Marine Corps Marathon Recap

I am not really sure where to even start. It's actually hard to believe it's over and it went by so fast - 18 weeks of training for 5 1/2 hours of running, and it's done.

There were lots of tears as I expected, a few times I had to take some deep breaths and not let the emotions come to the surface because I could feel hyper-ventilating coming with them and, I could be wrong, but I suspected that hyper-ventilating at any point mid-marathon was a bad idea.

So, I think I'll just work through the weekend and try not to leave anything out. Feel free to skip this, as I'm sure it will be long, but I don't want to forget.

The Man and I got up, packed the car - I triple checked that I had my shoes! - dropped the dogs off at "camp" (the kennel), and headed East towards DC. We had a beautiful drive, I love entering DC on the George Washington Parkway, and arrived ahead of schedule at our friend, John's house. We unpacked and headed to the Metro to go to the Expo where I would pick up my bib (my number), my shirt, and my "clear, plastic bag" to check my items at the start of the race. I did get new compression sleeves - pink tie-dye - and exchanged my pink-ribbon charm on my shoe for a new one b/c some of the stones had fallen out.

After the Expo, we headed toward Chi.nat.own for some cupcakes. Rae introduced me to this great bakery back in March and I was so excited to head there again - gluten-free cupcakes are hard to come by in a small town! We had Sta.bucks and cupcakes and then walked the 6 blocks up to the hotel where the first timers' pep rally was being held. It was fun to see all of the other "first timers" and to get some tips for surviving.

Emily and I at the First Timers Pep Rally

Saturday, we started our day with daily Mass at the Theological College at Catholic University with our friend Cody, who is a seminarian in our diocese. I was the only woman at the Mass - ha! It was amazing though, to see all of those future-priests and to get to celebrate Mass with them, I really couldn't have imagined a better start to the day.

After Mass, we headed to brunch with some awesome ladies, Alison, Lora, and Rae! Fortunately for The Man, Rae's husband, Josh, also joined us :). We had brunch and then yummy gluten-free desert and lots of chatter! It was awesome. No photo was taken - more on this later.

We headed back to John's after Mass and John and I went for a quick 3-mile "shake-out" run. I'm not sure why they call it a "shake-out" run, but it was my last pre-marathon run and I needed it. It helped to settle my nerves and give my legs a little bit of a workout that they were craving.

A quick shower and change into my gold and blue and we were off to a Sports Bar/Restaurant in Arlington that is owned by a WVU Alum, so it becomes a WVU Sports Bar/Restaurant on game day. We watched the WVU - Kansas State disaster. And that's all I have to say about that. My dad, stepmom and little brother arrived in time to watch it too, so at least the company and food was good!

We got back to John's and after making our plan for the morning, I went to bed at 8:30, with my alarms (all 3 of them) set for 4am.

Sunday - Marathon Day!
I didn't sleep well but I didn't sleep awful either. When I was sleeping, it was good. I just kept waking up every hour thinking "is it time yet?"

When 4:00 finally rolled around (really? 4:00am "finally rolled around"? maybe I really am crazy!), I got up and got ready to go. I had my marathon out fit all laid out and ready to go, so there wasn't much thought required. Awake at 4:00am doesn't mean "fully functioning" at 4:00am. I made myself some breakfast and made sure John was awake at 4:45 since he'd agreed to drive me to the start line area at 5:00.

My Race Day Outfit
We got to the start line and it still seemed a little early, so John and I relaxed in the car for about 20 minutes, and then I headed over.

The walk was quiet and dark. There were a few other really early runners there as well, but for the most part, I was alone to enjoy the views of the Washington Monument and the Capitol Building lit up as I walked around the Pentagon. I finally arrived at Runner's Village and had my bag checked by the marine standing there. Many times as I made this walk and checked in, I got choked up - between the pentagon and the sights of DC and all this day would mean for me, I knew these were just the first of many tears.

I arrived in time to participate in the first Ecumenical Prayer Service that was offered and I'm glad I did. The chaplain was very good and the man beside me also turned out to be Catholic, and as we caught a glimpse of each other making the sign of the cross at the start of the prayer we shared a knowing smile. After the prayer service, I headed over to use the bathroom - note: using a porta potty in the dark is a bit challenging. By this time, I was ready to check my bag and consider walking toward the start line, as I wanted to be there well before 7:30's starting ceremony. After I checked my bag and put my garbage bag on for warmth (true story: a black garbage bag keeps a runner quite warm pre-race and can easily be discarded before running). One last pre-race bathroom stop and then I met up with Emily and we shared our nerves and excitement with one another. We wished each other good luck and I headed to the start line.

I found my corral and settled in to people watch and wait. At 7:30, skydivers dotted the sky, carrying flags from each branch of the Armed Forces and 3 large American Flags. The Star Spangled Banner was performed. I cried.

Finally, from afar, I heard the cannon that signaled the start of the race. It would be about 20 minutes before I actually got to and crossed the start line.

The Marine Corps Marathon

Miles 1 - 5 (Intention: Sara)

The Man, my Dad, stepmom, and little brother (family from here on) were all planning to be there to cheer me on, as well as Lora and Alison. I had a vague idea of where they would each be and I scanned the crowd looking for them. I spotted my Dad, stepmom and brother just past the start line and smiled and waved to them. To my surprise they were wearing shirts that said "Run Rebecca Run" - I loved it!

The first of only a couple hills was in these first few miles. I was actually grateful for them because I was having trouble keeping my pace to something reasonable! I saw Lora and her DH for the first time right around mile 4 as I crossed the Key Bridge from Virginia into DC.

Also, just as I approached Mile 5 and continued through Georgetown, I heard a band playing. As I headed down the hill toward the Mile 5 mark, I heard a few notes that were quite familiar to me, but I thought: "no way!" BUT it was true - the band was playing John Denver's Country Roads!!!  I sang my heart out as they sang "Country roads, take me home, to the place, I belong, WEST VIRGINIA, Mountain Mama, take me home, Country roads" I sang loud, I waived my arms, and I'm sure the people around me thought I was absolutely nuts. I didn't care - I loved it! Oh, and I cried a little bit too.

Miles 6 - 10 (Intention: All of my IF buddies and their intentions)

I continued to struggle to keep my pace reasonable through these miles. Rock Creek Parkway was beautiful and a great place to offer up for all of my fellow IFers. I saw Lora and her DH again at the end of the parkway. At the U-turn between miles 7 and 8, I saw 2 of the wheelchair participants struggling to get up and around the hill and turn. It was one of those moments that remind me why I love running - all the runners around them stopped and cheered them on, encouraging them up and around the turn. No one was worried about their own pace/race, only supporting these wheelchair racers. Yes, there were more tears here too. It was certainly a good reminder of all that I have to be thankful for and I specifically asked God to help all of us IFers to be able to see the many blessings in our life despite the pain and hurt associated with IF. Oh, and the oranges at Mile 9 were delicious, and going past the steps of the Lincoln Memorial between miles 10 and 11 was amazing!

Miles 11 - 15 (Intention: All of my bloggy friends and their intentions)

As I neared the water stop at Mile 11, I found myself wondering "what the heck am I doing/thinking?" I had to remind myself it was WAY too early to feel this way and I'd run this far plenty of times. I saw my family at just past the water stop so they caught me walking a bit as I was trying to get a good drink. I shrugged and held up my two cups of gatorade and smiled saying "double fisting it!" These miles were around Hains Point, not too many spectators so I turned my iPod on and let my music help carry me through. Between my music and the great signs (things like: "You're running better than the government."; "1 in 100 runners poop their pants, are you the 1?"; "Run faster, the Kenyans are finished already and they're drinking all the beer."; "Chuck Norris never ran a marathon." and more!), I actually enjoyed Hains Point, even though it was the more "quiet" part of the race. I did have lots to offer up as I was really wondering "what the heck am I thinking" quite a bit here.

Miles 16 - 20 (Intention: The Man)

Just through the water stop at Mile 16, I was trying to get a good drink of water and swallow my Gu without choking. I stopped moving for about 15 seconds and as soon as I did it, my left calf started to cramp. I'm not used to cramps, so it caught me off guard. I found a curb and light post to balance on and stretched it out. It did cramp on and off the rest of the race, but thanks to a nice group around mile 17.5 I had an unexpected banana and I think that helped to keep it from being unbearable, at least for a bit. Just before mile 17 though, I saw my family and Lora and her DH (but they didn't realize they were very near each other). It was a great time to see them and get some encouragement.  Then, just before mile 18, I saw another familiar face - Alison! She came and ran with me for a couple of blocks and then headed off across the Mall to meet me on the other side. After she split off, I headed towards the US Capitol Building, as I turned in front of the Capitol, the band there was playing the Rocky Theme Song - it was great :). I rounded the other side of the Mall and just as I wanted to walk, in fact I took a few steps, I saw my family just before mile 19 - this time Lora and Chris were with them! I gave them all High-Fives and told them what perfect timing it was to see them there! Then, I saw Alison again just past Mile 19. She ran with me again for a bit. It was great to have some company :).  I gave her a big hug (sorry about the grossness of that hug, Alison!), and thanked her and continued on. Next up was Mile 20 and "Beat the Bridge." I had to reach Mile 20 and the Bridge by 1:05pm in order to be able to keep going. I'm not sure exactly what time I passed, but I knew it was well before 1:05. Also, with mile 20, came uncharted territory, I'd never run more than 20 miles before. At about mile 20.5, my body said "hey, we don't run this far, what are you doing" and, starting with my inside right quad muscle, all of the muscles in my right leg from hip to ankle cramped up at the same time. I'm sure I was quite a sight hobbling over to the side of the road to try and stretch. I squatted down, hoping I would be able to stand up again, and that it would give me some relief. Both were accomplished, but wow, did that hurt. But, there was no way a few leg cramps were going to stop me at this point, so on I went. I crossed the bridge with a combination of running and walking and stretching and then headed into Crystal City.

Miles 21 - 25 (Intention: My Dad)

The cramps continued, as I turned into Crystal City, but the atmosphere was great. Bands and music and people, a great way to get a good "pick me up" heading into the final few miles. I saw my family again at mile 22 and I knew I wouldn't see them again until the Finish Line. These miles were tough.  I was tired, my legs were cramping, and I just wanted to be done. I had a lot to offer up for my Dad, and I was grateful for that - I picked these miles for him for a reason. And yet, I knew I was going to finish. I knew I was way past meeting any time goal I had set myself, but I didn't care. I was going to finish and that was what mattered. I pushed myself, but also listened to my body so as not to hurt myself permanently. My legs cramped and I stretched them and I kept going. Marines encouraged us along the way (as they had the entire race) and encouraged us to dig deep and keep going. We rounded the Pentagon, and headed back towards where we'd started, towards where it had all began more than 5 hour before. More than a few times during these miles I had to take deep breaths and remind myself to breath, I knew if I let myself really feel all of it: the pain, the emotions, the awe of the marines, the Pentagon, Arlington, all of it I would lose it, completely. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, sometimes slower than others, but I refused to quit; I knew I would finish.

Mile 26 - 26.2 (Intention: Myself)

I was determined to run these final .2 miles entirely. Including the final hill up to the finish line. The .2 miles broke down to about .05 flat, then .1 uphill, then .05 flat to the finish. I made it almost all the way up the hill, walked for about 5 yards, and then ran the rest. I will take it. After those few walking steps, it was like all the pain went away and I felt great again. My family was in the bleachers cheering me on and the finish line was in front of me. I was really going to do it, I was finishing a marathon. I raised my arms in triumph as I crossed the finish line. I had done it. I am a Marathoner.

If you click here you can see photos taken during the race - these are the "official" marathon photos.

The After

I got my medal. A marine placed it around my neck, saluted me, and told me congratulations. Yep, more tears. I had my photo taken with him and then had my photo taken at the base of the Iwo Jima Memorial. I got my food box, my water, another banana, and my recovery jacket (helps to regulate body temperature because it tends to drop after a race). I texted The Man to let him know I'd meet them at the family link-up area for "R"s and I was overwhelmed at all of the notifications from Face.book, Twi.tter, texts and e-mails I had. I knew the prayers of so many had gotten me through.

With the Marine who placed my medal around my neck and saluted me.
After I retrieved my bag (it seemed so much heavier than when I dropped it off!), I headed to meet my family. Hugs were shared (I kinda feel bad they had to hug me smelling like I did) and I got to hear all about their day - I was so relieved they'd enjoyed it all! We took some photos and found a spot for The Man to stretch me out. A marine asked if I was OK or needed and ice and I laughed and said "I'm great - I travel with my own massage therapist! :)" He laughed and my Dad let him know it was my husband, that I wasn't that pampered! Once Dad was sure I was going to live for real, we said our good-byes, I hugged them again and thanked them for coming. They headed towards the metro to head home, and we headed towards John's car to head back to his place.

We got back and The Man stretched me out again (can't remember if it was pre or post shower, I'll have to ask him) and I caught up with all of the sweet, encouraging social media messages. I was overwhelmed. I texted my Mom (she wanted a photo of me with my medal) and tried to nap. After a couple hour nap, John and The Man had made dinner, so I headed downstairs (quite comical to witness) ate dinner and then headed back to bed for the night. It felt so good to sleep so long.

Me, with my medal.

The Man and I slept in - so nice! And then we headed to meet Laura and Caleb and January and her sweet girl for lunch. Caleb quickly decided The Man was fun so "the boys" hung out at one end of the table while the girls were at the other. Also no photos - more on this later. But first, we took my Jeep through the car wash and she was given her sticker, ready for the drive home! Lunch was amazing - gluten-free crepes!!! And of course, the friends and conversation were even better :). We headed home out George Washington Parkway and a beautiful drive home.  We stopped at a gas station for a drink and for me to stretch my legs and I'd been wanting ice cream since dinner the night before, so I checked out the little ice cream freezer and picked out a Snickers ice cream bar. I enjoyed every bite with no guilt - one perk of running a marathon! We picked up our pups and then my Mom stopped by with beautiful flowers in Marine Corps colors and a gift certificate to a local running store - it was a great end to the day. Only to be capped by a visit from Sara in which we swapped marathon stories and she dropped off a piece of gluten-free cake - yum!

My Jeep - ready for her drive home!
My Zero-Guilt Snickers Bar!
My Thoughts

I really don't know where to begin. My last post summed up what this race would mean, and all I can really say is that it exceeded my expectations in all aspects. It was harder than I expected, the atmosphere was better, the course was amazing, the emotions were intense, everything. It was an honor to run this race. I high-fived marines all along the course, thanking them for their service; I took in the scenery; I pushed myself; I prayed for all of the intentions I wanted to, and a few more - specifically all those other runners who were wearing shirts in honor or in memory of someone. Yes, I wondered at times if I could do this - both before and during the race - and I wondered if it would be worth it. I did do it. And it was all worth it. Yes, I would trade every second of this weekend for one twinge of morning sickness; for one kick in the ribs; for one contraction; for one cry; for one sleepless night; for one first smile; for one first step; for one "I love you mommy" for any one of the many things I dream of and hope for - yes, I would trade it. But, so far, none of those dreams have come true, so what I do have is a medal that says "26.2" and "Finisher" and the proof that I've lived my life. It doesn't lessen the pain any less, if anything it somehow amplifies it, but there is one less regret. One less instance of saying "I should've done..." And that my friends, is worth more than I can say and is certainly worth every tear, cramp, and pain I felt during the race. Thank-you all so much for the prayers and the encouragement, not just on race day, but throughout all of this!

October 27, 2014 - Marine Corps Marathon Finisher - 5 hours, 37 minutes, 35 seconds


  1. So wonderful and inspiring, Rebecca!

    It takes so much courage and grace to 'live your life' in spite of the sadness and pain.

    Thank you for sharing this journey with us! I am so proud of you and even more to call you a friend. :-)


  2. Wooohooooo!!!!! Girl, you are made of awesomeness!

    I know Daniel was probably in your prayers at some point between miles 11-15, so thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  3. Woo-hoo! You did it! So fun to relive the race through your eyes- thanks for sharing. You are living your life and it's BEAUTIFUL!!!!!

  4. So, so awesome! What an amazing experience. I'm just so bummed I didn't get to see you!! =( Oh well, next marathon, right =) Enjoy all the snickers bars - you deserve it!!!

  5. This totally made me cry. I'm so proud of you. And so happy that I got to share this weekend with you!

  6. So proud of you Rebecca! What a beautiful experience, I would have lost it the whole time especially seeing the marines and our capitol. So if I am IF and a blogger does that mean I got double prayers ;) Thank you so much for including us in your prayers as we were praying for you, I love the Body of Christ!

  7. So glad you did this, for yourself and as an inspiration to all of us! Its amazing how many emotions come out while running, therapeutic, but also hard to keep it together sometimes. Good job!

  8. Congratulations Rebecca!! Thank you for including all of our intentions in your prayers during the marathon. You are in inspiration for us all!

  9. So incredibly proud of you, Woman!!!! Woo hoo!!!!!!!!!

  10. Beautiful write up my friend. Thank you for sharing your experience. Congratulations!

  11. I'm crying as I read this. You are so awesome girlfriend!

  12. better than any birth story I've ever read. very moving. thank you for sharing with us

  13. Congratulations again!
    Thank you for sharing so much of your experience, and remember as Catholics we believe in 'and' ~ continued prayers for the day when you are a marathoner and a mommy.

  14. Thank you so much for sharing this! I love the reminder to "live your life" - and with that I am FINALLY responding to your message so we can schedule a get together.

  15. Yeah!!!!! Double Yeah!!!!! Congrats!! What a great recap to a special day!

  16. Congrats, Rebecca! So proud of you!

  17. This is AWESOME! You are such a strong, beautiful woman! And this is such a huge accomplishment. Go you!! :)

    PS - LOVE the 26.2 sticker on your car. It's the cutest one I've ever seen! And those signs, "1 in 100 poop their pants." Hahaha. Too funny!

  18. Amazing.
    You are now officially "fully crazy" ;-)
    Also, your family is good--I'm pretty sure I didn't hug Chuck after his marathon. Ha!

  19. I am so proud of you! What a major accomplishment. Thank you for sharing the details of the race. I found myself saying....."I wonder if I could do this someday" you are truly an inspiration, Rebecca....in so many ways. Your family sounds incredibly awesome.

  20. I love the details, and I have to ask how you manage to look so gorgeous right after completing a marathon!?!

    Congratulations again. :-)

  21. What a fantastic day and surroundings in which to run! I am in awe of your willpower and determination and you kicked butt running! Way to GO!!!

  22. Congratulations!!! Marathoners are a different breed and have my respect!

  23. I'm so excited for you!!!!! That is inspiring! Way to go!

  24. Congrats! It sounds like you had an amazing experience.

  25. I know I heard about it in person, but I love this post!
    "what I do have is a medal that says "26.2" and "Finisher" and the proof that I've lived my life."

    You, my friend, continue to be an inspiration. And I continue to pray for you!

  26. HI! I loved reading your recap...I just it through google and it is SO funny because I think I must have been running with you the whole time! I It also took me 20 minutes to start, I finished in 5:36:47, and I remember hearing Country Roads and some of the other things you mentioned! I was wearing a pink Team 413 shirt with "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" on the back...I wonder if we are in the backgrounds of any of each others' photos! So funny :) Another funny thing is that I also brought my own massage therapist (my mother-in-law)! LOL Anyways...congratulations on your great race!!

  27. I read this through tears! I know I would have completely lost it if it were me there with the Marines, the history, the reason for running...you truly are amazing!!! Thank you for writing every but of it out too! Congrats to you, friend!! You are always, always in my prayers!!!!

  28. Rebecca, you are amazing! Congratulations on your accomplishment!