The Marine Corps Marathon. The marathon I was exposed to at a runDisney expo and immediately knew I had to sign up for. I had initially signed up for the 2012 race but had to defer due to my husband being gone. I didn’t have anyone to watch Isabella (who was almost 4 months at the time). I resigned and paid the deferment fee. I signed up first thing FEB 2013 and was excited to run it in a few months.
We headed up to DC the day before for packet pick up. I, unfortunately, could not leave earlier due to work but was still glad I could make it on the Saturday. Packet pick up was at the DC Armory and it was a complete zoo. The line wrapped around the building and then wove around in an s-pattern on the grassy lot. It was a doozy. It did, however, move quickly and we were in the tent in about an hour (which is magnificently quick given the number of people there). The Marines were super polite and amazing, keeping in par with their reputation. After we got my number, we went over to the expo. The line for security check was insane there as well. However, since we are both active duty, there was a line for all active duty service members that was way short and only took about 5 minutes to get through (yay for being military!).
I went and grabbed my uni-sex race shirt. It’s a nice mock turtleneck with the globe and anchor on the neck. I loved it immediately though I heard many complain about it being too warm to actually use for running in. I don’t usually use the shirts I get at races for that so that didn’t bother me at all. The wonderful sergeant gave me a size small although he told me he would have rather have given me an extra small but they ran out the day before. I told him it was no worry as I was just glad to get a shirt. It made me smile simply because he, and all the other Marines I spoke to that day and on race day, were so personable.
I headed over to the Brooks store to see what kind of race gear they had as I wanted something to commemorate the race. They ran out of absolutely everything. However, they did have some Brooks track jackets left in the small size so I lucked out on that end. There were many unhappy females there, though, because the shop was completely out of medium and large sizes. For once being fairly small paid off, lol. After I was done there we headed back to our hotel because, well, I was getting overwhelmed with the number of people there. I don’t fair well in crowds (yay social anxiety!) and I was getting stressed out by the enormous hustle and bustle there. I was so glad to get going…
We stayed at a Marriot that was a block from the Metro and grabbed dinner from Whole Foods. I got my things ready for the next day and then headed to bed with a few butterflies in my stomach.
Race day was INSANE. The Metro wasn’t horrible because we got on a stop before the place where apparently everyone was staying at. We we got to the Pentagon, there was a huge line/mass of people walking towards the pre-race staging area. It was crazy. After figuring out my way around, I headed towards the start area to get through security in enough time. My husband headed back to the hotel with the baby and later recounted to me that the crowds had gotten worse in the Metro and walk towards the pre-race area. Holy cow!
I got to my corral in enough time that I could pick where I wanted to stand. It was a self-corralled event which I found interesting due to the number of people that were going to run it. It was also a single start run, not a wave start. The corrals didn’t get overwhelmingly heavy until 15 minutes prior to the start. They had a famous choir sing the National Anthem and military parachutists came in carrying the flags for all the branches of service and the largest flag in the US: a 7900 sq ft flag. It was ridiculously large! After that the holwitzer was shot and off we were!
The first mile was as bad as you could imagine it would be at a large race. I had about a 10 minute pace the first ½ mile because I couldn’t get around the slower runners and those who were walking (yes, there were people who were in the 4:00 corral who decided to start by walking…it was a tad annoying). However, much of the first few miles were uphill and that helped weed out runners. By mile 3 I was running at a comfortable pace and didn’t feel so crowded in (though there were still a large portion of people I was running with). The first 10 miles were all rolling hills and through Georgetown. Miles 10-20 were all flat and went by the Potomac and through DC and the monuments. I did great for the first half of the marathon and then had to slow down a bit a little after that due to how flat the course was. Normally I wouldn’t complain but the flatness really did a number on my feet. To be honest, I think it was my Newtons but I’ll explain more about that later. I still felt awesome, though, and merely dropped my pace 30 seconds to the right.
From the monuments we ran on the highway (crazy!) and towards Crystal City where we ran the next 4 miles. There were a few inclines here and there which wasn’t too bad. This is also the point where my feet went “oh hell no!" I had to stop a few times to give them a break. My Newtons were really digging into my metatarsals and hurting me. If it wasn’t for that, I could have kept on running. It was ridiculous. It felt as though I was running with a giant rock under the ball of my foot. Still, pushed on and told myself I would at least get in at the 4.5 hr mark. After all, with the fracture and lapse in training as a result, I wasn’t expecting a PR, just a finish. I was so glad to see Mile 24 and head back towards the Marine Corps Monument.
The last 2.6 miles I pushed myself to kept running and not stop. I could see the finishing area in the distance and that was enough motivation to keep moving. The first 2 miles of this portion were nice in that there were only slight inclines and declines. Then came the last 0.6. This was all uphill to commemorate the uphill climb the Marines had to face in one of the battles. This wasn’t horrible as some had said it would be. Then again, I love running uphill so I guess I’m sort of a masochist in some way (without the sexual pleasure part of it, lol). I crossed the line at 4:26:55, finishing at a slow-as-dirt average pace of 10:10 (I say that because I know with the proper training I am faster than that; i.e. the Shamrock Marathon earlier this year). Still I was glad to be done and went off to find my family.
Post race was great. We collected our medals from Marines who saluted us for our finish, took a picture in front of the war monument, then collected our food boxes, water, and Gatorade. After an endless uphill of what felt like a mile, you were able to get to the family reunion area. I found Manuel and we headed back to our hotel. I just wanted to get a hot shower and eat a gigantic burger, lol. The Metro was a zoo, once again, but we made it on and headed to Foggy Bottom. After we were done at the Marriot, we headed back home.
Now I’ll go over some things I left out of the entire run recap. It was about 47 degrees when we started (yikes!). A lot of runners complained but I liked it since it kept me cool the entire run (it was about 52 when I finished). There were about 30,000 runners running the MCM which is why the crowds were ridiculous. A lot of the course was out and back loops in the cities and that was really annoying (I hate out and backs…especially when it happens over and over again). There were a lot of rude and inexperienced runners there who made it a little less pleasant to run but I tried to not let that get to me. The water/refuel stations were awesome! I tend to stereotype Marines as cold and serious people but every single one of them there were so kind and encouraging (and no, not like DI-style encouraging). It made the whole course fun. The entire course was lined with supporters. It was amazing to experience a race where there was never a "dead” spot. I also ran the race without headphones (my first marathon without personal music!) and it was amazing. It allowed me to be so in tune with my body and to enjoy the supporters. I also will be chucking my Newtons in the garbage soon because I will NEVER run in that brand again. As much as I loved the zero drop the MV2s had, the added sole component on the ball of the foot that gave you that zero completely messed up my metatarsals. After 20 miles it hurt to take a step and I could barely walk with them on post race. I will be going back to my New Balance Minimus once again and never betraying the Minimus gods again.
All in all it was a great race and great experience. I’ll run it again someday but this time I’ll make sure to take leave and get there on Wednesday and spend a week in DC to enjoy the festivities and actually have an opportunity to buy race garb in my size.