“So he educated me on the long run…
The Marathon is an energy game… a game he had my attention. Going out to hard and surging wastes energy. You want to be smooth and economical. In the long run we are training the body’s energy system, to more readily burn fats over carbohydrates. You see this kind of efficiency in animals that migrate long distances, whales and birds notably- who glide with minimal movement slowly releasing their energy.”
~ Deena Kastor
My white board which hangs from my fridge reminds me of my mantras, as I head out the door … I whisper to myself… Fight + Keep Moving Forward, celebrate my pace every five miles, smile + run happy.
Here I am again, walking over to the Pentagon, under the dark early morning sky, waiting for the sun to make an appearance. Ready to toe the line at the Marine Corps Marathon, for the 5th time.
This time is a little different than the last. Last time, I had a solid training cycle, starting when Zoe was 10 months old ending when she was 14 months. I was able to fit in seven weeks of strength training after my c-section to rebuild my core, before attempting to run. Then I had seven months to build a solid base. I had three previous races under my belt, two ten milers, and a half marathon – in which I broke 2 hours. I set a new PR in the marathon.
This time, I only raced one race previously, the Navy Half Marathon, which I used as a time trial. Making it to the finish line in 2:10, I knew that realistically I could finish the marathon around 4:20:00.
This time around, Zoe – my very smart and energetic three year old, and Ava my “cuddle bug,” 7 month old baby, keeps me busy. Plus, I only had 5 weeks to base build after my c-section recovery. No time to strength train or work on speed. And now on race day, I am only 7 months postpartum, still breastfeeding, a mother of two.
There has been plenty of busy days, and sleepless nights. But I made it! I managed to fit in another marathon training cycle. Although, not as consistent as what I normally accomplish, the work still got done.
On race day, I quietly walk over to the start. I follow all the other runners. I over hear them nervously chatting among themselves, as I reflect on my training, and run through my game plan for the race. I continue to whisper to myself, “When things get tough I will … Fight, keep moving forward, celebrate my pace every 5 miles, smile, run happy.”
This is NOT a goal race for me, so no pressure to PR. I used this marathon training cycle, to regain my fitness after pregnancy, plus I was desperately craving the long run.
I recently listened to the interview of Paula Radcliffe, on the I’ll Have Another Podcast. She is the Marathon World Record holder, running it in 2:15:25. In the interview, she talks about the importance of building season upon season. One marathon training cycle and marathon is part of a series of steps, to your next goal race. So often, we focus to hard on one race, never thinking about the future ones or the big picture.
There is a season for everything. And this season is not about setting a new marathon PR, but rather regaining my fitness after pregnancy, and learning how to balance my life while including my two passions – running + motherhood.
This season Marine Corps Marathon, marathon number 5, is one of the series of steps to build upon. During this Marine Corps Marathon, I’m running for the experience. Instead of racing right passed everything, it’s time to take in the whole race – high five every Marine’s hand and thank them, gain energy from the spectators, laugh at every funny sign or T-shirt. Next marathon I’ll run for speed.
This whole marathon training cycle, I consistently, just showed up, to see what I could do. Now, I’m at the start of the Marine Corps Marathon, doing the same thing showing up to see what I can do. Let’s go!
After standing in the porta potty line waiting behind forty so other runners, I begin to run to check my bag. The porta potty line was moving so slowly I wonder if I’m going to miss the race. Finally at bag check, I meet my dad and we head to the corral. It’s pretty cool to run this marathon with my dad! I’m excited to cross the finish line with him.
My dad and I get down to the start, but it’s already crowded, we zig zag between people, but the best we can do is squeeze in at the 4:45 corral. Normally, I would have stood with the 4:15 corral or even the 4 hour, but it’s so crowded, so this will have to do.
Just as in years in the past, standing around in the corral waiting for the gun to go off, brought on all the exciting energy. I really love a big race. Nothing feels better than running a marathon on a beautiful day, with 35,000 other runners. It feels amazing.
Finally I hear the gun go off and the race begin.
Our first mile is slow, but I’m glad, because I want to give my husband a little more time to get my babies to mile 2, where they will be waiting and cheering. Down 110, through Rosslyn, up the Lee Highway hill. I spot them smiling!
A quick photo with Daddy and Ava, and I’m off again! (Ava’s first time cheering mommy on. Zoe didn’t want a picture.) Next time I will see them is in Crystal City at mile 22.
Mile 3-4 , we are looping around Spout Run, down and over the Key Bridge – leaving Virginia and entering DC. The Key Bridge is so beautiful to run over. Mile 5, the crowd support in George Town is over the top. So far we are running a pretty steady pace, and there is enough space to zigzag around some people, but still I pay attention to the fun. For example this runner dressed up in a Red Skins outfit dragging a Cowboy’s jersey.
Up Rock Creek and then down, to Hains Point. When mile 10 approaches I yell to my Dad, “double digit time!” Still feeling really good.
At mile 12, Blue Mile makes an appearance. The mile is lined with American flags, and photos of military men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our country and freedom. It’s quiet, and emotional.
Running along the National Mall, Washington, DC is always a treat. The view of the monuments take my breath away. It reminds me of how lucky I am to live in the DC area.
At mile 16, as I’m running, I tell my dad, “All we have is four more miles until we make it to the bridge, and leave DC entering into Virginia.” Once I run passed mile 17, I tell myself, “Back to single digits. Only 9 more miles to go.”
Soon I see the bridge – the 14th Street Bridge, mile 20. Two marines stand there yelling, “Time to Beat the Bridge.”
On the bridge, I start to hit the wall and start to walk. My legs and mind need it. It’s sunny and windy, but I know I have to get down to Crystal City looking good, so I start running again… My two running groups are cheering in Crystal City, and my husband, GiGi, and babies will be there too – can’t wait to see them.
Finally, off the bridge, nothing feels better approaching Crystal City. I’m out of DC, and back in Virginia. I’m passing mile 21, and I think to myself… “Only five more to go, my five mile easy run.”
Mile 21 – 22 is impossible to miss, my Oiselle team is there waiting to cheer … at their famous cowbell corner. I hear them screaming my name – “MEGHAN!!!” They are the brightest, loudest, and most electric, group I know. I high-five every single one of them. Their energy LIFTS ME UP and I truly begin to soar high.
Among the crowd I see a neighbor, so fun to say hello to another familiar face.
I keep going looking desperately for my husband, GiGi, and babies. They are here outside of Good Stuff Eatery. It’s like a mosh pit of people, so I was afraid I might miss them… but then there they are. After some quick hugs and sweaty kisses, I continue on.
As I approach the turn around, on Crystal Drive, I hear my name again… “MEGHAN.” It’s my friend Raiza and MRTT (Mom’s Run This Town) group. After a big hug, and asking if I need anything, she yells, “Go, Go, Go.” And I begin to run faster to the finish.
I feel a second wind, a burst of energy. It’s amazing how the excitement and positivity from spectators can really up lift you and get you moving. Now my dad and I are leaving Crystal City, and heading to 110.
On 110, I see the finish line in the far distance. It’s time to count street signs. To the Memorial Bridge street sign, I whisper to myself… the finish line is right passed that sign.
Then up the hill, we climb.
And the finish line is so close I can taste it. Finally my feet run over the finish, my dad right by my side. A Marine places a heavy red finishing medal around my neck.
We are Marathoners, #5 done for me and number 30 something for my dad.
On October 28th, 2018, I ran across the finish line proudly, of the Marine Corps Marathon for the 5th time. I showed up to see what I could do, and at 7 months postpartum, I finished 26.2 miles in 4:44:21.
My goals for this race were to fight, keep moving forward, celebrate my pace every five miles, smile, and run happy… so that’s what I did.
Although, I’m still smiling and running happy, I’m already thinking about my next marathon, my next season. And next time there’s going to be less smiling and more speedy miles accompanied with a whole lot of GRIT! Stay tuned!
A special Congratulations to everyone who ran/raced the Marine Corps Marathon this year. And also congrats to those who ran/raced a fall marathon!