Gosh – where do I even begin here? Before I get to the heart of the recap let me give you a bit of a preamble. A few weeks ago I tweaked my already sore from training knee during my 12 miler and even with yoga, bike and rest I was not convinced it would make it through 26.2. It made me extremely nervous. I found the gift that is KT tape and along with a brace patched it up for Sunday with fingers crossed. In addition to the knee, I was stressed but doing my best not to be. Work had been crazy and on Thursday evening received a call from my mother who because of a sudden medical issue needed to cancel she and my dad’s trip to DC. I was sad of course but understood and just prayed she’d be ok. I told my BFF in Chicago about this change in plans and fast forward to Saturday morning when I received a text that she was booked on a flight that afternoon and would be there to cheer me on at the race: cue the tears.
When we met up Sunday I was BEYOND excited to see her! She alleviated my need for bag check, we took a quick photo and then I shed my throwaway jacket. With my keys in the pocket I might add. HA! Luckily I remembered I put them there (after I lined up of course) so she ran back to dig through the pile of donated items. My BFF is awesome you guys but thank goodness the jacket was hot pink!
The start was amazing and I did get a bit emotional but even with a bit of pre-race butterflies I was ready to do this. Without going into the details of every single mile, here are the high and low lights of my first marathon: Miles 1-4 began in Rosslyn (ie. hilly) over the Key Bridge and through Georgetown. I was getting my pace down, shed the arm sleeves and was feeling pretty good. I will say Georgetown is such a hot spot for tourists it was almost eerie to see the streets so quiet except the sounds of cheering spectators. But along the way, what a view: The familiarity of Rock Creek Park was the backdrop for Miles 5-9 and I was still feeling pretty good. Around Mile 9 though I pulled to the side to remove a rock and adjust my shoe. Had I not done that, I would not have witnessed a gentleman passing out directly behind me. I turned to see if he was ok and he said yes. Then he tried to get up only to fall down again so I and others stopped to help. He was able to make his way to the side rail on his own but we motioned for assistance. I did not care this took some time from me. It was a scary sight and I hope he is now ok!!
Trying to get my bearings after that took a bit but I continued on towards the Lincoln Memorial and onto Hains Point (ugh!!) I actually hadn’t been listening to music this entire time (I know, what?!) but decided this long boring stretch was where that was happening. But not before first passing the touching tribute to fallen soldiers. My half marathon time was 2:30 and my phone was buzzing with text messages (thanks, guys!) but I also did some math in my head all the while thinking “I can’t believe I am running a marathon right now”.
I’ll be honest, I don’t remember much else from Miles 13-17 except an attempted love connection as a male runner was trying to pick up a female runner. She rebuffed his advances but I told him it was awesome and gave him a thumbs up! We were passing all the DC hot spots at this stage and Jenna surprised me again around 17 which was so helpful. Rounding by the Capitol and Mile 18 I started to tire. I realized at this point my quads were doing all the heavy lifting, overcompensating for my lack of confidence in my knee. Jenna reappeared again before hitting the bridge (have I mentioned my BFF is a rockstar y’all?!) and I stopped to stretch knowing my seeing Courtney wasn’t too far off.
The good news is I beat the bridge and saw Courtney at Mile 20!! She had planned to run a few miles with me but they wouldn’t let her (or anyone) on the course from that point on. Even so seeing her gave me a little pep and I kept on. By Mile 22 though my legs were still feeling pretty heavy. But the spectators in Crystal City were great and we were given Munchkins at Mile 24 (HOLLA!)Munchkins aside my legs were spent and walk/ran those last 2 miles. I saw the 26 mile marker and my eyes welled up with tears. Even though my Garmin had just died I made the final push up the HILL to the finish at a clip of 5:31:16. I was adorned with my medal and a “Congratulations Ma’am” from a Marine. Then reality set in – I just finished a freaking marathon!! Even with my legs on fire I was pretty happy that my knees didn’t give in (silver lining, right?) I stood in line for my official finisher photo just as Courtney called and the tears formed at my eyes again. I never actually cried (shocking) but was definitely full of emotion (still waiting for my official photo downloads). For a first marathon 7 months after getting out of a foot brace I really had no time expectations. I kind of wanted sub 5 hour but after this knee thing and the fact it was a little warmer than expected I just wanted a FINISH. I had kept pace with the 5 hour pacers and was ahead of them for much of the course until the last 10K. As much as I would have liked a slightly better result, I can’t bring myself to be even a little disappointed.
There are certainly lessons to be learned and reflections to be made from this moment but that’s a later post. Overall I am super proud, feeling accomplished and wouldn’t change the experience for anything. This race was special in so many ways and I’ll never, ever, ever forget it. The Marines along with having Courtney and my BFF there was priceless…
Will I run another? Only time will tell but until (or if) that moment comes I will bask in the glow of the 39th Marine Corps Marathon with pride and stare at this guy until my tears dry: and I’m dedicating this race to my mom…