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?