I’ll always be a miler in my heart. A high knee prancer, slam the door kicker, not a grinder. 5k feels over-distance for me. I’m used to workouts predicting outcomes, and knowing exactly where my fitness is.

But as I looked next year’s 50th birthday in the eyes, I felt compelled to try something completely unknown and unpredicted. Could I finish a marathon? What would happen? My body wasn’t doing me any favors. After finally kicking an injury to the curb in late Feb/March, I got my training ramping up in July only to get side-lined again in mid-September. C’mon, body! But I tripled down on PT, acupuncture, and cross-training, and was able to get through my 15+ miles of #MastersBirdstrike. So…I decided to strike while the iron was warm-ish.

In the favorable column:

  • Sally was going to hold my hand through it. She’s an experienced and accomplished marathoner with two sub-3’s in her not-so-younger days. She’s used to my skittish roller-coaster ride, and would calm me down throughout.marine_corp_sally_lesko.png
  • I wouldn’t be over-trained (haha).
  • Coach Fleshman reminded me that if I was going to try it, I needed to have conditions of satisfaction for even getting to the line. OK.
  • MarineCorpsMarathon “the peoples’ marathon” is known to be friendly, flat, and very well organized and supported. My hubs was born/raised in DC, we got married in Georgetown and lived there when we were running competitively post-college. The route is very familiar to me. I could drop out anywhere and find my way home.
  • The #DMVVolée have a truly epic cowbell corner. If you can make it there (22 miles), you are going to finish.

In the not-so-favorable column:

  • My longest run ever was this August at BigBirdcamp: 17 miles, and since then my longest run was 13 miles.
  • One week before the race, I somehow tweaked my knee in a normal run and developed a painful knee effusion. In the 6 days before the race, I ran once—a 4-miler on Wednesday, that re-aggravated the knee.
  • I’m the queen of sudden injuries, like 100% to boot in 30 seconds flat.

So…over/under on finishing at the start line? I was feeling confident, so about 60%. My knee hurt from the cannon, every step, but around mile 2 I just tuned it out and it receded. If you watched our Insta-story of the race, you know how it played out. It was like nothing I have ever done (even the 33 mile “Big Day” at Steens is very different). My marathon lessons:  

1. The joy you feel the first part of the race (for me, the first 11 miles) is pure and unadulterated, and will live on in your cells forever. Run. Joy.

2. Before anything starts to really hurt, you will notice your emotional state change from joy to sadness. You need to ignore your emotions.


3. You can eat a lot during a marathon (if your stomach is cooperating—mine did). 700 calories was an easy task (12 shot blocks and 3 gels).

4. You will fall in love with every person who locks eyes with you cheering you on. Deep, spiritual love.

5. If you have to stop to pee or poop, you will feel elated that your body is functioning and processing. You’re ok!

6. Every plan you had for how the race would go becomes completely irrelevant once you are racing. Kind of like childbirth.

7. Your plan to do a funny “climactic moment” at the choice 18.4 mile mark of the course might be replaced by a sobbing tribute to Dr. Ford. It’s ok.


8. Even if you LOVE drumlines in a fervently irrational way, you might find yourself thinking “fuck this drumline” at mile 19. It’s ok. You still actually love drumlines.

9. Even if you feel a pop in your big toe joint, scream out from the pain, and start hobbling walking, it doesn’t mean you are done. Unless you see a bone poking out or a tendon rolled up into your calf, your body might decide to shut that nerve down! Just choke down some ibuprofen and give it some time. 5 minutes can be magic.

10. The run self-pity you feel will be replaced by fierce anger and determination if you are presented with something that might actually keep you from finishing. Harness that anger.

11. You will start sobbing when you see your people at mile 22. Full-on, out of control. That shit is real.


12. You will think a fireball shot sounds like a good idea at mile 22.5. But once you sip it, you will second-guess and toss it aside.

13. You will feel jealous of all of those 5-ft runners in the last 3 miles. Actual thought bubble: “I wish I was that height. It’s easier for them to lift their legs.” That thinking is not productive.

14. At mile 25 when someone yells out “you’re almost there” you will think “one mile is so far, shut up, that is not almost there.”

15. Only when you visualize the finish line will you know for sure that you will finish.

16. When you cross the line, holding your run-lover’s hand, you will feel surprised, deeply satisfied, and so grateful. Hold on to those feelings, for your lifetime if you can.

marine_corp_runner_lover.jpgI guess they didnt understand we wanted a picture together, so this poorly photoshopped image will have to suffice. 

17. If you try to flirt with the Marines in your post-race high state and they tell you, “good job, ma’am”, it’s ok. They are your kids’ ages anyway!


18. You will genuinely shout “I love this so much!” about a throwaway paper post-race jacket.


19. You will be 100% ok if you never run another marathon. But if your friends are already talking about Boston, you might think…well…maybe?



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Racing - Races
Allyson Ely