As of two days ago, NYC Marathon was arguably my most challenging marathon course. Waking up this morning, in retrospect, Marine Corps Marathon(MCM) was. It was by far my most emotional 26.2 mile experience ever and the only marathon that has touched me this deeply. I have now ran 8 marathons (and 5 ultra distances). A few months back, my bf lent me “Brothers Forever” a book about Marine 1st Lt. Travis Manion and LT (SEAL) Brendan Looney two fallen heroes who grew really close while being United States Naval Academy roommates and died doing their duty (Their family and friends run this marathon in their honor). Back then, I was already fortunate to have signed up for the race, however yesterday when I ran and experienced the blue mile, I was overcame with emotions.
We drove to Alexandria on Friday night. I woke up the next morning and did my ritual 2-mile-the-day-before-the-
The following morning, he dropped me off at the metro where I followed two avid Marine Corps Marathon runners to the Pentagon and walked about a mile to the security checkpoint. Because I was there early, I ran into other Trail Whippass folks who shared some words of encouragement (can you believe one of them has ran over 100 marathons?!). Otto, a local and a pacer for NYRR, suggested that we line up early and gave me some last minute advice since he was a veteran of the course. He quoted the same thing any seasoned runner would say, “be sure to enjoy the course.”
I’m going to preface this part by saying this: I ran over 5 marathon distances this year alone prior to MCM. I ran two ultras also (50k and 50 miler). Although I’ve trained at sub 8 minute pace since the Revel Rockies Colorado Marathon, I hadn’t made it. Although I’d like to think that my body isn’t ready for it, it might actually be my mind. So for Marine Corps, although there wasn’t a real goal, I told my bf I’m going to try if I felt good that day—and tried I did. I lined up with the 3:35. I’d line up with them as long as I could. I brought my pace bracelet just in case.
When I started running, I thought, “who am I kidding?” I jogged along based on feel. The crowd was very thick at the start. There was no true corral so people who were not supposed to be at the beginning were and fell behind, sometimes quickly. It affected me running with the pace group, instead of me trying to avoid running into anyone, I simply went off solo.
I saw my bf at mile 4, cheering me along and letting me know that I’m doing so well and on target. He had a 10 mile run so he decided to appear along the way. After passing him along the bridge, the crowd took us along just fine. However, I felt sudden urges to urinate.
The blue mile came and went, with me in tears of the names and faces of the deceased men and women who had fought for our country. Their families or friends had flags at the end waving on both sides of the course.
Around mile 14 when the pace group eventually passed me, and I felt completely defeated, I began assessing myself. I certainly might have gotten too distracted needing to pee. I thought of where a Port A Potty would be. I started walking. Then, like an angel, my bf was near by, and asked if he should take anything. I’m fine I called out but I needed to pee. He said there’s definitely one under the bridge ahead. He jogged along pacing me a bit. I was able to relieve myself and continued the course.
I wish I could say that was the last time I had to walk but 2 hours and 11 minutes in, I was no longer on target. I fell behind by 2 minutes by the mile after. I knew it would only get worse. The constant checking, which I guess is my wall, came more and more often. My attention went to my right leg which had an issue that entire week. Once I realized this, I ignored the target completely and assessed what my body was doing. I will just do a sub 4 I figured (especially after the 3:45 pace group passed me). I also took note that I couldn’t get myself injured since I have to run New York City in a week!
I teared up a few feet later mostly because I had the epiphany that a daily routine for some of these soldiers meant life or death. I was simply running a marathon. I wasn’t fighting, I wasn’t being shot at. Yet, I couldn’t get it out of my mind enough to get past the fatigue or constant pounding. Do I have the mindset to be in the military?
The bridge was as wicked as it had been rumored and the end reminded me of when I ran NYC’s and getting off the Queensboro bridge. At the end, crowds were waiting to explode in cheer. I saw a couple of whippets there. I saw #TeamTravis signs prior to Mile 21ish. I called out, even if they had no idea who I was. The rest of the route going to mile 24 had crowd support. Coming back to mile 25 looked familiar, we were ending where the morning had started and of course, I didn’t realize it had been a mile long. When we passed mile 26, there was the end, a hill. That last drive to the finish. Whose idea was it to put a hill right there? Later that day, my bf said he kept repeating in his head, “please don’t make her walk it”—all summer he has pushed me to embrace the hills. Success! Ha, I showed that final hill no mercy. He hadn’t been sure of whether I wanted him to run with me.
Past the finish was torturous. I met Otto and we explained how we both felt. He agreed that this course was worse than NYC and it was his favourite. I think it’ll now be mine and I’d love to have the opportunity to run it again. He applauded me on how I did. We runners are often so tough on ourselves. However, I think I did fine—despite being overly ambitious… besides, I have a marathon in a week!
I got my medal and recovery supplies telling all the marines—”thank you for your service.”
By the way, thanks so much to Amy for transferring her bib to me.
Oorah, indeed. Semper fidelis (Always Faithful/Loyal).