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Marine Corps Marathon - RunMarathon

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Arlington, Virginia
United States
50F / 10C
Total Time = 5h 09m 18s
Overall Rank = 5183/9662
Age Group = F40-44
Age Group Rank = 801/1551
Pre-race routine:

*Overall above is female only. My total overall rank was 12679/20708*

Of course this started a long time before race morning... The highlights:

I traveled to Virginia in spring 2017 to do the 17.75k Access Granted race put on by the Marines in the Prince William Forest, by Quantico. All finishers received a special code to register for the marathon. This was very fun and I would recommend this method to anyone with the time and travel budget to make the trip. I decided to give my code to a friend and traveled to DC to spectate at the MCM. Really fun thing to do, by the way.

My other friend, who instigated the Access Granted trip, was also supposed to run the MCM in 2017 but had to defer. She planned to run in 2018 and wanted me to come along as I had done for the other friend in 2017..

In Spring of 2018, the MCM people decided to offer a special registration period for anyone who wanted to skip the lottery. First 11k people to sign up got in. I realized that since I was going anyway, and was maybe ready to try the marathon again, I would do it. It was FAR too easy to get in and suddenly I'm registered.

I had vowed that if I was going to run another marathon I would do what it took to fix the issues that led to a lackluster race in Iceland. Basically I knew I needed to get a better base and strengthen my mental game which allows me to quit trying too easily. I needed to know I had made my best effort. So, I hired the coach I have used in the past for triathlons. We agreed on a basic plan based on time, not mileage, and no super long runs. I began real marathon training starting on April 1st through race day, a full 7 months. While I didn’t do a typical plan, and also made it hard by doing a lot of traveling, I did my best and banked many more miles than I had in 2016. I hated long runs in 2016 because not only were they hard, but I suffered all weekend from discomfort and often skipped/shortened runs afterwards. I know was in much better shape this time around because I could recover from my long runs! The main difference is that I ran for time, not distance, and never ran further than 17 miles. But the mileage, spread throughout the week, was adequate. I had some issues towards the end with a painful hip, but added in yoga and felt better by race day.

In the week before the race I wrote out my race plan, per the coach’s request. It was a great exercise for me – I’m a list maker – to get down every detail and think through how it should go. I had my nutrition plan worked out to the minute, problem solving techniques, expectations for pacing, etc. This was well worth the time, even though ultimately it was just putting to paper what I already knew and had learned in my training.
Event warmup:

Race morning included a 1/2 mile walk to the metro station and then some distance to the race village, which was VERY spread out in the area by the Pentagon. I didn't track the total amount of walking, but I think I safely covered 30+ miles this day. I met a nice man on the metro and we walked together, which helped pass the time and keep me out of my own head.

By 7:30 the race announcer was going strong and then the spectacle began with various flyovers, parachuters, lots of flags and colored smoke and a beautiful rendition of the national anthem. Really impressive and I was glad to be able to watch. Some folks came at the very last minute and were frazzled and surely missed the fun parts!

I lined up behind the 4:45 pacer. Only in a dream world would I finish in 4:45, but I needed to bank a little time. This was my plan going in, coach approved. I had a gel at 7:45. The wheelers started at 7:55 and then we started to walk up to the start. I crossed the line around 8:05.
  • 5h 09m 18s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 11m 49s  min/mile

I lost the 4:45 pacers almost immediately but kept chugging away around a 10:50 pace, even with the LONG hill at the beginning. At the first time clock, 5k, I had already overrun the course by a lot. It was also hard to stay cool with the hill and thick crowd. This was an exercise in self control.

I'd set up my Garmin to time taking gels. I had a gel at :20 and :50 of each hour and surprisingly stuck to that! I was wearing my hydration pack with plain water. This turned out to be a great idea, since the water stops were chaotic. I was able to maintain a steady pace and just keep on going.

The out and back on Rock Creek Parkway was really pretty but felt really boring. The lack of spectators was a bummer. It started to get charged up again around mile 9 and then we were "in town" for several miles. I was taking AltRed capsules every two hours, so I did this and an Aleve around the 10 mile mark (1:50) when I had a gel.

Mile 12 was the wear blue mile and very emotional. First the road is lined with pictures of those killed in action, their name, rank, and age. After the pictures were people holding american flags; I believe family members. I'm not "military" nor do I have any close friends or family who served, but it's impossible not feel for these people. Really incredible.

This takes me to the halfway point. I overran the course by approximately .25 miles at this point, so my half split of 2:26 was totally reasonable - in a world where I could use my Garmin time/distance and not the race clock. I was starting to get tired. I saw a row of portapotties that seemed to have reasonable lines, so I did blow a few minutes before mile 14. I felt like this was a gamble - but there were few potties and long lines everywhere I looked. If I could have waited until mile 20+ I would have had my pick of potties, but who knows how I would feel by then.

After my stop my Garmin's average pace was about 11:11, which I held through around mile 17. I stopped at water point 8 to fill my hydration pack. It was getting sunnier and thought I might need it, and the nice lady with a water pitcher caught my eye. This was probably a waste of time since (thankfully) the clouds rolled back in and it was overcast. After that I could have easily managed with an occasional cup of water if I emptied my pack. This is probably my only regret, small as it is. Now my average pace was around 11:18.

I knew the sub-5 math was getting tight, so I persisted in running as much as possible. Any breaks were limited to taking gels or a controlled number of steps. I heard another racer say to her friend "Let's run to the Capitol" and thought "Yeah, let's do it!" So I challenged myself to not walk until I made it that far, at least (approx 18.5). Around mile 19.5 I saw my friend who ran with me for a few seconds and then we said we would see each other at the end. My whole lower half was VERY tired and I felt hungry, but I knew this would happen. I was now far past the distance I had run in training, so was pleased that I was still moving.

The drum band before the bridge/mile 20 was SO EXCELLENT! I wish I had needed to walk here, but it was on a bit of a downhill so I didn't get to hear much of them. I gave them a little first pump/woohoo to let them know I liked them. This is the "Beat the Bridge" section, which is a time cutoff point. I was well ahead of this, but glad to have it done.

The bridge was very low point for most people, I could see. Lots of walking. I tried my best to run but it's hard when it looks like a zombie wasteland of runners. It's approximately 100 feet of climbing. I was thrilled to reach Crystal City and the huge crowds. Sadly, this is where the 5:00 pacers blew by me. I had a feeling the sub-5 wasn't going to happen, but that sealed it. I thought I would feel mad if this happened but I honestly couldn't have done better. I can see my 5k splits here gradually drifted into the 12:xx min/mile range, but my average pace remained in the 11s. More walking was sprinkled in here, but I always rallied and tried to get into the zone for as long as I could. I could feel my running pace was also slower and I was very worn out. I took a 2nd Aleve in Crystal City which helped and I think I would have been seriously screwed without them. Liver be damned, I guess.

Finally we were getting closer to the Pentagon and the crowd support is back to almost nothing. The final stretch goes through the original start line (already dismantled) and to the edge of Arlington Cemetery. I watched the Garmin closely here and my time was around 5:03 when I completed 26.2 miles - almost the goal (dammed water refill...)!

Last year we were able to watch from the side of the road by Arlington, but not this time. At the very end a bunch of spectators were actually ON the road with us, but I learned from my friend later they were being moved away. A little after mile 26 is a left-hand turn, up hill, to the finish. My friend came along with me (she had a bib, but she removed the timing chip) and I finally crossed the line.
Post race
Warm down:

After crossing we took advantage of the photo ops. The big deal here is standing by the Marine Corps War Memorial, which depicts the famous image of planting a flag on Iwo Jima. It's really spectacular.

One thing this 2-year adventure has given me is a true appreciation of the Marines and other armed forces. I have learned a lot about their history and have benefited first hand from their organization skills and work ethic. Every single Marine I have encountered during this time, which is a LOT, has been nothing but helpful and friendly.

The line to get out of the finish area was extreme. I was glad my friend was there because at least we could talk to each other. I was getting very tight so once we left the fenced area I stretched for a few minutes, which really helped. My feet were SO sore! I stopped to buy a finisher shirt and then we walked to the bag pickup. My UPS truck was at the very end of a long downhill. I think the numbers were done by last name, so I cursed my husband and the W-name he afflicted upon me (LOL, he's great).

Then we walked back UP the friggin' hill (Rosslyn is seriously the hilliest place in the DC Metro area) and found lunch. Finally I could sit down and after some food and an adult cider I felt like an almost new person. Back on the metro and into the shower, screaming in pain when I felt water hit my chafed skin.

Event comments:

This is really a spectacle to behold. Don't expect your best race, but it's fun to be a part of the event. I am not sure I'd recommend it to everyone, because it's a logistical feat in addition to the marathon. But if you love DC, and/or the Marines, it's well worth the effort.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2018-03-22 12:00 AM
05:09:18 | 26.2 miles | 11m 49s  min/mile
Age Group: 801/1551
Overall: 12679/9662
Performance: Good
Course: The course climbs about 200 feet through mile 2.5, which feels like a lot... Then it wiggles through DC with gradual ups and down until mile 20.25 or so. Here you cross over the Potomac on a spectator-less bridge and finish up mostly flat until the end. After mile 26 there's a sharp uphill to the finish by the Marine Corps War Memorial (depicting the flag raising at Iwo Jima) just outside of Arlington Cemetery.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Average
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2018-10-30 12:58 PM

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, Minnesota
Subject: Marine Corps Marathon

2018-10-30 1:02 PM
in reply to: 0

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, Minnesota
Subject: RE: Marine Corps Marathon

Edited by BikerGrrrl 2018-10-30 1:17 PM


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2018-10-30 2:35 PM
in reply to: BikerGrrrl

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Subject: RE: Marine Corps Marathon

Nice job. You showed some real mental toughness and giving yourself limits for your walk breaks! Great work!!! 

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