For the 2018 Boston Marathon, the weather was cold with heavy rain and a strong head wind. I embraced it, earning the nickname, "The Storm." As the forecast for Marine Corps 2019 came into similar focus, I would have to summon the spirit of "The Storm" I relied upon to set my course PR of 3:08 in Boston in 2018.
My first two Marine Corps Marathons were my first two marathons. That was back in 2004 and 2005. I barely knew what I was doing, but at least I had pretty decent conditions. The 44th Marine Corps Marathon was my fourth and 47th overall (27 different states), and the conditions were was far from the perfect conditions I hope for each race (40s, overcast, no wind or rain). The rain came down in sheets, strong gusts blew me into a near running standstill, and there was standing water, especially around the tip of Hains Point.
|The DC Road Runners Club Male Masters Team|
I don't control the weather, but I would think I have slightly better luck in 2019: Boston in April was heavy rain prior to the race which I ran injured; and two canceled marathons. When they called for thunderstorms, I worried I would have a third marathon canceled on me (Green Bay in May, Omaha in September). But these are the Marines who call rain "Warrior Sunshine." What looked like perfect weather conditions a week ago devolved into heavy rain, wind, and warm temperatures for the race. How do you have a rain storm in late October that is in the 60s/70s? Doesn't rain makes the weather cooler? Climate change, I suppose, as a late season tropical storm passed through. At least there wasn't thunder or lightning as they predicted.
|Running so fast I'm a blur?|
This was my fourth Marine Corps Marathon and 47th marathon in my 15 years as a runner. By the numbers, I did pretty well. 3:10:37, 166th overall, 149th male, and 26th male 40-44. Yet, I felt sad because it wasn't good enough for a Boston Qualifier. An arbitrary time, I had a goal to at least get a BQ after my "fantasy" goal of 2:55 was quashed by the weather which produced heavy rain, wind, and temperatures in the 60s with humidity. Breaking 3 was not a reality. In retrospect, I should have just tried for 3:05, but I would rather set an audacious goal and miss than a reasonable goal and feel I could have done better. Yet, as I process my effort, I am starting to feel better. I went and looked at the last ten years of results, comparing how fast the 166th finisher ran and what place 3:10:37 was:
2019 166th place 3:10:37 = my finish
2018 166th place 3:01:27 / 3:10:36 was 293rd
2017 166th place 3:03:03 / 3:10:36 was 254th
2016 166th place 3:06:40 (hottest MCM on record 60s start/70s finish) / 3:10:38 was 217th
NOTE: My 3:08:31 was 186th place.
2015 166th place 3:02:30 / 3:10:40 was 298
2014 166th place 3:03:55 / 3:10:41 was 262
2013 166th place 2:56:27 / 3:10:37 was 467
2012 166th place 3:00:16 / 3:10:37 was 333
2011 166th place 2:58:24 / 3:10:42 was 375
2010 166th place 2:59:18 / 3:10:37 was 389
Also, to compare with others with whom I ran that I found through race photos:
Matt # 224 finished in 3:14:26
James # 870 finished in 3:08:02
Pedro # 805 finished in 3:10:31
William # 4494 finished in 3:35
It is funny that ten years ago if you told me I would race MCM or any race in 3:10, I would have been ecstatic. 3:10:37 would have been a BQ in 2009 as the Boston Athletic Association used to give you up to 59 seconds, but they stopped that in 2012. Now, with the tougher standards, even though I'm 40-44 male, it is 40 seconds too slow to qualify and I probably need a 3:08 to assure a spot into Boston 2021. Out of my 47 marathons, it is my 16th fastest, yet is faster than every single marathon I raced prior to September 2011.
|Racing in a pack|
I lamented my bad luck. I was stuck in my head with woe as me. I was primed for a big PR, but without perfect conditions, I was shooting just for a decent time. These conditions weren't even close to ideal.
|Just passed the finish line: defeated and exhausted.|
As I warmed up on the start line, my right knee was creaking. Every ache manifested within the final few moments of the gun. And as I got my head in the right place, the howitzer went off and so did the race. The first two miles are directly uphill. I tried to just hold pace and not work too hard - I even tried to ignore the pace. In the second mile, I heard Coach Ed Grant call out to me. In the third mile, it was mostly downhill and I thought I found my pace. But, it was clear going through Georgetown and up Rock Creek that my effort wasn't smooth. In races where I run fast, the effort early feels relaxed and mostly easy. That didn't happen at all this race. It was a grind. I wondered how fit I really was and if I had the mental resolution to complete the race.
I don't have many memories from the race. I remember arriving in Georgetown and receiving a boost from the DC Road Runner Club water stop. I remember the out and back on Rock Creek where I saw Michael Wardian on his way to winning the 50K. I remember teasing a fan cheering us on as he wore a Flyers jersey - "Did you lose a bet?" He was a good sport. I caught up with a group of runners led by a 20-something male named Reagan (Do you have a brother named Ronald?). He was shooting for a 2:55, so I thought I could hang with this group. I stuck with them past the Kennedy Center and into Hains Point, but they pulled away around the "Wear Blue Mile," featuring "Faces of the Fallen posters and ribbons honoring service members who lost their lives during their years of active duty service." It was a quiet and somber mile along the most isolated stretch of the course. It was also by the halfway point, where I crossed in just under 1:32. I thought I had a good shot of 3:05.
But, I never found my groove. Between heavy rain, head wind that was strong at times, and overall soreness, I was slowing down. Running around the Mall, I thought I could hold a 7 flat, but it started to slip as I ran over 14th Street Bridge. I caught back up to Regan while still over the Potomac. He crossed the half in 1:28, but fell apart and claimed a 3:19 finish. I recall passing the 26.2 mark for the 50K on the bridge and joking with the volunteers as if I was crossing my finish line. In that moment, I wished I had signed up for the 50K. At least I wouldn't be disappointed as I would have been tackling a new challenge. But my race had a little less than 5 miles to go. The part through Crystal City was tough, with a headwind to the turnaround and a body that was getting tight and tired. Somehow, I stood upright. On the final two miles, I gave it everything but I had left it all on the course. When I got to the finish hill, I was barely able to move and didn't have a finish kick. Maybe if the finish were a straightaway, I could have gotten in under 3:10:00.
|Family ice cream treat|
My mile splits:
7:00/7:16/6:56/6:29/7:00/6:52/6:53/6:45/6:57/6:55/7:00/7:12/7:05/6:56/7:06/7:10/7:12/7:14/ 7:22/7:36/7:30/7:42/7:31/7:45/7:46/ 8:30 pace for 0.44.
Course timing markers:
Distance Time (Difference)
10K 42:01 (20:00)
Half 1:31:53 (49:53)
30K 2:11:50 (39:57)
40K 2:59:29 (47:39)
Finish 3:10:37 (11:06)
P.S. I am honored to know Ray Celeste. He spent 26 years as a Marine and has run 28 consecutive Marine Corps Marathons. He works for a North Carolina Representative as his military legislative assistant. He picked up my bib for me and has been helpful including me in the Capitol Hill Running Club. Friday before the marathon, they inducted him into their Hall of Fame. He is an inspiration and a general good guy.