Marine Corps Marathon 2018
Dropping all expectations is sometimes the best thing you can do.
I can’t remember where but I recently read an article that the basic idea was: Letting go of expectations and pressure can lead to increased success and enjoyment in races. After finishing Marine Corps Marathon, I total understand what this article was trying to say and I couldn’t agree more.
I went into the race unsure whether I would even be able to finish. Training all summer went fairly well, and I hit most of my runs. I made it up to 19.5 miles for my longest training run, six months out from the marathon. The plan was to complete one more long run close to 20 miles, but unfortunately tendonitis derailed my plans. I had to cut back mileage and drop that last long run from the schedule. I even had to cut a run short (for the first time in my entire life) and walk back to my car limping. I literally wasn’t sure what was going to happen on race day, but I persevered. I didn’t have a goal finishing time anymore. Now, my biggest goal was to just make it to the start line. I went to physical therapy twice a week, I removed speedwork and continued to do short, easy runs. At the expo, I got taped up and carb loaded for the following day.
I stood on the starting line with friends and took in the scene. The weather was perfect, I had some of my favorite people around me, and we had somehow made our way up to the 2:45 corral. In hindsight, this was amazing because it wasn’t nearly as crowded as I had expected for the first few miles of the race.
I hadn’t run in a week so I wasn’t sure how my foot was going to feel. I honestly wasn’t sure I was even ready for 26.2 miles since I had essentially been tapering for six weeks. But before the race, a friend on Instagram sent me a quote from Des Linden on a recent podcast: “You can be 60 miles under trained and get to the start, but if you are one mile over trained you’re watching from the side lines.” I took this to heart and when the gun went off, I began my race.
The entire race I had to force myself to slow down and remain steady. Of course when there are thousands of people around you, it’s easy to grab onto some of them and take off faster than you should. But I kept reminding myself: “You have a lot more miles to go. You just want to make it to the finish line.” My friends disappeared ahead and behind me pretty quickly and I was on my own (with thousands of strangers). I expected to make friends with some along the way, but that honestly didn’t happen and that’s okay. I saw friends on the course at mile 11 and 16 and that was rejuvenating. I was thrilled to see them and even stopped for a photo at mile 16.
We had about ten people supporting us there, and somehow the night before two of them had found llama heads. If you know anything about my run club, you know we have a thing for llamas! So if you saw two llamas running around DC, it was my amazing friends.
Miles 1-16 felt AMAZING. I was forcing myself to slow down and still somehow averaging about a 9:00-9:20 mile pace. Unfortunately from then on, everything hurt. Mile 16 was a drastic change from feeling amazing to every muscle in my legs aching, and the last 10 miles were ROUGH. That was my wall. Nutrition and hydration were great, but I think it was just the fact that my body was slightly undertrained. But I pushed on, and looking back at my paces on Garmin, I didn’t slow down as much as I felt like I was. I walked through the water stations to drink, but only stopped for about 15-20 seconds each time.
At mile 21, I crossed the infamous “beat the bridge.” Along the entire 26 miles, the streets were packed with people cheering us on and supporting the race. Crossing this last bridge was the beginning of a mile and a half portion of the race with no spectators and no water stations. It was a concrete dessert. As I pushed my legs to just keep moving, people around me started walking. I took the bait. I stopped to walk and looked at my watch, telling myself I had 60 seconds and I was starting to run again. And I did just that. The last few miles were a blur, continuing to run but feeling like I was moving slow as molasses and my legs screaming at me. It was then that I realized what my finishing time was going to be, and that is what kept me going. The last mile was filled with marines giving high fives, and all I could think about was crossing that finish line. I reminded myself why I was running, and who I was running for. I repeated to myself over and over: “You are stronger than you realize.” I really did want to stop so many times, but I never did, and I crossed that finish line in 4:11:52. As I walked to the medals, I specifically chose a female marine to put my medal around my neck. There it was - I had completed my biggest goal for 2018.
I was so happy to be done, and was thrilled with my time. I woke up that morning not even sure if my foot was going to allow me to finish the race. There was a chance I would end up with a DNF. I did not feel pain once. I went into the race without expectation and with no pressure, and I truly believe that’s what allowed me to perform so well and push through those uncomfortable miles at the end. Uncomfortable? Who am I kidding – those miles were pure torture. But I did it! I finished my first marathon and I am so proud of myself. I called my people at home, I found my fellow run clubbers at the charity village, and then took the long walk back to the hotel. All I wanted was a shower, a turkey burger, and you guessed it: ice cream.