When I signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon I was thinking I wanted to do it because it was the next big race for me to run in the U.S.A.
Living in Savannah where there’s a big military presence I’ve naturally became friends with a lot of people who serve this country and also with some army wives. I have a lot of respect for them because on my long runs I’ve gotten to know all the sacrifice their families go through so all of us can live in a free country.
Long story short, to me this marathon was a personal challenge but also a way to thank these people for what they do every day.
As you know, I’m not American and in my country the army is not as respected as it’s here. It’s kind of the opposite. That was actually one of the things that shocked me the most when I moved to Savannah: the way people here love and respect the military because they truly are heroes!
After deciding that I wanted to run this race I signed up for the lottery and I didn’t get in. My only option? Signing up through a charity partner and raise money for a good cause. I remember my friend Debby doing that last year so I called her and she told me to join TEAMR4V (Racing 4 Veterans) because she had a great experience with them.
I did my research and found that it was a perfect match because their mission resonated with my holistic approach to life. I signed up and had to raise $500 and, guess what?, I HATE ASKING PEOPLE FOR MONEY. I prefer to not eat before asking my dad to give me a penny. I don’t know why but I was raised with the mentality that I have to work hard for what I have, and so I did.
As you may know I’m a lululemon ambassador so I partnered up with them and with World Of Fitness to set up a treadmill on the lululemon Savannah store window with the purpose of raising the money while running for 3 hours. The result? I raised over $700! So many people stopped by to greet me and thank me for what I was doing… It was an incredible experience that surpassed my expectations!
Before running for 3 hours on the treadmill at lululemon Savannah
So anyhow, after 17 weeks of training and a successful fundraiser it was almost time to race! A month before heading to D.C. I found out that Bobby was not going to be able to join me because he was going to be working in San Diego so I recruited my mom to come with me. She’s never been to any of my previous marathons so I was very excited. Since she was coming from Panama we decided to make a vacation out of this and it was definitely worth it. The restaurant scene in the D.C area is pretty incredible so we got to eat delicious meals, we visited a bunch of museums that had the most interesting exhibitions and, of course, we did some shopping.
We flew into the city on Friday afternoon. We had dinner and went to bed early. The next day I went for a 2 mile shake out run and then we decided to hit the church (like I always do the day before a big race) before heading to the expo. When we got to the church a mass was starting… perfect timing! We stayed, prayed, lighted up a candle and took an Uber to the convention center.
With my mom outside the church
I planned everything around a Runner’s World panel that was taking place at 2:30pm. We got there and surprisingly there were very few people in the theater ready to listen to Bart Yasso, the race director and some other people who work for the magazine talk about their running experiences. I think this was in big part to the fact that the lectures where across the street from the convention center where the expo was being held.
The panel was great! I got to meet and talk to Bart Yasso whom I’ve admired for years! All the tips were very helpful and it just felt great to be surrounded by runners who have run anywhere from 0 to 57 marathons… What an inspiration! A thing that Yasso said and that really stuck with me and got me really excited about running this marathon was that if it wasn’t for the people who organize this event (a.k.a the marines), we wouldn’t have freedom in this country, and if we wouldn’t have freedom we wouldn’t be able to run in the streets and therefore none of the other marathons would exist. That’s why this is the most important marathon in America, the people’s marathon.
At the expo with Bart Yasso and picking up my bib
I got my race packet and we headed to a pasta dinner with all the people who where running for TEAMR4V in Arlington, VA. This was totally out of my comfort zone. I usually would’ve prefer to just have dinner with my mom but I wanted to be part of this amazing cause and get to know the stories behind some of the people who were also raising funds. It was a very inspirational dinner that got me totally pumped about the race.
We got back to the hotel and surprisingly I got a great night sleep.
During the past two days the weather forecast was not very pretty. Temperatures seemed fine in the lows 50s but there was a big chance of rain.
I woke up, had my traditional slice of bread with almond butter and banana, got dressed and headed to the metro with my mom! I KNOW I mentioned that already but I was so excited to have her next to me on such a special day!
We finally got to the Pentagon and the Goodwill pant and sweater I was wearing on top of my running clothes suddenly made me kind of hot (I think I was still a bit traumatized by my NYC Marathon experience so I wore way too much throwaway clothes)
We walked to the security line and let me tell you, I’ve never seen anything like this… There were so many people and they were checking everything so carefully that we waited like a hour to go through it! All of the sudden, while in the middle of the crowd surrounded by 30,000 other runners, I turned around and my eyes met with Alec, a fellow Savannah Strider who moved to Virginia about a year ago, crazy right?
Once we went through security the giant mass of people dissolved and I was shocked on how many porta potties they were! I was so happy that I didn’t have to do a giant line and that they were so clean!
We kept walking and walking until we finally got to the starting line. I told my mom where to go so she could see me running at 3 different points but there were so many people that I thought that it was going to be very difficult to spot her, plus she was wearing all black! I kissed her good bye, found the 3:35 pacer and enjoyed the skydiving show that was part of the opening ceremony.
I felt I trained pretty good for this race and that’s why I decided to run with the 3:35 pacer. I was not looking for a PR (personal record) but I definitely wanted to have a good race. I secretly wanted to have a better race that I had in NY (my last marathon) because I felt that I trained pretty much the same and even though this marathon has tons of rolling hills I knew it had to be less tough than NY.
The race started and so did the crowded hills. The good thing about the early crowds is that I was forced to go slow. My first mile took me over 9 minutes to complete so go figure. The views where pretty incredible and the hills where short but steep. At mile 2 I was feeling so hot… seriously? I was wearing short shorts and a t-shirt and it was supposed to be in the high 50s but I was just sweating like a pig and feeling extremely hot… At least it was raining so that kind of helped to cool me off. I just wanted to take off my t-shirt but my bib was on it so I just rolled up my short sleeves and sucked it up.
The route was very beautiful and it was nice to see a lot of spectators and runners. I never felt alone. When we crossed into D.C. I started looking for my mom and I saw her at mile 6… Yay!!!! I was so happy to see her smiling face surrounded by all the monuments! I kept running with the pacer and around mile 10 boom! I spotted Bart Yasso cheering, which put another giant smile on my face. A mile later and there was my mom again… seriously? Our spectator plan was working out perfectly!
Pictures my mom took at mile 25
Then I hit the blue mile and silent took over the race. This mile commemorates fallen soldiers. Pictures of them with their ages where lined up right and left and I couldn’t stop starring at them. All of the sudden I got a giant knot on my throat and I tried to look away but I couldn’t. I started reading their names and how they died and all of the sudden I found myself crying… literally crying.
When we passed this I noticed that my pacer was way ahead of me and I tried to catch up with him but I realized that I was half way through the race and I was really pushing myself so I decided to let him go and finish at my own pace. Don’t get me wrong, I still wanted to finish strong but I needed to be realistic.
We passed by the monuments again and the Smithsonian building really caught my attention… This city is so gorgeous! I kept pushing and running strong. I found myself walking the water stations but I was still holding a consistent pace. Around mile 25 I saw a big crowd again and I started looking for my mom and guess what? I saw her!!!
She was so excited that the look on her face gave me the strength to finish hard. The last 0.2 miles are on a steep hill and when I started to tackle it I saw a guy on a wheelchair pushing through it which encouraged me even more to finish strong. I crossed the finish line in 3:39:03, not a personal best but this was my 2nd fastest marathon!
Wowwww, what a rollercoaster of emotions! At the end, a marine salutes you and hangs the medal around your neck but I asked him for a hug and went straight for it! One of the things that shocked me the most was how young these marines were… I bet none of them was older than 25.
While walking out of the runners’ area to meet my mom all the marines around there where just congratulating the runners and it was such a humbling experience… I mean, congrats? I only ran 26.2 miles while you guys sacrifice your lives so we can live in a safe country every day! I’m so happy I did this race!
I found my mom pretty fast and then met some guys from Venezuela in the restroom line… One of them just completed his 37th marathon, what an inspiration!
We headed back to the hotel, I took an ice bath and then went straight to a beautiful restaurant called Le Diplomate where I ate my traditional cheeseburger with fries and had a couple of beers.
My medal and post-race dinner
All I can say is THANK YOU D.C. for such an amazing experience… It couldn’t have been better and I can’t wait to go visit again, I really fell in love with this place.