Let me first say thank you to each one of you for all the encouragement and messages throughout my training. You made this event of honoring my dad very special so thank you.
Friday – Hotel and Expo
I flew in to Dulles and my friend Jaime was kind enough to pick me up. We opted to drive all the way to the hotel and have lunch there. Jaime was supposed to run the Marine Corps 17.75k with me last year but it didn’t work out. She was able to join us the night before and we have been friends every since. She offer me practical tips about the metro and advice for my Saturday morning run at the National Mall. I chose the Hilton at Capital City mainly because it was less than a 5 minute drive from Reagan National Airport which was my return flight on Monday. My hotel stay was excellent. Everyone from the front desk, shuttle drivers, and cleaning services were courteous and professional. My 7th floor room was away from the elevators so I heard very little floor noise and hardly any noise from the street below. There were an abundance of food choices within a four block radius. The hotel ran two shuttles: one for Reagan Airport and the other for local services. I used the local shuttle to carry me to the metro 10 blocks away and anytime I called to be picked up from the metro the driver was there within 15 minutes. I highly recommend staying there and I will be staying there if I run again next year.
I was able to check in the hotel at 2 pm. Immediately put my bags away and took the shuttle to the Crystal City Metro. When using the metro, buy your card online ahead of time and load it with $15. This should be plenty for you to travel around for the weekend. Each person must have their own card. Taking the yellow line from Crystal City metro to L’Enfant and switching to the Blue Line is the fastest way to the Expo. The expo was exactly what you would expect from the Marine Corps. It was highly organized, clear instructions, and plenty of vendors and events for all ages. My goal was quickly pick up my bib and head back to the hotel after walking through the expo. In and out of the expo in under 30 minutes then back to the hotel.
Saturday – Shakeout Run and Planning
One of my favorite things about running out of town is being able to run by famous landmarks. I had only run twice the week of the marathon and along with coach’s approval I planned to run a 5k around the national mall. I had a great night’s sleep and knew what to expect with the metro schedule so I left at 6:30 am. From Crystal City, the best metro stop for the National Mall was on the blue line at Federal Triangle. I walked four blocks from the metro station and took this picture of the Washington Monument. It has always been one of my favorites. Studying the route on Friday night, I knew to start here and turn into the park towards the White House. Two girls running were nice enough to hold my camera in slow mode to catch a picture there. I then ran back to the Washington Monument and turned right headed toward the Lincoln Memorial. Chose to leave the music off and really reflect on the history and sacrifices that all these monuments represented. Think about running by the WWII memorial and I was simply awe struck. Running toward the Lincoln Memorial I was already smiling trying to figure out how in the world I was going to pull of the run picture with just me and Abe. I didn’t like my odds but had to try. Making my way up the steps, I quickly made friends with three runners and asked if they wanted me to take their picture. I showed them the slow motion capture trick and they loved it. We waited about five minutes and I sent them over to their spot with instructions. We caught their picture just right so I had them do the same for me after another two minute wait. I was stoked with how it turned out. Ran for another mile back to the start and shut it down. Ran a little faster than I wanted to but had plenty of time for recovery.
The afternoon plan was walk through my checklist, set out all my gear, and talk to Coach Ryan before shutting it all down. Nerves hadn’t bothered me all week even in full taper mode. I wasn’t rattled when describing my plan to family or friends. For some reason when Ryan and I spoke, I began to feel the excitement. All the training since April 21st was now one day from reaching out big goal. It was a good excitement. The energy was positive because I knew we had done everything we could in our communication and planning to make race day successful. Articulated to Ryan what my in race smaller goals were and it was a great feeling to hear him tell me that I was ready and he was excited. I spent the rest of the evening touching base with family and friends saying lots of thank you’s. One more time looking at my race outfit and setting my alarm for 5:30 am before saying “tomorrow, I run a marathon to honor my dad!” A special thank you to 2XU for my custom race shirt with the Marine Corps logo and my dad’s 2nd Marine Air Division patches on the sleeves. I wore Feetures socks, Nike shoes and hat, Skratch Labs for hydration, Gu Energy for refueling, and 2Xu for compression tights and calf sleeves.
Sunday – Marine Corps Marathon
Left the hotel at 6:10 am to catch the shuttle buses two blocks away that was carrying runners to the starting area. Took less than 5 minutes to load the bus and by 6:30 am I was already through the security checkpoint. Just had to wait for 1 hour and 25 minutes to the start no big deal! This is when I like to people watch to pass the time. Some of my favorite people pre race were the obsessive porta potty hunter (mind you there were several hundred porta potties spread out in rows of 12-16 all throughout the lot), the dude abides (guy who found a spot and curled up for a nap), the giddy girls (group of 8-10 laughing nervously and saying As if at least 6 times), and the old couple (they paced themselves as they held hands smiling.) I find a spot to sit down and focus. I chose to think about those hot 16-18 mile training runs when I felt beat down. I thought about running with my friend Christy. I though about picking out spots on the course where I would imagine my family would be standing. I thought of all the people who were tracking me online for the race. 7:15 am and its potty time. My doctor gave me a coin as a reminder of all the people who love me and were cheering for me. I was carrying it in my hand before the race. 7:30 am and people are starting to make their way toward the starting line. I made one more bathroom stop as a last minute precaution and headed toward the start at 7:45 am. Our National Anthem is sung and Marines are circling overhead parachuting in with the American Flag attached. It was very inspirational and special. It’s almost go time.
The Marine Corps Howitzer goes off!
People seem to be bunched up on the right side of the road but I know that the start line has all four lanes of traffic so I begin briskly walking down the left side as I tuck away my coin into my pocket. My Nike Running App is set and so is my garmin. I decide to start both ahead of the start line so there are no issues. Here we go, I pass underneath the starting line.
My mantra “relax” is all I think about. Heading into Rossslyn we start to climb and there are rolling hills. I just keep telling myself to relax as I am holding a sub 10 minute pace.
Knowing we had passed most of the elevation gains, my mantra shifted to “stay present.” We were headed into a more country setting with rock bridges, leaves turning, and less crowds. I almost forgot to take in a GU at mile 4. We made a small climb and turned into Key Bridge and Georgetwon with great crowd support. I was using their energy as motivation. I remember my GU before mile 5. I chose to carry my Skratch Labs hydration with me. It is how I trained and wasn’t changing the plan for race day. The plan was to refill it every six miles. I would pour in the powder before the water station and then duck in at the end of the station to refill. This went off without a hitch. It only added to my run confidence. Uh oh, mile 7 and I need to pee! Simple solution was find a tree. Now I am running again and my pace is still around 10 min per mile.
I quickly do the math in my head and realize at this pace I will run my third fastest half marathon time. This concerns me. I didnt’ want to gas out in the second half of the race. Time for my second GU. I can see the back of the Lincoln Memorial at Mile 10. The wind was stronger than expected so I realized all the runners were about to be exposed as we ran by the Waterfront and back up all the way to mile 16. Mile 12 is special and very somber. Turned off my music to run down the left side of the road to see and read the names, ages, and location of Marines who had died in combat. I didn’t turn music back on until mile 14. I spent mile 13 talking to my dad. Needless to say I had tears rolling down my face. HALF WAY POINT! I look down and my watch reads 2:15:40. I know it is time for a walk break. I have to slow down.
I really can’t recall any thoughts except for “keep moving forward.” There was tremendous crowd support and seeing the Capital in the distance I knew I wanted to have a good race pic there. Ran miles 15-16 with a man who was pushing his son with cerebral palsy. His son was dressed in Marine Dress Blues. I thanked him for his service. We turn right from The Capital and I spot the race photographer off on the right hand side. I manipulate my pace so there won’t be anyone in my shot….Big Smile!
BEAT THE BRIDGE! Marine Corps made announcement after announcement about having to beat the bridge by 1:15 pm or you would be deferred. My pace was never in trouble for that but it was one of the small race markers to achieve. The longest run in training was 2o miles so every step and stride after mile 20 was a personal best in time and distance. I needed that pick me up and motivation! Made the decision for race morning that I was not going to text anyone before the race started. I wanted my mind to be as quiet as possible. Crossing mile 20 I sent out a group text just to let people know how I was feeling. Every step and every stride was a personal best. I repeated this often. Crossing that bridge was brutal. Fully exposed to the winds and tired I had to fight and keep focusing on the next mile. My goal now was make it to Crystal City. Once in Crystal City it’s only a 5k left!!! This is my favorite picture of the race other than the finish line. It is mile 23.5 and it has begun to set in that I will finish a marathon. All the hours of training, the fatigue, the mental effort, honoring my dad, and all the love is starting to settle in my heart and mind.
Mile 24 –
We come out of an underpass and over a hill. I spot the Pentagon on my left and it hits me. The buses and security checkpoint this morning was across the street from the Pentagon!
Mile 25 –
I know that I am finishing in under 5 hours. Ouch! First time ever that I catch a cramp during a run. It’s my left calf so I step to the curb and slow stretch it to make sure it’s done. Downing more fluid while stretching, I see I am still ahead of pace. I think the starting line is just over the hill. Yes it is the starting line. I cross over it again and the crowds are substantial for the last two miles. They are leaning in on both sides of the road with signs and cheering. Off the left is Arlington Cemetery and I remember seeing a ceremony there last time I was in DC. I am about to finish a marathon!
Mile 26 and the .2!
There is that beautiful Mile 26 sign! I remember the last two songs on the playlist at this point. I listened to music most of the run but can’t remember much of it. I can see that we will run slightly downhill, make a hard left to quick climb a hill, and then a right turn to the finish. I can see the finish line! I turn left and hurry up the hill with Marines giving me the “OORAH!” That right turn is a combination of hearing all the crowds, thinking about my dad, smiles, and a few tears. Right before the finish line I say out loud “Love you Dad, this is for you!” My feet hit the line at 4:58:37!
Right after this picture is a fist pump along with saying out loud “Ryan, we did it!” Cannot say enough good things about my run coach Ryan Knapp. His dad inspired him into coaching and with Ryan’s guidance I was able to honor my dad.
I wasn’t hurting and made my way to the Marines handing out the medals. It is a special moment to have a Marine salute and put the medal around my neck. The medal is heavy! I tell him Semper Fi and that I ran to honor my dad. He replied “Oorah and thank your dad for serving.” Picture in front of Iwo Jima and then it’s time to eat!
Thank you all for being part of the journey!