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…
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.)
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!
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.
And then another one!
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.
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:
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!