The 2014 Marine Corps Marathon is in the books. It very nearly did not happen.
I haven’t written about it, but about two months ago I started experiencing glute pain on the right side. Rather than wait until the marathon and hope for the best, I went to see an orthopedic doctor (a runner, no less), who referred me to physical therapy. I’ve been to PT four or five times in the last few weeks, and have been pretty good about doing my exercises at home, too… but this was a pretty tough blow to my training. My miles got slower, and a little less mileage than I would have otherwise run.
Next, I got bronchitis 9 days before the marathon. That was a Friday. On Monday, I went to see my regular doctor (also a runner). We agreed on steroids for inflammation, antibiotics (not normally a fan, but desperate times call for desperate measures), and some fully loaded cough syrup. Then I waited.
I didn’t want to taper this way. I wanted to run all the way through up to the race, but I ended up with eight days with no running, then followed that with the marathon. Less than ideal, but I had a plan to make it work. I ran with my heart rate monitor on, and a plan to watch for my pulse going over regular levels, and to adjust my strategy on the course accordingly (including dropping out of the race if my lungs weren’t up to the task). Sure enough, at just after mile 17, my pulse spiked. I ended up at 196 beats per minute, which is more than 10 beats per minute higher than I expect to see at the end of a race.
That’s when I knew I was in trouble. I felt okay, but that’s too high for my pulse to be running at any point in a race, let alone with nine miles to go. I can only surmise that my body was so weak fighting bronchitis, and that I was getting less oxygen than I am used to, and that combined to make the amount of effort required by my cardiovascular system to keep me going was significantly higher than I was comfortable with (and it probably wasn’t safe, either). So I backed off. Slowed down. Tried to relax and lower my effort, and thereby lower my pulse. Over the next three miles, my pulse would climb above 180 five more times, two of which went over 190. By mile 20, I was playing serious head games, and starting to feel lousy.
At mile 22, my pace dropped to just over 12 minutes a mile, and I never went faster from that point on. Mile 23 was 12:21, 24 was 12:45, 25 was 12:30, and 26 was 13:00. My last half mile of the race was run at a 14:31 pace… which is almost so slow it doesn’t count as running, but I did not quit.
Throughout the entire race, I didn’t walk except briefly at some of the water stops where everyone around me was walking, and I literally could not run due to the people around me. I feel good about that.
I also feel good about shaving 10:55 off my Boston marathon time. I went from 5:01:03 to 4:50:08. Not quite the improvement I was looking for, but still, that’s over 20 seconds a mile in improvements, and I did that with bronchitis!
After the marathon, I felt worse than I’ve ever felt as a runner, probably worse than I’ve ever felt while working out. The first 5 or 10 minutes were ok, but after that, I felt nauseous, dehydrated, and at one point had the chills very bad and had to find a place to sit before I fell down. I was able to drink some water, and by about 30 minutes past the race, started to feel okay.
During that time, I texted Claire, “I am insane.” And I really felt that way. Why does anyone do that to themselves? To what end? I will never win a marathon. I’m 43 and slow. If I improve exponentially, I’ll be 44 and medium-slow. And yet… within an hour of feeling like I was about to die, I was thinking about the next race, wondering how I would challenge myself.
After I made it through the exit corral, we took the subway back to our hotel and took a nap. Later there was a dinner comprised of much pasta, and then early to bed before driving back home on Monday. I don’t have much in the way of sore legs; mostly a little tenderness in my lower right hamstring. All in all, this was a successful event for me.
Things I appreciated about this race
The Marines put on a heck of a race. I rate races in my personal log, and this one has to be as close to a ten as I’ve ever experienced. The only thing preventing a perfect score was the difficulty I had finding a post-race Mylar blanket to keep warm… and if that’s all that’s wrong, that means there is a LOT that is right. Things like:
- The flag being flown in my a paratrooper who then took off his ‘chute and ran the race. Awesome.
- Ospreys for a fly by, low and slow, close over the crowd. Did I already use “awesome” as an adjective? Pity… it applies here as well.
- A beautiful course, first through Rock Creek, then the mall, then back through Virginia. Lovely in every way.
- The Memorial Mile, where we ran past photos of servicemen and women who had given their lives. I read each name aloud as I ran past. I cried a little, too.
- The Marines. Everyone there showed up in full uniform on their day off to put on the best run race I’ve ever experienced.
- The crowds. Both the runners and the spectators – people were doing something special, and it showed.
Guess whose company is a major sponsor of this event:
At the expo, Claire made a sign and I got post on a wall my race dedication.
Pedro the Goat (that’s the name of my rubber rooster) catching some Zs the night before the race.
Osprey fly by before the national anthem.
Met a guy wearing the same kilt on the race course (hi, Greg!). Took a lame selfie that didn’t show our kilts. D’oh!
This guy gave me my finisher’s medal. Oorah! Thank you, Marines!
A well deserved beer after the race.
And waffles the next morning. Smothered in strawberries, bananas, chocolate, and whipped cream. I burned 3,525 calories on the race course. Yeah, I earned it.
I tried to take some pictures during the race, but they didn’t come out. So that’s it for now. If you know of a marathon being held within 200 miles of my house around Thanksgiving, send me the info. I’m looking for my next race…