2017 Year in Review — Running

This year was…quite something. I think out of this year, more than any other, each race has its own specific story to tell. These range from the dramatically emotional (RnR DC) to elation (Clyde’s 10K), from observing the goodness of the running community (WDW Half) and sheer perseverance (MCM). Let’s dive into the review…


January: Goofy Challenge

WDW Half
Nothing like starting out the racing year with a cancelled race! Due to storms, the WDW Half was cancelled and we were issued refunds in a variety of forms for our registration. (Anyone else still using their gift cards?! I am!) However, it didn’t stop many of us from trekking around the hotels and parks to get that mileage in! Cast Members and other runners set up makeshift water and candy stops along loops where runners were getting their laps in. Cheers from guests and runners alike pierced the air through the parts as we donned our bright yellow race shirts and ran circles around World Showcase. Social media support was intense, and we couldn’t stop clamoring over how one event brought out the best in the running community, and how we were all a part of this history.

WDW Marathon
-So Mr. Cold Front came through, and I was fortunate to have brought cold weather clothes to Florida. It was 35 degrees with 15 mph winds. Official Florida winter. Never had I felt this cold during a race. Even with the sun, I was still freezing.

My race was awesome, though…for the first five miles. I was pacing to hit a 5:24 marathon (which would have been a 1.5 hour PR). But once I hit that stupid Cone Alley at Mile 6.8, that went out the window. I turned it into a fun run, rode on Everest, and grabbed a margarita to finish my third marathon in 7:30.

Then I went back to my hotel, wrapped myself in my space blanket, and thawed out.

February:Glass Slipper Challenge

Enchanted 10K
-The entire weekend I was plagued with side stitches. I could barely run any of the 19.3 miles for these two races. But I did PR in photography, running into social media friends, and watching a kick ass sunrise over Yacht Club and Boardwalk.

Highlight of the race: I MET MY RUNNING TWIN, LINDSAY!!!!

However, if you looked around, you could tell that runDisney was pulling back on a lot of our favorite things. For one, the Fairy Godmother didn’t wave us away, nor were there characters at the beginning. That’s been a pre-launch tradition for as long as I can remember.

My fastest mile of the weekend was Mile 1 with a 10:47. Fabulous.

The 10K medal is definitely my favorite of the four 10Ks I’ve run thus far.

Princess Half Marathon

-This was my fifth Princess Half, so I knew exactly what to expect course-wise. The course map has remained unchanged from when I ran my first in 2013. Due to traffic, the race was actually delayed by a couple of minutes as they waited for all of the elites to arrive. Once we started moving, I made the decision to not chase a sub-3 PR, and just to focus on photography, just like the previous day. I finished in 3:34, definitely not my best performance. But I did get my GSC legacy shot (which prompted a lot of, “Shut the front door!” from those watching me layer on 12 medals), and met social media buddies Ian and Keith!

March

Rock ‘n’ Roll DC Marathon That Wasn’t

-Easily the most frustrating race I have ever taken part in. So frustrating that I have declared a boycott of all RnR DC races and RnR marathons. Lack of course split signage and course officials directing runners to said split caused Chris and I to finish just the half, not the marathon which we paid for. Having NO idea what was going on, I cried just before the finish line, looking around like a lost puppy dog. I blew a sub-3 chance with my little tantrum, but I couldn’t help it. Any race that goes against what is written in the race instructions online gets no respect from me. I have now coined the term logistical ignorance to describe the experience.

It was also the coldest! I thought WDW was bad. That didn’t hold a candle to DC.

Some good stuff happened though: I met Meb, and Chris and I got new half marathon Prs with 3:02 on a very hilly course (and I got to ring my first PR bell!). Also, there could always be Hamilton tickets at the finish…you have to cross the line to check!

April

Cherry Blossom 10 Miler

This race definitely falls under the Prettiest Race of 2017 for me. DC got nailed with a cold snap that killed off a lot of the cherry blossoms in March, and the little guys were struggling to bloom as the Cherry Blossom Festival was getting underway. Somehow, a warm front came through, and we had blossoms for race day!

This was my first 10 Miler, acquired through the lottery, so it was an automatic PR. While this international field is intense (anything run in the DMV will have an intense field, because competition), there is still plenty of opportunity to enjoy the scenery. Trending with WDW and RnR, this race was also cold as hell. It’s just been the year of cold! I swapped out my original outfit for thermal tights and sleeves.

This was also the first race where I wasn’t hell bent on taking pictures. Starting in the last corral, I had roughly an eight minute buffer between the pace vehicle and myself, so I was more focused on keeping that barrier. (CUCB requires proof of time upon lottery entry for corral seeding purposes just like runDisney.) It took me five miles to finally pull my phone out and snap a course picture. The course reflected all of my other DC races, so I knew what was along the route. CUCB does have a time limit of 2:20:00, Finish past this and you will not be listed as an official finisher. I finished in 2:10, just barely making it!

Clyde’s 10K

And another PR! Getting closer to that sub hour 10K!

Having worked for the Clyde’s Restaurant Group at the time of racing, I was granted a comp entry for the company 10K. Taking place in scenic Columbia, MD, it was a 10K of extremely hilly proportions (and the crazy Route 108). Afterwards, a delicious brunch catered by Clyde’s of Columbia was consumed. I was disappointed that there was no medal for this race (making it three 10Ks so far that remain medal-less), but I am very happy with my 4 ½ minute improvement from the Hot Cider Hustle 10K from the previous year.

And then we go into hiatus…until…

October

Marine Corps Marathon

Ahhh, my revenge marathon on the same course that gave me my first DNF in 2015. I was also running with Chris and Lauren, who were out to crush their first marathons. It was hot, it was brutal, I got diverted at Mile 17 because I arrived thirteen minutes too late to Charge the District. I still found my way to the finish line and got a medal…and a lot of Shake Shack the next day.

I told myself no more marathons after this. Then I put my name in for Berlin…

…and now I’m eating my words. I’ll be writing a more in depth post on this whole topic coming soon. 🙂

December

UO Fun Run 5K

Company race through Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios. Slowest 5K so far, but a PR in character stops with 11!

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So this year by the numbers:

-9 races
-117.2 miles traversed
-10 Medals
-4 locations (FL, DC, MD, VA)
-3 Personal Records (MCM should’ve been #4 with a PR by 9 minutes, but only after hypothetical times were calculated by the timing company)
-2 Marathons
-2 Disney challenges
-1 New Distance (10 Miler)

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…

Two Weeks Later…

It has been approximately 14 days since I clocked out for the last time.

14 days since ringing telephones and cacophonous nonsense filled my eardrums as the soundtrack of my days.

14 days since I last had to fight the rolling dumpster fire that is the D.C. Metro to make it to the city.

14 days since this journey to self-discovery and happiness began.

 

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source: lessonsfromcountry.tumblr.com

 

Personally, I’m doing okay. Not completely depressed, not completely overjoyed, just okay. Neutral for the time being. Trust me, it’s hard as hell to be overly excited about self-discovery journeys when you have no income coming in, your money stash is slowly dwindling, you haven’t heard back from the places you’ve applied to; you’re sure your application got lost in resume purgatory, and you want to move so badly yet are paralyzed with fear that you won’t get a job in your field and will have to settle, yet again, for a “survival job” that pays pennies when you have $163,000 of student loan debt whose looming presence suffocates you during the day and keeps you up at night .

That’s my professional life in a nutshell at the moment. So much fun.

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However, I do have my birthday weekend coming up (which I have saved for and am getting many things comped for, thanks to Florida buddies!). The only thing I’ve had to pay for so far was my flight, which was incredibly reasonable (thanks, Jet Blue!). Now, I’ve only bought my flight down. Have yet to buy my flight back. Who knows…maybe the stars will align and something good will happen when I’m down there.


There are some happy things that are happening, such as…

I started Chicago/Marine Corps Marathon training yesterday. That’ll keep me occupied, and back into a fitness regime! Having a desk job caused me to gain between 10-13 lbs in the past year; when I was seating on the restaurant floor as a hostess, I clocked in around 10 miles per shift, and that went out the door two months later. I don’t fit into the cute summer clothes that I have, so all the more motivation to get back in the weight room!

 

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3 mile run to start!

 

I’ve also been asked what time I’m aiming for, and since Chicago is my focus race (as I am pacing three of my friends for their first full during MCM and just want to finish and gain redemption from 2015), I’m shooting for a sub 4:30. My previous three marathons (MCM 2014, WDW 2016, and WDW 2017) were all between 6:50-7:30. I was on track for a 5:24 during WDW this year, and I ended up wussing out after mile 6 when I hit cone alley. A 4:30 would be fabulous. Anything faster, well, even better!

I’ve also started a Disney Countdown on my social media accounts. I love doing this starting from ten days out, but I’m so excited that I started it from 15 days out! I pair one of my own pictures with a Disney quote and add the countdown to it. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and/or Instagram for the latest!

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14 days: “You’re never too old to be young.” -Snow White
13 days
13 days: “To all who come to this happy place: welcome!” -Walt Disney

The sun and sand are still vivid in my mind, the echo of crashing waves and scent of salt air enticing me. I know it won’t happen tomorrow, but I know where I need to go…

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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!

 

Finish What You’ve Started, Part II

Did you read part one yet? If not, go here: http://wp.me/p3N8MQ-kI

All caught up? Yay! Let’s go…


 

Tuesday was the day. The day I was going to finish the rest of the MCM course. The route I was taking was going to consist of starting at Army Navy Drive (just after the bridge segments on the original course), going through Crystal City, and heading towards the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery. Sounds simple in context, right?

Not so simple when there’s no course already marked off for you and people telling you where to go.

I took the Metro in to Crystal City and found myself walking around in circles trying to find my starting spot. I pulled up the Google Maps app and started navigating around the city, eventually finding S. Eads Drive and heading towards my destination.

Did I mention Crystal City is kind of creepy, even in broad daylight?

Eventually, I found it. Time to go!

I took off into the city, and after a couple of wrong turns, finally found myself on Crystal Drive. The crowds down here were much more sparse and this gave me more room to move. I ran down to 23rd street and looped back around, heading towards Long Bridge Park. (The directions call for Long Bridge Drive to 10th St. South, etc., and not running through the park per se …but I’m not passing up scenic adventures!)

The walkway for the park (middle picture) was long and near desolate. It ran parallel to a set of train tracks and the Potomac River. There are soccer fields for athletes to practice on, and Crystal City loomed in the background. On this stretch, I took advantage of the openness and sprinted to the pulse of the music, heading down some steps and around one of the lower fields toward Boundary Channel Drive.

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Found this on the route. It was a sign.

 

Exiting the park, I got to run in the grass when the sidewalk disappeared. Traffic wasn’t too bad, and I reached a median and a very familiar bridge to run under that I recognized in 2014. I exited and saw the Pentagon on my left.

My Google Maps were pointing me in the direction of the Pentagon Access Road. I kept running myself in circles and across the road at least five times trying to find it. At one point, I went about a quarter mile down Boundary Channel Drive, then turned around and went back the way I came. Eventually, I put two and two together and followed the road around the Pentagon. (Once again, deviating from the actual instructions on the MCM website.) At this point I had typed in “current location to ANC” and was following those instructions. I had about two miles to go (apparently…it never really ends up being two miles). I slowed up walking around the Pentagon and walked towards its Memorial…

…and saw bathrooms. YAY!

(Anyone else get super excited about bathrooms on their running courses?)

I stepped back out and continued on, consulting my maps again. I was So. Close. at this point. All I had to do was find Patton Drive and I’d be good to go!

Yeah, not so easy.

I saw ANC on my right, and started trekking up the hill that ran parallel to it, not knowing I was about to run into the Marine Corps HQ at Henderson Hall.

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I tried running through their gated opening, aaaaaand got stopped. Naturally.

I finished the run to the top of the hill and went all the way back down. There was another opening at the bottom of the hill. Maybe I’ll go through that one.

I dashed over to their security guard and asked if pedestrians were allowed to go through that entrance. He replied, “Oh yeah, sure! Just no running through the cemetery.”

“Oh yes, absolutely. Respect for the dead and all that.” I responded.

…so I was in. YAY!

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This was my first time ever being IN the cemetery, and I took it in as an experience. The simple white headstones were aligned precisely with their predecessors in long rows that dotted the green landscape. There was a sense of quiet and revere that accompanied the atmosphere, especially along Eisenhower Drive where there weren’t many people (around Sections 70, 69, 68, etc.).

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At one point, I saw Marines and their horse-drawn caisson pulling a coffin draped in black. Out of respect, I didn’t take pictures of this, but merely stood silently as they passed. Soon after, I heard the rifle volleys in the distance. Chills.

I followed Eisenhower Drive all the way through….and ended up right where I stopped the night before. I knew where I was. The Iwo was just ahead. I couldn’t believe I was almost there. I took one hell of a route, but damn it, I was actually going to finish this!

I kept trekking, almost falling on my face down the steps on Custis Walk. I couldn’t help but notice the amount of wildlife that was fluttering around, specifically the robins. I’m pretty sure winter has evaded most of us this year.

I kept straight through this portion of the ANC…and saw it. The familiar right-hand turn that MCM finishers take to get across the finish line…

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I walked towards it, took the picture, and realized, “Oh nuts. There’s still traffic on this road….ooooh sidewalk!” I backtracked a bit and used the walkways to end up FINALLY at the Iwo Jima.

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It took me two months, a lot of antagonizing, thinking, and overanalyzing my performance…but I finally finished what I started. I took a few wrong turns along the way that led to a much more scenic route, and I think it helped to enhance this experience (which turned out to be ten miles. Woohoo!). There’s no shiny medal commemorating what I have done, only these here blog posts. I feel like I’ve quenched the feelings of unfinished closure, and can say:

Mission Accomplished.


 

After-run thoughts…

Welp, it’s done. About time!

I’m glad I took the time during this vacation and ran the last part of the race. I managed to make an 8.2 mile route into a 16.2 mile route. I’m okay with this.

For the week that I was down in D.C., I managed to put 47.2 miles on my legs (with two rest days). Apparently, that’s relatively high mileage for a marathoner during training. I leave for Disney next week, and I’m somewhat comfortable with tapering a little before race day.

This experience was a great lesson in perseverance. I could have easily said, “I’m going to wallow over the fact I got swept and let it fester in my mind for the next billion years.” But I got out there and did something about it. It also goes to show that “not all those who wander are lost”…there were quite a few detours, but they all pointed to the right area in the end. Take the more scenic route; you might not get a chance to do it again. Grit and tenacity go a long way, too. Both days, the weather was far chillier than expected. There were hills, people, cars, more people, uneven terrain, smells of food stuffs…but I kept going and logged those miles. Mentally, I asked myself why the hell I was even doing this. Then I reminded myself, “’cause you’re gonna finish what you started, that’s what.”

And I did.