A Disappointing Run: MCM

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.

Mile 10, still feeling good

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.

As you can see, I've settled into a plodding pace.

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 love this picture because it shows EXACTLY how I was feeling.

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!


15 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Stephanie Denis on November 1, 2010 at 5:29 pm


    I was looking at Cheryl’s pictures earlier today (I even laughed out loud). I looked like “DEATH” at miles 20, 23, 26. These were by far the hardest miles I’ve had to run in memory. We’ve trained so well this summer, we did most things right (more so than not), but that darn bridge and awful cemetery called Crystal City, were beyond what I (we) was (were) mentally prepared for. One thing’s certain, we gave it our all! I had nothing left in my tank when I crossed the finish line. Time aside, you are a trooper for pushing through your pain and discomfort. This is what makes you an awesome runner! Let’s all forget about this f-ing MCM and look forward to our spring races. We can do some serious damage come March 2011. I can’t wait to start back up with you, Amy, Beth, Tara, Drea, Kristie, and the rest of the gang.



  2. 1. I need to brighten that shot of you at 20 so we can see you.
    2. When I didn’t see you right with the girls at mile 20, you weren’t that far off of them, so when I saw you stick your tongue out in fatigue at me, I was like, NO YOU ARE RIGHT THERE (plus you smiled). I knew you were having some issues, but stupid socks adding to those issue, I didn’t. Not only is it a tough course, but as I was standing at the finish line, it was hot!
    3. I think you did an awesome job toughing through and it’s only going to make you better. AFTER you recover.
    4. Congratulations on another marathon under your belt. Now go have fun in Key West.
    5. Take a season and only do shorter races, then flat Course marathon fall 2011, I’m just saying.


  3. Chest pains sound really scary! Even if you didn’t meet your time goals, you are still awesome for finishing such a tough race. Congrats girl!

    p.s. The National Marathon, although it has a lot less spectators, is a much better course.


  4. I’m thinking about all of the ways I can navigate around DC without driving over the 14th street bridge or 110, ever again. Though, honestly, it would be way more fun to run the crap out of the thing but not as part of MCM :). And, Dash is right, especially about 3, 4, and 5.


  5. Sorry that things didn’t go well :-/ bad marathons make you question yourself and the lifestyle you’ve chosen – I have been there! But man, a 3:52 is def not even close to my worst! Here I am expecting like a 6th mara and then I find out you sub-4d. I know it wasn’t what you wanted but having a bad day and going sub 4 is awesome! (took me 3-4 tries before I even went sub 4!) Congrats on surviving another 26.2!


  6. Things went badly for me as well. I was on pace for my 3 hour goal, then started getting winded around mile 19 so scaled back the pace for a 3:10 (BQ). No big deal right, happens to everyone. Then the bridge into Crystal City hit me hard — the hump to get over the river, the bright sunlight and wind really killed me. Around mile 21 i started getting cramps in my calves, and around 22 it spread to the rest of my legs and some upper body; it got so bad i couldn’t move at a few points. Just stop, stretch, walk, run, repeat until the end. Limped across the finish at 3:22:20.

    This isn’t my slowest marathon, but slower than my last PR by a minute, and I am a much better runner now, lighter, and trained/prepped harder than before.

    I know many people would be happy with this time, but I set high expectations on myself this time. I will run McM again, but (even more-so than I realized last year), this is NOT an easy Marathon! For now, hello Disney Marathon this winter and your flat flat course.



  7. I’m not so much good with the uplifting sentiments in the face of disappointment, but I am sorry that things went so awry on Sunday. Every time we saw you (until Crystal City), you looked strong and happy – so that’s something. And after so many injuries, this is still a rock-star time – just not the rock-star time you wanted. And like Dash said, tough races like this make you stronger. So the next time, you’ll have brand-new toughness to go along with an awesome training cycle. Congratulations on your race!


  8. I fell apart in MCM ’09, and feel strongly that it’s MUCH harder to finish a gutsy race through real adversity than to keep going when you’re on pace for a PR. So I second everything everyone else said about hard-earned mental toughness—it’ll serve you well next time you ARE on pace for a PR!

    Take care of yourself and your injuries, and find cheer in the fact that you’ll never have to run that horrible bridge or horrible stretch of highway at the end again!


  9. Posted by Tara on November 5, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    I swore the same exact thing after last years (2009)disaster in MCM…fast forward to this yr, I’m actually considering it again for 2011… So you can never say never. 😉

    Could I sell you on attempting chicago 2011?? 🙂


  10. Sorry your MCM didn’t go the way you’d hoped. The marathon is a tough distance and you never know how things will go on race day. And MCM IS a tough course.Kudos for keeping the faith and running on even when you wanted to stop.


  11. Sorry you had a bad day out there…I’ve been there and know how hard it is. The upside to days like that is that they drive you harder for the next round. You’ll be back, feeling healthy and strong next time!


  12. Yikes – I am thinking of doing this one next year! But you are right how awful to run through an office park at the end. And worse, I used to work there – oh the memories!! But at least no one has to see you dog tired there right? Anyway you looked great, you finished, and you are sure to come back stronger in your next long race. Sorry to be so late on this but congrats on a great season! It was awesome to see you G2B girls work so well together all season long.


  13. […] and fabulous Team 2 End AIDS marathon training program. We still have slots available for MCM, my favorite marathon, and for Chicago! But I’m here to recruit some site assistants. So if you’re in the DC […]


  14. […] do and still live the life that I wanted to live. A year ago I gave myself over to the marathon, and it burned me badly. If I’m going to come back, it’s going to be on my […]


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