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26.2 Marine Corps Marathon Tips

26.2 Marine Corps Marathon Tips

Wednesday, October 14, 2015 - 5:49am
26.2 Marine Corps Marathon Tips

"Marine Corps Marathon" by Marines. License.

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  1. Get to the expo early. Getting to the expo early--and on Friday--will save you from long lines and big crowds. You’ll also free up your entire Saturday, which will give you plenty of time for final race preparations.

  1. Don’t be tempted at the expo. The expo has everything from the latest running technology to recovery products--and most of it will be on sale. But the day before the race is NOT the time to try out a new product. Save the experimenting for your next training cycle. Buy your commemorative race shirt for yourself and significant other and move on.

  2. Tell your fan club where you want them to be. Thousands of spectators turn out to cheer on their loved ones. Prior to the race, try to communicate where you prefer your cheerleaders to be so you can avoid trying to pick them out of a sea of people for the entire 26.2 miles. You can also ask them to download the MCM App, which allows them to track you as you race. 

  3. Set plenty of alarms. Getting to the start by 7:55 a.m. has its hurdles. Be sure to wake up with plenty of time to get yourself to the starting line. You can always get sleep after the race. The MCM recommends that runners arrive 2 hours before their scheduled start time. 

  4. Take public transportation to the start. Ditch worrying about any traffic or parking the day of the race and take advantage of the fact that the metro will open its doors at 5 a.m. The Pentagon station (blue line) is the closest to the start line (note: Arlington Cemetery won’t open until 8:30 a.m.). If you are driving, the race suggests the parking garage in Crystal City, Va. (23rd and Crystal Drive). Then, take the free pre-race shuttles to the Runners Village near the Pentagon. If you must drive, make sure to pre-purchase parking

  5. Take advantage of the bag drop. Having clean clothes after the race is one of many tricks to a more comfortable post-race experience. But the bag drop closes early at the starting festival so plan accordingly. UPS baggage trucks will be located in Runners Village at the Pentagon North parking lot.

  6. Donate clothes at the starting line. The early morning start time makes for chilly weather. In addition, there’s a big chunk of time in between checking your bag and actually running. But if you wear some clothes you’re willing to toss at the start line, you don’t have to deal with bag check or freeze your butt off! Can’t part with any of your running clothes? Take a trip to a thrift shop before the race!

  7. Line-up for bathrooms early. There’s a hidden gem at MCM, and it’s the last-minute restrooms parallel to the starting line. But the main pool of restrooms are at the Runners Village, which is near bag drop and where most runners stay until closer to starting time. Either way, get to these restrooms early and often prior to the race.

  8. Utilize pace groups. But stick to the edge of the group to avoid tripping over other runners. The pace groups will be provided for the following finish times: 3:05, 3:15, 3:25, 3:35, 3:45, 4:00, 4:15, 4:30, 4:45, 5:00, and 5:30.

  9. Be respectful. Don’t get in the way of other runners just because you want to take a selfie. Be respectful of others’ space and watch where you’re going. Also, keep your headphones at a low volume. Many wheelchair competitors will be passing and you don’t want to be in their way.

  10. Mentally prepare for a congested start. The first mile is heavily congested and difficult to move through. But don’t worry, the pack will open up soon enough. And 26.2 miles is a long way to go. Be patient and don’t let the adrenaline rush force a pace that’s too fast.

  11. Plan on a gradual uphill the first three miles. Don't be alarmed if the first few miles seem like a never-ending uphill. You'll be rewarded with a nice downhill after you reach mile three.

  12. There are four food stations. Oranges between miles 9 and 10; Clif Shot Energy Gel near mile 13; Jelly Belly Sport Beans near mile 19; and Dunkin' Donuts Munchkins at mile 24. The race will also provide water and sports drinks every few miles.  

  13. Give Mr. Incredible a high-five. He and his sidekick will be cheering and dancing along the course, including Rock Creek Parkway near mile eight.

  14. Be Patient at the “Gauntlet.” The overwhelming support and energy along the Mall (AKA the Gauntlet) will give most runners an energy boost. But there’s still several miles to go; be smart and stay on pace.  

  15. Run faster than 14-minute miles to “beat the bridge.” The Marine Corps Marathon requires all runners to maintain at least a 14-minute-per-mile pace just before mile 20 along the 14th Street Bridge. The race opens up the bridge to traffic after 1:15 p.m. and boards the "stragglers," or those who can't meet the time requirement, onto a bus. Note from the Marine Corps Marathon website: A time cushion of two additional minutes-per-mile are afforded runners for the final 10K of the course after meeting the Beat the Bridge requirement.

  16. Stay strong along 395. "Beating the bridge" may not be the hardest part of the course. Right after is a mile-long stretch along 395. While there’s a slight decline, there’s also a slight incline. And on mile 20 that doesn’t feel great on your legs. Combine that with no crowd support and I think this is one of the toughest parts of the course. Stay strong until Crystal City, where the crowd energy will carry you to the finish (and the Dunkin' Donuts Munchkins!).

  17. Thank the volunteers. They’re putting on one of the most organized race you’ll ever compete in. The least you can do is thank them for all their hard work. Don’t be surprised if they’re all in uniform, either. The Marines are the ones hosting the race, after all.

  18. Take every moment in before, during and after the race. From the moment you get to the starting-line festival to the moment you leave the finish-line festival, keep your eyes wide open every moment and don’t miss a thing. I promise, you won’t regret it.

  19. Get ready for a hill at the end. Yes, the last .2 miles of the race has a hill. It’s mean. It’s hard. But you can do it! It's the end, give it all you have because you don't have anything else to lose.

  20. Remember to smile. After all that hard work, remember to smile at the finish when a Marine wraps a finisher-medal around your neck. There will also be several photographers at the finish. If you’re into pictures of yourself, it doesn’t hurt to smile.

  21. Plan to walk a while after the finish. One of hardest parts of the race is having to walk for several minutes to get out of the closed finish line area and toward the finish festival. Take your time, take advantage of all the post-race refreshments and notify someone if you’ll need medical assistance--there’s a medical tent not too far from the finish line.

  22. Coordinate post-race plans with friends and family prior to race day. Communicate post-race meeting spots ahead of time. One suggestion are the 13-foot tall signs that display the letters of the alphabet at the finish festival. This will help ease any stress of finding your friends and family after the finish.  

  23. Getting home can be hard. The metro is always crowded and you'll most likely have to wait a few hours for a cab if you hang out around the finish line festival. There are plenty of other transportation options near the Key Bridge or in Georgetown.

  24. Treat yourself. Several DC-area restaurants will offer specials for race finishers. If there’s ever a time to splurge, after a marathon is definitely one of them. Michelob will be on hand to offer 21 and older finishers a free sample of Michelob Ultra.

  25. Have fun! You trained for months to have a good race. Enjoy yourself and have fun!      

     (.2) As the Marines put it, OORAH!

About the Author

Jamie Corey is a RRCA certified coach and author of Jamie has completed eight marathons, several triathlons and is currently training for her first Ironman. When she isn't trying to find the best bagel in town, she is usually tweeting at @TheRunster.