Before I ran my first marathon last April at Big Sur, one of my coworkers told me about something she called “marathon magic.” I was freaking out and anxious about the seemingly impending doom that was running 26.2 miles along Highway 1 and I told her I wasn’t feeling good and my legs felt slow and sore. She told me that come race day, undoubtedly, something called “marathon magic” would kick in and all of the pieces would fall into place.
I ended up finishing Big Sur (with some walking) in 4:33:41, not terrible for my first marathon and the challenging course. Leading up to Marine Corps last weekend I was feeling the same way. My left calf muscle had been irritable for weeks, I was starting to come down with a cold, and my hips (which had been fine all throughout training) were feeling oddly sore. I was nervous about my time goal of breaking 4:15, and even more nervous about my secret goal of breaking 4:10, and my “dream big” goal seemed completely out of reach.
But like clock work, come early Sunday morning, when I lined up with my pace group, the “marathon magic” set in. I finished Marine Corps in 4:07:06, a 26 minute, 35 second PR.
I got to the starting line early to get settled into my corral and be there in time to watch the Wounded Warrior Project paratroopers jump from the sky with flags attached to land at the start. It was pretty inspiring to watch them floating through the sky as someone sang the national anthem just outside of Arlington National Cemetery. (Pro tip: if you run MCM get to the start early to see all of this!)
I also wanted to get to the start early because MCM has you self-corral based on what you think you’re finishing time would be. I trained for a 4:15 but decided to line up a little closer to the 4:00 group. The start was very congested and when the howitzer went off to signal the start, it ended up being more of a slow crawl than a run. After about two miles and the first set of hills, the pack thinned out a bit.
My plan going into the race was to focus on 5-mile increments. I typically go on 5-mile runs during lunch so in my mind, breaking 26.2 miles down to 5-mile increments helped (I also fuel every 5 miles). Then I figured I’d give it my all in the last 1.2 miles to go with my mantra – Last mile, strong mile, kick it in.
I was lucky to see my parents really early on in the race around the mile 2 marker, which gave me the surge I needed in the very beginning. My boyfriend had also gone to the start but since there were so many runners, it was tough to find him in the crowd while focusing on not tripping over the runner in front of me.
Once the field thinned out, I focused on staying steady and consistent. I was trying my hardest to run even splits but between the spectators, the inspiring runners running alongside me, the military presence, and my own personal cheer squad, my paces darted around a bit. I joked after that every time I saw my parents or my boyfriend, I ran my fastest miles – I guess I got a little excited.
The race itself is all still a bit of a blur to me. I’m terrible at really breaking down races, mile by mile for recaps but there were some incredible highlights:
- Seeing my family at the very beginning of the race and then again around mile 18/19.
- Seeing my boyfriend at mile 10, 16 (he even ran with me a bit then!), and the finish.
- Seeing Bart Yasso twice and having him yell my name!
- Running the Run to Remember mile out on Hains Point in honor of fallen veterans.
- Running alongside those running for their loved ones who have served, are active duty, or who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
- All of the Marines who were genuinely cheering for all of us. It seemed odd because we really should be the ones cheering for them.
- Surprising myself and running a huge PR.
The best part about my second marathon, besides my cheer squad, though was being able to run the entire 26.2 without walking and feeling like it was actually comfortable. It makes me wonder, and dream, about what I could do once I get more experience under my belt with the distance. I think the whole “marathon magic” thing happens for different reasons. At Big Sur, the marathon magic came to me because it was my first marathon. At MCM it came because I knew I had my family there cheering me on.
When my co-worker first told me about “marathon magic” I didn’t believe her. After Big Sur, I was still a little cynical about it but MCM confirmed it for me. Marathon magic is real, and I believe it.
Ran: 26.62 miles in 4:07:06 at 9:17/mile average
(1)10:15 (2) 9:40 (3) 9:38 (4) 9:05 (5) 9:26 (6) 9:00 (7) 9:23 (8) 9:28 (9) 9:11 (10) 9:00
(11) 9:07 (12) 8:56 (13) 9:02 (14) 9:12 (15) 9:08 (16) 9:15 (17) 9:09 (18) 9:18 (19) 9:13
(20) 9:26 (21) 9:05 (22) 9:14 (23) 9:12 (24) 9:12 (25) 9:39 (26) 9:34 (27) 5:28 (for 0.60)