This race was 2 years in the making, after deferring my Marine Corps Marathon entry for a year it was time to take on the challenge in 2014. As I said in my I’m Running a Marathon?! blog, I was nervous and ready to take on the challenge. By the time we boarded a plane for DC I was tapered and rested. I had talked myself through the fact that I had run 20 miles 2 times and was able to finish. The biggest thing I found some calming in was I had finished 7 70.3 distances. My first took me over 7 hours. I knew I was able to keep putting one foot in front of the other for 7 hours. I knew they were different but I knew I could get through that long of racing. I had panned to be somewhere around 4 hours. That seemed to work with the long runs I had done. I figured I could maintain around a 9 minute mile.
We flew down Friday before the race and planned to go to the expo. My uncle even joined us, he was excited to see his first expo. We walked around I picked up my official Marine Corps Marathon Jacket. I didn’t really want to spend the 90 bucks on it. But I knew it was my first marathon and I’d be disappointed if I didn’t get it in advance and I couldn’t get it later. I picked up some of the usual expo deals on some gels and nuun and the usual free bees. I had a little incident with the Marine Corps shirt- luckily the one I ended up with fit okay but after a rude exchange with the exchanges guy. How was I to know I was a LARGE in your shirt when I am standing talking to the guy in a SMALL?!
We spent most of Saturday relaxing and watching some shows we missed Friday night on TV. My nerves were starting to strum up a bit. But not too bad. I still was a bit rational. D and I worked out a plan in case he ran by himself, as far as I knew that is what he planned to do. I received a sweet text message or 2 from friends who run marathons frequently. Telling me to enjoy my first. You only get to run your first once. And the best advice I have received a couple times in my endurance sport years- Remember whatever you are feeling good, bad, pain whatever- it will be gone in 5 minutes. It is so true.
Race morning plan was to head down to the start early. Ate my morning oatmeal and headed for the metro. MCM recommends 2 hours early with their security procedures. We got there about an hour and a half early. Breezed through security and were some of the first in the portapotty lines. I was plenty warm in my throw away sweatshirt. I wished I had brought something more to eat but I wasn’t starving. I didn’t have my usual nerves. I was just trying to stay as calm as possible. D and I made our way to the start line, found the self seeding around 4 hours. As we stood there we watched the Marines jump in and land on 110, one of them took of their parachute and was going to run. They had a cool fly over. And before I even knew it the cannon went off. As we started to move we saw another portapotty before the start line. We decided to duck in before the clock started.
Miles 1-6 9:41, 9:35, 9:39, 8:59, 9:34, 8:53
I crossed the start line and the nerves came but I tried to just enjoy the experience. D was running with me and told me to keep all the energy I could I would need it at the end. He was right! I really tried to take it all in. See all the signs. Watch the scenery. I thought D would leave at some point. Maybe run a few miles with me then go. I was floating around the pace I had hoped and figured I could drop down later and make the goal. Around mile 5 I saw my Uncle and my cousin for the first time. I threw them my arm sleeves. Gave em each a hug and off we went.
Miles 7-12 9:17, 9:09, 9:14,9:11, 9:15, 9:21
D ended up staying with me. Miles 7, 8 and 9 were through Rockaway park. It was pretty. I knew miles 8-10 would feel crummy. They always did in my long runs. D suggested salt, water, and gels. I took in what I could. I knew it would bounce back. Around 11 we saw my Uncle again. Then we headed out onto Haines Point. Anyone who has run races out here knows that is a tough part. The nice thing was they had the blue mile out there. There were pictures of fallen Marines and folks with flags. It really reminded you of the reality of the situation. I saw a few people stop and turn around to take pictures with the signs.
Miles 13-18 9:18, 10:20, 9:41, 10:51, 11:51, 10:29
I started to have this hyperventilation issue around mile 13. I felt like I was cramping right across my diaphragm. I couldn’t take deep breaths. D calmed me down slowed me down got my form back in check. Somewhere around here we headed out on the mall. I started to feel even more crummy. I started to see the slower times I was like GREAT there goes 4 hours! Which made me get upset and made the cramping worse. Somewhere on the mall I started to feel really sick. Crap am I going to throw up. D was like find a hole between people- don’t throw up on people. I tried to get down salt and hope it would clear the cramps but I gagged and headed to a clear spot of people. We saw my uncle a couple more times right before we headed up the 14th street bridge.
Miles 19-26 10:12, 12:45, 10:09, 12:59, 13:53, 12:17, 13:38, 13:51
The 14th St bridge is the “beat the bridge” portion of the race. We were up here and my watch was 3:20ish. I knew this meant my 4 hours wasn’t going to happen because I had about a 10k left at this point. The rolling up and down of the bridge. In the hot sun. No people out there. No aid station. At this point everyone around us was dropping like flies. I have done this bridge at the Army Ten Miler a few times now but it was right near the end this time there was a lot left. I got bummed again about not making my goal time, but also realized OMG we are approaching the farthest I have ever run. I came down into Crystal City. An area I know really well from working there for a few years. I started to realize this is the longest I have ever run. Every time I got upset my breathing went to crap again and I’d cramp up. I was trying to dig in and push it to finish, but every time I dug in it hurt again and I couldn’t breathe. D reminded me we could walk a 10k- we just needed to make sure to make it to the finish. The focus now was get to the finish in one piece. A marathon is a long day you can’t just push your way through it and hope it will be okay- you have to think strategy. So every time my breathing and cramps got me. D would talk me through getting upright again. People around would think he was helping them and thank him. It was starting to get hot. At mile 24/25 we watched a woman get taken off by 4 medics. She had cramped so badly she couldn’t even walk anymore. D said this is why I am telling you to slow down she isn’t going to cross the finish line- we are!
Somewhere in here the reality of I AM GOING TO FINISH set in! I started to cramp up as I got emotional again. We took the left off 110 and headed up that last .2 up to Arlington. That last .2 is up hill. I wasn’t going to be the one that walked. The hill was lined with Marines. The road said Marine Up! Take the Hill! D and I crossed the finish holding hands. We have never finished a race like that.
As we walked through the finish area- it was lined on both sides with Marines. They shook your hands congratulated you. One said to me “Smile! You did something GREAT today!” It was an amazing finish experience. I took out my phone just as my brother messaged me saying “way to go Jul! You finished in under 5 hours! That is so bad ass!” I started to cry! We headed for medals. There were 10-12 corrals single file set up. At the end were Marines with arm’s full of medals. One at a time you walked up and the Marine put your medal on you and talked to you about your race. It was a very personal experience. I have never had a finish line like that. We headed to take our MCM picture infront of the memorial. As we walked like zombies through the food line we saw my Uncle and cousin through the fence. They were so excited for us! My uncle walked our zombie selves back up the hill to their house. After a couple miles of post marathon walking my legs started to feel okay. I think all the walking really helped.
The biggest thing is I finished! I finished my first marathon in 4:42. Not exactly the 4 hours I had hoped. I had a great coach on my shoulder supporting me every step of the way. I can’t thank D enough for spending the whole time with me for my first! Everyone told me Marine Corps is the best first marathon. They were so right! I would recommend it to everyone!
When I was training I would have told you I wouldn’t want to train for another marathon. In the middle of it I was enjoying the race. When I finished I didn’t immediately go I never want to this again. I went I am not sure… and not sure turned into maybe…. and right now I am considering Marine Corps again next year. A friend said she wanted it as her first, so maybe I will run on her shoulder. Or maybe I will see if I can get that 4 hour time I was hoping…..
Thank you all who offered your advice through training, before the race and congratulations after. A special thank you to those who donated to my Breast Cancer fund page- Kelly, Kim, Kira!!! My uncle was so excited he bought me a 26.2 sticker for my car- I put it on right under my Timberman sticker.