Saturday’s extremely rare snow, sleet and cold in D.C. in October had me a bit nervous, but Sunday morning turned out to be perfect race weather. The start line was a bit chilly with temps in the 30s, but a few extra layers and some hand warmers kept me warm until we were ready to start. I lined up at the start line with the 3:35 pace group with a goal of staying with them for at least 18 miles.
The first few miles of the race go by Arlington Cemetery, then past my apartment and up Lee Highway before circling back to cross over the Key Bridge into D.C. My parents made the drive down from Syracuse to cheer me on throughout the race and ran all over town to see me at different spots! They caught me right past mile 1 and then headed over the Key Bridge to catch me as I looped back onto M Street toward Wisconsin Ave. I wasn’t able to spot them there, but would catch them again in Crystal City.
I was moving pretty good through the first half of the marathon. We lost our pacer for mile 12 though (I think he needed a bathroom break!) and all got nervous and sped up, which took a lot out of me. When he caught back up to us at the halfway point we were battling a headwind through Hains Point near the Jefferson Memorial. From there we hit the National Mall near the Washington Monument and headed towards the Capitol Building.
Around mile 16 I started to struggle and slowly see the pace group slip away. I tried to hang on, but finally lost sight of them at the mile 18 marker. After looping in front of the Capitol, I took a moment to thank god they didn’t make us run up the hill to go around the building, which was where I thought the course went! That along with a couple Power Bar gummy candies that I brought in my water pack picked me up a bit, and I started to feel better about mile 20 as I worked my way over the 14th Street Bridge. That is a brutal stretch of the race, especially since there is very little crowd support over the long bridge.
Entering the home stretch in Crystal City I realized I had a chance to still finish in 3:40, which would be huge. I saw my parents at mile 22 and got high fives when I looped back around by them again at mile 23 giving me a huge boost. Another friend was just about a mile down the road and cheered me on as I passed by leaving Crystal City with just two miles to go. It’s amazing how big of an effect cheers from people you know along the course can have on you.
I pushed hard passing Arlington Cemetery again and up that cruel hill right before the finish line in front of Iwo Jima, and was so excited to see I had kept it under 3:41! I’ve done a lot of races to travel and experience a new city. While nothing will ever top my finish experience in the old Olympic Stadium in Athens, seeing my own apartment just beyond the finish line and stumbling home in just a couple minutes was one of the best feelings ever.
I spent the next few hours being lazy, covered in ice and eating taco dip while watching the Bills game. My parents and I also had a celebration dinner up at Fireworks in Courthouse that night with some beer and pizza – a great way to cap off the day!
Now the big question is: what’s next? I’d like to take about a year off before doing another marathon and do some shorter races while I work on my speed so I can go for that Boston Qualifier – just 5 more minutes to go and I’m there. I’m not sure which marathon I want to do next, but Chicago and New York are on my short list.