I have started this Marine Corps Marathon race recap several times, but I have erased it each time. It’s been hard to put into words the thoughts that have been swirling through my head but I now think I am ready to put “pen to paper”.
If someone were to ask how long I had been training for the Marine Corps Marathon, I would have honestly told them that it began as soon as I crossed the finish line of the 17.75K Race in March. Once I was “Granted Access” on that bright, windy and cold Saturday morning, I knew that the training I did would get me to the start line of the 44th Marine Corps Marathon.
Little did I know that between the finish of that race and the start of the Marine Corps Marathon, I would not only have to deal with 2 major stressors in my life – a pretty debilitating Ulcerative Colitis recurrence (which I am still trying to get under control) and the loss of my dad almost a year and a half after losing my mom.
To say that that training this Summer has been challenging would be an understatement (and a topic for a separate blog post) but regardless of how I was feeling (or knew how I would feel during some point in my run), I put on my running shoes almost every morning.
Some had told me that continuing to train this Summer was foolish – stressing my body out more when all it needed was rest and self-care. That may be true but to me, running was/is my outlet, and as strange as it might seem my version of self-care. My daily miles allowed me to think, to daydream, and ultimately to grieve. The silent grief that no one might have seen from the sunny disposition I might have exuded.
It’s not that I was hurting (physically and emotionally) but that I made a commitment and nothing – not even my body rebelling against me was going to stop me from getting to the start line. If my body was saying “F” you then running was my sick way of saying “F” you back.
My workouts in September, boosted my confidence, as I was able to complete several important marathon quality session with minimal GI issues. I credit this to changing my diet and also with the help of Featherstone Nutrition. Meghann – a badass runner herself – helped me to not only eat more but find things that did not make my stomach go haywire.
However, it was during an easy run in late September – one of the first cold mornings of the Fall – that I might have tweaked my right hamstring. I did not think that much of it at the time and told my coach who modified my workouts to try and calm it down.
Unfortunately – although it did not get progressively worse it did not improve. With 3 weeks to go, I went to the chiropractor, physical therapy, my orthopedist (who smartly would not give me a cortisone shot), and my massage therapist to try and get some relief. Honestly – it was exhausting to have an appointment scheduled for every night after work.
Self-doubt and the “I don’t deserve to run the marathon” crept into my mind, and let’s just say there were a lot of hugs from Mark during the month of October.
On top of that – the weather that had looked so great at the beginning of the week of the marathon slowly and progressively got worse. By Thursday it was a foregone conclusion that it was going to be a wet and warm marathon.
Regardless we headed down to DC and tried to make the best of the situation that was going to be a reality on Sunday morning. Coach and I spoke about our race plan earlier in the week and had believed that what he had set out for me was doable, even with the weather forecast.
I had hoped that this would be the one time that the weathermen got it wrong but when I woke up at 4am that morning it was downpouring. Sleep did not come easy the night before,(Hello Migraine) and it took I could muster to get 1 plain bagel down.
Thankfully, Mark (who ran 10k) was able to drop me at the shuttle before hopping on the DC Metro to his start line. Once I got to the Runners Village, I quickly headed to the “Church” tent and hunkered down to wait and keep as dry as possible.
As I crossed the start line, it was still raining, but it was not as heavy as it had been when I first entered the Runners Village. The temperatures, which were in the low 60s did not feel that bad, which I equate to the rain.
Soon enough it was time to use the port a potty one last time and put on dry socks and shoes. In contrast to last year, I made it to the start prior to the race actually starting.
For those who have never run the Marine Corps Marathon, the first couple of miles are uphill and with all those “I’m running a marathon” runners, there can be a lot of bobbing and weaving. I was feeling pretty good at that point, checking in with myself but also cursing my playlist (that I had spent a long time one) that was set on shuffle.
Just prior to the 2nd mile, however, that that “old’ feeling hit me and before I knew it I was scanning the course for the closest porta potty. I think all of the Imodium and food that I had eaten up to that point decided that it was done being inside me. Luckily it was a quick pit stop. Back on the course, I checked my watch only to realize that I did not hit “Start” when I crossed the start line. This messed with my head a bit.
I headed into Georgeotown and was pleasantly surprised to see the number of spectators lining the streets despite the weather – it gave me a boost but I still did not have that pop in my step that I had felt during this training cycle, and the pace on my watch confirmed these concerns.
It was in the middle of the first “lollipop loop in Georgetown that (I wish I was making this up) a 2nd familiar feeling – soreness running all the up the back of my outer hamstring – returned. Feeling defeated again I knew that the goals that Coach and I set for myself were slipping away but I was not going to give up and was determined to do all I could to get myself to the finish.
Heading out of Georgetown, the marathon route begins to run parallel to the Potomac River. Once I hit this stretch, not only did the first down pour begin, but I also started to battle wind gusts that were not only coming across the Potomac but toward me as well. For the next several miles battling these conditions took a lot out of me. I tried to take a moment pay my respects as I ran through the Blue Mile, but it was all I could do to my head down and get away from the river as soon as possible.
As I headed to the Smithsonian, the rain subsided somewhat, BUT by that point, there has been so much rain that it had nowhere to go. Many cautious steps were taken to avoid potholes that I knew were hidden beneath the puddles. A sprained ankle was the last thing I needed.
Soggy and waterlogged I made my way up to the Smithsonian when I encountered a second bout of torrential rain that shorted out my headphones for the final time. I did take some stops at this point to stretch out my hamstring, but I was pretty much over the race at that point. I mean I run in pretty much any weather condition but this was just too much.
Over the bridge and back into Crystal City, I looked over the horizon and saw a break in the clouds. Most might have been happy that it appeared that we would not be hit with a third deluge of rain but in the back of my mind, I was not feeling so confident.
However, as luck would have it rain was the least of my concerns as the sun decided to show up and the temperatures soared. My soggy and waterlogged body dried and was replaced with salty sweat. The crowds were awesome, but I continued to focus on putting one foot in front of the other toward the finish line.
I did link up with another fellow Connecticut runner around mile 23. We commiserated for a bit – each commenting on whose grand idea it was to run a marathon – but ultimately continued to run our own race.
Mile 24 that “old” feeling started to creep up again and I wish I could have taken a huge poop in front of the Abortion protestors who had set up shop along the course. I did not think it was the time or the place for that non-sense. Of all the places they could have protested mile 24 of a marathon, in my book, is a poor choice.
Mark was at the finish line and told me afterward that I looked like I was “done” when I crossed and he was absolutely correct.
I met up with Mark and we made our way back to the hotel, each sharing our war stories about our respective races. A long bath and some rest were the order of the afternoon before heading out for post-race libations at Blue Jacket – which I highly recommend.
In contrast to last year, we stayed in DC an extra day to sleep in and do some sightseeing
I receive many messages of “Congratulation” and “job well done” after I finished but to be honest I am extremely disappointed at how things played out that day.
At the beginning of the race, the announcer told us that less than 1% of people run a marathon – a pretty cool statistic. To my non-runner friends, completing a marathon, regardless of time, is an accomplishment. It’s something they cannot even wrap their heads around. BUT to me, someone who has run 8 of them, I want the weeks and months of work tto pay off. Yes- my marathon time is only one factor of what makes me a runner BUT it is one of the main things that runner want to improve. Some might consider it whining but I don’t care.
In addition, this marathon was also my slowest one. I have not looked at the results yet, I can’t bring myself to, but I know I crossed the finish after the 4 hour mark.
I have asked myself many times- what could I have done differently both in this training cycle and in the weeks leading up to the marathon. My workous and paces showed I was in great shape BUT I also know that I can’t honestly count on 1 hand the number of runs I had since June were I did not have to stop due to some type of GI issue. This might have had some bearing on my endurance.
As for my hamstring strain – again I don’t know what else I could have done to get me to the start line except maybe manage it better when I first felt that niggle. It’s frustrating that I had been pretty much injury free for 2019 and JUST before the Marine Corps Marathon I developed this strain. Sort of reminds me of 2017 when I tore my labrum during the New Jersey Marathon.
So that’s where I am at after running the Marine Corps Marathon. At the time of this blog post, I have taken 2 weeks off from running to let things try and settle. I am back at the gym, but the only cardio I have been doing has been the elliptical and bike.
Two treadmill runs took place over the weekend and I have come to the conclusion that maybe my insoles might be part of my hamstring problem. To that end, I will be trying a couple of runs without them. I have also returned to Yoga, which helped me mentally and physically last spring.
As for what to focus on for the rest of the year and into 2020 – I’m not sure yet. I have toyed with training for a Spring Marathon or a Half, but I keep changing my mind.
I think for now it is time to re-group. In contrast to last year, I am taking this time to get my body back in order. It has been through a lot this year and I am trying to give it grace and respect that it deserves. That’s not to say that I won’t be running (that would be silly) I just need time to figure out what those goals will be.