin. It will go a little something like this:


If you are selected, the above will apply.

1 & 2. A pending race registration transaction WILL APPEAR FIRST. Keep an eye on your bank account.

3. It may take anywhere from a few minutes to a couple of hours for the acceptance email to hit your inbox. Don’t panic. There are a TON of runners that registered for the lottery. I didn’t get my email until almost 6pm in 2014 (my first MCM).

4. Celebrate! You’re gonna run a marathon! 🎉🎉
The most important thing to keep in mind is that this process takes awhile. Pack your patience. If you haven’t gotten notification in the first couple hours, don’t get discouraged. Keep checking back periodically.

Good luck, runners! I hope to be on the course with you! 🖤❤️💛

Spectator Thoughts: Marine Corps Marathon 2016

I’ve been at this running thing for awhile, and not once have I stood along the race course and cheered for my fellow runners.

That all changed today at the 41st Marine Corps Marathon.

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Brought the magic of Hamilton to the race!

Going from runner-mode to spectator-mode was a relatively easy transition. Having run in the MCM before, the empathy I felt towards the 30,000 runners slugging it out on a very warm course was unwavering. (The temperatures for the past two MCMs have started out chilly, then skyrocketed to the upper 70’s and low 80’s by race end, with plentiful sunshine. Barf.) I felt like it was my turn to give back to the running community in this role, and I had my right-hand woman, Lauren, beside me the entire time. We woke up obnoxiously early and took the Metro into the city. We set up camp at mile 15.5, which was right at the entrance to the Gauntlet portion of the course. At this point, we had a clear view of the athletes coming up and turning the corner to enter the slight downhill section leading to the National Mall portion. We stayed out there from about 8AM to 12:30PM or so, then headed over to Arlington National Cemetery for the finisher’s area.

The foliage is beginning to turn in Washington D.C….finally!

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During the many hours we were out there, I took note of several things that could be of importance for anyone thinking about being a spectator for a race. In no particular order, here we go…


  1. Be Weather Savvy: Never trust the forecast the day of the race. The MCM in particular has a nasty habit of being ultra cold in the morning and transitioning to super warm in the afternoon hours. After spending two years in those starting corrals freezing my butt off, I made sure I was prepared for spectating by dressing in layers. By the afternoon I was in my tech shirt and shorts. Remember sunglasses and sunscreen, and BUG SPRAY if it’s still optimal weather for bugs. (En route to Arlington we walked through a wall of gnats that just clung everywhere. Not pleasant.) If it’s going to be rainy, bring jackets and umbrellas. And so on.
  2. Spectator Training: It’s a Workout! To be blunt, I felt like I ran a marathon after I got home. Standing up for hours on end, jumping around trying to stay warm, cheering loudly, getting beaten down my the sun, general walking around in said sun, climbing hills, dealing with people…it all adds up! Spectating can be a huge energy suck if you’re not prepared. Get plenty of rest the night before, bring water and snacks, and don’t forget to stretch out every now and again during the race.
  3. Be Prepared With Extra Everything: water, money, phone charger, food, beer, pocket radio…whatever you need to get through the many hours you’ll be outside, bring it.
  4. Use Common Sense: We saw SO many people cross in front of athletes today. Unless you are legitimately paying attention and have a gap to sprint across a road, YOU NEED TO WAIT…AND DON’T CROSS WHEN THERE’S A HUGE PACK OF RUNNERS COMING RIGHT AT YOU. It’s a great way to get everyone hurt and/or very pissed off, and you will certainly be made fun of for being ignorant.
  5. Keep Up the Fun: It is SO much fun being able to interact with runners. I had many call out that they were listening to Hamilton, got to see it/are eventually seeing it on Broadway, said that I had the best sign on the course (and got a hug!), had pictures taken of said sign, yelled to runners, “DO NOT THROW AWAY YOUR SHOT!” (Or, “You’re non-stop!”) One gentleman looked at it and said, “This is the passion I’m smashin’!” Get creative with your signs, as it will certainly keep the runners’ minds occupied during the later miles when the going starts getting tough.
  6. Not every runner you encounter will be pleasant…or even semi-pleasant. I had a rather unfortunate encounter with a gentleman that was running near the very front of the field. He peeled off the course and went over to his family/girlfriend/people area, and immediately started complaining that he was having a tough time. Not due to injury or exhaustion…but the fact that he was ten minutes behind his goal time, wasn’t going to “hit his time that he got at nationals” (whatever that meant), and just wanted to take his bib off and quit. I tried my very hardest to encourage him to keep going and he spat back, “Have you done any of these races before?” I snapped back, “Yes, in fact I have. It doesn’t matter what your time is. Go finish.” We had a back and forth on this (and him complaining about “just getting a participation award”) and I just left it with, “Honey, go finish.” Trust me, his snotty, elitist attitude was getting him nowhere fast. Eventually he left the area, and I personally hope he’s festering in the thoughts that will keep him awake at night. 

Christina’s Real Talk:

Trust me, I’m rather disappointed that this guy just threw in the towel on this race and his subsequent attitude towards me. (I even looked up his bib number in the results just to maaaaaybe see if he changed his mind. Nope. Nothing was listed.) Truth be told, everyone has bad races from time to time. I haven’t hit my sub-3 hour half yet and I’ve been trying for two years! But I keep trying and trying again. I was swept at MCM last year, so I signed up for WDW this January and killed it. The second things go downhill, you need to tough it out the best you can and keep going. You cannot wait around for the absolute perfect conditions to accomplish anything; you’ll get absolutely nowhere in life. Also, throwing a tantrum because you didn’t get the last cookie in the cookie jar (as a grown adult, mind you) will leave a lasting impression on your character.


Now on the flip side, there can be some runners that are surprisingly pleasant and motivational to be around. I went to the expo on Saturday just for shits and giggles. I wore my 2016 WDW Marathon shirt (a trend I have started recently: any time there is a major marathon happening, the marathon gear comes out!). I was walking around near the entrance, and a BOSTON MARATHON finisher (wearing her blue and yellow Adidas shirt that I have recently come to covet along with anything else Boston-related) congratulated me for finishing and told me to have fun during Goofy Challenge in January! My heart totally exploded into confetti and happiness 🙂

      WDW Half, Marathon, and Goofy Challenge medals


Overall, I had a very pleasant and exciting day of cheering on the MCM runners. Congrats to everyone who finished!

 

2015 Marine Corps Almost-Marathon

Warning: This is going to be a very long recap. So go pee and get a snack prior to reading.


It was bound to happen sooner or later. Every runner dreams of finishing every race they sign up for. They hope to never have to add a notch on their bedpost under the DNF column.

I added that first notch this past Sunday. For a race that I conquered last year and declared myself a marathoner at, I couldn’t repeat that accomplishment this year.

I was swept.

I’ve never been swept before.

I hear stories of those that have been, particularly those that race the runDisney events. The emotions; the frustration, anger, tears, and genuine disappointment that collects among fellow runners who are deemed too slow to maintain course requirements as they board the busses of Doom on their way to the finish to be dropped off beside those who had crossed the finish line and sporting their sparkly new bling, shiny space blankets, and munching on bananas. We can only look on with puppy dog eyes as we long for what they have, limping along to collect our belongings and escape the scene before our friends Jealousy and Desire come raging through.

But let’s start at the beginning, pre-pre-race…


I had accepted a transfer entry back in September from a friend. Now, I hadn’t been training at all for anything, since I had entered the MCM lottery in March and wasn’t selected. I remember how I had set forth to conquer the course and Take the Iwo last year, and had succeeded. Having the Marine Corps Marathon be THE marathon to officially bestow the title of ‘marathoner’ upon me was humbling and exciting. If I could do it last year, then why not this year?

I thought on it for 24 hours (as I do with most major decisions and impulse shopping items), and with encouragement from friends, I accepted it. I had a month and change to train. Legit train. Most marathon plans are around four months of dedicated training. I know my body adapts well to fitness regimes quickly, so I thought I could get away with cram training.

Ladies and gents…CRAM TRAINING DOESN’T WORK. (Lesson #1.)

I never felt more awkward physically than when I was in the corral on race day. I didn’t feel muscular, I didn’t feel in shape, I didn’t feel fast. If I finished, it was a miracle of sorts. My longest distance was a 16-miler, and even then my workouts were sporadic due to an office job with set hours and other activities. I tried to make a workout out of everything I did: pushing through my glutes going up stairs, running stairs while barbacking, lifting heavy objects whenever possible…

Yeah, no…didn’t quite work how I would have liked it.

Now, to Washington D.C…


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Expo: The expo was well layed out. I got my bib with no problem, then took off for the Brooks section. I had wanted one of the official race jackets last year, but shuddered at the $90 price tag. This year I wanted one, and it was the only thing I was going to get. The crowds were a nightmare. Waiting in line took half an hour, but I was pleased at the speed the Brooks employees were getting runners in and out of the checkout.

Shiny new jacket in hand, I wandered about the expo looking at all the things. I thought I was going to spend a lot more than I thought, but I left with two SparklySoul headbands for my collection, some new sunscreen, and that was it! I went back to my cousin’s apartment in Mt. Vernon Square, ditched my stuff, then walked about the city for awhile.

Lesson 2: Don’t walk around the city too much the day before the race. You may get time with Honest Abe seeking last-minute race advice, but you’ll kill your energy reserves.

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Now on to race day…


Alarm goes off at 4:45 AM and I stay in bed until 5. I finally leave around 5:45, and take the 10-minute walk to the Metro. At this time, runners were getting rather cozy on the trains. We take off for the Pentagon, and that’s when the chaos set in.

The crowds were becoming dangerously backed up in the Metro station at the turnstiles as people used their cards to pay their way out of the station. It got so slow to the point where the Metro workers had to turn off the escalators and just let us go through the gates without paying. (Sorry, D.C., you knew it was race day!) From there, the lines to get to the security checkpoints were long, like last year. I was expecting this. So we all walked and walked some more…

And then the rain started.

I have never raced in the rain before. Biting cold and snow and ice, yes. Blazing heat and sun, yes. Never rain.

I was trying to decide whether to ditch my new Brooks jacket (the dark blue and gray one) and run with my Underarmour shirt, or to keep it. I saw another runner with one on and asked what her plans were for it. She said that I’d be way too hot in mine and to drop it off at the bag check.

That was a smart woman. I saved myself from being overheated later on.

We rounded the corner for the security checkpoints…and came to a dead stop.

Why werent the lines moving? Can’t they see we have a race to run?!

This was around 6:30 AM, and I also noticed non-runners in these checkpoints. Ummm…isn’t this called “Runner’s Village” for a reason? Why are there tiny children and strollers and umbrellas over here?? Why are there only eight or nine checkpoints; runDisney has like, 25!

I started weaving to the left and found the security points over there. After being wanded down, I stepped away from there around 7:20. I felt fortunate as I scrolled through my Twitter feed and saw that SO many other runners hadn’t even passed security, and it was nearing the start of the race.

I squeezed into the last corral, and it was so tightly packed I could barely move to stretch out. People were shuffling around and hopping the guard rail just to get over to the other side and breathe. Once the ceremonial Osprey flyover and parachute team was complete, it was time to race. The Howtizer fired, and we were off!

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As usual, it takes about 20 minutes or so to cross the start line. The rain was steady at this point, and I thought that this was either going to be really good or really freakin’ bad: I was running on rather worn sneakers with new squishy insoles. I had no idea how they were going to hold up, or how my feet were going to perform with them.

Lesson 3: Nothing new on race day. Seriously. Not even a new good luck charm.

The first 10K was Land of the Elevation Changes. With the pack being as tight as it was, I was essentially forced to keep up or risk getting trampled and dying.

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With the risk of slipping on wet pavement, I altered my stride to something a little more conservative (I think I bent more in the knees), and this destroyed my legs. By Key Bridge, I felt so spent. I was run/walking at this point (more walking than anything else). Mile 4/5 in Georgetown had delicious burger smells wafting through the air…such a tease. The rain was on and off at this point, and mixing that change with my sweating from running, my body was doing this weird heat up/cool down tango that I didn’t like one bit.

Heading into the next 10K with Rock Creek Park had me on edge. I was walking a lot and constantly trying to determine where the pace vehicles were. I was heading down mile 8 and they were coming up the road on mile 6, so I was safe for at least a little bit. At this point, being in the back of the pack was a real downer; most of the spirited crowds that cheer for the faster runners had dispersed. This lack of energy and comraderie was leaving me with many thoughts of, “What the hell! Are we turtles not worthy of what the faster runners are doing?” This left a bad taste in my mouth as I plowed along the course. At Mile 11, I found fellow Kappa Kappa Psi brother, Lauren, cheering for me. I gave her a huge hug and she ran with me for a brief moment, telling me she’d meet me at mile 16. That was a definite boost! Of course, the Blue Mile at Mile 12 enabled all the feels like it typically does.

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At the halfway point, I was running around a 14:40 mpm pace. It felt insanely lonely heading into the city. I was struggling hardcore at this point; the funny motivational signs I enjoyed last year were all taken down and there were hardly any spectators anywhere. Now, I had been very proud of myself for not using a bathroom, whereas last year I stopped almost every two miles. I ducked into the potty at this point, peed, and left. That two minutes was all it took for me to completely lose my groove.

I got to Mile 16 and saw Lauren again. She gave me a boost and sent me on my way once again.

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I tried to get my little legs to go faster than “walk”, but I’d take a few strides and slow…and take a few strides and slow. By mile 17, I had a deep, clenching feeling that I may not finish.

A Marine was speaking into a megaphone at this point: “If you stay in front of the pace vehicle, you will make the bridge.” I turned around, and there it was. Right on my ass. If nothing motivates you to go faster than seeing the sweep vehicle, I don’t know what does. I tried so hard to keep myself going forward with some sort of velocity that was greater than what that car was driving at. I messaged Michael at this point and mentioned,

I am dangerously close to being swept. Don’t hate me if I don’t finish.”

It was a cat-and-mouse chase around mile 17.25. If the car overtook me, I would overtake it. And vice versa. This went on a couple of times before it simply started going…and going…

And I stopped. My breath caught in my chest as tears sprung to my eyes. I couldn’t breathe. My mind kept screaming, “Go get that damn pace car! You’re stronger than this!” And there I was, moving to the sidewalk, not knowing whether I was going to pass out or not. Another runner asked if I was okay and I couldn’t even speak. She offered me her Jelly Belly beans and I nodded in appreciation as she took off again.

And then I lost it. I just started crying. My heart was racing and my tears were splattering all over the place. But I knew if I had any chance of making it out alive, I had to calm myself and get my breathing back. The tightness in my chest slowly went away and I started walking, knowing that I was undertrained, too slow, and out of my mind to have even attempted this. It was 12:50 PM at this point. Beat the Bridge is at 1:15 PM, and I was still 2.5 miles away.

I reached mile 18, and knew I wasn’t going to make it. I thought to myself, “Well, shit. This is a first. This really freaking sucks. I’m not even going to finish and I was so psyched to do this race.” Everything was hurting, especially my knees. (The 2014 MCM really screwed up my MCLs) and I had a conglomeration of too many Clif Shots and jelly beans and EnergyBits sloshing around my stomach with lemon lime Gatorade (yeah, delicious isn’t it?). The sun had started to peek through, and coupled with the humidity, it was getting warm. I felt sick, tired, and ready to put the entire day behind me. A couple of runners ahead of me flagged down the charter bus, and I raced over to it. I limped up the stairs and sat down, wracked with disappointment. Another wave of tears seeped out as I watched other runners battle it out and continue on.

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Now is when it got weird.

The straggler busses had to follow the last of the pack through the rest of the race course. This was such an inconvenience; wasn’t there some kind of shortcut that we could have taken to get to the end instead of hauling all the way through Crystal City? I would rather not look out the bus windows to see victorious finishers walking around with their medals and recovery jackets. Trust me, this made me feel even worse about myself, especially the following days when the MCM Facebook page said that they kept the course open longer to accommodate the delay brought on by the security problems.

…IF I WOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT I WOULD HAVE KEPT GOING. GAAAAAAAH.

We finally sped ahead after Marines told the runners to move to the sidewalks. The buses originally planned to drop us off at the hospitality tent…but took us down the finisher’s chute instead. We were going to back out and go back down the road. I overheard the race directors communicating that we were going to get an escort into Rosslyn for the Finisher’s Festival.

At this point, people were getting irate. Many had family that were waiting for them, some had planes to catch. It was a major mess. I mean, we were RIGHT THERE. They could have let us off the bus. But no. Not how it happened.

After 2 ½ hours on the bus, we finally ended up at the festival. I saw Lauren again, and after a big hug, we got my stuff and headed back to the Metro, leaving a sea of athletes behind. I later learned that even the latest finishers had next to nothing in the form of hospitality, which is simply disappointing and frustrating.

After-race thoughts…

This entire race experience was a lesson in the concept of failure. It’s okay to fail at things; it’s a part of life. Even when all eyes are on you when you announce that you’re going to be competing in something so rigorous as a marathon, and it turns out there were many variables against you that day that prevents you from accomplishing your goal, your biggest fans will pick you up, slap your ass, and say, “Go get ’em!” for your next endeavor.

For me, eighteen miles is better than no miles at all. It’s more than what most people can say. I may not have another medal for the coveted medal rack (“Always Earned, Never Given”), but it gives me something to shoot for later on. I may return to the Marine Corps Marathon to seek my revenge against the course at a later date; I’ll probably take next year off from this race just to see the feedback for the expo and site switch to the National Harbor, and to see if improvements have been made with regard to security and hospitality.

Last lesson: Not finishing is better than not starting at all. I could have shyed away from this race easily, but I didn’t. I could have let the runner grumpies set in like they did last year, but I didn’t. I knew that if I had more time to legitimately train, I would have destroyed the course. For now, that time will remain at 6:51:51 until such a time comes later where that can be updated.

Congratulations to those that DID finish, especially to the first-time marathoners. It’s an incredible accomplishment, and you now have bragging rights forever. Display that medal proudly; it’s a pretty one! To those of us who got swept…we’ll get ’em next time. Be proud of your efforts. Some people were too lazy to get out of bed that morning. You woke up at the ass-crack of dawn and raced.

If you have made it this far, congrats! Race recap is now done. Yay.

’til next time…

Marine Corps Marathon…This Weekend!!

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It’s almose here! The 40th Marine Corps Marathon is almost upon us. I’ll be taking off for Washington D.C. in the morning, and hitting up the expo tomorrow afternoon and the Pep Rally in the evening. Saturday will be low-key (as I learned from last year that I walked around the city way too much looking at things and killed my legs for the race the next day), and Sunday is race day!

Every time I see my medal from last year, it serves as a reminder that anything is possible. People shy away from any type of distance, thinking that it’s too difficult or they they’re too lazy to even attempt it. Running is not supposed to be easy; it’s a way to test the limits of your heart, mind, and soul as you chase the chance to fulfill a goal and cross off one more item on your bucket list. I took a gamble last year by submitting my information for the lottery, and lo and behold, I was selected. The second that your name is in the spotlight, it’s on you to make it happen. I went kicking and screaming into the second half of the race, and I was angry at the world for weeks on end (I never get a runner’s high, only runner grumpies), but I’m glad I busted my ass, got over that last hill, and took the Iwo at the end.

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I am very much looking forward to crossing that finish line–hopefully with a PR! (I’m pretty sure I can beat 6:51:51) Of course, Beating the Bridge is far more important that beating the PR (1:15 PM is that time, or your running shoes turn to pumpkins!). Seeing the monuments and the autumnal scenery will make that time go faster. Most importantly, meeting new people (hopefully some of you that are running!) and building the esprit de corps associated with this race will be the best part of all.

See you in Washington, D.C.! OORAH!

MCM: 5 Days!

   
It’s almost here! The 40th Marine Corps Marathon is on Sunday, and I’m pumped to be returning to Washington D.C. I only madr the decision to accept a transfer entry a month ago, and I haven’t trained as well or as much as I had wanted to. (Life gets in the way. Alcohol can be too yummy, as can cake. Packing my life again and moving back to Pennsylvania tomorrow had thrown a wrench in my life, as was sending Michael off to California at 3 AM this morning…)

And the list continues.

Aside from that, I know what works and what doesn’t. Reviewing last year’s MCM will certainly give me insight on how to tackle this year’s race. (ex. Beat the Bridge by 1:15 PM and you won’t get swept! The picture above is me at that mark last year at 1:10 PM. Cutting it close!)

Who’s ready to run with the Marines?! OORAH!