“If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl. Do what you have to do. Just keep moving forward and never, ever give up.”
That quotation pretty much sums up my Marine Corp Marathon experience. This is going to be LONG. And I mean LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG. Brace yourselves.
I feel it’s important to give some background, especially since I’ve been so quiet on here lately.
When I registered for this race months ago, I had glorious intentions. I would train hard and as a result PR big! I mean, I wasn’t running a half marathon the day before, or stopping to take photos (or drink beer) like I did with Goofy. This race was meant to feel extra hard. It was meant to feel like a marathon.
I sprained my ankle and then sprained my calf (or vice versa) back at the end of March. So, although I was still staying fit and active with CrossFit, I was not running (except for any races I had signed up for). Then, in the first week of August, I hurt my back. I have a herniated or irritated disc. Fun times. I haven’t been to CrossFit since. My body was protesting against participating in all physical activities I enjoyed. By the end of the month, I learned that if I taped my ankle and calf, I could run with relatively pain free. My back didn’t actually bother me while I ran. And a rather successful weekend in Disneyland left me optimistic that I could still somehow pull off the Marine Corp Marathon.
But the long runs came and each and every one of them an utter failure. My 18 miler I had to cut the running short as my back starting cause nerve pain down my leg. Thanks to a mysterious quad pain that appeared after the Bronx 10 miler, neither attempt at 20 miles was 20 miles.
To say I was undertrained for this race was an understatement. Forget a big PR. Forget any PR. I had already prepared myself for the mindset that I was not going to finish this race. I was going to start it. I was going to do my best for as long as I could. And if I got swept, than so be it. Finding out 2 days before the race that my parents were not planning to stay in DC until I finished (or even spectate any part of the race) was devastating and had convinced myself that I didn’t deserve to have any one there for me, to cheer for me. I didn’t deserve to finish the race. I didn’t put in the miles that I should have, that everyone else did. But I couldn’t. I wanted to. I tried. But my body fought me and so I didn’t. Other people worked hard. They deserved to cross that finish line. I did not.
My excitement for this race didn’t really exist. I was super psyched to get to see Nicole and watch Hocus Pocus, but the race itself, I couldn’t really muster up excitement for it. I wasn’t panicking like I was before Goofy. I guess I had already resigned myself to my fate. I wasn’t going to finish because I didn’t deserve to finish. No point in freaking out over something I know was going to happen, right?
And then I had an idea! Well, I also had an epiphany first! I DID deserve this. No, my training for this particular event didn’t go like it was suppose to, but for the entire year, I pushed myself through CrossFit and races, I worked hard, no matter how slow or how weak I was, I did as much as my body would allow and then some! No, I didn’t train 18 weeks for this, I TRAINED ALL YEAR! I’ve seen my body do things I never thought it capable of and dammit it was going to do this! As a little extra incentive, I decided to dedicate each mile of the race to a person (or persons) who are important in my life. Doing it for that person was what was going to carry me through the tough times. I wasn’t going to ask myself what mile I’m on, I was going to ask myself WHO’S mile am I on!
Trying to be optimistic is not my strong suit. In fact, saying anything positive about myself is near impossible to me. But dammit, I was going to try! I was going to try and tell myself that I deserve to finish, that I would finish.
Now, it’s finally time for the race recap to start.
Race day morning. I was dressed in my Run DC sparkly soul headband, my rainbow sparkle skirt, my “Accio Wine” shirt and my homemade sign for the back of my shirt!
It started to rain while waiting in our corrals (OK technically, there are no corrals). Temporary traumatic flash backs to Wine and Dine last year. But it was warmer. Honestly a little too warm for me. And humid. You cannot control the weather.
Before I knew it, and kinda without any fanfare (I’m a Disney girl and used to a BIG “it’s starting” notification) the race began and Nicole and I slowly made our way to the start line and before I knew it, we were off!
Miles 1-3, it was just one giant hill, at least that’s how it seemed. Forget the HILLS OF DOOM I complain about in Central Park. This was worse. MUCH worse. On top of that, I did cardinal sin #1 of a marathon, I started too fast. I knew I was going too fast. Especially for that hill. But I didn’t slow myself down. At least not until mile 2. Around mile 2 I could feel how red my face was. I was overheated. I felt lightheaded. I felt like I was going to throw up.
The crowd support was great. But I was already beyond physically miserable and we had barely hit the first 5K. It was shortly after this I sent Nicole on ahead. We were on Keystone Bridge, just after mile 4. I was a mess and she had worked too hard for me to risk her finishing. She didn’t want to leave me unless I was feeling ok, so I might have fudged exactly how I was doing.
There were puddles on the ground left over from the rain (which had fortunately stopped). Of course I had to run through them and so, hello blisters!
I apologize for not being able to describe more specifically where I was or what I ran by, but I was honestly in such a “zone” that I had no idea. I read other people’s recaps and they mention the Kennedy Center and the Mall and I’m thinking “wait, we ran by that?”
My inability to take in my surroundings only added to this race not being great for me.
Around mile 6 we entered this park type area, which was nice and pretty but it was out and back for a total of almost 3 miles. And this is where one of my issues with the race was. There was a water stop between miles 6 and 7 (btwn 8 and 9 on the way back), but it was only on one side of the road! As a slower runner, I was trying to stay to the right, but the water stop was on the left. Normally I would say no big deal, but the water stops in the race were over 2 miles apart and I could not skip any of them. So, I had to somehow cut across to get to it. It would still be on the left on the way back, so I just stayed there. I apologize faster runners, but this was better than me trying to cut across everyone again.
Around mile 9 they were supposed to have orange slices. There were barely any left by the time I got there. I had just been passed by the 5:00 pacer and so there were still plenty of people behind me. I knew that there wouldn’t be enough for everyone. This is also where I saw the buses. They were on the other side. I was about 3 miles ahead of them. Based on my pace and the pacers I’ve seen so far, that didn’t seem right, but at least they were next to me and not behind me.
It’s like he made this sign for me!
I kept on trucking. I still wasn’t feeling right, I was dehydrated, the lemon lime Gatorade was not mixing well with my honey stingers and my less than half eaten bagel (yes, I ate less that half my bagel for breakfast. I tried to eat it all, but I was making myself ill trying to force it. Sorry for the TMI). Around mile 10 shit hit the fan. I mean, we were leaving the park area which was great! And we were running along the water! But my stomach was sick.
Not THE bridge
After that, I was so scared of pushing myself too fast, too hard, I started to switch up my run/walk intervals. I decreased the run time and increased the walk time. I was still moving as fast as I could, just as fast as I could without feeling like throwing up.
Other than that, the only (and I mean ONLY) other time I stopped moving the entire race was to take this selfie. I’m sorry, it was just too good to not stop for. But it was for all of 3 seconds.
Using all my strength to fake a smile
Mile 12 is known as the Wear Blue Mile. This mile is lined with pictures of marines whose lives were lost in service to our country. Each sign had a picture of the marine, wear he/she died and how old they were. The list on my arm with all the mile dedications, I left this one alone. I left this one dedicated to the marines. When I approached the mile, I turned off my music and tried to read every single name. At the end of all the photos are members of the Wear Blue group all holding flags with names on them. Each person was so supportive, high fiving us, giving words of encouragement, thanking us for running. This mile was every bit as emotional as you think it is and more.
This mile takes you to just before the halfway point of the race. I had a little extra from the amazing people I just ran by. But it was short lived. I was so thirsty. My pace had slowed significantly. My half time was still on PR pace, so I tried to maintain that.
By mile 17, I slowed even more. Miles 15-17 is another little out and back section (there’s multiple out and backs) and I was just feeling defeated. I had built a cushion of time to beat the bridge, but I was quickly cutting into that cushion. Instead of counting down to mile 26.2, I was counting down to mile 21. If I could just beat that bridge, I would finish!
I would look down at my arm to see who’s mile I’m on and try and keep moving for them. I was getting a lot of “I love your sign” as people passed me (this happened all throughout the race actually, I’m glad my sign was a hit!). I ever got an international long distance call from Canada (because Lisa is awesome) because I was falling about and needed the support.
Sweat and rain did some damage to my list of names…
One of the biggest disappointments was the Capitol Building. I see these amazing pictures of people running in front of it and it’s this great shot! Apparently, it’s currently under construction. Boo. That’s not the race’s fault but still.
Mile 18 is where I had my meltdown during Goofy. But I wasn’t melting down. I didn’t have the energy to. I didn’t have the time to. I had 3 miles to go to beat the bridge and I had to keep moving to do it. I got my 30K time update and it was even slower than the half marathon pace. BUT, it was still faster than Goofy (barely). A PR was not impossible. My run/walks had slowed even more, but I was still moving forward.
Then there it was! The bridge! Or rather the first part of the bridge (apparently in order to beat the bridge, you actually have to be over it entirely by the allotted time, not just reach it by then.) There’s a first part too it and a second part too it. I saw the mile 20 marker. I knew I was going to do it! Then the instant I reached the marker, when my foot hit the pavement on that run, I felt it, one of my blister’s that I had been nursing for about 16 miles, it popped. OMG. I have never had a blister pop before and it is WAY more painful that I could’ve imagined. I’m pretty sure I yelled “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” (in slow motion like in the movies) when it happened. I was still on the bridge. I wasn’t over it yet. PLEASE NOT NOW! I couldn’t run again after that. I was limping. But, like Dean says, when you can’t run, you walk. And dammit I was! I was walking as fast and as hard as I could to make it across that f*ing bridge!
When I THOUGHT I had made it over the bridge…smile through the pain for the camera!
There is was! The other side! Mile 21! I was done! I was over it! But this didn’t meant that I would finish. There’s still only a certain amount of allotted time to finish the race and walking now, although power walking, was significantly cutting into that time. After the bridge it’s a stretch of highway. No crowd support. And now, no music. My headphones conked out and so I was walking as fast as I could in silence. I kept staring down at my Garmin to check my pace, to see if it was still possible to finish. I kept trying to channel my inner Kim (seriously, she power walks faster than my PR pace!) My feet were hurting so badly, a weird pain in my hip joint had been forming and I just wanted to stop moving for a second. But I knew if I did, I wouldn’t start again. So I just kept going.
At the ACTUAL end of the bridge! …getting a little harder to smile.
Miles 22-23 you’re in Crystal City, ANOTHER out and back area. But there was tons and I mean TONS of crowd support! Including someone actually there to cheer for me! My friend was running in her first marathon, and she had already long finished, but her husband, her father and her kids stuck around the extra 2 hours (no, I’m not exaggerating) to wait for me to get there. That meant so much, especially when even my own family didn’t do that.
Yay for familiar faces!
Mile 24-25 was the best and worst mile of the entire race. There’s no scenery here. No real crowd support. It’s kinda like back roads. The second I hit the mile 24 marker, a blister on my other foot popped. It almost stopped me in my tracks (but didn’t). But the pain on my face, the change in how my body was moving, hobbling on both legs, this was not going well. I just kept hoping that they don’t sweep people at this point. Then another runner, she came up behind me, placed her hand on my back and said “You’re strong than a Marine. Come on, you got this. Just keep moving.” It’s moments like that that make the running community great. That moment got me. Shortly after that is where I got PUMPKIN MUNCHKINS! Let me tell you, I had been running on empty and was looking forward to that munchkin so badly. But, when I finally got it, my stomach remembered the events of mile 10 and I decided it was better to not eat the 2nd one. Also, another cool things, not one, but 2 Marines (and we’re talking young guys here) liked my shirt! And not the back part, the “Accio Wine” part! They were Harry Potheads! Sorry, I just got excited that these bad ass marines are Harry Potter fans, anyway…
I kinda wish I had the other one to eat now…
Mile 25-26 was when it was starting to sink in, I was going to finish. I didn’t slow down. If anything, I actually started to walk faster…
How could you not pick up the pace at mile 25 with eye candy like that to motivate you?!?!
Then, there is was, the mile 26 marker. Then, I could see the finish line. I could also see the hill right before the finish line. I was going to try and run up the hill through the finish, but I could barely hobble up that thing. It was a quick hobble! But still a hobble.
At the top of the hill, I could see it, I was there. I tried with everything I had to run that last little stretched! I was holding back the tears…and then, the floodgates opened! I FINISHED! HOW THE HELL DID THAT HAPPEN?!?! WHO CARES?!?! I FINISHED!!!
This picture sums up my finish, so happy to be done, and trying so hard not to cry… *photo by marathonfoto
I met up with Nicole who had been patiently waiting for me, and we were off.
Because this is already the length of a novel, I will share some of my thoughts about this race in another post (including my disappointment post race).
Overall, I know I was a snail. I know I was slow. I know I walked WAY more than some people think is OK to in a race. But I don’t care. I’m actually kinda proud of myself. I did a marathon. So suck it haters! :)