“You’re insane, I could never do that” Marine Corps Marathon

It’s December 14 and its almost 2 months post my first ever 26.2 journey.  I have been neglecting this post for long enough but there are some reasons behind that.  I have started to structure my “race reports” different and I don’t want them to be a play by play of all the events leading up to the race.  Instead I am attempting to recreate the feelings leading up to, during and after the race.  This race had a lot of feelings behind it so I wanted to get my thoughts together before I put it all down.  Today someone said to me, “I still can’t believe you ran a marathon!” and I thought there was no better time than the present to get things down on the screen.

Let’s start with a few facts before the race, leading up and in training.  I was a complete rookie and I made every mistake possible so I want to get that all out for people to learn from.  Over the summer, after Atlantic City I began ramping up my running.  My first long run was a 13 miler and I decided to make it 13.1 to complete my first half.  This was a different first half because there were no aid stations, no cheering, just me and the rode.  I packed a couple gels and completed the run in under two hours.  I was thrilled.  From there things went down hill.  For about three weeks in a row I pack the SAME amount of gel or maybe one more and ONE water bottle.  I couldn’t figure out why I was hitting a wall every time and couldn’t get through 2 hours of running.

Fast forward and after many phone conversations with seasoned runners I came to terms with the fact that I was under fueling and under hydrating for the demands of marathon training.  I ordered a bag of custom Infinit Nutrition (check it out here) and waited anxiously for it to arrive.  It came and I threw every time goal out the window at this point and my main goal for the day of the marathon was merely to finish.  Leading up to Marine Corps I had one 18 mile long run and one split 20 mile long run.  This will come into play later.  Unfortunately due to time constraints this was all I could push my body to do in order to recover properly for the marathon.

The race was on Sunday and I left the Thursday before for Washington DC.  The expo was friday and I was advised to get in as early as possible and I am glad I did.  I met some amazing people for the first time who had helped me through training and they reassured me that I was ready and I WOULD finish.  Aside from the normal expo shannanigans it was business as usual.  My cousin had just recently moved to the DC area from California and so I got a chance to see him for the first time in probably about 4-5 years.  He is an active duty Marine so it meant a lot to me to see him before the race.  As we were walking back from a late lunch he said something to me that stuck with me for the rest of the weekend.  He looked me dead in the face and said “Listen I know a lot of people have told you a lot of different things about completing this race.  I am not hear to over load you with any new information, I just want you to remember one thing, don’t ever stop moving.  He looked me dead in the eyes and said listen to me DO NOT STOP MOVING!” This resonated with me and I took it very serious.  Little did I know how useful this would become.

Saturday came around and I wanted to stop back by the expo to exchange a shirt I bought the day before.  We got of the metro at the exit and before we even got to the top of the escalator I could see the line.  I said to my girlfriend “Thank god we came yesterday!” we turned around and got back on the subway.  It was off to some sight seeing for the day.  So we explored DC and saw all of the sites.  Another key mistake on my part.  At the time I did not realize it but later that day I knew I made a mistake.  We walked EVERYWHERE that day and by the end of the day my legs were tired.  Not to the point of exhaustion but I knew that they were tired.  I knew it was a mistake but I couldn’t change it at that point.  I met with my parents, had a wonderful dinner and it was off to bed.

I woke up the next morning full of nerves.  I tried to eat as much as I could but it was a struggle.  With every bite I felt like I was swallowing a boulder. I dropped of a bottle of nutrition with the facebook crew in the lobby that I would exchange around mile 20(another key point) and it was off to the metro.  The rest of my bottle were in a bag with my family and I would exchange them along the route.  We followed the crowds to the start and it was a long walk through the parking lot. From there it was just a waiting game.  I made my way over to the start and I was overcome with emotion.  It was time, I was about to embark on the hardest journey of my life.  I waited to see my mom and sister before I started because they wanted to send me off.  I saw them and then began walking up to the start line.  I was way in the back of the pack for the start.

Largest flag ever used in a jump!
Here we goooooooo!

A few miles in I had to pee so bad.  I didn’t want to stop but it got to a point where I knew I wasn’t going to be able to fight it anymore.  I found a tree, relieved myself and continue on.  I had one bottle in my pack and an extra bag of Infinit just incase I missed my family for a bottle exchange.  The miles ticked by and I felt good. I got to mile 10 and I had some tummy problems and I got nervous.  I thought man if this is an indication for my day, its going to be a long one.  I tried to sip some nutrition and just stay calm.  Luckily it subsided and I was back on track.  I was not going as fast as I wanted to but I knew I had a long journey.  I saw my family around mile 11 and did the first bottle exchange.  They were incredible and I cannot thank them enough for being a part of this journey.   The last thing I want to say about this point in the race was that I was heading back from one of the turn arounds and the “straggler bus” passed me on the other side of the road.  I remember telling myself this was the first and last time you would see this!

After mile 16 or so we made our way out by the Potomac River.  This was the hardest part of the race for me.  The mental game really began.  I just remember seeing mile 18 and thinking, OK I have 8 more to go, I can do this.  If you remember from earlier, 18 miles was my longest run leading up to this race.  So here began the run walk.  I had a bottle from my family and I knew I just needed to make it to the party at mile 20 to see the Red Felt crew.  I started to really look forward to seeing this party.  I remember hitting 19 and thinking ok, one more mile and I will see them, then it is just a 10k to the finish.  I remember seeing people stopping and stretching out.  I wanted to stop and stretch my calves so bad.  I thought “I could stop just for a minute, what’s it going to hurt?” Then I remembered the conversation with Michael, NO!!! NO STOPPING!!!  I hit mile 20 and I couldn’t find them.  Not anywhere…..this hit me hard. I was mad, I was stunned, I just didn’t know what to do.  It got in my head really bad.

I needed to just continue on and finish my race.  I remember being in the middle of the bridge and thinking for the first time, am I even going to be able to finish this.  From miles 20-23 it was a mental game.  “You can do this” to holy cow, how am I ever going to finish this all in the same breath.  When we got back to Crystal City I dumped the bag of nutrition into my bottle and filled it up with water.  I knew I had this in me.  The energy through this city was like nothing I have ever felt before.  They carried me to mile 25 and my walking at this point was minimal.

I remember getting to mile 24 somewhere and people started saying “just one more mile, you got this!”  To those of you who run, you may be able to related to how I felt at this point.  I wanted to smack these people in the face.  DO NOT tell me I have one more mile when in reality I don’t.  It was a false sense of security for me and I did not like it.  I powered through and looked forward to that mile 25 sign.  I remember passing it and reaching up and smacking it.  We were almost there.  For the last mile of the race, I don’t know where it came from but I ran the entire thing.  There were two things I heard about this race.  One I wasn’t sure of and the other I knew was going to be there.  The first was the magical man with the keg of beer around mile 24 or so, but I never found him =/.  The second was the uphill finish.  I rounded the corner of mile 26 and it was there, starring me in the face.  I knew my family was at the top of that hill and still to this day I don’t even remember feeling it.  I ran up the hill so fast to see my mom and girlfriend there.  This is where the tears started.  I remember approaching that finish line and just bawling like a little kid.  I had done it.  From a 300+ pound couch potato to a marathon runner in just over 2 years of blood sweat and tears.  I crossed the line and just stood there for a minute.  I kissed my hands and just threw them up to the sky and said thank you.

When the Marine put that medal around my neck and saluted me saying “Congratulations Sir!” I could have lost it.  I wanted to hug him but I thought that might be weird so I refrained.  I remember them pushing everyone to keep moving when all I wanted to do was sit down!! I found a curb and sat down for a second.  I just wanted to take it all in.  I took off my shoes and got out my phone so that I could find my family.  Having my phone on me the whole race was key.  I could keep in contact with my family and find them after the race.  I did not use it for music because I didn’t want to kill the battery which was key and I also know that service can be touchy throughout the race so I had an iPod for that.  Smartest 50 bucks I have every spent!

Post race the only thing I wanted to do was drink my chocolate milk and take an ice bath. Luckily my hotel was less and a quarter mile from the finish.  This was HUGE! The last thing you want to try and do is navigate public transportation after such a large race. Unfortunately I guess do to safety concerns you cannot plug the tub in hotels.  So I settled for a shower and my wonderful 2XU compression tights.  I remember receiving a congratulations text from a friend and she offered some words of wisdom.  I was laying in bed when I got this text and all I wanted to do was stay there.  She said “GET UP!!!” another key piece of advice.  I got up and continued moving as bad as it hurt.  I walked and got food and walked around a bit more.  It hurt but I am so thankful that I did it.  Plus it gave me a chance to go out in my new jacket with my new hardware ;).

I remember walking back to the metro with Jamee and she told me again for the millionth time how proud she was of me.  She has been there from the first day I met her and I am so thankful for that.  I said to her:

You know, I’ll be honest, it did not go the way I planned.  I did not hit my time goal, but there is one thing I did do and that is complete a marathon.  It is something I swore I would never do, it is something some people say they want to do but don’t and its something some people will never be able to say they did.  No one will ever be able to take that away from me.”  

It is completely true what they say, you will never forget your first and I believe it to this day.  Two months later and I still feel the same amount of joy writing this as I did that day.

If you have skipped all the mumbo jumbo in between and got to this point please just read this paragraph.   Years ago I remember talking to someone and telling them I would NEVER run 26.2 miles just for fun.  On October the 26th I did just that.  Something I thought I could never do in a million years.  If you have something that you have always wanted to do and said you never would, please take my advice an consider doing it.  I promise you that you will not forget it.  It will be the most rewarding thing you have ever felt in your entire life.  It was not an easy journey, it was a fight every day, but god I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  I made some key mistakes along the way but it has made me better for the next one.

I thank you all in advance for reading this extremely long and over worded post. I hope you find some motivation or inspiration in this to do something that you have always wanted to.  Lastly I thank everyone for their constant support.  Without you I would Have never been able to complete such an amazing task.  I cannot even begin to list the people but you know exactly who you are.

Next up I have some exciting things that I can’t wait to tell you all about!

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks for your support!

Keep FSU and Do It For Yourself!

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