October 29, 2013

The end of my journey to 26.2: MCM 2013 Recap (016)

"When you cross the finish line, no matter how slow or fast, it will change your life forever." 
-Bill Rodgers from Spirit of the Marathon

After months of training and waiting for the big day, the marathon was upon me.  I went to bed feeling a bit anxious, but mostly calm.  I woke up and immediately got up to check the time on my phone - 4:30 AM.  Given that my alarm(s) were set for 5:00, I decided to stay up.  I spent a little time on my phone checking FB and Twitter and watched the final installment of the MCM TV videos (a drill sergeant telling us to relax and get motivated - how perfect!).  I got dressed and double-checked all of my gear.  And that's when the nerves set in.  I was about to run a marathon that day.
Race outfit minus the throw-aways

Ready to race!
My friend Susan snapped a quick pic before we headed out at 5:30.  She drove me to Crystal City where I grabbed the shuttle to the Pentagon.  The line for the shuttle was quite long and immediately got a bit stressed out.  Luckily, the line moved very quickly and part of the wait was in a warm parking garage.  When we were standing outside, I made the decision to shed my long sleeved tech shirt and leave it in my gear check bag.  I would be grateful for this decision many times during the race.  Once we got to the Pentagon, we had a pretty decent walk to the Runner's Village.  I texted Lisa and Danielle and made plans to rendez-vous with them at the bag check trucks.  We had to go through a security check-point and the Marines directing everyone were very high energy which was a great start to the day!

Once I got to the Runner's Village, I was easily able to meet Lisa and Danielle.  We sat around for a bit chatting about our race day outfit decisions.  We hit the porta-potties and then checked our bags and headed to the start.  We got up to the start area at about 7:20 or 7:25 and then things happened fast - the pre-race prayer, singing of the national anthem (by the Voices of Liberty, a la EPCOT!), parachuters and some other presentations.
I was so happy to hang with these girls - definitely calmed my nerves!
Wounded Warriors parachuting into the starting line!

Final parachuter with a 100 foot American flag! 
At 7:55, the howitzer was fired and the hand cyclists set off.  Five minutes later, the runners were sent off.  At 8:11 I checked my watch and we were still waiting to get moving.  I estimate we started at about 8:15.  I was feeling pretty calm and ready to go.  As we crossed the starting line, I thought to myself "ok, here we go" and we were off on a 26.2 mile run!
What a sight!  Photo from Danielle
The early miles ticked off easily.  We started very slow and there were lots of hills which helped keep our speed in check.  We both ditched our sweatshirts before mile 1 and unfortunately I lost my Road ID wristband when I took off for my sweatshirt.  I looked for it for a moment and then decided to forget about it.  Running through Roslyn was awesome - lots of spectators and we saw Danielle's Mom at mile 1.  At about the 5k mark, I noticed a familiar shirt and realized it was my friend Maggie (remember, we saw each other at Run for the Dream?) and we chatted for a few minutes.  I was excited to see her as this was her first marathon as well!  Next, we headed into Georgetown with lots of crowds.

After Georgetown, we turned onto Rock Creek Parkway for the out and back section of the course.  This was miles 6-9-ish.  This stretch was very crowded and at times, tough to get around people.  It was tough for the hand cyclists and we were often yelling for people to move aside.  We also saw lots of people carrying flags through this stretch which was particularly moving.  At one point, I turned to Danielle and told her I was having so much fun and couldn't wait to run another marathon.
Yes, we were having fun!  Photo from Danielle
Next, we headed back into town.  We passed the aid station with orange slices - they tasted fantastic!  A few minutes later, I noticed my shoes were very sticky though!  We passed the Kennedy Center where my friend Jamie planned to spectate.  I tirelessly searched the crowd but never saw her and felt a bit bummed out that I had missed her.  Next, we started heading towards the mall, weaving along the tidal basin.  The miles continued to tick off with relative ease and Danielle and I still chatted a fair bit with ease.  We looked for her Mom at mile 11 but also missed her.

Through the next stretch winding around the tidal basin, we saw military bands and a very moving stretch that was lined with markers of fallen service members.  Each marker included a photo, the year of their death and their age.  It was incredible to see that many of them were years younger than me.  In that moment, I realized this race is so much bigger than me and I was so lucky to be a part of it.  Shortly after this stretch, we hit the half marathon mat in 2:22, which is faster than my first two half marathons.  I commented to Danielle that I could hardly believe I was running the first half of a marathon so much faster than my first few half marathons.  I also realized the idea of beating Oprah (she ran it in 1994 in 4:29) was all but gone.  I felt momentary disappointment, but felt pleased that we would likely break 5 hours.

As we turned toward the mall, I could feel my legs start to tighten up a bit, particularly my calves.  We saw Danielle's mom again at mile 16, where she passed off some pretzels and OJ.  I was really starting to feel fatigued at this point and wondered how much longer I could hang with Danielle.  As we headed up the mall, I started looking for Susan and her family.  I turned off my music for most of this section of the course so I might be able to hear them if they saw me.  As we passed the National Gallery (I think), I spotted a familiar face - my friend Jamie screaming and jumping up and down.  I ran over and got the best hug of my life (literally!) and thanked her and told her I loved her.  As I ran away, I had tears in my eyes...mostly grateful for a familiar face and that awesome hug.  I still remember how soft and cozy her fleece felt.  It was just the boost I needed to get re-energized.  I was able to pick up the pace a bit and we headed toward the capital.  At this point, I was looking for a coworker who planned to be at the South corner.  I saw her before she saw me and got another hug.  With my spirits high, we turned south and headed back down the mall.  And once more I saw Jamie as we passed mile 19 and got another hug.  And this time, I'm pretty sure she told me she was proud of me and I was her hero.  I was on cloud nine.  Somewhere in this stretch, I missed seeing Susan and her family (bummer!), but they were there cheering loudly for us!

Mentally, I was feeling very strong at this point and some physical fatigue was setting in, but it wasn't debilitating.  We started up the 14th street bridge and Danielle took off.  After looking at my watch and seeing that we were hitting 8:40-ish pace, I made the decision to tell her to go ahead.  At the next walk break, she looked over her shoulder and I waved her on yelling that I would see her at the finish.  For a nanosecond, I regretted this decision thinking that I would enjoy the company over the last 6 miles.  But on some level I was relieved because I didn't want to hold her back and was comfortable running my own race at this point.  You could see people starting to lose it on the bridge - lots of people walking, lots of people stretching and a few people getting sick.  I passed the one and only pace group that I ever saw on course - the 4:45 group and felt good about that, knowing that my goal of a sub-5 hour marathon was doable.  I took an opportunity during a walk break to send a quick text message to Mom to update her on my progress and promptly put my phone away until after I finished.  I was tempted to read some of the other texts coming in but wanted to stay focused.

Once we got over the bridge, I got excited to head into Crystal City.  There were some rolling hills in this section, but I handled them with ease.  There were tons of crowds, but they were quiet.  At one point, I threw my arms in the air and yelled at them to start cheering for us.  I think I yelled something like "Come on people, we're at mile 22 in a marathon, give us some love!"  It worked!  Through this stretch, I passed what felt like hundreds of people.  I kept my run-walk intervals and held 9:40-ish pace during the run intervals.  I started thinking that maybe I could hit 4:40 or 4:42 for my final time.  I was running on adrenalin at this point.  Somewhere around mile 23 or 24, I choked down one last shot blok to get me to the finish.  I saw the Dunkin Donuts munchkin table, but couldn't begin to think about eating them - it didn't sound appealing at all!  We rounded the final turn in Crystal City and hit a water stop where I was happy to get some Gatorade and water.

Next, we headed under the overpass toward the Pentagon.  The end was near - I could just feel it.  I checked my watch again and realized that a 4:30-something marathon was possible but I would have to really move to make that happen.  The spectators and DJs along the stretch near the Pentagon were infectious with their energy.  We turned to go down an off ramp and the mile 25 marker was there welcoming us closer to the finish.  Commence ugly cry.  It finally hit me that I was actually going to run a marathon that morning!  Me...the girl with a bum knee, the girl who said she couldn't run a marathon, the girl who used to hate running...I was actually going to do it.  I tried to hold it together to finish strong.  As we got to the bottom of the ramp, a Marine was yelling 1.2 miles to go.  I thanked him - it was a huge mental boost!  We ran past the starting line area and the spectators started increasing.  I saw Bart Yasso and yelled his name and got a high five and warm wishes for the finish - awesome!

And before I knew it, I was at the mile 26 marker and could see the finish line and the dreaded final hill.  I had gas in the tank so I took off.  The crowds were encroaching on the road and many runners were walking, so I hugged the left side of the course and sprinted as hard as I could toward the finish.  I raised my tired arms in triumph as I crossed the mats and yelled I did it and cried happy tears.  I grabbed my phone and texted Mom and she immediately called to share her congratulations.

I walked through the chute and got my medal.  There were two Marines handing them out in each line - one holding the medals and one presenting it to you.  I asked the one holding the medals to snap a photo.  He took two - this is the best moment of my day.  The Marine saluted me, shook my hand and told me congratulations.  It was a moving end of the race and was incredible to have that level of personal attention.

Honestly, one of the happiest moments of my life!
I got one professional photo with my medal but somehow missed the area with the photos in front of the Iwo Jima (SAD!!!).  I was honestly focused on getting water and Gatorade.  I looked up and noticed Danielle right in front of me.  We shared a celebratory hug and went to get our post-race snacks, jacket and get our bags.  As I was waiting in the water line, I head my name being called and saw my friend Jamie!  She had also come to cheer at mile 26, but I was in the zone and never heard her.  What an AWESOME friend!

Time for more photos and celebrating!
Mission accomplished - YES!

It's a bulldog, not a bear!
Danielle and I made our way through Roslyn to get our bags and meandered through the finish festival.  We were both tired and headed back to her hotel to stretch for a bit before my friend Greg was picking me up.  It was fun to debrief the race with her Mom and they were so generous to let me crash in their room for a bit.

It was seriously an incredible day!  I couldn't have asked for a better race experience, more support or better race day friends!  To all of you who have encouraged me along this journey, thank you.  Thank you for believing in me and helping me cross this finish line.  I am sure I will be sharing more on my race in the coming days.  Until then...I'm a MARATHONER!!!!

{Christine}

56 comments:

  1. I had goosebumps and tears in my eyes reading the recap of your FIRST marathon-so awesome! Great recap and CONGRATULATIONS!!!!

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    1. Thanks Monica, It was truly a happy and memorable day!

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  2. WOW!!! Excellent!!! Congrats!!! ------ Denise

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  3. Wow Christine! You gave me chills of excitement. A Big CONGRATS to you

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  4. CONGRATULATIONS!!! Honestly, I don't think congratulations is enough...it is so amazing and excellent at what you were able to accomplish! This race sounds amazing. If/when I get the nerve to do a full marathon, this one definitely has to go on the list. Again, congratulations and great job! :)

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    1. Thanks Kellie! MCM is an AMAZING race - definitely a great one for a first marathon!

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  5. Congratulations! Years from now you will still recall all of those little details from this first marathon but all the other marathon ones will tend to blur together. Such an amazing recap of your race and loved reading about it.

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    1. I hope so - there was so much "good" from this race. I hope to keep the memories preserved.

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  6. I cried!!! I honestly cried while reading this. I am THAT girl that can't run. I have started training for the Disney 10K, and I SUCK. I can't tell you how many times I have gone back to the beginning and tried again. I know I don't have many days left to get it right and here I am sitting on the couch with a chest cold...Feeling like it's never going to happen.. Thank you for this blog. Thank you for sharing, thank you, thank you thank you.. You make me want to keep trying.
    Patti

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    1. Aw thanks Patti! If you had asked me a few years ago if I would run a marathon, the answer would have been a big fat NO! You can do it girl - just stay positive and consistent with your training (once you get over that icky cold!)

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  7. Wow, this post definitely put tears in my eyes! Great job Christine, I am so excited for you!!! You're a marathoner!! (I gave you a shoutout on my blog post yesterday too) :0)

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    1. Thanks Lauren - Heading over to your blog now! :)

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  8. VERY WELL DONE!!! thanks for the recap! Hope you enjoyed my city as much as I do on the regular and congratulations! I will look forward to seeing you and your mom at Disney in January and watching as you take us all on the journey to dopey!

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    1. It was SO awesome Becca! I loved running through DC - definitely an experience like no other. And yes, let's connect at Dopey! :)

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  9. Chills and goosebumps! Congrats, marathoner!

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  10. Congrats Christine! Well done, and certainly an experience that you'll never forget!

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    1. Thank you! Yes, I will definitely treasure these memories for a long time!

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  11. Christine, I don't even know what to say. I know how special a first marathon is and I am honored to have shared the experience with you. I am so glad that we decided to run together, I had such a great day - can't wait until the next time : )

    P.S. - the photo of the Marine saluting you is amazing! What a wonderful moment to have captured!

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    1. Thank YOU for everything, Danielle! I couldn't have imagined a better running partner! I can't wait to see you again!! :)

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  12. Huge congratulations to you!!! You've worked so hard and you did an amazing job :)

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    1. Thank you Jen! Hard work paying off is an incredible feeling!

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    1. Awww...you are my cheerleader extraordinaire Ms. Patty - thank you!!!!

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  14. Awesome job and a great recap, Christine. All I kept thinking was that I hope I will have the wherewithal to organize my thoughts and present them as well after I complete my first full at WDW in January. Well, I was also thinking that I hope I'll be able to complete my first full with as much strength and fortitude as you had on Sunday!

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    1. Thanks Pete! I'm sure WDW will be a fantastic first full! Just keep up the training and you'll kill it!

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  15. Every time I've read about your VICTORY here, I can't stop the waterworks! It's been such an adventure following the accomplishments of the We Run Disney team ever since I found your blog after last year's Wine and Dine. You both are inspiring, funny, down to earth, and I for one am extremely proud to say I (almost) know you! lol Something I'm sure I'll be able to say for sure at the race next week! You go girls!!

    Kimberley

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    1. Thank you Kimberley - you are so sweet! Hope to see you at a race soon <3

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  16. Thank you so much for sharing this experience, and congratulations on an amazing first marathon!! This truly brought tears to my eyes and inspired me to keep pushing. I recently completed my first half, which is something I NEVER thought I would do, nor did I have the interest to do (running? blegh!). Up until recently I thought a full marathon would be out of reach and it wasn't a blip on the radar, but after reading this I really want to be able to complete the MCM one day. Thanks so much!

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    1. My best advice - do it when YOU are ready. It took me a long time to be ready for a full and I'm glad I did it on my own time table and no one elses. You will rock it girl!

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  17. Thanks for sharing your journey and completion of your goal! Great running, great writing, great photos. As a mom who runs with her daughter - I love following you both. Looking forward to seeing what's next. Job well done! Congratulations!

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    1. Yay mother-daughter runners! :) Thank you Donna!

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  18. Congrats! I got teary just reading about it - it sounds like such a great experience for you! - Jessica

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  19. This is a great recap! I loved reading every word of it. Congratulations, Christine! I'm so happy for you! :)

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  20. Oh Christine!!! Congratulations....its been so inspiring watching this journey for you....I'm so happy and Proud for you!!!! You did Awesome! You are a Marathoner!!!!!!

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    1. Thank you Melissa! It's still a little hard to believe but it was an amazing day!

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  21. This is such an amazing recap! Made me tear up so many times. You did AMAZING. Seriously, so impressive! G;ad you had a great first marathon experience.

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    1. Thanks Jen! It was everything I hoped for and so much more

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  22. Awesomeness overload here! Way to go Christine!!

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  23. You go, girl! Awesome awesome recap! I'm really excited for you! Congratulations and welcome to the marathoners club! :D

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    1. Thanks Karen! It's a great feeling (and you know that!) :)

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  24. Congratulations!!!!!!!!! What an excellent recap, and what an incredible accomplishment :)


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    1. Thanks Lisa! It is an awesome feeling to say that I ran a marathon! :)

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  25. Congratulations. It was such an amazing race. I was overwhelmed by the Marine & crowd support.
    Oh, and we missed the pictures at Iwo Jima too... I guess we were all in a marathon daze.

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    1. Thanks Abby! You too! Haha totally - I saw a friend post one to FB and got so mad. Oh well!

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  26. Congratulations Christine! We have been reading about your journey from the very beginning and are SO proud of you! you did a great job on the recaps by the way, I actually felt like I was right there cheering you on!

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  27. Congrats! So much of that was the same as I felt when I ran it last year - sticky feet from the oranges - crowding before Georgetown the wonderful feeling of running with a purpose when you see all of the people running in honor of soldiers. Way to go - fantastic accomplishment!

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  28. Wow. I'm so far from accomplishing anything close to a marathon, but the feelings I had reading this recap make me want to!! CONGRATS!!!!

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  29. Congrats on an awesome race and FIRST MARATHON!! OORAH!!

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  30. So, SO excited for you! I'm training for Dopey now as my first marathon, and I want you to know that you've totally inspired me! Congratulations on an amazing race and first marathon! :-D

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  31. Congratulations!! What a great recap of an amazing day. I've enjoyed following along on your journey to 26.2! The picture of you receiving your medal is awesome!! Congrats again!

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