Nearly 5 months of training with
almost 500 miles ends with running
my first marathon, 26.2 miles … The Marine Corp Marathon
A few helpful details if you are just tuning in:
I followed the Hal Higdon Novice 2 training plan. We adjusted it slightly to match schedules & did run 20 miles twice instead of once. I did miss a few mid-week runs, but I always completed my long runs. I think they are the most important and you just need your legs to get used to the crazy distances.
I had a supportive husband and great friends with whom I trained. This was definitely helpful. For the mornings that I didn’t want to wake up and leave at 5:15AM, my husband was there to push me out the door and I knew my friends would be waiting.
If I can do this; you can do this.
We picked this one because it is known to be the People’s Marathon – very friendly and supportive. It is also driving distance, not too hilly, and not too flat.
I traveled with my husband, and two other couples. The girls were running, the husbands were race support. We decided to take the Amtrak – a little longer travel time wise, but we thought it would be easier since we would be taking the Metro, and we could actually stretch our legs more than in a car. With the kids safely attended to by grandparents, we all were looking forward to a little mini-vacation with a marathon thrown in. We found a townhome through VRBO in Capitol Hill – less expensive than a hotel, conveniently located, and more like the comfort of home.
We opted to skip the Expo on Friday night, but instead decided to start the carb loading with a great meal and wine at Trattoria Alberto. Just what we needed. We called it an early night and headed to the Expo on Saturday morning.
The Expo was easy to access off the Metro. They had you pick up your bib in one location then walk across the street to the actual Expo. Some people seemed a little confused by it, but it was fairly easy. It was crowded. We stood in a long line to purchase some official MCM gear at the Brooks area, but were underwhelmed by their selection. ET and I both found black hats that we really liked, and our friend Ria got a men’s shirt in a size small & a white hat. We hit up a few of our favorite vendors – Running Skirts & Sweaty Bands, but that was about it. With the threat of hurricanes and storms, they were selling a ton of “rain proof” jackets … we thought about setting up with a box of trash bags because the jackets were essentially no better, but we opted to head back to our townhouse to get off our feet. ET’s husband did manage the deal of the century – the Wall Street Journal for 95 cents a week and a HUGE umbrella that went along with it. The umbrella became the joke of the weekend.
On the way back, we purchased our Metro cards for the next morning so we didn’t have to wait in another line. The boys watched football and the girls all enjoyed some downtime on our collective ipads, tablets, and smart phones. We forced ourselves out for a 2-mile shake out run around Capitol Hill and came back to the guys preparing dinner. Chicken, pasta, veggies, and bread. What more could a marathoner ask for?
We went to bed with weather forecasts still questionable, but we were hopeful that the skies would be clear.
My alarm(s) went off at 4:15 and 4:20 with our departure time set for 5:45. I got up at 4:20, knowing that the coffee should be done. ET and I like to have a little coffee time before anything else in the morning. Luckily, C had already gone downstairs to make sure it was brewing. Good guy.
We woke up with coffee, dressed, ate, visited the potty, took photos, put on our 26.2 tats, hoped we had all the necessities, wrapped up in our Snuggies and bathrobes and set off for a 10 minute walk to the metro. It was actually warmer than we expected and the forecast was considerably better than the previous night.
First metro ride was easy and uncrowded. The 2nd was more of what I expected. Standing room only, noisy, but fun in only a way that a train full of nervous runners could provide. We got to the Pentagon Station easily and somehow easily hooked up with our other running buddy, HB. Let’s just say that with 20-30,000+ people milling around, even while talking on the phone to each other isn’t an easy task.
We waited in the porta potty line, then checked our bags at the UPS trucks. Neither wait was that long – people were chatty and very complimentary of our attire. 🙂
Knowing that we would not be crossing the finish line at 7:55 when the Howitzer sounded, we casually walked to the starting line, found our estimated time corral and starting walking to the start. I was definitely nervous, excited, and anxious to find out what this experience would all really feel like.
Around 8:20 AM, the four of us crossed the start line prepared to tackle 26.2 miles.
The first two miles were slow. Lots of people, plus we were starting on a hill. Nothing major, but enough to slow you down. We went through a tunnel early on and my Garmin stopped for a bit, but nothing drastic. Miles 3-6 were really pretty. We were in Rosslyn – parts reminded us of the Blue Ridge Parkway – windy roads, lots of beautiful trees. Then it turned somewhat residential with a few neighbors out cheering. Around Mile 7, Ria and I got separated from ET and HB. We kept expecting to find them again, but sadly we didn’t find each other until after the finish. We made it to Georgetown and there were lots of people cheering and it was definitely a lot louder than Rosslyn. Fraternity boys, groups dressed like cows – lots of spirit, cheering, Halloween candy offerings, etc.
At mile 10 we were heading toward the Potomac River area and this was the first place we saw the boys. It was great to see them – they had our bananas. We were equally excited about both! We stopped quickly, grabbed the banana, gave a kiss, and we were off. The Potomac River area was pretty long. Mile 10-15 were at this stretch. It was windy and got a little cold. There weren’t as many crowds in this area, but someone had placed TONS of signs with funny sayings, celebrity race times and that definitely helped lighten the mood. Also there were many Remember the Blue signs with photos of fallen soldiers – so many were so young, pictured with children, and at the end of the signs were volunteers all standing with American flags. Definitely a touching part of the race and I was thankful for the distractions of funny and humbling signs here.
I was glad to be back to a different part of the course and sped up quite a bit … to the point, I had to shout at Maria that we were way too fast and we backed off. Oh well, at least I had a little surge of energy. We knew we were going to see the guys around mile 17 and I think she and I were anxious to spot them again.
At Mile 17.5 is the Gauntlet area where you have to maintain a 14-minute mile in order to continue. We knew we were OK and just kept watching for the guys. We saw them shortly after this, gave another kiss, grabbed another banana. C said “I am so proud of you!” and we were off.
At this point, my mind was a little fuzzy, not feeling bad – just trying to think about how much time was left, how many more miles to go. I’m bad enough with math period, but trying to do it around Mile 18 just wasn’t happening.
This was a neat area of the course – running past the Smithsonian, Capitol Building, etc., but I found myself running out of steam. I ate my banana, asked Ria for some stories. At one point she had said, “I know we aren’t talking, but it’s just nice to have someone to run with.” and I totally agreed. There were people calling our names and cheering and I was thankful to have my name on the front of my shirt.
We made it to Mile 20 and “beat the bridge” – another area of the course that you have to pass by a certain time. After this, things got a little strange. Just felt slow and sluggish, but kept on going. Gatorade tasted too sweet, but I knew I probably needed it. We ran into another friend AK on the course which was fun. I think seeing her picked up our spirits as it did hers. I will say, Ria never seemed uncomfortable, tired, or otherwise. She just kept going, waving, taking photos as I felt like I was giving half-assed waves and smiles at people. I popped in one earbud to have a little music for a bit and then we were at Mile 23.
We saw the guys one last time. No stopping – just waves and a sense of digging in to get this thing done.
I hadn’t stopped at any porta potties along the way, but was now feeling the urge to go. At mile 24, we came up to an area with port a potties with virtually no lines. I told Ria that I had to stop. I was afraid that there wouldn’t be any more, or waiting in a long line at the finish would cause serious problems. She went ahead knowing how close we were to 5:00.
I was worried that stopping at that point would totally throw me off, but I felt so much better. I popped in my earbuds, gave myself a mental pep talk and set off for the last 2.2 miles. Even though I felt like I was speeding up, I was still pretty slow, but I knew I could finish. I had stopped my Garmin and since I had so many issues at the start, I really wasn’t sure of my time and at that point, really didn’t care.
I kept going and passing people. So many people were walking. Or hobbling. I felt good about my training that I was doing neither. With about a mile left, I took out the ear buds as there were lots of people around and I wanted to just be in the moment. I saw the huge sign for Mile 26 and broke out into the biggest smile. I wanted to cry and laugh at the same time.
The finish of the race is up a steep hill by Iwojima and it was steep. I typically can rock a hill and I was determined to do so, but there were just too many people. I just kept going as fast as I could. It flattened out and I passed one of the finish lines, but kept going until I knew it was the final “finish” line.
AMAZING. I did it – I am a marathoner! My Garmin said 4:59, but my real time was 5:04:42.
Shortly after crossing the finish, I saw Ria and AK. So happy to see them and we met up with ET and the guys soon after that.
Things moved a little slowly. Lots of people not knowing where to go, what to do. I just wanted to keep walking so I could take off my shoes. We grabbed water and gatorade. Volunteers passed out small bags which was so helpful. I think we next got our box of food (pretzels,hummus,dark chocolate, fruit, and trail mix) all in a box. So much easier than grabbing 10 different items. I think they also had bananas. Instead of the mylar blankets, we received white hooded jackets to keep us warm. Wish these would have been at the beginning of the line, but it was OK.
We got back to the guys and ET and made our way to the UPS trucks after taking a few pics. Sweet relief was taking off my shoes and putting on flip flops. I don’t think I had ever been happier to see the Snuggie in my bag. It had cooled off and the wind had picked up considerably.
The guys were hungry (no they hadn’t run a marathon, but they are ALWAYS hungry), so we grabbed some ribs, BBQ, bratwurst from a vendor and sat for a bit. After eyeing the line for the metro that was looked a mile long, we opted to walk 8 more blocks to the next. I think we were definitely smart in that decision.
Finally made it home and celebrated with bubbly, snacks, ice baths, hot showers, and mini-naps. We were meeting friends out to celebrate, so the naps were cut short, but it was a good time and worth it.
Would I run another one? Yes. I would probably choose a smaller marathon and possibly one for a cause. It takes A LOT of time to train, even when you are trying your best to schedule runs early/late and on weekends, it definitely pulls you away from family, friends, and other obligations.
Am I sore? Yes. Monday was pretty awful, plus we had a 5 hour drive back in the rain. Oh yeah, Sandy shut down the Amtrak, so we rented a van to get us home. Tuesday, I was still sore. I usually take 3 flights of steps up & down to my office. I could handle the up, but couldn’t go down. Wednesday, I woke up feeling so much better and I think walking around the neighborhood for Halloween helped. Thursday, I still feel a little soreness in my quads when I sit, but it’s much more manageable. I wish we would have had the opportunity to walk/jog on Monday, but there was no time. I’ve stretched every night since the race and look forward to a little jog/yoga/spin or something this weekend. Otherwise, I’ve been taking it easy.