Monday, November 4, 2013

Race Review: Marine Corps Marathon #MissionAccomplished


Setting: National Mall Washington, DC and Arlington, VA

Cost/Registration:  Registration was insane.  It's a very popular race, so we were sitting by our computer trying to register and the site kept crashing.  We joked trying to get in was more stressful than actually running it!  Next year, they've said it will be done by a lottery system. 

Expo: The line for packet pick up and the expo at the DC Amory was the longest line I have ever seen at a race. We stood in line for about an hour and a half to finally get our bibs and our mock neck long sleeve tech shirt which I really like.  (So much for resting your legs the day before 26.2!)  It wasn't completely MCM's fault, they lost power in the tent they were using for packet pick up, so all of the Marine volunteers were using flashlights to view ID's etc.  We went at 10am on a Saturday which was probably a poor choice, but the line was even longer once we left the expo!

Inside, we tried to find Honey Stinger gels which no one seemed to be selling...only chews.  So we bought some chews even though it wasn't ideal for me.  Fueling for this race I knew would be very difficult after my experience at my last full.  I was actually really dreading it in a way...afraid my stomach would feel the way it did last time...and bring me to tears.  That race recap is here:

I bought some arm warmers since I knew that the race start would be chilly and I couldn't locate my black ones after returning from San Francisco the weekend before.   I wore them for the chilliness of the Nike Women's Half.  Race recap here:

Then I saw the Run Washington booth and stopped by to see if I could get a copy of the issue that they interviewed me for.  I found it.  I mentioned I was in it and they had me sign a copy for the booth.  I felt famous :-)

Then we stopped by the Runner's World booth and I got to meet Bart Yasso!  He was at my husband's full at Leigh Valley in September and Jim said he was so nice.  He rode his bike along the course encouraging runners along.

We didn't stay too much longer, since my mom had flown into town to watch our daughter and I wanted to get back to them and enjoy the day.

My husband and I then did the exact opposite of all marathon advice...we didn't rest or stay off of our feet!  We headed a bit north of DC to go apple picking.  We walked all over the farm for the next few hours....whoops!  We then headed home for a pasta dinner and an early bedtime.

THE RACE:  Got up at 5:00am the next morning in order to have a healthy breakfast of oatmeal with coconut and chia seeds and some coffee.  We got all our stuff in order and headed out to catch the 6:00 metro into downtown.  The metro was full of runners and spectators.  I love that.  Of course who else is crazy enough to ride the Metro that early on a Sunday morning?

We arrived in Virginia and got off at our stop.  We had a long walk to get to the starting area, about a half mile.  There were long lines to enter as due to precautions every bag had to be searched.  We waited in a very long porta-potty line but were treated to a very cool air show of sky divers holding U.S. was a super cool "pre-game show"!. 
Photo credit: I Heart Running
I ate half of my chomps in line while I was waiting as some extra fuel.  Then we walked another half mile to the starting corrals.  I was being VERY conservative with my corral time since I hadn't put the training in.  I had only trained for a half.  My longest run was 13 miles in the last 3 months.  So I started with the 4:45 group.  Not smart.  It was slow going and there were a lot of walkers, even in the first mile. 

The race was very crowded almost the entire way.  Around the 6 mile mark, I caught sight of another teacher at my school who had hopped in the race to run a few miles with her friend who was running her first full.  I chatted for a bit and then took off.  I was trying very hard to hold back on my pace to a 9 min mile.  With racing the half distance three times in the last 5 weeks, my body wanted to go fast!

The course really was incredibly crowded.  I didn't feel comfortable until probably mile 18 or so.  Up until then I felt so claustrophobic.  I kept telling myself I would never run a big race again.  I even got knocked in the jaw at one point by another runner's elbow face is at elbow level...I am short. 

I stopped at every water station along the course since I didn't have a water Sherpa like I did last time.  Thanks Anna!

I had told myself that I could really quit anytime since I was not trained for racing 26.2.  At mile 16, someone had a sign "They play Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber on repeat in the SAG van, FYI".  That made me laugh and I thought to myself, that's it....I am finishing this thing!

I saw a couple from college there to cheer on their sister three times along the course.  Hearing them shout my name was a HUGE boost!  The crowd support on this course was almost nothing I've ever experienced!  :-)

I ate the vanilla and mocha flavored cliff shot gels along the course.  I had one of each and felt they powered me through really well with no stomach issues like my last full. 

The actual course was really beautiful....monuments, Rock Creek Park, Haines Point...
Photo credit: This Mama Runs for Cupcakes!  Read her race experience
Photo credit: This Mama Runs for Cupcakes! Read her race experience

Haines Point was really tough emotionally...

The part I didn't enjoy as much was when we headed back into VA.  There wasn't as much crowd support over there and the roads were really poor quality.  With my Morton's Neuroma, uneven surfaces cause a lot of foot pain, so in the final five miles I was trying to push through exhaustion and pain...not fun and it showed in my splits....but I pressed on! 

About mile 23, there was Bart Yasso on the sidelines cheering as on!  I gave a yell, "Bart!"  and he pointed at me! 

Finish Line:  I came across the line at 4:21:07.  The finish line was great.   They have finish line video online that you can watch yourself which is really neat!  You enter the chute and a Marine shakes your hand and places the medal over your neck.  My Marine gave me my medal and I said to him, "I am a hugger" and gave him a huge hug instead of the handshake!

You then head over to an area where they get your photo in front of the Iwo Jima memorial.  I was chatting with another runner in line and someone joked that the two of us had too much energy and looked like we could run the course again!  When it was the other runner's turn to take his photo he decided to do a jump shot....after he did that, heck, I wanted to too!

I walked a long way down the chute to find my friend Anna and husband Jim who had finished over an hour ahead of me and we proceeded to the beer tent.  That was a great time.  They were not stingy with the beer like at Rock n Roll DC so we really enjoyed ourselves.  We made friends with two ladies sitting next to us.  They were very nice ladies in town from Boston.  One of them had BQ'd at MCM and so did my husband so we had a lot to chat about!


Grade: A- Overall, I felt this was an AMAZING race.  One of the best I have ever been a part of!  It was very inspiring to be a part of something like this.  I had no idea how much it would affect me! 
I didn't like how crowded the race was though..  I almost felt it was too many participants on small roads.  Seeded start corrals would have been really nice.  Some races do pace bracelets that you have to submit times before hand for....which would be really nice.  But I realize almost 1/3 of those running MCM, it's their very first marathon. 

At the end of the race, in the immediate exhaustion of it all I said I probably wouldn't do it again...or any marathon again...but I think I will on both counts.  I experienced no soreness after the marathon and then next day was racing my Kindergartners up hills on our field trip to the apple orchard.  MCM Lottery for 2014....I am ready!

The next day the results of the top 500 were in the Washington Post!  Anna and Jim are in there!  

And Jeff Galloway had this to say:


  1. great race report! You did great :)

  2. I love this post!!! Every detail. My friend Thelma rec it to me.
    Congratulations on a great job and another marathon!

    I was there, way behind you, running slow. slower than planned because of an injury. but...I HAD SO MUCH FUN! I only wish that interacting with spectators was a marketable skill, because I found that it's something i'm good at. ;)

  3. Congratulations! I am sort of "done" with crowded DC races for a while, I'm going to aim for my 3rd marathon sometime (last one was MCM in 2007) but I think I'll try for another one, not MCM. I did love the crowd and the energy and the meaningfulness of it all though. So glad you had a great experience, and congrats to your husband on his BQ!

  4. Awesome job Coleen! That's awesome that your husband did it with you. I do want to do this race next year. Sounds like a great experience!