Throughout nearly all 26.2 miles I was thinking about the story. I was reflecting back on what brought me to this day, why I was trying to propel my body for so many miles, and how the completion would change me. After all, what is the point if you don’t know the answers to these questions. Instead of giving you a mile-by-mile breakdown of the race, I’d like to talk about what conclusions to this questions I cam up with, and what I learned in the process.
As you may know, this was my second marathon. The motivation changed this go round, as I was no longer working to see if I could finish, but how I could finish. I already knew that my body could carry me 26 miles, and that I had the will to push through some pain. What I didn’t know was much faster I could move those legs, and if I could actually improve on my time. This change in perception allowed me to focus on different workouts, bring in speed, tempos, and more focused mileage. The road to the Marine Corps Marathon was not necessarily easier than Baltimore, but it certainly felt more at home.
To put it simply, this race can be summed up in two phrases. A strong 20 mile warm-up, and a brutal 6.2 mile race. After crossing over the bridge one last time going back into Virginia, I totally fell apart. A big gust of wind came baroling down the Potomac, and a collective “Uhhh” came from the dozen or so runners near me. About half of them started to walk right then. My head was gone, my legs starting to feel like jello, and my back was killing me. It was this point that I asked myself, “why are you doing this?” I have to admit, the only answer I could come up with at the time was, “because you worked so damn hard to get here.” That was enough. That was enough to put one foot in front of the other, not to walk (even though a fat old man could have probably walked faster), and finish up the race.
As I climbed the last hill and saw Team Hay in the stands cheering me on to the finish, I started to whimper. I can’t call it a cry, because I didn’t even have it in me to produce a tear. It was then that I realized how this was going to change me. Not only was I about to become a multi-marathon finisher, but I was about to accomplish something that for the longest 50 minutes of my life I had no desire to do.
Overcoming obstacles is usually one of those cheesy things that people talk about in motivational speeches, but for me, on Halloween day, it was real. There is nothing more empowering than doing something you were not sure you could do. It is addicting, awakening, and uplifting. I not only ran 26.2 miles, but I did it over 15 minutes faster than the year before.
The hour or so following the marathon I felt like total crap. I wasn’t sure if I was going to puke, pass out, or just straight die. But after a few minutes of sitting down, a banana (thanks sister), and some support from my family and KFB, the feeling of total physical emptiness quickly because a feeling of great pride and warmth. It was just a few hours later that I had forgotten how horrible the last 50 minutes felt, and how much I can’t wait to do it again.
A few things I learned with this year’s race:
- Great fans go to great lengths to hunt you down. Team Hay caught me 7 times! They were all over this city.
- When you start speeding up a little, and pass the pacer carrying the balloons, you can really surprise those fans as they are not expecting you. Felt kind of good!
- If you notice several people yelling, “hey nice hair!” It probably isn’t you, and it probably is a guy wearing a wig coming up behind you…so don’t get self conscious.
- Don’t let, “I’m feeling good” fool you…because you probably wont be “feeling good” later.
- Running a home marathon is great. You feel connected, it is easier when you know the course, and you are proud it is your city. Plus you get to go right home after the race.
- You can do it! And next time, you can do it even faster.