“Run for 20 minutes and youâ€™ll feel better. Run another 20 and you might tire. Add on 3 hours and youâ€™ll hurt, but keep going and youâ€™ll seeâ€”and hear and smell and tasteâ€”the world with a vividness that will make your former life pale.”
In honor, of the Marine Corps Birthday, (that was on Thursday), and Veterans Day Weekend, I thought it would be a perfect time to post my race recap on running the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon.
(Warning: This is a long detailed post about my experience, mile by mile.)
On Sunday, October 30th, 2016, I ran my fourth Marine Corps Marathon. Although, it was my fourth MCM- this marathon was my first full marathon I ran, 14 months after having Zoe, and my fourth postpartum race.
When I registered for this race, I kept it a secret. I was really worried if I would be able to fit in the training, being such a huge time commitment, new mom, and working mom. Would I be able to juggle everything? Turns out I could and did. Running mamas let me tell you… It is totally possible to train for a full marathon after baby! I did it and you can too. I ran all the miles! (Curious about my training read all about it here.)
Marine Corps Marathon
The Expo was held at the Gaylord Resort in National Harbor. At first, I was a little annoyed that they moved the Expo to Maryland instead of having it in DC. There is no metro located on National Harbor, so I feared there would be a lot of traffic and no parking. Turns out it was perfect. Not to much traffic, plenty of parking, and beautiful views of the Potomac river.
We normally see these view from across the river, from the VA side.
The Expo was held on both Friday and Saturday. I went on Friday afternoon hoping it wouldn’t be to busy. There were no lines getting in and no lines to get bibs. However, there was a line to the check out to get MCM gear, and because I had my 14 month old with me, there was no way I could wait in it.
I ended up just getting my bib and skipping the MCM gear area. (I’ll purchase some gear later online.
I wore my Oiselle sweatshirt to the Expo, talk about flystlye. This sweatshirt is so warm, cozy, and stylish.
Again, I brought my daughter, Zoe, with me to the Expo. The majority of my training was done with her by my side, so I wanted her there with me to experience the excitement of the Expo. It feels great to be a BAMR. (Read about being a BAMR at the Navy Half Expo, here.)
Some runners hate expos and avoid them if they can. I, on the other hand, love the Expo. The Expo always gets me pumped! Plus, who doesn’t want to shop for more running stuff?!
I ended up shopping around, and purchased a running skirt from Mana Threads. I bought a sports bra and tank top from them at the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler Expo, and I was excited to see them again. I’ve never run in a skirt before, and honestly, never thought I would. I actually use to “roll my eyes” at runners who wore skirts. But I’m at the point that I’ve been running for 8-10 years now, and it can be difficult to find something new and different. So I’m going to give the skirt a try. Might as well… I might love it.
I also checked out HOKA shoes. The guy was very knowledgeable. I’m pretty loyal to Newton, but want another type of shoe in my shoe rotation. So in the future I might give HOKA a try.
NIGHT BEFORE THE RACE
Every long run I ran this summer was in record breaking heat conditions. Just my luck… the weather man was predicting unusually warm summer like conditions on race day.
In my running groups, everyone was worried about the heat. We even received an email from the Marine Corps Marathon organizers, saying – to slow down race pace, and to hydrate and dress for hot conditions.
Every time I run MCM the weather is perfect. I checked back on my blog post from a couple of years ago, when I ran my 3rd MCM and it was 30 degrees cooler that day.
I don’t do well in the heat, and I also was pretty congested because of a cold. However, I trained in a heat wave of a summer in 80-90 degree record breaking weather, so I wasn’t too worried. I also wasn’t going to put my mind in a negative state. Positive vibes only.
I was just going to run my best and see what I could do. I was confident. I put in all the miles during training, and I knew once I got around the energy of the other runners, my excitement would keep me going strong.
A lot of runners chose to wear their hydration packs on race day. I thought about it, but I really didn’t want the extra load. So my game plan was to rely on water stations, hoping they wouldn’t run out.
I also planned on starting at 7:55, when the gun went off. Because the metro wasn’t opening early for us, due to safe tracking, MCM organizers were leaving the start open for a full additional hour. This meant late runners could cross the start line as late as 8:55. But this also meant that these late runners would cross the finish line later in the day in hotter conditions. My game plan, get there early, start my race when the gun goes off, run my race during the gorgeous morning, cooler temperature, and finish my race before the afternoon heat.
NIGHT before RACE RITUAL
Saturday night, I spent some time trying to decide what running outfit to wear on race day. I decided on my oiselle singlet, and I’m so glad I did!
I stayed comfortable and cool up until mile 24. And wearing the oiselle singlet helped my oiselle teammates see me easier. I really love running for oiselle. I joined the team after having Zoe, and the support has been amazing.
I did my,”Night before Race Ritual,” which is laying out my race day outfit and taking a picture. Above picture is my, “Flat Meg.”
I also laid out Zoe’s outfit. My sister had a shirt made for her that said, “My mom runs faster than your mom.”
I was as ready as I could be.
So it was time to just try to get a good night sleep. But before shutting my eyes, I checked social media to support other runners and gain some inspiration.
This is what I found on the Marine Corps Marathon facebook page.
My alarm went off at 5:20 am. I tiptoed through my dark house and got dressed and ready. Grabbed my iPod shuffle (which I didn’t use, I just had it as a back up) and Garmin.
By 6:00 am, I was off to my mom’s house. Because the metro wasn’t working- I parked my car at my mom’s house, and she dropped me off in Pentagon City. A ton of other runners flooded Pentagon City, so I just followed the crowd walking over to the start, eating my pb&j.
Like always, the Marines greeted us, and welcomed us with excited faces. They checked our bags, getting us through security quickly.
I was there pretty early, and because I had time, I decided to hit up the porta potty, making conversation with the guy in front of me. It was his first time running MCM, so I let him ask me all of his nervous questions.
Unlike years in the past, I wasn’t shivering. It was close to 60 degrees already at 6:30 am. I was in long pants and my long sleeve zip up MCM shirt from the previous year. It was time to strip down into my race clothes and drop my long sleeves at baggage claim.
(Side note: I saw a lot of people wearing bath robes. Have you seen that before? I’ve seen people wearing trash bags in the past, but never bath robes. I don’t see the point. But to each their own.)
When I was at baggage claim the sun began to rise.
My dad was also running the marathon. I received a text message from my saying he was on Memorial Bridge running to the start. He asked for me to wait for him so we could get a picture together.
CORRAL AND START LINE
My dad and I walked down to the start line at 7:30ish. We squeezed our way up to the 4:10 and 4:15 corral – standing with a view of the 4:15 pacer.
The Marine Corps Marathon is The People’s Marathon – which means they do not assign corrals, instead they allow the runners to choose a corral. Because Marine Corps Marathon has 30,000 runners, the first three miles can be crowded and slow, so I always try to stand in the corral ahead of my ideal finishing time.
Let’s talk about timing…
My goal finishing time for this race was 4:15. Maybe I could run it faster, because I ran my last half marathon, a month before, in 1:53, and felt good! But I finished my last full marathon in 4:19, (2 years ago) so I would be happy running that, or a faster PR.
So standing in the 4:10-4:15 corral seemed to be a good place to start.
The actual start didn’t seem as exciting as years past. It actually didn’t seem crowded at all. But maybe that’s because of the option of starting later. But in the years past, people are normally packed in, clothes going everywhere. One year a beach ball was going above our heads. Everyone cheering!
The real excitement happened when they flew military planes over our heads.
We ran down 110, up through Rosslyn, up Lee Highway. My husband, daughter, and Mom were waiting for me at mile 2-3ish on Lee Highway. It was easy to spot them because my little Zoe was on my husband’s shoulders. It was so fun seeing them, especially Zoe!! She was excited seeing her Grandpa aka Poppy. My dad showed everyone his 1989 MCM race shirt. As I looked at my watch, my dad made observation that we climbed that hill pretty fast. We were on our way to Spout Run.
We ran through Spout Run during miles 3-5. This is one of my favorite parts of the marathon because it is by far the prettiest part of the race. Trees shaded us while we ran up and down slight rolling hills, as we approached the Key Bridge. My Dad and I were still running side by side.
Over the Key Bridge we went, leaving Virginia and entering D.C. I love running over the Key Bridge. And Georgetown is usually a very exciting spot during the race because the spectator support is so huge and energized. There is normally a band playing from Georgetown University, and a group from Lululemon cheering while sipping mimosas. However, this year I didn’t see any of that and to my surprise it seemed like a ghost town. But, we continued on, down Wisconsin we went, and up to Rock Creek park we headed. My dad and I were making great timing!
Usually, Rock Creek Park is up one huge hill and then a crowded turn around, then a down hill. But this year they cut it short and it wasn’t crowded at all. My dad and I both looked at each other with a smile, when we realized we didn’t have to run the hill.
MILE 11 – The BLUE mile
Mile 11 is called the Blue Mile. This mile is lined with photos of fallen soldiers. It was very emotional. Many people stopped in front of their fallen solider to cry, or get a picture. American flags lined the end of the mile to uplift us.
Haines Point is normally the boring part, but we got through it – still feeling really strong and on pace.
During one of the water startions, my dad grabbed a GU (energy gel) and I lost him. But my cell phone rang, and it was him, and he was coming up on the left hand side. Off we went to the National Mall. Dad shouted we were over half way through.
At mile 15, I told my dad we only had 2 miles until mile 17. Mile 17 is a significant mile in the marathon, because you only have 9 miles left which means you enter single digits. We were both running on pace, but it was then that my dad told me to go on ahead, if I thought I was going to break 4 hours. I didn’t know if I could do that, but I was going to try. So I picked up the pace on the National Mall and headed to the 14th street bridge.
I left the National Mall and was heading on to the 14th street bridge. The bridge is normally mile 20, but because of the late start, and the eagerness to open DC streets, we had to leave the city on time. So they made the bridge mile 18 instead of the normal mile 20.
The goal to the bridge is to, “Beat the Bridge.” Many people hit the wall here and begin to walk. It can feel really hot, or super windy. But I actually always love the bridge. And I never walk.
Once I was on the bridge, still running, I texted my husband to let him know I was on the bridge heading to Crystal City. He was shocked I was calling so early, ahead of schedule. He was on his way to meet me in Crystal City.
I also knew my Oiselle teammates had a cheer station at mile 21. So I was keeping a look out. Mean while, I was still on pace and feeling strong.
There they were! My Oiselle teammates cheered the loudest cheers ever at mile 21! So happy I saw them. I was now super pumped and on my way down Crystal Drive to see my husband, baby, and mom. MILE 21 was the longest distance I ran during training. This mile marker is significant for me because during the week I run a 5 mile easy run, and during the marathon when I hit 21, I tell myself, “Its just my 5 mile easy run.”
I ran through Crystal City, eyes wide, looking for people I knew. Around mile 22, I saw my husband, mom, and baby, again, waiting to cheer me on. Zoe was so cute having fun watching all the runners, smiling big when she saw me. I got some pictures and I told them I was feeling good and making great timing!
After leaving my family, letting them know I would see them at the finish, I kept on pace. I started looking for the mile markers. It wasn’t until mile 24, that I started to feel really hot.
But at mile 24, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It ended up being one of my runner friend, Raj Running Yogi! It was such a fun surprise seeing him. I hope I was friendly! At mile 24, looping around the pentagon, I was just trying to stay focused and look for my street signs, that always helps me get to the finish.
MILE 25 – 26.2
I could see the finish line in the distance. Then the street signs appeared. I told myself just get to the Memorial Bridge street sign. Next thing I realize, I’m running passed it and seeing the Key Bridge street sign. Passing the Key Bridge sign, I made a left heading to the Iwo Jima memorial, uphill to the finish. Although, the finish line was moved to the right this year, it felt amazing crossing it!
This Marine gave me my finishing medal!
I met up with my family. And got to show my daughter Zoe my finishing medal.
After the race was over, my husband, daughter and I enjoyed bunch at Lyon Hall.
A NEW PR
Although, it was hot running conditions, and a “difficult” course, I felt great most of the race.
I ended up finishing in 4:17:01, which was a little over a 2 minute PR. I am very happy with this time, and over all had a very successful marathon.
The most fun thing about this race was running the first 15 miles with my dad. I am very impressed with how fit he is!
I’m also most proud of the fact that I trained for this race with my daughter by my side. Yes, my identity has changed now that I am a mother, but it has not changed my passion for running and living a healthy lifestyle. It is very important to me to show and teach my daughter- that with passion, dedication, and hard work, anything is possible.
WHAT IS NEXT?
I will be running a Turkey Trot this thanksgiving with Zoe in the stroller. But as of that, I’m still trying to decide which marathon I want to run next.
In the mean time, I’m hitting the weight room again consistently. Its time to get stronger again.
Thank you to everyone who inspired and supported me through this marathon training season, and the marathon. This includes MRTT, Oiselle, and everyone that followed along on IG, FB, Strava, and this blog.
Also I want to give a special thank you to the Marines, race organizers, volunteers, and race spectator support for another amazing Marine Corps Marathon experience.
It’s so amazing to be a part of something this big!! And the running community is incredible!
copyright 2016 sweatdaily