Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Marine Corps Marathon Race Report 2014

I am mostly writing this so I can relive the awesome race and weekend that I just experienced. Sunday, I ran the most fun marathon that I've run yet and I am counting down until I get to run it again next year.

About 4.5 years ago, I started posting in the Marine Corps Marathon forums on Runner's World in preparation for my first attempt at that course. I quickly became friendly with everyone on there and met up with them for my first Forum Exchange (FE) the night before the race. Ever since, I do my best to come down to either race or spectate, only missing last year since I was attending one of my best friend's weddings. I was so excited to come back this year, this time as a runner thanks to Dunkin Donuts; I won a contest put on by them where I raced in a coffee cup costume and got a free bib.

Saturday, our fun group got together per usual at our friend Brian's to catch up, eat, and drink. I picked up bibs earlier in the day with friends Mara and Tim, including 4 for our friend Jen. I got to Brian's house and realized I had left the bibs at my mom's house. Thankfully, she lives in DC now and it wasn't that far of a drive. Loved the convenience! We caught up, then left around 8 pm to grab dinner and get home to sleep.

My mom recently moved into DC, so we got to wake up much later than when I raced previously and she lived in MD. We walked .5 miles to the nearest Metro stop, then took the train to the Pentagon station, which was the closest for us to get to the start. After going through a mob of people to get through security (this race has metal detectors and bag searches) and sneakily peeing in the woods (instead of waiting in a giant lines for port-a-potties), we met up with my running friends and got into place to start.
On the metro heading to the start
We decided to start off with the 4 hour runners (not sure why since we knew we'd be running slower than that), but I just went with it. It still wasn't truly hitting me that I was running a marathon since I wasn't racing it and I was going on a fun journey with a bunch of awesome running friends. But soon enough, we were crossing the start line and our race together would begin.

The course changed since I ran it in 2012 and to be honest, I forgot about parts of the course that hadn't, including miles 2-4. It was an interesting way to race in a big group since we had to account for each other at every water stop, bathroom break, and just in our pacing. Some people were ready to push the pace a bit more while others wanted to savor the race at a slower pace. We ended up getting the hang of it, but it was interesting to start.
I had a lot of fun carrying the guidon
Either way, we laughed a lot and made our way from the start through to Georgetown and to a new (as of last year's race) section going out and back through Rock Creek Park. Coming back on this section, we met an 81 year old racer who was running his second marathon ever (his first was last year's MCM). It was incredible to run with him for a bit and to hear about fighting in Korea in the early 1950s as a Marine. Moments like that make me love racing and love racing the Marine Corps Marathon even more.
The awesome 81 year old marathoner
Every year, this group of runners stays together, dubbed the "Benny Train" after our friend Benny who leads the pack every year. He runs with a guidon to honor his uncle, Ben (where he got his name), who was killed in Vietnam as a Marine. It's an insane honor to be able to run with him and to be able to carry the guidon for a period of time. One thing this group also does is veer off course to the Vietnam War Memorial to find Ben's uncle on the wall of fallen soldiers and say a prayer. This happens around mile 16 and yes, it did feel weird to purposefully go off course.
Hugging Benny after we had a moment for his uncle
at the Vietnam War Memorial
Going off course, though, was one of the most touching things of the day. It was very emotional and I felt so tiny in this big experience. After we left the memorial, we all hugged and jogged back to the race, stopping for a photo in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
Hello Mr. Lincoln!
Shortly after getting back on course, we saw my mom on the course, where I gave her a big hug and kiss, then felt really pumped for the last 10 mile of the race. We lost a few of our group members to a bathroom break early on and around mile 16.5 is where we were able to meet-up with them again. Then we were on the Mall, which was absolutely packed with spectators. The miles ticked away and I even got to see a high school friend on the course around mile 19.5.
Hanging in front of the Capital Building
Mile 20 is a big one for everyone as you get to the bridge that one must pass before the cutoff. You have to maintain a 14 minute mile to cross the bridge and head to the last 6.2 miles through VA. There is always a Batala band waiting for you to cross over, so it turns into a giant celebration. When we got there, a bunch of us stopped to have an impromptu dance party and man, what fun.

The bridge was probably the hardest part of the course for me, mentally and physically. I've run this race now 3 times and each time, I forget how long and boring the bridge is. It was also really windy and on any uphill, our group stopped to walk so the person holding the guidon at the time didn't blow away. We tacked on an extra 1.25 miles with the detour to the memorial, so I was getting to the point of a marathon or long run where my legs just are tired and achy. We kept stopping to walk and while I wasn't concerned about the time, I was just eager to cross the finish line and be off my feet!

A banana that we found along the course. Breakfast is running away!
The miles ticked away and running through Crystal City was nice as there was loud music, tons of spectators, giant fans that were spraying cold water onto the runners, beer, and Dunkin Donut holes. My costume was a hit throughout the race, but especially at the donut hole station.

In terms of my costume, yes, it was such a pain to run in, but I got used to it. It bounced up and down during each step and it wasn't super light (the top of the coffee cup was made of a heavier and thicker foam than the rest of the costume). I only took it off during the race when we got to the memorial out of respect, but other than that, I had it on for the entire race!

We walked more frequently during that last 6.2 miles than before, but we kept knocking down miles, laughing, tearing up, and getting so pumped to finish and have a Marine place a medal around our neck. We kept passing the guidon between us throughout the race, but rightly so, Benny ran up the final hill at the finish holding it to bring us home. In 5 hours, 23 minutes, and 17 seconds, we crossed the finish line, having run 27.5 miles in total. I was beyond happy to take off my costume and to be done running, but I was sad that this amazing experience with my friends was over.

This race has been special to me because it's brought me so many amazing friends and memories. I laughed more during this race than any other and I couldn't have thought of a better way to run my 12th stand alone marathon and 10th in costume.


  1. You said it all, 'Becca! What's left to say? Sometimes runners race; sometimes runners run. The beauty is to be able to combine or select according to the moment in the spirit. Thanks for such inspirational sharing! 'So glad you had a great time making memories along your journey. Breadman Bob

    1. Thanks, Breadman, for reading this and commenting! :D

  2. How funny! I saw you before the race and wondered if DD sponsored you. Good job!

    1. Haha yes, I won a contest for a free bib, so I wore the costume. Thanks!!

  3. lol, I saw you on my way to the starting corral and laughed, thinking why in the world is she doing this? Now I understand. Great write up!