Running (Slowly) with the Marines: MCM 10K Recap

The Marine Corps Marathon is a huge running event, with thousands of runners from all over the country coming to DC to run with the Marines. Since I’m a long way from being ready to run my first marathon, I decided to sign up for its little sister event: the Marine Corps Marathon 10K. I figured after the Disneyland Paris half marathon a few weeks before, 10 kilometers would be a breeze. I had a simple goal going into the race: to run a faster 10K than my previous one, the Capitol Hill Classic. Since it took me an hour and sixteen minutes to complete that course back in May, I also added a stretch goal of finishing closer to the 1 hour mark this time.

How did I do? Well, by the first kilometer I knew that stretch goal would be impossible to achieve and I even questioned whether I’d even make my goal… or complete the whole run! My legs were so heavy and so tight from the beginning on and, more worrisome, I had a nagging pain in the back of my left knee. I considered that I might have to walk the whole course… except walking hurt just as much as running 😦 The pain in the back of my knee actually went away so I decided to keep running, slowly, with a few walk breaks every mile. That got me to the finish line in 1:09. Technically, I made my goal though I was really hoping to do better and it’s hard to feel satisfied with the run. I guess I have a hard time celebrating little victories 😉

Despite that, I loved running this 10K and I had an absolute fantastic day. First of all, the weather was gorgeous! I know it sucked for those running the full marathon… but it was a perfect for a 10K! I had initially planned to meet a few people from the Marine Corps Marathon and 10K Club facebook group for a photo opp by the Capitol reflecting pool but the location was changed at the last minute so I ended up just snapping one sola.

The picture turned out great, though I was looking forward to meeting some of the people from the group IRL. I don’t have a ton of runner friends yet, well at least not ones that are just starting to run like I am…  My friend David who was staying with me for the weekend walked me to the security point (gotta love a race with a start line 10 blocks from your apartment!) and then I joined the other runners for the pre-race celebrations. We started 10 minutes later than we were supposed to and by 8:10am I was off running on the National Mall. I was doing a great job keeping up with everyone around me… but as I mentioned, I was in pain. Unlike the Marine Corps Marathon which draws so many spectators, there are not a ton of people lining the course for the 10K. I could have used a little bit of cheering early on! I did love seeing the Batala ladies right before the 14th street bridge. They rock for being there for us so early! 

The 14th street bridge is notorious for being one of the hardest part of the course for those running the full marathon. It’s slightly uphill, long and there are no spectators to cheer the runners on. It’s also typically around mile 18-20 when  they’re really starting to feel tired. But for the 10K it comes at just the 2 miles mark so it’s not so bad. I did slow down a bit though, especially since my legs really hurt. After that, the race takes us to Crystal City and the course’s only water station. I definitely could have used one more somewhere in there because it was quite warm. I could tell early on from my time (4.3 kilometers at the 30 minute miles and a 6:58/km average pace) that I wouldn’t hit my goal and that I would probably get a worse time than I had back in May. I was so discouraged I felt like walking the rest of the course but then I received a very well timed text message from my friend Emily who had just ran the Navy 10 miler the weekend before. 

So rather than give up, I picked up my pace. I went down to 6:30/km (6:26/km at K6, 6:38/km at K7 and 6:27/km at K8) from 7:03/km at K4 and 7:09/km at K5. I walked a little bit when we got near the Pentagon which brought my pace back to 7:17/km for K9 but finished strong (for me!) at 6:36/km at K10. The finish line of the MCM 10k is the same as the full marathon  and while it was still early, there were already a lot of people cheering, which was definitely something that was missing from the rest of the course.  That was great! Of course, the finish line by Iwo Jima is notorious for being super steep and that was rough! But I kept running because at this point there are a lot of spectators (and Marines!) cheering so walking isn’t an option, especially so close to the end and with so many people watching. I spotted my friend David (good thing he’s SO tall) though he clearly completely missed me 😉 I cannot imagine doing that finish after having run 26 miles… I’m really in awe of everyone that runs the full course!

Once you’re done, there are tons of Marines congratulating, high five-ing you and fist bumping you and you get your medal from a Marine too. The atmosphere at the finish line was great, though it was a bit of a bummer to see the Iwo Jima memorial covered in scaffolding. I snapped a few souvenir pics then had the nice surprise of seeing my friends Nicole and Calla who had come to cheer me on, though clearly thought I’m a much much slower runner than I actually am because they completely missed me at Crystal City. That’s too bad, because it’s such a nice boost to see a familiar face when you’re running but I was still SO happy to see them at the end. 

David, Calla and I actually headed back to Crystal City to cheer on the runners in the marathon. We got there by the time the 3:15/miles pacers were arriving and stayed through to the 5/miles pacers. I was trying to spot two of my friends who were running but failed miserably. I did spot Elyse from the 14th street Pacers store looking strong on the course! After that, it was time for a little celebrating! I love that it was still rosé on the roof weather at the end of October! 

While I had a great day, I can’t help but not feel satisfied with the race. Running is part mental part physical, and I clearly still need to work on both, train more and push myself to accomplish the goals I set for myself. Of course, I don’t want to end this year on a sour running note, so I did the only thing one can do in this situation: I signed up for another race! I’ll be running Pacers’ Jingle All the Way 15K on December 10th, which will force me to keep running, even as the weather gets colder. I can’t wait to prove to myself that I can do better! Also, how much fun is planning a cute Christmas running outfit going to be? And the snowman medal is adorable. Can’t wait to add it to my (small) collection! 

Anyone else race this weekend? How did it go?

Ariel & the Sweeper Girls: A Disneyland Paris Half Marathon Race Recap

Two weeks ago, I ran my longest race of 2017: the Disneyland Paris-Val d’Europe half marathon, part of Run Disney France’s Magic Run Weekend. My previous races this year were the Cherry Blossom 10 miler and the Capitol Hill Classic 10K. I’ll cap off my running season with the Marine Corp Marathon’s 10K. I’m not quite ready to commit to training for a full marathon yet though it’s definitely a distance I’m looking to doing next year 😉

If you read my goals for the Disneyland Paris half, you saw that they didn’t include a specific time. I just wanted to complete the course, make some new memories with my bestie Caitlin and snap some fun pics with Disney characters as I ran through my old workplace. I spent six months after college working in the communication department at Disneyland Paris, right after the Studios had opened, so the parks have a special place in my heart. 

Technically, I achieved all of my goals yet it was hard for me to feel entirely satisfied with myself at the end of the 21 kilometers. Here is a quick race recap. Ok, not so quick…

First let’s talk about the race itself. The half marathon is fairly small in comparison to some of the other races I’ve done … 7,000 runners altogether (compared with 17,000 + at the Cherry Blossom 10 miler!) and is part of a full weekend of running with a 5K on Friday night, a 10K Saturday morning, a kid’s run Saturday afternoon and the 21K Sunday morning. Some runners actually do all three and get a special Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo challenge medal, in addition to medals for each of the races. I must say I was a little envious of all their bling! But Caitlin and I flew into Charles de Gaulle Saturday morning so those extra races weren’t an option for us. We went straight to our hotel, the Kyriad, via the Magical Shuttle — actual name! — do drop our bags and from there to the Expo in the Disney Village to get our bibs. There wasn’t much happening at the expo so that didn’t take too long. We killed some time at the shops (I behaved!) and grabbed lunch — food options are not great at Disney! — before checking into our room and taking a much needed 3 hours nap. Diner was the all-you-can-eat buffet at the hotel next door, the Vienna House Magic Circus Hotel. For those of you who know a little bit of fromage geography, you may know that Disney Paris is basically in Brie-land so my carb loading involved a lot of delicious runny Brie (and a glass of red wine of course, can’t have one without the other !) We managed to stay up until 9:30 then got some much needed zzzs! 

Ariel and Sebastien ready to run!

Ariel and Sebastian (not so) patiently waiting to start running

We didn’t have to wake up too early on race day since this particular Disney race wasn’t set to start until a luxurious 7AM. I say luxurious because apparently other Disney races kick off at an ungodly 5AM. Yikes! The start line was split into 3 waves (we were in wave C) and each subsequently divided into smaller groups so that only 250 runners would head inside the Studios at once. It was very exciting at first cheering for all the previous groups as they headed off. However it got a lot less fun an hour later when we still hadn’t left and realized would be in group 25 of 25 to cross that starting line. Womp womp. At this point both me and Caitlin started to worry about this for different reasons. Her because she’s a fast runner, currently training for the New York marathon, and knew she’d had to weave through a bunch of slow runners to catch up with those more at her pace. And me because I knew I had to complete the race before 11:30AM (the official cut-off for the race) and starting at 8AM meant I didn’t have much of a buffer anymore … but there was nothing we could do so off we went, Ariel and Sebastian, running through Disney in Paris! 

The Staff at Eureka Mining Supplis Cheering us on

As a former Cast Member, I know Disneyland Paris employees are the best! Here are a few cheering us on in Adventureland.

The first 5 kms of the race are THE BEST!! Right away, you’re in the Studios with cast members from various hotels, restaurants or attractions cheering you on. That was awesome. But I got super nostalgic as we passed Chez Rémy… that wasn’t there in my days! How the Studios had grown in the last 10 years! I stopped to snap a photo of the staff in their uniforms outside the restaurant … and lost Caitlin. So much for fun memories of the race together — I had at least thought I’d stick close to her through the parks. Oh well. I was on my own at the back of the pack. Where I pretty much stayed … see what happened is once we got into Disneyland there is a station set up for a photo opp with Mickey and Minnie, with the castle in the backdrop. I wanted. I wanted bad. But the line was soooooo long and I knew I was already one of the last runners since I left in the last group. Oh well, this was the one picture I wanted so I nervously joined the line.

Waiting in line for my picture with Mickey and Minnie

The line to get your picture taken with Minnie and Mickey — ps: Maleficient snapping a pic in front of me became my back-of-the-pack buddy! Her outfit was awesome!

After 15 minutes I saw them: the sweeper girls with their Minnie ears and Mickey balloons. Yikes! I was officially at the back of the back of the pack (though not alone … the line for pictures was still long.) I waited a little longer until a race volunteer basically told me that I would be out of the race if I stayed in the line any longer. I was nowhere near Mickey so I had no choice. I started running again. I basically wasted 25 minutes and didn’t get my picture with Mickey and Minnie. And now I had to catch up to the sweeper girls, which sorta became my obsession for the rest of the race. 

Running through an empty Main Street towards Cinderella’s Castle was a dream. And running through the empty park — there weren’t many runners left at this point — was a memory I’ll cherish forever. So was running through the castle!  I did stop for all the picture opportunities I could … I mean, if I didn’t get my pic with Mickey I was going to get all the other pictures I could ! So altogether, it must have taken me over an hour just to complete the first 5 kilometers. Definitely a reverse PR 😉 And of course, i still technically at this point was behind the sweeper girls meaning I really had to speed up. 

Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

The next 15 kilometers weave through the lovely roads and villages around Disney. There wasn’t really anyone cheering along the course though organizers had set up some distraction points like a group of local pint-sized cheerleaders, bands or a DJ. At this point I was so focused on catching up with the sweeper girls that I didn’t notice when I actually passed them. Instead, I was freaking out, going as fast as my lack of proper training would allow me and hoping Moana’s How Far I’ll Go would keep me going a while longer! I was feeling pretty down — where were those sweeper girls!? Would I seriously not complete this course !? And then at kilometer 15 i saw them. Going in the opposite direction from me meaning they were probably just at the halfway point of the race. Way behind me.

Disneyland paris Half Marathon Sweeper Girls

The Disneyland Paris Val d’Europe Half Marathon Sweeper Girls

I started breathing again and allowed a break. Which turned into a longer break than I meant for it. I had a hard time motivating myself to run again until we basically got to the hotels. Running through the official Disney Hotels, especially the Santa Fe — which is huge — and the Cheyenne with its Wild West theme, was super fun because after a cheering desert there were people again! Kids! Parents! Runners who had already finished their half marathon and were sporting their medal(s)! I got the second wind I needed to start really going again. Running through the Disney Village was a bit tricky though since by that point the parks were open and the area was full of people trying to get into Disneyland or the Studios, as well as runners who had already finished the course and were eager to get back to their hotels. The path carved out for the runners was pretty narrow and you had to navigate multiple crossing points too… but I spotted my dad, Caitlin and my friend Calla right before going back inside the Studios for that final kilometer. And then I got all nostalgic again. We ran through the set of Moteurs … Action! an attraction I had seen hundreds of time while I worked at Disney since one of my biggest project then was a live taping of the German TV show Wetten, dass…? which took place in that theater. (You can check out a recording of the show on YouTube!)

Actions... moteurs!

Awww, Disney. I miss you!! (And my twenties too lol). Finally, I crossed the finish line (which is actually inside the Studios!! How cool is that!?) a little teary eyed and very exhausted. I got my medal and managed to find Caitlin for our finisher photo. We didn’t get a single picture together with Disney characters so this one will have to do! 

Finisher photo at Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

Completed the course? Check. Made memories with my bestie? Check. Fun pics with Disney characters? Check, even if they weren’t Mickey. So my first international race was a success by the goals I had set but my lack of training really showed. I hadn’t done enough long runs leading up to the half, so by the time I realized I had passed the sweeper girls at kilometer 15 I was wiped and all but too happy to walk for a few kms. Does anyone else really struggle with longer runs too? My final time was 2h57 which isn’t great by any means though if you subtract the half hour give or take I spent in line for pictures with Mickey or other characters after that it’s slightly better, probably closer to 2h30… not great, but not that bad for me either). As always, I only have myself to blame. In running you get back what you put in and I didn’t put in enough ahead of time. I have 2 weeks now until the Marine Corp Marathon’s 10K and I’m determined to have a better race this time ! Anyone else running it or the full marathon? 

ps: can’t we talk recovery meals for a minute? As you might expect, the French know how to do it well! My mom made her signature couscous…

Couscous.jpg…. and my dad picked up some amazing eclairs at Fauchon (it was eclairs week afterall!).Eclairs from Fauchon

Since the weather was SO beautiful, we walked along the Canal St. Martin and had a few glasses of rosé on the rooftop terrace of Point Ephémère

Rose at Le Bar Ephemere in Paris

…before wrapping up a long day with some natural wine at Clown Bar.

Post half marathon dranks at Clown Bar.jpg

Sunday Funday with a bunch of Ks! I’d run a half marathon every weekend if they could always be like this one 😉