In Which Jenn Recaps The 2018 Marine Corps Marathon (FIREBALL!!!)

Marine Corps Marathon start

I believe this marathon was what NASA might refer to as a successful failure.

After a fitful night’s sleep, I rose before my 5:30am alarm, taped up, dressed, and rolled out the door to catch the first Metro train of the morning. Despite that it took several billion years to make it to the start line as 30,000 people do not move quickly in a herd. Some pro tips: 1) don’t bring a bag as the bagcheck lines are lengthy; 2) ignore the monstrous lines for port-a-potties in the staging areas and proceed all the way to the start line for the largely ignored ones there; 3) store your pre-race snack in your pocket so that your body heat renders it nice and warm when you eat it.

Despite the slow collective movements of the pack I made it to my start corral with time to spare (this year’s MCM had people grouped into 3 color-coded categories by predicted time but I didn’t see anyone enforcing it). The wheelchair competitors took off followed by the scarlet group, and then gold group was off!

Sort of. There were sooo many people in the race that you could scarcely have taken off too fast if you wanted to. It was the running equivalent of mincing little baby steps for awhile there. I don’t think it really started to thin out for at least the first 10 miles, although matters did improve a few miles in. 

Marine Corps Marathon 

The weather was kind of all over the place, with initial predicted temperatures in the upper 40s – but I found as soon as I started running that my jacket was unnecessary. I stripped it off around mile two, tied it around my waist, and was fine with a tank, arm warmers, and gloves.

I felt pretty solid in the beginning, through Georgetown (always a fun spectator spot; extra points for the bagpipe band), and even Rock Creek Park with its endless out-and-back. That part was at least kinda funny as random joggers out on the trail would call out encouragement as they lilted past in the opposite direction.

There was an orange slice station toward the end of the area and since other runners kept taking them ahead of me a volunteer shoved like 5 into my hands with a hearty “Here you go, honey, go nuts.” >D

Mile 12 was the “wear blue to remember” mile, lined with photos of fallen servicemen, and I busied myself reading their names as I passed. Then it was through the corridor of American flags and to the mile 13 marker – halfway, baby!

Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling super great about it. My pace so far was acceptable but my energy was already flagging. On the bright side, my knee, a potential weak point, was holding okay. Of course there was nothing for it but to soldier on.

At that point we were in West Potomac Park, where some organization or other had pre-set up signs lining the course. My favorite read as follows: “I love running. I hate running. I love running. I hate running.” This could basically serve as my recap for the race. Thank you for reading! See ya.

Haha, just kidding; as if I would ever be that succinct. Anyway, at this point the weather was getting weird again: it was actually starting to feel kinda warm. I took off my gloves and even pushed my arm warmers down, which is an unusual move for me. 

Finally we were coming up on the National Mall, my meetup point with Pat. He was running late but cleverly doubled back and caught me at mile 19, just as you leave the mall and enter the dreaded 14th Street bridge. I stole a quick kiss before facing my nemesis.

And immediately slowed to a walk, but justifiably: mile 19 seemed like a great time to bust out some music. I shoved my headphones in my ears and started up the Happily Ever After soundtrack as I resumed my run, hoping for the same magic that worked on me during the National Capital 20 Miler, but for some reason it didn’t happen this time. My legs were just too tired. 

But I kept it up, following HEA with the White Stripes’ album Icky Thump, which is full of the sort of rock guitar riffs that can motivate a gal. It at least kept me going as I left that God-awful bridge and entered Crystal City.

This is generally one of my favorite parts of the race, and my personal iffy performance notwithstanding the spectator support was top-notch as always. My personal favorite was a booth offering Fireball shots while playing Pitbull’s “Fireball” on repeat, which I liked to pretend they did for the entire 7+ hours of the race. And guys, I GOT AN ANSWER!

A good 5 hours of… FIREBALL!!!!!!

There were also tons of people with signs and drums and cowbells and candy and beverages, and I even grabbed myself a shot of beer because the bubbles sounded so refreshing. (Beer shot people, are you out there too? Thank you!!!)

After Crystal City, around mile 24-ish, all you have left is the death march to the finish. The sun vanished behind the clouds and it got cold enough that I pulled my arm warmers back up.

My legs and feet hurt and my knee, while not painful or twingy, was doing that harbinger thing where you kinda actively feel that you have ligaments, if you know what I mean? Morale was not good. But who’s gonna quit at mile 24? Not this kid!

Mile 25 was rough, and I even indulged myself in some run-walk-run intervals. I caught Pat again right before the the 26 mile marker and threw my arms around him because I hurt. But he told me “You’re almost there!!” and I was like “Hell yeah I am!” and was able to run the rest of the way, including that stupid hill right before the finish. Take that, hill! 

Marine Corps Marathon 

My final time was 4:52:47, which is a course PR of more than 7 minutes but is way slower than my fastest marathon or even my last WDW Marathon where I stopped for like 15 photos but whatever. I finished! 

I collected my fancypants medal and snack box and then ducked out of the incredibly slow jacket line because I didn’t really need one. As nice as it sounded, neither did I need the free beer or anything like that. Instead I met up with Pat by the bell tower and we headed back to the Metro because what I did need, ever so desperately, was a long hot shower.

Marine Corps Marathon medal
Worst pocket watch ever.

So that did not go as well as I had hoped. But it didn’t go as terribly as I feared it might! I’m not entirely sure what went wrong, as my training was solid. But what can ya do.

Instead I shall remind myself that I did achieve my A goal, which was not too eff up my knee too badly. It was a little cranky post-race but nothing a couple day’s rest won’t cure. 

Onward and upward to Lumiere’s Two Course Challenge, because doesn’t a 10K followed immediately by a half the weekend after a marathon sound like a great idea? >D >D >D

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 fairestrunofall@gmail.comSee ya real soon!

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