On the way to the starting line on October 27, we drove past two cars that had been in an accident. Everyone seemed fine, but they probably wouldn't make it to the marathon. At that point, part of me wished that we'd get in an accident so I wouldn't have to run the marathon either...
We parked in Crystal City, hopped on the shuttle to the Runners Village and before I knew it I was at the starting line. No turning back now. Not long after the largest flag ever to be carried by a parachuter landed in front of me, I was off.
The first mile was dubious. My right calf had been tight, and my whole week of running prior to the marathon had been a train wreck. Perhaps running 54 miles the week before that (and only the second week after my previous marathon) was a bit too much. In any case, I slathered my leg in magnesium, swallowed loads of collagen, grounded myself as much as possible, ingested plenty of yucca root and turmeric and wore a new pair of 2XU calf compression sleeves that I bought at the expo. I wasn't sure if I'd actually be able to finish the marathon—I was really worried—but I figured I'd do everything I could to set myself up for success given the circumstances. My leg felt a lot better by Sunday morning, but I still wasn't at 100 percent, and that became painfully evident in the first minutes of the race. I took it slow—not that I had a choice; the field was massive and it seemed everyone started too far up for what they actually planned on running.
Soon my calf loosened up and I was okay to go. I buzzed forward, part of me unrealistically hoping to get a 3:35 PR, so I attempted to stay on pace for that. I did pretty well, hitting the half at 1:50:21, and I kept speeding up all the way to the 35K mark. But then I started getting reeeeeeally tired. I fought the urge to take a walking break, knowing that would further kill my time, so I trudged on.
After mile 20 things got pretty bleak. My last marathon had been such a breeze that maybe I forgot how tough running a marathon could be. Nonetheless, I was determined that I would run the whole way and somehow make it through. In the end, I did take a 30-second walking break around mile 25, but that allowed me to gather the energy and courage to make it through the final stretch. The Marines hilariously put a steep hill at 26.1, and finishing felt like an incredible achievement.
My final time was 3:51:21. Not a PR, but that's still over 20 minutes faster than my pre-October PR, and considering I'd run another marathon just three weeks before, I was pretty satisfied. Moreover, I knew I gave the race my fullest effort, and I had nothing to be ashamed of.
The marathon itself was one of the best. The course was beautiful, gliding through countless sights and neighborhoods of DC and northeast Virginia. There were just enough hills to keep it interesting but not so many that they were grueling. The best part, though, was the patriotism that pervaded the day, and the inspirational other runners. Marines manned all the aid stations, marathoners ran for their fallen loved ones, a number of people ran with American flags, and there were many people running on Team Hoyt—runners who pushed handicapped loved ones in wheelchairs or strollers through the entire course.
Afterwards I was exhausted. I had planned to meet my family at the meet-up area, but I couldn't make it that far (it was positioned devilishly far from the finish line), so I plopped down next to a stand giving away watermelon. The next day I could barely walk—it had been a long time since I experienced that!—and it took a few days for me to be able to walk normally. Now, almost a week later, I still have some lingering tension in my right calf. I tried going for a run yesterday but only made it a mile... I'm going to nurture this calf a bit more to make sure I get it back up to snuff before I start pounding on it again.
My next marathon will be the Tecumseh Trail Marathon in Indiana on December 7. I'm looking forward to the smallest marathon I've ever run, as well as my first trail race! Should be a blast.