44th Marine Corps Marathon: Prep, Packet Pick-up and Race Day

The 44th Marine Corps Marathon; my first ever attempt at the marathon distance. Leading up to this race I have cycled through all the feels, I am nervous, excited and also don’t know what to expect.

I am no stranger to endurance events. I have previously completed a ironman 70.3 as well as numerous half marathons. However, a marathon is different. It takes a certain level of commitment and drive to run 26.2 miles.

Preparation and Training

My training leading up to the marathon was far from picture perfect. I will not go into the details of why this is, I am not one to make excuses. However, what I can say is that recently I have made some changes in my life. That is the best thing you can do when facing obstacles. Make the necessary changes and keep pushing forward. Whatever you do, do not get stuck wallowing in the defeats.

Despite a less then perfect training cycle; I did the best that I could to ensure that I would succeed. Two weeks prior to the marathon I ran 16 miles buttressed with 4 miles for a total of 20. Following that I tapered down accordingly to ensure my legs would be fresh on race day.

Additionally I focused strongly on nutrition and hydration. While I generally eat a well balanced diet inclusive of all key nutrients; I also have one hell of a sweet tooth. So in the weeks leading up to the race I really focused on limiting those simple sugars, all well ensuring all meals had adequate protein in addition to good carbs and fats.

Last long run before the marathon!

Hydration is absolutely a key to success. Hydration prior to a big race must begin at least the week before. Focus on both water as well as electrolytes. Hydration with water alone is not always enough, especially during times of intensive activities. Electrolytes need to be replaced as well.

A top choice of mine for electrolyte replacement is Nuun. It is a tablet they you just drop into 16oz. The tablet will fizz and dissolve into a yummy electrolyte drink with all the essential electrolytes without the added dyes, chemicals or excessive sugars! In addition to their sports tablets they also have tablets that support immunity as well as ones vitamins.

Packet Pick-up

Packet pick-up is always fun, buzzing with excitement and the Marine Corps Marathon expo was no exception. Packet pick-up was located at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at the National Harbor.

Packet pick-up itself was seamless and quick. You grab your number and then your t-shirt and head on into the Health and Fitness Expo. There were a number of great vendors there offering all things relating to running and fitness.

Pace car at the expo with everyone’s signatures!

I personally bought one of the brooks MCM quarter zips. I wanted something to celebrate my first marathon!

Marathon

Marathon day was a mix of emotions. I was nervous, excited, and worried about the weather. The predicted rain and warm weather made picking out an outfit the night before difficult. I wanted something where I would be warm enough for the cooler rains earlier in the race, but not get too hot later in the race once the sun came out. So I decided on a rabbit crop hop, oiselle shorts with a throw away layer on top to keep me warm during the beginning of the race.

Additionally, I wore a giant trash bag to keep me (somewhat) dry along with bags over my run kicks to keep my feet warm and dry until I started the race. It made a difference and I highly recommend it to anyone who finds themselves trudging to the starting line in the rain.

Rainy race morning

For race day transportation I took the metro to Pentagon Station, the closest metro stop to the start line. After arriving at Pentagon Station it was still a mile walk to get to the start line. I made it to the start line just in time. But, due to droves of people I didn’t officially cross the start until about 8:15. The high number of participants in the Marine Corps Marathon means that the start is crowded. My recommendation is to have patience. Bobbing and weaving in and out of people will only exhaust you more. Relax into an easy pace; the crowds will thin out within a few miles.

The first 3 miles or so I felt stiff and my hip was bothering me a little bit. Likely is was from the cool rain making me muscles a little tighter than usual. Once I warmed up though I felt great. I fell into a nice rhythm. The race plan was to run 9 min and walk 1 min. All in an effort to conserve energy for later in the race.

The weather was a wild ride. It started off with an on and off drizzle that turned into an absolute torrential downpour with ankle deep puddles, only to have the sun come out around mile 17. Once the sun came out the temperature quickly reached into the mid to high 70’s and the air felt hot and muggy.

The first few miles had the worst of the hills. It almost feels like you are going uphill for a good 2 miles which then turns into a whole lot of downhill before one last climb around mile 4. The remainder of the course overall felt pretty flat, with the exception of that last uphill climb right before the finish.

Elevation chart of the MCM 2019 course based off my Strava data

By mile 3 I was warmed up and fell into a nice rhythm. I cruised until about mile 11-12 when I started struggling. I got it back and found my pace again. Getting past mile 17 was the biggest relief for me. I huge weight lifted off my shoulders and I knew that, even though I had 9.2 miles left to run, I would make it.

This is fine, I am fine…

Around mile 20 I was feeling so good, then it hit me. The fatigue, the pain. I could barely pick my legs up. But I only had 6.2 miles left, I wouldn’t give up now. They say you run the last 6.2 miles with your heart. That saying couldn’t be more true. So I pushed on despite my body wanting to stop.

By that last mile I had found a whole new gear. I raced up that last hill, using everything I had left to get over that finish line. It was the most amazing feeling. Crossing that finish line I became a marathoner.

My eyes welled up as I walked to the line of marines handing out the medals and, close to tears, choked up a thank you as they placed the medal around my neck. I never in my life imagined I would make it this far. But, then here I was standing on the other end of 26.2 with a finisher medal around my neck.

So I say this to everyone who needs to hear it: you can do hard things. You are worthy of obtaining everything you are working towards. So keep taking steps forward, improvise if you need to, but keep moving forward.

Happy Running Everyone!

-E

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