Training from the mile to the marathon.
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  • First Marathon - The Marine Corps Marathon

    Posted on November 11th, 2012 CoachGreg No comments

    The following is written by Charleston Runs athlete, Melissa Field. She decided over the summer that she would like to train with a group and a coach. Melissa and I met to chat about her experiences and goals. She is a triathlete who does pretty well for herself at the sprint distance but this was her first marathon.

    I continue to be in awe of marathoning moms.
    ~Coach Greg

    The First Marathon

    mall20400 hours, the alarm rings after some tossing and turning, listening to the pitter-patter of rain outside the bedroom window. I was relieved to get out of bed and get a move on the day. Nervous as all get out, still wondering at every twinge in my knee if I would even make it one single mile down the road that day. Almost cried and/or yelled any time someone said “good luck!”. But now it was finally, time to get ready to go! My brother got up, too, and made us coffee while we got dressed and packed up, we made our breakfasts (peanut butter on w/w bread), took ibuprofen and debated whether to walk to the metro or drive. We finally decided to drive in case it was pouring rain when we got back.
    Runners were already gathering at the metro, all discussing the weather, what fare to get on their tickets and nervously checking their drop bags. We got on a train right away and all switched at the Rosslyn station, where there were suddenly not dozens of runners, but hundreds! Despite that, we were able to get on the next train and it was just a short ride to the Pentagon station, where we were all headed. Many runners were waiting in the warmth of the station rather than heading out into the dark, but I wanted to head Coach Greg’s advice to hit the port-o-potties early and often, so we headed straight for the escalators. On the way out, I spotted fellow Charleston Runs athlete Rob and chatted with him briefly - great to see one familiar face among so many strangers that morning! Wishing each other luck, we headed on toward the huge parking lots at the Pentagon. No lines at all at the port-o-potties, which was great.
    We still had about 30 minutes before we would need to head to the starting area, so we sat around, drank some water and people watched for a while. It was breezy, cloudy and maybe 58 degrees or so, pretty perfect running weather, we thought. When the sun was up, two Osprey airplanes flew over - really exciting! We took one more bathroom break, dropped our bags and headed to the start area. It was packed out there and all of the corrals were already full. My husband walked a little further so he could start with the 4:30 group, and I started somewhere near the 5:30 group. It seemed like no time at all before the Howitzer went off and a little while later, people started shuffling forward. I forgot to check the clock when I crossed the start line, but it was probably 20 minutes after the start, I think.

    After the Howitzer

    Finally running! Wow, what a feeling - so many spectators, so much to look at! The first 3 or 4 miles started with a few hills, heading out toward the river. I used my 3:1 run/walk ratio right from the beginning. That took some discipline, but I kept reminding myself that I was in it to finish - and I didn’t want to risk ANYTHING to improve my time a few minutes.

    Right at the start, the whole road was littered with sweatshirts, gloves, hats and headbands - I saw some nice looking stuff dropped, but resisted the urge to gather anything along the run. I ran right past a Lululemon headband in hot pink!! Mile 5 was up to a bridge to cross the river, and here I took my first fuel because there was a water stop on the bridge. My plan was to fuel every 2nd water stop, which I had worked out would be about every 5 miles or so. I took gatorade at the in-between water stops. Somewhere right after the water stop I looked down at my watch and it was deader than a doornail! Arg! How did that happen on a 100% charge?? I tried all my tricks to try and get it going before just saying - who cares about the time anyway?

    I should mention that the water stops were always fun. Tons of Marines and then always other volunteers helping out, either high school kids, boy scouts, a church, young, old, everything. The Marines were fantastic overall, besides being out at the water stops. They were often standing at strategic places shouting out encouraging words, or funny sarcastic statements, I loved that. I can’t remember a single thing I heard, but I do remember laughing and enjoying it a lot.

    So far, so good, on to the loop up to the reservoir and a pretty steep hill up. I loved the Marine Corps band at the switchback playing their hymn! Up the big hill, through some nice neighborhoods and up to the reservoir, then back down. Here was where I decided to walk downhill, the first and only unscheduled walk break. I think this next part was Georgetown, which was very busy and crowded, and the wind really started to kick up a bit here. The spectators were bundled up, but temps were perfect for us. Long section under an underpass, then up the other side toward mile 10-ish and the Lincoln Memorial, if I remember correctly. Somewhere there was the food stop with oranges, which I avoided like the plague. Didn’t feel like being any stickier than I already was. I kept thinking I would use some water at a water stop to wash my hands but didn’t remember to do that the entire time.

    I watched for my family at 10, because I thought they would be there, but later found out that they didn’t make it to that spot and headed straight over to 15/16. Oh well, it gave me something to look forward to the whole time, hoping that I would see a familiar face in the crowd. The next part was down to Haynes Point, around the golf course. I knew from my coach had told me that this part would be lonelier and it could be windy - both proved true. Some nice things here were the handwritten signs - probably over 100 of them, so there was always something to read. Another were the photos, names and ages of fallen in action soldiers - chilling - followed by a line of 20 some American flags held high. Whew! So though this section was not as “fun” as the others, I loved it, too.

    Halfway Through!

    Melissa on the National Mall

    Melissa on the National Mall

    The halfway point was when I began to feel my hip a bit. I knew it probably came from favoring that bum knee of mine, but it also reminded me that … hey… I don’t feel a thing from that knee! Good news, so I think it was here at the halfway point that I finally started to think, my knee is fine today, and it’s not going to stop me!

    After this, we ran through lots of pretty streets with trees, tons of people, and I saw my family for the first time. Awesome! I had somehow managed to miss my son, older daughter and brother, but saw my sister-in-law, nephew and younger daughter. I stopped to say hi, just awesome to see familiar faces.

    On to the National Mall

    The next big section that I remember was the mall. It was very long, very crowded, bands, music, people, kids giving high-fives, just all kinds of funny things. People handing out plastic spoons of vaseline? No thanks ha ha! Onward - I think I was a little foggy here, though I felt fine, just because I got confused about what mile we were on. The next big piece I remember was the bridge of “beat the bridge” fame. There were a few shouts of joy and relief that we had made it - but I found this part to be quite a let-down. So few spectators (we were pretty spoiled by then) and just a long, grey interstate with nothing much to look at. It seemed like everyone was walking here, and I found that to be demotivating. I really felt my hip here, my quads, my feet - just kind of wanted it all to be over. I knew it was only 1 hour until the finish, though, and that thought drove me on.

    Tears at the Finish

    When I finally got off of that bridge and started to head down into Crystal City, it was a relief! I loved Crystal City! Tons of people, great music, people handing out donuts, lots of fun stuff! Loved this part! I think we must have passed mile 24 here, and all that comes after that is back to the Pentagon and over the same road where we started. The long route around the Pentagon is tough - everyone was tired, I was pooped with a capital P, but feeling mentally good, so I didn’t let the long line of runners out ahead of me get me down. I knew I would make it by then. I saw my family again between 25 and 26, but didn’t even stop - I was so close to finishing! By the time I got to that hill up to the monument, by george, I ran up it all the way. My finish line pictures look terrible, but I felt great! It was a wonderful feeling to pass that line and get lots of high fives from all the Marines there! They have the finish area down to a science, I got my medal and salute (I cried), got my picture taken, got my post-race windbreaker and food, and the next thing you know, it was all over. Whew! Chip time was 5:27:33, or 7,314 out of 10,005 women. Woo-hoo! I couldn’t be happier.

    Sore quads, calves and mostly my left hip, but basically I had an excellent race!  I never regretted not bringing my ipod, there was never a dull moment, really. Now less than a week out from the marathon, and my knee has not felt this solid and good in ages. I plan to start running tomorrow, on the 1 week anniversary of my very first marathon.

    Thank you Greg! I could not have managed without your help!

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