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Marine Corps Marathon Recap (MCM)

 The Marine Corps Marathon is a race that will change your life. Period. Find out why, and then enter the lottery and run this race! 

Read this Marine Corps Marathon recap to get inspired and ready to run one of the best marathons in the world!

A little bit of backstory before the main event: I had a magical, whirlwind and amazing training until I ran the Chicago Half September 8 (? it was the first weekend)–I ran 9 miles down to the race, had horrible ITB pain (I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time) the last 2 miles of the half (total of 22 miles in a little over 3 hours of running), but it cleared right up and I seemed good to go.

But no.

The longest run I enjoyed after that was 16 of an 18 miler that I forced in 2 weeks before the marathon. Between that and the marathon, the longest I was able to run was 8 miles at a time before I literally would think my knee would explode. To say I was apprehensive that I would make it all the way through is to be gentle. But we taped me up, I rolled and PT’d like a champ, and I gave it all I had.

Cue the rest of the tale: Our story opens the morning of the Marine Corps Marathon, Sunday, October 27, 2013. I got up, got ready, layered and got my bag, and headed off into the wild blue (black) yonder. I met a few other crazies downstairs, and we got shuttled over to the Metro, and we made our way to the Pentagon. It was NOT warm. 

Oh yeah, and by the time I got to the Pentagon, I was about to vomit and run the opposite direction I was so nervous! I hadn’t been nervous until the night before, when everything became REAL at the Runner’s World Challenge Q&A session. I had long ago decided that I had done the training, I was going to get my GD medal. Even if I had to walk half or more of it (remember, up to this point I had never done a walking half before ;)). I had earned the right to wear the thing around my neck. long run

And then I had the classic WTH AM I DOING moment. Why on God’s green earth am I putting myself in the situation where I will be freezing and walking for 16+ miles in pain? FRIIIIICK. pre1 Somehow, I got myself to the RWC tent (to be explained later, but we had perks), I sat down, I ate my go-to breakfast (that I had brought from home).  I tried to go to the bathroom. Still looking around nervously, not really talking with anyone. I got my kit together (I figured out what I was taking with me, put it in my belt), while trying to figure out just how many layers I needed. And talking to an RW staffer about it. And spilling all of my crazy. And then going with what I had initially decided (singlet, short sleeved old v neck t, throwaway long sleeve, fave jacket that I would be damned to toss but I knew I would freeze without. I had decided the night before to wear my compression shorts underneath my go-to racing shorts (older Moving Comfort ones with big ol’ pockets on both sides). I also had a visor, my sunglasses, compression sleeves, and KT tape. I looked…Awesome. But I did steal the idea of pinning my bib to my Nathan ID belt, which would take off the pressure of figuring out what to do if I needed to doff layers. Oh and I had gloves. Finally, I could take it no longer. I made sure that I had everything, checked my bag, creeped on Bart (who was doing interviews), and began my walk over to the start. Love Bart Yasso! Read this Marine Corps Marathon recap to get inspired and ready to run one of the best marathons in the world! Yeah, it wasn’t warm. Nope, not at all. So I did my best to keep what warmth I had (thank you layers) and start to do all of my stretching. And people watch. And wait. And watch. And freeze. I discarded the layer that I knew for certain was a throwaway, and waited. And watched, and then it was time for the wheelchair marathoners, and then the anthem and the flag falling from the sky, and then the Howizter, and then it was time to go.

A few things about MCM (in no real order of importance):

First off, it is the largest marathon in the world that you don’t have to qualify for. Anyone can run in it, if they get a number. Now, you have to enter the lottery or run for charity, but believe me, it is worth it!

Second, and a complete technicality of the way MCM is done, is that you put yourself into whatever wave you think you should be in (unless you are elite). So I picked to start with the 4:30 runners, I believe. This became very important to my longevity in the race, as well as that just mentioned sense of running for something larger than myself.

Third, the marathon is staffed by volunteering Marines and other Service men and women. It is the best run (harhar) race I have ever attended or participated in. Seriously, nothing holds a candle to this. Every mile marker, every water stop (some of these are staffed by regular volunteers–frats, running groups, etc), randomly along the way–marines are telling you “good job!” and “thank you!” and yelling out times and mileage and giving you Sport Beans and Gus. It is very surreal to be told Thank You by them.

Fourth, at least 50% of the field has some sort of connection to the Armed Forces, and proudly proclaim so on customized shirts. Everywhere you look are tshirts for KIA or POW or Battalion # or pictures from WWII attached, or something else that shows that the majority of the people that are running? They are running for something more. For something bigger than themselves. This race? It isn’t a race—this is their battle, and one way that they can feel close to those that they love, whether they have lost them, they still live, or they don’t know if they are alive or dead.

Marine Corps Marathon Recap

Read this Marine Corps Marathon recap to get inspired and ready to run one of the best marathons in the world! People did a pretty decent job of self seeding, but of course many put themselves in the wrong pace per mile category. Also, there are a bajillion people in and around the pace group that I chose. This slowed me down at the start A TON. So did the fact that my legs didn’t function because they were freezing. Consequently, my pace for the first 5-10 miles was between 10-9 min/mile (I average about 8 for longer runs).

Hills at the start also were also huge helps, because it made my glutes work for it. I am typically the only person that thinks (YAY HILLS) on runs and in races, but I do. HI MOM while running through Georgetown 😀 Mile 8 was when the grace period started: anything after that was just gravy, a gift from the running gods to Suz.

And I got to mile 8, and was ok. And then mile 9, and then 10, and then 11, then 12, then 13 (halfway).

I managed to undo my belt and garmin, take off my jacket, take off my next throwaway layer (an old t shirt), put back on my jacket and belt, and then put my garmin on my belt, all without breaking stride (Yes I am that good). And then at mile 14ish, I started to feel that twinge in lateral, superior, border of my knee. Oh God. Here we go. That little ITB frickerfracker. So I played with my stride a little bit, and that seemed to help. I stopped at a park bathroom, not a portalet, did a little bit of a stretch as well, and then started to gingerly trot and feel where I was at. I played with my stride, and I kept going.

Out of the park and up to the Mall. Before the Mall, there is a down and back (mile 15-17 I think), and that is where the crowds are going bananas. Candy, posters, people, people dressed as gorillas, things just everywhere. It is unreal. And I could feel some twinging, and Mom was nowhere to be seen (even though she told me she was near by LIES), and I talked to her when I took a 30 second walk break, and then I started up again. And then we were on the Mall. Read this Marine Corps Marathon recap to get inspired and ready to run one of the best marathons in the world!

I saw Mom in front of the Smithsonian (new side) and I ran in front of the Capitol, and the old Smithsonian (and took nerdy pictures because I am an architecture nerd), and took sports beans FROM MARINES and took water at aid stations (I had started doing after about 13 miles, I tend not to so I wanted to make sure to get it in). You exit the Mall at mile 19/20, and that is when I put on my new Katy Perry tunes, I say that I listened to Katy Perry’s new album. but I actually only listened to the final 6-8 songs because my playlist is on reverse and I was so digging them that I didn’t want to test my luck.

They call the 14th St bridge (around mile 19-20 I believe) the Gauntlet because it is kind of a no-man’s land and area of no return–it is all concrete, all the time, there is very little crowd support (really the only place other than a few spots in Georgetown and the run through the gold course, and the highway before the last mile, that has little support), but those that are there are lovely! It is also an incline, and just long. But I, personally, loved it. Put on that music, look to your left and see an older couple running and holding hands, the sun is coming out, the Potomac is on either side, you are running to the last 5-10k…. I loved it.

“By the Grace of God” I headed up and across the 14th street bridge, and realized that I could get close to a 4 if I started to run like me. I could power through 5 miles. Sooooo I negative split the last 6 miles (actually, I negative split the entire thing hollllaaa). I was literally passing people left and right on the hills of Crystal City.

I grabbed a water cup OH WAIT that’s a doughnut I WISH IT WAS WATER but half bite mmmmmm so yummy crush that cup and pound it into the pavement like a real boy. The run past Arlington, and then the final 2 miles on the highway, that is when things got real.  This point of the course is another true test of your mental (and physical) endurance. Little crowd support, just you and the road and the people whose bodies were giving out and they were sobbing… I could feel my leg twinging, but I told it to shut its face.


I hadn’t remembered this when I signed up for MCM, but my grandfather was a Marine (most of my mom’s family had been Navy/Army, this was my dad’s father). My grandfather passed away right when I met Alex–a week after our first date, actually. This man meant the world to me, and I was the last person that he acknowledged or attempted to speak to before he died. Mom had reminded me not just 48 hours before that he was Marines–I knew he had been stationed at Pearl Harbor (after the attack; he left me his journal but I think my aunt has it) but called home when his father died, but I had forgotten that he was Marines.

Well, Grandpa and the spirits of my dog Champ and horse Regal got me through those last 2 miles, I have no doubt. I am not religious, but I am spiritual. I know the Katy Perry “By the Grace of God” is about something very different, but the idea of “I pick myself back up” just kept with me. And we never backed down.

When I saw mile 25, I nearly burst into tears. I was going to get there, never having to stop, never having to back down. I high-fived Bart Yasso (I will plug him as much as I please, thank you), who was cheering us on about .5 mi from the finish. Then it was 26. Then I turned and headed up the hill, then the turn for the last bit of flat. An ambulance going being me, I passed a wheelchair runner, and then I was across the finish.

Marine Corps Marathon Finish. Read this Marine Corps Marathon recap to get inspired and ready to run one of the best marathons in the world!

Marines were on either side of me, congratulating me and moving me forward. You literally shake every hand of every man and woman in uniform that you can manage to. They thank you, you thank them, not just for thanking you, or for running the race, but for everything. For the fact that you even get the opportunity to run that race. Finally, you reach the end of the MCM: in front of the Marine Corps Memorial, they hand you your medal.

Read this Marine Corps Marathon recap to get inspired and ready to run one of the best marathons in the world!

Three Marines stand in line: 2 prepare the medals, then the first puts it on you, stands at attention, and you salute each other. 

Bottom Line: Run the Marine Corps Marathon. You won’t be disappointed! Incredible crowd support, incredible aid stations, incredible course, and all the feels. This is a race that cannot be missed!

Find out more about my experience with Runners World Challenge and the Marine Corps Marathon Expo here!

I am linking up with myself, Rachel, Lora, and Debbie for Running Coaches CornerPatty, Erika, and Marcia for Tuesdays on the Run, Nicole, Annmarie, Michelle, and Jen for Wild Workout Wednesday, and Ilka and Angela for Food and Fitness Sunday. 

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  • Reply Baking in Yoga Pants

    It sounds like such an awesome racing experience! Congratulations, I am incredibly impressed! 🙂

    March 31, 2014 at 8:46 am
    • Reply SuzLyfe

      Aw, thank you, and thank you for hanging in there until the end! It’s a feat just to make it through the recap!!

      March 31, 2014 at 6:29 pm
  • Reply runsaltrun

    Oh my gosh I love this so hard. What an amazing experience. I want to do the MCM so badly one day and would have entered the lottery this year if Baltimore wasn’t the week before. Your story just made me want to do it even worse!

    March 31, 2014 at 9:03 am
    • Reply SuzLyfe

      It really is unlike any other race I have ever experienced. NYCM is special because it NYC and it is a hard course, and you have to get in, etc, but this is about love and running, and pride, and humility, and gratitude. I can’t describe it otherwise.

      March 31, 2014 at 6:29 pm
  • Reply chasingchels

    Peanut and I salute you for this recap love! I enjoyed hearing it again, and he was enthralled (either by pics of you or by the backstreet boys currently on pandora but I would bet it was you). Thank you for the shout out, too, girl! We’ll see if I can get my act together and get a recap written while nut nut’s snoozing

    March 31, 2014 at 11:50 am
    • Reply SuzLyfe

      Good luck with that 😀 and it was definitely pandora haha

      March 31, 2014 at 6:18 pm
  • Reply your mommy, Clare

    As a support person, my job was to be there and provide a personal cheering section for Suze—–which was not an easy feat (feet!) when literally thousands of people were running by and I had 6 inches of curb space that I was clinging to for dear life.
    The fact that I got to see Susie and yell to her (not at her) was amazing in itself!

    However, I digress, as a support person, maybe I should be called a “personal support specialist”–and that just came out of nowhere—but—

    Being a part of that crowd was absolutely an Honor.

    Watching the runners with their shirts that said “Army” or “Ranger” etc., the wheelchair athletes with their hand cycles, the runners who were pushing the wheelchairs of vets who were completely paralyzed, or limbless, the blind runners with their running partners, those who ran for miles holding the American flag—it just took my breath away. I yelled and cheered as loudly as I could for every “runner” and I was laughing-in-tears when family or friends got to high five or kiss their “runner” as they sped by.

    This wasn’t just a marathon, it was an Honor. It gave everyone there a chance to say “thank you” to those who have given so much, and to pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice—
    When I got the MCM text that Susie had finished the race–when she actually crossed the finish line (which none of us could see or get close to for security reasons)–I burst into tears..again. She had done it!!!

    I have no doubt at all, none whatsoever, that Grandpa was running right along beside her and Champ and Regal “had her back” the whole way!

    March 31, 2014 at 1:20 pm
    • Reply SuzLyfe

      Thank you. Just thank you.

      March 31, 2014 at 6:18 pm
  • Reply courtruns4cupcakes

    I loved reading your recap! I’m impressed you remembered all of that, I normally forget everything I was going to write in my recap immediately after the race ends. If only there was a way to take notes while racing…

    March 31, 2014 at 4:17 pm
    • Reply SuzLyfe

      There are ways, but I am NOT coordinated enough to manage that. And basically, it was just that momentous. and now that I think about it, not listening to music meant that I was totally aware of everything,OH AND I WAS FREAKING OUT ABOUT MY LEG hahaha

      March 31, 2014 at 6:17 pm
  • Reply Buying allthethings and Runner’s World Challenge #MCM #Treatyourselftuesday | SuzLyfe

    […] things (!), and nonsense will return before long. I want to mention 2 things that slipped my mind yesterday: 1) I ran 19.5 miles of the race sans music. This was completely abnormal for me until my 22 miler, […]

    April 1, 2014 at 6:02 am
  • Reply BakeNBurn

    Great Recap & Congrats! I’m a DC local and will be running MCM for the first time this year. This makes me even more excited!

    April 4, 2014 at 10:09 am
    • Reply SuzLyfe

      Thanks! And that is fantastic! It truly is an amazing, experience. It changes the way you think about running, and about larger picture concerns. Thank you so much for joining the Suzlyfe party!

      April 4, 2014 at 7:22 pm
  • Reply Novelties and Rituals #WIAW | SuzLyfe

    […] know work for you ones that are readily available or that are portable. When I went to DC for the marathon, I packed my Annie’s White Cheddar Mac and Cheese packet, my Cinnamon Raisin bagel thin, a […]

    April 23, 2014 at 6:01 am
  • Reply Sarah

    What an awesome race experience! My friend ran the MCM last year. I think of all the marathons out there, this is the one that I would maybe think of doing!
    Sarah recently posted…Rest Day Review: My FEED May BoxMy Profile

    May 15, 2014 at 10:54 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      It was magnificent. It totally changed everything I thought I knew about racing, even after doing so many Team Challenge events. Truly, make it a bucket list-er.

      May 15, 2014 at 5:43 pm
  • Reply Happy Fourth of July! | Suzlyfe

    […] That time I celebrated my freedom by running a marathon […]

    July 4, 2014 at 7:18 am
  • Reply MCM Mama

    Marine Corps Marathon was my first marathon (and the reason I started my blog). Such an amazing race. I’d run it every year if it didn’t involve training through the Virginia summer LOL.

    Thanks for the recap and for joining our link up! Join us again next week when we discuss fitting running in on vacation.
    MCM Mama recently posted…Blog Spotlight: Vegas Mother RunnerMy Profile

    July 17, 2014 at 8:01 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Haha sooooo true. I trained for it in the Chicago summer, a little bit different. And I realized how appropriate it was to link up to when I saw that you were hosting!

      July 17, 2014 at 9:07 am
  • Reply Fave Race Moments and Gluten Free Muffin Recipe! | Suzlyfe

    […] mile (Recap here). There was a moment every mile that changed me. Every mile, I thought to myself, I can’t […]

    August 8, 2014 at 9:23 am
  • Reply Reasons for Racing (Spartan Race + Quest Bar Giveaway)

    […] weekend! And not to show favoritism, but especially to those running the Marine Corps Marathon. It was my first, and I will never forget what it was like to stare down that walk to the start with almost no trust […]

    October 24, 2014 at 5:31 am
  • Reply Kristy from Southern In Law

    What an incredible experience this race would have been! The finish line congratulations totally would have been the highlight and made it all worth it!
    Kristy from Southern In Law recently posted…Recipe: Paleo Chocolate Almond SliceMy Profile

    October 23, 2016 at 6:49 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      It still blows my mind to think about!

      October 25, 2016 at 3:18 pm
  • Reply Karen

    You had some major challenges going into this! It is great you had such a strong finish 🙂 a strong run! Sounds like an epic day, very emotional.

    October 26, 2016 at 10:04 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      So emotional. But so incredible.

      October 27, 2016 at 3:36 pm
  • Reply Angela

    Wow! GreatJob!! I ran the MCM with my husband in 2012 and absolutely loved it!! It is one of my all tie favorite races, loved your recap…hope to do it again in the future!!

    October 29, 2016 at 12:53 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I hope to get to do it again soon, as well! Maybe I’ll see you there!

      October 30, 2016 at 3:31 pm

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