I did it.
I ran 26.2 miles.
I did not stop. I did not cramp. Nor did I have to sprint to a porta potty or have any near-death experiences.
I conquered the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon. in 4:05:37.
Although I finished five minutes later than my goal of four hours, I am nothing but satisfied. Yes it would have been great to have clocked a sub-four hour marathon, but for my first one, I felt pretty kick-ass.
When my alarm went off at 5:30 AM on Sunday morning, everything I worked for in the past four months flooded my mind. I got dressed as I would have for a typical SLR, but I had one additional accessory: my marathon bib.
As the majority of the city slept, I joined nearly 30,000 others to commute to the Pentagon for the starting line of the 2014 Marine Corps Marathon.
Among thousands of strangers, and a few familiar Fleet Face faces, I stood at the start waiting for the howitzer to fire and officially launch the race. It fired, and then I was off.
The first mile was a complete blur, perhaps the fastest nine minutes of my life. For the next two, I race through Northern Virginia before turning onto the Key Bridge to run in the shadows of my alma mata, Georgetown University.
From Georgetown, I ran up and down part of the Rock Creek Parkway for nearly four miles before heading south to run towards the Lincoln Memorial. By the time I hit the halfway point, nearly two hours after I began, my body recognized that it still had 13 more miles to go.
Then, I gained momentum. It didn’t reflect so much in my splits, but the sight of familiar faces (including my own) gave me the boost to smile in the later miles and keep moving. At mile 15, I saw my Fleet Feet crew celebrating our finish out of Hains Point, and I even managed to get in a hug while never stopping my feet.
By mile 17, I saw more familiar faces, including Hillary Clinton’s, who also celebrated a milestone Sunday with her birthday, and whose face will now proudly hang on my bedroom wall. Then on the seemingly endless 14th Street Bridge, I recognized a face so large that I spotted it several feet away. There was nothing I needed more than that sighting at mile 20 to get me past that bridge and powering through the final 10k.
In those last miles, my feet felt as if they were pounding directly on the pavement. My hands felt sticky from the gatorade that never made its way into my mouth. And my shoulders could feel the heat from the sun’s rays beating down on them. Yet, I never stopped. I kept counting down the miles in my head and kept moving.
Close to the finish I realized I would not beat my four-hour goal, but it didn’t bother me. I was so close, and the number was simply an arbitrary one that I had set for myself months ago. Yes, I believe I can run marathon faster, but yesterday I took my first marathon in stride and did not let the pressure of the time consume me.
When I saw mile marker 26, I knew I had the infamous Iwo Jima hill left to tackle. But as much as everyone said about it, it felt like a piece of cake. At that point in the race, one can literally see the finish. Marines line the hill and encourage runners the entire short incline, so there was nothing but motivation to power me upwards.
As the hill flattened out, I dashed towards the finish line. After less than two years of running, on Sunday I completed my first marathon in 4:05:37. The high that I felt after my feet stopped running and the marine placed the medal around my neck was indescribable. I finished feeling strong and accomplished. Except from some soreness, there were no unfortunate side effects.
I cannot say with 100% certainty yet when and if I will run another marathon. But if the words of the hotel valet have any indication, “We’ll see you next year.”