Laura’s Marine Corps Marathon race recap (finally!)

I’ve been putting off writing my race recap, mostly because I’ve been trying to make sense of it all 1 , . I thought I’d feel a giant sense of accomplishment from finishing, but the only feeling I really have is pain in my feet.

There are two ways I’m looking at this race: (1) I was incredibly stupid and probably shouldn’t have run the thing; and (2) goodNESS I have a strong mental capacity/stubbornness to tolerate pain, so… three cheers for sheer force of will.

Pre-race
Suze and I managed to move more quickly in the morning than we thought we would. We woke, showered (I always take a hot shower before cold/early morning races. I feel like the hot water eases the transition from ‘sleeping and cold’ to ‘running around’), made our PB&J sandwiches for brekkie, and headed out. We drove to a metro stop and metro-ed in to the race site and got there a full 90 minutes before we needed to be in our corral. So we just hung out with a bunch of strangers in the metro stop! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I love love love the running community.

Eventually, the police said we all had to clear out of the metro stop, so we all walked the mile-plus trek to the staging area. I’m glad it wasn’t snowing. It snowed a bunch the day before the race – snow, sleet, wind… it was just nasty out. It was, however, insanely cold. It was right around freezing with a reasonably good wind whipping through. ICK.

At the Start Line Runners' Village. And COLD.

Miles 0-4
I had nervous/excited energy in my starting corral. I was a little concerned about my peroneal tendonitis, but I had my fav ankle brace on and was prepared for it to be sore and achey all week after (every other time I’ve run, if I was wearing that brace, my ankle didn’t really hurt during the run; and as long as I iced after, my ankle felt okay enough). And the mouse running through our corral was pretty entertaining. But except for being exceptionally cold, I was happy and psyched and ready to go.

Clearly I'm not in too much pain at this point. I'm still smiling and enjoying the pretty view.

Miles 5-12
The sinking feeling that things were not right with my feet started around mile 6. My peroneal tendonitis (the injury I’d gotten 4 weeks before that caused me to run very very little in the entire month before the race) wasn’t bothering me much at all, but the soles of my feet were getting to be incredibly painful. I honestly had no idea what it was (falling arches? overall weak minor foot tendons?), I just knew it hurt. Ironically, I never considered plantar fasciitis, but an MD friend of mine is pretty sure that’s what it was – I got acute PF from the race.

Heard from photog: "That was a *really* close shot! Sorry!"

Miles 13-17
Susannah took off ahead of me just after our port-a-john stop as my feet began to severely disagree with the whole “remaining vertical” and “not walking at all” concept. I’d prepared myself to hurt pretty badly at the end of the race – but the super sore kind of pain, not this stabby/injury pain – which I think allowed me to mentally check out and ignore the pain in my feet.

I had a brief serendipitous moment around mile 13 that provided a much needed humor break. Suze’s friend made her a sign that said “Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go!”, referencing the Vanilla Ice / Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Song (they have a silly inside joke about ninjas), which neither Suze or I remembered. So what did I hear coming from the Lululemon cheer stop’s speakers? Vanilla Ice’s TMNT song. Turns out Suze didn’t hear it as she ran by, but it was a nice little respite.

Miles 18-20
I’d been taking walking breaks pretty often up until this point; every time I started to hurt so much I got nauseated, I’d stop to walk. Once I started to feel like a failure for walking too much 2 , I’d start to run again.

Around mile 18, I saw the “beat the bridge” not too far behind me and started to panic a little bit. For those of you who don’t know the MCM, you have to maintain a 14:00/mi pace through mile 20 where you run across a bridge, or they’ll put you in a bus and take you to the finish line – i.e. have to “Beat the Bridge”. My stubbornness was not going to let that happen, so I ran two excruciating miles without taking walking breaks.

Pain. So much pain.

Mile 20.1
I took a ~5 minute break as soon as I crossed the 20 mile marker. Not to stand or sit or stretch, but to vomit over the side of the bridge. Not because I’d over-exerted myself, but because my feet hurt so badly I made myself sick. Yeah, so… that was a new experience.

Miles 20-23
The course started to double back around it self a little bit around here, so I caught a few glimpses of Suze a half mile or so ahead of me, which was nice. Mostly this part was me trying to ignore pain, so I don’t remember it too much.

Miles 23-26.2
In the final stretch, I started chatting with my fellow slow folks. I have a weird pain/monotony coping mechanism when I’m nearing the end of a run – I do math about my run. At mile 23.8, I said relatively loudly, “90% done with the race!” and the dadly-type character running a bit in front of me jokingly asked “how do you have enough energy left to do math!”. The little pack I was running with all giggled a little. It was a nice moment.

The high-five from a super cute Marine at the finish line is definitely a perk of the race.

Jogging across the finish line felt incredibly anti-climactic. It was an “ok now what?” moment. I didn’t need to immediately sit down (even though my feet felt worse than they’ve ever felt). I didn’t need to immediately drink or eat. I didn’t feel all excited and happy that I’d just friggin finished a marathon…. It was odd. I don’t know why it was so anti-climactic. Maybe it was that I was just mentally exhausted, or maybe it was because it took me way longer to finish than I expected, or maybe it was because I had to turn my brain off because my feet hurt so badly. “Ok, now what?” is really the best way I can explain it.

Happy to be done, but still mentally checked out. (Notice the 3 Marines hitting on the cute girl in the background.)

So I finished the thing. It took me 6:19:16. A full hour longer than I’d expected. Hopefully, my feet will heal rapidly and I can start training again by December 1, giving me six weeks to get ready to run the Houston Marathon on January 15. Oddly enough, I didn’t have any muscle soreness or DOMS in the week after the MCM. None at all. So I know I can run Houston  in at maximum 5:45 as long as my plantar fascia cooperate with me.

But for now, I’ll just try to heal and get myself excited/happy that I can check “Run a Marathon” off of my Before I Turn Thirty Bucket List.


1 Also, I was waiting for my race photos to come in so I wouldn’t have to come back and update this post so it didn’t have “PROOF” written across the images. (The last time I went through and updated a bunch of posts, it clogged up everyone’s RSS readers…)

2 Not that run/walking is bad or something I look down on, but I ran a half marathon 6 weeks and 4 weeks earlier with only 2 or so mini walking breaks at each race. I felt like a failure because I’d gotten myself to a point where I wasn’t taking many walking breaks at all and now I was suddenly letting myself walk a lot.

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3 Responses to Laura’s Marine Corps Marathon race recap (finally!)

  1. Running in Mommyland says:

    I will run my first marathon in March and my biggest fear is not finishing because of pain! I think you did an amazing job! Congratulations on getting through it and finishing successfully!

  2. Paulette says:

    Great job Laura – I had a crappy first marathon in 2010 and felt similar to you at the finish. I’d trained and expected to finish in under 5 hours, but I ended up at 5:48 with lots of walking. I wasn’t injured, it was just a really hot day in Chicago and I drank too much/felt ill the second half. You still rocked it with having such pain – you are tough! 🙂

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