Race Recap: Marine Corps Marathon

Alternate title: My first marathon!
Alternate title: Holy crap! I can’t believe it!
Alternate title: Ouch.

Let’s start with the best news first:

I DID IT!!! I *FINISHED*. I completed the Marine Corps Marathon.

I have to be honest, the biggest fear of mine was that I wouldn’t Beat the Bridge.  But I did.  And I made it across the finish line in one piece!  Okay, now back to the beginning…

The beginning

4:30am was early.  I went to bed early the night before, but OMG.  4:30.  Also, did I mention it was cold? Did I mention that it had freakishly snowed the night before?  Yeah.  *THAT* cold.  So Laura and I bundled up in our ‘throwaway’ zipper hoodies, gloves, and hats, and we had hand warmers in our pockets. (Note: I am purchasing all photos but wanted to get the post up quickly, so I borrowed the proofs.  I’ll update when I get the CD.)

So. Freaking. Cold.

L and I made a few friends as we huddled for warmth in the second-to-last starting corral.  We were all pretty excited and making jokes – –

“Please don’t mind my butt in your face, I’m just stretching my hamstrings.”

“So, the finish line is just a half-mile up the road – you have to pass it.  They do that to mess with you.  It’s a Marine thing.”

“You know, this seemed like a great idea 6 months ago – before the snowstorm yesterday.” 

And then, a high-pitched shriek.  All kinds of weird movement from behind us… “MOUSE! MOUSE!” You could see the crowd move as that poor little (possibly traumatized) mouse scurried away from all the stomping feet.  That was good for a laugh and it was motivation for some of the people behind us.  They were ready to move!

The first few miles flew by!  We threw our hoodies at mile 2.  I don’t really recall much by way of the spectators this early.  I do remember saying “Thank you, Marine” every time I saw a man or woman in uniform.  They were so very excited to see us at so very early in the morning.

Lesson Learned #1: The oranges at mile 9.5 are YUMMY.  But, be very careful because they are also VERY SLIPPERY!

The middle

L and I stuck together with a run-walk combination through mile 12 – 1) so we could preserve our energy and 2) so we could preserve Laura’s ankles.  We separated before mile 13 on Hains Point.  I was on the move, just hoping to see my friend, Anar, cheering me on at mile 16!

I made the hairpin turn in front of Lincoln.  I scanned the crowd…. But, unfortunately for me, I missed her!  I was sad for a minute, but a minute was all I had!  Because, then, horror of horrors!!

THE BUS!  OH NO! (insert scary music here).  I’d made the turn and could see the straggler buses coming up the road  – probably a mile and a half behind me.  I had to get a move on!  It’s possible I used up a lot of energy just freaking out.

I hauled ass to the water station at mile 17.5 and begged the Marines to stand in front of the buses for me because there was NO WAY I was getting picked up.  The (omg hot) Marines told me that I was pretty far in front of the bus, and to “keep going, you’re almost to the bridge!”  They also might have laughed a little.

Lesson Learned #2: Fear is a great motivator.  Also, Marines know what to say to make you feel better.

By the time I did the math in my head (miles behind me, pace, miles to the bridge), I realized, “Oh, hey.  They’re right!  I’ve totally got the bridge!”  And lucky for me, at that moment, there was a photographer sitting on the ground.

Jazz Hands!!

And then another one!

I can fly!!!

I got to the bridge.  I also teared up a little.  I had met my first goal.  I BEAT THE BRIDGE!  “Suck it up!” I told myself.  “You’ve got another 6 miles to go!”  I also had another goal before the finish line.  I had to get to mile 23, because Carly was waiting for me!

Lesson Learned #3: Splitting the race up into pieces really helped.  It didn’t feel like a huge feat – it was several miles with something to look forward to, and then another several miles and another fun surprise!

By this point I was using a power walk-run combo.  More power walking than running, really.  My knees had started to complain around mile 18 and I had tried running up until the bridge, but my legs weren’t listening to me when I commanded “RUN”.  It was really weird.

The end

Just before the bridge, I started pacing nicely with a run-walker named Kristin.  Kristin had her name pinned to the front of her shirt – which, best idea ever!  Everyone was calling out for her!  I tagged along and pretended that spectators were cheering for me, too.

The miles between 20 and 23 were long.  The 14th street bridge is the longest bridge of my life.  I felt like it would never end.  As I approached the mile 22 marker, I wondered how Laura was doing.  I knew she couldn’t have been that far behind me, because she’s as stubborn as the day is long and she wouldn’t let a silly thing like a bridge beat her!

I was only running downhills at this point, the energy to run on a flat surface just killed my quads, calves and knees.  I used gravity as much as I could.  I had to get to 23!  I tumbled into Crystal City, on the lookout for mile marker 23.  I saw it across the road! I had to make a loop on 23rd street before I got to Carly, but I saw her and my friend Sam holding the craziest Zombie/Rule 1: Cardio sign ever!  It was awesome! And they both started jumping and yelling and clapping! I was energized! I had a quarter-mile to go before I got to them!

I tried running again here, and failure.  Okay, fine. Power walking, then! Move move move.  I got to 23, and stopped only for a second to get hugs and a quick pic at the marker (thanks Sam!).

Then Carly jumped into the race with me to take me home! She’s the best road crew ever! She had honey stingers and tissues and positive energy!  By this point I needed someone to keep me moving and to talk to me so that the last 3 miles didn’t make me cry.  (And have I mentioned that Carly is a champion power walker? No? Oh, let me tell you, she IS.)

Lesson Learned #4: Have a road crew.  Have cheerleaders.  They really make a difference.

Because – my friend Anar who I missed at mile 16? I FINALLY found her at mile 25.5!  So freaking grateful!  I got another hug (sorry I was sweaty!) and she was holding the most awesome sign in the universe:

Guess the 80's cartoon?

She joined up with Carly and me and walked me in the last half mile!  They crossed the mile 26 marker with me and said, “The last part is all you! Go and finish your marathon!”

I trudged up the hill, but made the effort for a last little run at the very end to high-five a very energetic marine!

I did it. I finished.  I was slow, sure, but I earned every single inch of that 26.2 miles. And I’m pretty damn proud of myself.


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11 Responses to Race Recap: Marine Corps Marathon

  1. I. AM. SO. PROUD. OF. YOU!!!! Seriously, I feel so lucky that you let me run with you during you first marathon.
    Congratulations marathoner!!

  2. Congrats!! You have some great race photos – definitely keepers!

    Regarding the 14th Street Bridge – I remember thinking last year that bridge was never going to end. You definitely have to play mental games to get through it!

    • Suzy says:

      Thanks!! I really love the way the pics turned out! To be fair, though, there are a couple where I look like I want to die… 😀

      I almost think that a marathon is mostly mental! I played mental games through the whole thing, but definitely over the 14th street bridge. sheesh!

  3. Wow! I just read you blog to Jose and I started to cry at the end because it is a HUGE deal to run an entire marathon. Being involved in tennis tournaments on a local, regional and national level when I was younger….it is a HUGE deal to finish a marathon. I remember when I won the Chicago Doubles Championship when I was 18. It was huge. It also qualified us to play in Nationals in California. And also turning 31 and once again getting ot the finals of that same championship. We always remember the big sports moments in our lives. Congratulations to you and Laura. We are very proud of you both!

    • Suzy says:

      Sheila – thanks for reading! Sorry I made you cry. 🙂 I think these kinds of milestones resonate with everyone since we all have gone through something similar along the way. Congrats on your awesome wins in tennis! That’s a HUGE deal, too!!

      I’m proud of us, as well! 🙂

  4. Somehow your blog disappeared from my google reader feed! I had been waiting for this, and here it was all posted! Congrats on your finish — and the one thing about finishing slow is that the next marathon should be a guaranteed PR, no? 🙂

    • Suzy says:

      That google reader is a sneaky thing! It disappears some of my blogs sometimes too! It’s funny how you (and other people) keep saying “next marathon” like I’m thinking about signing up for one anytime soon! lol. 😉 But yes, guaranteed PR in the future, I would thinkI!!

      Also, Laura finished just behind me and powered through some terrible foot pain! She’s a trooper!

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