Waking before the alarm is nothing new for me on race day. At 2:30 I was up tweeting, went back to bed, slept off and on and then got up at 4:30. After taking a shower and getting dressed, I ate my banana, had some Gatorade and
double triple checked my gear. It was time to go!
With my bag ready and wearing a coat and throwaway, Tom and I made our way to the Metro for the trip to the Pentagon station. After a very long walk to the Runner's Village, Tom and I said goodbye and I went through the security check and into the runners starting area. I saw the UPS bag check trucks and headed in that direction to get rid of my bag. A voice called to me and it was Sarah of Sparkly Runner. She was volunteering at bag check and I sat and chatted with her for about 30 minutes. It was wonderful to see a familiar face and made the time go quickly!
Soon it was time to head to the start and this was my opportunity to use the VIP porta potty with the Brooks Running gang. This was a seriously great benefit that included lighted, climate controlled toilets, a real sink with soap and water and tons of little items you might need like body glide, mints, lotion, band aids etc. Locating a spot in the starting area should not be a big deal. Marine Corps Marathon has an honor system, and you are supposed to line up with your expected finish time. Note that I said supposed. With this in mind, I found the spot for the 4:15-4:29 runners, with a goal of around 4:20- 4:23. Given my training, coach Sami and I thought that was conservative with how I have been running/training the last few months. The pre race festivities started and boy were they spectacular, They had a super exciting fighter jet fly by, followed by several parachute groups, one with a huge American flag and followed by the National Anthem. The Howitzer sounded and the first runners were off. I crossed the start line with 8:50 on the clock.
Instead of giving a blow by blow, mile by mile recap, I am doing something a bit different. Here are the highs and lows of my race day:
* Absolutely gorgeous race day weather. Who could find fault with a perfect blue sky day and cool temperatures.
* The crowd support was amazing. People cheered loud and with great enthusiasm and this helped me through some of the rough parts of the race.
* Having my family in attendance made the race very special for me. They managed to see me 5 times, and at mile 26, Christine was in my face with the cow bell and I missed her. That is focus and I feel really badly that I missed one last opportunity to see my special cheer squad!
|Mile 19, big smile for my family (photo by Christine)|
* The race course was fabulous. Despite some early hills and a last hill to the finish, it was relatively flat and through very interesting parts of DC. I loved passing the monuments and stately buildings and the Rock Creek area was especially nice too with the tree lined parkway that provided shade.
* The "Run to Honor" section of the course was so well done, but I must admit, it made me weak and caused a few tears. The photos of fall servicemen was so moving, especially the ones I noticed holding their children. It also made me recall my brother in law who passed away over 33 years ago while on a training flight with the Marines. Thanks to all of them for making the ultimate sacrifice.
* The volunteers were so helpful. Marines were everywhere you turned and some additional volunteers were on the course to support the food stops. (Thanks Kathryn and Preston)
* This race runs like a well oiled machine. The timing of the event went exactly according to plan. This suits me, as any extra wait just cause lots and lots of anxiety!
* Having a medal presented to you by a US Marine is indescribable. It was a wonderful moment that I will never forget.
|Loved the special treatment by one of our fabulous Marines!|
* You probably figured out already that I was disappointed in the corral system. When runners with a 5-6 plus hour marathon result start within minutes of the gun, there is a problem. I could not get into a groove and at mile 5, when my family saw me, they knew I was upset. My 5k pace was 10:23 which was the best I could manage while passing hundreds of runners, weaving around large groups with some already walking. I have absolutely no problem with walkers or anyone trying to complete a marathon, but when a race has self seeding corrals, honestly is important, both for runner safety and for the benefit of everyone racing. Training for a marathon is hard work and my goal was to complete the race at or below my goal pace. I am certain that if I had lined up with the 4 hour finishers or better, my time goal would have been met. There was absolutely no way for me to know that I should "cheat" and stand where I really did not belong. After a quick review of the results and some estimation, I am pretty sure I passed between 2-3,000 runners, maybe more.
* The water stops were disappointing. While there were enough, they were always crowded and it was hard to get in to get either water or Gatorade. I am not sure if this was a course issue or a runner issue.
* I cried when I met my family after the race and it was not happy tears. When you work so hard and feel like you did everything right, it is difficult to accept a disappointing result. The frustration just leaked out of my body!
More than anything, I am so sad that I did not love the race. It was my sister's first marathon and Christine's first and they both enjoyed it immensely. While I have run a big marathon before, this was a new learning experience and I will be better equipped to handle a large race in the future. Moving on, it is now time to focus on some other things like this, the next big race on my schedule!