Marine Corps Marathon Recap: Trust This City

Living in DC and being a runner means you hear everything there is to say about this marathon; people fall into one of two categories – they’ve raced, or they’ve spectated. The bar is set high; people use this to BQ, to see what a first date with 26.2 might feel like, and if nothing else, to see if all this talk is true.

I used it as a way to welcome these legs back to their favorite city! They trust these streets; they knew what they were in for, good and bad.

Tie up those laces, we’re about to tackle 26.2 miles…


MCM Weekend 016

In the days leading up to this race I had so much anxiety – it was the best nervous feeling, but I knew reaching the goal wasn’t going to be easy. I had done the physical work; I had to prep my mind.

This is going to hurt; it’s going to be hard, and you may reach a point where every ounce of logic tells you to STOP. Do not stop. There’s nothing to lose – love the crowds, love the runners, love the cause, love the weather, love running in DC. {Words of wisdom from Kate.}

MCM Weekend 021

The plan changed: I was told there would be no 3:40 pacer – only 3:35 & 3:45.  I texted D to let him know (the original game plan: look for the 3:40 pacer!). “Guess I’ll be with the 3:35 instead ;)”. I found those balloons {the pacer’s balloons + sign} in the corral and remembered every comment from you; aim high, leave it all out there – shut up & get a 3:39….or better.

Mile 1, 8:35: The Start was as crowded as expected. It was nearly impossible to find a stride and avoid the potholes. It was too much effort to stay right with the Pacer, and I immediately thought to hold back, it’s okay right now. The balloons slowly faded ahead and I assessed how to settle in. After my first split, I set the Virtual Running Partner (aka Garmin’s pacer) on “8:20”, giving myself a push and a cushion at the same time.

Miles 2-5 {8:17, 8:07, 7:36, 7:52}: My legs settled in and took these miles in stride. I saw D at the end of Key Bridge, right where I expected him to be – the first sign that this day would go as planned!


Miles 6-8 {7:44, 8:02, 7:52}: We ran along a mostly-empty Canal Road (where are those crowds?!), up and around to circle back to Georgetown. I tried to focus more on effort than the “7’s” that seemed to keep popping up, or the hill we were inevitably running up to create the downhill I saw on the other side.

At mile 7, those balloons were within view. I thought “I’ll remember this as the mile that I caught up with the 3:35 pacer – the BQ is possible.” Halfway through that mile? I kept moving ahead; I passed the Pacer and never looked back.

MCM Weekend 022

Miles 9-12 {7:42, 7:46, 7:46, 7:52}: We ran through Georgetown, down by the Waterfront & right onto Rock Creek Park. As I stomped on the 15K timing pad I smiled like a first-time-marathoner – it feels amazing now, it will hurt later, and it’s all worth it!

For a few seconds I wondered if I should hold back. Too quickly my mind went straight to part of my National Half race report – “I stopped caring if I would eventually get too tired, because what if I didn’t?”

Marathon gods – whoever you are – RUN WITH ME. I’m trusting you. Make that true for this day, this race.

Miles 13-17 {7:52, 8:08, 7:59, 8:01, 8:07}: Oh, Haines Point. You win, with your hard-to-hate tree-lined streets and always-boring 3 mile loop. These miles brought both a push (half-way there!) and a dip into the mental fatigue. I had a 5-minute cushion on 3:40, seven miles until Kate joined me, and a long way to go.

Coming out of the bore I saw D again – HELLO!The bearer of good news – Kate’s coming early, mile 17!

Right where I expected her, she was jumping, dancing & so ready to go. “I can’t talk” {I’m SO GLAD you’re here.} “That’s okay! I’ll talk to you. Let’s do this!” {I have a job to do, and I know how to do it.}

I had accumulated 6 minutes & 30 seconds of cushion time…

Miles 18-23 {8:16, 8:11, 8:37, 8:33, 8:38, 8:40}: We visited the capital, seeing D every half-mile or so (Bike + flat Mall = spectating gold!), and finally reaching that elusive 20-mile mark – 14th street bridge ahead, and little to no excitement about tackling it. I found out why it has an infamous reputation – IT NEVER STOPS.

MCM Weekend 024.bMCM Weekend 025

I got reminders to swing my arms, keep my form, push off my legs. Up, down, up, down – WHY are we still on this bridge?! Deal with myself: make it to the end of this, and you can stop for water. Not that Kate would’ve allowed “stopping”, either way.

Finally we veered off, and that cold H2O has never tasted so good. Through Crystal City I saw Morgan & Katie (I yelled hi!), and every inch of me wanted to be done. At mile 23 – the Pacer {3:35} passed us. Kate realized then that we were ahead of schedule, and pointed at him – this is what you want! Pick it up! Uh-uh, it is not what I want right now, not today…

I felt like we were almost walking.

I actually got inside my own head and left a little egg of wisdom: Memo to self – when you remember these miles, you will think it didn’t hurt “that bad” – that you could have gone “faster”. No. THIS HURTS, just as much as you think it did. But, you CAN keep going; trust your legs, trust your pacer, trust this city. You will finish. You will beat your goal. This race will teach you everything.

Miles 24-26 {8:36, 9:04, 8:47 (o.2 – resetting to match the mile marker), 9:23}: These are the hardest miles I’ve run to date. I took two water stops, at least 10 sanity checks and glanced at the still-existing cushion-time on my watch.

Unless we walked the last mile (NOT Happening), I will finish under 3:40.

26-26.2 {10:49}:  The Iwo Jima hill – at this point, you could probably walk faster than you can run it – but without the same effect. Kate, “Do you want me to run it with you?” {You know you can do this.} “….? Okay, we’ll see you at the finish! You’ve got this, Heather. YOU’RE DOING THIS.”

I have never been happier to cross a Finish Line; I’m not even sure how I kept moving, who was around me, or how I walked through the Finisher’s corral.

I’ve never been happier to lay down, bundle up (those space blankets are miracles) and let it all soak in.

I left it all out there. It was not the smartest race I’ve ever run, but it is easily THE BEST. I believed in my legs, training & ability, but I still can’t believe I saw 3:38 on that clock.

MCM Finisher Page 11589 MCM PR
MCM PR gloryMCM weekend 063MCM Weekend 033
PR Medal shotMCM Weekend 037MCM Weekend 038MCM Weekend 048

Marine Corps Marathon – 10/30/2011
3:37:32 – avg 8:18

Gender: 314 / 8,552
Division: 80 / 1763
Overall: 1733 / 20, 940


Thank you, again, for support, congrats, love, etc. I can’t say that enough!
Another thanks for reading & sticking through the end! When I pick another 26.2, I want to remember that this is possible, and that the BQ will be mine.



Filed under DC, Goals, good days, learning, marathon, MCM, pictures, race report, things that make me Happy

86 responses to “Marine Corps Marathon Recap: Trust This City

  1. Goosebumps. This post is SO inspiring. You could make anyone want to do a marathon. natural poise and grace. Cannot keep talking about how impressed I am with you. Your game plan really opened my eyes to the breakdown of the miles. Great overview!

    • Heather C

      “You could make anyone want to do a marathon…” – or hopefully at least think that it’s possible, right? I’d love to do one with you! London??

  2. AWESOME report! Not too long at all. 🙂 I love reading about all those little “moments” along the way. When you realize it’s possible, to holding on to that goal for dear life, to recognizing that you are doing it. AHHH gives me goosebumps. Totally knew you had it in you!! Way to hang in there at the end when it got REALLY hard and make it count.

    You’re so right that you look back and forget just how hard it was in that moment. I love that you have this documented.

    CONGRATS AGAIN CHICA! BQ on the next one, or even 3:30 (which I believe you had until 30K?) Woot!!

    • Heather C

      Thank you!! WIsh it counted for this year – or at least that they held registration until November, like they used to! Dang. Oh well, just a push for the next one… 😉 And yes, I was on pace for ~3:32-33 for a long time. Lesson in pacing: check!

  3. Thanks for the inspiring post. What an incredible run!!! I’m so happy for you. Are you or Kate for hire for my next BQ attempt? 😀

  4. CONGRATS!!! Amazing run and awesome recap- I love that it’s about more than just the running while you were on the course. 😉

    • Heather C

      Isn’t it always? Sometimes we forget we actually have to TELL the legs to move, they don’t always want to do it on their own. 😉 Thanks, Heather!

  5. Jessica

    Congrats Heather on the PR. It sounds like you had a great race!

  6. You did SUCH a great jog – I’m so proud of you! Also – the point about being able to walk the Iwo Jima hill faster than running at that point? I’m totally with you. I might have muttered at someone to “move out of the way” because I was past charity at that point, and just had to keep my momentum.

    • Heather C

      Ha, I think we are all past any point of cohesive thought by the time that hill comes along. We did it! PRs all around 🙂

  7. cisforcourtney

    Congratulations again!!!! A very inspiring & wonderful recap! Way to go girl!

  8. This is amazing. Your thoughts bring back memories of my first marathon in May, although my purpose was to just finish. I swore for a couple months after that race that I’d NEVER do another marathon, but after reading so many great posts about the Marine Corp Marathon, it makes me want to do another. Yes, as runners, we are masochistic. I’m sending you a virtual high five! Congrats! Enjoy your accomplishment, you deserve some rest and a beer 😉

    • Heather C

      At lunch after the race I was swearing up and down that I wouldn’t do another one for a LONG time (or ever)…that lasted all of 24 hours. 🙂

      Thanks, Melissa!

  9. Please, no apologies for a lengthy recap! I think you cut it pretty short considering! Loved reading your PR story…and can empathize with every step. Though my MCM was quite different, I had these same feelings in Baltimore two weeks ago! Congratulations!!!!!!!!!! That’s awesome 🙂

    • Heather C

      Ha, there was a lot of mental debate about how much detail to include – always the case when I recap races! Especially 26+ miles…

      Thank you!! So you did MCM and Baltimore?? Seems to be a popular double – I can’t imagine my legs being ready for another one so soon, hah. Congrats to you, too!

  10. You’re awesome, girl. Way to go!
    Love this: “I stopped caring if I would eventually get too tired, because what if I didn’t?”

  11. Wow wow wow!! What a great recap Heather!! So proud + excited for you. Huge congratulations for an outstanding race. Love all of the photos!! xo

  12. Dustin S

    What a fantastic story! I love it!! Congratulations Heather!

  13. I have tingles from reading this!! You are SUCH a running inspiration to me — I could totally sense the drive and push and your give-it-your-all-ness at the end of this race. You never gave up on you — which is huge, and something I need to harness and to always remember, especially as I stare down 26.2 of my own next year. But it’s also good practice everyday, not just in marathon-land…never give up on you. AWESOME post, awesome job lady, you rock!!

  14. Ivan

    As Epod said, you did “a great jog”! You looked downright giddy at the finish and at brunch, was so happy to see you accomplish your goal!

    I looked for you around mile 17.25 by the Monument, but I must have missed you since I was eyeballing the runners closely when I saw the 3:35 pacer … but by then, it had been too late.

    • Heather C

      ” You looked downright giddy at the finish ” By the time we saw you guys, my half-hour don’t-make-me-move phase had worn off, and the high had definitely set in. 🙂

  15. major congrats to you!! that’s amazing how well you were able to push through. i did not realize exactly how terrible the 14th street bridge was until sunday. i very easily could’ve given up there (and got pretty darn close). that part is just awful!!! i definitely felt like i was walking faster than i could run towards the end too. man oh man! so happy for you meeting your goal – well done!

    • Heather C

      Thank you, Sally! I had no idea how bad that bridge was, either! Normally when I run that bridge, it’s from trail to trail, and on the pedestrian side. Who knew it was SO long?! I guess now we know… 🙂

  16. I love your recap – you did such a great job keeping your focus! Thanks for sharing. I’ve got a race this weekend and I know I can hit my goal but fear sometimes holds me back. I’m focusing this week to try to set my mind that yes it will hurt, but yes I can do it. Congrats on your PR and a great race!!

  17. I love everything about this, but especially the part where you realize that later, you’ll try to call yourself out for not trying hard enough—which is another way of double-checking that you are, in fact, trying your hardest, both mentally and physically. It’s that kind of mental stamina and toughness—the ability to read the situation on the ground and adjust accordingly, even if the situation on the ground is that you feel slow and horrible—that earned you that goal time. Congratulations, girl!

    • Heather C

      It’s almost funny to me how clearly I remember that moment (getting inside my own head) – even exactly where I was in Crystal City, telling myself to remember this.

      Thank you, Amy! Glad to read that you had a great race day, too 🙂

  18. Amazing race/recap! This is so inspiring and a great reminder about how mental races really can be. I’m bookmarking it so when I’m facing my first race post recovery, I can re-read your mental strength to beef up my toughness. Again, congrats on a faaaantastic race!

  19. Chills ALL OVER! I’m so proud of you. You epitomize going for your goals and giving it your ALL! I’m such a sap, but I got tears in my eyes thinking about D on his bike cheering you on. I know those moments of seeing him must have given you little boosts of energy from his support. Love the recap. Every word. xoxo

    • Heather C

      Thank you! 🙂 Means a lot. And yes, seeing D all over was the best feeling – he is quite the spectator + photographer!

  20. I love when I can feel the emotions you’re writing about through your words. I am so proud of you and can’t even imagine how happy you must be feeling right now, still, days later! So sad I wasn’t able to give you that congratulatory hug but know that it would have been huge, involved tears of joy for you, and more than a few squeals of happiness!

    • Heather C

      Thanks, Red! 🙂 It was so fun to see you on the course, even if I couldn’t catch your eye in time ( I still saw those pants!).

  21. Hot dang! You had a great race. It’s amazing how much marathons are as much mental as they are physical and sometimes even more so because you have to talk yourself OUT of just stopping and walking. It’s not easy. So helpful to have speedy pacers who believe you can do it even when you question yourself (aka I need to find a speedy pacer for the next marathon). 🙂 Awesome JOB! PS – Love the white zip up (lulu I’m assuming) in one of those photos.

    • Heather C

      In my experience, they are entirely mental after the half-way point! The body is physically prepared, but it’s hard to *think* you have that much distance to cover. Having a pacer/friend jump in was huge – definitely think about roping in a friend next time 😉

      The white pull-over is lulu, of course. It’s my fave!

  22. I’m so proud of you for pushing yourself so hard and meeting your goal! This is how I felt when I ran my sub-2 half at the beginning of the month. I pushed SO HARD and left absolutely everything out there on the course. It’s the best feeling.

    Bask in this huge accomplishment and PR!!!

    • Heather C

      It’s almost a good thing we forget how hard it is, almost immediately after, right?? 🙂 Yes, crossing that Finish line knowing everything is gone is an amazing feeling.

  23. J

    Great race report! I agree with marlene – it is great to hear about all the little moments in the race – fun to see when you realize it is possible and then holding on for dear life and then realizing you are doing it! Great job and Congrats! Well deserved!

  24. Sounds like you had an awesome race! Way to go! I was out there too for my first marathon ever. Wasn’t it great to see Morgan and Katie between 22-23? They definitely gave me a well-needed boost.

    • Heather C

      Thanks!! I hope you had a good first-26.2 day! 🙂 Yes, it was awesome to see them – those miles were rough, to say the least!

  25. What a freaking awesome recap. I love how you worked through this. And you’re right, on paper, it might not be the smartest race ever, but it’s yours and it’s what you did and that’s magic.

    Also, I love that we missed you because of how far ahead you were! Thom texted me your time when I was running with my friend and as soon as I saw it I started jumping up and down. I’m so happy for you!

  26. runningoutofsteam

    That was awesome! The picture of your hand with your timing on it…I will be using that…especially since I have decided to do another half. That decission is because I don’t feel like I put it all out there.

    Nice job finishing in FASTER than your goal.

    • Heather C

      Thank you! The hand-memo comes highly recommended – it was a necessary reminder, and a great mood-booster. 🙂

      Go for that half!

  27. You are amazing! Great post!

  28. Congrats again on the new PR! I loved reading this race report. I definitely need to have your attitude when I tackle in Philly in 3 weeks!

  29. Great job! It sounds like you also got to see some interesting things making it more of an adventure.

  30. WOW! I’m a little late in reading your recap, but still wanted to say WAY TO GO, Heather! I was rooting for you and love how your life plans shifted with the move but goal (and outcome!) Did not. What a day to remember; well done! 🙂

  31. Bri

    You’re an inspiration! Congrats on a great race! You nailed it! And yes, that BQ will be yours 🙂

  32. Lauren

    Bah this post made me tear up!! I am so proud of you! You seriously have a way of making anyone and everyone want to run a race. This recap was awesome. I felt like I was there! I wish I could have been there to cheer you on and run with you! However, you probably would have run faster than me in the last 7 miles of your marathon…defeating the purpose of having someone run with you to keep you up to speed. Hmm…let’s just keep it that when we run half marathons together you come find me after you finish, yea?? 😉 National Half March 17th?? I think YES! Thank you for being such a wonderful role model for me 🙂

  33. Lazy Runner

    What an amazing RACE!!! Congrats on your BQ!!!!

    • Heather C

      Thank you!! Wish it still counted as a BQ – but just more motivation to run faster next time 😉

      Congrats to you, too! You took quite a chunk off your PR, right?

  34. Lazy Runner

    So happy for you and your BQ, congrats on an amazing race! Super jealous that you live in DC

  35. Amazing. Read every word!

  36. Mamacita

    I heart this post! Again we are so proud of you. Dad sent the link to MH – maybe you will hear from her. Great recap of a fantastic run!
    Love, Mamacita

  37. Jen

    Congrats Heather! That was such an inspiring race recap! Great job 🙂

  38. lizard151

    Yes! Congratulations–what a great run. Way to stay strong through the hell that is the last 6 miles of this race.

  39. Congrats!! That is an awesome recap – and not very long in my opinion! It was fun to read along. You should be very proud of yourself. You gave it your all and earned every minute of that 20 minute PR. That’s huge. I shaved 28 minutes off my marathon between my first & second and am hoping to shave another 20 minutes off when I run my next one next fall!

  40. Yes, that steep hill at the very end was just RUDE.
    Congratulations on not only meeting, but exceeding your goal!!!

  41. Incredible PR! Taking 20 minutes off of your 26.2 in Denver I’m sure was no easy feat. I remember reading that recap and thinking how fast you were … and then you went and blew that time out of the water at Marine Corps! There’s no doubt in my mind that you WILL BQ in the near future 🙂 Great job and congrats on a phenomenal race. You are an inspiration Heather 🙂

  42. Pingback: Yoga Adventures: Working on the Fly | Dietitian on the Run

  43. I just found your blog and WOW that was quite a race! I’m coming up to my first full marathon in 3 weeks and couldn’t be more pumped to run it now! Can’t wait to regularly read your blog!

  44. Heather – I just now got to reading your race recap (as I am still trying to write the second part of mine). CONGRATS on meeting your goal! Amazing job! I loved the Marine Corps and was so glad it was my first! The bridge is a beast – worst than I could have imagined (and I had run it before from Mt. Vernon trial into DC – didn’t seem NEARLY as bad then). Then the Crystal City out and back was such a cruel tease – seeing all of the runners that were a mile to two ahead of you! I kept thinking the turn-around would happen at any minute but it took forever. Congrats again – I see a BQ in your future!

  45. Pingback: 2011: The Loud Year | Dietitian on the Run

  46. Pingback: Finally! « Melanie M. Sidwell

  47. Pingback: MCM Week: Race Prep, Gear & OMG | Dietitian on the Run

Let's Hear It!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s