I had mixed feelings leading up to race day. In the two previous weeks my inlaws visited, we celebrated Andrew’s birthday, I got glass in my eye, a lung infection, and an allergic reaction to Amoxicillin that is still causing breakouts to this day (I see an allergist this afternoon). I got precisely 2 runs in during those two weeks. One 4 miler that made me feel like death and a 7 miler the Monday before that made me feel more prepared but also left me feeling extremely sick a few hours after finishing. It might have also been a quick stomach bug. Either way, 6 days before the race I had a fever and vomiting, barely any runs under my belt and almost an entire training cycle done on a treadmill. In one word: underprepared.
I spent the last few days reading race recaps to psych myself up. I kept reading how flat the course was (which is the primary reason I entered the lottery coming off Baltimore’s hilliest half) and how gorgeous. I got more excited, though anxious, and decided to just listen to my body. I know I have the training in me and at the end of the day I love to run, and race, just to see what I can do and to explore by foot. I spent all weekend with almost zero sleep between trying to transition the boys to a shared nursery and Drew coming down with a bug that left him waking several times a night literally screaming.
Race morning, after tossing and turning forever, I rolled off the couch at 2am. I’d moved to the living room in hopes of getting more sleep, but it didn’t happen. I felt excited! I made some coffee while I read more race recaps, went over the course map and elevation and got everything packed to leave. Race day with two small kids in tow is no joke. I woke Bry up at 4am so he could drink coffee and have breakfast before we needed to wake the boys up at 5am. I have to say I have the worlds greatest boys. A husband who is willing to support my love of running even when it means 4am wake ups on a weekend when he needs all the rest he can get, to wrangle two small energetic babes in an unfamiliar area. And two boys who barely blink an eye when we rudely wake them from their warm beds to usher them into their car seats at 5am and 37 degrees outside. I am lucky.
We got to the metro by 5:15 and quickly made our way to the train, which Jackson loves. He was quick to yell “All Aboarddddd” with enthusiasm, despite the early wake up. The exhaustion started to hit me but I just tried to fake it until I could find some more. I ate a PB, banana and chia sandwich while we waited for the train and sipped on water. We got to the mall around 6:30. I used a porta potty immediately then I hung out with the boys, shivering as the sun rose over the monuments. We are so lucky to live in such a gorgeous place. At 7am I kissed them goodbye and made my way to the never ending lines for the porta potties again. I’ve learned I always need to use them one last time right before lining up in my corral to avoid having to pee as soon as the race starts.
I made it to my corral with a minute to spare and shoved my way through the jam packed crowds. Once I found a spot I started stripping my throw away clothes. I was in the red coral, the first seeded coral, based off past times. My phone has been wonky lately, not holding a charge and right before I lined up it died. I’d be running the race with no music. Instead of freaking out I decided to just enjoy the scenery and feed off the high of the other runners. At 7:35am the horn blew and we were off! Immediately I knew I’d been seeded correctly. For the first time in my racing history I didn’t have to dodge and weave through people, despite the nearly 18,000 runners. We were all running together.
The first mile I felt great. I could tell I was pushing myself faster then I’d normally run at the beginning of a long run but I went with it. I started taking in the surroundings: the perfectly bloomed cherry blossoms, the Lincoln Memorial and I smiled with gratitude that I was able to run at all, especially along such a meaningful place to our Nation. We crossed over the Memorial Bridge which I remember from running the Rock N Roll Half. I kept a decent clip and settled in among the other runners. As we made out way back across the bridge and down along Rock Creek Park/the end of the Capital Crescent trail (my favorite trail in the area), I knew I needed to back off a bit. I had no idea how far we were yet but I didn’t want to burn out too quickly.
We looped back around near the Kennedy Center and passed the first mile marker I’d seen: Mile 3! I was relieved to know we were already almost 1/3 of the way through the race and appreciative of not having to see mile markers 1 & 2. The clock read 28:** and I quickly tried to do some mental math, subtracting the 4 minute or so lead the elite/yellow corral had on our start. Then someone ran by saying we were running at a 7:46min/mi. Read: I really needed to slow down.
I started going over mantras. “Run your own race,” “There will always be someone in front of you, and someone behind you,” and “Leave something in the tank” as I knew mile 9 sported a half mile hill to the finish and really didn’t want to have to walk it. I kept running and at this point started to feel a bit fatigued. The lack of sleep started to hit me and I generally just wanted to stop running and take a nap. I think I was really missing my music to distract from the run, despite how beautiful it was. There were constantly people passing me and for the first time I didn’t let it bother me. This was MY race and I needed to run for me. So I did!
We passed mile 4 relatively quickly and then mile 6 and I psyched myself up. Only a third to go! At this point in the course you loop around Hains Point which is a long peninsula. Looking at the course map I thought I’d really enjoy this part as there’s water on both sides. But actually running it I quickly understood why every race review noted that this section was long and boring. It’s an over 3 mile loop and you can’t really see much of the water from the course, especially with all the other runners next to you. This section is more secluded so there were barely any spectators. Until that point I didn’t realize how much I was feeding off the crowds but 3 miles of silence later, I was truly grateful to pass mile 9 and hear all the cheers of the crowds lining the course again.
Instead of picking up the pace like everyone around me, I kept steady. I knew the hill awaited and since I’d never run the course I didn’t know how big the hill was or how long. I only knew that every race review said it sucked. We passed the sign noting 1200 meters to go and I kicked it up a bit. It felt like the longest 400 meters ever to get to the 800 meter sign and thus the beginning of THE HILL. Sure it was a hill and there was definitely a noticeable incline in comparison to the rest of the course but it was MUCH shorter than I anticipated. I dug in, kept pushing and reached the top. I was grateful I left something in the tank as many other runners around me started to crash and burn here.
From the top there’s a short decline and you can see the Washington Monument and thus the finish in the distance. Throughout the race I carried a pack of GU chomps and a bottle of water mixed with Ultima and a bit of Spark. I finished half the chomps along the course and almost all the water. At this point, I chucked both off to the side of the road. Then I dug in and gave it all I had. In the last 100 meters or so I started passing people left and right. Apparently I really had something left to put out there! I finished strong and solid. My goal for the race was to run a sub 1:30:00. I came in at 1:17:44!
As soon as I finished I felt like I was going to pass out and puke but kept walking down the finisher’s chute. It quickly subsided and I felt much better, especially after grabbing a banana and meeting up with my boys. As I walked up the hill from the finisher’s area to the base of the Washington Monument, where my husband and sons were, I started to tear up and become overwhelmed with emotion. I am truly lucky. Blessed to live in this Nation, blessed for the ability to run and blessed to have such a wonderful little family <3
I’d definitely recommend the race to anyone. It’s a gorgeous flat course that’s extremely well organized. Despite the almost 18,000 runners there was not a single hitch that I experienced. There was water at every stop, what seemed like thousands of energetic, wonderful volunteers and great organization by the race staff and volunteers alike. I loved that they printed names on our bibs as hearing “Go REGINA!” felt empowering. I truly appreciate all those who graciously gave up their Sunday mornings to help make events like this possible. THANK YOU!