2012 Marine Corps Marathon Recap!

First of all, thanks to all my Internet and IRL friends for all your kind words and well wishes! You’re all the best! Especially my parents, who came down to spectate and followed me all around the District of Columbia in hopes of seeing me run for just a few seconds. Thank you for always being there for me.


Short-version recap:

I ran my third marathon yesterday.

I didn’t make my sub-4 goal, but I still took 15 minutes off my NYC marathon time, and I’m incredibly happy with that.

I bonked, HARD, at mile 23.

Long-version recap:

Go grab a drink. I make no promises to keep this short.


I’d set my alarm for 4:59 and 5:00, but excitement woke me up at 4:45. I watched some YouTube videos of the marathon in bed and cried, per usual.

I’d laid out all my stuff the night before, so I got ready pretty quickly. The last two marathons, my mom pinned my bib on because my hands were too shaky for me to do it myself, so I had her pin my bib on again, because it’s tradition now.

We were staying in the Courthouse area of Arlington, so I walked to the Courthouse metro at 6 and took it to Rosslyn to switch to the blue line to get to the Pentagon. I hadn’t looked at the metro times in advance, so I ended up having to wait 15 minutes for a train. I got nervous about the wait, but realized there was nothing I could do, so I took advantage of this time to try to do some deep breathing and center myself before getting to the race. I talked to a man who was running his first marathon, and this bolstered my confidence. Whether I met my goal time or not, I knew I’d finish. I’d done this before.


It was SO crowded.

I made it to the Pentagon, and we had a long walk from the metro to the runners’ village. I’d guess it was close to a mile.

As part of the Runner’s World Challenge (which I was given free access to to blog about it, which will come next week), I had access to their tent before, which was pretty sweet. They had breakfast there, so I planned on eating there, not at the hotel. By the time I got into Runners’ Village, it was after 7, and I started to get nervous I wouldn’t have time to eat.


I choked down a bagel and a banana, hit the private Port-a-Potties and went to hit the corrals.


Arm warmers are so flattering.

I met up with Ericka to line up in the corrals. We were both chasing sub-4, so we decided to try to start together. We lined up in the 3:40 corral in hopes of not getting stuck in crowds, but I think that’s probably impossible in a race this big.

I’d taken a pace bracelet at the expo, and I didn’t really have much of a pace plan other than start slow and then pick it up later. At the Runner’s World strategy session, they talked about starting slow so that you burned through fat and not carbs and didn’t bonk…but, spoiler alert: I didn’t do that.

I knew I should start at what felt like a snail’s pace, but in the first few miles, every time I looked down at my watch, I saw sub-9 minute miles. They certainly didn’t feel slow, but they felt comfortable, so I hoped I’d be able to hold them.

The first 6-7 miles include the biggest hills of the course, which worried me that my legs would fatigue earlier from the hills, but at least they kept us from going out too too fast.

Before getting to the Key Bridge, we ran on Lee Highway, down Spout Run Parkway and down the GW Parkway. The GW Parkway was gorgeous, but there were no spectators, and I couldn’t wait to get back into the city. (City girl at heart.)

Mile 1: 9:25

Mile 2: 9:18

Mile 3: 9:09 (oh look, goal pace!)

Mile 4: 8:43 (oh look, too fast!) This mile was a downhill.

We reached the Key Bridge just after mile 4. I’d asked my parents to be on the Key Bridge around mile 4ish and then at the end for 8.5ish, so I hoped to see them there. As soon as we turned the corner to get on the bridge, I saw a wall of people and started smiling like an idiot.

We reached the end of the Key Bridge, and began climbing Canal. It was a long, slow climb for miles 6 and 7, but we stayed steady.

Mile 5: 9:20

Mile 6: 9:01

Mile 7: 9:17

I knew that this area was pretty hilly both from studying the course map and from when I lived in D.C., so I was a bit nervous, but it was less hilly than I expected. Until we took a hairpin turn onto Reservoir Road. (I saw Anne just before mile 7, and she ended up KILLING it in 3:51!) The course leveled off at this point, and I felt cheated out of the downhill I was expecting! We ran past the Georgetown Reservoir, and Ericka and I talked about how much we wanted a downhill. Just before we got our downhill, I took my first Gu.

We flew down Foxhall, and I was excited for more crowds as I ran through Georgetown. I was psyched to run through Georgetown. I knew the area well, I knew it’d be crowded, and I hoped to see my parents.

It didn’t disappoint in any of these regards!


There’s me and Ericka, side by side! We’d actually only met once before this but knew each other well from each other’s blogs, so it was great to get to know each other for three hours.

I felt so strong at this point, and felt so excited and proud of myself that I was actually racing this race, not just running it. I was putting everything I had into the race, and my times were reflecting that.

I saw my parents here, at the far end of M Street, and I was happy. As we ran, I remembered so many hazy nights at Georgetown bars, and told Ericka how this marathon was so special to me. How my life was so different when I lived in D.C., and I was so happy to be back and running a marathon in this city where I was so lazy and inactive. We turned down Wisconsin and ran under the Whitehurst on K Street. I remembered in 2005 when I wanted to train for the Dublin Marathon with a friend and my IBS completely derailed me. I remembered trying to run a mile and needing, instead, to race back for a bathroom.

Mile 8: 8:57

Mile 9: 8:57

Mile 10: 8:54

We ran down Rock Creek and under the Kennedy Center. I told Ericka how I’d loved running under the Kennedy Center in other races, and I’d completely missed it last weekend because I was so busy chatting. I savored those few seconds under the Kennedy Center this time. It was at this point that we hit mile 10, and someone around us (or maybe Ericka? marathon fog brain here) said “It’s just a 16-mile training run from here!”

Um, shit. I don’t usually run 10 miles with most of them sub-9 before 16 miles. The next 16 miles would be interesting.

Around 10.5, we dipped back near the city to run past the Lincoln Memorial. Just before the memorial, I saw Bart Yasso, and he yelled my name! I was SO excited that he yelled my name, and I yelled back BAAAAAART!

Mile 11: 8:57

It was here that we entered West and East Potomac Park. There were lots of great signs here, including one RUN ALL THE MILES sign, and a long series of funny and motivational signs every few yards.

I remember starting to feel really thirsty here, and thinking the next water stop couldn’t come quickly enough. I also remember the wind picking up, and seeing some official D.C. boat just offshore of the park. This is honestly the only point in the race I started worrying about the storm.

We hit the halfway point here, and I switched to margarita shot bloks, which have been miracle-workers in the past. I wasn’t yet feeling fatigued, but was starting to feel concerned about keeping up this pace for another 13.1 miles.

Mile 12: 8:56

Mile 13: 8:59

(Half split: 2:00: 07)

Mile 14: 9:14

Mile 15: 9:14

After what seemed like forever, we finally were heading towards the Mall.

Mile 16: 8:56

Here’s where I really started faltering mentally. I asked Ericka for a pep talk, and we talked about how we had to be uncomfortable and push ourselves if we were going to break 4. We talked about how great it would be to be able to say we broke 4 hours. My legs were starting to feel a little tired at this point, but the pain was far more mental than physical. I wanted to stop at mile 16, and I credit Ericka, my pacing angel, for keeping me going.

She reminded me I’d see my parents again soon, and this kept me going. We also saw a few people she knew, and seeing how happy she was to see them gave me a boost, too.


on the mall.jpg

So, so happy. Minus really wanting to be done.

We pushed down the Mall, towards the Capitol and turned around, and I finally saw my parents again!

Mile 18: 8:52

Mile 19: 9:05

At this point, I knew the 14th Street Bridge was coming, and remember hearing how hard it was. I wasn’t nervous for the Queensboro Bridge last year, but I started getting nervous for this long bridge.

We turned down 14th Street, just like during the Army Ten-Miler. I remembered how I’d felt that first Army Ten-Miler running this bridge, and reminded myself how far I’d come. How, although I was definitely uncomfortable, I was doing well. I had less than 7 miles to go.

“This bridge is great! You love this bridge!” Ericka told me. We kept trading mantras back and forth to each other. “No guts, no glory,” I told her.

As we were on this bridge, I started to fall just a few steps behind her and struggling to stay by her side, instead of easily keeping up like I had before. This was where I began to fall apart mentally. She was obviously so much stronger than me, I thought. Why was I running with her? Why didn’t I run my own race? I knew this negative talk was doing nothing for my race, and I tried to push it out of my mind and remind myself how well I’d done these first 20 miles.

Mile 20: 9:03

At some point during mile 20, she asked what our pace was. When I looked, our current pace was hovering somewhere around 9:17. I told her this, but said “It’s okay! We have time in the bank! We’ll be fine!”

It was then when I realized we’d probably split up and I got nervous about running those last miles alone. I knew I probably had it physically but didn’t know if I had it mentally. “I know we have it in the bank, but I don’t want to rely on that,” she said. I couldn’t push it any more, and we split around mile 21.

Mile 21: 8:52

As soon as we split, my pace started to drop.

Mile 22: 9:23

I still felt strong, but I was definitely faltering.

Mile 23: 9:24

Crystal City was fun, and I remember the Lululemon Cheer Squad (they’re hard to miss!), but just after this, as we entered Pentagon City, I bonked. Hard.

I stopped to walk on an overpass, and started to give up on my goal. I just wanted to be done. I hadn’t seen a pace group anywhere else in the race, but the 4:00 pace group passed me at this point. I didn’t think I had it in me to keep up with them, but it put a little wind back in my sails, and I began to run again.

As we hit Mile 24, the Pentagon was in sight, and I remember thinking the finish was so close, yet SO, SO FAR. Another 2 miles!? I kept telling myself “no more than 20 minutes. 2 miles. This is nothing,” but my mind wasn’t buying what my mouth was spewing. (Yes, I was mumbling these mantras to myself.)

Just after we hit 24, we hit the highway again, and I wanted nothing more than to be done. I told myself to just fight to get to 25 and I’d see more people. I’d taken a Munchkin at Mile 24, hoping the sugar would help. I think I got a small burst of energy, but I also got nauseous really quickly. Noted. No more munchkins in a marathon.

Mile 24: 10:32 (Not much fight left. I stopped to walk for a stretch here.)

I hit mile 25, and saw signs that said 1.2 miles to go. At this point, I think my watch was somewhere around 3:51, and here was when I was sure I wouldn’t meet my goal. At this point, I could care less about sub-4. I just wanted to finish.

Mile 25: 9:58

I wondered, at this point, how I’d busted out those sub-9 miles earlier in the race. I readjusted my goal here to finish under 4:05.

Mile 26: 10:18

At some point before mile 26 (according to my watch, which was a little off the whole time), my watch read 3:59, and I ripped off my pace bracelet, rather dramatically.

I knew Anne would be near the finish, and my next goal was to look strong as I passed her. I chugged through, was ecstatic to see her, and ran up that asshole of a hill at the end and put every ounce of energy I had into crossing that finish line.

And I finished in 4:04:36. (That is not an error message.) I raised my arms triumphantly, and smiled like an idiot for the cameras.

I crossed the finish line, and everything hurt immediately. I hobbled through the finish line stuff and started tearing up. I had finished my third marathon, and had taken off nearly an hour between my first and my third! I knew that sub-4 was probably a bit of a stretch for me (but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to try!), and I laid everything I had out on that course, and I was thrilled with my time.

The first text I got was from my old boss, Morgan, who’d been tracking me the whole time, and who’d texted me during my first two marathons, too. She told me she was so proud of me, and I just wanted to give her a big hug for encouraging me to run my first 5K six years ago.

I met my parents at the Runner’s World Challenge after-party, where I melted onto a chair and only got up to get a few minutes of post-race massage, which hurt like all hell. My stomach was incredibly upset, and I got up pretty quickly, because I was nervous I’d throw up on the massage table.

My family and I then walked uphill (ow, ow, ow) to the hotel since the line for the metro stretched around the block. We packed, picked up Rebecca and booked it out of town to beat the storm back to NY. I outran Sandy, and we outdrove her. (Please, please, stay safe, wherever you are.)

I didn’t run the smartest race, and the last few miles of this race were incredibly tough for me. I didn’t finish anywhere near as strongly as I did at the NYC Marathon, but I also didn’t try to throw down sub-9 minute miles for a big chunk of that race. I grew a lot as a runner yesterday, and I’m proud of myself for pushing with everything I had. I never imagined I’d be able to run a marathon that started with 4:0x.

I have no idea what my next race will be, and I’m not sure if I’m ready to try again for sub-4, but I know I have it. I can taste it.

78 comments on “2012 Marine Corps Marathon Recap!

  1. Mary @foodandfunontherun

    You will get that sub 4 marathon! I know you are capable! You are a strong runner, and you just need to start believing that!

    Congrats on a big PR yesterday! You should be unbelievably proud of that accomplishment! Way to go!!!

  2. Anne P

    SO, so proud of you. Amazing recap – I got chills. And you looked like a total rockstar when we saw you near the finish – so strong and happy! I wish I’d gotten a photo but I was too busy trying to scream your name like a maniac so you’d see us and hopefully get a little boost of final energy. Congratulations again. πŸ™‚ xo

  3. Ericka @ The Sweet Life

    Yay!! Great recap…yeah, I remember every bit! I really do not think I would have made my goal without you. I know I would have tried to go too fast too soon. Thank you so much! And that is an AMAZING PR…I mean, people dream about PR’s like that! It was more minutes than mine, that’s for sure! I’m so glad we got to run together, it made everything so much better!

    1. Theodora Post author

      And I couldn’t have done it without you! Congrats on your sub-4–you had such a great race!! I loved running with you! Let’s find another race to run together, okay? Maybe in NYC?

  4. Elena

    Well done–It was a windy day out there- which is no small issue. I know how hard it is to not make your goal, but you did it and are incredibly inspiring!

  5. Jess

    AHHH!!! LOVE LOVE LOVED reading this — I clung to every word of this post mentally cheering for you the ENTIRE way. I SO know that ‘bonked’ feeling well — that’s how I felt from about mile 21 to the finish line but DAMN is it worth it when you get to that finish line huh?? SO proud of you!! Almost an HOUR off your first marathon and your third? You are amazing!! I aspire to do that one day…y’know IF I do another marathon that is πŸ˜‰

    CONGRATS! Soak it in my friend, all of it. xo!

  6. Dori

    I know I keep saying it, but I am so impressed! Really incredible PR, and amazing seeing how drastically you improve every year. Gives me hope for myself! You trained hard and did awesome and you definitely have sub-4 in you, you were really close and you’re always getting better. Mazel tov!!

  7. Laura

    You did an amazing, incredible, wonderful job, and I am so excited for you to PR by so much! It sounds like you really did everything right (I don’t think you went out TOO fast) and it just wasn’t the right day for sub-4. But that’s okay! Your day will definitely come, as you definitely have the training there for it to happen – it’s just a matter of when it all comes together for that last teeny tiny bit.

    CONGRATULATIONS and I can’t wait to take you out for drinks to celebrate!

  8. Lynda @ Hit The Road Jane

    I just read your first marathon recap and I love seeing how much you’ve improved! It gives me hope lol My first will be in February and I just hope that I love it enough to keep doing them in the future. Great job girl!! You are so so close and I truly believe you have a sub 4 in you or better. You had such a great pace and could have done it physically. The mental part is probably the toughest thing for a lot of us. It’s still an accomplishment and a huge PR!!!

  9. Kiersten

    Congrats Theodora! You were the only person I know running the race that didn’t get completely freaked out by the storm. You kept your focus on the race and rocked it!

  10. Laura @ Mommy Run Fast

    Wow, that is a fantastic pr- congrats!! Those last few miles are so tough. It would be really hard to maintain your pace on your own, but you powered through and ran a strong race. You’ll get that sub-4. For now, rest up and celebrate your huge accomplishment!

  11. Caroline

    Agh! Chocked up- what is it about race videos, recaps, and pictures that are so emotional?! Congrats once again on a fantastic race! It may not go exactly as you had hoped and planned, but you killed it and have an awesome new PR too! Great job:)

  12. Anne

    Thanks for the shout out! It definitely felt a bit like a celebrity sighting running (literally) into you on the race course. You looked strong at mile 7, and if it weren’t for those godawful headwinds making us all work twice as hard at Hains Point, I have no doubt you would have come in sub-4. Luckily, shaving FIFTEEN FREAKING MINUTES off your last time is something to celebrate, too! Congrats on an awesome race, and horray us for not having to run in today’s weather.

  13. Caitlin

    This is amazing. The photo of you and your mom definitely brought tears to my eyes. What an awesome tradition.
    I am so proud of you and you are so incredibly inspiring. Hope you ride this high for a LONG time! xoxo

  14. Charlotte

    Congratulations! What an awesome race and powerful recap to read. Dropping an hour since your first marathon and third… woah! Enjoy the well-deserved break and stay safe from Sandy! Cheers, Charlotte

  15. Melissa

    Yay for you! You are one of the people who inspire me to push through whatever hectic schedule work puts me through while training. I signed up for my first marathon, (the LA Marathon) on March 17, 2013, and I’m scared about handing the training with my schedule but I also know that if you can do it, I can do it. πŸ™‚

  16. Mads

    Congratulations – awesome PB! You must be so pleased. I ran NYC last year and am about to start training for my second (and definitely my last) – the London Marathon. I ran NYC in 4.41 which I was quite pleased about but want to get sub 4.30 this time. I know I can do it but am terrified because I’ll be running alone this time. Reading how your mind played tricks on you makes me more nervous…

  17. Mom

    I remember that I kept worrying about the weather and my daughter on the course, but the truth is sometimes there is nothing to fear but fear itself, Theodora proved she could do it, strong, confident and determined, so glad her father and I were there, and yes, may we be there always and keep the tradition.


  18. Sokphal

    Great recap! You will totally get that sub 4! So happy that the weather turned out well for everyone! You really did look strong up that hill (was with Anne screaming your name)! (Wish I could say that for most of the runners that we saw–but that hill is a mean way to end a marathon. I guess they were wanting you guys to finish it military style) πŸ™‚

  19. Kandi

    I thought you looked strong at mile 15! I don’t know you and I have only ever read a few of your blog entries but I saw via twitter that you were running MCM. I didn’t think anything of it but as I was watching for my runners at mile 15, I saw you and thought you looked familiar. Then I saw your name on your shirt so I cheered for you! You were a bit ahead of the 4 hour pacer at that point and all my runners were well behind that group so I didn’t see you at any other points on the course. Congrats on your finish and pushing yourself through those final miles!!

  20. Ali

    Dude! Congratulations! You have become such a strong runner in this past year and it has been awesome to watch. I’m psyched for you, I’m proud of you & I hope you’re basking in post-marathon, work-from-home glory. Major high fives, big congratulations. Go drink now. Drink so much…because you don’t have to run in the morning!

  21. Mollie @Sprinkles of Life

    Congrats, Theodora! It was so fun to read this recap since I have been a reader now through your whole cycle of training. You did awesome and should be proud of your time!

    Stay safe this week! I’ve been listening to internet radio for updates on the storm. Sounds crazy out there!

  22. Heather @ Dietitian on the Run

    Congrats!! Such a huge PR! Wow.

    Those mental breaks are SO hard, especially during the length of those last few miles. This race is rough at the end, as the last few miles feel so deserted compared to most of the spectator-dense middle section! All that matters is the sweet SWEET relief that follows the crossing of the finish line (and the sweet bling…hah). So happy for you!

  23. Lauren

    I was there to watch a good friend race and saw you as you were crossing the Key bridge… I recognized you from blog photos, loved your skirt! Congrats on a great race!!

  24. Meghann

    I am so, so, so proud of you! You did an awesome job! Those last few miles of a marathon are tough and, even though you felt like you gave up, you still stuck with it and finished with an incredible time. I remember how nervous you were before you first marathon and how you kept telling us you “weren’t fast.” Well, guess what girl – you’re fast now. Welcome to the club – you freakin’ earned it. And I have faith you’ll get that 3:XX:XX marathon one day. Like I told you on Facebook, it’s in you – you just have to want it bad enough to push through the pain. It ain’t going to come easy, but – damn it! – it will come!

  25. Liz

    The second I woke up on(my) Monday morning I rolled over, grabbed my phone and checked your twitter – CONGRATS! I am strangely all weird and proud of you –> so amazing seeing where you’ve come from and what you’ve accomplished. I love this race recap too, and my favourite line was how you were there to RACE, not just RUN. I hope (despite the storm) you’re enjoying your glory moments post-race. Simply amazing!!

  26. Kristina

    Congratulations on your PR! I can’t believe my first marathon is behind me… I have decided that the course for the MCM is brutal–everything is out and back. At around mile 20 when I was crossing the bridge headed into Crystal City (to know it would just be a loop back) I just kept thinking “What have I signed up for?”…Now that its over and I somehow managed to beat Oprah’s marathon time, I can’t get over the whole experience. I can now understand how doing three marathons can happen

  27. Leah H

    Way to go, Theodora! Congratulations on the PR! It’s funny… my husband ran the full marathon (I did the 10k) and he HATED Crystal City! He was so frustrated that it was a big loop and didn’t really go anywhere. Most of the finishers I’ve spoken with had a hard time on Sunday– the wind was no one’s friend. I can’t wait to hear about your fourth mary!

  28. Bonnie

    LOVED reading your race recap, Theodora! And wow – what a tough but good run. That’s an amazing PR, sub-4 or not! I think now you know how close and attainable it is – you WILL hit that sub-4 at some point. Love that you and Ericka ran together for so long too – how neat to have a friend to keep each other moving! GREAT run!

  29. Liv

    Great to read this recap. Congrats to you! Sub-4 is definitely in the near future. Philly is a great marathon if you want something semi-local for next fall.

  30. Kandi

    Great post! Not only were you encouraging but you were also honest on how hard it gets out there and the insane head games you play with yourself. Congrats on finishing and killing it!

  31. Anna

    Congrats on the PR! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your recap! I ran MCM as my first marathon in 2011. Your detailed recap of the course allowed me to reflect back and try to remember as much of the sights of the course as possible. It being my first time in DC, I saw lots of the area as I ran the marathon and not as a tourist. But it was something I’ll never forget running through Georgetown with amazing crowd support, touring the Mall for the first time as a runner and the party in Crystal City (and the munchkins that provided me with a surge of energy to keep going :)). And I agree the hill at the end of the course is an asshole. Who designs a course like that? But it was the greatest experience ever!
    You have a sub-4 in your future! Don’t quit chasing your goals!

  32. liza

    I much glad for your and kind of proud of you too, if thatÒ€ℒs not patronizing! Congratulations on a good raceÒ€¦. Sub four will come another time, but you got a jujitsu glendora massive PR and you ran a great race!! Well done.


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