National Marathon 2011, Washington DC



This was my first official winter in New York City.  It was the first time I trained for a spring marathon in below freezing conditions.  I followed the same training program I’d used with the Fleet Feet training program(s) in Sacramento, CA and thankfully, remained injury free.  Aside from some serious foot pain mid-way through the 17-week program, my body held up well and my energy level was high.  Two weeks before the marathon I ran a 10k assessment run and PR-ed.  I was feeling great and eager to run.  Anyone who has tapered for a marathon, understands the word “bloat” and the “doughy” feeling the body experiences as it retains fluid and glycogen during the recovery and healing process.  I imagine this retention as fuel for race day and try to make the most of it as my both my appetite and training decrease.

This was my fourth marathon.  In 2008, I trained alone and ran the Napa Valley Marathon ( using Galloway’s run/walk method.  In 2008 and 2009,  I trained with the Fleet Feet coaching team in Sacramento, California and learned to appreciate the value of running with a team and was lucky to make a couple of good friends along the way.  This time around, I opted to train alone because my job schedule is so screwy; most of my runs happened at 5:00am before I headed out into the field.

Saturday mornings were reserved for the long, slow runs.  I circled Prospect Park in Brooklyn more times than I can count, battled winds to and from Coney Island, made multiple crossings of the Brooklyn Bridge, up to Harlem and Central Park.


We took the 7:00am train from Penn Station, NYC to Union Station, Washington DC on Friday morning.  This was my first trip to the nation’s capitol and I was really excited to see the sights…by foot during the race.  We took the metro from Union Station to the race hotel in Dupont Circle, and then headed to the Race Expo at RFK Stadium/Armory.  I picked up my race packet and walked around the expo looking at marked down running gear and gadgets.  It’s strange, but I feel extremely fatigued the day before an important race; it had been a busy work week and I think the stress caught up with me.  We didn’t stay long at the Expo because I didn’t want to spend too much time on my feet.  We ate really good food in Dupont Circle, window shopped, napped and went to bed early.

Allergies happened.  I woke up several times throughout the night wondering if the sore throat and stuffy nose were allergy or cold symptoms?  It was the first time I seriously considered staying in bed and skipping out on the run, but then I imagined what it would feel like watching the hoards of runners pass by and all the miles I had run to prepare for the big day, and got my arse out of bed.


The race was set to begin at 7:00am and the race organizers managed to get the DC Subways to begin running at 6:00am, an hour earlier than normal on weekends.  Unfortunately, dozens of runners, including myself,  waited in 30 degree weather at the Dupont Circle station waiting for the gates to open. At 6:20am, the gates opened and a hoard of lycra-clad, nervous runners rushed to catch a train that did not come for another ten minutes.  Two train rides later, we ran up the stairs toward the Armory just in time to hear the starting gun sound and witness the 15,000 runners (minus a sorry group of latecomers) take to the streets.  I stripped down, tossed my bag to the nice volunteer and waited.for.the.bathroom.

It’s inevitable.

Nerves + coffee + cold = need to pee.

When I made it to the START line, 21 minutes had passed, the pace teams were long gone and it was me, the stragglers at the end and harried latecomers.  Time to change the race plan and enjoy the ride.

I had planned to run withe the 3:30 pace teams and attempt to qualify for Boston 2012.  Not happening.  They were long gone.

Plan B:  Rely on the Garmin to pace myself.  At mile 7, I stood in a long line for the porta-potty and did not realize that the Garmin actually stopped and did not record anything from miles 7 to 13.

Plan C:  Relax, enjoy the scenery and run your heart out.  I ran by “feel” and felt great during most of the run. In fact, the much anticipated rough patch didn’t come.

The 26.2 mile/42k figure eight shaped, sometimes hilly course looped past the Capitol Building, the Smithsonian, the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, Anacostia Park, National Stadium, the waterfront.

The course was lined with thousands of enthusiastic spectators, the aid stations were stocked with water, Powerade and Gu, high school marching bands and cheer leading squads shook their pompoms our way.

The course was missing one thing: mile markers.  I had absolutely no idea how many miles we had traveled until we hit the midway point at RFK and headed back out to run the second half of the course.

One more prolonged pitstop and I was off to travel the second half,  arguably the most difficult part of a marathon.

We ran by the Capitol Building a second time and headed south toward the waterfront.  I stopped at nearly every aid station, making sure to stay hydrated and was happily surprised to hear a volunteer mention mile marker 19.   That last six miles felt like nothing.  I had about 10k to go – I could run a 10k, no problem.  In fact, it was a perfect day to run; in the 30′s and sunny.  If only I could lose the jacket!

When the hills and wind greeted us, the miles seemed a little longer.  I passed by the 25-mile aid station without stopping, ran up the ramp that took us over a long bridge toward RFK Stadium.  Marathoners were blowing up, moving backwards, limping and staggering toward the distant stadium.

My body was pretty taxed by this point, and while I probably wasn’t running a fast last mile, I felt the effort.

When the finishing chute came into view,  I was swept through the final 200m by the cheers and energy of the spectators.  It was awesome!  I crossed the line in 4:01 something and had absolutely no idea what my actual time was until later that evening.  My finishing time was 3:39:13, 8 minutes and 13 seconds over the Boston Marathon qualifying time.  The good news? I felt great at the end and know that had circumstances been different, the run would have been quicker.  I know my body was capable of doing more and I felt great most of the race.  That’s a great feeling.

After I crossed the finish line, a medal was placed over my head and just like that, it was over.  Race complete.  Let’s celebrate and eat!  After a nap, of course.

About chacha

I'm a west coast transplant who lives in Brooklyn, NY. I love many outdoor and sporty activities including hiking, biking, running, cycling, walking and exploring New York. We have two dogs, a French Bulldog and a Pug. I enjoy cooking but baking is my passion. I'm no expert but I like to bake for friends and family, and love to try new recipes and bake new things. Thanks for reading!
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