Last year, one of my fellow Stroller Warriors decided to run the Marine Corps Marathon just a few weeks before the event. (One of our other members was planning to do it, but sadly sustained an injury leaving a free bib.) We all logged on to watch her 10k updates as they posted, constantly streaming comments on our SW Facebook page, I started to get the itch. Yes, I have done two previous marathons, but that was before I ever liked running.
So with high hopes and a stomach full of nerves, I sat down at my computer moments before the event registration opened and managed to secure one of the slots that sold out in 2 hours and 41 minutes! That brought on the mad search for the "right" training plan. I ended up with a mix of a couple plans that my dear husband helped me figure out.
I briefly wrote recaps of my training weeks, but then we packed away our computer and embarked on our third move as a married couple, my 15th since 1998! We lived with my in-laws for nearly 6 weeks and then finally moved into our rented house in Mt Vernon. Those first 6 weeks were a blessing for my training. I ran stroller-free most days and had the company of my husband who had also decided to run. Unfortunately, those weeks were plagued with PF, a sore right hamstring, and several runs that left me thinking, "What on earth have I signed up for?!"
I had not printed out my training plan and couldn't access the computer until post-marathon, so my training was scattered at best. My focus was getting the house unpacked and livable for the Weasel, and while I did manage to get a few longer runs in, I wasn't feeling super confident. I originally started out with a goal of sub-4. I quickly changed that to just finishing the race.
On Saturday morning, Grandpa came and picked up Weasel (she was spending the night with them so we wouldn't have to get a sitter on Sunday) and left us to relax. Sunday morning arrived and we woke at 4:40. That gave us enough time to eat breakfast and for Jason to down some coffee. We hopped on the Metro and rode to King Street where we met a friend. Neither of us carried anything we couldn't run with because we wanted to avoid the chaos of the bag drop at the end. (Hence the lack of photos in this post!)
After catching up with LOTS of my Stroller Warrior buddies, we made our way to the 4 hour corral and got ready for the canon to sound. We crossed the start line just 3 minutes after the bang and quickly found our stride. It was Jason, me and our friend, Pat. The first few miles were crowded with spectators cheering loudly.
Mile 1 - 9:24
Mile 2 - 9:25
Mile 3 - 9:00
Mile 4 - 8:50
Mile 5 - 9:15
There were a few hills that were challenging but not terrible and we made our way into Georgetown which offered a huge downhill! The main road was packed and there were so many people cheering! At that point, Jason said, "Hey Jen, do we know anyone up here in Georgetown?" As he said it, we saw our friend, Sean Cox (in uniform as he was working the race) and that was quite a pick me up!
Mile 6 - 8:37
Mile 7 - 9:04
Mile 8 - 8:54
Mile 9 - 8:58
Mile 10 - 8:33
Mile 11 - 9:11
We cruised just ahead of the 4 mile pacer and I was running quietly, but still feeling ok. Jason was great as he occasionally asked how I was doing and if I needed anything. Then we came to Hains Point (the dreaded part of the MCM course regardless of what year you're running). It's mostly free of spectators and often produces winds due to the fact that it's surrounded by the waters of the Potomac. The first 1/2 mile of it was lined with large pictures and names of soldiers, sailors, and Marines who have been killed since OIF and OEF started. That gave me the motivation to keep running. But I was starting to hurt.
Mile 12 - 9:01
Mile 13 - 9:05
Mile 14 - 9:49
Mile 15 - 9:52
Around mile 14, I could feel my pinkie toenail on my right foot throbbing. I had issues with the nail earlier in my training and figured it was probably working its way off my toe! I just kept running. As we left Hains Point, I started taking brief walking breaks. I stretched a couple times too. Jason would run ahead and get cups of water and Gatorade for both of us, bringing mine to me so I didn't have to alter my path. BEST HUSBAND EVER! He was looking good and could have finished well before me, but said, "We started this thing together and we will finish TOGETHER!"
Mile 16 - 10:16
Mile 17 - 10:38
Mile 18 - 10:56
Mile 19 - 10:29
Mile 20 - 11:34
As we turned into Arlington, we ran by places we used to walk to from our first apartment as a married couple. It was full of cheering people and even though I still stopped to walk a few times, I was feeling better.
Mile 21 - 10:18
Mile 22 - 11:46
Mile 23 - 11:24
Mile 24 - 11:14
Mile 25 - 11:56
You can see just how much our pace had slowed by this point. My legs felt like lead and even though I knew I was running, it felt like I was being sucked backward. I should mention that the weather was phenomenal! Those winds and rain predicted for the day had held off and it was truly spectacular running weather. We ran that last mile and then made the left turn to run up the final hill to the Iwo Jima Memorial (Marine Corps War Memorial). It felt amazing. We were 25 minutes off my original goal, but I couldn't have cared less.
Mile 26 - 11:44
We ran around people who were walking that final hill, linked hands and crossed the finish line at 4:24. Most people would look at these splits and say we went out too fast. I disagree. The first half of the race was awesome. If I had run any slower, the pain in my legs and my little toe would have just come along at an earlier mile marker. I was happy with our race.
We made it home about 2 hours after finishing the race and I finally took off my shoe. My pinkie toenail hadn't come off, but the enter toe was one big blister! I wish I had pictures to share with you from this race, but I'll always have the memories of a successful challenge completed with my best friend at my side.
As for my future in running? Who knows! I will not be signing up for any more full marathons, but I definitely see a few half marathons in my future. I'll probably stick to 5ks and 10ks for a while though:)