After four months of on again, off again training, the big day finally arrived. This past weekend was the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC. In short, it was 26.2 miles of pure fun and agony. I'm not sure what I'm more happy about, to have finished the race in semi decent time, or to be finished with training and running. My finish time: 3 hrs 53 min, which comes to an 8:54/ mile- way off my 8:00/ mile pace and 3:30 finish back in the 2002 NY Marathon, but considering that up to the night before, I wasn't even sure what time I was going to try to run for, I'm pretty content with finishing under 4 hours.
The race weekend started with driving down to my in-laws home in South Jersey Friday night, followed by a mid Saturday morning trip with my wife and mother-in-law down to DC, checking into the Hilton Crystal City after grabbing a quick lunch while waiting for our room to be ready. The last 24 hours before a big race is always a little nerve-racking, especially in a different city. Food choice during those final hours before the race also becomes a concern. The pros recommend to keep it simple, no Mexican, Indian, anything that my cause an explosive oil slick on the race course. My lunch choice: Philly Cheese steak. A little risky? Yes, but I'm a sucker for a good philly steak sandwich. Go big or go home, I like to say, even when the phase doesn't make sense. Luckily, it didn't cause hell to my digestive system.
Saturday afternoon, after settling in the hotel, we took a trip to the race expo to pick up my bib number, and in the process hit the motherload of free race food- almost five pounds worth of power gels, shot bloks, sports jelly beans, and clif bars. I think I have enough race snacks for the next six races. We wrapped up the evening with a classic pasta dinner at a nearby neighborhood Italian restaurant.
The race day weather couldn't have been better- clear, blue skies, with temperatures hovering in the upper 40s / low 50s. After an impassioned military opening ceremonies, capped off with a flyby of two Osprey combat aircraft, the race was under way. During the first several miles, I actually thought I had a chance of beating my PR...then came mile 20. Even holding back my pace this time around, preparing for the last few miles couldn't avoid the physical wall I suddenly hit. It was as if every muscle in both my legs cramped all at the same time. When I took a moment to stretch one leg, the other leg seized up. I must have looked like a basket case. At that point, I realized that not only beating my personal best was beyond reach, but also just finishing under four hours was at risk. Fortunately, I was able to hobble my way to the finish, only walking briefly before some guy behind me gave me the only encouragement I needed to hear to finish strong: "Be a man." Not "you can do it," or "you're almost there." After all, this is the Marine Corp Marathon. Hooo Rahh!
My final stats are available for mile by mile analysis here