Happy Friday! I have a really special treat for you today. One of my athletes, and long time running buddy, ran the Marine Corps Historic Half this past Sunday and she’s here to share her experience and race recap!
Hello everyone! My name is Courtney and I’ve been a running friend of Lauren’s since 8th grade when we ran cross country together. This is my first time ever writing any type of blog post so bear with me! I’m writing about the Marine Corps Historic Half Marathon which I participated in this past weekend in Fredericksburg, Virginia. It is called the Historic Half because the race winds through the streets of downtown historic Fredericksburg. In addition to the half, this weekend also has a 5k and a 10k.
I traveled down to Virginia on Friday morning with my boyfriend Matt and my friend Margaret who would be running the race with me. We got down to Virginia early on Friday morning and were able to get a shake out run in around the University of Mary Washington – what a beautiful school! After a much needed shower we headed to downtown Fredericksburg and has lunch at The Colonial Ale House. The food was delicious and there was a huge selection of different kinds of beer. I highly recommend checking it out if you’re ever in the area! I’m not a huge beer drinker but even I couldn’t resist trying the Ginger Ale (the only reason I got it was because it literally tasted like ginger ale) After an early shake out run on the local bike path on Saturday morning and a trip to the race expo to check in and get some sweet gear we spent most of the day relaxing and getting ready for Sunday mornings race.
The race started at 7am so we arrived to the starting line around 6am. There were plenty of port-a-potties which is always a big factor for me in the overall race day experience. The starting coral was easy to get to and there were well marked signs for expected finish times. The starting area was very organized with frequent announcements of what time it was and how close we were getting to go time. Margaret and I made our way to the corals and hung out together for a little bit before I headed up to the sub 1:30 corral. The opening ceremony for the race was awesome- it included an old school crier (here-ye here-ye!!!), the national anthem, and a flyover of a vintage aircraft. Olympic sprinter/bobsledder Lauryn Williams was also at the starting line to see us off on our 13.1 mile journey.
After the initial excitement of the first half mile or so was over I found my groove and got into a rhythm. The first two miles were on a pretty main road, then we entered a beautiful (but hilly) neighborhood. There were tons of people outside with flags and cowbells. After a long downhill we worked our way towards downtown Fredericksburg. There was a nice mix of pump up techno music blasting and some funny historically dressed men playing the flute. (Dane Cook war flute guy anyone? youtube it.) Lining the course were cheering fans and Marines. At every water station (there were six total) there were Marines and tons of people handing out water and gatorade. If you look at the elevation map of this course it shows a significant decrease in elevation for the first 10 miles then a return to the race baseline for the last 5 kilometers. (aka making up for 10 miles of downhill in 3.1) Mile 10 took us up Hospital Hill. Starting at the expo, Hospital Hill had been played up and talked about. There were t-shirts just about Hospital Hill. Even though the entire hill was lined with signs and people cheering and encouraging us, it was still one of the hardest hills I have raced up in my life. This is coming from a former Hopkinton Hiller, so you know it was bad. The hill started off at a moderate incline, then flattened out a little bit to just a minimal incline, then was steep climb for the last half of the hill. Just at the top was the mile 11 marker and a dancing mascot which provided some comic relief. (Also Calvin Harris new jam “Summer” was playing which may or may not have been the extra burst I need to finish off the hill).
There was a first aid station (nicely placed) at the top of the hill for those runners who needed it. At this point I thought I was in the clear and done with the hills, but the course presented one last challenge before a flat last mile to the finish line. This last hill was about a quarter mile steady incline up over a highway overpass and then down the otherside. By itself, this hill would have been a piece of cake, but after the climb up hospital hill my legs were basically toast. These two miles were by far the slowest of the race for me (7:30’s compared to the 6:45 pace I had been maintaining for most of the race). After this torturous two miles was over, we ran under a giant American flag being held up by two firetruck ladders.
We then made a few final turns and headed towards the finish line. Coming down the final stretch of any race is always exciting, and due to the size of this race the finish line was intense. For the majority of the race I was in fourth place for females, then I was passed by a woman just before Hospital Hill. I was also on pace to break my goal time of 1:30. I kept looking at my watch after hospital hill and during mile 11 knowing I was going to be extremely close to breaking my goal time. As I approached the 13 mile marker, I could hear the announcer saying “If you want to break 1:30 you have 30 seconds to do it!” I knew I was close to a minute away from the finish line but I pushed on anyway hoping that he was going off of the clock time and that maybe I had started the race far enough after that my own personal chip time would be under 1:30. I drove hard down the final stretch and all the way to the finish line where I stopped my watch and saw 1:30:34.
Ordinarily, I would have been disappointed but I knew the only reason I didn’t crush the 1:30 barrier was because of those damn hills at the end. No matter what I was going to slow down and even though I thought had allowed myself a significant cushion by going out quicker than planned, it wasn’t enough to make up for how much I slowed down climbing the hills. I knew I had the fitness to run 1:28 or better, but the course had other plans. After crossing the finish line, there were two lines of Marines all holding finisher medals. They were all so genuine in their congratulations and high fives and it was an amazing way to finish a tough race knowing that their job is 10000x tougher. After collecting my goodie bag and walking through the line of people with free treats (pretzels, water, gatorade and DELICIOUS fresh cut orange slices) I met up with my amazingly supportive boyfriend who was so happy to see me and proud of my performance. We quickly hurried back to the finish line to see Margaret finish (she gave us a great wave when she heard us yelling).
Overall this race was an amazing experience and I highly recommend participating in the 5k, 10k or half. Maybe next year I will compete in the Marine Corps Marathon. A big thanks to Lauren for her wonderful coaching that helped me PR by 4 minutes in my second ever half marathon and thanks for having me write this post!
A BIG thanks to Courtney for sharing with us and CONGRATS on her 4 minute PR! I hope you enjoyed hearing about her experience. 🙂 Have a great Friday!