2015 Marine Corps Marathon Race Recap

March 31, 2016

Five months later….here it is…the 2015 Marine Corps Marathon Race Recap!  Since I waited this long, I thought it would be appropriate to post it the same day as the MCM Lottery results.  

I originally signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon in case I did not get into the Chicago Marathon.  Lottery day I was notified I was not selected for MCM – it is okay Jennifer hopefully you’ll get into Chicago (MCM lottery results are announced before Chicago, even though it is held later).  The next week I received a nice surprise, a “second chance registration” email from MCM.  Turns out I was selected, but there was processing issues with my credit card on file (old card). Once I got into Chicago I decided that would be my goal race and MCM would be for “fun” <—haha who says that šŸ™‚ 


Image: Marine Marathon 

After the Chicago Marathon (Part 1, Part 2), I wasn’t sure I would run it.  The Marine Corps Marathon was two weeks later and I was nursing a quad injury.  I gave it some time and decided I would run it if my quad was feeling better (in hindsight I probably should have not).  

Fun Fact: The Marine Corps Marathon was my first marathon in 2007! Back then I registered in person AND on paper at a MCM kickoff event at Pentagon Row.  The expo was held at at Stadium Armory (the Convention Center was not even built yet), instead of making a right into Georgetown after Sprout Runway we made a left towards the Reservoir, and the Awakening was still at Hains Point (which were miles 17-19 at the time – yup before the bridge). 

Packet Pickup/Expo

I was very happy to learn packet pickup/expo returned to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center this year – so close to my office!

I made plans with Nathasha (also her second MCM) to meet at the expo. I arrived close to 5:00PM and walked (which seemed like forever) to the entrance. 

A new kind of shoe shot šŸ™‚ 

Am I headed in the right direction? 

Told ya it was a long way.  Service was a little spotty, but luckily my text messaging worked. 

Even though I looked up my bib number before I left work, I forgot my sticky note on my desk! Oh Jennifer! No problem, I went to a table and the Marine looked it up for me.  Then I went to the booth with my bib number – so organized.  At this point it wasn’t too crowded.   I also received the 40th anniversary patch when I picked up my bib. 

 

 

Bib photo in front of the map – obvi.  I was completely exhausted from work, glad I was able to hide it for the picture.  

I was not the only one exhausted that day.  I went to the shirt area and the Marine picked my shirt and said, “here you go sir.”  I smiled and he immediately apologized – he was super embarrassed.  I’m sure he said “sir” a hundred times that afternoon and I wasn’t offended – after all my hair was down, I was wearing a dress and booties. Now back to the goodies. 

 

The traditional mock neck shirt was beautiful! It was ruby (get it, for the 40th year) and fleece lined.  Much nicer than my cotton version from 2007 (picture here).  I do admit, it is difficult to pull that mock neck over my large head! If you go to the Marine Corps Marathon & 10K Club Facebook group (unofficial) several people went to a tailor and had their mock necks converted to a half zip. It is on my to do list, I want to Rock my Mock

After a few pictures, I went to the Brooks Store.  Since it was the 40th year and I did not purchase (gasp) anything from my first marathon, I decided I would pick up a couple items – a hat, pint glass, and the most awesome track jacket (remember the material from the Adidas rip-away pants…that type of material).  The line was long, but it went by quickly.  Next year I would like to volunteer at the Brooks Store – they give volunteers any shoe of their choosing. I’m in for a few pair of shoes šŸ˜‰ 

Next stop – the Nuun table! I wanted to purchase some tubes so I could get the commemorative water bottle – what do you think?  I think I like my NYC and Chicago ones better. 

I met Nathasha and we walked around the expo – always nice catching up.  We were joking how unprepared we felt (logistics wise)- um what time is the start? Anyone anyone? Since it would be crazy race morning we figured we would text each other and if we happened to be near each other – great, if not – good luck! 

Race Goals (ā€œAā€ least probable and ā€œCā€ most probable)

I had the same race goals as Chicago. 

  • A ā€“ Finish less than 5:30 (~12:34/mile)
  • B ā€“ Finish between 5:30-5:59 (~12:35-13:42/mile)
  • C ā€“ Finish the 26.2 miles!

Goal A was definitely a BHAG (big, hairy, audacious, goal) for this marathon and Goals B/C were certainly more realistic – after all I was getting over the quad injury (or so I thought) and this was the “fun run”.  

Marine Corps Marathon

The Marine Corps Marathon course starts outside the Pentagon in Virginia, goes into DC and finishes at the Iwo Jima Memorial in Virginia.  The course is pretty flat except for the first 2.5 miles. 

Image: Marine Corps Marathon 

Flat Jennifer! I went with a quasi red, white and blue theme, including a white visor (not pictured) as the forecast called for some rain. No big deal, right? I also decided to wear my Timex watch instead of my Garmin since I had the watch debacle during Chicago (battery died). 

I woke up super early (around 4:00AM) so I could eat, drink, pee and repeat. The metro opened at 5:00AM and my initial plan was to leave my apartment at 5:30PM.  I was ahead of schedule, so I headed to the metro at 5:15AM – I didn’t feel like sitting around my apartment. My land lord left a good luck note – it was a nice surprise. 

Well I was super super glad I got to the metro 15 minutes earlier than planned.  I got off at the Pentagon stop at 6:15AM and made my way to the entrance.  I made it across a pedestrian like bridge and bam – people!  The line behind me starting queuing pretty fast.  I didn’t remember it being like this in 2007.  To make matters worse…it started to rain.  I did bring a poncho with me – so I didn’t mind.  I texted Courtney and she was further back then I was.  

People were growing frustrated as we waited, understandably so as runners were concerned about making it to the start and getting mentally and physically prepared (porta potty stop and bag drop).  I get some people will whine and complain, but boy there were some nasty people who were right next to me – super super negative and inappropriate.  I tried to tone them out.  Best photobomb of the day, courtesy of the guy behind me – anyone know him? 

What caused this long long bottleneck? A combination of new screening tools, the rain, and spectators! The MCM allow spectators to join runners at the start, but that means additional bodies and baggage (literally ) to screen – backpacks, strollers, you name it! After an hour plus of waiting in line, I made it across and found some bushes – I needed to go to the bathroom so badly!  There were plenty of people who had that idea.  

I dropped off my bag at the UPS bag drop and  hustled to the corrals (which is still a bit of a walk).  I made it before the 7:55AM start – whew. I know others were not that lucky and jumped in whenever they got there (which meant faster and slower runners were bunched up).  I took off my poncho and got ready! 

Miles 1-5

The part of the marathon where everything feels great šŸ™‚ I can do this! Energy and adrenaline is at a all time high. The last few miles of the Clarendon Day 10K and 5K course were the first few miles of the MCM – so I was happy to run along a familiar stretch.  The rain started to pick up after the first mile and it was humid. My visor was bothering me for some reason so I ditched it as we approached Wilson.  Next came the hills….I didn’t remember them being this “bad”, I guess I blocked it out after my 8  year sabbatical from the Marine Corps Marathon šŸ™‚ I knew some of my Oiselle teammates were cheering at Mile 2, but I did not see them.  I was so happy to reach the top of the hill – there was a good downhill along Sprout Run Parkway.  Now this I remember.  

My 5K split was 39:24.  By the time I crossed into Georgetown (Miles 4-5) it was still a packed course. I looked for my friends Prianka and Caitlin at the Mile 4 water stop, a little disappointed I didn’t see them, but remembered they were at Water Stop #4 not Mile 4. There was also a mini downhill heading into K Street. 

Miles 5-10

This portion of the course was mainly an out and back through Rock Creek Parkway – don’t worry Calvert Hill not included!  My 10k and 15K splits were 1:18:12 and 1:58:27 respectively.  I don’t mind running along this section as I train here throughout the year – perks of a hometown race.   I was happy to see Prianka and my spirits were still pretty high.  I started to feel twinges in my quad as I approached Mile 10, so I decided to take it a little slower.  This is where I started to go downhill mentally: 

  • Jennifer why are you doing this again? 
  • This is going to hurt so bad, I can’t do it. 
  • Yes you can, you just ran Chicago! 
  • Plus you just bought that jacket. 

Funny/sad to say…that jacket kept me going. Exiting Rock Creek and near the Lincoln Memorial, I heard “Go Jen” – my friend Liz who was there cheering for her husband.   

Miles 11-15

I passed the Kennedy Center and knew Hains Point was near! Woo hoo water.  As I was running along Independence Avenue I saw Kim of Kim Runs Miles with Smiles about 25-50 feet ahead of me (I know large range haha.. I had no idea).  I tried to catch up, but she was inching away from me (one day we will meet, Kim).  I finally reached Hains Point and there was the Blue Mile.  I remembered reading Sue’s 2014 Marine Corps Marathon recap and now understood how moved she was by this stretch.  There were flags and photos of fallen soldiers along this mile.  I reached the 20K mark at 2:41:29.  At this point I was slowing down and my quad was hurting. I decided to start my run/walk interval.  My half split was 2:50:59, which was roughly 3 minutes faster than Chicago.  

Miles 16-20

Exiting Hains Point my 25K split was 3:26:23.  This portion of the course took runners along the mall. I love spectating here, but as a back of the pack marathon runner it was pretty empty. I understand the lousy weather may have played a role in this.  I was also spoiled with Chicago in which the course went through neighborhoods – so there were plenty of people there.  I reached the 30K split at 4:12:01, right after turning away from the Capitol.  I remember seeing photographers crouching on the ground taking pictures from the bottom up….hey guys….not flattering at all, even for the most fit runners! My quad was hurting even more and I slowed down to a 30 second run/walk.  Thank goodness for my Timex.  At this time I also popped in my earbuds.  

Shortly before we turned on 14th Street, I stopped at the first aid station – I needed some Tylenol.  I popped it in my mouth, texted Cliff I was near the bridge and turned left onto 14th.  Biggest surprise of the day: a donkey! Yes a donkey! I wish I took a picture.   

Miles 20-26.2 

Running across the bridge was tough.  It was no longer raining (I actually rained) and it was starting to warm up.  I saw my friend Hoa and he ran with me for a bit before I told him he should go ahead.  Knowing I would see the Oiselle Cowbell Corner and Cliff kept me going.  My 35K split was 4:58:49.  Finally I saw them! Julie, Becca, Erica, Leeann, Taylor, Caitlin (all Yeti-fied) and Emily!  Sorry if I missed anyone.  I’m not going to lie, tears were shed when I hugged Emily.  

Image: Taylor Coffey 

Julie ran with me until the next turn – it was nice to have company.  She reminded me it was all mental from here and she was right (even though I didn’t want to believe it). The aches and pain definitely trumped any logic. I was alone again (and wishing Julie was still there) and then Prianka magically appeared and jumped in with me! What a team!  We parted ways and I knew I would see Cliff and his brother Phil soon.  This part of the course was very very familiar since I ran the Crystal City 5K and Twilight 5K here a couple months ago.   I saw THE circle from afar and there was a huge sprinkler/mister – that felt refreshing.  Finally…Cliff and Phill! They brought me some water and a Diet Coke (Cliff remembered from Chicago).  I chatted with them for a couple of minutes and Cliff massaged my legs a bit.  Then it was time to say goodbye.   The last 5K was tough.  I saw my friend/teammate Michele as I neared the finish.  I know we both just wanted to get to the end. Finally the second to last turn.  

I told myself to run up the hill, but I couldn’t muster the energy.  Those last 200 meters are always so close yet so far. I finished with a time of 6:08:28 or 14:03 min/mile, which was about 2 minutes faster than Chicago.  Unlike Chicago, I wasn’t upset with the time.  I knew I had a bum quad and I would have shot at a marathon PR next year.  

Here are my splits.  You can see where I slowed down and started my intervals.  Mentally and physically the last 10K was the worst – the wall got me big time

Once I crossed the finish line I got in line for my medal. The Marine placed it around my neck and I said thank you. I took pictures in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial – what a beauty! 

Afterwards I got in line to pick up some water, post race food (in this nifty box), and a throwaway jacket (instead of heat blankets).  

Apparently they ran out of the food and throwaway jackets maybe 10-15 minutes after I picked up mine.  There were still people out on the course.  There was chatter in the Marine Corps Marathon & 10K Club Facebook group that the 10K finishers may have accidentally been handed out jackets which caused the shortage (they never received it in the past and the jackets only referenced the Marathon) – not the fault of the runners, who knows, I’m sure the organizers will figure it out next year.  

Cool sign, right? 

Walking across the Key Bridge so I could pick up a cab in Georgetown. I figured it would be less crowded.  

I was hungry so I went to Black & Orange (now closed) for some lunch. 

Later that evening I met Prianka (and Elena), Courtney, Catherine, Caitlin and Julie for a post marathon dinner at Blackjack.  Even though it was only a 10 minute walk from my apartment….I took a cab.  The legs were sore šŸ™‚ 

Final Thoughts

  • Thank you to Marine Corps Marathon organizers for my “second chance”.  
  • Loved the special touches for the 40th Anniversary. 
  • For selfish reasons, I love that the expo was held at the Convention Center.  Next year they are going to move it to the Gaylord Hotel at the National Harbor. It is a beautiful hotel, but National Harbor sits on the Maryland side with no metro stop.  I was not a happy camper when I first heard this news, but after reading this article I understood the business reasons behind it.    
  • Liked the new to me technical shirt for MCM events. 
  • There is a 10K race the same morning and runners finish at Iwo Jima as well.  I would like to run this in 2016.  
  • I had a course PR (not a marathon PR), just be mindful this marathon can be crowded.  It was exacerbated with the security issues in the morning.  
  • When a race recommends going through security when it first opens – I will do that.  I heard runners who went through the same security checkpoint as I did before 6:00AM had no issues.  I thought I was on the earlier side too at 6:15AM…oops. I missed the paratroopers jumping out of the plane.  
  • I wish there was a runners only entrance.  That way runners were not waiting behind spectators.
  • I embraced the rain – it felt good.  
  • Fueling strategy – used the same approach as Chicago.  I carried my fuel, Nuun tablets, and took a salt stick every hour.  I was not dizzy or dehydrated at all. 
  • FYI – if you go to a medical tent they will mark your bib.  Thought you should know that if you keep your bibs and that would annoy you.  Maybe ask that they mark the back? 
  • There is no water stop on the bridge, make sure to drink up beforehand. 
  • There was a Dunkin Donuts Munchkin stop close to Mile 24.
  • Thanks to all the volunteers and Marines out on the course. 
  • I wouldn’t mind if the course was changed a bit to include some of the neighborhoods – maybe Capitol Hill? I know a lot of people travel afar to see the Mall/Memorials, so I understand if they never do.  
  • Food/water – we know how that happens…finishers took more than 1 item.  I saw photos in which people had bottles and  bottles of water and Gatorade in their bags…ummm wait…there was Gatorade?!  Perhaps MCM could educate runners.  
  • As for the jackets – i’m sure MCM will figure it out for next year. 
  • There was a tent in the Finisher’s Village in which you could buy gear – I heard there was a long line and it sold out quickly.  
  • More pictures next time, Jennifer! 
  • Thank you thank you to Cliff, Phil, and Liz for cheering.
  • Of course thanks to the Oiselle ladies! 
  • I probably will not run a marathon two weeks apart again.  
  • Thanks to my old roommate Jess for the nice Runners Box šŸ™‚

Despite the security snafu, the rain, crowded course (which I don’t mind – I like the company) and my gimpy quad I would run this marathon again – it is my hometown race. It won’t be an annual event, but I would like to eventually join the Marine Corps Marathon Runner’s Club (run the marathon five times and receive guranteed entry).  I wouldn’t be surprised if that changes in the future as membership increases.  I look forward to running the 10K and spectating in 2016! 

Will you be running the Marine Corps Marathon in 2016? 

Is the Marine Corps Marathon or 10K on your running bucket list? 

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22 Comments
    1. I would like to do a DC race but don’t know if this one is for me. My sister ran it a few years ago an enjoyed it.

      I can relate to how you felt during the last 10K. That is exactly when I hit the wall during my last marathon too! You did reach your “C” goal and that’s all that matters! Congrats!

      Oh and that was so nice of your landlord to leave that note for you!

      1. Run Jenny Run

        The note was a nice surprise, good landlord. Do you think you would like to do a DC race that is smaller in size? Shorter in distance? Hope we get to see you here one day šŸ™‚

    1. That note from your landlord was so sweet! Way to push through a tough race. And they were definitely giving jackets to 10k finishers. We got one and I even asked the guy but he said we should definitely take one. It seems like the wires got crossed on that communication.
      Chaitali recently posted…Varidesk Standing DesksMy Profile

      1. Run Jenny Run

        It was very nice. I’m glad they gave out the jackets to all finishers (since it was so wet/cold) – hope they order enough next year if they continue to do that šŸ™‚ Soft spot for the BOP.

    1. The MCM 10k is awesome! I’ve run it 3 years in a row now, and it’s been amazing every year, even this past year with all the rain. (It was SO weird being back at the National Mall today with the weather being the exact opposite!) I’m hoping to run that and the Wicked 10k this year, but with the extra travel involved it would definitely be interesting!
      Holly F recently posted…About Corrals…My Profile

      1. Run Jenny Run

        I’ll run it for the third time this year! I think the last time I ran it was in 2010/2011 (or around then). I wish Wicked 10K was on a diff weekend.

    1. I’m still amazed that you ran two marathons in such a short time period. You’re an absolute rock star for doing that! I really hope they resolve the security issues so that there aren’t repeat performances of those problems again this year.
      Kathryn @ Dancing to Running recently posted…April 2016 Monthly GoalsMy Profile

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Thank you! Probably the last time I will do that haha. I hope they resolve it next year – many commented this never happened before.

    1. I am amazed that you ran two marathons so close together … and even more amazed that you remembered so many details about this race after so long! Impressive memory! I can barely remember what happened last week, haha.

      I definitely know the feeling of a jacket being inspiration. In Portland during the last few miles all I could think about was how I spent over $100 on my jacket and I wanted to be able to wear it!
      Kristina recently posted…Friday, My Second Favorite F WordMy Profile

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Probably my last time running 2 marathons that close together. Maybe if I wasn’t battling that quad injury, I would think differently. I don’t have THAT good of a memory. I had it outlined from the fall haha. Just had to turn it into sentences LOL.

    1. This is definitely a weekend I want to partake in someday, but not the marathon. If I want to do this soon, it has to be the 10k. I’m already having to rebuild strength, and I can’t imagine how much work it would take for a full marathon.

      I think you should take your shirt in for a half zipper. I had a fleece like that in high school and I practically lived in it.
      Lesley recently posted…Oldies WorkoutMy Profile

      1. Run Jenny Run

        The 10K would be a great alternative. You start on the mall and run the last 6 miles of the marathon course šŸ™‚

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Three times in one week! Yay! Thanks for cheering us on yesterday, hope your runners did well.

    1. Great recap! I hope they correct the mistakes that led to delays getting to the start and the jackets. I do think they gave them to 10K finishers.

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Agreed! I’m glad they gave jackets to both marathon/10K finishers since it was so cold/wet. If that wasn’t the plan, they may need some tweaking in their instructions/communications. I’m sure they will have it sorted it out next year.

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Yes!! You will see so many familiar faces on the course cheering if you do come up in 2017 or 2018. Cooper Canyon 10K is on my bucket list, so maybe I’ll be back in Charleston as well.

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Thank you! Hoping to hear good news about Chicago once they release the lottery results šŸ™‚

    1. This race is a bucket list race for me! You did amazing…I totally get you on how that last 5k and how the last 200 meters feels SO close yet SO far. Isn’t that always the way with marathons?

      Congrats on another great full!
      Ali @ Hit the Ground Running recently posted…Real LifeMy Profile

      1. Run Jenny Run

        Yes, you should def come to DC…Kristina too. Hint hintt!

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