MCM 2012 Recap – a day that could not be bad

Sunday morning as I stepped up to the start line of my 10th marathon, I knew in my heart that it could not be a bad day.  No matter how things went down, I was going to hold my head up high and be grateful for the privilege to run my 10th marathon.


I am truly grateful for the GIFT of running.  For my healthy body.  For my strong heart.  For the wonderful friends it has brought into my life.  I am grateful to have such a passion – one that is not only essential to my well being and to my inner balance, but one that is also good for my physical health.  No matter how much I struggled that day, and I was sure to struggle, I would come out on top.  I would come out a stronger, happier, more alive version of myself.  This is one of the most valuable lessons of the marathon.  It is about the journey, not the destination.  It is about how you appreciate the highs and grow through the lows.  It’s about how you handle the toughest moments and celebrate your victories no matter how tiny they may seem in that moment.  It’s about the people in your heart – the people who you love and who love you – your “pack.”  It’s about so much more than crossing a finish line with a certain time on the clock.

I’ll be honest though, I wasn’t arriving at the start line that day feeling my very best at all.  I was off emotionally – really off – and trying to collect myself, clear my head of the things that were bugging me, and cheer myself up before the race even started.  Needless to say that wasn’t how I wanted to be feeling going into a 26.2 mile race I had trained so hard for.  But it was what it was and right away I knew that the only person who was in control of me was me.  So I stood there with my good friends so near to me and I reminded myself:

This is who I am.
This will not – and in fact cannot – go badly.
This is my passion and a privilege.

And then it was time to go.

The first 8 miles of this race are pretty much all hills.  I didn’t tell myself to run a particular pace on them.  My plan was to have it feel easy through the hills and really through the first 10 miles.  It just needed to feel SO easy.  I didn’t look at my watch much at all.  I wanted to dial into myself, to not lose myself, and for it to feel effortless.  I was just “going for a run” at that point – no racing, no pushing, no hurting.  As I ran along it was just how I wanted it to be – I felt like I was holding myself back.  I felt completely in control.  I was having fun and soaking it all in.

Miles 1-10:
7:37, 7:50, 7:19, 7:06, 7:28, 7:20, 7:46, 7:18, 7:24, 7:10

Miles 9 and 10 bring us into and through Georgetown, which is a really special part of the city for me.  This was my 4th time running MCM and this is absolutely always a favorite part of the race for me.  I have a lot of great life memories in and around Georgetown (I went to high school there, I lived and worked there, my husband proposed to me there…) and it always just brings a smile to my face when I arrive there.  From here we loop around by the Kennedy Center and then make our way towards Haines Point, which is a very dreaded part of the course for most people because it can be extremely windy even on the nicest of days.  Suffice it to say, the day before a hurricane the winds were INSANE on Haines Point this year.  Once I realized just how strong they were, I decided that I would not fight it.  I was not going to spend a ton of energy pushing against the wind.  I decided I would rather slow down and let it feel easy than suffer so soon in the race.  Ducking behind people when I could, I eased up and did not worry about my pace. I would need the energy for later, when things would likely be even tougher than this.

Miles 11-17 (Haines Point)
7:28, 7:28, 7:29, 7:41, 7:43, 7:37, 7:26

Mile 17ish

When I finally turned out of Haines Point I was relieved – I could turn my jets on in just two more miles.  I was excited because my legs felt amazing.  I had survived a really tough 7 miles and my pace hadn’t slowed all that much through there even though I wasn’t pushing to hold it. About halfway through the 18th mile though a wave of nausea washed over me.  It was the strangest feeling – one I had never before experienced while running.  I was very aware of it but it went away as quickly as it came so I decided not to worry about it.

And then, about 10 seconds later, I knew I was in trouble.  I needed a bathroom IMMEDIATELY.  There was a water stop ahead and I was so grateful because that meant there would be porta potties and I could make it quick.  But there were no bathrooms to be found.  None.  I stopped running and walked, feeling so worried but knowing there was nothing I could do except move forward.  My awesome friend Maddie was spectating the course and had hopped in with me to see how I was doing.  I told her I was really worried – I really COULD NOT RUN in the situation I was in.  She helped me stay focused and I tried to run again.  Nope, not happening.  Finally I just got desperate.  I crossed the 18 mile marker and saw a tree off to the side of the road.  I cannot believe I did this – but I literally ran behind that tree on the downtown mall of DC and took care of business in broad day light in the middle of the marathon.  I have no idea if anyone could see me, but I didn’t care.  I knew I lost time but I tried not to worry about it.  I hoped my stomach would feel better and tried to find my pace again.  The next few miles were a major struggle for me.  My stomach did not feel better, in many ways it felt worse, but it was okay enough to keep running.  My pace didn’t feel natural and my breathing was way off and LOUD.  I got back into the 7s for miles 20-21 over the not-so-fun bridge but towards the end of the bridge I felt really off again.  My stomach was really unhappy with me.  I couldn’t believe it but as I neared the end of the bridge I literally stopped – dead in my tracks.  I stood there and said out loud to myself:

Hold it together, J.

Do not give up.


Collect yourself.

You have a marathon to finish today.

Miles 18-22
7:52, 8:41, 7:49, 7:50, 8:07

I willed myself, out loud, to keep going.  I told myself that if I needed a bathroom again, I would deal with it.  I mean heck I had already done pretty much the most embarrassing thing possible on the downtown mall, how much worse could it be!?!  I would take it one step at a time and deal with it if and when I had to.

I came into Crystal City and heard the cheering of my lululemon wonderfuls.  The sound of their energy and music and support from up ahead brought tears to my eyes in the best way possible.  I had been looking forward to this moment – to seeing them and hearing them and feeling them.  It was an amazing moment.  Their awesomeness lifted my spirits and helped me find my wings again.  They helped me remember why I was there.  Because I love it.  Because I am strong.  Because I am passionate.  Because I am blessed.  Because I am not a quitter.

Mile 23:

Mile 23 Rejuvenation ~ Photo by Bobby Gill

I felt like I soared through there, and when that mile was completed I only had 3 more to go.  And then my stomach lurched on me again.  I scanned my body and knew my legs had so much more in them than they were giving.  My legs felt amazing.  They were not cramping or exhausted at all.  The trouble was with my stomach.  It felt so very off.  I felt like I was jogging the last three miles of the race, and though I knew I was coming through triumphant and strong with a new PR on a tough day, it was a strange feeling to finish with so much more to give in so many ways.  I have now had GI issues at mile 17/18 for three out of my last four marathons!  It is embarrassing but it is a reality for me.  One that I have to figure out how to correct.  Soon.

As I ran those last 3.2 miles, I began to reflect on the day already – on the race and on how I had handled all of it.  I felt proud of myself – there were so many moments during those last 8 miles when I really could have thrown in the towel.  Goodness knows so much of me wanted to quit – GI issues are zero fun to deal with and losing so much time because of it was mentally SO HARD for me to deal with.  I wanted to hold my head up high though.  I told myself – just keep running – who cares how fast or how slow you have to go – just keep running.

Miles 24-26.2
8:22, 8:28, 8:40

When I crossed the finish and made it up past the medals, I saw Dorothy right away.  She gave me a huge hug and told me she was so proud of me.  It could not be a bad day, no matter how hard it was.  I PR’d on a tough day – I toughed it out – and I should be proud.  And I was.

friends in running & in life

No marathon is ever easy.  They are ALL hard.  Harder than hard.  But no matter how you do – no matter what the time on the clock is when you cross the finish line – you are triumphant.  You come out of it a stronger person.  You learn things about yourself and about your character.

On Sunday I learned that I can endure pretty much anything.  That perspective matters more than you realize most days.  Reality is always going to be whatever it is going to be, but we make choices every day about how we see it and about how we deal with it.

I am proud of the way that I handled things on Sunday.  I finished the race in 3:25:20.  This was a 9 minute PR for me and 16 minutes faster than I ran the same course one year ago.  It was my 10th marathon.  I was the 115th female to cross the finish and 13th in my age group.

I am grateful for and proud of those stats, but MUCH more than that I am beyond grateful for my journey in life, and for the fact that running marathons is a part of the path I am choosing to take.

34 thoughts on “MCM 2012 Recap – a day that could not be bad

  1. Loved reading your race report and loved cheering for you on Sunday through Twitter and Facebook. I'm sorry your stomach acted up, but WOW, what an amazing time considering what your body decided to do. Congrats!!!!!

  2. Oh. My. Goodness. I don't know if I am more proud of you for squatting outside in public or for the amazing fortitude it took for you to finish and finish strong! Haha. I am so incredibly happy for you and inspired. I hope you hone in on where those GI issues come from. Once you do, I bet you'll pull another huge PR. Probably like 3:10 or better. Damn, girl. You is fabulous!

  3. Great run, Jessica! Running after stomach distress is very, very challenging. I have had this happen to me during a marathon before and I could not run after I went to the bathroom– I walked to the finish. I am seriously amazed that you plowed through feeling the way you did. You are so strong. Congrats!!!!

  4. YAYYYYY! I loved this report. And I love that you improved so much over just one year. Incredible. I am running the Santa Barbara in Marathon in 9 days and this was just what I needed to read!

  5. WOW, what a recap! I cannot believe you managed to do all that AND PR. I did not write this in my blog recap (I also ran MCM Sunday) but I actually seriously thought I accidentally went IN MY PANTS during mile 23. Apparently, I was just paranoid but I was like certain, though wrong, THANK GOD. Haaa but hey, we are marathon runners, shit happens 🙂 Great recap, many congrats on the solid PR!!!!!!!

  6. This is a wonderful race report – so inspiring! I so appreciate your perspective on running as a gift…so true! And congratulations on an amazing race and great PR!

  7. Congratulations on an amazing race and a PR! It sounds like it was a tough race for you with your stomach issues. Unfortunately, I've been there myself…couldn't find a bathroom during a half-marathon last spring and went right next to a tree along Portland's waterfront. And, of course, the bathroom was about 50 yards past where I ended up having to stop.

    You are an inspiration, Jessica!!

  8. Congrats on an amazing run. This made me relive my marathon last fall – I had the same “I can not take another step, unless it is into a porta potty” moment at mile 23, and I remember looking into the little mirror in the potty saying to myself, you have to finish this race, you will finish this race, and it was SO hard. and I continued running, feeling sick to my stomach, like I was going to puke, the entire way to the finish. But I got it done, and so did you – and you should be excited about this race and what is to come for you!! Congrats:)

  9. Fantastic, Jess! A nearly 10-minute PR with major stomach problems. Well done! Hey, I would have done the same thing (ducked behind a tree). You gotta do what you gotta do. I hope you are able to figure out a solution for your next race, so that you are able to run comfortably.

  10. Congratulations Jess!! You ran awesome! I'm so sorry about your GI issues. I know how awful it is to struggle with that during a marathon, and I really hope you get that figured out soon. However – a 9 minute PR despite all that is truly incredible! I know that as runners, we always want more (faster times, new distance PRs, etc), but I really hope that you don't discount the huge leaps you've taken this year as a runner. It's been amazing to watch you grow.

    I also hope that whatever has got you feeling off emotionally gets worked out. Even despite all that, your spirit is so strong. I can feel it through your writing. And I admire you for that.

    Congrats again on an amazing race! Hope you're getting lots of rest this week.

  11. Congrats on your PR and for sticking to it and showing how strong you are! I've been in races where I've had to duck of the course to “take care of business” and then spent the next few miles cursing the race directors for not having more porto potties along the route. Hopefully you'll be able to run your legs to their full potential in the next marathon you do!

  12. Oh Jess, I don't know how many times I can tell you how much I am absolutely in awe of you and your passion for running and life. I feel like just reading your words inspires me to be a better person. This is such an amazing race report. The love that you have for this sport just flows through your words and jumps right out.

    I am really curious what your thoughts are on having GI issues at the same time on 3 marathons? And what you are thinking on how to deal with it? Maybe another post in itself? Also, I have “done my business” behind trees, in ditches, behind buildings and so many other awful and embarrassing places, but truly sometimes you just HAVE TO and there is nothing you can do. It is just part of being a runner, right?! I cannot wait to see how Rehoboth Beach goes for you and looking forward to hear about your 6 week recovery/training plan!

  13. i just loved this. i love your passion, drive, and dedication. it is infectious-in such a good way. i really wonder what is going on with your stomach, because it doesn’t happen in training, right? and, love the pics of you. really captures YOU. 🙂 congrats on a huge PR on a tough day!

  14. What an amazing recap. Jess, truly, you are such an incredible and inspirational person. I loved reading this and your whole attitude the whole day. Congrats my friend on an incredible race and fabulous PR!

  15. Oh my gosh, I had been looking forward to this post since Sunday!! What an amazing accomplishment – such a huge PR despite your tummy stress!!!! Way to tough it out, mama! I hope you can find some resolution both on the emotional turbulence and the stomach issues. Can't wait to hear about your plan and prep for rehobeth!!!!

  16. It it so about the journey and I learned this too in my first Chicago Marathon this past October. Sprained my foot around mile 22, ended up walking to a finish. But, it is what it is and the marathon was completed.
    Sorry about your stomach issues, to PR is so inspirational. Congrats!

  17. You are a ROCK STAR girl…way to go! I hope to someday run a full marathon…but will be running my first half soon! On a separate note…I have decided to write a series of blog posts about being thankful..for the month of November…I am trying to start a “Count your many blessings” (it seems we have much to be thankful for)movement within the blogging community…I will post on Sunday the 4th for Nov. 1-4 then next week 5-11 and so on…are ya with me? Pass it along either way, blessings and hugs! Link back to me if you could..thanks!

  18. You are so inspiring!!! I loved that photo of you at mile 23- you look so happy. I wished that I could look that happy in a race, but I always look like death. 🙂
    It sounds like you ran into the similar problem I had in Eugene back in April. I needed a bathroom STAT. It was not good. I just wanted to cry because I lost so much time. Not fun!

  19. Wow. I am in tears, and beyond inspired… Your mile splits are incredible. I have also suffered “stomach problems” on runs – so debilitating, mentally and physically – you handled it with such amazing grace – I am just so happy for you, and a little less terrified for myself the next time I get in trouble…

  20. That picture of you in CC says it ALL. Wow, Jess! Reading this so late but reliving every moment of that day through the pictures and emotions in your words. Marathons are so different yet SO similar for each of us that run those 26.2 miles 🙂 Huge congrats to you! The best is always yet to come, but you certainly made the most of that day!

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