On Sunday, October 30, 2016, I toed the line for my third ever marathon. I ran Illinois in 2011 and Bataan Memorial Death March in 2012. This marathon had been on my mind since I won entry via the lottery back in March.
My training was pretty solid as far as long runs go. I had started out this training cycle with high hopes of using Hansons’ marathon method, but since I started my new full-time teaching job and had other commitments, that wasn’t going to happen. So I backed down to a Higdon Novice marathon plan. I’m glad I did because I had just enough time in my week to get my runs in.
I came into this marathon having almost 3 months of 100+ mile months, the most mileage I’ve completed when training for any race. I had done a 17, 18, 20, and final 18-miler for my super-long runs. My paces were right about 12:00. It’s slow for me.. but I’m also still about 10 lbs heavier than I was 4-5 years ago. During this cycle (since May), I’ve lost about 20 pounds, and aimed to keep my weight steady during taper. I had some tendonitis in my left leg, but thankfully I had zero issues with it on Sunday.
I had been feeling under the weather last week, which I knew was going to happen eventually. It’s inevitable when you work with young children (kindergarten to fifth grade). I didn’t feel too hot on Saturday when we drove down to DC for packet pickup. My appetite wasn’t normal, so I just ate whatever sounded good. For Saturday, it was a Big Mac with fries.
While we were in town on Saturday, we (my husband and I) did a super short shakeout run and a little sightseeing.
I didn’t sleep well Friday or Saturday nights, and was worried I would feel awful come Sunday morning. However, after getting to DC Sunday morning, parking, and getting to Runner’s Village near the start, I began to feel better and my headache subsided.
I dropped off my bag and ran over to the Wear Blue circle of remembrance. I FINALLY got to meet my lovely friend Natalie after years of knowing her.
It took less time to cross the start line than I anticipated.We were off under a beautiful sunrise. It was warm even before we started running, and I knew to anticipate a warm day. I stayed hydrated and fueled for the entire race. Anytime I felt the slightest pang of hunger, I ate the Gatorade chews I’d packed. There were some awesome food stations giving out oranges, energy gels, sport beans, and even spectators with Halloween candy.
All in all, I had an awesome race. I enjoyed most miles, even the tough ones (21-25). I had made a decision prior to race day that there’s no reason to not enjoy myself because how amazing was it that I got to run through one of the coolest cities in America? I had pushed through so many hurdles during training that I was more than mentally ready for the marathon.
I wish I’d had pictures from the Wear Blue mile, where pictures of fallen military were lined up in remembrance of their sacrifice. I saw Natalie’s brother’s picture as well as my friend Rachel’s husband’s photo. I touched them both as I ran by and said a prayer.
I never hit the wall, and I attribute this to continually fueling and hydrating throughout. Around mile 20, my legs and feet just started to hurt.. pretty typical for a marathon if you ask me. Lots of people were walking, and it was tempting to join them. However, I tried to reason as logically as I could, and reasoned that it was going to hurt whether I walked or ran, so I might as well run and get done faster. So run I did.
Around mile 22 or 23 when we got to Crystal City, we were running out and backs. So, in order to distract myself and provide some encouragement, I started to call out other Wear Blue runners on the other side of the cones. It helped! I felt better, I got smiles from them, and those miles went by.
The finish was going to be uphill – I had looked at the elevation profile. I saw Aaron about 1/4 mile away from the finish, and that was an awesome boost. I crossed the finish line and made my way to the chute to get my medal from a Marine. I met up with Aaron at the Finisher’s Festival, got my obligatory (and free) beer, downed some Gatorade, and tried my best to hobble my way to pick up my drop bag.
We got to the Rosslyn Metro station and rode the blue line back to Federal Triangle, not too far from where we parked at the Reagan building. Then we drove home. (How cool is it that we live in driving distance of DC?!)
My overall time was 5:34:53, and my pace was 12:46. It was 12:32 according to my Garmin, where it says I ran 26.65 actual miles. I was happy with that pace. The course itself wasn’t very hilly, but after 18 or so miles, hills start to feel like mountains. But I didn’t ever walk a hill. It was warm – on the way home, the temp was around 82*. On my longest run during training, I ran a 12:00 pace on completely flat ground.
I’d say that this was an awesome way to ‘come back’ to long distance running. I will still work on losing about 10 more lbs to get down to where I maintained my weight for several years. With this race, I felt I truly overcame any mental hurdles to long distance running. There was a point when nothing was going to make me keep running except for me. Not music, not a breeze, not the energy of spectators. I had to just decide to do it and follow through.
I highly recommend the MCM – it’s extremely well-organized, from packet pickup to riding the Metro around. The sights are gorgeous, and fall in Maryland is beautiful.
What’s next? I’m looking ahead to a spring half and the Philadelphia Marathon next fall. Must run all the East Coast marathons!