Recap: 2012 Marine Corps Marathon

I’m not sure where to start.

So much has happened in the past three days that it’s hard to find a place to start this recap, so I’ll just tell it from the beginning.

Pre-race
I arrived in DC on Saturday afternoon to beautiful skies, warm temperatures and trees decorated in the full, colorful glory of fall. After meeting up with my friends at our hotel near the start line, we traveled for what felt like forever on the Blue Line to the MCM Expo at the DC Armory. Picking up our bibs in a tent across from the actual armory was a piece of cake, thanks to the efficient nature of U.S. Marines.

Posing at the Expo. My shirt is too big.

The MCM Expo at the DC Armory

Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathon and Marathon representing at the Expo

The expo turned out to be smaller than I thought it would be. There wasn’t much merchandise left, and what was being sold was only available in XL and XXL sizes, which brings me to this question: “How many XXL sizes did you need to stock for marathon runners?” After perusing the booths for awhile, I said goodbye to the group and headed back across the Potomac to Virginia to meet up with my siblings for dinner.

Both my beautiful sisters, Melissa and Donna, made the trip to DC to watch me run. Melissa had never stepped foot on a plane before, and neither of them had been to DC, so this was a weekend of firsts for all of us. We ate dinner at an Italian restaurant in Old Town Alexandria, where the streets were abuzz with people dressed in Halloween costumes.

Myself, Donna and Melissa having pasta (which I’m over) for dinner.

I bid adieu to my sisters and made my way back to my room, where I was sure I wouldn’t get any sleep. I never sleep before races. I usually just lie there, occasionally drifting off and waking up terrified of missing the start time. This time was different. Three minutes after my head hit the pillow, I was out like a light.

I woke up at 5:00, and it took a few minutes for me to realize that THIS was the day I’d been working toward for a long time. I showered, went through my pre-race prep (I forgot to put on deodorant. Sorry, everyone who ran near me.), dressed and headed down to the lobby to meet up with my friends. We walked from our hotel in Crystal City to the MCM shuttle location, where a long line had already formed. Once again, the orderliness and efficiency of a military-driven event came through, and we were on the bus to the runners village in no time.

All week long, Hurricane Sandy threatened the race with heavy gusts and torrential downpours. I quickly checked the weather on my phone and saw a strong line of thunderstorms approaching Baltimore. I was convinced that this was going to be a cold, wet 26 miles and 385 yards.

Pre-race group pic.

We all went to our respective corrals (based on expected time of finish), and I found myself somehow alone with 30,000 other runners. I was determined to meet a pacing friend, and I found Lynn, a mother of two from Atlanta who was running her fifth marathon (third MCM). She had planned to finish in five hours, so I asked if she would pace me for the first few miles. I have a terrible tendency of running way too fast at the beginning of races and paying for it later. I knew that if I did that with a marathon, I would be a goner.

Race
Confession: when the howitzer fired, I instantly had to poop.

It took about 20 minutes for Lynn and I to cross the start line, but when we did, there was an instant rush of adrenaline that washed over me. Fighting back the urge to run as fast as I could, I held back, checking the pace on a borrowed watch to make sure I was on track.

Making our way to the start line!

The course took us past throngs of supporters and into the streets of Rosslyn, where, somehow, there were even more supporters. I’m pretty sure I had a goofy smile on my face through these first couple miles. This was happening! I was running a marathon!

We climbed the inclines of northern Virginia and coasted on the downhills, all the while dodging the swarm of runners all around us. At mile four, we crossed the Key Bridge into Georgetown, and I made myself do something that was mentally very, very tough for me – I walked. I knew that I wasn’t going to run the entire marathon, and that I would need to conserve energy, I’d promised myself that I would walk through the water stops, and this was already the second one (I skipped the first…and a few others). So for 60 seconds, I walked, even though I still had a ton of adrenaline coursing through my veins.

When we picked back up again, we were coming off the end of the bridge, and out of nowhere (and I mean nowhere), I saw my friend, Matt, coming back toward me from the out-and-back loop. He was flying. I yelled out to him and continued on my way. I’d picked up the pace a bit, and Lynn stuck with me for awhile, but then, just like that, she was gone. Lynn, if you’re reading this, I hope you finished strong and made your family proud.

Climbing a hill at mile 7 in Georgetown, things got crazy congested. Supporters were crowding the sides of the street, which was narrow, anyway. I felt someone touch my back, and I whipped around to see my friend, Kyle, running beside me. I was now less than a third of the way into the race, and I’d somehow managed to see two of the five people I knew running. Kyle and I chatted for a minute, but she’s a run/walker, so our paces didn’t align enough for us to carry on a huge conversation, so we told each other good luck and went about our way.

As we entered the main thoroughfare of Georgetown, the crowds grew immensely. There was so much energy in the streets, and my smile was still beaming from ear to ear. One of the bands in this area was playing “Brown Eyed Girl,” and all the racers sang along with the chorus. I was having a blast.

Around mile 9, I passed a woman holding a sign cheering on The T-Rex Runner (read her recap), and I yelled out to her, “Hey, I follow that blog!” Her response: “She’s right behind you.” I turned around to see Danielle about 10 feet behind me. We hugged right there in the middle of the race and wished each other good luck. I found out later from runner extraordinaire Dan that she and I were within a few minutes of each other for pretty much the entire marathon.

Mile 11 (which somehow turned out to be my fastest mile at 9:08) took us toward Hains Point, a desolate area with few supporters and plenty of wind from the approaching frankenstorm. It was cold, and I started to get tired, but nothing hurt, so I kept pushing on. Mile 15 brought my favorite sign of the race: “If this was easy, it would be called your mom.” Fantastic.

At mile 16, I pulled out my phone and sent a text to my sisters to let them know where I was. Our meeting point was in front of the Smithsonian, just past the 30k mark, which was still three miles away. While I still felt fine, I was really starting to tire.

So much like I do on long training runs, I zoned out. Wherever the person in front of me was going, I was going.

Lost in my mind’s fogginess, all of a sudden, I heard someone yelling my name. And it was from familiar voices. I looked up to see my sisters jumping and screaming for me. All along, I figured I would cry when I saw them. I can admit that. But the fact that they were two miles ahead of where I expected to see them and that I was in a runner’s haze combined for the reaction you see below.

I don’t know what’s going on in this picture, but I know it’s not February 3, 2008.

I hugged and gave them each a kiss and took off, rejuvenated from just seeing them there. It already meant a lot that they came, but the fact that they were here, cheering for me out of all these other runners, was enough to bring back the smile on my face and some fresh energy in my legs.

The course took us around the National Mall, past the Capitol and back down Jefferson Drive.

And that was when my calves locked up. Mile 19 was hard. Probably the hardest mile of the entire race for me. My sisters were there again, but this time I didn’t have the energy to run over and hug them. I tried to smile, but I think it came off as a grimace.

Vroom! Not really. I was hurting at this point.

At the next aid station, I gulped down three cups of Gatorade, hoping the salinity of the drink would help with the tightening in my legs. I kept pushing toward the 14th Street Bridge, which would take us back into Virginia and ever closer to the finish line.

What mile 19 brought in physical distress, mile 20 brought in mental angst. That bridge looked 12 miles long. All uphill. With no one cheering us on. My mind started playing tricks on me. I couldn’t concentrate on any one thought for more than a few minutes, and I didn’t know if I was technically running anymore. I wasn’t alone, though. I think there were more walkers than runners at this point, but out of pride, I kept making the motions of running as much as possible. Fake it til you make it.

When we arrived back in Virginia, I told myself that I would walk at every mile marker for the rest of the race. It would be a little reward for getting through each of them. Miles 21-23 were, well, just difficult. The watch I was wearing had died, so I just guessed at how long my minute breaks were. Some of them were longer than others.

At mile 24, right in front of the Pentagon, I picked up my feet and found some fresh legs. I know this sounds crazy, but it actually felt better to run at that point than to walk. I bought into that idea and kept going at an 11:00/mile pace. Good enough for me.

For most of the race, the aid stations had been positioned about a hundred yards before the mile marker. We were about to descend a parkway off-ramp onto the Jefferson Davis Highway when I spotted the last water stop below. I perked up at the thought of making it to that station with just a mile to go. Call it a pleasant surprise when mile 25 appeared before the off-ramp! I took one last gulp of Gatorade and set out to finish this thing.

And once again, my sisters had found me. I don’t even know how they got to mile 25 and a half-ish (there is a story involving some barefoot running and payment to a guy driving a coach that I still don’t fully understand), but there they were, standing on the side of the road and cheering for me. I wanted to run over and hug them for a long time, but more than that, I wanted to show them that I could finish this race strong. They ran alongside me for awhile, and Donna snapped this pic a few hundred yards before the finish line.

Even though it looks like I’m walking here, I can assure you I was running.

I made the turn up the hill for that last .2 miles and couldn’t hold back my emotions. Only it wasn’t crying. It was elation. I involuntarily laughed and let out a sound that was somewhere between relief and euphoria. I charged up the hill, raised my hands in the air and crossed the finish line with a smile on my face.

The Marine who gave me my medal. What a humbling experience.

Marathoner!

Official chip time: 4:53:29

I know that’s not the fastest time in the world, but it was good enough for 13,613th place, and I couldn’t be prouder of it.

Post-race
Somewhat delirious, I made my way through the finish line activities and found my sisters. I was so happy. I took advantage of the free massage and picked up a finisher’s shirt, where I witnessed three people pass out in line. I felt great, though, so I started to wonder if everything would hit me like a ton of bricks. I still feel fine, aside from aches and soreness in my legs and bruised feet.

My sisters and I celebrating after the finish.

Waiting in my hotel was an unexpected treat from my friends, Eileen and Scott. A whole platter of goodies that our group pretty much destroyed without delay.

I’ll spare you all the Hurricane Sandy mess that involved last-minute flight cancellations, car rentals and a seat on the next-to-last flight out of DC, but Divine intervention guided all day Sunday. We were never rained on in the race, my knee/foot didn’t hurt, we all finished (including Amie, Dawn, Matt, Kyle and her husband, Chris) and we all got home safely before the storm hit. For that, I’m humbly grateful.

I don’t know how to put into words what this accomplishment feels like. I’ve never been an athlete, and there were times I doubted that I could do this, but there is pure enjoyment in achieving something you work so hard for.

And if I can do this, anyone can.

Keep running, friends.

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61 responses to “Recap: 2012 Marine Corps Marathon

  1. Congratulations. So proud of you. I even teared up a little just reading this. Incredible journey by an amazing man. You’re officially a marathoner!!! Good job my friend.

  2. I’m glad to know I’m not the only one that teared up! So proud of you and so glad you enjoyed the “ride” — and, let’s be honest, even more amazed that you are hungry for more. Keep running!

    • Thanks, Sarah. Everyone kept talking about how the journey was the treasure, but I gotta say, I had a heckuva lot of fun running the race.

  3. Congratulations! I know that feeling you got around mile 19. My last few miles were a bit of an out of body experience. I didn’t want to walk because I wasn’t sure I could start running again.

    Isn’t it great to be able to say “I am a marathoner!”?

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your story! I don’t even know you and I teared up (or maybe I just had something in both my eyes!). You shared the emotion of running a marathon (most likely one I will never know). But maybe the One Mile fun run with my daughter in the Reindeer run might be a good start!

    • Venelda – it just takes one step! Never say never. I’d never run before I put myself out there, either. Start with the Reindeer Run and see where it takes you!

  5. Congratulations Glenn! We certainly lucked out with the weather at MCM 2012. It sounds like you had a great experience, and you put up a nice time! See you around marathoner!

    • Thanks, Dave! And congratulations to you, too! Besides the wind, I don’t think there could have been better conditions for our run. Maybe we’ll bump into one another at the next one!

  6. Sniff, sniff. You are amazing. I couldn’t be prouder of you. And how wonderful that your sisters were there to cheer you on? Wow. Congratulations, my friend.

    • Aw. Thanks, MB! My sisters are pretty amazing women, and I’m so happy they were there – pretty much exactly when and where I needed to see them.

  7. What’d I tell you? All that worrying during the taper was mind-over-matter jitters concentrating themselves into little nagging injuries. Actually, that’s presumptuous of me. You might have had a legitimate issue in your feet and knees, but lo and behold, despite them, you covered the entire distance and made it to the finish line in one piece. Heaps of congratulations, Mr. Goodman.

    It was great to read your thoughts because so many of them were my own during my maiden voyage. I too slept uncharacteristically well the night before, felt giddy at the starting line, let myself walk at mile markers as a reward for completing an entire mile with fatigued legs. What an experience it all was …

    Anyway, display that medal proudly. Now that you’ve technically accomplished the original “purpose” of this blog, I look forward to seeing where the post-marathon elation (slash depression) takes you. Well done, good sir.

    • Thanks, Dan. And you were right, my friend. You were right. I can admit that. But then again, I can admit that I tend to freak out.

      Ironic that we went through a lot of the same experiences. That bodes well for me since you’re a running all-star now. Perhaps I’ll follow in your footsteps.

      As far as the blog goes – I’ll keep it going. I’m not done running.

  8. Wow. Way to go Glenn! I always enjoy your blog posts but this one really was the best. So happy to see that you made it (we all knew you would)! And yes, you totally just made me cry as well 😉

    • Thanks, Amy! This was my absolute favorite post to write. Even when I was running, I kept making mental notes for the blog. Ha!

  9. Congrats Glenn! Best line of the recap, “Confession: when the howitzer fired, I instantly had to poop.” haha

    So, when is your next one?

    • Thanks, OMW! And thanks for all the advice and tips along the way. As far as the next one, stay tuned. I’m working on that right now.

    • Thanks, Jeff. Funny enough, I thought about you toward the end of the race. As in – “How does he keep running and running and running after this?” You’re an inspiration, my friend.

  10. AHHHH Congratulations on your first marathon!! I am so proud of you for your awesome finish (um like an hour ahead of me, by the way…fail). You definitely picked a great race to run! It was SO cool to see you on the course, and I loved that you were wearing your Kentucky Derby shirt! Between you and Otter, I think that is the shirt I see the most. I’m also super jealous/bitter because I somehow completely missed the finisher’s shirts? WTF!! Although it took me 2 hours to get back to my hotel after the race so you clearly were way more organized than my group. Now recover from your soreness and come to Tulsa and run Route 66 with me and Dan so we can hang out.

    • YEAH! I can’t believe I saw/met you in the middle of the race. That’s just insane enough to be believable. The finisher’s shirts were in the Brooks booth. Not very well marked and it was crowded. And people kept passing out.

      With all the races you’re running, we’re bound to cross paths at some point. And if not, I’ll figure something out and run one with you.

  11. Oh I totally teared up too. And I laughed out loud you you said you immediately had to poop! Haha.
    I’m so proud and inspired by you! I bet you felt amazing! Maybe one day we will be able to run together (if our aches and pains don’t get us first).
    Love ya!
    Elizabeth Bellamy (she’s super freaky, meow)

    • Thanks, EJ! Tell me about it. I now realize that the sedentary lifestyle had its benefits – no bruised or sore muscles. But I’ll take those any day. Hope you’re back on your feet soon!

    • Thanks, sis! And thanks for coming all that way just to watch me run around some streets. I’m not sure I would have ran that hard without you guys there. Love ya!

  12. So, so proud of you! I really enjoyed this post. And I cried with your sisters running with you. And laughed when you talked about your funny noise, which I now envision as a weird Howard Dean noise. Congrats on your finish and on your training! I know you’ve been working very hard.

    XOXOXO,
    Melanie

    • Thanks, Mel! And funny enough – it was probably close to a Howard Dean noise. I just remember it being involuntarily, along with a laugh, because I was finally done and hadn’t fallen over yet.

  13. so very proud of you, son. wish dad i could have been there, but hope next time we will be since it will be closer to home. very, very proud of you. love, mom.

  14. I’m so proud of you Glenn! You’ve come so far and accomplished so much. I remember it like it was yesterday when we ran from one mailbox and stopped at the next and when we ran the “long” stretch of the loop. CONGRATULATIONS!

    • Thanks, Dina! And yes – I still remember when we would run from mailbox to mailbox. And that day that we finally ran the stretch. I don’t run that much anymore. There are too many opportunities for zombies to come out of those woods and get me.

  15. You did it!!! So incredibly proud! I loved reading about your experience during this incredible accomplishment and throughout the months leading up to it. I’m so glad you took the time to document these moments and to share them with your friends. You’re going to treasure this forever, no matter how many marathons you end up running. ENJOY!!

    • Thanks, Mandy! This was truly a life-altering experience. I can’t even describe what it felt like, and this blog doesn’t do it justice. I am ready to run that half with you next year, though!

    • Thank you! And you know what? It really was a great day for a run through DC. We couldn’t have asked for better conditions given the circumstances. And yes – I’m ready for my next marathon. This one was so much fun that I had to register for another one!

  16. You did it! And what a marathon to pick for opening your marathoning account! As Jeff said earlier, welcome to a surprisingly exclusive club, one whose admission can only be gained through merit.

    Dan and I were both tracking you and some other runners on our phones, and I let out a little fist pump as I texted him after I received your 40K update, because I wanted to MAKE SURE that he knew you would be finishing imminently.

    I loved this entry because it’s just so goddamned earnest. As others have mentioned, you perfectly described a lot of the emotions that ran through my head during my first marathon, and it got a little dusty over here when you mentioned seeing your family just before the finish line. You picked a goal for yourself, you trained for it, and then YOU DID IT. Even if you never run another marathon, that’s pretty damn cool.

    Of course, if you DO choose to run another marathon….may I suggest Chicago 2013?

    • Thanks, Otter! I like this club. I like clubs in general, but I especially like ones you have to earn your way into.

      Surprisingly, I didn’t cry like I thought I would when I saw my sisters. I think I was just so tired and HAPPY to see them that, like Sweet Brown, I didn’t have time for that.

      Ah…Chicago 2013. Well, friend, there might be something in the works. Stay tuned.

  17. Thanks for stopping by my blog, and congrats on finishing your first marathon! I think I’m going to attempt one in 2013 – eek!
    Also – i just noticed…does your brush with Sandy count as the ‘experience a hurricane’ that was on your goal list?

    • Thank you! As far as the encounter with Sandy, I’m either going to count it or just mark it off the list altogether. I’m not sure why I thought that should be a life experience, anyway!

  18. Hey! Nice report and huge congratulations!! And thanks for reading my report, too. I’ve really enjoyed reading about what other runners’ experiences were like on this past weekend’s Marine Corps. It’s fun to compare notes.

    I also wondered the same as Lauren, whether Sandy could count as for the hurricane on your bucket list. I think it should!

    • Thank you! I think it’s always interesting to read other recaps and pick up on all the things you missed during the race.

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