Marathon #3 – The Marine Corps Marathon

This is the third post in my marathon recap series. My third marathon was the Marine Corps Marathon on October 25th, 2009. This race starts in Arlington, Virginia and takes you all throughout Washington D.C.  I was excited about this race because it was a large race with a lot of spectator support, similar to my first marathon in Philadelphia. It was also close to where I lived which meant I would have friends there, and that was very important to me.

For marathon #3 I decided to try a different style of training. I had really been enjoying cycling outside with my new bike, and since I was signed up for an October marathon, I would be training during the summer. I thought it was a perfect time to try the Run Less Run Faster style of training, which has three challenging quality runs a week with cross-training in between. I liked this because I became very burnt out with my last training cycle that had me running 5 or 6 days a week. I liked the idea of running three times a week with no ‘junk’ miles. I would be doing one day of speedwork on the track, one tempo run, and one long run. Each run had a target pace that I determined from a chart in the book, based off my previous marathon time.

I started my training in early July while I was on vacation at the beach in Ocean City, New Jersey. It was hot but I loved being able to run by the ocean. My first long run was 13 miles. I didn’t know if I would be able to pull it off because I had not run that far since my last marathon in May, but I did and it felt amazing. The next few months of training went very well. I got all my runs in and was running faster than the suggested paces in the book’s chart. Since I was only running three days a week and it was summertime, it was easy to fit it all in and I liked having flexibility in my schedule. I also loved having time (and energy!) to spend on cycling and strength training.

During this training cycle I managed to run 20 miles three times, and it boosted my confidence a lot. I felt prepared and ready to P.R. at this race. My secret goal was to run a sub four hour marathon, but I told myself I would be happy to do better than last time, when I finished in 4:15:11.

The day before the race came finally and I went to my friend Ashley’s house in Arlington to spend the night, since she lived near the start of the race. Ashley was the one who met me at mile 20 of my first marathon and she was planning to meet me at mile 23 of this one. I was also excited because three of my other friends were running the 10K that was happening that morning as well. Cynthia (you may remember her from the Country Music Marathon in Nashville), my friend Lori from Penn State, and my friend Hani who teaches with me.

We went to the expo and got back to Ashley’s house later than expected. We finally ate dinner (homemade pizza) around 8 p.m. This made me extremely worried because I like to eat dinner early, 6:00 at the latest, the night before a big race to avoid digestion issues. I went to bed and before I knew it the alarm was going off. Ashley, Lori, Cynthia and I were all staying together, so we got ready and went to the metro to ride to the start.

The 10K and the marathon started in different spots, so we said our goodbyes and I went to wait in my corral all alone.

I was so excited for this race. I felt extremely prepared and energized. I knew I was stronger than ever and I was ready to PR. The weather was perfect and I couldn’t wait to get started already!

When the starting ceremony began I was very emotional. This race is put on by the Marine Corps, so they had a tribute to our troops and to America. There were airplanes and fireworks, and I couldn’t help but get teary eyed.

And then we were off! I couldn’t believe that I was running my third marathon less than a year after running my first one! I felt great the entire first half of the race. I knew that to run the race in 4 hours I would need to maintain a 9:09 pace, and I was averaging about 8:50 until that point.

In the back of my mind I knew I should not have been running so fast, but I felt so good that I couldn’t help it. It didn’t feel fast, it felt comfortable, so I went with it. The course was great and very scenic. It was pretty hilly when we were in Virginia, but when we crossed into Washington D.C. I loved running by all the monuments, the Capitol Building, and the White House.

It was around mile 16 that I started to feel the effects of my speed. I had heard so many stories about not going out too fast and I was angry at myself for getting caught up in the moment. I was hurting bad. I did manage to take this picture of the Washington Monument as I ran past it though.

At this point around mile 17 I texted Ashley that I was hurting and that I needed her. I slowed down my pace a bit, but kept running until around mile 19 when I started to walk for the first time. I kept a run/walk pattern for a while and watched the 4 hour pacers run by me. That motivated me to pick it up again. Mile 23 seemed so far away. I just wanted to see Ashley!

Finally I saw her and I immediately started crying. I told her how happy I was to see her and she was my supportive yet silent cheerleader. She knew that just having her next to me was just what I needed. I told her I didn’t want to walk, but around mile 25 I started losing control of my breathing and I had to walk for a minute. I couldn’t take a full breath and it was making me panic. This same thing happened during my first marathon at the end. Finally, I saw the mile marker for mile 26…. right before A HILL!!! Why oh why did they put a hill at the end of the race? I know it’s the Marine Corps Marathon, but we are not all Marines!

I held onto Ashley’s hand tight, pushed up the hill and crossed the finish line in 4:07:43. Not under four hours, but still a PR of over 7 minutes! I was proud! I went through the finish chute and a Marine gave me my medal and helped me over to the food and water. I was feeling very weak and needed to sit down ASAP.

Then we found Hani! She had finished her first 10K and had been standing right before the finish. She was apparently calling my name and tried to jump in to run with me, but a race official stopped her. I had no idea she was calling my name because I was so focused on getting across that finish line.

I told Ashley thank you a million times for meeting me at mile 23. She has truly been such an amazing friend when it comes to supporting me and my running. She is one of the few that understand how important it is to me.

I was happy with both of my cheerleaders by my side!

We very slowly made our way to the Rosslyn metro station, which was painful because it was almost a mile from the finish! Once I got back to Ashley’s I said goodbye then made the 20 mile drive down 95 south to my house in Woodbridge. There was a lot of traffic (like always) and all I wanted was some food, a shower, and my bed. Once I got back into my area I stopped at Chipotle and was confronted with a line that wrapped around the store and out the door! I was wearing my medal and ran into another runner that was also wearing his. We joked that we should be allowed to go to the front of the line because we had just run 26.2 miles. Nobody else thought it was funny 🙂 I waited in line anyway because I really wanted my Chipotle! I got a huge burrito, guacamole and chips, went home and devoured it all with my medal still on.

I think it’s my coolest medal yet! Nice job Marine Corps!

I learned a lot from this race, and not going out too fast is something I am still working on. I have yet to run my sub four hour marathon but I know I will someday. The best part of the race was having my friends there supporting me and realizing how far I had come as a runner. It was an awesome experience!

When I ran this race I had already signed up for my fourth one, the Austin Marathon on February 14th, 2010! My friend DJ was living there and I couldn’t help but sign up for it and use it as a way to visit him in Austin. There was just one issue- the race was less than 16 weeks away, which meant not a lot of time to recover and train… AND, I was about to start dating my now fiance, which was a little bit of a distraction to say the least. Stay tuned for that story 🙂

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8 responses to “Marathon #3 – The Marine Corps Marathon

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