Marine Corps Marathon

DATE: Sunday, October 25, 2014 8:00am Race Start
LOCATION: Arlington, VA: Course Map
WEATHER: 59 degrees, Sunny / 6 mph WNW wind / 38% humidity

The summer was going well, I was feeling both relaxed and fit at the same time. I recovered well from my late spring marathons and I was slowly building up my mileage for Marine Corps. I had at least one really good 15 miler under my belt and my weekly mileage was in the mid 40s as I started to think seriously about the months aheads. Then it happened..

I went out on the morning of August 31 for an easy 14. We were strolling along at an easy 8:00 pace and at mile 9 I felt this sharp pain on the top of my foot. It went away rather quickly and then came back. Went away. Came back. It was a little worse every time it came back. I thought it was some kind of weird dehydration ache (it was a very humid morning). Around 13.5 it was bad. I jogged out the rest of the way and stretched. When I got home, I couldn’t put any pressure on my foot.

I hobbled around for two weeks telling myself it was tendonitis. I went for a couple of easy runs. It was ugly. It hurt. A lot. I finally gave in and went to see the doctor. Stress fracture. Second metatarsal on my left foot. Now what?


I don’t give up easily. And I’m stubborn. I found great a podiatrist who was a runner and was currently marathon training. Dr. Renee Sliva in Nyack, NY, she was great AND she put up with me! When she told me it was a stress fracture my response was

[blockquote]”Okay, I have a marathon in 5 weeks. How will this effect my training?”[/blockquote]

Of course, I got a chuckle. But I also got a serious response. I was on strict rest, no impact allowed, but we wanted to hold onto cardiovascular fitness. That’s when Dr. Sliva gave me my training program and it revolved around the open stride elliptical. I took pills (meloxicam, 15mg) to help with the inflammation and pain but the elliptical provided a good zero impact workout. The open stride gave me a form closer to running. I would try to match my heart rate to what my pace would be while running and used time to estimate distance. For example, a 170bps heart rate translate to apx. 7:00/mile pace for me. So if I wanted to do a 5 mile workout I would be on the elliptical for 7:00 x 5 = 35 minutes with my heart rate at 170bps. The only thing I knew I couldn’t replicate was the pounding and I knew that would be my downfall on race day.

As with any injury, I reassessed my goals and weighed my options. I decided to run Marine Corps but to do it nice and easy. I knew that I wouldn’t be trained and there was still a lot of uncertainty with my foot. I got regular checkups and after 7 weeks I was cleared to go for a “test run”.

Saturday, 10/18: 3 miles, easy.
Sunday, 10/19: Saturday felt good, 3 more miles.
Both 3 milers felt good. Cleared for the next round. One week until the marathon.
Tuesday, 10/21: 10 miles on the treadmill, easy effort. Foot felt good, I felt tired. Now I felt good about my foot but nervous about my legs. Exactly where I wanted to be.
Thursday 10/23: 3 mile shakeout on the track, trying to break up some lactic acid.

That was my training and my taper, all in one week. Go time.


Race Day

I traveled to the race start with my friend Carissa, it was her first marathon. Luckily, she was nervous enough for the both of us! I felt very calm and relaxed. The trip on the Metro, from McPherson Sq. to Pentagon Station, was very easy and comfortable. Once we got off the train the over-crowdedness began. It took us about 15 minutes to get out of the metro station due to bottlenecks, then we walked about a mile to the start village and got caught in another traffic jam going through metal detectors. Finally, we were at the race start with only minutes to spare.

The start of the race was great with the paratroopers, marines, helicopters, etc. I dropped Carissa off with the 4:15 pace group just as the howitzers fired. The race had begun somewhere up there. I tried to make my way up through the pack but couldn’t get very far. I think I was somewhere a few minutes behind the 4:00 pace group. This was fine, it didn’t really matter where I started as long as I finished. The pack took me out nice and slow, about 9:30 pace, and it was PACKED. It stayed busy for a few miles; it was hard to move around and got a little frustrating. However, it kept me honest. I knew that I was going to crash at some point; it was not an if, but a when. I kept thinking that I hadn’t run in almost 2 months. What the hell was I doing out there?

I kept chugging along at an easy pace. My breath was hardly labored and my energy levels remained fairly high. My legs slowly began to get heavy and, interestingly, I became very hungry early on in the race. Chugga-chugga-chugga, just kept going. I walked through the water stops to give my foot and legs a little break from the pounding. Around the half way point I started to lose it a little. I came through in 2 hours on the nose. If I pushed it a little I could be under 4:00, but I knew that I wasn’t there to push it. Not at all. Miles 15.5 – 20.5 were great, running through the National Mall. There were spectators everywhere. I got to see Kristen right after mile 16 and it gave me a nice little boost!

Once I left there I was pretty much in no man’s land for what felt like 10 miles (even though it was only about 1 mile). Concrete bridge, incline, no shade, no one in sight except tired runners. By this point my legs felt like they weighed about 50lbs. each. I started to take some walk breaks and just reminded myself that it was less than 10K to go. Once I got into Crystal City at mile 22, things turned around. It was a party there! Unfortunately, my legs still weighed 50lbs. each, but fortunately there were a lot of people giving out food! Miles 22-24 consisted of pretzels, gummy bears, licorice, jelly beans, Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins, Swedish Fish.. I was starving! It really gave me a chance to appreciate what was going on!

The final few miles were tough, I struggled to keep my legs moving (they now weighed about 75lbs. each) but I knew every step got me closer. I encouraged myself by encouraging those around me. None of us were going to make it alone, we were all going to finish this thing together! I came up the final hill and crossed the finish line at 4:15. I’ll take it!

Marine Corps Marathon Elevation Map
Marine Corps Marathon Elevation Map
Splits (via Nike+ GPS):
Miles 1 – 13: 9:33, 9:39, 9:31, 8:45, 9:06, 8:49, 9:27, 9:01, 9:11, 9:13, 8:15, 8:42, 8:53 (1:58:05)
Miles 14 – 26: 9:47, 9:09, 8:59, 9:35, 9:30, 9:12, 10:23, 10:29, 10:51, 11:28, 10:31, 10:38, 11:58 (2:12:30)

Official Splits
Distance Split Pace
5K: 29:51 9:35
10K: 58:04 9:20
15K: 1:26:42 9:18
20K: 1:54:16 9:11
Half: 2:00:27 9:11
25K: 2:23:18 9:13
30K: 2:52:41 9:15
35K: 3:25:20 9:26
40K: 3:59:49 9:39
Finish: 4:15:36 9:44

The Finish

My legs were exhausted but everything else felt great! I wasn’t winded, I wasn’t sweating, I wasn’t too tired, and thanks to all of the food in Crystal City, I wasn’t even hungry! I received my medal from a marine and was sure to thank him, and every other marine around me, for their service. I took the long walk out, drank a protein shake, and started my recovery. This turned out to be a nice, easy long run for Philly. We spent the next couple of days in Washington DC and did lots of sightseeing. The walking helped my stiff legs and a recovery jog a few days later would get me back into the swing of things. I had NO pain in my foot during or after the race. The 2 main goals were:

  1. Finish the race
  2. Don’t re-fracture my foot

Mission Accomplished!
Next stop, Philadelphia Marathon in 4 weeks.

DISCLAIMER: I need to assure you that this is NOT the proper way to deal with a stress fracture! We do not recommend this method to anyone in their right mind! Use the 10% rule and ease back into your training like a normal person!