Race Recap: Marine Corps Marathon

So happy at mile 18.

So happy at mile 18.

Marathon Magic

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.

Finish200

The Race

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.

My cheer squad :)

My cheer squad :)

Takeaways

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.

Stats

Ran: 26.62 miles in 4:07:06 at 9:17/mile average

Splits:
(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)

Race Recap: Cambridge Oktoberfest 5K and a new PR!

This past weekend was absolutely fantastic! I was able to see my Dad play for his acoustic duo (probably the last time I’ll see him play for awhile), I had a great going-away dinner with my entire family and my closest friends and on Sunday I PR’d at the Cambridge Oktoberfest 5Kand ran the race with some of my best friends! I don’t think it can get much better than that.

I registered for the 5K sometime during the summer and hadn’t really been focusing on it at all because I had been focusing so much on the half marathon. However, last week I did a little speed work to prep for the race and was feeling pretty good about the race. I was also looking forward to it because I was going to run it with my cousin Paige and my friend Lindsay who had both run it last year and said it was a blast!

I stayed over my friend’s apartment the night before the race to spend some time with her and be closer to where the race was actually taking place. I was pretty disappointed when I woke up however because it was cloudy and raining- I swear, every single race I run has been in the rain, I’m over it. But I got dressed, had a slice of toast, put on my hoodie and we were off.

Pre-race shot of myself at the finish line!

We met up with Paige, Lindsay and their boyfriends at the starting line outside of Cambridge Brewing Company, who was sponsoring the race, in Cambridge, Mass. We had quite some time before the race started so we took a bunch of pictures and did some dynamic stretching to get ready.

Around 9:45 a.m. we started to head over to the start line, which was about a quarter of a mile away from where the race would finish. Paige really wanted to line up at the front of the pack because she didn’t want to get lost in the sea of runners. I thought this would probably be a terrible idea because although we’re good runners, we’re not THAT good and I thought we’d be trampled. Lucky for us, when the gun went off, we were able to get out front and keep a really solid, fast pace for the beginning of the race.

I was SO disappointed my Garmin didn’t find a signal in time for the start but Paige was tracking the course on her iPod nano so we knew we’d have the most accurate times. Lindsay and I kept pace with Paige and her boyfriend for the first mile but they’re much faster than us so we lost them after that. Lindsay’s boyfriend was trying to PR with a time under 21 minutes so he was long gone ahead of us too.

I forget exactly when I lost Lindsay but she was dealing with a pretty bad stomach cramp and had to slow down a bit. I was feeling really good however and thought I had some extra energy to kick it up. As I came to the 2 mile marker I was feeling great and I knew I was going at a pretty good pace. My legs felt fresh and my breathing was steady.

When I passed the 3-mile mark the timer read 26:32 and I could not believe it! My last 5k I ran in 28:09 so I was going much faster for this one. Then something weird happened, the last leg of the race, which should have been .1 miles seemed like it went on forever! When I finally crossed the finish line the timer read 27:32- this is arguable still a huge PR for me but I was dying to get 26:??. I was still extremely proud of myself and at that point I was just focused on finding Paige and the two boyfriends while we waited for Lindsay to cross.

When I finally found them in the sea of runners Paige told me her watch said the course was actually 5.58 kilometers which we clocked out to be roughly 3.5 miles. I don’t know exactly how much time off that would mean to get my 3.1 mile time but it is most certainly in the 26:??-area!! I was on cloud 9 at this point and was ready for the much-talked-about Oktoberfest after party.

We met up with Lindsay and all went to claim our complimentary beers. The race coordinators were blasting some German techno music and even though we had zero idea what the lyrics were, we had a blast dancing in the streets with all of the runners. There was a dance off and Lindsay and I even took part in an impromtu limbo contest- it was awesome!

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After the race we grabbed a bite to eat at the Cambridge Brewing Company and drank some much needed waters. After lunch I said goodbye to Lindsay and Paige, arguably the worst part of my weekend because I knew I wouldn’t be seeing them for a very long time but it was definitely the best way to spend my last weekend with them!

Overall the weekend was amazing- an unexpected huge PR, fun times with my friends and family- doesn’t get much better than that!

Have you ever had a completely unexpected PR? Tell me about it in the comments section below!