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Marine Corps Marathon Report

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By navy58
October 29, 2002

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Howdy all, Fair warning, this one will be long....

I don't really want to write this report. It's strange, but leaving class today it was a beautiful, crisp, sunny fall day here in Newport, and a part of me wanted to lace up my shoes and run and enjoy the remaining two hours of sunlight. I am already feeling the first pangs of a sort of post-partum depression now that the run is over - nothing running wise to look forward to for a while...the reality that I will probably be out of the country next fall marathon season...and wondering if I'll be able to ever best this time due to the confluence of events that I think made it possible...but I am getting ahead of myself...I guess I look that once I write the race report, it's really all over. Soooo, here goes:

I didn't have much of a taper in the weeks leading up to the MCM, as I didn't know until fairly late that I was actually able to get in. With that in mind, I ran about 3:15 the Sunday before, and did about a 10-12 mile tempo run on Tuesday (part of the idea being to test out my old running sneakers to see if I could think I could get one more race out of them...they weren't very comfortable I stuck with my newer pair, even though I didn't think they were very comfortable they ended up serving me well on Sunday), then I did easy days on Wed, Thurs and Friday and took Saturday off. (BTW Daniel - the day before I did my first MCM in 1990, I ran in the Colonial Athletic Association Cross Country Championship and ran an 8k/5 mile PR (32:34)...and managed a 3:43 the next day at Marine Corps...not sure I would do that again though)

The expo on Saturday was fine, lots of neat stuff and exhibits, no real problem getting my race number or anything, very nice navy blue long sleeve mock turtleneck t-shirt...did lots of carbo loading = pancakes for breakfast and pasta for dinner, drank lots of water. Spent the afternoon hanging out with some good friends from college and their 1 yr old puppy...very relaxing and I think being relaxed played a big part in mentally preparing for Sunday - also had the advantage of an extra hour of sleep for daylight savings, I think that helped too.

Got up about 6am, had a light breakfast and took a water bottle and energy bar to the was cold but sunny and not as cold as last year. (Indeed by the time the race started I took off my long sleeve overshirt and gloves and tossed them to my wife the first time I saw her). I did look for Daniel at the Carillon, but I think I got the time mixed up, and we never did meet up :( I then met my friends Pete and Julie and we meandered over to a port-a-john line before heading to a corral. They were in a 4:00 to 4:09 corral, and wanted to run somewhere between 4 and 4:30, as you might recall I just wanted to go under 4:30 so I told them that I'd start with them, figuring that if they ended up closer to 4:30 I'd catch them towards the end. We got back in the port-a-john line at 0800, and got out about 0835, just after the gun went off, but had about 7 minutes til our area started moving, then another 2 minutes til we crossed the starting line. Ended up almost exactly 9 minutes behind the clock time. Overall it was a near-perfect day to run, it started to get a little warm from the sun around the 1/2 way mark, but then clouds rolled in to keep me cool until about the 23 mile mark so it never got too bad....

Pete and Julie took off and I quickly fell behind them and just let them go, and I decided to just run my own race from the get-go. The first mile wasn't too bad, I felt good, and hit the mile marker in about 9:45..kind of unusual since the first mile is traditionally slow due to the crowd, but it thinned out pretty quick. This I knew would be too fast, so I tried to throttle back a bit, and I fell into a pattern - I'd throttle back, run the next mile a little faster, then throttle back, and repeat. Most of my first miles were in the 10:15 - 10:30 range. Amazed as we left Crystal City and ran by the Pentagon, amazing to see what they had done to repair the Pentagon in one year; thought of my friend Dave (who died there on 9/11) and wondered if any of his kids would grow up to be runners like he was...

So we rounded the Pentagon and heading up towards Key Bridge and Georgetown, still keeping about a 10:15-10:30 pace, knowing I will have to average closer to 10:15 to get under 4:30. Crossing Key Bridge to the jingle of cow bells handed out by Cliff Shot...thought of my dear Dalmatian Dixie as I saw a woman dressed as Cruella DeVille...but was starting to get into the zone, didn't even notice the great view that key bridge affords of the Potomac and downtown (indeed, the more I think about it, I have only the vaguest recollections of passing Lincoln, Union Station, Washington Monument...and all the other wonderful sights...I was just too absordbed with running to notice), then through the great crowd in Georgetown and worked our way into Rock Creek Park. I think we hit the 10 mile mark just before we entered Rock Creek. It appears they are going to keep Rock Creek as a permanent part of the course -- in the old days you used to go out around East Potomac Park - which is nice but can be cold and windy from about 18-23 (if I recall) was a real bear...very conducive to hitting the wall...anyway, I liked the Rock Creek version better.

You can see the runners coming the other way from about 10 1/2 miles to a little past the half point, I started looking for Pete and Julie but no sign of them, figured I missed them until we hit the turn-around and they were about 50 ft in front of me! I caught up with them and ran with them for a bit, Pete was starting to get cramps in his quads, and had to walk, I felt bad (Julie was the one who got me the hookup to get me in) but I knew I had to keep going while I felt good...was starting to feel a twinge of tightness myself at this point, and was unsure when I would hit the I kept going...hit the half in about 2:15 I think...knew it was going to be close. (Never saw Pete and Julie again...found out later they were hurting and finished in about 5:59)

But we left Rock Creek Park and kept chugging along, started taking about a 15-30 second walk break about every mile...this wasn't really part of my plan but I started to worry about hitting the wall, thought I may benefit from a little break every mile to maybe give the muscles a break. And without really trying, my mile times started going down after about 14....9:55, 10:15, 9:59, 10:01...and then a string of sub-10:00 miles...9:51...9:27...9:46...9:38...9:41...miles 17, 18, 19, 20 just flew by as we worked our way around the Capital, down along the mall, past the monuments and the wonderful crowds (and the smell of fresh popcorn coming from the air and space museum...mmmm...). I tried to stay calm and told myself - even though I was feeling good - that anything could go wrong, don't get cocky - Even crossing the 14th St bridge (approx mile 22-23) - where I had a terrible mile last year that kept me from going under 5:00 went by in about 9:40...then the final loop around the Pentagon, then I started to feel tired. By this point I kind of knew I would go under 4:30 barring major disaster, and I was still feeling good...slowed a bit from 24-25 but picked it up again from 25-26 (approx 9:52)...

Coming up the final hill towards the Memorial, was just incredible, the screaming crowd, the sight of that beautiful monument and the flag flying, knowing almost 26.2 miles is behind you...I started to get choked up...I pushed at hard as I could up the hill - glanced once last time at the HRM and saw mine was at 190 (my theoretical max) and pushed around the last .2 - I hit stop but didn't see the exact time - 4:23 something, almost a minute later til I realized I hit lap and not stop...doh! (So thanks to David for posting my time - that was the first I saw my official time). 4:23:52 - approx 10:10/mile. Now wondering how to go under 4:00....

I have to confess I got a little more choked up in the finish chute...and again when I found my wife...I don't know why - I don't think I would have if I hadn't gone under 4:30, but I guess since I started running marathons again (Charlotte Observer marathon in 1999), I just haven't been able to do what I thought I was capable of... Bonked at 18 in Charlotte (4:55), kept a solid 11 minute pace at Marine Corps 2001 (5:00:16), didn't train properly for Country Music 2002 (5:40). I know I didn't have anything to prove to anyone, but I just wanted this and was really happy I was able to do it.

My only regret is that I wasn't able to meet up with Daniel, I did look him up in the phone book and gave him a congratulatory call later. I was very jealous of his soak in the jacuzzi, but knew I would not have had the discipline to get out of a hot tub or jacuzzi if I got into one :)

I think that's all for now. I have some other thoughts, about training and racing, and will try to post a follow-up in the next day or so, so I will just close with a plug for this race. The Marine Corps Marathon is just such a class act, truly "the People's Marathon." If there is anyone out there looking for a first marathon, or a future fall marathon, it is well worth the trip. . I cannot recommend this one highly enough - great crowds, great support (from the USMC!) and water/aid stations, great scenery (if you remember to look at it), flat course, history all around you...and a spectator friendly course -either by bike or by METRO, so any family/friends can easily come cheer for you at 4 or 5 points and still make it over to the finish to cheer for you in the final stretch.

Not sure what's next. I actually don't feel to bad today - just a little achy in the quads, but don't worry I will resist the urge to run until at least Thursday - ok, I see your skeptical looks - maybe Wednesday. But what I really want to do is go to a nearby Rock Gym and try Rock Climbing, and if the weather is nice maybe head up to the White Mountains one more time before I leave Newport).

Cheers and thanks for all the encouragement along the way. Couldn't have done it without your encouragement, training tips, suggestions and support along the way. Thanks team,

(Still a little choked up when I think about it)

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