Monday, October 31, 2011

2011 Marine Corps Marathon

Wow, I still can’t believe we did it and that it is already over! I have to say physically, I feel a lot better than I thought I would. Maybe I didn’t push myself as hard as I could have, but those last 5 miles were killer!!!


Okay, okay; let me start at the beginning. Jay and I woke up at 5:05 a.m. to eat, have some coffee, hydrate and hopefully use the bathroom. Thankfully, that all went without a hitch, which as many runners know is a huge relief.

We headed over to the race around 6:15 a.m. Even though it was freezing that morning, we decided to walk the 2 miles to the start line. I am glad we did as it kept us moving and kept us warm. About 1/2 way into our walk, we met a new friend, Erin. The three of us continued on and stayed together until the corrals.

with erin

Jay and I decided to corral with the 4:10 to 4:30 finishers. We knew this was a little faster than our pace starting out, but figured we would rather be passed than do the passing… AKA dodging.

Before we knew it, we were off.

Since it was so cold that morning, it took the first 3 miles for me to feel my toes. Yes, it was that cold! We were shivering at the start line even though we were in one big human mass.

Even though Jay and I had run 22 miles of the course, I was still surprised how hilly the first 7 miles are. I felt so relieved when we were finally running down M street and into Georgetown. At this point we were running pretty close to our goal pace of 10:25 min/miles.

jay running mcmsarah running mcm

The other piece of the race that made me a touch nervous were our spectators. My parents, brother and friend Val were going to try and meet us at 3 spots on the course. I made them a very detailed list of instructions, and my brother who lives in Foggy Bottom was with them, but I knew if they did not make it to the first meet-up I was afraid we would not see them.

Thankfully between mile 9 and 10 we saw them exactly where, and at the time, we had planned. It was so great to see familiar faces cheering us on with FANTASTIC signs. Mom definitely out-did herself!


Smiling from our support team, we continued on down Ohio Drive and onto Haines Point. I think Haines Point was the first time we started to drag. I usually do not mind that stretch, but today it just dragged on and on. The most noticeable difference in Haines Point is the lack of people.  There are no cheering spectators for about 2 miles of the race, and it was amazing to realize how much we were relying on those screaming idiots with posters.

*Side note: Jay’s favorite posters from the day included: ‘Run faster! Zombies are behind you', ‘Chuck Norris never ran a marathon’, and: ‘most Americans can’t run a 5k… we are the 99%, you are the 1%.’ Jay had a great time hollering at people and high-fiving everyone standing on the sidelines.  Yes, ladies, he’s taken.

Just as we were heading off of Haines Point we saw the 4:30 pacer. Ultimately, our goal was to finish, but the competitive nature came out and we decided that we would try to stick with the pacer until the 14th street bridge.


The pacer did wonders for us for the next 4 miles. The 4:30 pacer was really great, talking to the group as we went and got us through those 4 miles. She also was a great distraction as we missed my family at one of our agreed meet-ups (but somehow they managed to see Jay, above).

As we approached the Capitol Building we took a break and walked. Now, we trained walking though refueling with food. And prior to this walk, we walked to refuel with food, but this time it felt different, like maybe the wheels were coming off a little. Knowing we had our support team ahead, we turned the corner and started running again.


Just as planned, we saw my family near the Smithsonian metro. With a little hop in our step, we proceeded onto mile 20 and the beginning of the end; the 14th street bridge.

The bridge was the second time that I knew that we would make our ultimate to finish under 5 hours, but I could tell finishing closer to 4:30 was out of the question. At this point our pace dropped from about 10:20 to 12 min/miles. As we headed into Crystal City, Jay and I started walking a minute and running 5 minutes. We knew my friends Courtney and Lauren would be near the metro, so we made sure we ran by them and around the turn and back.


I am so glad that they spectated in Crystal City. We really needed the support at this point. Just imagine running mile 22-23 right by your apartment. It was so hard not to stop and run (ok, maybe hobble) home.

After seeing them for the second time, we started walking 2 minutes, running 5 minutes. This strategy slowed our pace to 14 min/miles for the last 2 miles. As we leave Crystal City, Jay tells me we have 38 minutes left until 5 hours. At that moment, I knew that we would make it in under 5 hours and that we COULD do this. Struggling, but never stopping we pushed through and finished in 4:55:11 and averaging a 11:15 min/mile.


As glad and proud that I DID IT, I ran a marathon, it is a little disappointing to see our great pace slow about a minute per mile because that last five miles were so rough. Maybe I’ll just have to run another?

The irony of it all, is I told my parents we would cross right at 1:00 p.m., we crossed the finish line at 1:00:34 p.m. Yup, that is pretty good guestimating, if I do say so myself!

Overall, I can say I truly had a lot of fun running the race and training for it. Marathons are a huge time commitment (we started training in June), but I believe that if you are willing to work for it, almost anyone can run (or run/walk) it.


It is amazing how much a person can change in a year. This time last year I was in pain and struggled over the 14th street bridge as I completed the Army Ten Miler and overcame IT band issues. I never thought I could do a marathon. After lots of hours running, lifting and stretching. I did it! And all it takes to become a runner is to get out the door.

One more thing off the Bucket List!


And snazzy new jackets too :)

Happy Halloween everyone!