The Dream Star's Corner

Dare to Dream...and DO!
walk. run. fly.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

37th Marine Corps Marathon

I'm a MARATHONER! Another goal crossed off the list and another great race year in the books.

I earned 14 medals this year (awaiting RnR Double Encore medal)

The race took place on Sunday, October 28th at 7:55 a.m. in Washington, DC. The travel distance from Baltimore to DC isn't significant enough to require hotel accommodations so I chose to stay at my house. Saturday was a busy day but I knew it was important to scale back my "to-do" list and only focus on the important things. After all, my goal was to be in bed by 8 p.m. and no later than 9 p.m. Everything went as planned... I woke up and went out for an easy 2 mile shake out run. The weather was beeeautiful! Sunny, low 60s, slight breeze... perfect. And with the threat of Hurricane Sandy, I definitely wished that the marathon was taking place that Saturday instead of "storm chaser" Sunday.

I met with my family and handed each person their "Mission" sheets and went over all of the directions for the Washington Metro, the spectator points, and meeting me for fuel and hydration needs. After that, I had one last thing to of the most important things... I had to go buy The Stick. I know..."how do you make it all the way to marathon day without owning one?!" I have no idea... I just managed. But every marathoner told me that having The Stick to push out the lactic acid right after the race was key so I went to the running store to buy one.

Boyfriend and I arrived around 6:05 p.m.... the running store closed at 6. DOH! But there were still people in the store. I whimpered, whined, and panicked and felt hopeless. I told my boyfriend that we should just go home...there's no way I'm gonna get in for The Stick... let's just give up. He insisted that we at least ask when the associate came to the door to let out the customer he was helping at the register. I stayed... and when I saw the associate approaching the door, I told him to let me do the talking.

When the door opened, I went into FULL GROVEL MODE... hands clasped, pleading inaudibly with pain and desperation spread across my face. It came out something like this "RUNNING-MARINE-CORPS-TOMORROW-FIRST-TIME-PLEASE-I'M-A-VIP-MEMBER-PLEASE-OH-PLEASE-LET-ME-IN-TO-BUY-THE-STICK-I-KNOW-WHERE-IT-IS-I'LL-BE-QUICK-I-PROMISE-PLEEEEEEEEASE"

That last "please" must've worked because dude let us in. lol I bought The Stick in literally 2 minutes and I was out of the store all before 6:10 p.m. haha! Thanks Road Runner Sports for your first class customer service! I sincerely appreciate EVERYTHING you guys have done to help me out :)

So with that done, I went home, ate my pasta, packed my bag and stopped myself from "nervous cleaning" so I could lay out my things and settle into bed. I tend to clean random parts of my house at odd hours of the night when I'm nervous about something - annoying. Well 4 a.m. came quickly! But not quickly enough. I felt like I never really fell into a deep sleep and my eyes popped open at 3 a.m. I guess that's why they say to make sure you get in most of your rest two days before the race because clearly you don't sleep very well the night before. I forced myself to stay in bed for the extra hour and proceeded to go through the morning ritual. I gave myself EXTRA time to have breakfast and do the thing we runners do before getting showered and dressed. So I waited...and waited...and nothin...

Some time ago, I went out for a 16 mile run without "going" and totally regretted it. So I was determined not to do that again - not on marathon day! So even if your nerves get the best of you, please make sure you go. I'll leave that there. I rushed to get dressed and reached for my Garmin only to realize it still said 9:27PM Saturday October 27... uhhhh what?!

I pushed ALL the buttons and nothing happened. NO TIME! I rushed and was dressed and out the door around 5:40... a little later than originally planned but whatever. I told my boyfriend about my Garmin. I couldn't believe that it crapped out on me on the morning of the most important race EVER!! He did something to it and reset it. It came back on like new and said it had 99% battery life. SCORE!

I made it to the Largo Metro Station around 6:15 but unfortunately, our train didn't leave the station for almost 20 minutes :( While riding all the way out to Arlington, my nerves got the best of me. I was jittery, couldn't focus on the conversation my boyfriend tried to distract me with, and I just felt so overwhelmed. It was nervous energy, anxiety, excitement, and everything in between all wrapped into one. It was terrible...not fun but scary.

We finally made it out to the Pentagon stop around 7:30 and I started freaking. I kept murmuring things to myself like "should've left earlier...should've left from New Carrollton...I'm gonna miss my pace group...I have to pee!...I don't have time to pee" I was so in my head and I regret that. I wish I took the time to enjoy the entire experience but I was really anxious and freaking out. We saw a bunch of people running off to the side of the road and going in the trees and hey, I'm not too proud for that. Off I went, I found a tree, popped a squat and felt like a brand new person. :)

All of the anxiety was gone. I was having fun and stripping down. I laughed as other runners opted to do the same thing and actually heard what my boyfriend was saying to me. The "voices" were gone. I noticed the weather was great! Low to mid 50s, cloudy, no rain, and slightly breezy. I stripped off my last layer, kissed him goodbye, and took off looking for the 5 hr pace group. This is as close as I got.

The balloons signify where the pacer is located among the sea of people

There was a massive sea of people around me and I knew I had no chance of getting to the pacer so I had to remember the times that I read from the Clif Bar Pacers bracelet. I knew that if I maintained an 11:27-11:30ish pace I should make my lofty goal of a 5 hour marathon. Now mind you, I chose this goal 2 days before the race. I knew I could run around a 5:15 marathon but wanted to push myself a little to see what I could do. However, I also had to respect the distance and the was a learning experience after all.

Finally happy and excited before the race!

The race started and the excitement was immeasurable. I was so pumped that I had to pull myself back a few times by telling myself to slow down. I was itching for a run but now was not the time to break out a 9 min/mi pace when I still had 26 miles to go. I started getting anxious about pacing myself so I found a Marathon Maniac to kind of pace off of. I figured they were more experienced with this distance than me so why not follow a pro? I remember the pacer telling me at the expo that he planned to walk some of the hills. So around mile 2 when we ran into a massive hill, a lot of people stopped to walk - including the Maniac. I followed suit. Eventually, around mile 3, I found my pace. I kept with it and stayed pretty consistent for the first 16 miles. It's at that point where I met up with my mom, my dad, and my boyfriend as they cheered loudly with signs and cowbells. I was handed a new Camelbak bottle with gatorade in it and some gummy bears. I took off running and saw them again on the course as I turned at the end of the road.

Then around the Smithsonian, things started to go south. My left quad began to twitch...yes, the entire muscle began twitching and feeling tight. I stopped on the side of the road, in front of the Washington Monument to stretch it out and massage it a little bit. That seemed to stop the twitching but the soreness was still there. I figured it was part of the experience so I kept running. Around mile 21, both quads were twitching. I stopped to stretch the right one but again the tightness persisted.

I ran in the MCM 10k last year and at this point, we were on the 10k course so I knew what the course looked like from here. I knew the last 6 miles wouldn't be easy but I tried my best. I ran a consistent 11:30 min/mi pace up to this point but now I was finishing each mile in the 13s and 12s if I was lucky. Around mile 22, my Garmin died. Like gray screen of death - died. I still don't know why that happened.

By mile 23, I hit the wall. I was running and all of a sudden both quads started jumping and twitching so I stopped running and decided to walk. I began walking slower and slower then the soreness and annoying aches turned into cramps in both quads. As soon as it happened, I knew what I needed and I had NO WAY of getting it - SALT!

I started to cry. Not like a little teeny lonely tear out of the side of my eye kind of cry but a I've just been robbed and I don't know where I am and I'm scared kind of cry... it was a cry of hopelessness. I just felt empty and hopeless. The first thought was "my legs stopped working! I'm not going to finish! I need new legs!"

Yep... I didn't know it was possible until now but yes, you tend to think some really crazy things during a marathon. It breaks you down to this emotionally raw state of solely having the desire to fulfill basic needs. I think God was there with me (well I did pray before the race) because as soon as I looked up, I saw some spectators on the corner giving out PRETZELS!! I perked up and hobbled over and took two big handfuls of pretzels and in an ugly slobbery cry, I said "THANK YOU!! I NEEDED THIS!"

Before I could swallow the first pretzel, I felt better immediately. I wasn't sure how long it was going to last so I started running a little to make up for lost time. At about mile 24.5, my boyfriend called me to ask me how it was going (I had in my earphones for my iPhone and I could take calls really easily) and at that point, the Marines gave us Dunkin Donut munchkins as promised so I was chomping on my munchkins and talking to him and telling him "This is hard!" He proceeded to give me a pep talk at the same time that a spectator heard me say that. She told me "You're doing great! Less than 5k to go! Keep going!" My boyfriend said some positive stuff too but her words stood out a little more. With a mouthful of munchkins I said "MMKAY!" and got back to running. I didn't stop from that point on. Everything hurt but I didn't stop. My ankles, my knees, my quads, my arms all hurt but I kept running. As we got closer, I took in the crowd, the signs and the sign that I was waiting for: MILE 26!

I blew a kiss to that sign and kept on plugging along. I had no idea what time I was going to finish and at that point, I really didn't care. I just wanted to finish! As I turned to go up the final hill to the finish line, I saw my dad and my boyfriend on the left smiling and waving. I smiled back and kept my head down. I had to climb that hill with every ounce of what I had left in me. I did it and finished in 5:18:25 (chip time).

I received my beautiful medal from a brave Marine who saluted me and thanked me for running. It was an awesome experience and truly made me feel like I can do anything. Period. No "ifs", "ands" or "buts"...


  1. Congratulations, marathoner! I'm so proud of you! great recap.

  2. Yeah, KJ Baby!!!!!! You did it!!!!! AWESOME!!!

  3. Way to go KJ - you did it!!! Congrats!!!

  4. I loved reading your story! Way to pull through to the finish. You have an amazing support system. I can't wait to run MCM this year. How awesome was your medal!