What happens when you are signed up for an October marathon but take a long road trip across the country in the summer that prevents enough long runs, promptly get sick with a month long respiratory bug once you return from said road trip, and hurt your hip trying to train too fast too soon once you are well enough to run? Well, if you are signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon, you decide to run it anyway. At least that’s what I did, and it’s a memory I will NEVER forget. Tho following is my Marine Corps Marathon recap for last year’s race, one of my very favorite races.
First of all, it’s a lucky thing to be able to get an entry to the Marine Corp Marathon. You can only gain entrance a few ways- by lottery, by running and raising money for a charity, or by completing the Marine Corps 17.75K race for an “access granted” guaranteed entry. But getting into the Marine Corps 17.75 is a challenge all by itself. It sold out in minutes the morning that I registered and I was giddy with excitement that I got one of the coveted entrances. The race itself is wonderful and is worth doing even if entrance to the marathon isn’t your goal. Packet pick up was a breeze at a local running store, and parking was easily had about a half mile from the start line. Marines in uniform start the race and line the course yelling encouragement. There are also encouraging signs on the coarse to keep you entertained. Nothing like a “Today, Barbie” sign to get you moving a little faster. Heading through the hilly woods of Prince William Forest Park in early spring was a wonderful experience and I happily clung to my access granted pass that was given to me after the race in order to register the next day for the marathon. The excitement of just getting the opportunity to run made me (stupidly?) determined to run the marathon no matter what.It’s been almost a year since I drove out to Washington D.C. with an aching hip that made even walking painful, to lace up to run the Marine Corps Marathon. While I am not running it this year (I’m running the New York City Marathon in November!), Dave is, and I am heading out with him to cheer him on which has me reflective about the race and how thankful I am that I ran it so I wanted to share my Marine Corps Marathon Recap. Like I said before, we took a long road trip throughout the southwest last year that lasted most of the summer. I had finished the Flying Pig 4-Way in May so felt pretty strong and since we were doing so much hiking, I let my training runs slip with the plan of starting strong once we got back home in August. But as life likes to throw us some curve balls, I promptly caught a respiratory bug when I returned home which pretty much made all physical activity impossible for about a month. So now it was early September, and I had the marathon to run in 7 weeks, and I had hardly run in months. So I did the incredibly stupid thing of jumping right in to a 17 mile training run. I felt ok when I finished, but had a nagging twinge in my hip that worsened over the next couple of weeks that didn’t really improve over the next month. And then one day while I was decorating the yard for Halloween, I felt a ripping sensation in my hip that was one of the most painful feelings I have ever endured. In tears, I headed to the Sports Medicine doc right away. She diagnosed SI joint dysfunction and a possible stress fracture in my hip, prescribed muscle relaxants and oral steroids, told me to get massages and stretch like crazy and knowing I was determined to run, to try my best to get through the marathon that was now 2 weeks away.
Unable to walk any real distance, let alone run, I swam, stretched and got several massages leading up to the race. So two days before race day, I loaded the car with Maya and Garrett and started the drive to D.C. unsure if I would even make it to the start line, let alone finish the whole thing. Our first stop was the race expo to pick up my bib and check out the vendors. I love expos, and the Marine Corps Marathon expo is top notch with tons of vendors and is amazingly organized. I guess that is to be expected in a race run by the military! We then headed over to the Alexandria Holiday Inn to check in. Quiet, convenient, near tons of restaurants and with easy access to the Metro into the city, this was a convenient location to stay, and I would recommend this hotel for Marine Corps Marathon runners. We spent the next day SLOWLY exploring D.C. while I tested my hip. So far, so good. Maya and Garrett loved riding the Metro which was in walking distance of the hotel and exploring several of the Smithsonian museums. It was a lovely day, but I was really nervous/excited for the next day’s race. After eating dinner at T.J. Stones (delicious!), we swam in the pool for a while and then headed in for an early bedtime.
Marine Corps Marathon Recap
My alarm rung bright and early at 4 AM to give myself time to foam roll and stretch before catching the hotel shuttle to the metro station. Heading into the lobby, it was fun to chat with all the other excited runners lining up for the shuttle. Arriving at the Metro station, we joined the throngs of people heading to the race. Even though the crowds were huge, the lines moved quickly and we were at our stop before I knew it. The atmosphere was almost palpably vibrating with everyone’s excitement. It was still dark when I arrived at the start, and since I am almost ridiculously high strung about arriving on time to places, I was way early. I just used the time to stretch, then pace, then pee, then repeat and before long it was time to start lining up. Between my own nerves, and lining up between the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery, and listening to the patriotic music blasting through the speakers, and watching the planes and helicopters fly over us, I was an emotional mess by now. Around this time you could see Medal of Honor recipient, Kyle Carpenter parachuting in to the start line holding a huge American flag as the National Anthem was blasting. I have NEVER felt anything like it, and the tears were definitely flowing. Can you see the theme here? Nerves, tears, more nerves, more tears and on and on. And then, the huge starting gun blasted, and I was off.
Because runners must maintain a 14 minute mile and Beat the Bridge in order to finish the run, I couldn’t just limp along and finish, I had to run and/or briskly walk the whole thing. My plan was to hobble along as quickly as I could until I beat the bridge and then just finish the last 5 miles however I could. I was in pain from almost the get go, but just slowly jogged along and the miles passed. It’s pretty hard to feel sorry for yourself when you are running beside soldiers in full combat gear, or people wearing shirts in memory of their brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, friends, family lost in service, or even people missing limbs. I have never been more inspired. Honestly, I think my injury made running this race that much more meaningful to me. The scenery is also beautiful, and it is amazing to run by such iconic landmarks. There is also wonderful crowd support along the course. But nothing will compare to the Blue Mile between mile 12 and 13 where fallen soldiers are commemorated. I was bawling (along with many others) while running through here. By mile 15, I was hurting pretty bad, so I just turned my music on to repeat Hillsong’s Oceans, which may be my very favorite running song and I just prayed to finish. When I finally arrived at mile 20 to the 14th Street Bridge well within the time restriction, I knew I would be allowed to finish, so I could finally relax a bit. Drummers are pounding away as you get on the bridge, so you can here it coming, and it was so freaking exciting. I just limped most of the way in to the finish line where a Marine placed my medal around my neck, and you guessed it, I was crying again. I WAS SO GLAD TO BE DONE! But also so glad I had done it. My time was 5:31:30 seconds. Not by best for sure, but I knew I had earned every darn mile. I have never been so glad to finish a run.After the race, I collected my disposable jacket, my box of finishers snacks, and headed to the nearest metro station to get back to the hotel. While the line looked humongous, it actually moved pretty quickly and I was on a train to Alexandria before long. Back at the hotel I did a quick ice bath (will I EVER get used to these?) and stretched and rolled and could finally relax. All that worry and anxiety, and it was over. I am happy to say that after taking time off and seeing a chiropractor and physical therapist, I am back in business and running again. I’ve run several marathons and other races, but I will never forget this one. Semper Fidelis! I can’t wait to go cheer Dave on this year!