I didn’t run my goal race of 2018. This is the unfiltered, raw, and full story of why I skipped out on the 43rd Marine Corps Marathon. This is my failed marathon.
My experience with this year’s Marine Corps Marathon was riddled with anxiety, uncertainty, and chaos. There was never one clearcut path or sign that told me this race was meant to be for me. It was a really confusing time and I’m frankly glad it’s over. Here’s the real, unabridged, full story of why I didn’t run MCM this year.
Where to start… At the beginning, I suppose.
My Failed Marathon: Why I Didn’t Run MCM
Back in March, I received an entry to the 43rd Marine Corps Marathon. I was ecstatic. My friend, Julie, also registered for the race. She was unsure if she would be able to run a marathon this year since she was having a May baby, but we were optimistic. My husband and I asked my in-laws if they could come hang out with the grandkids for us for the weekend and we were golden.
My training was going well in the early weeks. I was feeling great and really, really strong. Then in August, Julie told me she couldn’t run. I was sad, of course, but I’ve run races before without having a buddy on the course so it wasn’t that big of a deal. Plus, my husband decided he wanted to train for the 10K. We booked an Airbnb and were well on our way through training.
Fast forward about a month and we realized it wasn’t the most fiscally responsible idea for us to travel to a big, expensive city. Without my friend there, with the pressure of trying to remain thrifty in a big city, and my husband’s battle with nagging injuries, I decided to defer. At first it felt like a weight was lifted. But I was also still feeling very unsettled with my decision. If you go back and read my post about deferring you can actually tell that I’m not confident at all in my decision despite my saying so.
After I deferred, I emailed my coach. I was getting closer to the peak weeks of training and right when I deferred would be the start of the critical long runs. There were a few marathons coming up sooner than MCM, as well as some half marathons. I had a hard time deciding if I should go for speed or distance, but ultimately I decided I wanted to train for a fast half. All my training runs switched. Instead of long, slow distance, we focused a lot on tempo runs and speed work. It was a lot of fun! But something wasn’t clicking for me and I was still really unsure about missing my goal race.
Of course, I did what any sane person would do and I started looking for ways to make MCM happen — but the most inexpensive, economical way possible. Transfer/deferral dates were coming down to the wire and I had seen a whole bunch of people trying to unload their bibs for pretty cheap. My husband and I discussed it and we made a plan to get to D.C. and stay with family, pack all our own food so we didn’t have to eat out, and limit our transportation costs.
Back in the Game!
I bought another bib and I was ecstatic. Since I had recently deferred, I didn’t make a big deal out of it, especially in the blogger/social media world. I felt like an idiot for telling the world I deferred and then being like, “yeah, just kidding! I bought another bib!” So I kept it pretty quiet. (That’s why some of you were really confused with all my posts last week.)
After I secured another bib, my coach revised (once again) my training plan. I had missed a bunch of long runs but it wasn’t my first marathon so we weren’t too worried about it. My husband and I also revisited the childcare situation with my in-laws. It had been a few months since we last talked about it and wanted to make sure they were still on board. They were a little hesitant. They had recently moved from their house and were dealing with all the unpacking and upheaval that usually follows a big move. We tried to make contingency plans with other family members but those fell flat. After a lot of back and forth with them, we finally decided they would still come. Our kids were super excited! Things were looking up!
Can Anything Go Right?!
And then I sustained a calf strain. Gosh, could anything go right for this race?! I went into rehab/recovery mode. I cycled as much as I would have been running, I focused on weights and conditioning, and I maintained my fitness as well as I could for a full week. After my full week off from weight-bearing activity, I slowly returned to running. Instead of running back to back days like I had been, I spent time at the gym on the bike. I felt good but my confidence was gone and my resolve was shaken. I missed two long runs. In the midst of all this, my husband was still dealing with a nagging hamstring issue (been there!) so he wasn’t confident in his ability to run a 10K.
I ran my first, only, and longest run on October 7th. 18 miles never felt so good. But my training was so far off from where I wanted to be that although the run felt great, it wasn’t quite enough. I adjusted my training a bit to shorten my taper but MCM was creeping up and time was not on my side. Not even a little bit.
My Failed Marathon: Why I Didn’t Run MCM
Then I had the atrocious performance at the Iron Horse Half Marathon. I was truly terrified of re-injuring my calf muscle on the rolling hills course in Kentucky so I ran extremely slow and was truly miserable. I walked up hills because I didn’t want to give my calf any reason to protest. And in hindsight, had I known I was bowing out of MCM, I would have run Iron Horse much differently. Regardless, Iron Horse was not what I had hoped for with this half and instead of fueling my drive, it contributed to my anxiety.
More than Just the Taper Crazies
The final blows came just one week before MCM. My in-laws suddenly had to back out of coming to Cleveland for the weekend. I went into crisis mode. I tried figuring out a way for my husband, kids, and me to get to D.C. the next weekend. Sadly, I couldn’t come up with a solution. When I realized that wasn’t happening, I asked Cleveland friends if anyone wanted to make the trek to D.C. with me. I even made arrangements to stay with friends and family in D.C., and I tried as hard as I could to pump myself up for the race in the week leading up to it. I diligently checked, and rechecked, the weather forecast. Finally, after two weeks of predicted rain, the weather on race day was looking good — a small bright spot of hope.
But there was still this nagging feeling of uncertainty that I couldn’t shake. I had a terrible feeling following me around all week long. My feelings vacillated between being excited and being in tears from anxiety — literally all week. I tried SO HARD to stay upbeat and positive. I tried everything to “fake it ’til ya make it.” It just wasn’t working!!
The straw that broke the camel’s back came on Friday when I looked at the weather radar for Saturday — the day I would be driving to D.C. solo. There was a monster weather system (thank you, Nor’Easter!) heading in the direction of the route I would be taking. I would be driving for six+ hours solo in the rain. The radar in motion was a visual of impending doom on the turnpike. No, thanks.
After seeing this, I momentarily panicked on the floor of my bedroom with all my clothes and gear laid out around me. It was Friday morning around 8:30 am. I asked my husband if I should leave that day and we decided maybe I should. My anxiety was at an all time high. I sent him off to the grocery to grab all the food I would need for the weekend since I hadn’t packed and needed to leave the house within two hours. No sooner did he leave the driveway than I had a breakdown. Full on ugly crying and all. I just wasn’t comfortable traveling alone for this race.
I texted him and he came right back home. He emailed one of the host hotels and found out they had a room available. We discussed all the pros and cons of packing everyone up, picking up the kids early from school, and going to D.C. together. I couldn’t fathom packing everyone else and worrying about my own things for the race on a moment’s notice. It was all so overwhelming and it didn’t seem fair to the rest of the family. The anxiety was crippling.
The Final Decision
After I calmed down, we talked extensively for an hour about how he’s never seen me questioning plans or a race like this before. He noted that when I want to do something, I do it with no questions asked. He pointed out that I’ve traveled to D.C. many times on my own and not once did I have so much panic and anxiety about it. In addition, he reminded me of all the races I’ve run and that this was extremely abnormal pre-race “anxiety” for me.
After we hashed it out, the decision was made. I had to let this one go.
When I look back on everything that went wrong, and the very few things that went right with this training cycle, I realize(d) that this race was doomed from the start. There were red flags galore — from the day Julie told me she was selling her bib to the impending doom of rain on the radar the day before I was supposed to leave. There were far too many obstacles and too much emotional instability surrounding this experience. This race just wasn’t meant to be.
I love the Marine Corps Marathon more than anything and the very last thing I wanted to do was travel several hours on my own to have a miserable race. It was better for me to skip out and take a DNS on this one than soil my experience and memory with a poorly executed, anxiety-ridden race. So I took the DNS.
Marine Corps Marathon
It was gut wrenching in the days leading up to the race and I had FOMO the day before the race when I saw everyone’s Flat Runner photos. But I never cried on race day like I thought I would. I cried every single day leading up to it because my anxiety levels were so high. But I didn’t cry once for missing out on the race itself. Which absolutely tells me I made the right decision. But I would be lying if I didn’t say it was a hard pill to swallow. Marine Corps Marathon is one of my all-time favorite races and I was sad not to be there this year.
But as they say, everything happens for a reason. And that, my friends, is an entirely different story for another day.
So there you have it. My failed marathon. The unfiltered and raw version of why I didn’t run the 43rd Marine Corps Marathon.
Have you ever had a race be the cause of so much anxiety?
Have you ever DNSed a goal race before?