Monday, November 2, 2015

Race Recap: Marine Corps Marathon

This year was my 3rd running of the Marine Corps Marathon.  This year was made extra special as I connected to a fantastic organization to honor Marines who lost their battle with PTSD once they returned home.  I signed on and was matched with a Marine that I would run for.

"Their pictures on our backs - Their names in our hearts”

Approximately 22 veterans a day take their own lives, a report released in 2012 by the Department of Veteran Affairs shows.

There are a number of reasons for this startling statistic, among them: post-traumatic stress (PTS), the effects of traumatic brain injury (TBI), and the negative stigma in the military community around seeking help.

Through athletic events, 22 Too many seeks to serve as a living memorial, increase public knowledge and awareness of PTSD to help reduce the stigma, share helpful resources, and provide support and comfort to the grieving families left behind.

          Our goal is to see 22 reduced to 0. 

We started the weekend with the expo on Friday night.  I kept my MCM metro card from last year and used it to get down to the expo.  I thought it was very fitting! 
The expo this year was at the convention center downtown which made it much more convenient than going to the Armory as in year's past.  I have heard next year the expo will not be at the convention center, but will move to National Harbor.   We got to the convention center and made our way to our first stop, picking up my daughter's packet for the kid's race to be run on Saturday morning.  She was so excited!  Then we picked up our packets for the marathon.  We had to take a group picture as all three of us had bib numbers! 

The Expo is large!  So many booths to visit, free samples, and official gear to buy!  You can definitely spend a good while there.  

We headed home at closing on the expo on Friday night.  Saturday we were off to the kids race (a separate blog post and review on the kids race here), errands, picking up my in-laws at the airport and marathon prep.  The night before, I had a very difficult time picking out my race outfit!  I knew that the orange was more unique and easily visible in a crowd, but the maroon and black won out after I was reminded that this 40th running of MCM was the ruby anniversary and the shorts were perfect fit for the occasion! 

We woke up early, hopped on the metro from our house and rode in with a lot of other runners and we all chatted on the ride about the course and our goals.  Jim and I are both members of Montgomery County Road Runners and they had arranged for a hospitality suite before the race as a place for bathrooms and to leave our gear and then walk to the start line.  We dropped off our things and then left earlier than the rest of the group to walk over.  I am glad we did because we encountered quite a security line!  From everything I have heard/read of others accounts a lot of people were late to the start line! 
Running in Honor of Fallen Heroes.  22 Too Many Veteran Suicides Per Day. 

It was lightly raining as we walked to the start.  Humid and warmer than I would have liked.  I was not cold at the start except for my hands.  Luckily someone tossed their gloves in the corral and I ran over to grab them!  I wore them for the first two miles.  Score.   I had my strongest training cycle to date but didn't want to get ahead of myself goal wise.  I just told myself all I wanted to do was go sub-4:00.  I started out slow as was my plan since the first 4 miles of the course are pretty hilly.  I also wanted to start slow to conserve my energy for later.  My early miles were in the 9:30s much slower then goal pace, but for some reason these early miles felt really hard.  I started to doubt how I was going to make it all 26.  I had a feeling this wasn't my day.  At mile 6 I got a painful side cramp.  I never get side cramps and honestly can't remember the last time I had one.  I tried deep breathing, running with one arm in the air, etc.  It finally went away around mile 8.  Around that time, my stomach began to feel very acidic.  I keep feeling like I had to burp but each time I would, stomach acid would come into my throat.  It was very unpleasant.  Each time I felt I had to burp I tried to suppress the feeling...that was hard to do.  I was starting to feel pretty uncomfortable.  I stopped at the Medical tent at the end of Haines Point to ask if they had Tums.  They said all the had was saltine crackers.  Looking back now, I should have accepted those. 
Not feeling good, but faking it for the cameras.  I couldn't even fake it later on. 

I met up with my running buddy, Abbie around mile 19 to give me the support to get over the 14th street bridge.  For some reason that bridge just gets me.  It killed me in last year's MCM and I had to walk part of it.  It got me during the Army 10 miler and in my splits you can see that is where I was off pace.  I just don't like that bridge!  I told Abbie about my stomach issues and she so graciously offered to run to a CVS and get me some pepto or Tums...something to quiet my stomach.  I figured we would never find each other again if she left.   The thought of more sugar in the form of Gatorade or Gu or Cliff Shots made my stomach want to turn.  I had a similar issue during my very first marathon and my stomach pain brought me to tears during that race.  Once we got to Crystal City, the stomach pain was pretty overwhelming and I had to stop twice to walk.  I needed something, anything to balance out all the acid I was feeling.   A spectator had a giant tray of goldfish crackers and I grabbed a handful.  I was trying to eat them while I was running and it was so difficult since my mouth was dry and they stuck to the roof of my mouth!  It did help the stomach a little bit!   I kept checking my watch and even with the slower pace then planned, I was calculating that I would be very close to 4:00.  What I didn't plan on was running long.  I didn't realize how far off I was from bring accurate to the mile markers and that in turn made my own calculations be pretty far off.  My watch beeped for Mile 26 but the finish line was no where in sight!  I finally came upon the final 90 degree turn and up the final steep hill to the finish.  My watch finished at 26.7 miles.  That extra half mile adds almost 5 minutes unfortunately.  I know that it is impossible to run the tangents in a race this large, but I need to get better at attempting it.  It can make a big time difference.   I ended up crossing the line with a 4:10 finish.  It was a 3 min PR over last year, but the training I put in this cycle should have carried me to a much stronger finish so I still felt very disappointed. 

I walked through the very long finisher's chute and saw my husband and our friend Jamie Corey.  We all shared our race stories and I learned my husband was over ten minutes off his sub-3:00 goal too!  He threw up on the 14th street bridge (see I told you that bridge was EVIL!).  He considered a DNF, but since we were both running in honor of fallen Marines and sending our medals to the families', he knew he had to press on to get his.   For some reason, for both of us- it just wasn't our day.   Better luck next time.....

The marathon distance is such a fickle beast.  It's tough on the body for sure and I feel like things have to fit together just right sometimes.  The weather wasn't ideal and obviously something within my own body wasn't ideal either. 
Wasn't the race I imagined, but every finish line is a victory! 


  1. I'm sorry you didn't feel well during the race, but congrats on finishing! You had a pretty motivating reason to run =)

  2. I ran my first marathon this year in Chicago and mine didn't go as planned either. My time totally sucked because my IT band suddenly decided to give out on me at mile 19. BUT at least I can say that anything would have been a PR as long as I finished! Haha. You still got a PR too! Congrats :)

  3. SO crazy how similar our MCM were!! Our finishing times were only a second off from each other when were both trying to get under 4 hrs. I had trained so hard for this, I knew I could do closer to 4 hrs. My gps also had me at 26.7 miles - sooo frustrating. I was dehydrated for the last 6-8 miles and was sick after the race. If I only had been better about water intake and tangents....

  4. I know how tough that race can be and commend you on pushing through despite feeling pretty rough. Earning a PR can be satisfying, but not always if you have worked hard for a specific time/goal. Last year Christine had that experience at Richmond Marathon and I had it at MCM and cried at the finish! Be proud that you ran for a purpose bigger than a PR and those families you supported truly appreciate what you did. By the way, I just ran NYC Sunday and my total mileage was 26.52 Hitting the tangents perfectly is impossible at a big race.

  5. I'm sorry both of you had such a hard time with this race and stomach issues :( It seemed like it was a difficult race for a lot of people with the security issues and congestion. Way to persevere and make it through!

  6. Ugh it doesn't really seem like it was anyone's day at MCM this year! I struggled early too...apparently my less-than-ideal training reared its ugly head very early. You ran for an incredible cause and I know that family is proud of what you did! Congrats on a PR, although I know it wasn't the time you wanted. I may be hanging up my marathon shoes for a while...the training takes so much out of you and race day often feels "do or die" for me since there isn't an easy second chance. -C