minutes per mile blog

marathon #10: an experiment in minimalist training

On Sunday I ran the Marine Corps Marathon! I had this silly goal to run ten marathons and also run a marathon after having a baby. Why? No clue. But anyways, done and done :)

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A lot of you asked how I found time to train for a marathon over the past few months, and to be honest I’m not quite sure! I’ll have to collect my thoughts and write a post about it. Short story is yes I did train, but not nearly as well as I have in the past. I had **just a few** other things taking up my time!! Let’s just say I took the “minimalist training” approach.

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Thanks to Sokpal, I had a place to stash my stuff, pump, and pound a bagel before heading to the start line. Per usual, I made it to my corral with less than five minutes to spare. I actually had to walk/jog a mile or two before the race because I was literally running late. Hate when that happens, but I also hate standing around at the start line with nothing to do. Which do you think is worse — too early to the race, or too late?

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Since my training was short and sporadic, I tried not to tie myself to a finish time goal for this race. But, deep down I wanted to beat my PR of 3:20 :). Deeper down, I knew that this probably wasn’t possible. Deeper deeper down, I didn’t care and still wanted a 3:19! Hehe.

Ambitious race goals aside, becoming a mom has really changed my perspective on life and I don’t care about running nearly as much as I used to. I still love it, of course, but in a different way than I did last time I ran a marathon. Although I enjoy the speed and distance challenge, running is truly a “fun hobby” to me these days. I missed many training runs over the past nine months so that I could change diapers and play with blocks instead. To be honest, I barely even thought about this marathon until I hit the start line! So even though I had a secret goal, it wasn’t really that big of a deal.

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This is my second time running MCM and one reason I chose to run it again is because it’s such a great route. The first four miles of the race are some of my favorites, despite the hills. The energy is so high and I love jogging through my former home of Arlington! Plus there’s this gorgeous downhill right before you hit Key Bridge. Great spot to pick up a few seconds after slowing down on the uphills beforehand.

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I was hoping to stick around a 7:30 pace for the entire race. Most of my training runs came in around 7:50 so I figured I could shave off 20 seconds per mile for the race — right? The first five miles or so my pace was a little inconsistent because of the ups and downs. Ranging from 7:05 to 7:41! Oops.

I hit my groove from miles 6 to 15. I felt strong, the weather was great, and the crowds were cheering me right along! I also loved running by the zoo and Rock Creek Park — another nostalgic spot for me. So many runs on those trails back in my single city girl days!

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I hung around the 3:15 pacers for a bit but then let them pass by after a couple of miles. I was trying to save my legs for the rest of the race… perhaps I should have had this idea sooner?

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Hains Point is one of the more difficult parts of the course. It’s right in those tough middle miles (15-18) and the crowds are thin. I knew that this portion of the race would be challenging and tried my best to keep it together. The signs honoring military members and string of flags helped keep my spirits high.

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Not high enough, though! Ha. Around mile 15 I started to feel the exhaustion sink in a bit — and my stomach start to turn. Ugh! Even though I “only” had 11 miles to go, I knew they were going to be difficult. I changed my pace goal and tried to stick closer to 7:45/8:00. With some extra minutes “in the bank” from a speedy start, I thought a PR might still be possible if I slowed down strategically.

At mile 17 I had to make a quick bathroom break which unfortunately added a minute or so to my time. Hate when that happens! Luckily the prettiest part of the course (downtown DC) was coming up, so that helped me get back on track. I held steady around a 7:40 pace for the next few miles. Side note: As you can see from the photos, I basically ran this race with a bunch of dudes. Where were the ladies in this race?!

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Someone once told me that a marathon is a 20-mile warmup followed by a 6-mile race, which is exactly how I would describe my performance at MCM this year. Once I hit the (long, boring, sunny, hot, silent) bridge to Crystal City around mile 21, I started to struggle big time. Even the “beat the bridge” signs couldn’t help me. I struggled to clock in around 8 minutes per mile. After another bathroom break at mile 22 (agghhh!!), I had to change my goal again.

My new plan? DON’T WALK. JUST FINISH. Yikes!

I was so tired that I didn’t manage to snap a single photo during the last six miles of the race. But if you just picture me sort of jogging/hobbling along the road like a zombie, that’s pretty much what it looked like. Plus a few walking breaks. I definitely saw, touched, tapped, and felt “the wall” at mile 23 and slowed down a LOT. But I didn’t completely slam into it and walk the rest of the way (like I did a few years ago). Take that, wall!

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Shout out to reader Jenny, who ran into me at mile 26 and helped push me to the finish! I probably would have just sat down on the curb at that point and called it a day. But somehow I made it up that final hill to earn my medal and free banana.

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Marathon #10 — you almost killed me, but I didn’t die! For a postpartum, partially trained effort, I’m giving myself a break on not busting out a PR this time. I’ll save my speediest paces for #11 :)

Anyone else run MCM? Let me know how you did in the comments! I’d especially love to hear horror stories from the bridge and how you coped with the heat. In addition to the free banana, I also got a great tan during this race.

4 thoughts on “marathon #10: an experiment in minimalist training

  1. I didn’t run it this year but that bridge still haunts me! It’s SO quiet after the excitement on the mall and the change from asphalt to concrete just sucks the energy right out of your legs! Congrats on your finish!

  2. You are amazing! I also ran MCM this year and it was my first marathon. I live in Florida, so luckily I had trained throughout the summer in 90+ degrees which I think helped me with the heat. The bridge was brutal and the last .2 was probably the hardest .2 miles I will ever run. But I’m really grateful MCM was my first marathon and I think those difficult parts taught me a lot about myself and how to prepare for the next one! Congrats on a great finish and so glad to see you posting again!

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