Monday, October 28, 2013


If you don't follow me on Twitter and Instagram, you might not know that I ran a race yesterday.  If you do follow me on Twitter and Instagram... I'm sorry for taking over your feeds in the early morning darkness!

Anyway, yesterday was the 38th Marine Corps Marathon, one of the most well-known races in the DC area.  The girls who helped me through my first half back in mid-September encouraged me to sign up for the 10k component of the MCM, and I'm so glad I made it onto the list before all the spots were claimed!  It was such a fun morning.

Strangely, though, I was in a weird mental place going into the race.  I wasn't afraid that I couldn't handle it physically - I trained properly in the month leading up to the race and, to be totally honest, 6.2 miles sounded like a breeze after I'd suffered through 13.1 - but, for the first time ever, I felt like what I was doing wasn't a big deal.  I've done 5ks before that were attached to 10ks, but I've never done a 10k alongside a marathon, and for some reason I felt like what I was trying to accomplish was so much less than what the marathoners were accomplishing.  (That is the case in most ways, certainly, but I do try to remember that accomplishment is relative and I'm a runner regardless!)  Everyone in DC knew about the marathon, but I got some slightly disappointed looks from non-runners when I clarified and said I was running the 10k.  Then there was that Washington Post article from last week that said a lot of things I'm proud to agree with but that left a sour taste in my mouth because of this excerpt:
Running is... so popular it has inspired some backlash, particularly against the subset of runners who participate just for the sake of completing a marathon. Brian Danza, president of D.C. Road Runners, divides runners into two groups: the competitive subset, who run for time, and the participatory or recreational group, or “people who do it to check a box.” Speaking on behalf of his running club, he said, “we firmly promote the sport of running in a competitive manner.” Running a marathon just for the sake of completing one, said Danza, isn’t worth the effort. Danza cites “the advent of social media and bragging” as fueling marathons’ increased popularity. “The way to one-up each other — ‘I’m thinner than you, I’m better than you in various ways, I also checked this box’ — has really perpetuated the growth of the sport.”
I felt so crummy after reading that.  Forget about the 10k v. marathon thing - I felt like I should be ashamed of not having the mentality of a more pure runner.  I felt like I was diluting the sanctity of running.

But then I showed up at the Expo on Saturday morning to pick up my bib and my shirt and talked to a dozen marathoners, all of whom were so excited for me.  We traded stories about training plans and past races and not one of them made me feel like my experiences were any less valuable for having been slower and shorter.  Every single person I came into contact with at the Expo, fellow runners and organizers alike, were just thrilled that I was participating and they were rooting for me to do the best I could, no matter what that meant.  And so, by the time I left the Armory, I was back in the zone.

In fact, I was so jazzed that I woke up before my 5:15am alarm on Sunday morning!  It was still dark as I made my way to the Mall, where the 10k started, and we all gathered together in the dawning light of the most beautiful sunrise over the Capitol.  As usual, my friends and I huddled near the back of the pack (after the necessary wait in porta-potty lines, of course; at races, you go when you can, not when you have to) and cheered when the National Anthem ended and they fired the starting Howitzer.

the Jefferson Memorial and Washington Monument; photo taken from the 14th St Bridge around mile 2

If you know the DC area, here's where we ran: the start was at the intersection of 12th St and Madison Drive near the Smithsonian metro stop, and the first two miles of the course rounded the National Mall from the National Gallery of Art to the Capitol and past the Smithsonian Castle. After two miles, we crossed the Potomac River on the 14th Street Bridge - the famous "beat the bridge" bridge of the marathon - and continued into Virginia. We then diverted from the marathon's course by turning onto 15th Street (otherwise known as the exit you take to get to the Pentagon City Costo, which is very important to remember if you work downtown) and running through a bit of Crystal City. After arriving at the Pentagon, we completed our 6.2 miles in parallel to the marathon, finishing at the Marine Corps War Memorial.

Even if I had been able to keep pace with my friends, I knew I wanted to run this 10k alone.  I'd ended up sharing my first 10k, last November, with a guy I met on the course, and I was a little frustrated with my time because I know I could have pushed myself more.  I also love this distance, even on my hard training runs, so I really just wanted to open up and enjoy the road.

It was glorious.  The weather was perfect, in the high 40s when we started, with mostly sunny skies all the way through, and you saw a lot of discarded gloves and long-sleeved shirts along the road after mile 2 as the day warmed up.  The patriotic aspect was actually more emotional than I expected; a lot of runners were wearing shirts in memory of fallen soldiers and I got choked up when I passed a guy carrying combat boots.  The course was lined with cheering spectators, many of whom were there to remember friends and family members who have served, and Marines, who held their hands out for high-fives as we ran past.  Let me tell you: when a big guy in fatigues with cropped hair and a megaphone yells at you to push through at mile 6, you push through!

My goal was to come in under 1 hour 25 minutes, having done 1:26:something at the Turkey Trot 10k last year, and I am so proud of my official time of 1:22:14.  Here are a few of the things I learned at yesterday's race:

1. the 10k is a good distance for my body.  I'm still doing a half in May and I want to run at least one 10 miler over the next year, but I think I'm going to focus on getting my time down for 10ks.

2. 2:1 intervals are good for my body.  I'd mostly been training with 3:1s, but my pace is much more consistent at 2:1 over the longer distances.  Of course, my goal eventually is to run all of a 10k with no walking, no matter how long it takes!

3. Spectators make the race.  My friend Megan parked herself at the end of the bridge, cheering, and I was so overcome when I saw her.  It was the sweetest thing - and it's inspired me to go to races just to cheer on the runners now.  Hearing an encouraging voice can make the difference when you need help getting over a hump!

Next up: the SOME Turkey Trot with Jon, Sarah, and my parents.  Anyone else in the DC area running that one on Thanksgiving?  Jenn says she's going to come back to DC for the 2014 MCM 10k - we should get a blogging gang together to run!

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  1. So proud of you for this accomplishment! I haven't run recently but I remember when I was younger running in the crisp air, and it's one of my favorite things.

  2. Hooray for another race completed and for coming in at such a good time! You should be really proud of yourself!

    That quote is so disappointing because that gentleman should be pleased that more people are running and taking care of their health and getting exercise. That they are pushing themselves to complete such a challenge. He should be thinking, "How exciting that the sport is growing", so shame on him for being such a snob.

  3. This is so awesome, great job. It makes me look forward to my half in January !

  4. Yay, congratulations to you! And do you know what, who cares why you (or anyone else runs), if you love it and get anything out of it, just keep going and ignore the haters or anyone who tries to bring you down. Like many things in life, as long as you know what it means to you, no one else's opinion matters!

  5. I was just listening to a podcast recently on the "purist" idea of running and how it muddles the sport to have people run/walking marathons just to say they did one. I can sort of see where they're coming from just in terms of the sport, but I think it's great people are out there doing it no matter how long or how fast! I'm sorry you felt less than for doing the 10k, but congratulations on your new PR! I hope you feel proud of yourself :)

  6. Oh, also, that first picture of your is pretty much the greatest thing ever.

  7. Yay! I think what you're doing is awesome.

    i'm not a runner so I guess I have trouble understanding where that guy is coming from. Why not encourage people to do things that make them healthier. Even if someone is doing a marathon to check it off a list, they have to train and run constantly which is getting them up and active. And aren't their marathons where you have to qualify and be good? Besides, maybe someone would start by having it a box to check off to find out that they love it and want to do it competitively. I think there's room in running for both competitiveness and just doing it.

  8. The fact that you ran a 10k is awesome! As for those people who run for the "right" reasons, I wonder why they started running in the first place? I bet it wasn't just to be competitive. I think as long as you enjoy it, that's all that matters. And shouldn't runners be excited that lots of people find their sport exciting?

  9. oh it's the BEST. fall running makes summer running worth it :)

  10. apparently the quote was taken out of context.

    as an interesting side note, I've been noticing more and more on my runs that the hardcore women runners I pass rarely smile at me but the hardcore men runners almost always do. I wonder how to interpret that!?

  11. um... no, I don't think so, I don't think so even in pure sporting terms. I mean, there are plenty of competitions that are limited to the elites - and, even when a competition isn't, there's usually a clear division between the hardcore runners and everyone else. Take Boston, for example: you either qualify because you're hardcore or you get in for charity. that being said, I don't think that anyone who has trained properly to race 26.2 miles can be called not hardcore, no matter what their finishing time.

    you'd still call someone who consistently challenges himself on the pitch a soccer/football/rugby/whatever player even if he'll never make it to the World Cup. I don't think that running should be any different.

    (but thank you!)

  12. haha thanks - it wasn't posed, believe it or not :)

  13. well, as that article points out, we "recreational" runners pay for all the "competitive" runners, so there :P

  14. I feel like I should emphasize that Brian Danza says his words were taken out of context - but I totally agree with you! we all have to start somewhere :)

  15. I don't know what to make of that, but it honestly doesn't surprise me. Men seem to do that type of thing and get immense enjoyment out of it, and maybe the women do too but they think they should be all serious? Bad case of BRF? :) That's a really interesting observation, though!

  16. Yeah, I wasn't saying I agree at all. Because I don't. I think that's a terrible way to think about running or any sport in general. I was just saying for the person who calls themselves a running purist I can see why they think that. But I definitely don't agree! I was actually getting mad while listening to that podcast!

  17. If/WHEN we end up in DC I will cheer at all of your races! And then match your after-race meal, except you can have all the bacon ;)
    I think it's fantastic that you ran, and damn the people who say 10k is less than- it's amazing. And you are amazing for doing it in such a celebratory spirit!

  18. It makes me feel truly sad for that man that he can't see the entire spectrum between running for pure competition and the social media box checkers. Becuase I'll be damned if running for time is what I should really be focusing on. What about all the other amazing benefits that running brings? Health, relaxation, appreciation of nature, community, support. Where do all of those fall in his spectrum?

    At any rate, I've felt this weirdness too. Like, one you start running, it's just why can't I run THE WHOLE OF IT (aka marathons). But I have to remember, 1 year ago, I couldn't run a mile. And now everyday I run 3, or 4, or sometimes 5 ...for the hell of it, the love of it, the challenge of it. And I feel so terribly sad for that man that he can't appreciate all of that.

    Good on you for the 10k. I really hope sometime we're able to do a race together! Loved all your grams from the race day!

  19. congrats on your time, lady! question ... what is a 2:1 interval? :) did you explain it and I missed it?! probs.

    also, I think that I need a man in fatigues + cropped hair + megaphone to push me to run. I truly hate running but I just started the C25K and have been running/walking 3 whole times! ;)

  20. I second @Nicole @ Treasure Tromp's question--what are these intervals you speak of? I would like to eventually run a 5k (and maybe a 10k one day!) but I get so overwhelmed on where to start, because I've never been much of a runner. Also--way to go on beating the goal you set for yourself!

  21. Georgia ChristakisOctober 28, 2013 at 9:17 PM

    I don't think that guy Danza is referring to people like you. I think you run for more than just the "checking off of a box," even if you are tied in to social media and eager to accomplish something. At least, I hope he isn't. There are many reasons to run, and I personally would like to run a full race one day to challenge my body and mind and see what I am capable of, and I don't think there is anything wrong with that. I think it's awesome that you are so engaged in your exercise and challenging the limits of your physical capability- I find it very inspiring!


    your friendly neighborhood couch potato (who hasn't run in weeks...ahem.)

  22. I actually got a really lovely email from Brian after I tweeted at him and he read this post - he wasn't talking about me! and there was more to what he said than just how he was quoted, unfortunately.

    so thank you :) and go go go!

  23. ah! 2:1 intervals mean I run for 2 minutes and then walk for 1. (I don't think I ever explained it, so thanks for asking!) the C25k program I did had me doing intervals for the first 4 weeks or so - a lot of training programs encourage interval running with Jeff Galloway being one of the most vocal proponents of it.

    more info here:

  24. see below! I can run a full 5k with no walking, but intervals (alternating walking and running in certain ratios) helps me as I try to get my pace down and work on my endurance.

    and I can't recommend the Couch to 5k program enough! I used the NHS one, which you can get as a podcast in the US, but there are tons out there :)

    thank you!

  25. It's okay :) I just didn't want you to think I agreed with him.

  26. Go Betsy!!

    And Danza needs a slap upside the head. What's the wrong with setting the goal of running a marathon just to complete one? What do you get in the end? You completed a damn marathon! It's an accomplishment, a goal, a personal achievement, a marker to make you something beyond what you were the day before. How can that be bad?

  27. Trust me, as an Army girl, you don't need a man in fatigues pushing you to run. It's a lot more fun to get a sexy man to run after {yes, I pretend to chase my husband when we run, and it actually does push me to up my speed}.

  28. Happyeverafter_BrideNovember 1, 2013 at 5:02 AM

    That article is so mean! Running is tough regardless of whether your time is good or not. Everyone is doing their best and just have different goals. It is quite an accomplishment to finish a marathon or a fun run so to belittle that is almost like bullying.
    I totally identify with you in regards to the running alone bit though. It gives you the chance to listen to your own body and to coax it to keep pushing that little bit more, then a little bit more, eye on the prize. :)

  29. That Washington Post excerpt is so shitty!! Who the heck cares about the
    reasons behind running a marathon or some other distance? It is a
    beautiful impressive thing that anybody can do that, and "recreational"
    runs do not in any way diminish "competitive" runs, or vice versa. I
    find your running journey to be so inspiring, and I think you totally
    rock for running these 10Ks! I'm trying to find a Turkey Trot up in
    Westchester, where we'll be for Thanksgiving, otherwise I would totally
    join you down here. :)


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