Potomac River Run Marathon

First things first:
I’m officially a marathoner
I qualified for The Boston Marathon

On Sunday, May 1, I ran the Potomac River Run Marathon – my first marathon – in Carderock, MD. It was a small local race, only about 300 runners, that ran along the Potomac River towpath. It was also, gasp, a double out-and-back.

Annie and me, around Mile 10

A little background:
I thought long and hard before registering for a double out-and-back marathon, especially since it was my first. A double out-and-back can be a really good thing (I know what’s coming) and a really bad thing (I know what’s coming). I think it can be mentally draining and challenging, too.

But once I decided to train for the marathon, I was too close to running a March marathon (I wouldn’t have enough time to train), and too busy for an October/fall marathon (weddings, Army 10 miler, etc.). So, May 1, small, local, double out-and-back marathon it was.

Race Day:
I woke up feeling nervous, excited, happy, and scared. 14 weeks of training, early morning runs, and sore muscles was all dependent on this morning. I ate breakfast, took a quick shower, dressed for the race and headed out. I was ready to chase down my woolly mammoth.

My mantra for the weekend (and Pearl Izumi Ad):
IF YOU RAN WITHOUT SACRIFICE, CONGRATULATIONS. YOU JUST JOGGED. Running hurts. It always has. Woolly mammoths didn’t just roll over onto a plate and serve themselves up to prehistoric man with fries and a shake. They had to be caught – and running down woolly mammoths was a bitch. Guess what? Running is still a bitch. But one with a purpose. It teaches us that good things do not come easy. It teaches us that hard work will be rewarded and laziness will be punished. Don’t expect to learn those life lessons from running’s shiftless stepchild; jogging. Next time you suffer on the roads or trails, suffer proudly. It means you run like an animal.

I could not have constructed, asked for, prayed about, wished upon more perfect weather for a race. It was a glorious day – overcast, no breeze and a high of 62 degrees. Around 7am I made my way up to the front of the start line – this was an old school race with no timing chip/system – and I couldn’t afford to lose any seconds once the gun went off. 7:15am race start – the gun went off and Annie (my pacer) and I were on our way. 4x10k: no big deal, right?!

Best hubs ever

I felt really good on the 1st out-and back (13.1 miles). We were on pace (8:00/mile) – it didn’t feel too fast or too slow – and I was still smiling. But, as I started my 3rd stretch (miles 13-20), I was not prepared for the mental challenge I was about to face. Miles 16-20 were hard. I mean really hard, both physically and mentally. While I was training I encountered physical pain and mental challenges – but I never experienced both at the same time or on the same run. Miles 16-20 scared me because I questioned myself, my training, and whether or not I was able to capture a BQ. I was thrilled when I saw the 20.5 mile turn-around point. I was also relived when I realized the following:
a) I could run 10 minute miles and still BQ
b) I only had a 10k left – and I knew I could run a 10k

Post-race, All smiles

Physically the last 6 miles were hard – I was tired and my legs were starting to fatigue -but mentally I was in a better place (than the previous 6 miles). I counted down the miles, thought about it in terms of laps around the track, put my head down and ran as hard as I could. With 0.5 miles to go, half of my support crew was waiting and cheering for me – all of this, in addition to the finish line, was a glorious site – I sprinted it in and finished in 3:32:42. My very first marathon complete, and a BQ! I could not be more thrilled or excited – permanent smile for the rest of the week.

A huge shout-out and thanks from the bottom of my heart to my amazing support crew:
  • My mom – she is the reason I am a runner, and flew up from Florida just to watch me run my 1st marathon
  • BJ – my very supportive hubs and water provider
  • Annie – my training partner, marathon runner extraordinaire, friend, and pacer who would not let me give up
  • Betsy – a dear friend, who hopped in at mile 13.1 and ran the rest of the race with Annie and me
  • Allison – my best friend, one of my biggest fans, water provider
  • Erika (and her dog, Tucker) – friend, runner, triathlete, major supporter
  • Jared (Allison’s finance) – borrowed BJ’s running shoes to run the last 2.5 miles with us
  • Julianne – a good friend and one of my biggest fans
  • The K Family, including Julie – my 10-year friend and the best water girl around
Top L-R: BJ, Mom, Allison, Jared, Erika
Bottom L-R: Annie, Me, Betsy, Tucker
Not Pictured: Julianne, The K Family

Thoughts about the race:
It was really nice to run a small local race, sleep in my bed the night before, and go home after the race. It was laid back. I never had to wait for a port-a-john (this is the 1st race I didn’t have to wait in line for a bathroom). Everyone was nice and runners cheered for runners.

But, there is something to be said about race support and infrastructure, timing chips, and plenty of water stops. The volunteers were awesome, and I totally appreciate their time and support, but there just weren’t enough. Same with water stations, there was one every 2.5 miles but the last 1/2 of the race I needed water more than that.

Mom and me

I’m not sure if I’d recommend this race for a first time marathoner or someone trying to run a PR – but if you have a few marathons under your belt, this is a great race.  Jay Jacob Wind, the race director and long-time runner, is passionate about running and putting on a great race.  Thanks to Jay, the volunteers, and Marathon Charity Cooperation for putting on a great race.

Post-race grub down with mom
BJ – thanks for letting me selfishly train for my marathon and BQ dream

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  1. Ahhhhhhhhhh you killed it out there girl! What an amazing first show! You my dear just might need to jump on this marathon train more often! Congrats again!!! I hope you are still floating on cloud 9!!!

  2. congrats! so amazing for your first marathoner. you are an inspiration. i don't know how i'd fare with an out and back course like that but you kicked butt!!!

  3. Ha love that mantra! Great pics! I've never ran a double out and back just a single out and back was difficult at Sedona know those hills weren't going to get any easier on the way back. CONGRATS!!!!
    P.S. I posted the cupcake resipe

  4. Congrats! Sounds like an amazing time. 🙂

  5. Fun! Again congrats!! I like the pix of the race/course – very green. Great shout out to all those close to you who supported ya. Fun!!!

  6. Congrats!! Well done on your very first marathon! That is awesome!

  7. This is my favorite post so far!! SO PROUD!!!

  8. WOW! Awesome job on your 1st marathon!

  9. youre amazing, congrats!

  10. Congratulations! I ran in a marathon relay on Sunday and my team's gun time was 3:32:42 and worse, we can in first for our division! You literally ran just as fast as we did and we had three people running the whole distance.

    You go girl doesn't even begin to do it justice.

    And I might print out your mantra.

  11. Mel – wow, if you need to get anywhere that bad – I got a car. Congrats – it's wonderful to set a goal, work your butt off and GET IT! Congrats mucho.
    PS. Tell your mom 'hey' from her old…er,…long ago Panama buddy.

  12. love the Mantra!!! love the post! Congrats on a great race 🙂

  13. Fantastic, congrats! Loved the report and the pics too.

  14. Wahoooo! Nice first marathon & a bq!!! 🙂 ROCKSTAR!

  15. thanks for the play by play!!! as I said- living vicariously through you right now- amazing!!! So proud of you!! Can't wait to catch up in a little over a month when I am HOME in VA again!!! LOVE YOU!!! xoxoxo

  16. ok,…. so it's a little disgusting that you had the spare time to run 10:00 min miles if wanted, at the end. I NEVER have spare time.

    You are AWESOME! So talented!


  17. FIrst of all you are the prettiest girl in the world!!! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! You are absolutely amazing. BQ on your first marathon-you are a rockstar!!!! REST REST RECOVER!!! THis post made my day!

  18. Congratulations on finishing your first marathon AND qualifying for Boston! That's tremendous!! I did a half on that Carderock Trail in January, and I think the out and back is very mentally challenging. I can't imagine doing it twice!
    Love the Mantra. I'm going to steal it. Wish it was on a tee-shirt or something.

  19. I ran this marathon before. It was really hot that year and I completely over-dressed! The double out and back does play with your mind. Great job tackling this as your first. And in a great pace too!

  20. Mel that is amazing!!! So excited for you! Sounds like u had lots of amazing friends and family to support you! So happy for you. Xo

  21. Way to GO!! Nicely written race report too 🙂

    I love reading your thoughts about the second lap of the course. I have thought about registering for a double loop course and have had the same thoughts/concerns.

  22. Congratulations! I really like the feel of these smaller races (even if you don't get all the benefits and support of a big race).

  23. OH MY GOODNESS! Seriously I thought I recognized you from somewhere…..I ran that marathon too!!!! I wish I had known it was you – I totally would have said hi/chatted your ear off!!! Congrats on the BQ.

  24. Double out and back..MADNESS!! YOu rocked it out and made First Marathons look easy.. Good work. So nice to have such a LARGE group out there to support you… Ever plan to come to SEattle?? I could use a speedy pacer one of these days..

  25. So late in this but congrats on this! So amazing. how did you do it? I would love to hear how you decided and what allowed you run your first marathon and try to and qualify? i mean clearly you are amazing but would lvoe to hear more lol 😉

  26. Hey Melody–

    I just came across your blog as I’m beginning my taper for this year’s Potomac River Run Marathon. I’m hoping to do something pretty similar to what you did (BQ!). Any tips or helpful hints beyond what’s in this post?

    Hope your Boston Marathon–today, right?!–is going well.


    • Hi Sarah,

      Good luck! It’s a relly nice course (shaded, along the river) but can get a bit “boring” (double out and back). Just knowing that piece of information will help – fight through the mental part and you’re golden. Once you hit the last turn-around, 6 more miles to go, you can smile knowing that you’re almost done – and achieved your goal. I’m wishing nice weather for the race (last year was perfect). I can’t wait to hear how you do! Please let me know 🙂

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