Race Recap: Conquering the Hill a Year Later

In Races by MC

If you are new to the blog or don’t have my entire race history memorized, last year I ran the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington D.C. It was my second ever marathon and temperatures reached the mid 70’s at the end of October. You can read the full recap here, but long story short, the end of the race was miserable for me and I barely made it across the finish line.

After that race, I knew I didn’t want to do another marathon. At least not this year. I decided to focus on race distances that I truly love and work on speed. But I knew that I needed to do something to get past the anxiety I had because of that race.

So I signed up for the Marine Corps 10k. Even though it was not the same distance, it was essentially the same course and covered the miles that I struggled with the most. If I could run the 10k and have a positive race experience, I knew it would help erase all the bad feelings and memories I was left with last year.

I also decided to be on a marathon relay team the previous day in Maryland because I’m crazy. My cousin’s team needed a fourth and I figured why not, it’s only a 6.3-mile leg! That race was fun, but since I was the third leg, I didn’t start until about 10:30am when it was starting to get warm and my leg had ALL the hills. Literally six uphill inclines in six miles. It wasn’t bad, my time was good (9:29 pace) but it was tiring.

Having just run that race I wasn’t sure how Sunday would go. I’ve also been doing CrossFit so my legs were still sore from weighted lunge walks. Once again, I was worried. I have some race day jitters, that’s just my norm, but it was a little more than usual with this race. I think it breaks down like this:

  • Getting there – the race is in DC so it took a long time to get there and included driving to the metro and then a one-hour metro ride
  • Getting to the bathroom – I don’t know why but I always feel like I must use the bathroom before a race so if time is close I start freaking out
  • Finishing – even though I’ve done tons of races in the last two years, I still worry about being able to finish
  • Beating my time – I had a very specific goal in mind for this race and that was one hour

We got to DC, we found bathrooms off the beaten path (okay they were literally on the race course, just down from the start) and I got to the start line right on time. Then there was a 10-minute delay, which wasn’t ideal but I just listened to music and focused on the mission ahead.

The Race

One of the frustrations of any big race is the first mile. People don’t actually line up by their mile pace so there is just a cluster of runners and walkers trying to make their way through the pack. This race was no exception and I had to strategically weave in and out, all the while trying to maintain my goal pace. I ended mile 1 with a pace of 9:52. Not good enough! I knew I had to speed it up a little to make up for the slow first mile.

I saw my boyfriend at the mile 1 marker so that was really nice. I always get a boost of energy after seeing someone I know, especially someone so dear to me. Soon after that it was beat the bridge. This is an infamous part of the marathon course where you have to get to the bridge and past it (all two miles of it) by a certain time. On the marathon course it is mile 19-21 and it was where I started to slow down and walked for the first time.

I made it across the bridge and actually took time to take a picture or two. I felt great and had brought my own water bottle, which was essential after that two-mile bridge stretch. I remembered most of the course and it’s mostly flat so I knew I could push my pace. We ran through Crystal City, right where I saw someone collapse last year.

I think they cut out about one mile from the 10k course, but overall it was the same as the end of the marathon course. I was literally able to redo my finish and retrace my steps almost exactly.

As the end of the race came up I knew I needed to reach deep to get up that last hill. Another notorious part of the marathon course is that great uphill finish! I got there, put my head down, and pushed myself up that hill, dodging the people who slowed down. I got past the hill and ran across the finish line, beating my goal time by over a minute!

This race was so important to me. I needed to relive that race to a certain degree and replace last year’s terrible finish with a strong finish. I finished in 58:44 with a 9:27 mile pace. I’m thrilled! It was an emotional race, with so many people running for lost loved ones and I couldn’t help but get emotional as I ran through the memories of last year’s struggle.

It was an awesome day, and an awesome race. I really enjoyed it. We’ll see if I give it another shot next year.