I didn’t know what to expect going into this race. I hadn’t run more than up and down my block since the Wineglass Half Marathon on Sept 28th and wasn’t sure if I should even attempt it. I feared the logistics of dealing with metro on such a crazy day with thousands and thousands of runners and spectators. I had never run in such a huge race and had no idea what to expect. I realllllly didn’t want to drive all the way to the DC Armory to get my packet and bib. I was also a little nervous about not using Gu or ShotBloks for energy; both are full of sugar and not approved for Whole30. And to top it all off, the days leading up to the race was when the carb flu hit me from Whole30. I was nauseated, weak, tired, and grumpy – and seriously considered wimping out and not going.
I’m so happy that I didn’t listen to myself.
I convinced my husband to come with me to packet pickup the day before the event, so my little family made the drive to DC around 10am. Even then, I still wasn’t 100% sure that I was going to run, but I wanted to have my bib just in case. It was a mad house getting to the Armory because of traffic congestion (big surprise!) but my husband dropped me off to get my bib and found a place to park. I had planned to just grab my bib and shirt while avoiding the Expo that had a line down the block to get in – but had to go into the Expo if I wanted my shirt. Foiled! The good news is that I got my bib extremely fast; it was a great sign of the outstanding organization of the event.
It didn’t take long to get in (the lines were due to metal detectors and bag screening) and I was able to get my shirt really fast. We walked around the expo for a few minutes so I could check out the Sweaty Bands booth but didn’t end up buying anything. I could feel the excitement of the event around me and decided that I was going to just go for it and just deal with whatever logistics were thrown at me.
I was up by 5am on race day with plenty of time to have coffee and some breakfast. I ate some cubed sweet potato with egg (so delicious!) and a couple of pieces of bacon, got dressed, grabbed my stuff, and was out the door by about 5:45am. The drive to the nearest metro was only about 30 minutes, I found great parking right away, and the lines for metro cards wasn’t too bad. I happened to be in a line where the machine rejected credit cards, so I gave myself a mental high five for remembering to grab some cash before I left the house.
The best part of living further out from the city is that the nearest metro stop is also the first metro stop for two lines. I was able to grab a forward-facing seat and settled in for a long ride with other runners and lots of spectators. Everyone was excited to run or watch people run and I chatted with my seatmate for most of the trip. Most of the runners were headed to the Pentagon for the marathon start but there were still quite a few headed to the Smithsonian stop for the 10k.
Once we got to the Smithsonian, I was again so thankful that I decided to get off of my bum and face my irrational fears. The energy was off the charts despite the early hour and cold morning. Even the threat of Hurricane Sandy couldn’t sway thousands of people from getting out there and I was so happy to be part of it. My escalator climbed and climbed – and once I was out, I stopped to take some pictures.
It was already 7:30 with a start time of 7:55, so I immediately started walking to the porta potty line. What you see in the above picture is the back of the porta potty area: the very long and very slowwww lines were hidden and provided a great facade of no lines at all. Only when I got closer did I realize how bad it was.
I started talking to the lady in front of me and we took turns taking pictures for each other. Mine is super blurry and dark (sorry) but I’m taking advantage of more pics on PFG!
I finished in the porta potty just as the race started, but since it was a chip timed event, I knew I didn’t have to rush to get a place. I wandered towards the back, found the 1:10:00-1:19:59 pace group, and squeezed in along the side. There was music playing, an emcee yelling out encouragement, and people were dancing and cheering and jumping around to warm up. We walked for quite a while and then we hit the mat…and we were off!
I didn’t remember to turn on my Garmin until after the race started and then it took a really long time to load. By the time it picked up the satellite, I had already run almost a quarter of a mile, so I knew an idea of overall time was out the window and I’d just have to go by pace time and not worry about overall time.
We ran around the National Mall for a bit where we ran by the Washington Monument. We then ran past the Holocaust Museum and by an all-female drum corps that was out of this world amazing and motivating!
(Sorry for the blurry pictures – I didn’t stop to take them!)
Next, we ran up a small incline to cross the 14th Street Bridge. I drove over that darn bridge twice a day, nearly every weekday for six years, so it was pretty cool to run over it and see the Potomac River from a different angle. There were plenty of runners around so I didn’t lose any sense of excitement – in fact, my pace picked up after the first mile!
From the bridge, we went to 12th street in Crystal City, VA and looped around Crystal Drive for a bit. There was a water stop here at some point and I slowed to drink it, then picked back up when I was finished. We ran by the Pentagon and things are a bit fuzzy here since it was a lot of highway. I knew we were going towards Rosslyn and the Marine Corps Memorial…aka the finish line!
There was a nice downhill right after Mile 5 and I leaned forward into the descent and let my legs just go for it. It felt awesome to not hold back and since I knew I only had a little over a mile to go, I wanted to push myself just a bit. I was getting pretty tired but just as I started to slow down, the road was lined with Marines on either side, offering encouragement and high-fives. I picked up my pace again and knew I was almost there.
I knew that I’d see the finish line only after climbing a small yet exhausting hill up to the Marine Corps Memorial. The cheering crowds and encouraging Marines once again helped me out because I managed to dig deep and sprinted as fast as my legs could take me. I didn’t even look at the clock or worry about my finish line picture: I wanted to go out strong and fast and give it my all.
We were directed to chutes to receive our finisher medals, where a Marine Lieutenant put it around my neck and saluted me. We were then able to get in line for an official photo at the base of the Marine Corps Memorial, where I took a few pictures.
(Yes, that is a banana costume.)
I ditched my jacket soon after the start (Goodwill is great for throw away jackets!) so I was freezing and decided to go directly to the metro. It was crowded and I had to wait a few minutes to get inside the turnstiles, but that was the only issue. I got on the first train that came to my stop and even got a seat – score! Before I knew it, I was at my destination and headed for my car. Getting to and from the race was easy and painless but I know that was largely due to the fact that I got out of there as soon as I could.
Some final race thoughts:
The people watching was great along the course which really helped distract me. I saw costumes and fun running outfits and large groups of people running or walking together. The spectators were incredible and seemed genuinely excited to be there. There were people running or walking who were older than me, younger than me, bigger than me, and smaller than me. I saw people struggling who didn’t give up and I saw people who made it look like the easiest thing in the world. But here’s what really got to me and kept me motivated during the rough patches: being surrounded by memorial shirts or pins for fallen Marines or other service members. The Marines lining the course, encouraging us and giving out water. The amputees or injured who were running or walking. They gave me the kick in the butt that I needed to keep going – to keep running because their son or daughter or dad or mom or sister or brother couldn’t. I teared up quite a few times, laughed my way through lines of high-fives with Marines, and thanked as many Marines as I could.
My chip time was 1:16:43 but I’m not sure if that’s an accurate time. There was apparently a suspicious package near the Pentagon and some of the runners were delayed. The MCM 10K website says that the delay was universal, so I assume that means they added that time to all of our finish times. I’m thrilled with my time and how great I felt after the race, so it’s no big deal.
This was, by far, my favorite solo race. It could have only been better if I had run it with my sister. Everything from bib pickup to getting a bottle of water at the end was organized and efficient. I don’t know that I’ll ever run a full marathon, but if I do…it will be the Marine Corps Marathon. If I don’t run the full next year, I’m definitely running the 10k again and I’m already looking forward to it!
P.S. – My finish line photo is freaking terrible!