Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Marine Corps Marathon: An Experience

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Here is a special Tuesday post.  This is a little belated since the race was a month ago, but I went on a long vacation right after, and late is better than never.  M and I had both been planning to run the Marine Corps Marathon this year, unfortunately a late injury has forced M to defer until next year so this review is coming solely from my experience. 

I had run two marathons prior to this one, and while both were good races that I was simply happy to finish, the MCM was an experience.  I had not initially planned to run a marathon this year, however a good friend of mine decided to enter and raise money for a charity that means a lot to her.  This was her first marathon, so eventually I decided the best way I could support and motivate her was to enter and also raise money for the charity.  I just need to say a real quick thank you to all of my friends and family who were beyond generous in donating, they put me comfortably above the minimum fundraising goal.

I started my training in late June, and in the beginning my training was going great.  Unfortunately, because of travel and life in general my training towards the end was not as strong as I would have liked.  I did the last really long training run with my friend at the beginning of October, and let's just say it didn't go great for me (she rocked it however).  Two weeks before the race I came down with a horrible sinus infection, that honestly is still plaguing me a bit.  The week of the race I was nervous to say the least.  This was the first time I had ever run for charity, so I felt a lot of pressure to run and finish because so many people had been so generous, but I honestly was questioning how the race would go and if I would in fact be capable of finishing.  That's when I just let go of all self-imposed pressure.  I told myself time didn't matter, how much I walked didn't matter, the only thing I would not let myself do was quit.

I forced myself to rest up all week leading up to the race, and miraculously I felt fairly healthy when I woke up bright and early on race day.  Maybe it was because I had already done two marathons before, but I felt the calmest I have ever felt before a race that morning, and I felt completely ready.  Once the race started I told myself to just do my own thing and enjoy the experience, and I stuck to that.  I paid attention to the shirts people around me were wearing, I saw a man who's shirt said he had had open heart surgery in August and was lucky to be alive and running that day, and I saw one man who was running his 100th marathon.  I also saw more "In Memory of" shirts than I care to count, and I almost completely broke down in tears every time I saw one of those shirts in memory of a lost husband on the back of a young a woman who looked around my age.  And perhaps it should also be clarified, these shirts were all recognizing lost military service men and women.  Every shirt I saw made me think about the danger our military service members place themselves in for me, and whatever your politics are regarding the wars I think we can all agree we owe these men and women on the ground a huge thank you.  And if the numerous memory shirts weren't enough to get my tear ducts working, mile 12 had signs with pictures and names of fallen soldiers, some of whom were only 18 or 19 years old, it was a very touching mile.  Fortunately after that there were a couple of miles of funny and inspiring signs to pump me back up, but I did truly appreciate the one mile of pure reflection.

When running a marathon I typically hit my wall around mile 17.  True to form I hit it in the same place this time, however I did not hit it nearly as hard as in previous races.  I had been keeping pace with my friend, who was totally rocking the race, and while I generally felt fantastic I really needed to slow down a bit, so I did.  I let her go on ahead of me and I slowed my pace to keep my breathing even, I ate some orange slices, and carried right on forward at my new pace.  I happily finished the race about 15 minutes behind my friend, and again almost burst into tears when a Marine put my medal around my neck and saluted me, a gesture I did not feel at all deserving of.  26.2 miles in no way compares to the tremendous service these men and women provide for our country.

I have run countless races at this point in my life, but this one race stands out far above and beyond the others as my favorite race.  This was the first race I have run where I didn't care about my time in the end, where I let myself fully enjoy the energy of the people and the crowd around me, and it was the only race that has ever made me reflect so much on how lucky I am. 

I have learned not to say that I will never run a full marathon again; however I do think there is a strong chance that this will be my last full, if so I couldn't be happier to end my marathoning on such a high note.

Don't you love the photobomber behind me

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