Marine Corps Marathon Race Recap

In Wednesday’s post I recapped my weekend fun around DC and at the expo but I left you hanging for my race recap.  Sorry, that wasn’t very nice.  Forgive me?  Since this was my first marathon and because I ran it in memory of my brother I really wanted to put some serious thought into the recap; he deserves it.  So bear with me, this is going to be a long post and have lots of pictures (you’re welcome Mom & Dad).

In the interest of making the recap easier to read, I feel like I need to introduce you to the two names you’ll see the most.  1.) Mary – She’s like a mom to me.  2.) Stacey – My die hard training buddy and constant race partner.  Now that you know these girls I can just call them by their first names. 🙂  So here it is – the good, bad and the ugly from the MCM.  (Ok, there really wasn’t any ugly.  I just like being dramatic.)

Sunday morning started with an early wake-up call.  Mary’s alarm went off at 3:45a.m. (which is really 2:45 my time).  I had my alarm set for 4:12 but once I heard her alarm go off I was wide awake.

It was race day! The day that I had been prepping for for the last four months.

I got up, got dressed, ate some breakfast and of course snapped a few pictures.  Mary surprised me with her shirt which read on the front, “I’m with the birthday girl”.  I loved it!!

After we put our shoes on, we (Mary, myself and our hubbies) walked a few blocks to the race shuttle.  I chatted with a lady who was running the marathon and told her this was my first one.  Have you ever noticed that people always have input when they find out something is your first? She immediately likened running a marathon to giving birth.  It’s long and painful but 100% worth it at the end.  Sheesh lady! I didn’t need to hear that – I don’t have kids for a reason and labor is one of them.

After we made it to the starting area we were surprised to find that the military chaplain was just starting a prayer service.  This just made my day.  It was amazing fellowshipping with other believers right before the race.  Definitely helped get my mind right.

After the prayer service ended Mary and I said goodbye to our hubbies and then huddled together to try to warm up.

It was cold, humid, and I kept getting splattered with random drops of rain.  I said a quick prayer that Hurricane Sandy would hold off long enough for the race to be done with.  We hit the port-o-potties a few times and headed off to the official start line where we heard the National Anthem and watched the flyover.  It was incredibly moving.

Right after the flyover we met up with the girls I trained with.  It was so great seeing everyone’s smiling / nervous faces!

Just a few minutes to go.  The atmosphere was electrified; the excitement and tension almost palpable. Veteran marathoners encouraging the newbies, newbies nervously watching the actions of the veterans.  25,000 sets of feet with the same goal to accomplish.

I was too busy soaking in the atmosphere that I didn’t hear the howitzer blast which signifies the start of the race.  However, I felt the crowd start surging forward, pressing me towards the start line.  No times for nerves now.  This. Was. It.  I crossed the starting line and embarked on my journey through the 26.2 miles of the course.  (This is where I put my camera away so there aren’t many pictures until the finish.)

The first few miles of the course were gorgeous, winding through the outskirts of the city.  It was completely picturesque with vibrant golden, cardinal, and amber colored leaves floating around us as we ran.  It was very overcast but the temperature was perfect and there wasn’t any rain.  The only downfall was the fact that the course was so congested it was hard to get up to speed without literally running into someone.

At mile 5 I opted for a potty stop; I knew the lines would be shorter earlier in the race verses later.  It was around this point that I happened to look over into the woods and BAM hello naked booties.  Apparently some runners didn’t want to wait in the potty line.  My mom taught me better.  I tried to not look over into the woods again.

Everything was going  flawlessly until the water stop around mile 7.  This is where Mary and I got separated; thankfully Stacey and I were able to stay together.  I stopped a few times to look for Mary and I kept thinking I would be able to spot her and reconnect.  After about 2 miles I knew that wasn’t going to happen so I did something most runners would never do.  I pulled out my cell phone and started making calls in hopes of locating her.  I called my husband to tell him I what happened and kept my fingers crossed that he and Greg (Mary’s hubby) could help us reconnect.  I managed to keep my pace but I never imagined I’d be talking on the phone during my first 26.2.

I was so upset about loosing Mary that I didn’t notice a lot of what was going on around me between miles 8-11.  Around mile 12 a guy behind me decided to try to use me as a speed bump.  Not on purpose; the race was just so congested with runners that this was almost inevitable.  I felt what was about to happen as his shoe brushed mine and I was able to dodge him falling on me.  I turned around just in time to see him writhing on the ground clutching his elbow in pain.  I felt terrible but there was nothing I could do.  It was also around this point in the race I noticed someone had put large pictures of Marines that had been killed in action.  This was a much needed reminder as to why I was running this race in the first place.

The miles were flying by. 12…13….Half marathon….15…and before I knew it Stacey and I passed mile 16.  I looked over at her and said, “I hate to be the one that points out the obvious, but we only have 10 miles left!’  I was feeling great and our pace wasn’t too far off from what we trained for.  I passed Mary’s husband at mile 18 who told me I was about 10 minutes ahead of her.  I ran backwards for a little bit (I got some crazy looks from other runners) and then made the decision to stop and wait for her; it was much more important to finish together then worry about time.  (I looked at my splits and my time for mile 18 was just short of 21 minutes.) Stacey was sweet and hung back, too, and as soon as we saw Mary we took off.  I had never been so happy to see her face!

The miles kept ticking by and before I knew it, I was looking at mile marker 23.  We passed my hubby on the sideline and it gave me such a boost to see him cheering us on!

This is a really awkward shot of mile at mile 23. All smiles after seeing Jody.

By mile 24 my body was starting to fatigue.  I was having some fairly intense GI cramps (I broke the cardinal ‘don’t ingest anything new on race day’ rule) and I could feel my right IT band starting to get tight.  The wind picked up (thanks Hurricane Sandy) and I was starting to slow down.  It was right around this time that we were treated to Dunkin Donuts on the course.  They were stale but gave me the sugar kick I needed to finish. I need to mention that the crowd support was amazing during the entire marathon but especially encouraging during the last few miles.

The last part of the race ended with a killer incline leading up to the Iwo Jima Memorial.  This was a tough way to finish but I really wouldn’t expect anything less from the Marines.  Stacey, Mary and I crossed the finish line together and I just remember giving both of them a huge hug.  I had become marathoner!

*MARATHONER*

The sweet Marine that placed the medal around my neck.

I had anticipated bursting into tears as I crossed the finish line but I was surprised to realize that I didn’t shed a single tear.  As we stood in line to collect our medals, my calve muscles and IT band on fire, I couldn’t help but think about how excited I was to already be signed up for my next marathon.   I think I’m officially hooked.  Admittedly, one of my character flaws is that I’m always thinking about what’s next, instead of basking in what just happened.

We got disposable jackets instead of space blankets.

Me being silly showing off my medal and Semper Fi socks.

Hands-down, the best athletic supporter ever!

The official chip time was 4:55:47 (only one second different from my Garmin) and the actual distance was 26.75 miles (I guess that’s what happens when you run backwards for a bit).

This was such a huge accomplishment and even though I didn’t run it in the time I trained for, I have no doubt that I can run a 4:30 marathon.  It’s important to remember that some races aren’t about time but merely the journey itself.  Preparing for this race was very cathartic and really allowed me to work through some residual issues with my brother’s death.  I miss Roger terribly but I feel like I have more closure and I’m so blessed to have run this race in memory of him.

It was humbling running side-by-side with amputees, men in wheelchairs, and seeing all the pictures pinned to people’s shirt.  The race was not nearly as physically or mentally exhausting as I thought it would be and I think it’s because I kept thinking about everything that Roger, his brother’s-in-arms, and all of our deployed soldiers went/go through.  If they can fight to keep me free, I can run 26.2 miles in honor of them.

As for how I felt physically after the marathon, I was {pleasantly} surprised at how little I hurt.  I was pretty stiff Monday but was back in the gym Tuesday for some easy cycling and upper body strength training.  And since my next marathon is in 3 months I’ll be getting up early tomorrow for a 10 mile run.  If you have ever considered running a marathon, I urge you to do it. Don’t let fear, hesitation or self-doubt get to you.  It takes grit and determination but if you can commit the time, you can accomplish it!

Question:  What’s your proudest accomplishment in life? A PR? An award? Children? College Degree? Tell me, I love hearing about your achievements!

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43 thoughts on “Marine Corps Marathon Race Recap

  1. My goodness!!! I’m nearly in tears reading this! I’m so proud of you, and I know that your brother is too!!! You’re such a rockstar!!!! I can’t tell ya how you’ve inspired me! Congrats!!!!!! :0)

  2. Congratulations, Gina! And great recap and pictures! First, can we just establish that for your first marathon you ran more than 26.2 miles?! You overachiever. 😉 Honestly, though, I would’ve backtracked to find my friends; it’s one thing if you’re trying to PR (which you did!), but if you’re running with buddies, you can’t leave them behind. Enjoy this accomplishment, girlie! … but which marathon are you running next? 🙂

    • Trust me, if I could have stopped at 26.2 I totally would have! Funny thing is they won’t give you the medal until you cross the finish line… lol! I have no regrets about my time and I’d make the same decision again in a heartbeat! My next marathon is Rock-n-Roll New Orleans in February. That one I’ll be running for time. 🙂 Thank you for all your supportive comments throughout training, you’ve been amazing!!

  3. Congratulations on your marathon!! Enjoy the high and the sense of accomplishment that comes along with this:) I’m really proud of my master’s degree and finishing my first half marathon!

    • Thank you Caroline and I promise to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. Congrats on your accomplishments – those are both amazing! A master’s degree and a 1/2 marathon – you rock chica!!

  4. I loved following you on your training journey, and so happy that you had such a successful marathon!! You make it sound like it’s a walk in the park! 🙂 Congrats again, girlie!!!

    • Aw, thanks girl! It was definitely a bit harder than a walk in the park, but not nearly as hard as I estimated. Each race, no matter what the distance, has it’s challenges but I’m enjoying the sense of accomplishment at crushing those challenges. 🙂 SOOOO excited for your 10k coming up!!

  5. Great Job! I’ve been following your blog for some time now for training motivation and MCM was also my first marathon. It was such a great experience and one that I’ll never forget! Keep up the great writing 🙂

    • Thank you Sharon and ‘hi’! I’m so glad you loved the MCM and CONGRATS on your first 26.2!! I just checked out your blog 🙂 and I can’t wait to read your recap of the MCM and follow you on your journey to Boston in 2013 – seriously awesome!

  6. Yay G! No matter the time you out in a lot of hard work and dedication for that one day and finished!! Your brother is super stoked for you! I can’t wait to finish my 6 in 6 and then a full…hopefully this marathon…next year!

    • Woot-woot, thanks Kat! I definitely feel he would be proud of me if he was still here. I’m supa excited about your 6 and 6 and cant wait to read all your super-speedy recaps! You know I’ll be cheering you on. 🙂

  7. Wow I’m so happy for you and this time is awesome. For the weather and all the stuff that happened I’m so proud of you girl. The fact that you are so positive in your writeup too is so inspiring, you make a marathon sound so easy LOL.

    • Thanks Hollie!! It was definitely a crazy weekend and one of the hardest things I’ve done but I wouldn’t trade it for anything! I’m so hooked on this distance and can’t wait to shave off a bit of time. 🙂 Hellloooo Rock-n-Roll New Orleans!

  8. Congrats and great job!! 🙂 I totally remember seeing your “Don’t Stop” sign on the course, which made me laugh, so thank you and your hubby for that 🙂

    • Thanks lovely and congrats right back at you!! I can’t wait to read your recap. 🙂 That’s crazy that you remember the sign!! My favorite sign, hands-down, was ‘No more Saturday long runs means Friday next sex again”. I know it’s inappropriate but I died laughing!

  9. I almost got kicked out of the library for laughing so hard while reading this blog. (The librarian was a mother of a Marine she was just joking.

  10. This makes me even more ready to run:)
    How amazing that you ran back and waited for your friend. It is such a blessing to having running partners like you. My running buddy is way faster than me and always sticks with me slow but, even when I am injure, even when I have horrible times.
    The medal is beautiful, but boy do I hate hills and I heard that one at the end is a killer.

    • Thanks Abbykadabra!! I love my running friends and don’t know what I’d do without them. Mary’s actually faster then me but she’s nursing some pretty bad feet problems right now. As far as the hill at the end goes, if you incorporate some hill training into your plan you’ll be totally fine!!

  11. Huge congratulations to you! What an awesome accomplishment. I got here from your runner’s spotlight. I’m training for my first full right now too. I hope my miles fly by as quickly as yours seemed to have! And that’s fantastic that you turned and ran back to find your friend. I’m sure she was thrilled too!

    • I’m so glad it wasn’t too long. I wanted to put so much more in it but didn’t want to make it too boring for people to read. I’m so excited that you’re at the 3 month mark – you’re going to do fabulous!!!

  12. Argh! I feel proud of you from my seat, right now, after the fact. Congratulations! After all that training, you did it, for Roger, and with your friends.

    I know what you mean about the first-timer advice too – leave me to it! And watching the veterans to see what they o (even though you don’t want their unsolicited advice…). xx

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  15. Congrats Gina on a great race! I just loved reading your recap and your pictures are awesome. I especially love the one of you and the Marine at the finish. It sounds like you really enjoyed yourself and ran a very smart race despite some of the setbacks the day brought us. I’m excited to see where your next journey takes you!!! You’re a marathoner!!! xo

    • Thanks Jesica!! I’m so excited to be a marathoner! (And can’t wait till I have 5 down like you.) Even with a few minor setbacks, this was an absolutely amazing first marathon experience. I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

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