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Marine Corps Marathon Recap

November 16, 2013

The 2013 Marine Corps Marathon has come and gone and I have to admit, I’m glad it’s over and done with.  This wasn’t the race I was hoping for, although looking back it was probably predictable.

My training leading up to the race wasn’t the picture of perfection.  Initially my long runs were all running, but later in the training cycle I had to switch to a run/walk and even then it took everything I had to get through my 18 mile training run.  I wasn’t even sure I would start the race.

The day before the race, I woke up to 30 degrees and this:

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At this point, all I could think about was not having any throw away clothes for the start of the race and how none of my training runs had been below 65 degrees.

Telling myself “what’s the worst that could happen?” I started the drive to DC.

Two years ago, when both Hubby and I ran the MCM, it was hailing, sleeting, and freezing cold the day before the race when we picked up our bibs at the expo.  This year, thank goodness, it was relatively warm because look at the line that greeted me:

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These pictures don’t do the line justice.  The start o f the line was on the opposite side of the tent complete with amusement park style line lanes.  The line then spiraled out, went the length of the tent and the field pictured, then spiraled back into the middle of the field.  I had to ask three different people just to find the end of the line!  Fortunately it moved quickly and the two hours in line I was expecting took just over one hour.

After picking up my bib, I went inside the expo and picked up my shirt.  This year, the mock turtleneck race shirt the MCM is known for went technical!  What a change for the best!  Not only can I run in the shirt, but it’s extremely comfortable.  I’ve only worn the 2011 shirt once, but I’ve already worn this year’s shirt three or four times!

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After walking around the expo for a bit, I headed to my hotel for the night.  Not a bad view huh?

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The following morning I woke up at 5am, checked out of the hotel, and made it to the shuttles in Crystal City by about 5:45.  Continuing with the weekend’s theme, there was a long line to get on the shuttle to Runner’s Village at the start.

By 6:30 I was off the bus and walking around the Pentagon to Runner’s Village.  It was too early to head to the start, so I found a place under one of the tents set up and tried to keep myself warm and loose.  Little did I know, I had ended up in the tent being used for Church services by the Marine Corps Chaplain.  As some of you know, I’m not a religious person, but at that moment I figured every little bit could help!

Finally it was time to head to the start.  I lined up around the 4:45 – 5:00 expected finish time and then just waited.  The national anthem was played with the flag at the feet of a veteran skydiver and it was time to start.  Well let me clarify, it was time for the elite runners to start.  I was so far back, I didn’t cross the starting line for another 18 minutes!

The first mile I could barely feel my legs.  All the time just standing around at the starting line I had gotten cold.  I didn’t really start to warm up until after the first mile marker, and didn’t really settle in until after the first water stop past mile two.  The first four miles were exactly what I remembered from two years ago, except fewer spectators.

Crossing the bridge into Georgetown the course turned right instead of left like the previous course.  Two years ago, the run through Georgetown was my favorite part of the race.  The course itself was packed, there were spectators rows deep, and there were 3 bands playing all within a few miles.  But this year, we turned right and started a long out and back section.  There were very few spectators and no bands playing music.

It was coming back on this section that I noticed my right shoe was a little lose.  Looking down, the laces were still tied, so I decided I wouldn’t stop to retie it unless it actually became untied.  That turned out to be a mistake, but we’ll get to that later.

It was about mile 11-12 they had placards each with a picture  of a service member KIA with their name on the side of the road.  One after another after another.  I had to stop looking at them because they made me choke up.  I got myself under control but after the placards were about 50 people on the side of the road, each holding an american flag.  Running past the flags my eyes filled with tears and I lost it.  It took me until the half to get myself back under control.

Up until this point I had been feeling great.  I may not have been breaking any speed records maintaining 11:30 – 12:00 pace, but I felt good and felt like I could maintain the pace for the whole race.  There was another water stop just past the half and I decided to walk for a few minutes.  That was when things started to unravel.  I started running again when I crossed the 14 mile mark and things just didn’t feel right.  My feet hurt and my right knee felt tight.  I figured it would go away after a few minutes, and the pain in my feet did, but the tightness in my knee soon turned to pain.  By mile 15 my knee hurt and I had to start walking a little.  Luckily I was able to keep up a run/walk until mile 20, but by then my knee hurt so much I simply couldn’t run anymore.  So I walked; past the people handing out Dixie cups of beer and past the donut hole food station.  I walked past the security guard who was kind enough to remind us we had signed up for this (not what I needed to hear at mile 24).  I walked across the starting line for the second time, climbed the final hill, started running when I saw the finish line, and finished the race.

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After getting home after the race, I started to survey the damage.  Even though I had trained in the shoes I wore for the race, my feet still blistered.  A few days later I noticed one of my toenails had started to turn black.  Thinking back to mile 8, I should have just stopped the 30 seconds it would have taken to retie my shoes.

Now that the blisters have healed and my knee no longer hurts, it’s time to reevaluate my running shoes, my training, and what distances my body is really capable of completing.  As much as I’d like it to be, the marathon distance just isn’t for me.  So for now, my runs have been under 2 miles, I’ve started riding my bike again, and am focusing on fitness and strength rather than training for anything specific.

The 2013 Marine Corps Marathon may not have gone they way I hoped, I may not have PR’d, but I’m proud of myself for finishing the race, even when the going got tough.

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