Going in to the Marine Corps Marathon, I was so excited. I was excited for the energy on the course, for running 26.2 miles in my hometown race, to shake a Marine’s hand at the end and to have them hang a medal around my neck and salute me.
I had put in solid training and managed to get over my nasty food poisoning last week in time to carb load before the race. When my alarm went off at 4 a.m., I was nervous, excited and ready to run.
You can always tell my level of nervousness before a race by the number of time I use the porta-potties before the start. Set a new record before MCM…4 trips to the porta-potty because of nerves. HA that’s just sad for me.
We got into our corrals, listened to the National Anthem, watched the fly over and next thing we knew the cannon was sounding and we were moving.
Miles 1-8: All major hills on this course are in the first eight miles. I knew that going in, and my plan was to really, really try to hold back during these miles and save my energy for later in the race. I started out running 10 minute miles, which was still a little bit faster than I wanted, but the first few hills quickly knocked my splits down. I ran with Megan for a little bit, but we separated not long after mile two.
Mile four crossing the Key Bridge was amazing. The spectator support was fantastic, the crowds were loud and I was feeling good. As we turned on to Canal Road, I felt that sharp, biting pain in my foot again that I experienced during the Woodrow Wilson Half a few weeks ago. It hurt every time my foot hit the ground. Not great when you still have a lot of miles to run.
Miles 9-14: The pain in my foot eventually faded away somewhere near mile 9 as we cruised in to Georgetown. I think this was my favorite part of the race. The crowds were several deep, and they were loud. I was smiling like a fool the whole time and was starting to feel awesome. I was able to pick up my pace a little bit and just relax and roll through these miles. I was having fun!
I saw my friends for the first time a little past mile 10 and I was riding such a running high. I felt amazing, everything felt great, I was ready to cruise through the rest of this race. Oh and I also saw Bart Yasso near mile 10 and he cheered for me!
Miles 15-19: A little before the mile 15 marker, my right hip started to tighten and then hurt and then my form was kind of jacked up. I slowed down to loosen things up and knew I was going to see my friends again soon so I pushed through. I got to the spot where my friends were supposed to be, and they weren’t there. I thought I had missed them, that I was running too slow and they had moved on to the next point. It was a strangely crushing blow, but I tried to push it out of my mind and keep going.
I got to mile 16, made the turn to head out to the Mall and up ahead saw the bright orange “Go Jess” sign my friend Emily had made. A sense of relief flooded me and I immediately felt better. I hadn’t missed them after all!
By mile 18, the tightness in my hip was bad, so I pulled off to the side of the road to stretch. That seemed to help for a little bit and I was able to keep moving.
Miles 20-22: Deep, deep mental despair. My friends had planned to be a little before mile 20, but I didn’t see them, which was again an emotionally crushing blow. But then seconds later, I saw my friend Virginia and I was super happy again! (My emotions were all over the place in this race.) These miles kick you out on to the 14th Street bridge and then take you back into Virginia to wrap up the race. There is no crowd support. It’s just you and boring highway. This is the first time I put my music in during the race because I was seriously wondering if I’d be able to finish. I also had to stop on the bridge to stretch again because my hip hurt so bad.
Mile 23: Crystal City. There were cheering people. I pulled my music out again and tried to soak in some of the energy from the crowd. I passed one of my coworkers and it was so, so nice to see a friendly face this late in the race. I also made a friend with a guy when we were both taking a walk break up one of the hills. It was nice to have someone to chat with.
Mile 24: Will this race never end?!?!
Mile 25: More boring highway. Oh hey, there’s Bart Yasso again! My legs hurt and I walked a lot. A random runner told me that I was so close and that I was going to finish. Thanks kid, hearing that helped me start running again. My friends saw me at some point close to the finish and got this picture. My form doesn’t actually look terrible for this late in the race!
Mile 26: Final turn up the hill, digging deep for that last bit of energy. Tons of crowd support, screaming fans, the announcer saying my name (and being unable to pronounce my last name at all. A for effort though, my last name is tough.) and then crossing the finish line with a big dopey smile on my face.
I finished in 4:45:15. That’s about two minutes slower than my PR. I had been hoping to break 4:30, and at the half way point, I thought that was still a possibility. But it wasn’t in the cards for me yesterday. I’m not upset with my time. Sure, I wish I would have gone faster, but any day you run 26 miles, it’s something to be proud of.
The Marines put on an amazing race. It was well organized, well run and a hell of a lot of fun (except for those boring stretches of highway). I’m so glad I did this race. I’ve been wanting to for years, but next year, I will be happy to be back as a spectator. I’m done with fulls for a little while.
Huge congrats to everyone who ran yesterday, especially Emily, Aila, Megan, Zach and Jason!
And a million thanks to all my amazing friends who came out and cheered for me! Knowing I was going to see you guys got me through some of the toughest parts of the course!