On October 22, 2017, I once again crossed the finish line of the Marine Corps Marathon. Check out my Marine Corps Marathon Race Recap. My mission of 2017 has officially been accomplished.
The 2017 Marine Corps Marathon was my fourth full marathon. After my first marathon I thought “no way in hell will I ever do that again” and now here I am, two and a half years later, and I’m already planning my next one. It’s amazing how things change, isn’t it?
My race this year went extremely well. I set out with one goal in mind and that was to have a good race. Yes, I wanted to PR. Yes, I wanted to have fun. But what I wanted more than both of those individually was to walk away from the race feeling accomplished. It was an extremely tough race on so many levels, so I’m very happy that I came out unscathed and happy.
Marine Corps Marathon Race Recap
If you read my weekend recap, you’ll know I went out with my college roomie on the Friday evening before the race. This was both a good and bad thing. Good because it was obviously amazing. But bad because
we I drank like I was still in college. Under normal circumstances, I probably would’ve been hung over for a day or two. But under these circumstances, it was probably the least wise decision I’ve made in a while. But what can I say, we were reliving glory days. And it was SO FUN!
Yes, I made it to the shakeout run and the expo and felt all right. But I did a terrible job at carb loading on Saturday. I didn’t eat breakfast before the run but thankfully had the foresight to bring a granola bar with me for afterward. I ate that on the way over to the expo where I promptly purchased a water and a coffee. After the expo we went back to our Airbnb and I had a snack of half a bagel and a banana. Then we went to lunch with my family at Old Ebbitt. There I ordered French toast and sausage, which were delicious. For dinner, Julie, Candice, and I had pasta. I had two bowls. Overall it seemed like a decent day but when I really added up the calories, there’s no way I was anywhere near where I needed to be for race day.
2017 Marine Corps Marathon Race Recap
Race day morning arrived and I still felt really off. My usual pre-race breakfast of oatmeal and a banana was a complete and utter joke. I had one bite of oatmeal and could barely choke it down. I decided to bring a banana and a bag of pretzels with me to the race so I could at least eat something before gun time.
We arrived at our drop-off location and used the flushing toilets of a hotel restroom. As we started our walk toward security, I decided to try to eat the banana — but the same thing happened. I took one bite and could barely stomach it — I felt so sick and nauseous. I finally gave up on the banana and focused on the pretzels. Thank god I know myself well enough to have brought something salty because those pretzels are likely what allowed me to cross the finish line in one piece. I ate a few and continued drinking water. If there was one thing I was doing right, it was hydrating. There was no way in hell I was going down without a fight and I knew it was going to get hot. I needed to stay ahead with hydration.
Julie, Candice, and I made our way to the starting area where we took selfies, used the porta-potties a million times, and found some amazing marines to snap some photos with for our memory banks. And then it was time to line up. Candice and I said goodbye to Julie and we stood huddled together with a few thousand of our closest friends.
The Marine Corps Marathon really takes pre-race activities to the next level. While we waited, we saw the parachuters, heard the National Anthem, and watched the Osprey fly overhead. It truly starts you off with all the feels, and leaves you there until well after you cross the finish line.
Miles 1 – 5
I’ve only run Marine Corps Marathon twice, this being my second year. From what I’ve been told, this year the course went back to what it usually is since last year was rerouted due to construction. The first five miles were the same-ish. I recall my coach was concerned about the first three miles being uphill when I ran last year. I had worked myself up so much about it that when it came time to run the hills, they seemed like mild peaks and valleys. This year I apparently underplayed them so much that when I came to the hills they felt like monstrous mountains that took forever to summit.
Candice and I stuck together for the first few miles. The plan was to stay together as long as possible. I walk through all water points, though, and she doesn’t. When I stopped at the first point I knew we were likely separated for the duration. I saw her run out of my sight and then I was on my own.
The course didn’t have the first awful out-and-back that it did last year, and for that I was grateful. Running toward the Key Bridge was beautiful but since I was extremely underfueled, I was already hungry and it felt like ages before we got to Georgetown. Swinging through Georgetown is always a treat, but my mind was just not where it should have been so early on in the race.
Miles 6 – 10
Rock Creek Parkway was much less congested than last year. It was also considerably longer. But it was a beautiful portion of the race course and I really enjoyed it. I would say Rock Creek Parkway is definitely one of my favorite parts of Marine Corps Marathon.
My goal for the first half of the race was really to stay ahead of hydration. I knew it was going to get hot and I would need to stay hydrated in order to finish. Unfortunately I was also struggling with hunger which I knew would only get worse as the miles ticked by. I don’t tolerate oranges well, and I rarely eat anything outside of what I carry, but desperate times call for desperate measures. When I saw the food station around mile 10 with orange slices, I took two. At this point I was willing to put any and everything into my belly because I knew I needed fuel.
Miles 11 – 15
I turned off my tunes for the Wear Blue Mile. Any mental struggles I was dealing with fell by the wayside. As I ran I made sure to read each of the names on the signs and gave them a silent ‘thank you.’ The most powerful part of the Wear Blue Mile comes after the photos — when the family members hold the flags and cheer loudly and enthusiastically for us runners. It gets me every time. No tears — but almost…
I made a porta potty stop around mile 14 and sadly lost my ‘throw-away’ arm-sleeves that I’ve managed to not throw away for at least four other races. I had them tucked in to my shorts in the back and as soon as I went in the loo, I forgot they were there. RIP throw-away arm sleeves!
I passed the time during the next couple miles by texting my husband about the sleeves. He also mentioned I was doing really great and right on target for my goal. I almost wish I hadn’t known that because then I started to get excited, and excitement in a marathon is never a good thing (unless you can see the finish line, of course). I told him I was struggling big time with nutrition. My chews were okay but I was having such a hard time that all I wanted to do was suck on the pretzels I had. My electrolytes were so far off balance, those darn pretzels were the only things saving my race. Note to self: no crazy drinking shenanigans two days before a big race.
Miles 15 – 18
Miles 15 through 18 were a mental struggle. Not only was this the area I saw my family last year, but it’s also where I met (and ran several miles with) my friend Amanda. To make matters worse, the Gauntlet this year was farther along in mileage than last year so I was much more fatigued than I was last year. Basically, I was a running zombie at this point. The only thing I was worried about was staying hydrated and eating. I didn’t pay much attention to the spectators but I did start searching the crowd for food. Unfortunately all I saw were candy bowls. Hopeful that it would taste great, I took a Kit-Kat. It really didn’t sit well so I saved half of it for later.
I was getting so lonely and my music wasn’t helping much at all. I really needed to get out of my own head and I began searching for people around me without earbuds in just in case I needed to strike up a conversation. As I rounded the corner to the Capitol and was in the middle of throwing my own pity-party, I heard someone shout my name. It was my friend John and I swear I’ve never been so happy to see a friend in my life. The heat, my lack of fuel, and sheer loneliness was crushing my soul. He appeared in the nick of time!
John looked strong as hell. I have to admit I felt bad that I looked so awful next to him. He was dressed like America threw up on him and was getting all sorts of shout-outs. Here I was basically dying next to him, totally cramping his style. I tried to smile and emulate his power through stride, but it was futile.
Miles 18 – 21
When we first started running together I told John I would try to stay with him as long as possible. We both had the same time goal and I thought it would be nice to have a buddy for the rest of the race. I told him that I was starving and really needed more pretzels. He spotted some just before the Bridge.
As we started across the Bridge I felt okay. I was happy to be with a friend, I had more pretzels in my pocket, and knew the race was almost over. But it was hot — oh so hot! — and the desolate expanse of concrete beat me down. I finally succumbed to the Bridge and walked. I watched John disappear from my view. Before I knew it, I was alone again.
Miles 21 – 26.2
Between the end of the Bridge and Crystal City, I thought I was dying. When I rounded the corner to Crystal City, though, I felt better mentally. I knew the race was almost over if I could hang on for just a few more miles. I think the out-and-back portion of Crystal City really helped me mentally reboot. It was nice to watch the runners on the other side of the street and cheer people on. I was also looking for Candice and John (Julie was long gone) which helped pass the time.
No sooner did I leave Crystal City did I find Candice at the next water stop. She was with one of her friends and said she didn’t feel well. I offered to stay with her but when she declined I didn’t think it was too serious and that she’d catch up with me. I told her my strategy for the rest of the race was to run/walk and I was sure I’d see her again.
The last two miles were some of the hardest marathon miles I’ve ever run. Cleveland was hard because I was injured. This was hard on an entirely different level. By some miracle my hunger finally abated and I was now solely focused on staying hydrated.
I recalled from last year seeing some amazing stuff during the last two miles. An oompah loompah for one thing, but also a group of marines in silkies for another. I was so disappointed that neither of those groups were there this year. It also seemed there were more marines on the course for the last few miles last year. I really could have used someone yelling at me to keep moving forward in those last miles this time around.
As we neared the Hill, I just wanted to be done. I took the Hill as best as I could and then I sprinted in across the finish line. I usually smile for all the cameras — not this time. My legs hurt, I wasn’t dehydrated, and I just wanted to stop running. I have no idea how ridiculous I looked as I crossed the finish line but I couldn’t have cared less.
After I received my medal, I thanked the marines for their service and support, and made my way through the finishers area to find my friends. I so wished I could have taken a selfie with my marine and medal, but I just didn’t have it in me. I was spent.
When I finally got to the end of the line of the finishers area, I couldn’t take one more step. I knew my friends were in the beer tent but I couldn’t get there. I had to sit down so I found a spot on the curb next to Brooks and started refueling with all the food in the bag. When I heard someone yell “get your bacon!” I said (out loud) “bacon?!” There were two women sitting next to me and they told me it was free and delicious. I started to get up and one of the women told me to stay seated and she got the bacon for me. I’ve never been so grateful to someone in my life. They told me they were both runners and completely understood how I was feeling. They also got me some watermelon. I was so thankful for them!
After sitting for about 10 minutes, I decided I needed to get up and find my friends. Thing is, I couldn’t make it very far. I moved about 30 feet away and plopped onto the sidewalk in the shade. At this point we had gotten word that Candice had finished so I was keeping a lookout for her. I eventually got up and made my way to the beer tent to hang with my friends while we waited for Candice.
I spent the next couple hours refueling, rehydrating, and enjoying the company of my friends. It was nice to hang out and have no obligations after the race. We regaled one another with stories from the race and other races, and it was a really nice way to end such a grueling morning.
Official finish time: 4:44:23
As it turns out, I did PR. I was off my goal by about 15 minutes, but given the completely inadequate carb-loading and fueling strategy, plus the unrelenting sun and heat, I am perfectly happy with my time. What’s more is I finally accomplished my secret goal of the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon, which was to run in less than 4:45. Better late than never, right?
Yeah the whole drinking like I’m still in college thing cannot happen before a big race. It was totally worth it, though. So this is definitely a lesson learned but would I change it? Nah. It was awesome.
Looking ahead, I have literally nothing on my plate right now. After the summer of training I had, I need a break. I have a few ideas of how my 2018 will shake out, but there’s lots of options to weigh. It’s going to be totally strange to not have a training plan for a little while. And I’m oddly okay with that.
Thank you so much for following along through all of my training and cheering me on from near and far. It was so amazing having friends, fellow bloggers, and readers rooting for me on race morning — and throughout all of my training. Thank you so much!
Huge shout out to all the marines — and service men and women of the armed forces — who keep us safe and free. Big thanks to those cheering us runners on on the race course this year.
Special thanks to my “team” for getting me to the starting line of every race — my husband, Brandon, my coach, Coach Mark, and my chiropractor, Dr. Keyes. I couldn’t do half the stuff I do without your support.
Sending lots of love to my travel companions and friends, Candice and Julie, as well as my CLE buddies John, Ben, and Rich. It was a blast training with you guys and hanging in D.C. We’ll have to do it again sometime.
Marine Corps Marathon Race Recap
The Marine Corps Marathon is second to none. If you’ve never run it, add it to your bucket list. You won’t regret it.
Have you suffered from a terrible carb loading strategy before a big race? How did you recover?
Have you stayed ahead of the hydration game at a critical time?