07 November, 2011

Always Earned Never Given...Marine Corps Marathon Recap!

I'm back!!  And I survived....barely!  :)  Ready for some picture overload??

I knew this would be a tough race...a much harder course than Disney, plus a lack of training.  Not a great combination in the long run!

After a carb load dinner with the gang the night before, I headed back to the room to get all my things in order.  Hit the pillow probably between 10 and 10:30pm.  Not too bad I guess.  The alarm was set for 5am but I woke up at 4:30am wide awake.  Quickly got dressed and then ended up sitting in the bathroom area while I ate breakfast and played a few games on my phone to pass the time away while the others slept.

Patrick and Daniel showed up around 6:30 to drop their bags off (my hotel was right by the finish line) and then we headed downstairs to meet some of the ROTE gang by 6:50am.  Plenty of time for an 8am start, right?? Yeah...we thought so too!

Lots of runners in the hotel lobby (pic thanks to @DanielWanderman)

The boys and I ready to run!
Walking to the starting area

Beautiful sunrise over the Washington Monument

Started walking towards the start line with a ton of other runners.  The walk didn't seem too long, but then we heard them announce that the parachuters had already jumped.  Wait..really?  What time was it?!  7:30...hmmm. Started picking up the pace a bit. 

Paused the walk during the prayer, 7 gun salute in memory of 9/11, the National Anthem, and the Osprey fly by (which was pretty damn cool).

Miles, the MCM Mascot! (pic thanks to @DanielWanderman)

Race time is coming up QUICK and we still hadn't dropped our bags off and all had to run to the portapotties one last time!  So yeah, no one had mentioned that bag drop off was SO far away from us!  We started hustling even more and finally saw where the drop off was and had to hurdle a few highway dividers to get there.  Before getting there though, the wheelchair start happened.  Crap!  Only 15 minutes until race time?!  Ran to our specific UPS trucks and handed over the bags.  At that point, I lost Daniel and Patrick but was still with Eric.  Eric and I waited a bit but then decided to leave them since time was running out and we weren't all running together anyways.

Rushed back up towards the corrals and veered off for a pit stop.  Luckily at the expo I decided to spend almost a million dollars so I got access to the Brooks VIP Portapotties.  Not gonna lie, they were pretty fabulous!  Heated, running water, etc.  And the volunteers outside were handing out mints and candy and were wearing tuxedo shirts.  It was cute!

Fancy potties!

Met back up with Eric and we finally made it over to the 4:30-5:00 corral.  Barriers wouldn't let us over but there were a ton of runners hanging outside the barriers waiting for the gun to go off so we joined them.  I hated feeling so rushed and didn't get enough time to properly stretch.
Loved all the official photogs around the race start!

Yes, I dig Marines :)

Finally the race started!  As the runners in the corral started moving, some of the barriers were moved and we all managed to squeeze in.

Inching towards the starting mats
OK, I hate to say it...but the race is honestly a pretty big blur.  I'll write down everything I remember but I know I'll be leaving out huge chunks! :( 

The first few miles through the Rosslyn area flew by.  Eric and I were NOT too thrilled about all the hills but we gutted them out and got through pretty quickly.  Our goal was to finish the race in 4:45, 13 minutes faster than my Disney time.  We were keeping up a great pace for the first 13 miles and even had a slight buffer for most of the time but more on that later. 

One of the first 'inclines'
Somewhere between miles 4-7 I get a tap on my shoulder and look over and it's Jennifer from Running Through the Castle!!  So glad she spotted me because I'm honestly oblivious every single time I run.  I never notice anyone.  She was running her first full with her BFF and they looked awesome.  After chatting for a bit, we lost each other before heading into the heart of Georgetown.

One of the worst hills on the course was right before Georgetown.  We saw people coming down the hill and the incline was pretty steep and all I could think about was how steep the hill was to actually get that high up the 'mountain'.  Luckily though, Eric and I joked around a bit and there were a few entertaining shirts and costumes along the way. 

Couldn't agree more!
More of this crazy hill!
After getting through the hill, Georgetown was great to run through. The crowd support was awesome and I attempted to take it all in. 
Pic thanks to @DanielWanderman
The next few miles all jumble together. I checked my phone and saw that my friends were waiting for us around Mile 10-ish.  We were still on pace for our goal, and we actually look happy in the photos!! :)  Saw my friends (thank God they were screaming my name b/c did I mention I'm oblivious?!) and it was an awesome boost to see them.  Put a smile on our faces and gave us a little more energy. 

Running past our cheering crew!

Around Mile 13 or 14 I felt another tap on my shoulder and turned and saw my friend Matt from home!  He was running his first marathon and had just gotten out of the Marine Corps.  He and his uncle decided to run the race together but Matt ran up ahead when his uncle started slowing down.  I seriously have NO idea how people recognize me while running!  We chatted for awhile and decided that Matt would join us in the rest of the run since running solo can get pretty boring!  

The three of us ran together for 4 more miles or so, then...I have no idea what happened!  I checked my phone again and read that my friends were by the Korea War Memorial, but didn't give a mile marker.  It was quite entertaining listening to the 3 of us trying to figure it out.  People should know that they can't give runners any hard questions or decisions during a race!  I remember telling them to be roughly around Mile 16 so I just hoped it was around there.  Luckily, I was right!

We stopped for a few seconds to say hi and to retrieve a banana that I requested.  After a few more waves and hugs, we were back on the road.  After the Mile 17 water stop though, we lost Eric in the mix.  I saw him ahead of us but I think he thought that we were ahead of him so he picked up the pace to look for us.  Was definitely bummed when I realized that Eric was gone for good though, we were great at motivating each other!

From here on out, the race just got HARD!  Not sure if it was because my cheerleader was gone, I was definitely under trained, or didn't have the right nutrition...but I felt myself going downhill. 

Around Mile 19, Matt's back started to really hurt, my butt and hamstrings started to scream, and we were just NOT thrilled.  We stopped for a good 3 minutes to stretch and I think it helped.  Not sure if the two of us complaining to each other helped or hurt the mental game going on in my head.  I tried to eat the Sport Beans that they handed out but they were like cement in my mouth.  I ate one and spit the rest out because I just couldn't swallow them.

We knew the bridge was at Mile 20 so we agreed to at least get to the bridge as fast as we could shuffle and then if all else fails, we could walk the last 6 miles (yes, that was my mentality then!).  The Bridge of Hell was NEVER ENDING!  I knew it was long, but like Melissa or Jennifer said, Mile 20 was at the start of the bridge, Mile 21 was ON the bridge!  We walked a fair amount of the bridge and then I remembered that the ROTE crew was waiting on the other side!

We shuffled down the bridge and I saw them all and it was SO good to see them!  Unfortunately I just wasn't in the mood for any of the snacks and goodies that they were offering so after a quick hello, we continued on our way.  In my head I only had SIX more miles and I could be done with this race.

Like Melissa said in her recap, everyone kept talking about how awesome it was to run through Crystal City.  Honestly? It did NOTHING for me.  I hate out and backs (like Melissa) so seeing the runners who had less to go than me was killing me.  Plus I thought the turn around was NEVER going to happen!  The only amazing and motivating thing was seeing these two guys taking turns carrying each other the whole entire 26.2.  Totally insane and inspiring!

I had asked my friends to try to meet me around Mile 23 but I checked my phone while still on the bridge at Mile 21 and they said they'd meet me at the finish area.  Not gonna lie, I was kinda crushed.  I had NOTHING to look forward to until the end so I lost all motivation.  :(  Knew the final few miles would be even harder. 

Around Mile 23, I also lost Matt.  I was mentally and physically done and I felt bad holding him back.  He started running again and I just told him to go without me.  Then the mental games really started!  I was SO excited to get to the Munchkin food station and then when I took a bite, it so wasn't what I expected!  I must have been getting dehydrated because I could barely chew the donut so tossed it.  SO SAD!  

I decided to walk for a bit, which ended up being about a mile.  I kept trying to motivate myself to run but nothing was working!  It also didn't help that almost EVERYONE around me was walking as well.  I texted my BFF asking if it was ok to cry and she said yes, as long as I kept on moving!  Haha!  Luckily I held back the tears.  Finally around Mile 25 I stopped to get a rock out of my shoe and 3 girls were sitting on the shoulder cheering.  We chatted for a few seconds and they could tell I needed some extra oomph so they asked for my name and then cheered for me for a LONG time as I ran away.  So THANK YOU ladies!!

Their encouraging words made me pick up the speed a little and I refused to walk the remaining 1.2 miles!  I also think Marines and other spectators could tell I was struggling because more and more were commenting on my shirt!  One female Marine said, "If you dig Marines, I promise you there's a few hundred at the finish line!  And they're single!"  I seriously think I snorted and couldn't stop laughing.  It was just what I needed. 

I had heard about the horrible hill to the finish line and I refused to walk up it.  I saw the finish line banner and was beyond relieved! I think the look on my face says it all, no? 

I see the finish!!!! (maybe...or this could have been Mile 23 hahaha)
So apparently it doesn't look too bad, but the hill sucked!
Andddd we're done!!!
Crossing that finish line was amazing! I didn't choke back tears like at Disney but I tried to sit and take it all in. I had finished the Marine Corps Marathon! It wasn't a pretty couple miles at the end but before even getting my medal, I knew I'd be back to run it again one year in the near future.

After getting a mylar blanket handed to me, I quickly got in line to get my medal.  I wanted to see what this baby looked like!  It was a huge secret leading up until the race and the MCM refused to give any hints.  Even at the expo, there were no pictures!

The Marines handing out medals shook each runners hand and said congratulations and thank you.  The lady in front of me started crying and asked for a hug from him, which made me get a little teary eyed as well.  When it was my turn, I had a huge smile on my face and made sure to thank the Marine for everything he's done.

Then I figured a picture with him wouldn't hurt, right? :) 

And no, I didn't ask if he's single!  But he's been the running joke with all my friends lately.  So if you're reading this, hottie Marine?  Thank you :)  And if you're single... my email is on this blog somewhere...ha!

There were photographers right after the medals to snap quick photos, and then ones in front of Iwo Jima to take the official finisher photos.  Obviously had to wait in line for that one!

I quickly texted my friends and they were all at Ruby Tuesday's getting food and drinks.  Was slightly jealous about that so said I'll try to make it to them quickly.  Slowly hobbled through the food lines to get my gatorade, water, and snack pack of goodies.  I really had wanted to find the massages but I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere and realized that I passed it at some point.  The thought of turning back around made me realize that a free massage wasn't worth the pain!

Picked up my bag from the UPS trucks and quickly threw on a jacket and my Uggs.  My feet loved me for it!  Then I told Daniel and Patrick that I was heading to Ruby's to meet up with the gang so they eventually met up with us.  After a beer and some food, I felt a million times better! 

And how freakin AWESOME is this medal!??!?

Amazing Bling!  (pic thanks to @DanielWanderman)

Overall, it was an amazing race and I will definitely do it again!  However, I'll make sure to get the proper training in.  The course was a LOT harder than Disney, but I should have known that since Disney is ridiculously flat.  The crowd support and Marine support on the course blew me away.  I think the only other race that could top this, in terms of crowds, would be NYC.  Plus, I'll try to make sure that I have some support during the last few miles of the race.  Didn't think I would need it as bad as I did!

Thanks everyone for your words of encouragement!! :) 


  1. So totally agree with you about Crystal City. That turn-around seemed like it was never going to come! And I had the same experience with the Munchkins, which was so disappointing because I can eat them like crazy on a regular day. I think the MCM medal will forever be my favorite one! Absolutely beautiful! Hope the hottie Marine reads your blog and emails you! ;) I think I'm probably old enough to be those marine's mom! LOL

  2. Congratulations! I admit that I am easily intimidated by hills, but these looked really challenging. Still you made it! :-) I cannot get over how much I like your running tights. More than the hottie marine. I know. I might be the only female out there who has a thing against men in uniform...

  3. That was a fabulous report! It actually made me think - VERY temporarily - that I should do this one. If it had a half option, I'd be there! What a great day for you, congratulations!!

  4. Congratulations!! What a race!! Those hills sound killer. And the medal is super cool.

  5. Great recap, Jen. That spot around mile 25 is brutal. I nearly lost it there last year, too. It was dreadfully quiet and everyone around me was walking/limping. Well done on you first MCM.

  6. So glad that even though you struggled you had an amazing time and want to do it again! There were some great pictures there too.

  7. I've always wanted to do the MCM ... your recap makes me want to do it even more! Congrats!

  8. I've never done the MCM, but I was briefly stationed at Ft. Myer which is right next to Arlington National Cemetery and Iwo Jima and I have run all over DC and surrounding areas so I definitely feel your pain. Congrats!

  9. Congrats Jenn! Loved your recap :) I can't believe you ran into so many people you knew while on the course - that's awesome!

  10. Awesome! I loved this recap and ALL of your pictures - so amazing. I hope to run this race someday. That medal is awesome. Congrats on your race and enjoy your victory! :)

  11. Great report Jenn! I don't think I'm quite ready for a full, but you've inspired me to get my butt into gear!

    Oh, and I love your running pants. You look like Tron. :p

  12. Congrats! It sounds like an amazing race but a tough course.

    I love the pictures!

  13. @Niffercoo...technically I think I could be his mother too! Such a young'n! :) I still get sad over not being able to eat the munchkins. I even hunted down the chocolate glazed ones! :(

    @melie...haha! the tights are from CW-X. Definitely pricey but since they're compression, my legs feel good!

    @FF...thank you! You'll see, one of these days you'll be registering for 26.2!

    @Emily...thank you! Best bling yet!

    @Jen...thank you! :) I'll be back one day!

    @Amanda...thanks! Weird how the minute I cross the finish line, I forget about the pain the last few miles!

    @Laurie..thank you! I couldn't recommend MCM enough, do it when you can!

    @Mick...thank you! now if only those stupid hills weren't there... :)

    @Melissa...thank you! :) Crazy how people recognize me. I don't get it!

    @christine...thank you!!

    @Sara...thanks! I'm slightly addicted to photos, love that it helps me remember everything!

    @Keith..thank ya! Hahahaha, tron? That's a new one...but you're right!

    @kilax...thank you! :)

  14. I am late to the party here Jenn. Great recap. As you know I am debating the MCM vs. Disney in January. Thanks again Bill

  15. Marines AND that bling? its going on my list of races to do! (if i ever make it to that distance)

  16. @bill...Thank you! Can't wait to hear what you decide on

    @Amy...Yes! Perfect combination! :)

  17. Hey! Waaaay late to the party, but - this is in DC, you say? I wouldn't need to get a hotel or plane or anything, you say? Would you also say you recommend it? :D

    1. Yes!!! I LOVED Marine Corps. I will say it's a much tougher course than what I was expecting but I would definitely do it again.