This past Sunday, I ran the 41st annual Marine Corps Marathon which took course through our Nation’s Capital in Washington, D.C.
Earlier this year, after running the Brooklyn Half Marathon back in May, I had my sights set on completing a full marathon by the end of 2016.
I had a devastating experience after running the 2014 New York City Marathon and had taken a bit of a break from training for any races up until this year.
It felt good to be back in a regular running routine and have that feeling of working towards an end goal.
Initially, I had no idea what marathon I would end up running. It wasn’t until June that fate stepped in and a friend was looking to transfer her Marine Corps Marathon bib to someone. The minute that I found out, I immediately reached out to her and before I knew it, I was signed up for it.
I had almost forgotten what it was like to train for a marathon. The last time that I was actually following a legitimate training plan and taking it seriously was when I ran the 2013 Big Sur Marathon (which is my marathon PR to this day.)
When I began training for the Marine Corps Marathon, I told myself that I really had to get back into race mentality – that I had to take it seriously instead of just “winging it.” I followed Hal Higdon’s Intermediate Marathon Training plan, which is what I typically have used in the past. It’s straightforward and easy to follow.
After 4 months of training, and a few weeks of setback due to a foot injury, I felt that I was ready as I could be. When it came to travel arrangements, however, not so much.
I booked my hotel in Alexandria, VA which was conveniently located near both the race expo, start line, and finish line. I booked my flight very close to the weekend leading up to the race. In that time, train prices from New York to DC had already drastically gone up, and the bus just didn’t seem like an appealing option.
My sister and I landed late Saturday afternoon after already experiencing some flight delays. We went straight from the airport to the expo and arrived there only half an hour before the expo closed. I picked up my race bib and hardly had time to scan the exhibitor booths. When we left, we were starving after not eating lunch, so we went right to our hotel and ended up ordering Dominos (Not the wisest decision I’ve ever made. More on that to come)
That night, I laid out my race clothes, did yoga, and just tried to relax and mentally prepare for what I wanted to accomplish the next day.
I woke up at 5AM the next morning with a ton of energy and pre-race jitters. It hadn’t officially hit me that I was running a 26.2 mile race until that morning.
The hotel shuttle transported us near the start line, where we ended up walking nearly a mile to get to.
By the time we arrived, the sun was starting to rise and so were the temperatures. It was forecasted to reach near 80 degrees fahrenheit that day and surely, it did.
The race took off around 8AM.
I took the first 5K of the race very slow, knowing not to make the mistake of starting too quick too soon. I was feeling good when I started, but stopped at mile 6 to use the restroom. From that point, I already knew that I’d be behind and would have to make up for it later on. Stopping for the restroom took about 10-15 minutes off my time, so I tried to pick up the pace.
I ended up crossing the 13.1-mile mark in a time of 2:04, which I was fairly pleased (and surprised) about.
With half of the race behind me, I continued to feel good from miles 14-19. I managed to keep a steady 9:30 minute pace and had planned to really crank up the gears at mile 20.
And then, my worst fear happened.
I hit a wall at mile 21, was having stomach issues, and made the heart-breaking decision to stop, stretch, and walk a bit (which I had told myself I wouldn’t do). From there, it was a long and grueling 5.2 miles of alternating between running and walking.
At that point, I had to accept the fact that I was not going to make my goal time of finishing near or under 4 hours.
I did finish strong, using everything that I had left in the tank to stride across the finish line with a time of 4:38:44. I wasn’t ecstatic, but I wasn’t nearly as devastated as I was after the New York City Marathon.
Though I didn’t finish near my goal time, I did learn many lessons, which I’d like to pass along. Hopefully this will be helpful to anyone reading.
- Give yourself an extra month to train just in case something happens along the way such as an injury or a cold
- Pick a training plan and stick to it
- Do NOT order fast food (especially with cheese or dairy in it) the night prior, or even 2 nights prior, to your race. Don’t even order anything out of your normal diet. The last thing you want is an upset stomach.
- Make sure your bowels are empty before the race
- Get to the expo early. If you can’t make it a day before, then try to make sure you go a few hours before it closes. It’s not worth it to rush or be stressed about whether or not you’ll get there in time
- Try as hard as you can to reach 20 miles for your furthest long run
- Look at the course map and elevation early on so that you know what to train for
- Incorporate speed training
- Even if it’s a flat course, incorporate some hill training just in case there are even the slightest of inclines
- Make sure to stretch A TON in the days after the race
- Don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t the time you were hoping for. Even finishing a marathon is a huge accomplishment in itself