At least it didn’t take me this long to cross the finish line

So, I ran a little marathon about a month and a half ago. And I have not forgotten about writing about it. I have been putting it off because I’ve felt really busy and like I don’t have the time to devote to it that I need. And I was hoping to get Jeff’s photos so that I’d have something to show you visually about the run. But waiting 6 weeks is pretty ridiculous. And there are the proof photos from the Marine Corps Marathon photographers. So those will have to do for now!

This was my second marathon, so everything about it for me was comparing it to my first. And while my first marathon will always have that special place in my heart (and it doesn’t hurt that it was in my city!) the second one was amazing as well.

D.C. is so beautiful (parts of it anyway), and a major reason I signed up for this one was because I couldn’t wait to run around all the monuments and on Capitol Hill. Also, it didn’t hurt that my in-laws live in Pentagon City and it’s an easy walk to the start line.

The expo lasted two days, which I thought was awesome because I got it over with on Friday, leaving Saturday purely for rest (race was Sunday.) I was disappointed in the T-shirts they gave us – they were cotton and very masculine (to be expected I guess, it is the Marines). Very good quality and probably will really enjoy wearing it around a campfire, but I wanted something I could wear more often. I picked up the pink jacket I showed you here, and I love it. I wear it all the time when I’m in workout gear.

Saturday I spent completely relaxing, save for a 2-mile run which I did with my father-in-law at their apartment gym. I then got to relax in the sauna for a bit. Pasta for dinner and bed early. Of course I couldn’t sleep (story of my life whenever I have to get up early.) Up at 5 a.m.-ish (if I remember right; it’s been so long even I can’t remember!). Had my standard pre-race breakfast – bagel (bagel thins this time, actually) and peanut butter and a banana. And of course a cup of coffee.

Gray (father-in-law) and Jeff were the perfect support crew, waking up early and walking me to the start line. It certainly isn’t easy to get up that early, and it was nice having company. They even stood in line with me for 20 minutes or so at the port-a-potty. A photographer snapped this on our walk to the start line:

Oh yeah, maybe now’s a good time to remind you the race was on Halloween. That’s a spider web headband, bat hair clips, and Halloween-themed socks and shirt. I got a lot of smiles during the race, and my outfit was a conversation-starter between myself and runners. It’s amazing how social a marathon can be – you wouldn’t think we’d be able to talk to each other with all that running!

Right before the Support Crew sent me off to join the running masses, Gray asked if he could snap my picture. I turned around to face him and posed. Right before he snapped it I felt arms wrap around me. I knew two people running that day, Corinne and Ronnie, and I was really hoping it was one of them – otherwise that’s just creepy! I turned, and it was Corinne! Corinne is my rose buddy in my sorority, and she was a roommate for a while in college. Out of 30,000 runners and we happened to see each other. Now that’s fate.

Corinne was running with Dan and they were in a different pace group than me, so we said our goodbyes and headed off to the start line. The white fencing was up, making it hard to get in where I needed to, and a very nice guy helped me hop over the fence without getting injured at the start line (which I would have totally been prone to, as clumsy as I am. How bad would that suck, twisting an ankle while getting to the start.) I asked him what his pace was and he said 4:30-4:45 and I thought “Well, that’s good enough for me,” knowing I was hoping to finish the race in about 4:30.

It took us 20 minutes to cross the start line but then we were off! Before mile 1 I was already making conversation with a girl who was running with a sash that said, “Marathon virgin. It’s my first time!” I told her to savor every moment because she’d remember it forever (as if I’m some sort of expert, ha.) I congratulated her then ran ahead before we got too chummy.

As social as I am, even on the race course, I really like to run my own race. I love conversing with people but I don’t want to run with anyone longer than a few minutes because it starts to mess with my head. If they are running slower than me I feel like I have to slow down. If they are running faster than me I feel like I have to speed up. I focus so much on what they’re doing and how I need to react that it messes with my head. I’ve only run one race with someone, my sister, and it was early on in my running career. She definitely took it slow for my benefit, which I appreciate so much even to this day, but I’ve learned that running my own race is best for me. Plus, she’s my sister so she puts up with my crap more than other people do.

So, this race, as the last marathon, was made up of lots of mini conversations. Mostly people commenting on my outfit or me commenting on others’ outfits. There weren’t nearly as many people dressed up as I expected for a Halloween run! About the same as Thunder Road, oddly.

Also, I learned the hard way after the first few water stops that running through the water stops as I had during Thunder Road was just not going to happen. There were way too many people who were stopping at the stops that I was running into the back of people who came to a stop right in front of me. You’d think these were people who had been crawling through a desert for 3 days, even during the stops at mile 2, 4, etc. After some aggravation, I decided if I can’t beat them, I’d join them. I walked through the rest of the water stops and it made it a bit more bearable.

When I signed up, my friend Allison told me I should seed myself an hour faster than I think I will be. “Everyone does it,” she said. I didn’t want to do that because if I was running with the 3.5 hour runners, I would completely be in their way as they passed me. As it was, she was right, and all the people in the 4.5 hour range were getting in my way – because they were not 4.5 hour runners. Next year I guess I’ll join the masses in lying about my projected pace. It’s too bad people can’t just be honest! Or maybe they’re just too optimistic …

Running through Georgetown (around miles 7-10ish) was one of my favorites. Everyone was out cheering and the crowds were just going wild. Lots of excitement there!

Around mile 9, I ran up behind a guy who was wearing a water bladder that looked strangely familiar. “Ronnie has that Camelback” I thought to myself. I then saw the back of the runner’s head. “Ronnie has that head,” I thought. And then I saw his tattoo. “Hey, it’s Ronnie!” (yes, it was a slow realization, but again, 30, 000 runners and I happened to see both of the people I know?). I ran up to him and we managed to give sweaty hugs while running – didn’t even break stride! He was running with his wife’s brother-in-law, so I ran with them for a few minutes then went on ahead.

Around mile 12, I had to go to the bathroom. And I knew I wouldn’t make it the whole marathon without taking a break. I figured I’d get it over with to make the rest of the race more comfortable. Ended up standing in line for SIX MINUTES. Two minutes to use the bathroom, losing a total of 8 minutes. I wasn’t really upset though – such is life. I couldn’t really expect to get through two marathons without taking a bathroom break, right?

I caught up to Ronnie again after the break, seeing him twice on the race course. Again, so amazed by that. It was wall-to-wall runners the entire way, and to see the people I know … that was just amazing.

Unfortunately, after the 12 mile break, I was mentally willing to take walk breaks. And so I ended up walk/running the rest of the way. When I look at my splits I’m pretty bummed that I didn’t push myself a little harder during that second half.

 

(If you look at my moving time, it was only 45 seconds slower than my first marathon time, in which I spent the entire way moving. The water stops and bathroom break are what contributed to that extra 17 minutes.)

No worries, though. I’m not doing this to win any awards. I’m not doing it to be competitive. I’m doing it to burn calories and have fun. 

But, the race wasn’t over after mile 12, not in the least. I still got to run around the monuments! Capitol Hill was around mile 15 (forgive me if my miles are a tad off; it has been 6 whole weeks …). And oddly, I barely remember the monuments at all! The crowds were crazy at Capitol Hill, too, which was awesome. And I focused on the cheers and on not stepping on the heels of the runners in front of me. And I did not see a single monument or important building.

There’s proof I ran by them, though:

Mile 20 was a huge awful bridge. It’s infamous for its challenge – you have to “beat the bridge.” Meaning the road is only closed off for runners for a certain amount of time, and if you don’t make it in the time limit, you can’t run on the road (it’s basically an interstate.) If you don’t make it, you get picked up and driven across it, leading to a DQ. I wasn’t really aware of this, but the guy at the mile marker kept yelling that we’d “beat the bridge” and I heard other runners talking about how we’d made it. (of course, we’d made it in plenty of time, but it’s still a nice milestone.) The bridge was horribly windy, blowing us sideways. It was the only time my headband threatened to fall off.

After the bridge is Pentagon City, which is where my in-laws live. Again, a great crowd. People offering free beer to runners. I so wanted one as I missed out on the beer at Thunder Road, but they were all the way on the left and I was all the way on the right. With the wall-to-wall runners, I would have had to either piss off a bunch of people or backtrack to get to them. Not worth it!

The last mile or two was the worst. Not a huge crowd support comparatively, a huge boring road, and I even saw a few people puking on the side. And you have to actually run up an awful steep hill to the finish line (they compare it to climbing Iwo Jima!) I was determined to run up the steep hill – it was so close to the end – but my body actually physically stopped itself for a moment on that hill before I got it going again. It was that steep.)

I looked for Gray and Jeff as I was nearing the finish but there were so many crowds, they were impossible to find. And then I crossed that finish line!

Finished the marathon with a smile, then cried my eyes out as I called my parents and my siblings and my friends. Got mostly voice mails until I reached Sally. She was waiting on the course for Ronnie and she was so full of excitement and congratulations that it got me even more excited! I talked to some others too, but she was the first.

A Marine put my medal around my neck and gave me a personal congratulations, a much better deal than Thunder Road, where they handed me my medal in a bag and I put it on myself. (My understanding is that some people got their medals put around their necks; they must’ve been behind on the medal unwrapping when I came through).

So, I did it! I felt a lot better physically after the second one. Missed out on the free beer after the race as I was waiting for Ronnie and Sally and Jeff and Gray at the family link up area. The guy in front of me got the last beer! (That happened at the half marathon in South Park in Charlotte in April; I have bad luck with that apparently.) I did get my free massage though; that was heaven. Way better than a free beer anyway. Celebrated at Champs with the in-laws’ and I wore my medal all day.

And yes, I can’t wait to run another one. I just need to decide which one I will do in 2011!