Marine Corps Marathon Race Report
|November 1, 2012||Posted by Emily under Uncategorized|
Alternate title: It’s My Party, I Can Be an Asshole If I Want To
One of my friends celebrates his birthday for an entire month every November. This 30-day tribute to his birth comes complete with a multi-state Birthday Party Tour and everything from brunches, to winery tours, to dance parties to help him celebrate.
I, on the other hand, rarely even spend a single evening celebrating my birthday. Blame its proximity to Halloween and the plethora of costume parties that clog up my birthday weekend. Or the fact that I’ve worked in politics for years and free time is not exactly plentiful for my peeps within days of the election. But I’m just not a big birthday person.
But when my birthday happens to fall on a marathon race weekend? I turn into one of those annoying people who want to celebrate all weekend long.
So I did.
Starting on Friday night with happy hour, continuing into early Saturday evening with a massive carb/beer-loading session with a fellow marathon runner
(beer/free shots. Only one person consumed theirs. I’ll let you guess which of us that was.)
And finishing up with some late race night Halloween partying in my super creative “Marine Corps Marathoner” costume complete with my 2012 bib.
Four hours of sleep later and I was feeling less-than-stellar when I met up with my friend Alex to head to the start. Shocking. I know.
But as soon as we made our way to the front of the sea of runners, the 30,000 doses of adrenaline from the crowd served as a much-needed pick-me-up and I started to feel a little more alive.
And then we started running.
My one job for the race was to make sure Alex did not go out too fast. Alex is without a doubt a natural athlete (his sister recently competed in the Olympics, NBD) but he doesn’t really train super hard…or at all. His normal race strategy is: under (or don’t) train, show up at the start line, go out at a stupid fast pace, Prefontaine the race, and still post a very impressive finish time.
But up until Sunday, Alex had never run a marathon, and the undertrain/go-out-too-fast-and-hang-on-for-dear-life strategy is best kept to distances < 26.2 miles.
So I offered to start with him and yell every time we went too fast.
This part all went fine. Alex would get all high on the cheers of the crowd, sprint ahead, I would yell and scold, he would shamefully slow down, and we would resume our steady pace of ~ 8 minute miles.
Meanwhile, a party pooper was trying to ruin my birthday marathon fun.
While I was all OMG I LOVE MARATHONING. BEST BIRTHDAY EVER.
A small, but very real physical sensation was nagging me in the background.
Dear god woman, finish this thing already so we can get back to bed. Less bouncing. More advil and water, please.
I kept trying to shut this voice up. But a bout of dizziness or my never-fully-calm stomach kept reminding me that it refused to be silenced.
For 19 miles, I successfully ignored this uninvited birthday guest. I smiled like a fool as we cruised through the crowds in Georgetown. I burst into several fits of laughter when the “L” fell off my shirt and people obeyed the prompt across my chest to yell “GO DEN!” “YAY DEN” “YOU GOT THIS DEN!” I died and went to heaven when Bart Yasso cheered “GO EMILY” (four times. nbd.). And I soaked up the energy of a hometown marathon as I saw friend after friend along the course.
And then shit got ugly.
And by “shit got ugly” I mean I was left sprinting to the nearest porta-potty to get a little sick. Twice.
I could now go on for a few sentences about my heroic effort to fight through my hangover and finish the race (sarcasm people, serious sarcasm), but that would be a little ridiculous.
While slightly cruel and unfortunate, it is fitting that my birthday marathon, and my 5 year marathon anniversary race, was not perfect. And equally fitting that the imperfection was 100 percent self-inflicted.
During the final miles, while I cursed the lack of facilities on the back half of the course, I had a lot of thoughts. Not all of them pretty or appropriate for the internet, but a few were, so let’s talk about them.
My recent approach to training and racing has not been the most responsible or disciplined (easily my least favorite word these days). Have you noticed that the majority of my recent race reports begin with some variation of “a funny thing happened on my way to the bar…”?
Yeah, not exactly a recipe for athletic success. But I’ve had little reason to quit my bad habits because I have seen very few consequences for my misbehavior.
If a dog owner kept rewarding a puppy with treats every time he devoured a pair of shoes or tore through upholstery, you would expect this animal to continue its bad behavior, right? That’s how positive reinforcement works (though obviously not a very strategic use of it). Well, for the last several months, this puppy=me. Only instead of upholstery, I tear through adult beverages and don’t sleep on race eve (not to mention lots of training eves…), and instead of dog treats, I get rewarded with good race times and podiums.
MCM was a ridiculously needed slap in the face. For all of the work I put into making my body capable of performing at endurance sports, I treat it like shit. Is it worth it to spend 24 hours a week sweating my ass off if I’m going to spend an equal (or greater) amount of time reversing that work?
When I started marathoning 5 years ago, I ran a 4:40.50 marathon. While I’m happy that I can now run over an hour faster than that during a hangover-plagued “just-for-fun” race, that’s not really why I wake up at 4am every morning and head to the track. Or why I spend every weekend logging double digit long run miles. I have some pretty stupidly big goals for myself and running. And I’m not going to achieve them if I keep acting like a total asshole.
This is not an “I’m quitting all drinking and late nights out with friends post.” That would be ridiculous and not me and did I mention ridiculous? But it is a resolution to start exercising more discipline (there it is again) and to make some strategic changes to my lifestyle, sleep habits, and extracurricular activities. The exact nature of these changes is still a little TBD, but I promise I’ll fill you in when negotiations with my top advisors have reached a conclusion. (We’re currently at a stalemate over terms concerning my untappd addiction.)
MCM reminded me that I’ve spent the last 5 years falling in love with something that makes me blissfully happy, even during its ugliest moments.
Something that has become a very core part of my identity. Something that I’ve loved spending 5 years working my ass off to improve at. But something that I’m so very far from being done with. I desperately want to keep getting better at this distance (slash every distance) and I’m clearly going to need to make some sacrifices to make that happen.
So thank you, MCM, for your very generous present. I have no doubt that you will be the gift that keeps on giving (/kicking me in the ass) as I tackle the next big thing.
And big congrats to Alex, who a little bit proved us wrong by running a super negative split and finishing his first marathon in a 3:31. I hate you/nice work, killer.