It’s finally over. I ran my first marathon yesterday. I finished the 2008 Marine Corps Marathon.
To start off I’d like to say that the Marine Corps had a first class organization going and I can’t say enough about how awesome all the marines were. What I’m about to write might seem like the most miserable experience in the world but it wasn’t. They were very encouraging and motivating. Even at the worst parts I caught myself smiling and laughing at something they said. I’ll never forget when we crossed mile 19 and I was hurting bad. There was a marine on a bullhorn telling us our time. He said it had been 4 hours and “That’s what you get for walking!” I laughed my ass off for a few minutes.
I also spent some time alongside the guy who wears the Teddy Roosevelt mascot gear at the Nationals game. RESPECT to that guy. I don’t know how he did it. That head is huge. It was hard to feel sorry for myself when I saw him chugging along.
Anyway, on to my run……
I woke up at 6am yesterday and managed to get out of the house at 6:45. If I didn’t know any better I would have thought that I was gonna be really early for the 8am start. This was my fourth race though so I knew that getting to the starting line was gonna take a lot longer then I’d expect. I was right. I got there with only 10 minutes to spare.
It was really cold yesterday morning. I went out with a t-shirt and shorts so I was REALLY cold. I knew, though, that once I started racing I would warm up considerably. It’s just another example of how important having some experience can be. I can’t overstate how important running those earlier races was. Every little thing that I worried about in the past was completely settled in my mind. What to wear, how to do my bib, my chip, where to line up, etc. I knew what I was doing. It was actually kind of bored as I made my way to the start. No jitters.
We lined up in a huge line according to our expected finish time. The faster you thought you were, the closer you were to the start. I picked the 5:30-6 hour corral which was in the back. I figured that since I ran a 2:30 half marathon a 5 hour marathon was unrealistic.
By the time that I crossed the start line the sun had broken and the temperature had risin considerably. I wasn’t cold at all. A few minutes in and I was already sweating. I don’t think I passed too many people in the beginning. I just wanted to keep a slow steady pace.
The first 13 miles were pretty uneventful. I cruised along without much difficulty until mile 14 when my legs started really getting tired. Things got worse every mile afterwards. I ended up with a mix of running and walking until about mile 20. That’s where I hit the wall.
I’d pretty much reached my goal by that point. The only concern I’ve ever had about this race was beating the bridge. You have to reach the bridge at mile 20 in 5 1/4 hours or they put you on a bus and you’re not allowed to finish. I spent a lot of time in those miles leading up to the bridge constantly telling myself that I had to beat the bridge. It turns out that I beat it with an hour to spare.
With my biggest motivation gone it was hard to keep running. Every part of my lower body was hurting. My feet, my knees, my calves, my quads…. EVERYTHING. After mile 20 I’d say I had a mix of about 95% walking and 5% extremely slow jogging. I didn’t feel too bad about it because I was surrounded by hundreds of people doing the exact same thing. I never had any doubt that I would cross that line but it seemed like it would take forever. Every step hurt but there was really nothing to do but gut it out.
I crossed the finish line at a few seconds over 6 hours. I wish I could say that I had some huge feeling of accomplishment but I didn’t. I was miserable. I just wanted to go home.
When I did get home I acted like the biggest baby in the world. My wife is an angel. She helped me take off my gear so I could take a shower. Then I sat on the couch and she brought me food and drinks while I moaned and groaned like I was gonna die. After I ate I went to bed and slept 14 hours. My night was spent alternating between shivering cold and profuse sweating. It was pretty rough.
It’s been 24 hours since the race and I feel MUCH better now. Almost good as new. Today I’m really happy that I ran that thing. Today I feel really proud. Today I can say that it was all worth it.