Marine Corps Marathon Postmortem

Webster says postmortem is the analysis or discussion of an event after it has occurred, and that seems an appropriate definition of what I’ve been going through non-stop since Sunday afternoon.

The only way to describe the gun firing on 30,000 post-taper marathoners is controlled pandemonium. There’s cheering, pushing, bumping, shoving, jackets and gloves flung in the air, runners darting in and out and in front of other runners – it is a sea of arms, legs and feet whose sole purpose is to move forward when there is no room to move forward.

It was three miles into the race before I could reach race pace and I’m quite sure I spent another three miles attempting to make up for lost time. I’d catch myself speeding up and I’d slow myself down. I’d get caught up in the crowd, waving to the spectators or relishing the time that I had a few inches of the course all to myself and I’d realize I was going too slow. This went on and on and on….until it didn’t.

My husband watched my splits and noticed I was on schedule for a 3:58 finish. This was about the finish I had expected, but it was not the finish I was to have.

Somewhere after the half I knew something was wrong. My legs were cramping and I realized I had pulled a muscle in my right calf… really hurt.

It has been a long time since I’ve run a major marathon. The past several years I have run smaller, suburban races. The race director plays a large role in the personality of a small race and some can be bland while others are simply magical.

The largest flag ever held by a sky diver at the opening ceremony of this year’s MCM.

A large urban race takes on a life of its own – the opening ceremony is grand, the runners diverse and the whole race a spectacle. One of the best parts of a grand race is the finish line. The crowds await your arrival and seem to think their very cheers can propel you through the pain. During the hard, grueling and lonely training runs it is often the image of this finish line that plays out in my head.

By mile 19, I had stopped at a medical tent but changed my mind before I went in. I had stretched, drank more Gatorade than usual thinking it might alleviate the cramps, walked, ran, gotten mad, felt sorry for myself, talked to myself out loud, re-calculated the finish time a dozen times and what pace I would need to carry, and finally I accepted that I would have to walk to the finish. I walked the last seven miles.

I promise you it is much harder to walk a marathon than to just run. I tried four times in those last seven miles to start running again but knew it would do more harm to my calf than it was worth. For several miles I forced myself to maintain a 15-minute mile walk so I could still finish under 5 hours but eventually dropped to a 17-minute plus pace and finished in 5:04:08.

It would be easy to say I had a bad marathon but I don’t think that’s fair. It was a great experience. I really enjoyed the spectators. I didn’t wear my cap and some of them yelled out, “Look at the gray hair!” and then they’d give me a big cheer. The kids were so cute holding out their hands. And the marines made the event so very special.

The Marine Corps Memorial on our moonlight tour

How can you possibly expect to run 26.2 miles on any given day of your life perfectly? There are so many other variables for most of us – it’s not our job to run 26.2 miles perfectly. And so, we do the very best we can on that particular day. We adjust to what the weather, our bodies and the race throws at us – we finish the race, do a postmortem and move on to the next opportunity to show off our best stuff.

Along those lines, it was interesting for me to learn the female winner at this year’s MCM was 29-year old Kelly Calway. Kelly was from Colorado – not Kenya or Ethiopia, she finished in 2:42:16, is the mother of a 6-year old, a captain in the U.S. Army and she deploys to Kuwait this week. She said, “It’s awesome to win this race, representing the United States Army…. It’s the last thing I’m doing before shipping out. So it means the world to win this race.”

What a perfect ending to a perfectly fabulous race.

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

4 thoughts on “Marine Corps Marathon Postmortem

  1. Marcia, I have really enjoyed your sharing of the whole experience the past months. Your preparation and discipline have been admirable. I consider your time as really good considering the conditions you dealt with. I barely got under 5 hours in my one and only marathon celebrating my 50th birthday 14 years ago and could not come close to that now. On man’s (person’s) ceiling is another man’s floor. Congrats!


  2. Marcie – what a grand experience. And a humbling one – more proof (in case any one doubted) that we can’t control circumstances. I admire your honest and transparent self-appraisal. Your openness with your feelings helps us all!


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