I never had the opportunity to write a detailed blog post about my experience at the 2019 Marine Corps Marathon. It was definitely my favorite race of the year. And now that today is 365/365 of 2019, I thought it was the last and perfect time to tell you my story.
As you start setting 2020 running goals, and finalizing registration forms on future races, I hope you feel inspired and motivated – I mean, it was a decade ago, that I myself, found inspiration after reading an article on a flight to Massachusetts. It was about a man who set a New Years resolution to run his first marathon in Hawaii. Then I ran my very first 26.2 and got hooked, (this year I ran my 6th full.) So here you go, sit back and relax because this one is a good one.
Wow! Wow! Wow! – What a race!
Never have I ever, run a marathon in that kind of rain!
The week leading up to the Marine Corps Marathon, there was lots of chatter about the rain that was coming. It went from… “It’s not going to be a wash out. There is only a 50% chance of rain… to 80%, to 100% chance of rain. As more rain took over the forecast the temperatures also went up. The prediction: rainy, but warm.
It was all true. I woke up to rain drops making noise on the medal awning that covers my front porch.
“Oh, there it is – it truly is raining.” I thought.
It was 5:30 am, pitch black because the sun had yet to come up. I tip toed to the bathroom, where all my racing running gear was laid out, ready to go. I took a quick shower to wake up and warm up my muscles. I got dressed. After much debate the night before, I finally decided on my Oiselle team VolĂŠe crop and pocket joggers – hoping they would hold up in the rain comfortably without chaffing, or being to hot or to cold.
Out the door I went, grabbing an umbrella and my breakfast – water bottle, applesauce pouch, and half of a bagel with peanut butter – it always does the trick.
Because my two daughters and husband were sleeping soundly, I drove to my mom’s house, who lives near the pentagon and I had her drop me off as close to the start as she could. Just like years in the past, I followed all of the other runners to the start, looking for familiar faces. But this year, it was hard to recognize anyone, because everyone was hiding from the rain under ponchos and umbrellas, desperately trying to stay dry. Even as I huddled under my umbrella, I could feel my socks and shoes starting to become soaked with rain.
“Well it is, what it is…” I told myself, “No matter what happens, I know one thing…. today we are going to get wet. Today we are going to be running in the rain.”
It was the mental talk I needed. I wasn’t going to let a little rain get to me. I’ve run in rain before and it can be refreshing and fun. I thought back to the 90 degree summer days when I was chugging along on the MVT during my long run, praying for any little bit of rain to cool me off.
Once at the start, I headed to the UPS bag check to meet my dad who also was running the marathon. When he arrived, I checked my bag and umbrella, and put on the plastic poncho, he gave me to stay as dry as I could.
THE START was rainy. We were all squished in, wearing ponchos trying to stay warm and dry, waiting patiently in the back of the 4:30 corral. But because of the rain it wasn’t as exciting as years in the past. There was no military jets flying above us, and no navy seals parachuting on to the course. No beach balls being tossed around. It was even hard to get photos, because my phone was tucked away in a zip lock bag.
However, the gun went off and the race began. And around 8:05 we were off heading down 110, through Rosslyn, and up Lee Highway.
My husband and daughters, along with my mom and friend, Elissa, were waiting for us at mile 2/3 on the right hand side. We saw them immediately, and after hugs and high fives, we were off again.
At this point, my dad and I decided that I should go on ahead. I was feeling pretty good and wanted to see what I could do. And because he had surgery in the middle of this marathon build up, he had to take a 3 week break from running. So he had no time goal in mind and was planning on “just finishing.”
I picked up the pace, and “politely” began to weave around other runners… “I got to find the 4:30 pacer,” I told myself.
Running up Rock Creek Park was beautiful, but the rain started pouring on us. Heavy rain drops made it hard to even see. At this point, I spotted the 4:30 pacer in the distance, but didn’t think I could catch him.
In the mean time, I realized that my watch was paused. Because I have a 5 year old Garmin – it is a touch screen. I must have wiped away rain to see the face and accidentally paused it. I wasn’t sure how long it was paused for, but once I started it up again my GPS was off. As I came to a mile marker, I realized it was catching up, and only 10-20 seconds off. Regardless, I wasn’t sure my exact pace and timing, and decided not to worry, and from then on I ran by feel.
On the Key Bridge, I ended up spotting two other Oiselle Birds, Meghan and Jen, from my running group Oiselle VolĂŠe. Which I chatted with them for a bit, but went on ahead.
Running over bridges is one of my favorite things, and the Key Bridge never disappoints. However, this time around, I forgot to take in the view, because I was more concerned about catching that 4:30 pacer.
Down Wisconsin to the waterfront, under the bridge, heading towards the Kennedy Center. Passing the Kennedy Center to the Memorial Bridge Stairs.
At mile 10, my pace was feeling good and consistent, and then I spotted Oiselle Birds, Courtney and Becca, cheering on the sidelines – it was awesome to see them.
Spectator support is what Marine Corps Marathon is known for, and is one of the aspects of the race that makes the experience so special. The fact that there might be a smaller “spectator” turn out, because of the rain had me worried. However, as I was running I only noticed it was a little less than years before. Because it was a warm rain, people still showed up to cheer, and I was impressed and thankful for it. Spectators are awesome – it makes a difference hearing their cheers.
Onward… I went running through the Blue Mile. The blue mile is a mile where we remember fallen soldiers. Their photos line the mile on both sides. It’s always an emotional mile. The rain really poured, almost as if the sky was crying, American flags blew in the breeze.
At this point I was half way through, leaving Hains Point and heading to the National Mall. The rain was still coming down, and my iPhone headphones completely stopped working. No music, at all! But the crowd was supportive enough, so I didn’t let it agitate me.
On the National Mall, I saw familiar faces cheering at mile 16. And then I noticed the 4:20 pacer. I asked how accurate he was, turns out he was on point. I couldn’t believe, I caught up and was splashing through puddles with the 4:20 pace group at the Marine Corps Marathon. – I might not break 4 hours, but the possibility of setting a new PR wasn’t far out of reach.
At mile 17, I was still rocking it with a smile. This marathon training cycle, I trained using the Hanson’s marathon method which has a 16 mile long run instead of the typical 20 miler. It has a focus on quality volume and balance. I customized the plan to fit my needs and did one 20 miler, however most of my long runs were 16 milers. I’ll write a detailed post about this training method and the benefits later. However, with that being said, when I hit mile 17, I knew I only had 9 miles left – entering single digits, and only had 3 more miles, until I BEAT THE BRIDGE – hitting mile 20, leaving Washington, DC, heading up and down the 14th street bridge to “Crystal City” Arlington, VA.
At mile 19, I pulled off to the side to text my husband, to let him know I was running towards the bridge. I was going to be in Crystal City in no time. The rain had stopped, so I ditched my plastic bag that was covering my phone, so I could continue communicating with my husband if needed.
At mile 20, I BEAT the Bridge. It was slightly up hill, then on the flat service of the bridge I ran onward. The sun really started to shine bright, and it was getting hot. The bridge is always a hard spot because there are very few spectators, and a lot of runners “hit the wall” and start to walk. There was a self serve water station, but I didn’t need water, I could wait until Crystal City. Down hill I ran as I approached Virginia. I kept my eyes open for my Oiselle VolĂŠe running group who had a cowbell corner set up at mile 22.
Off the bridge a ran, and not long into Crystal City I spotted them, at mile 22, my Oiselle VolĂŠe team. They are the loudest most supportive running group of them all. Their cheers and high-fives definitely lifted me up.
Next up, looking for my husband and daughters. They were at mile 23. I pulled off to the side to chat with them. They gave me well wishes as I headed to the finish, and told me they were going to hang back to see if they could spot my dad, aka Grandpa Poppy.
Leaving Crystal City and looping near the Pentagon, at mile 24/25, I was then on 110… I could see the finish line in the far distance. At this point my pace was slowing a little, but my mental game was still strong. “Just get to the next street sign.” I whispered my mantra, “I got this! I was born to run.”
I saw the Memorial Bridge street sign and knew it wasn’t much further before I would be making a left up the hill to the finish.
Mile 26/26.2… I was there under a balloon filled arch with a sign that said HILL, heading up to the finish. It happened so fast, that the next thing I realized a Marine was draping a finishers medal around my sweaty neck. We shook hands, I thanked him for his service, and we snapped a photo…. It’s tradition!
As I wondered around the finishers village, I had received a text message from my husband saying he didn’t see my dad and that he was getting the car to meet me. I started tracking my dad and saw that his estimated finishing time was in 20 minutes! But it was too crowded to head back to the finish line.
The finisher village… I proudly walked around the finisher village with my medal shining. I went to the beer tent, and drank a cold one. I enjoyed the live music playing in Rosslyn. I headed to the UPS trucks to grab my checked bag. I chatted it up with some friendly runners from Boston who told me that the Boston Marathon has a lot of egos (first negative comment I’ve ever heard about Boston) and that there is nothing like running the Marine Corps Marathon.
Finishing Time … So how did I do?! I know you want to know. I didn’t break 4 hours, but I am very happy to say I finished in 4:18:06, which I actually didnât know when I crossed the finish line. It wasnât until my sister told me my official time (because she was tracking me) that I had set a new PR on this course. Wow! That was such a hard race, and I ran totally by feel, no accurate watch to show me time and pace along the way.
I eventually want to break 4 hours, but for several reasons, Marine Corps Marathon is a tough course to run fast on.
Overall, I am happy for a new PR and the experience and privilege to Run with the Marines! Plus look at this medal!
In 2019, I ran my 6th full marathon. I trained using a different training plan, the Hanson’s Marathon Method, while trusting in myself to customize the plan based on my own needs. I also (with my girls in the stroller), reached my goal of running a total of 1000 miles for the year. And I did that, while balancing work and motherhood (my babies always come first.) Maybe 2020 will be my year to break 4 in the marathon!? We shall see, one thing I know for sure, I’ll be running a lot, and mothering a lot, and having a whole lot of fun while doing it!
Happy New Year!