I just finished the 2011 SunTrust National Marathon in Washington DC on Saturday, March 26. Here's how it went:
I woke up at 4:45AM, took a shower, had a breakfast of oatmeal, banana and coffee, got all my things together and headed out the door. I was staying with my VERY generous friends in Falls Church, Virginia. The Metro Rail started running at 6:00AM, just one hour before the start of the race at 7:00AM. Because my friends' apartment was a good distance away from RFK Stadium, I didn't want to risk missing the start of the marathon so I opted to take a cab. Turns out I should have saved $40 and taken the Metro anyway as the starting gun was a bit tardy to go off and it took over 20 minutes for me to cross the start line from when the race began. There were some 17,000 runners in the three events of the day (Marathon, Half Marathon and Team Relay) and I was placed in the very last starting corral. Anyway, it was better to be safe than sorry and I had plenty of time to wait in the long lines to pee and soak in the pre-race atmosphere.
The weather was pretty chilly in the morning - probably in the low to mid 30's. I brought an extra hooded sweatshirt that I wore until my corral started to move then I threw it off to the side of the road to be donated. The best decision I made all day was about a minute before I was to cross the starting line I jumped a fence and hit the port-o-potty one last time. Because the race had started, there were no lines and I finished my business and jumped back over the fence in no time to start the race. By doing this I saved myself a few unpleasant miles and waiting in a long toilet line at the first aid station.
The first half hour or so was spent threading my way through the thick crowd, passing runners. In that half hour I warmed up and shed my hat and gloves and tied a bandanna around my head. A little later I took off my jacket and tied it around my waist. What had been a cold morning turned out to be a beautiful sunny day. It remained fairly crowded until the half marathon mark when the other two events finished, leaving only the marathoners for the last half of the course. It was really refreshing to get the extra running room and for a boost of inspiration, at about mile 14 I passed by a single leg amputee runner who was trucking along with a prosthetic leg.
The course offered some great views of the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument amoung other DC landmarks and had us running through several neighborhoods as well as past Nationals Park. Hopefully one day I'll return here to watch a baseball game and cross another stadium off my bucket list.
The course was mostly flat although there was a few little hills mixed in, but nothing major. The cherry trees and magnolias were in bloom and at several times during the race I would zone out and just look at them in contemplation and appreciation. At every aid station I would get two cups of Powerade and then a cup of water and probably ate 5 gels over the course of the day. I felt pretty strong the whole race, even though by the end my legs were tired. I kept my mind off them by looking at all the trees in bloom and chatting with some fellow runners. It is always fun and special to quickly get to know someone during a race.
The race ended where it started at RFK Stadium and I crossed the finish line in 4:17:18 (9:49 pace), a new PR for me having shaved off over an hour on my previous best and much faster than my initial goal. I got my medal, had my picture taken, drank some water and called Ciara and my parents before heading to the Metro stop to ride back to Virginia.
There are two philosophies for what to do the day after you run a marathon. The first one is to rest. The second one is called active recovery which means that even if you are hobbling, get out and run a couple of miles to loosen things up. I chose a happy medium as I ended up walking probably at least 10 miles all over DC including visiting the American History Museum, Natural History Museum, Holocaust Museum, Ford's Theatre and the Jefferson Memorial. What a great way to keep things loose and now three days after the marathon I've run twice and feel well on my way to recovery.
I had a great time at the marathon and it was wonderful to train for something all winter long and get to celebrate the hard work by running through one of America's greatest cities. Now it's onward to new goals and adventures. What's next!?!