Yesterday I ran my slowest marathon ever. It was definitely disappointing, but I’ve had so many misgivings and signs about this one that I’m not surprised or too too disappointed. While I realize that my defeatist attitude may have been self-fulfilling, I was definitely not feeling sharp or race ready, starting about 3 weeks out. I was having some injury problems, but I was also having some time problems, which compromised my ability to cross train. The great thing about running is that it travels well and you can squeeze it in anywhere. But when you can’t run… I’d also gotten too tired to do much cross training because I was running so much. I think next time I’m going to schedule a rest week every third week at a minimum. It makes a big difference for me, and I need to be better about taking them so I don’t burn out.
Anyway, the trouble started right away. Going through the first mile in 9 minutes, I felt winded. Which isn’t how you’re supposed to feel. I knew then it was going to be a long day. I thought about dropping off my group right there. I might have had a better race if I’d done that, who knows, maybe even a faster one, but I knew what times I had to run to qualify for Boston, and I wasn’t going to give up that early.
I had decided to wear my compression socks because I wanted something to shield my achilles. That also turned out to be a big mistake. I had never run more than 4 miles in them (and I did that on Thursday). Turns out they really rub the bottom of my right foot the wrong way. My foot was all hot and sore and painful, starting at about mile 6, and then the aches just went up that right leg, into my wonky piriformis and hamstring. I dropped off my group at about mile 15, but I told myself to just keep running, because last time I gave up mentally well before my body did.
I was doing a fantastic job of just running mile to mile. Every time I hit a mile, I’d just say to myself, ok, do another one. But then disaster struck. Just as I was starting to feel like shit…I missed three mile markers. Talk about a devastating psychological blow. Somehow I completely missed miles 16, 17, and 18. And, during that time, despite the fact that I had at least a dozen awesome friends out there cheering for me, I never saw one of them. It might be a good thing, because for a while there all I wanted to do was hug Wes and start crying, but it would have been nice to see someone just the same.
As it was, I just kept telling myself that I’d see Dash at mile 20 and that I at least had to run to her. So I did.
And now, I’d like to say a few words about the Marine Corps course. In short, I f-ing hate it. The only reason I run this stupid race is because I can sleep in my bed and ride the metro in. (Author’s note: As I was writing this sentence, Monday night at 5:30 p.m., I realized that my car was still at the metro! But somehow, no parking ticket! It’s a marathon miracle!) Anyway, I prefer local marathons–when I ran Philadelphia in 2007 I was terrified that I’d forget something, and then they didn’t give me enough food at dinner, and it was just a lot of unnecessary stress.
But people, I will never do MCM again. And this is not never like I’ll never do a marathon or I’ll never do a triathlon. This is never ever ever. The course is just CRUEL. They take the hardest 6 miles of any marathon and they make you run across a barren highway. When you are on the 14th St. bridge, you cannot see the end of it. And then you do get down to the end of it and they send you through an office park and hey, there are some people! But you don’t fool me, Crystal City with your misleading 23 mile marker and your 2 blocks of spectators. But then it’s right back into the desolation of the Pentagon parking lot and some more highway that’s deserted because everyone’s a mile down the road waiting to see you finish.
I did get to see Wes, Katie, and some other friends in Crystal City, but I also started having chest pains. I told myself that I could start walking at mile 23, and I did, and then I got some good breaths in, so the chest pains went away, but that was definitely a scary few minutes. Luckily I had no idea where the med tents were, so I couldn’t stop.
I walked and jogged back through the Pentagon parking lot, cursing the stupid marathon and swearing never to do it again. And then I came up on my teammate Amy. “Oh no, not you too!” I said as I reached her. Her persistent stomach problems had flared up on her. She tried to run with me, but she was still feeling sick, and I wanted to stay, but I was tired of suffering, plus she had a friend who jumped in with her anyway. (You should have seen the look on his face when I said I was having chest pains.)
Anyway, seeing Amy gave me a bit of a lift. It was like someone coming along and saying, “You’re right, this is really hard.” And with that affirmation, I scooted along to the finish. I walked some more and Amy caught me again. We walked through a water stop at mile 25, but then I shuffled on ahead. Coming in toward the finish I finally saw my family, and then I heard Dash call out to me as I came up the hill. I was practically doubled over, as you can see below.
I came in a 3:52:28, which is my slowest marathon ever. Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that this time is 16 seconds slower than my first marathon. But I negative split that one! Which meant I felt a lot better at the end.
What can I say? I’m disappointed, of course, but I feel like I’ve gotten very lucky the last three times I’ve run one to not have something go as wrong as my socks went yesterday. And my socks could have been worse, so I’m still lucky there. I learned a lot this training cycle, and I’m ready to make some tweaks and get ready for the next one. And, for what it’s worth, my PR came after two steady years of marathon training–three marathons in two years. This is my first in two years. Looks like I have some catching up to do.
Congratulations to everyone who ran yesterday, especially my CAR crew! We did it!
*And thanks to Dash for the awesome spectating and pictures!