Hard to believe, but it has already been about five years since I started working at Capitol Rehab of Arlington. That also marks around the time since I started running. I’ve run a lot of 5Ks since then and even a few half-marathons, but who knew in that short space of time, I’d end up running the Marine Corps Marathon?
Every run is challenging because running without chasing a ball or someone with a ball doesn’t come easily to me, both psychologically and with regard to stamina. Tell me to play basketball, I’ll do that all day, no problem. But a point-to-point jog where I rely solely on myself and set my own goals and determine my own achievements? That was a difficult transition.
Though I work with a lot of runners at Capitol Rehab, I had always said to myself, “I’ll never run a marathon, that’s just crazy. A half-marathon is far enough for any sane person.”
This year, however, I changed my mind — or I lost my sanity. In January, a patient mentioned the 17.75K Marine Corps race that is run every March down near Quantico, not far from where I live. He noted that finishing this race would make me eligible for automatic entry into the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) should I choose to enter.
After doing the math and seeing that 17.75K is a smidge over 11 miles, I thought I could do it. It’s shorter than a half-marathon, and if I was feeling ambitious and crazy enough, I could registered for the MCM. I signed up for the Quantico race. By summer, I had run two more half-marathons, but I wasn’t happy with my timing or stamina.
During my prior years of running, I had never followed a training program. As I was contemplating running the Marine Corps Marathon, one of my sisters-in-law — a marathon runner who has run multiple Boston Marathons — told me of Hal Higdon and his training programs.
I chose to join a Higdon program, which consists of three days of running per week along with three days of cross-training. As behaved as I was about keeping up with the mileage guide, I was pretty bad with sticking to the cross-training.
I followed the mileage guide to a “t” up until mid- to late-September, when my wife and I went on vacation. When we returned, I got sick for another week or two. I then ran the Navy-Air Force half-marathon on Sept. 16 and set a personal record (PR). Despite slacking in training for a couple weeks, I felt confident going into October.
Race day I was feeling really good — not as ready as I could have been, but I’m sure most people don’t feel 100 percent on most of their race days.
The first half of the race went really well. I set a new PR for the half-marathon distance. I also fueled really well both pre- and during the race. At mile marker 14, my hips and upper legs started cramping, which was a familiar feeling during my training. Cramping only got worse the rest of the way, and I walked a lot to try and shake out the muscles, stretch, and beat out the muscle tension. The back half took 50 minutes longer than the first half. Miles 21-25 gave me four instances where I really thought puking was imminent, but I kept it down.
I finished with a time of 4:49, four hours and 49 minutes. Not the best but I’m glad I finished and my recovery was quick. So now, of course, I want to get a better time and try again next year.
Because running isn’t natural for me, I know I need to strengthen my legs and learn better what fueling works best for me, both during training and for race day.
I plan to run the 17.75K in March and start all over.