“Running strips life back to the bare essentials. When we challenge ourselves, it breaks down barriers. It brings us back to our essence and peels away the layers of ego we surround ourselves with. Many a grown man or woman will cry during or when finishing a marathon: long regarded as the ultimate achievement in the running world. Emotions flow freely, the struggle is obvious and most of the competition is with yourself.” -Grahak Cunningham
I survived my second marathon. The experience was as incredible as the first.
I’ll be honest though. I was a bundle of nerves the days leading up to the race. More nervous than I was last year. You would think that having already done the Marine Corps Marathon once and knowing what to expect from the course, I would be less nervous. But nope.
I actually think knowing what to expect is what made me nervous. I was anticipating bathroom breaks, long lines at the porta potties, leg pains during the run, and possibly hitting the proverbial wall.
Also, my expectations were higher this time around. Last year, my only goal was to complete the race. I just wanted to cross the finish line without injury.
This year, I wanted a better time — not only a better time, I wanted to beat Oprah’s time (4:29). I was also hoping to avoid going to the bathroom. I did not achieve either goal.
But that’s ok. The race went well, and overall I am happy with how things turned out.
Expo and days before the race
Week 18 of training — my final week of training — consisted of little running and a lot of foam rolling. I ran once that week — a quick 2-miler in the neighborhood after work. I didn’t do any cross-training, but I did do a lot of stretching.
On the Friday before the race, Jen and I met the Health and Fitness Expo, which was held at the Convention Center this year. There were multiple events going on, and finding the correct entrance (so as not to walk into the wrong event), was a bit of a pain.
The expo was like every other expo (for a big race). I picked up my bib, shirt, and couple of essentials, including a cute MCM tank and long-sleeve technical shirt.
We ran into my sister’s friend, Sydney, who was volunteering at the expo and planned to do the MCM 10k on Sunday. Some of you may already know this, but for those that don’t, MCM volunteers get awesome perks, like Brooks running shoes (?!). I don’t plan on running MCM again next year, but I am definitely considering signing up as a volunteer.
I have yet to volunteer at a race, but it’s something I would like to do soon. Volunteers are integral to races — their effort greatly contributes to the success of the event.
After the expo, I went to Matchbox for dinner. I sat the bar and spent then rest of the evening chatting with the bartender who was also running the MCM. I love meeting other runners before a race, especially when I’m traveling for the event.
It was her first time running a marathon. I gave her the advice that everyone gave me last year:
“Just have fun and enjoy the moment. You will never experience your first marathon again.”
Night before the race: carbo-loading and prepping
Mmm carbs. Possibly one of the best parts of running a marathon is carbo-loading. I had been consuming carbs all that week. And it was fantastic.
I spent Saturday afternoon cleaning and prepping for the race (i.e., getting all of my stuff ready for the next morning).
I had an early dinner of spaghetti and meatballs from Ledo’s Pizza. Yes, Ledo’s. Nothing fancy. I was aiming for quick and convenient (I live across the street from a Ledo’s).
I was in bed by 9ish, but didn’t actually fall asleep until 11ish. Too many thoughts going through my head. Typical.
I snoozed four times before waking up around 4:25 a.m. The early morning consisted of coffee, breakfast, washing up, dressing for the race, stretching, more breakfast, and finally leaving.
It was dizzily outside, but temperature-wise it was perfect — mid-50s, that would eventually warm up to the low-mid-60s later in the morning.
I took the Metro to Rosslyn to meet my aunt and uncle, who also participated in the race. Both are volunteer coaches with the Montgomery County Road Runners Club. I walked with them to the start line.
Before actually getting to the start location though, we got held up at one of the security checkpoints for a while.
I was hoping to meet Jen, and another old high school friend before the race, but because it was so crowded and things were moving a little slow with security, I didn’t get to see either of them.
Once we got through security, it was a bit of a rush to get to our corrals. The event had already started with the wheelchair and hand cycle participants whizzing past me down the road.
I didn’t even start with the corral I was assigned to because everything was kind of a mess. I just of kind jumped into the crowd and shuffled with the masses to the start.
And then soon enough, I was off and running.
The course was same as last year. I have a breakdown of the miles and landmarks in last year’s MCM race recap.
The first 14 miles felt great. I was averaging a pace of around 10:45-10:55ish during the first half. I was in a good mood and thinking, “woooohoooooo… if I can just cruise like this until the end, I’ll be golden!”
But then around mile 15, I had to go to the bathroom. Ugh. I was thinking maybe I could hold it. I mean, just 11 more miles until the end!
Halfway through mile 17 though, I gave in and found some porta-potties. Thankfully, the line wasn’t too long, and I was back on the course within 10 minutes.
I started to lose steam around miles 19-20. My legs were cramping and my body was getting tired. I slowed my pace down a bit and chomped on more fuel (Cliff Shot Bloks).
I was seriously struggling during miles 22-25. I finally turned on my iPod at mile 25.
Last year, I discovered that I could go without music for most of the race during big events like MCM because there’s so much going on along the course. I didn’t turn my iPod on until mile 24 last year.
The music gave me a little boost and helped me up the final steep hill right before the finish line. It was a great feeling to cross that line.
After one of the Marines awarded me my medal, I hung out a bit and took some photos before heading home on the Metro.
Although I didn’t beat Oprah, or even make under 5 hours (my time was 5:05… if only I didn’t go to the bathroom!), it was still a great race. I’ve improved greatly since last year and finished without injury. And so for that, I am grateful.
Name: Marine Corps Marathon
Date: October 25, 2015
Race day weather: Drizzly, 50s-60s
Race start time: 8 a.m. ET
Course description: Mostly flat, with a few small inclines. Course goes through Washington, D.C.
Race organization: Well-organized
Finish time: 5:05:13
Other costs: none