As they say in the Marine Corps, OORAH!
And, as I crossed the finish line, Mission Accomplished.
I have had the Marine Corps Marathon on my bucket list for a long time. After all, I'm very patriotic, my husband is retired military (Lieutenant Colonel, Air Force), and I have a love for running. Why not merge all of those factors into one big race?
Now in its 44th year, the Marine Corps Marathon takes place in and around Washington, DC. Sunday, October 27th was the date. I had spent the past (almost) three months training and was eager to see what I could do over the course of 26.2 miles.
I flew into DC on Friday (the 25th), and had been stalking the weather all week. I'm a glass-half-full kind of gal, but the forecast was really testing my eternal optimism. Precipitation had been the one constant, though the percentage of rainfall on race day had wavered on every one of my daily checks.
We awoke to rain early Sunday morning. I had planned out my race day outfit several days prior, but I still was on the fence if I'd bring the hydration pack (more for a rain gear carry-all than fuel resource). The temps were tricky...65F, humid, and rainy. Typically, temps in the 60F's feel cold to me, add in some rainfall and I'm definitely anything but warm or happy. I decided to add a pair of cut-off knee socks (as throwaway arm sleeves). I also tempted fate and wore not only my new hat purchased at the expo, but said hat had the words Mission Accomplished plastered directly over my forehead.
Some of our apps even showed thunder storms happening mid-morning. Can you say, UGH?
With the full marathon starting at 7:55 (and the 50K starting at 7:35, for our lone 50K-seeker, Julie), we piled into our Uber at 5:45 and headed out. We had nearly a 45-minute walk to get to the start line on Route 110 (situated between Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon), which included getting through security and to the bag drop site.
We wished Julie well (embarking on her first-ever 50K). Rachel and I headed to the corral for the 4:30-4:45 projected finish runners, while Linda, Jenn and Dana dropped off their bags. Unfortunately, that's the last I saw of these other gals until after the finish line.
|waiting for the Howitzer to sound|
|yep, ponchos everywhere|
I decided to put in the earbuds and have some music...only, the volume was too low. I tried turning off the IPod and disconnecting the cord (which usually does the trick), but my fingers were so wet, I couldn't get a solid grip on it. And, I couldn't get the music to come back on...so I gave up and settled for silence, which wasn't a bad thing, because the crowd support was pretty incredible.
I'd eaten a few Honey Stinger chews prior to the start, so near the 6-mile mark I ate a few more. I was trying to be careful to have some water (and Gatorade on occasion) at each of the water stops. Despite being on my own, and with no music, things were feeling good. Then, right near the 8-mile mark, the heavens opened and down came the rain. Again. All kinds of rain.
I was ever grateful I'd kept my poncho! Even though I was a sweaty mess by that point, keeping the bulk of the rain outside of the poncho gave me a little control of the situation (at least in my mind LOL).
|Thank you, MarathonFOTO|
|pic courtesy of Sal Bezos, fellow marathoner|
It was near mile 10 or 11 when I was ready for a little more fuel, but with my wet fingers (and wet fuel packets), I wasn't able to rip the packets open. And, I didn't have anything to dry my hands (or the packets). I think I walked a good solid 2-3 minutes, struggling to rip the packet open. Finally, while under an overpass, I asked a spectator for help (since they had been protected from the rain and probably had drier hands than myself). After several attempts, the lady asked if I'd mind if she used her teeth, ha! Desperate times, right?
A short ways later, it was the Wear Blue Mile. These always bring me to tears...seeing all the pictures of the fallen service men and women, reading their names, noting their (usually) young ages. I feel sadness for their families and friends, but I feel a deep sense of gratitude for their sacrifices.
More rain, more puddles to dodge, and sore, wet feet. It wasn't until sometime in mile 18 that the rain finally stopped. I took off the poncho, but hung on to it for another mile, until I felt it safe to toss it curbside.
It was right around this time (near the 19-mile mark, give or take), that my white flagged was poised and ready to wave. My pace had been staying somewhat steady, but the rain had put a damper (literally) on my energy. I knew the sub 4:30 finish probably wasn't happening, and even a sub-5:00 wasn't a guarantee.
It was nice that the rain had (finally) stopped, though. The sun had emerged, but with my sunglasses buried deep in my pack, I'd either have to pull over and dig or find a kind person to do the digging for me. Immediately, I spotted a Marine on the side of the road, handing out sport beans and cheering. I asked if he could dig out my sunglasses for me...of course, he was more than happy to do so. I thanked him for his service to our country, and he then thanked ME for my support. And I almost burst into tears.
A short while later, having conceded that I wasn't going to make my desired finish time, I decided to take a quick walk break. Then I noticed a vacant porta potty. And, I realized I hadn't had any fuel in awhile. I also grabbed some water and more Gatorade.
Ahead of me was the long jaunt over the Potomac River, via the 14th Street Bridge. By now, the sun was burning down on us. I'm not afraid of heat or humidity, but it had been awhile since I'd run in it. My clothing was still a wet mess, my feet were feeling tired and the exhaustion was starting to set in. I managed to run most of the bridge, but I could tell my pace was slowing.
Also, my fuel pack had been rubbing my left shoulder all morning. I had been tucking part of the poncho under the strap, but with the poncho gone, the strap was really making my shoulder miserable. Just after the bridge, I spotted a medical tent up ahead, so I headed inside and asked for a bandage. I was surprised to see so many runners on cots; some wrapped in blankets, some with ice packs, some curled up with a look of distraught on their faces. Maybe I didn't have it so bad...
The final four miles were definitely my slowest of the day. There was probably equal parts running and walking. I never felt like giving up, but it was frustrating to have all that training behind me only to be facing a tough day on the MCM course.
Heading into Crystal City, I knew Coco would be at one of the MRTT stands, so that became my beacon. I spotted Kathrine Switzer, but didn't have the energy to seek out a high-5 from her (I know, my bad). Shortly after, near the 23-mile mark, I spotted Coco and she gave me a hug. I didn't need any water or food, but seeing a friendly face can really up the mojo!
The final three miles had a few gentle, rolling hills. I decided to run as much as possible, but walk the inclines. My body was really feeling tired, and I was starting to feel a little loopy. Then, near the 25.5 mark, I spotted a row of unoccupied porta potties and decided to take advantage. Why not? This final 1/2 mile of the course had us tracing our steps from when we'd crossed the start line, back on Route 110.
I could hear the crowds cheering. The route curved to the left, and I started the final climb to the finish. My GPS had been off for most of the second half of the race...around a good 1/2 mile "farther" than what the mile markers were indicating, so I didn't know for certain just how much further I had remaining. I do know we had a very steep climb at the 26-mile mark, and the route then turned right. The bleachers alongside the road were full of people, the noise of the crowd was loud, and it still took
a lot more energy (than it should have) to get my legs across the finish line.
But, I couldn't help but smile back at the friendly faces. I'd crossed the finish line of my ninth marathon, and it felt great to be done (in more ways than one). Not even close to my projected finish time, but a victory none the less.
And, speaking of medals....this is such a piece of beauty!
Not only did we receive snack boxes, but also "disposable" warm-up jackets...
Although my finish time wasn't what I'd hoped, I'm alright with it. I know a lot of runners struggled on the MCM course...I've seen numerous postings from others, who also ran their slowest marathon in the midst of all that rain. That said, this still was a top-notch event. The course was beautiful, and encompassed so many captivating points of interest. The crowd support was incredible, especially considering they also had to endure the rain for the majority of the morning. The on-course volunteers were wonderful as well.
And, the Marines! The Marines were most gracious. Many were working the water stations and fuel stands. Even more were simply alongside the route, cheering for all the runners. Every Marine that I thanked for their service immediately thanked me for my support. Every. Single. One.
In years past, there's been some mixed reviews on the race shirt. Usually a mock neck, this year the MCM really hit the jackpot. The design is great (in my opinion)!
274th (of 839) in my age division
3921st (of 8499) of the females
9796th (of 18,513) overall
So, although it was a tough day (thank you, Momma N!), it still was a great day. The rain was a definite buzzkill, and my finish time was disappointing (it wasn't a bad finish time, it just wasn't the time I'd trained for or was capable of)....but I can honestly look back at this race and be grateful for the experience. Honestly, I'm thankful I can endure 26.2 miles of non-stop action, even in the rain, without the aid of music. As this post goes live (two days post-finish line), I'm only experiencing some very mild stiffness and feel pretty good overall. I'm good with that!
And, best of all, I got to spend a fun weekend with some great gal pals. I'd definitely call that a win!
Have you run the Marine Corps Marathon? Ever run a race in the rain...if so, how far? How do you feel about tough races....regret the frustrations or take pride in not quitting?
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