OK, so if you’re going to run a marathon, Marine Corps has to be on your list. Well I swore I would never do this race, but I did it anyway, and now it’s off the bucket list. I know a lot of you love this race. For me, this was a once and done event. My friend ran for the 5th time in a row and said he never remembered the crowd being this bad and he’ll pass on this race again. If I want to race a DC marathon, I’ll do The National (which I am). To say this was crowed and frustrating would be an understatement. I had hoped for a BQ, but as a friend and ex coach told me, not in this race. He was right. I feel I have what it takes to get to Boston, but not in a race where I felt more like a full back than a runner.
For the first time, before any type of race, I followed the tried and true Taper method. I read from seasoned runners about how everything starts to hurt; you begin to doubt if you did enough; you feel guilty because you’re not training. Yep, it‘s all true, and I didn’t like it. I really didn’t feel like I had the fresh legs I had hoped for. It took longer to get comfortable with my stride. Or maybe it was the mobs of (insert descriptive choice here) I was tripping over. Did I mention it was crowded?
Jan and I decided to drive to Rosslyn to stay away from the Metro. A good choice. We got there in good time and found an empty parking garage (next to Golds Gym). I met with a friend at the bell tower. He was still determined to run a 3:20 so we went our separate ways. Too bad. We finished with the same time and missed a chance to help each other. Anyway, I did all the normal pre-race preparation. Nothing new here. For a change. I felt pretty good and was as ready as I could be. I found the 3:30 pacer. Funny guy. But staying with him was difficult. His plan was to have time in the bank at the ½ way point. I struggled to weave through all the people that should have been in the back. He was better this game than I, so I spent a lot of energy dodging people trying to stay with him. We had a few miles in the mid 7’s, but at 13.1, I was 1 minute under my goal (1:44). One minute in savings and actually felt OK. But by mile 15, I was a little taken by the heat and desperately looking for water. By the time the water stop came, I was really thirsty. I drank Gaterade (which I later found out was PowerAde) and two waters. Note to self. Know what is at the water stops before the race. (PowerAde kills my stomach.) Now I’m getting worried. I was starting to slow. Although my pace through the first 16 miles averaged 7:57, I still felt like I would be OK. I just needed water. At Mile 17 I met my wife. Thank Goodness. She had my 2nd half gu and bottle of Max Muscle Xtinguisher. For those who cycle and do Tri’s, this stuff is great for muscle recovery during exercise. She was excited to see me because I was still ahead of schedule. But I was spent. I expelled too much energy dealing with all the people in the beginning and was now suffering.
So everyone tells me that miles 20-23 are the worst. Yep. No argument here. Our pacer quizzed us asking where was the half way point? His answer: 20 miles. The best slogan I’ve seen was “A marathon is a 10K with a 20 mile warm up.”: No matter how much long distance training we do (my long run was 28 miles) you just never seem prepared for that last 10K.
I was now losing ground quickly. At about mile 23 I saw Lou Shapiro, on the other side of the street though. The winds really picked up here in Crystal City. On the way back they were playing a major factor because they were now head winds. OK, 2 miles to go, but I really wanted to quit. Here is where I really doubted the taper method. I had long runs in at near race pace and a few over 20 miles. So why was this so hard? Yep, it had to be the taper. (That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it…)
Once we reached the pentagon, and went under the tunnel, I looked at my watch. It said 3:30. I said my goodbyes to Boston and began to jog. I was spent. I always have enough left at every race for that final kick not today. This end was unlike my first marathon though. Very uneventful. I guess nothing is like your first time. I barely crawled up that last painful unforgiving hill at the end, grabbed my medal, and walked away. I was done. TG. I walked up to find my wife and some water.
Jan met up with her good friend from MCCRC and they walked with me back to the car. At the metro I saw Lou again. We gave him a ride home so he didn’t have to deal with the crowds. He seemed glad I didn’t beat him, but I was close. Damn, that guy never slows down.
From what I saw, everyone was slower than expected. It was too hot and too crowded. Don’t get me wrong. I’m thrilled to have a 19 minute PR. Ecstatic actually. A 3:30 was a very optimistic dream and I came darn close. All I need is a few more of these under my belt so they become as easy as the ½’s are. Wait, is that even possible?
Now I can look forward to my first Ultra. I can’t wait. No pressure, no time goals. Just me, nature, and maybe a few friends.