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January 2020
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Marine Corps Marathon 2010 (Susan’s tale)

First, I can’t say enough good things about the Marines for putting on a fantastic race. They expertly and professionally handled logistics for 30,000 marathon runners plus 10K runners and spectators: moving us through the start and finish, all the water and food stops, mile markers, ran alongside hand-cycle and wheelchair competitors, and did an amazing amount of cheering as well. And, on top of all that, they had real-time “track a runner” splits available so my parents could cheer along.

Second, the course was amazing. Brian and I were only half joking when we considered running it “just for fun” to be able to enjoy the sights, rather than running for time. It was nice to run along the Potomac, through Georgetown, around the Mall and monuments and finish running toward the Iwo Jima Memorial, but I felt that I was only able to take in half of it between eating, drinking, getting splits, navigating runners and focusing on pace.

Third, kudos to Heather for hosting us this weekend and being a terrific “crew” and cheering section for us! She ran our “loosen up the legs” run with us the day before the race, then got up at 4:30am with us, drove us to the Metro, stayed with us until the start, and then met us at the finish with water, snacks and our gear. We are so fortunate to have a fellow runner and friend who was willing to dedicate her weekend to making our race a success.

Our strategy for the race was to start slow to warm up and get through the crowds, then maintain a steady pace that would enable me to qualify for the Boston Marathon, 3hour45min or less. Last year I went out way too fast and blew up, so I knew I had to hold back up front to run even or even negative splits. Brian worked the night before on a few scenarios so we knew just where we needed to be at various points in the race. He would also be my pacer to keep me on track, particularly in the first half of the race. We also had practiced fueling with Perpetuem, and knowing that I’m pretty bad at drinking and eat on the course, we had enough calories to keep us going through the race.

And, in short, we executed the plan. I would say there was one tactical error, when I got spooked coming through mile 11 at 8:38 – I really thought we were locked in at 8:15-8:20 at that point – so I picked it up and ran a sub-8 for mile 12. We both felt that one, and it’s unclear how much of an impact that had on our later miles. But overall, I ran pretty even halves: 1:51:34 for the first 13.1 and 1:52:01 for the second half, coming in at 3:43:35 (click the link and enter “Woodmansee” in the Find a Runner Last Name field), a Boston Qualifying time! I’m also very excited to have finished 64 out of 1337 women in my age group, top 5%.

Susans MCM 2010 splits

Susan's MCM 2010 splits

So here are the details. It took us 4mins30seconds to get to the start and about 2 miles to get through the pack enough to settle into our 8:30min pace. We tried to hold back on the uphills (with Beej reminding me that we can’t win the race in the first 10K, but we can lose it!) and let gravity be our friend on the downhills. Other than a few inclines at the end of the race, the course was flat after the first 10 miles, so it was pretty easy to settle into the 8:15 – 8:30 range, a bit slower with water stops, and bit faster when we were inspired. Brian and I parted ways at mile 17, I picked it up a bit through mile 21, and then pretty much knew at mile 23 that I could run 9s the last three miles and make the qualifying time. I’m not sure how much of my slow down was that realization, my sore and tired legs, a slight urge to hurl, the wind that kicked up, or simply not knowing for sure how far I had left to go (so I should leave a little bit in reserve). I do know that the carnage of the last 5 miles of the race started to get to me mentally. Whereas last year I was part of it, this year I was trying to maintain my form and pace as others clearly struggled just to keep putting one foot in front of the other. About a quarter of the runners were stopping to walk or stretch, and at least half of them were slowing down considerably, while others struggled on but veered erratically, making it hard to pass. In that environment I started to wonder how much I had left before joining their ranks, and it was also tough to figure out my relative pace when folks I’d been running with for the middle section of the race were no longer as steady. Was I passing because I was going too fast, or because I was just not slowing down as much as everyone else? At any rate, even if I wasn’t able to maintain the 8:30 pace as intended, I did manage to keep sub-9s.

I had planned to give the last hill all I had – after all, it’s a memorial to Iwo Jima, and if others can fight for a month to take the hill, I can certainly pound out .2 miles at the end of a marathon. My body had other ideas, however, as my abs had turned to jelly. I expected to feel cramping, lactic-acid laden legs of concrete, but I didn’t expect that when I tried to pick up my speed with those legs on the last 0.2 miles, I would find myself bent over in half, lacking in core strength with no speed to be found. I still managed a solid finish, and made my way through the chute to receive my medal (of course from a friendly Marine) and meet up with Brian and Heather.


Pingback from » Marine Corps Marathon (Brian’s take)
Time: November 2, 2010, 8:56 am

[…] Susan’s post on the race covers her experience. Here are my thoughts. I ended up finishing the Marine Corps Marathon in a time of 3:55:51 which was good for 505th out of 2146 in my age group. Going in to the race I had several goals listed from what would make me most happy on down. […]

Pingback from » 11 years in the making, 11 seconds to spare
Time: September 26, 2011, 9:21 pm

[…] been almost a year since I ran my Boston Qualifying marathon in DC, and I knew at the time that the Boston Marathon was already full for 2011. ┬áIn fact, it filled up […]

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