I did it!I ran 26.2 (er, 26.5 really) miles around my city. I loved it. It was hard–really hard–and I didn’t quite get the time I wanted, but I did it and I enjoyed it and I am really, really happy.My day started with a 5am alarm, a cup of black coffee, and a bagel thin with banana, honey, and salt–my typical long run breakfast.I took the metro to Pentagon, arriving there around 7am. I had enough time to hit the port-a-potty and get to my corral before the 7:55am start, but only just enough. If I was to do it again, I would go even earlier. It’s a long walk with a big crowd from the metro to the start, plus there is a security check to pass through. I would have liked a bit more cushion time to stretch and focus without being stressed, but it all worked out. I tossed my throwaway hoodie onto the side of road and squeezed into the 4:00 corral, right near the pacer (I would never see him again).The start was crowded and I felt kind of weird – nervous I guess. Up through Arlington, the first mile ticked off quickly and then it was up the hill in Arlington. I knew this was coming but didn’t like it. I was relieved when it as over and we were on the downhill on Spout Run. One weird thing during this race – I actually liked the quiet, woodsy portions where I could zone out, more than the crowded urban areas, for the most part, which isn’t what I would normally expect.
Up through Arlington to the Key Bridge – I have to say, the crowds here were pretty amazing and I didn’t even notice the hill of the ramp up. The bridge was packed with spectators, as was Georgetown. I knew I would see Andy here, around mile 4.5. I gave him my spi belt with my phone – it was irritating me too much, and I felt much more free once I had it off.Down into Rock Creek Park – this was an out and back and mentally, it was tough to see all the people coming back already, but then it was awesome once I turned around and realized how many people were behind me. I always feel like the last person in a race, I can never conceptualize how many people are behind me. I tried to go slow here; I was really stressed about pacing. I didn’t like people passing me, but I was also really worried about running out of steam near the end so I kept trying to calm myself.I got to see Andy again here, which was great. The run along the Potomac is kind of a blur. The crowds on Ohio Drive were great – tons of people, I loved slapping hands with people. It was a nice distraction and I think all spectators should stick out their hands.I sipped on my handheld bottle with gatorade and water, ate some Clif margarita shot bloks, and at some point ate a plain Gu.
Hains Point wasn’t bad at all. I am used to Hains Point, and like I said, for some reason I liked the long quiet stretches of the race best. There was a huge display set up here with photos of fallen soldiers. That gave me a lot to think about, to put my own stresses in perspective.I knew I wasn’t coming in under 4 hours, and I focused on 4:15. Then the 4:15 pace group passed me. I was happy to hit the halfway point and thought I would come in around 4 something still. I was tired, but feeling okay. I put in my music, and hoped I could hold on.The lap around the mall felt tough, but I got to see Andy twice, plus tons of other spectators, so that kept me going. After I saw Andy the last time I got a little choked up, knowing the next time I would see him would be the finish. I was on my own.I was really nervous for the 14th street bridge. I had heard so much about it. And it was hard – a lot of people started walking here. It was long and tough, but I willed myself to hold on, to not stop, to not look at pace but to just focus on the other side. And I did, I made it, I kept moving.
Once I got to the other side, I started to feel slightly dizzy and my whole body felt stiff, I could feel my hips and lower back totally locked up. I stopped and walked. I wished I hadn’t but I did. I’ll never know if I could have kept going or not…
I walked off and on through Crystal City. That was the hardest part – miles 22-24. I don’t think I hit the wall, but I was tired, thirsty, sore and losing it mentally. I took short, very short walk breaks, but once you start taking walk breaks it’s hard to stop.
I felt better on the highway, knowing the finish line was closer. I didn’t care about my time at this point. I knew I was going to be over 4:30 but I couldn’t help it – I really was trying my best. It was harder than I thought. I thought that going slow in the beginning would let me speed up at the end – but it didn’t work out that way. I was just able to hold on.
I got stronger in the last mile. So close, so close. The hill up to Iwo Jima looked like a mountain to me – but the crowds were incredible. So deep, so loud. I found the adrenaline to sprint up the hill and through the arch. DONE!
My official time was 4:42:59, my garmin had me at 25.6 miles (I know the course wasn’t long, it’s just impossible to hit the tangents easily). Not the time I wanted, but I’m still proud of myself. There is more to the experience than time.
Right after the finish there were so many Marines slapping five, shaking hands, telling you congratulations. They were awesome. The whole race organization was incredible, I really appreciated that. I love a good logistics experience. The Marines were so nice, so awesome. I thanked them all profusely for their service; what we went through in a marathon, for fun, is nothing compared to what they do every day.I got my medal and posed for my Iwo Jima photo, something I couldn’t wait for. I drank a Gatorade with protein in about two gulps, got my banana and water and snack box, and slowly made my way to the family meet up point to find Andy. It took so long to get through the crowds, but I wanted to keep moving. I was afraid if I stopped I would cramp up and not be able to move.
I was so happy to see Andy. I was so full of emotion – so grateful he was there, guilty that he had to wait for me so long, happy to be done, physically in pain, sad that it wasn’t the time I wanted, elated that I did it, that I finished and gave it my all. I had gone so long without talking to anyone, and had so much to say. Because the Rosslyn station was so packed, and I wanted to keep moving, we decided to walk across the Key Bridge to Georgetown, where we picked up a car2go. Best decision we could have made – so much better than waiting for metro.
At home I stretched, drank water, showered, and we went to my favorite place in the city, Pizzeria Paradiso, for good beer and pizza. Perfect, perfect end to my day.I have lots of thoughts on all this, but still a jumble. Could I have gone faster? Yes. Could I have gone faster yesterday? No. I didn’t get the adrenaline rush I thought I would, where everything would feel easy. It never felt easy, not at any point. It was a mental struggle even more than a physical. I loved this training cycle, and I want to do it again. I want to do another marathon, and I want a time closer to 4:00. But I can’t think about all that now.
I’m just glad I did it, and yet I’m sad it’s all over already. What an amazing day.