2011 Marine Corps Marathon DEBRIEFING



 February 23rd 2011 – 249 days till M Day

  • It’s a volunteer Army and orders officially come in.  30,000 spots fill up in 28 hours. 
  • Deployment Location – Washington DC.
  • Combat Mission – Take the hill at Iwo Jima (Marine Corps Memorial)
  • Personal Mission – Qualify for Boston

July 21st  – 101 days till M Day

A the track with my buddy Sean and he is excited about a Half Iron Man that he is training for, I asked him when it was and he mentioned it was the last weekend of Oct….  Crap I didn’t realize how close the race was.  Time to start training

October 28th – 2:30pm – 20 hours 30 minutes till M-Day

I run into Red, Dorcas, and Melody at the Expo!  So excited to see them all!  Getting nervous, the expo is a runners candy store, but the reality of the race is starting to kick in.  I haven’t had a chance to race since doing a 5K midsummer and now I am jumping straight into a marathon. 

October 29th – 8:00 am – 24 hours till M-Day

I stayed the night at my mom’s house 30 min outside DC and I wake up to 2 inches of snow on the ground and the snow is still coming down.  I DIDN’T PREPARE FOR THIS.  Its October not January! 

3:00pm – 17 hours till M-Day

Head into DC…  It’s raining, but the rain turns into snow and it snows for a good 5 hours.  Not liking this one bit as I look down and I am wearing my flip flops and one of my heaviest coats (a pullover fleece).  Later that night right before I go to bed I realize that the water bottle somehow opened up and emptied out into my entire bag!   Everything is soaking wet, even the gear I need for tomorrow.  Oh well…  hope it dries while I am asleep.

6:00am – 2 hours till M-Day

I get dropped off with the crew right outside the Pentagon and we all start walking over towards the start line. Its dark and we are freezing cold. (it was under 32 degrees, I am not just saying that because I am from Florida and I think anything under 70 degrees is freaking cold).

7:00 am – 1 hour till M-Day

I say my goodbyes to the group and Jessica laughed one last time and asked if I wanted to run with her again…  “Nope, I am sticking with my plan” as she takes off with her friend Chaung.  I slowly make my way over to the pace group while I mentally go over the race in my head over and over.  None of us in the group really say a word before the race starts.  I don’t know if it was because it was cold or we just all knew that were about to give everything we got during the next few hours.   The only thing that I did outside of some light stretching was made a few stops by the bushes/trees.  I didn’t make the mistake this time like I did last with starting the race dehydrated and then ending up in an ambulance again

Invasion of Rosslyn – Miles 1-3

The MV-22’s fly over head and National Anthem is played…  Its finally time and the gun goes off.  I place myself in the back of the pace group, so I am one of the last ones that goes across the mat.  You never know.  I might need that additional second or two later on in the race.  The start was packed as hell and we had to maneuver our way around tons of people.  You would have thought that being this close to the beginning of the race we wouldn’t have that problem, but I was wrong.  Our Gunny Sergeant (Cliff Bar Pacer – It’s the Marine Corps Marathon so I am having fun with this) held the 3:05 banner high during the first mile and our platoon grouped up around him tight.   These first few miles flew bye I don’t even remember how tough the hill was at mile 2.  But I do remember as soon as we crested the hill we started to pick up the pace a little bit to make up for the slower start and all of us laboring up the hill. 

Hold the Canal – Miles 4 – 8

Right after the 5K marker I looked down at my Garmin and the pace average for this mile was 6:09, but we were all going downhill for a good click so it was expected.  (I was so happy that during my training cycle I had a few long runs where the pace was dropped down in the low 6s.  but it was still faster than I wanted to fly this early at the race.)   Once we finally got to the bottom of the road and down parallel to the C&O Canal the over hydration kicked in and I had to make a pit stop.  The second I stopped my Garmin beeped at me “AUTO PAUSE”  FRACKING A, I wanted to yell at Swift for changing that over my Garmin (I still can’t figure out how to turn it off) but there is nothing I can do now…  I slowly made my way back up to the group and settled back in right after we crossed one of the bridges that was still frozen over (I am sure some people at it later because it was super slick).  At this point of the race most of us started talking a little bit to get to know everyone in the platoon.   Gunny goes around and ask most of us what our goals were and why we chose MCM.  So it was a great few miles (except the hill before Georgetown).

Set up Positions on the Point – Miles 8-15

It’s amazing I was so close to the monuments, and I didn’t see a single one.  All that mattered and all I focused on was sticking with the platoon and with Gunny…  The miles started flying by, I am not going to say they were easy because I still felt the lactic acid building up from our pace, but it was a controlled and predictable pain.  Except for somewhere around mile 10 my left calf hardened up and turned into a rock.  I got so pissed at it.  I trained to hard for this I thought, I never had this challenge in training!  The emotional burn of having to join the Boston Club literally overtook the pain of the cramp in my calf and it worked itself out within a half mile.  I can’t let anything stop me this early in the race, or at any point PERIOD!

One thing that did start to get weird is that my Garmin and everyone else’s Garmins started to not match up with the mile markers during the race.   I am super happy with Gunny!  He kept us above pace the whole time, and he did it on purpose.  He said that the mile markers are set up if you hug every single curve but no one except the elites do that.  And because of that we needed to go just a tad quicker than we all expected so that way we all hit our time of 3:05 or under.   (So we all ended up running 26.55-26.6 miles) 

Hold the Capital at all Cost  – Miles 16-18

These miles went by fast, but they hurt.  The pace was kicking in and my legs were burning.  The little guy on my left shoulder started to not only voice his opinion but yell it into my ears.  I started to doubt the game plan that was set and negotiate with myself.  This hurts, I just need to stay with the pacer for a few more miles… I don’t have it in me to make the move, you don’t have the energy.  If you do… you won’t make it to the finish or at least you won’t make it to Club BQ.  But right as soon as I hit the mile 18 banner (not when 18 beeped on my Garmin) didn’t say any goodbyes to the group, I just mentally locked down on the mission and I made the Move of a Champion.  I started to pick up the pace just as planned.

Push Them Back – Miles 19-21

The PACE HURT I dropped it down to 6:50 and then to 6:45 and locked my body onto this pace.   I was so in the zone that I almost missed my friends on the side with their sign “BEN RUNS SO HE CAN WEAR SHORT SHORTS” (there is a story behind this one…  Gotta love stupid people that say something to you in the grocery store)  I actually didn’t even see the sign or hear them the entire time during the race (even though they said they were screaming my name) I tossed off my cap and gloves and kept going.  Not less than a minute later I started to regret that idea since it was still in the 30s…  but there was no looking back.

Beat the Bridge – Miles 21-23

I will have to say that the bridge is one of the most demoralizing places in this race.  Its almost 2 solid miles of boring concrete and you see runners around you breaking down from the pain.  I painfully held the best pace that I could a 6:55, but I kept picking people off like crazy.  Anytime there was an uphill I hid behind a runner to help recover and as soon as it straightened out or went downhill I locked back into my pace and tracked them down 1 by 1.  Right near the end of the bridge I noticed a purple shirt up ahead and realized that it was Speedy Jessica, I passed her right before we got off the bridge.  All I could do was grunt and she responded with “you’re looking good, keep going” and I could do was just grunt back.

Red is getting ready for the handoff

Right after mile 22 I saw some crazy girl in the middle of the road up ahead and realized it was my resupply station with Sergeant Red.  She tried to give me all my stuff but the only thing I grabbed was the sports bottle.  I don’t remember what went through my head but Instead of using one hand to pull the cap up I used my teeth and ripped the entire thing off like I was pulling the pin of a grenade (I was just trying to pop open the top not rip it off snapping part of the plastic top.    I took a few sips and tossed it aside.   Shortly after that I hit the Crystal City turnaround and lost all momentum.  I came around and then passed Red again groaning in solid pain as I picked up a package of 2nd Surge.

At this point I started to freak out that it just might not happen… I might not hit my time.  My pace was starting to slow and there wasn’t any more gears left that I could drop into.   Right before mile 24 there was the second to last water station.   I stopped because I didn’t think that I could run drink at this point and almost collapsed because my legs just about gave out.  The marines yelled at me to keep moving (I don’t even remember if I got water there or not).  But I kept moving

Running Through a Minefield – Miles 24-26

I thought before the race started I was still going to be strong and drop my pace down to a 6:30… but at this point there was nothing left, when they talk about running being a mental sport, this is the first race in my life that I can say that it truly is.   My paces was blowing up, my legs were completely toasted and nothing left in the tanks, I was watching my buffer disappear quickly I just kept telling myself to make it to the tree, make it to the sign, make it to the turn, make it to that spectator, make it to that marine.   I didn’t want to give up… I wanted to stop.  I couldn’t feel my arms anymore they went numb and the legs were burning hotter than any race before.  But I couldn’t stop, I couldn’t quit, somehow I was still catching people and passing them (but that’s probably because this race tore through them also).  It was at this point totally in my mind.  Mind over body they call it…  Everything said quit but I practiced this race thousands of time in my mind prior to this day, and all that started to kick in.  Move your legs, the people supporting you are counting on you, Move your legs people that donated to the charity are counting on you, Move your legs that Marines/Soldiers you passed that no longer has sight, legs, arms is counting on you.  If they can complete this race you can’t just give it your, you have to give it your all.  Just keep going till the next spectator and then the next, and then to that sign.

Finally a great photo from Marathon Foto

 Iwo Jima – Miles 26-26.2

The only people mental enough to stick a hill at the end of the marathon would be the Marines.  It was a battle just to get up and I caught the last person that tried to break away from the 3:05 pace group on the climb.  I crossed the finish line and started to stumble as my legs were giving way into a pile of marines.  They caught me and passed me off the medical personnel as I tried to mumble that I was fine.    They guy was nice enough to almost carry me over to the medal area one of the Marines put a medal around my head. 

 It was done, the race was over! I ran a 3:03:51 and earned my place to run Boston in 2013.  (Took some major time off my last Marathon PR of 3:26:16)

Big thank you to all the great people that helped me along the journey.  Running a marathon might look like solo event, but in truth you can’t complete your journey without a TON of people out there supporting you through it.

If you would like to make any last minute donations to Support US Armed Forces please follow this link:   http://www.active.com/donate/supportusarmedforces  Our Mission is still not done and we defiantly Never Forget Who We Are Running For



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21 responses to “2011 Marine Corps Marathon DEBRIEFING

  1. Congrats so much Ben! you rocked MCM!

  2. YAY YAY YAY!!! Congrats, so excited and proud of you. It was GREAT to see you 🙂

  3. I still hold to the statement that I had NO idea you were struggling when I saw you. You seemed just locked on to the pace and not having any of the shenanigans around you. I’m just glad you saw me, lord knows I tried to make a spectacle of myself for you! That halo was for you! 🙂 Well done Lazy Runner, you certainly have to change your name now!!!!!!!!!

    • Thanks Red! It was so great to see you! I miss the crazy stories and driving you up the wall to the point where you wanted to kill me everyday! Lazy Runner… IS YOUR FAULT!!! (it does confuse alot of people). Thank you for being there cheering me on! and yes I was in a EXTREME amount of pain when I saw you! Almost the whole race was a blur, so I am glad you were almost in the middle of the road or I would have missed you!!!

  4. Heather C

    “major time”? Uh yeah, I’d say so!! Damn dude. Congratulations on a BQ well done! That’s incredible!

  5. I’m a new reader sent over on the orders of Sargent Red.

    Awesome race report! I really liked you wrote it.

    Congrats on a great race and on qualifying for Boston. I currently have a marathon PR of 3:20 and am thinking about going for a BQ this spring. I’ll have to do a 3:05 as well to qualify but figure I need to be in the 3:02-3:03 like you to both qualify and get a spot at registration.

    I’ll have to go back and look at some of your past posts, but I’m curious as to what training plan you used for your training?

    Congrats again! Hopefully the legs heal up quickly.

    • Kevin,

      Thanks so much for reading this! Which Marathon are you training for? How much time do you have?

      I really didnt follow an XYZ training plan but I did know how many miles I wanted to hit each week and then laid it out like this. Tues nights are always track nights (I pay monthly for that) and Sat or Sun was always my long run. Everything else I kinda just fit into my week if I could.

      When I started out planning I wanted to have 2-3 weeks in the 80s and 1 week in the 90s but that never happened due to a thing called life… But I was able to get I think 4-5 weeks in the 60s and 1 week in the 70s during this training cycle. You can ask Red how I trained for my last 2 Marathons… that will cause a good laugh from her.

      • I’m shooting for either the Lansing Marathon or the Glass City Marathon. Both are in April, so plenty of time to decide on what my goal will be. I’m waiting to hear back from Spike on course recon for the Lansing Marathon as to whether or not it is a BQ course (first year for the race).

        This will be marathon #11 for me. I’ve gotten a little bit faster pretty consistently in each race but have never really gone into training with any goals outside of finishing. So, starting out of the gate with a goal to BQ will be a bit different for me.

        I’d like to do something along the line of the FIRST training plan that involves more x-training (biking & swimming) into the plan rather than running for 6 days a week. I’ve had my best marathons so far by incorporating biking/swimming in my training and don’t want to completely change that up. Plus, my knees can be a bit finicky at times and running full time is sure to cause problems.

        Judging by your comment about not wanting to end up in an ambulance “again” after your race, I have an idea of how your previous training went 😉 Sounds like you did it all right this time around.

  6. 11!!! Your my Hero! That was number 3 and the only race I have done is MCM. honestly if you have done that without a goal I think you will be fine! Is Spike helping plan the race?

  7. I’m Morgan’s friend Katie – this is a great report and you looked strong and fierce when you passed us at mile 23 – congratulations on your huge PR!

  8. Jess

    Congrats LR on an amazing race! Red sent me. Loved your recap.

  9. Richard Bates

    Congratulations, Ben. Will be watching for your updates re: Boston.

  10. Pingback: Goals and Decisions » Ironman By Thirty

  11. Great race report, I’ll have to read it a second time. Huge slashing of the old PR! That is incredible, very well done!!

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