I don’t even really know where to begin with this race recap, so let’s just start at the beginning. I woke up race morning at 4:50 am. I set two alarms out of fear, but I really only needed one. I jumped out of bed and started getting dressed. Like a good marathoner, I set my outfit and gear out the night before so that I was 100% prepared.
I wore my 20 miler outfit: Moving Comfort purple shorts, Marfan Foundation tank, Moving Comfort rebound racer bra, CEP compression socks, and $2.50 knee sock with the feet cut off for arm warmers. If you want arm warmers for a race but don’t want to feel guilty about throwing them away when you get warm, go with the sock method. It works. Trust me.
I then grabbed the rest of my gear, gave Bernie a kiss, and headed down to the hotel breakfast. I was lucky that our hotel opened breakfast at 5am for runners – such a great idea. I grabbed a coffee, water, and cinnamon raisin bagel topped with pb and banana and made my way to the metro station. I got to the Metro when I wanted – 6am, but the train took a lot longer to get there than it should have. Once we got to Pentagon, it was a nightmare to get out of the station. One (broken) escalator + 2 full trains of runners = nightmare. I met up with Steph and my friend Brittany (who I was running the race with) and we all eventually made it to the start.
The start was crowded, very crowded. Brittany and I were running late so we made it to the start just as the hand cyclists where going off. I then spotted a portapotty, did my last minute nervous pee, and got in line to start. It took us 15 minutes after the starting gun to even cross the starting line – crazy. The energy was palpable. I just felt so alive! Time to start the marathon!
Miles 1-3 were some rolling hills so I knew to go out pretty conservatively in the beginning. Britt and I just got into a groove and I tried to enjoy the scenery. I saw my family and Bernie around mile 2 and then again around mile 4 before we made our way into Georgetown. The other runners around us were so awesome. We were all just chatting it up and having fun. Every once in a while you would hear a huge yell “Make way! On your right! Make a hole!” and a hand cyclist would fly by. One of them was even a triple amputee…wow…I knew then that the race was so much bigger than myself.
Miles 6-9 were really pretty – in the woods and very shaded. This is where I was glad I had my $2.50 arm warmers. I ended up keeping them on until mile 22! I also discovered my tactic for the water stations during these miles. Since the water stations were every 2 miles or so, I decided to carry my small handheld water bottle with me in case I needed water in between stations. As a heavy sweater, I knew how important this was to avoid dehydration. At each water station I would grab a cup and fill up my bottle as I ran, grabbing more cups until I filled up the whole bottle. This usually took between 2-3 cups. Then I would grab a Gatorade cup if I felt like I needed it and do the pinch and sip. Doing this also helped me not get caught up in the water stations which were CRAZY crowded at points.
Around mile 13 I did a quick check in. I was running at a comfortable pace and felt good. I knew I wanted to kick up the pace a little bit in the second half of the race. I ran the first few miles really really conservatively. I knew 9:45 min/mile was comfortable for me so I aimed to try to hit that in the second half of the race, and miles 10-13 were pretty much on point.
I then saw a sign that said “Beat Oprah 4:29!” You see, Oprah ran Marine Corps years ago, during her “skinny Oprah” days, and she ran 4:29. I could beat her! So the new goal for the race was not to finish, but to finish and beat Oprah!
As we ran into the National Mall area, I tried to soak it all in. Many other seasoned marathoners told me to try and just enjoy it. 26.2 miles do fly by so fast, so I tried my best to really enjoy every moment. One of the best things I did for this race was iron my name onto my shirt. Every time someone saw me, they would scream “Go Sarah! You go girl!” and it was so invigorating.
Around miles 16, Britt started to hurt a little bit. This girl is such a rockstar. She overcame a broken foot that delayed training and a knee injury to get to the starting line. Her knee was bugging her so we slowed down the pace a little bit hoping it would go away.
Then came miles 17, 18, 19 on the mall. Before I knew it, the very big crowd grew even bigger. Everyone had signs, balloons, costumes, you name it. I saw this one girl with giant foam hands for high fives probably about a million times throughout the race. haha. I then saw my family around mile 18. It had been almost 14 miles since I last saw Bernie and I was so pumped to see him. He offered me a Gu, but I declined and just gave him a big kiss and ran away. A woman behind me said that we were “pretty friggin’ cute.” haha. There were lots of “You run better than the government” signs as well as a lot of potty talk.
Mile 18 hurt, a lot. My legs were starting to feel it and I got some weird on and off IT pain. Just like in training, it would come and go. I kept telling myself to check my form — tired bodies = sloppy form. Before I knew it, we were heading to mile 20 and the bridge!
Now, if you’ve run MCM, you know what I’m talking about. The bridge back into Virginia from DC is long…very long. Miles 20-22 cover it. You go from a wild party atmosphere of DC with screaming fans, drum lines, and Marines, to nothing. It’s silent, sunny, and hot at the worst point in a marathon. I was expecting to hit the wall, but I actually didn’t. Britt on the other hand was hurting. Her knee was starting to really give her issues and she was starting to dehydrate really quickly. Our pace dropped from 9:50 to over 10:30 min/miles. My already fatigued legs were starting to hurt from the slowdown. I knew Britt wasn’t going to rally. She was having such an amazing race, but her body was just not cooperating. I knew I had more in the tank and if I stayed I wouldn’t get anywhere near my goal and wouldn’t run the race I promised myself I would. I felt awful leaving Britt but at mile 22 I gave her a big hug, told her to get a salt tablet at the next aid station, and off I went. At this point, miles 22-26.2 were some serious tunnel vision. I had a mission. I knew I needed to get into the 9:30’s min/mile pace to hit close to my goal. My legs actually welcomed the speed-up and I flew through mile 23.
Soon I was nearing mile 24 and I’ll never forget the Marine I came across. He had to be about 6’5″, dark and handsome. He saw the name on my shirt and yelled out to me, “Sarah! You go girl! This is it. Last 2 miles. Give it everything you have. Now is your time – kill it!”
Well, that was all I needed. I booked it. He was right. This was it. I had to leave it all out there on the road. There was nothing more I could do but try my hardest. Somehow, my last 4 miles were the fastest of the race. I was so scared of hitting the wall, I held back in the earlier miles. It definitely paid off.
As I ran into mile 25, almost 26, I saw him. Bart Yasso! He was standing on the right side of the road. I had noticed him earlier in the race, but I was on the wrong side of the road to him. But this time, I was right by him! I saw him, pointed and screamed “Bart Yasso!” He yelled back at me, “Sarah! You’re gonna be a marathoner!” We tried to high five but I ran too quickly by. Darn it! Okay, Bart said it. I gotta move!
Then, out of nowhere, came my rabbit. This guy was in front of me at mile 13, mile 18, and then now again at mile 25.5. His green shirt and black compression calf sleeves came out of nowhere and I just had to laugh at myself. Okay buddy, let’s do it! I followed him all the way to the finish, up the hard left turn, into the hill, and then through the finish line. I just focused on his back and before I knew it, I hit the finish line in 4:26:02.
As my foot hit the painted finish line pavement, I completely lost it. I didn’t think I would be so emotional, but it just flowed so quickly and freely. I was a marathoner. I ran 26.2 miles. I’m part of the club!
Soon I realized how much I hurt. I was exhausted. I just wanted to see my family and hug Bernie. After what felt like the walk of the living dead to the family meet up area, I spotted Bernie’s bright green Support Crew shirt and I jumped on him. Crying, I screamed “I just ran a marathon!”
I don’t even know how to thank everyone who sent me best wishes or donated to the Marfan Foundation for my charity fundraising efforts. I am beyond grateful for the support and I know Micah is floored by your generosity.
I know this is kinda crazy to say, but running the marathon was not the hardest thing I’ve done – training was a million times harder. For me, treating the race as a victory lap and a big party gave me the positive outlook I needed for the race. Negative thoughts can totally derail any race, and staying positive forced me to just enjoy it for what it was and have a blast doing it. I don’t regret anything. I feel bad for leaving Britt behind at mile 22, but I had to run my own race on my terms. She understood and ended up finishing like a rockstar and STILL PR’ed! What a beast. I finished the race feeling like I still had some in the tank. I know that my next marathon will be faster. But I don’t really care. This race was about finishing and doing my best and I definitely accomplished both of those things!