This was almost an unmitigated disaster, over before it began.
I slept through my alarm. I slept through my alarm on race morning. I slept through my alarm on the morning of the Marine Corps Marathon.
Turns out I don’t have race nightmares; I have prophetic race dreams!
My alarms had been set at 4:50am and 5:03am. When I woke up, it was 6:36am. The race started at 7:55am (with a buffer of about twenty minutes to actually cross the start line). To say that I had a minor nervous breakdown when I saw the clock would be putting it mildly. Although it could’ve been worse – I could’ve woken up too late to make the race at all!
Nonetheless, it was neither an ideal nor a restful way to start race morning. I had a little over an hour to make it from my apartment toward the end of the Metro red line to the Pentagon toward the end of the blue line. I threw on my clothes (thank God I’d laid everything out the night before) and chucked the rest of my stuff into a bag. I wound up doing 75% of my prep en route – I braided my hair, wrapped my knee, applied sunscreen foundation on the Metro; ate and drank walking to and from.
You know what the weirdest part about it was, though? I was by no means alone. There were plenty of other runners on the train with me, taking their sweet time. I mean, I knew why I was late, but what the hell was wrong with the rest of these people?!
I arrived at the Pentagon Metro station with about ten minutes to spare, and a nice Marine directed me to the closest exit to the start line (“That other way goes to Disneyland… LOOK SHE’S WEARING A DISNEY SHIRT!”). The line to go through bag check was INSANE, but I luckily was able to throw out the remainder of my bag contents and siphon off to the left for a much MUCH shorter bag-free line.
Okay. Almost home free. Only one problem remained: in my morning frenzy, I hadn’t had time to go to the bathroom. All the port-a-potties had massive lines. What’s a girl to do? Why, the sexy thing, of course – pee in the woods. Yes. Yes, I am that hot. Ya do whatcha gotta do in the name of efficiency, ya know?
At that point it was a quick walk to the corrals, which had already started moving so the posted times didn’t mean a whole lot. I wound up crossing over to what was technically the speedy side on the principle that by the time I merged with the full group at the start line I’d be with similarly paced people anyway, which turned out to be the case. I crossed the start at 8:12am, approximately when I expected to even assuming I showed up early, but MY GOD was that an ordeal. From now on I set eight alarms and possibly arrange for someone to punch me awake.
Race start shake out method: high five 20 Marines in a row. Helps.
Even with that boost, it took me a couple miles to recover from my tailspin; I don’t remember a lot about the beginning of the race. I have vague memories of Georgetown and some bakery employees standing outside banging pots and pans, which I enjoyed. Everything through Rock Creek Park is kind of a blur, really, although I remember being pleased by all the spectators – I don’t think there was ever a stretch completely devoid of them.
By the time we were running along the river I had about calmed down – but my knee and hip were flaring up. They continued to bother me to varying degrees for the remainder of the race, which was decidedly unhelpful, but I never got so bad I needed to stop.
The pain element wasn’t fun, but I’ve gotta say the miles went by pretty quickly for me – I never felt bored, or like the distance was interminable. The middle miles featured portraits of fallen soldiers, which was distracting, and when I hit the mall I started to keep an eye out for Pat. I almost missed him a la last year, but managed to catch him just before the bridge. Yes, the bridge you have to beat.
|Did I mention it rained early on and was mostly overcast?|
I was determined to use my new mantra on the bridge: you don’t need to walk; you just THINK you need to walk. Indeed, thus far my only walking had been through water/food stations. And I did much better than last year, running the vast majority of the bridge. But when I saw the final uphill section, I knew I needed to give up the ghost. I walked, and my hip and knee appreciated it enormously.
I started running again the moment the incline ended, however, and shortly I was in one of my favorite parts of the course, Crystal City. By that point you know you’re almost done (mile 22ish) and there are tons and tons of spectators out cheering you on. You hurt but you know the end is in sight – it’s awesome.
While in that area a guy complimented my WDW Marathon shirt, and when I turned to thank him I saw he was wearing the exact same one. We had a brief conversation about how awesome runDisney is before I picked up a bit of steam and ran ahead. See you in January, random guy!
I ran out of Crystal City and on to the home stretch, aka Donut Land. I skipped the donut holes last year and I was excited to pick them up this year – only to discover two lonely munchkins in a tiny dixie cup. I coulda sworn they were giving out big cups the year prior. Laaaame. But I ate them, of course.
From there we were almost home, passing all the signage and such from that morning. There was one final water stop and then a downhill stretch past the corrals. I just missed Pat as the tunnel, but he managed to send me one more encouraging text as the finish line reared into view.
Much is said about that final short but steep hill before the MCM finish. Last year, I powered right the hell up it. This year, my knee and hip were killing me and I was starting to feel a little sick, so I walked up the hill. I didn’t feel good about it, but I also didn’t vomit in front of a bleacher full of people so I’m calling it a draw.
At the top of the hill I resumed running and crossed the finish at 4:59:41, a whopping three seconds faster than last year. Womp womp. But considering the crazy start to the morning and my knee and hip issues, I’m okay with it. I actually paced myself better than last year – my first half was slower but my second half was faster. I’ve got work to do for next year, though!
I collected my medal and snack box and jacket while attempting recon with Pat, which involved walking around the world’s longest chain link fence (seriously, what was that even for?). We met up at the bell tower and got the hell out of that crowded form of Dodge, walking back to the Pentagon Metro and switching to the red line for home. Well, mostly walking – Pat had brought his skateboard to take advantage of road closures while I was running. The walk back to the Metro coincided with the last of the race course and we had a couple people ask to borrow said skateboard (and one person ran up to me to check out what the medal looked like).
My first act upon arriving home was of course to take a long shower, following which I met Pat at our favorite bar and proceeded to consume a whiskey and a giant bowl of mac and cheese, because I am very dedicated to my health. I wore my new hoodie, because I’d earned it.
And there you have it! Marine Corps Marathon #2, marathon #3. Self-inflicted insanity and minor injuries not withstanding, I really enjoyed it – I think it’s safe to say I’ve officially drunk the kool-aid! Well, for this particular marathon and the WDW; not sure if I feel like branching out. We’ll see. I’m definitely entering next year’s lottery, that much I can tell you.
Up next is of course THE WINE AND DINE HALF MARATHON IN WALT DISNEY WORRRRRRRRLD. And that, my friends, is a true reward.
Have you ever almost slept through a race? Actually slept through a race?
Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall and on Instagram @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org. See ya real soon!