Last year I famously met exactly zero of my running goals that I set for the year. As in none. I set a bunch of goals and then I did none of them. Which isn't to say I didn't run, or race, but I definitely didn't follow through on the things I set out to do. This year I set myself some lofty goals, including running my first marathon. Back in January I thought I'd give NYC a go, but as fate would have it, I ended up signing up for the Marine Corps Marathon and I am so glad I did. Last weekend was one of the best weekends I've had. It was exciting...and painful. It was uplifting...and painful. It was ultimately successful... and did I mention painful? 26.2 is no joke and while I was absolutely feeling it towards the end, it was still an amazing race, made even more special by the fact that I was running for an awesome charity, Team Running Strong for American Indian Youth. In other words, 2015 goals are being knocked down one by one, and the marathon is just the latest goal to get toppled.
I could probably write a novel about MCM weekend, but I'll try to keep it (semi) brief by breaking it down a bit. Pre-race, race and post race. Be prepared though, I'm about to gush quite a bit.
There was an additional perk to the ceremony. First, let me say that runners are a notoriously superstitious bunch. I spent the week before the race meticulously monitoring my workouts, my food and my hydration. I had to have a new pair of Balega socks to wear (but the exact same style I always wear) and I went over my race day checklist a million times. I worried nonstop about my arthritis. Would it flare up and knock me out of the race? I've had it destroy 5k's, if it wrecked the marathon, to say I'd be disappointed would be an understatement. Throughout the days leading up to the race I repeatedly said things like "No new foods, only what I know works." and "I need the right socks! I can't risk blisters!" Then Steve Hill gifted the runners with some medicine- Rodger "Big Tree" Hill's Pain Cream, made (if I remember correctly) from bear grease and tallow. A little dab would help ease any aches and pains. Immediately my "nothing new" mantra went out the window and I was all in. I've tried a million things to get me through races, but mostly I just run in pain, so I figured giving this a try wouldn't hurt anything. And you know what? It worked. I was hurting by the end, but my regular, everyday aches and pains were much, much better. My knees, hip and feet got a dose pre-race. I rubbed some on my shoulders and lower back mid race. And I felt better. It's been suggested that it was a placebo effect, that it worked simply because I wanted it to, but at this point I'm a believer. I'm carrying it around in my bag 24/7 and if my super-googling skills could point me to someplace to buy it (I haven't found it yet), I'd be sending you all there too.
In other words- the ceremony was a win all the way around. Anxiety and pains were both dealt with, and I was ready for race day.
As for how I ran, I crushed it for the first 20. I ran my fastest 1/2 (and wasn't even pushing it), and felt great through about mile 17. Then I started to feel it, but still only lost about 30 seconds a mile as I rounded the mall and headed towards the dreaded bridge. I was starting to second guess whether or not I would beat the bridge. How bad would it suck to get that close and be pulled? I had tried to mentally prepare myself for the possibility, but once I was out there, I really didn't want that to happen. Luckily my husband assured me I was ahead of the 14 mm pacing requirement and that I'd be fine. He was right- I crossed onto the bridge and suddenly people were slowing down, stretching out and enjoying the fact that no matter what happened, they were going to finish this race. At about mile 23 my legs decided that enough was enough and called it quits. I walked it in from there, using my reserves to run across the finish line, where I was greeted by a ton of Marines ready to congratulate me, give me a medal and point me towards the food (what more could you want, really).
Final thoughts: Before the race and even during the race, I was pretty sure that this was going to be a one and done deal. I even told Billy Mills that while I had fun, I didn't think the marathon was my distance.However, by the next morning I was already thinking ahead to next year. 26.2 is probably not my thing, but running this race, with this team, is something I would do again in a heartbeat. The race alone was was amazing, but being part of Team Running Strong made it truly memorable.
I was also reminded many times of what makes running great. It's the adventure of it. The places you get to go, the people you meet and the things you get to experience that you might never had had the chance to do otherwise. For some people it's about going fast, winning medals and setting records. Those are all good things, but since I'm slow and the only record I currently hold is "slowest marathon" in our family record book, I figure I might as well make as many memories as possible. So when you run... slap every hand reaching out from the side of the road, especially if it's a kids. Dance along with the bands. Take all the pictures. Enjoy the adventure and run strong.