Marine Corps Marathon 2014 Race Recap

Sunday morning Meg and I got up at 5:45. Our plan was to leave the hotel by 6:30 and get on the Metro because both of our races began at 7:55am.

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The marathon start was located at the Pentagon metro stop and the 10K start was a bit further at the Smithsonian metro stop. We got on the crowded metro with a ton of other runners. The ride to my stop was about 15 minutes–there was so much excitement in the air! When we arrived at the Pentagon, I said my goodbyes to Meg and wished her luck on her race! Myself and the other marathon runners got off the metro and met a long line just to get out. I was expecting the crowd, but I was NOT expecting an almost 1 mile long walk to the actual starting line, complete with a security entrance. After waiting what seemed like forever, I finally got in, got to the porta-john line (which felt like it wasn’t moving at all!) and finally rushed to the starting line with about 5 minutes to spare.

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The flyover!

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The Paratrooper–he sailed in and then was going to run the marathon. Awesome!

The gun went off-I discarded my throwaway sweatshirt and we started walking, slowly! It was about 15 minutes until I could see the red arches. I was in disbelief. I was actually running the Marine Corps Marathon, along with almost 40,000 other runners. This is insane.

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As soon as we started running, I made sure to keep my pace lower, not to start out too fast. The hills in the beginning made sure of that! I wasn’t really expecting so many hills in the first few miles!

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I made the decision to wear my Camelbak hydration pack during the race, just to make sure I had water when I needed, especially when I needed to fuel. I brought three Gu packets, 1 honey stinger waffle, and margarita flavored shot blocks (the shot blocks were the only thing I didn’t eat during the race). I also had some  Gatorade on the course.

The first few miles were great. I felt really good around miles 6-12, and was really enjoying the race. I felt so proud to be running this amazing marathon, I even got choked up a few times passing the marines that were at every water station handing out water cups. So grateful!

I stayed on my target pace for the first 13 miles. I had a pace chart on my wrist and was eying it to make sure. Then I hit mile 13.1 where everything went downhill…

Megan was texting me to tell me she was at mile 17. I spent miles 15-17 making sure I didn’t miss her. I just kept running, and at this point we were near the National Mall, so we had some monuments to look at, and the crowds were amazing! Unfortunately my pace kept dropping. My legs were slowing down, and they were hurting, bad! Why on Earth were my legs starting to hurt so early in the race? I was dreading running the next 13 miles. This is not how I wanted my race to turn out.

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Finally I saw Megan. She was the burst of energy I needed to keep going. I remember telling her at mile 17 that my legs were hurting.

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I saw Meg again at mile 19, and that was great. But, I just kept thinking…how can I run 7 more miles? My legs were really letting me down. My mind just wanted to GO but my legs said no. My pace kept dropping. My legs and feet hurt, and so did my glutes. They were aching. I felt like I hadn’t even trained for this race. WHY?

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Instead of focusing on my legs I tried to focus on the scenery. The fact that I was running this amazing race and that I just need to enjoy it–because not everyone gets to do this!

At mile 20 I ripped my pace bracelet off and threw it, angry. No PR (or goal) for me today. I saw the alert on facebook when checking my phone during a walk break that my finish time was estimated at 5:14. A personal worst. I was texting my friend Meredith about how bad this was going–and she had nothing but encouraging words for me, which helped. (Thank you Meredith!)

I was feeling discouraged, and I wanted to just be done with this race. I walked some during miles 22-24. But then when I get mile 25 I realized I only had a little over a mile left. I told myself, “ENJOY IT, BECAUSE YOU ARE RUNNING THE MARINE CORPS MARATHON AND SOON IT WILL BE OVER!” I slowly jogged the last mile and then I saw the sign for mile 26, where five hours earlier I was standing at the start of the race. I was almost done. I ran up the hill at mile 26 (WHY? Why is there a hill?) and saw all the marines and the crowd, too.

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Megan said she saw me but I didn’t see her–I was just focusing on the finish line. Finally, I was done. An awesome and cute marine handed me my medal and said some nice words to me (although I can’t remember what they were, I just thanked him a billion times) which was followed by the line of marines shaking my hand. Eventually I came to the memorial, the end.

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I wandered around until I found the water (I ran out of my water around mile 20) and it was getting warm, I was thirsty! I walked through the line to get our snack box and then finally to Megan. It felt like a mile walk (it might have been..) where we immediately got in line for the metro because our hotel had a late checkout of 3:30, so we had no time to waste! So we took our after photos while in line for the metro!

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Third marathon, done.

Unfortunately, the race did not go how I wanted it to. But, with every race  comes a lesson. In the few days afterward, I felt this giant wave of disappointment in myself–I knew I could have done better–why did things go the way they did? Did I walk too much the day before? Did I not eat enough? Did I not drink enough? Were my shoes too old? Was my training not good enough? But I can ask questions like these until the cows come home–and I’ll never really know the answer. Not every race will be a PR, I know this. And there will be more races. But it’s easy to lose sight of one major thing–I ran a marathon–and finished it. Not everyone has the strength or ability do something like that. And I did it! And It’s amazing.

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11 comments

  1. Congratulations, Jen! You did awesome. Just being out there and finishing is a major accomplishment that not many people can say they’ve done. I had a very similar experience this year with my half ironman. I was bummed that I didn’t even come close to making my goals but I just kept telling myself that it was an accomplishment because I was out there doing it.

  2. Yay, I was waiting for part 2! I’m so sorry that it wasn’t your day last Sunday. I know that feeling of disappointment you described and it stinks. But, you started, you struggled and didn’t give up on yourself and you finished a marathon of 40,000 people in our nation’s capital. Way cool! Love all the pics and can’t believe you still look so fresh after running 26.2 miles!

  3. I am in awe of anyone who can run 26.2 miles. Don’t beat yourself up too much. I struggled during my 10 mile race this past weekend and asked myself all the same questions.

  4. Congrats on your finish Jen! I am always amazed at just how humbling this distance is. It’s definitely normal to feel like you’ve been kicked in the butt (at least in my experience). But after the pain subsides, I am always in awe at what it really means to run this far. And because of that, the marathon just keeps you coming back for more and more! All you can do is give your body time to rest and recover and then get back out there and work even harder to make it happen next time. Every time you lace up, you’re a little more experienced than you were the last time, and I think that lots of experience is what makes you successful at this distance!

  5. I’m doing Marine Corps this year and just googled race reviews/recaps and found your site. Pretty sure I know you from ARE Trail Running Camp! Such a small world. Congrats on your race last year and thanks for sharing your experience. I will definitely give myself plenty of time to get to the start based on your tale.

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