Marine Corps Marathon 20 Mile Training Run

Yesterday morning, I ran 20 miles for the first time in nearly 3 years! Wow. Last time I ran that far was when training for/running the LA Marathon back in March 2014 (before that was the Richmond Marathon, my first full marathon, in November 2013).

I’ve been traveling a TON the past couple months, as you guys know, which has been awesome but has also made getting in my Marine Corps Marathon training long runs pretty challenging because I’ve had to do a lot of them on weekdays. For other weekend trips, I’ve knocked out my long run on the Thursday or Friday right before leaving, but I decided to hold off until Monday for this one because I knew the weather was going to cool down drastically over the weekend while I was away at Blog Brulee! It was still hot last week and I seriously could not handle the thought of one more 90 degree long run. I was also feeling pretty banged up from a speedier (compared to my long training run pace) Maui half marathon last weekend followed by a long night on planes and a really busy week catching up on work.

So – Monday morning long run it was. At the track last week, my coach recommended I aim for 18 to 20 miles, encouraging me to try to hit 20 if I was feeling up to it since we’re starting to run out of time (October 30th is coming fast)! I was complaining to my track buddies that I was really tired of having to do long runs alone on weekdays, and lucky for me my friend Paul took pity on me and said he had enough flexibility on Monday to do a longer run with me. Yesssss – company!! You rock, Paul!

Paul was up to do about 14 of the miles with me which was awesome, especially because he’s really fun to run with – very cheerful and tells lots of great stories. We met up bright and early yesterday in Georgetown, ready to crush some miles.

It was in the 60’s and cloudy when we met – awesomeeeeee!! SUCH an upgrade from the mornings where I would step out of my car and start sweating instantly. Since it wasn’t as hot, that also meant we could venture away from the shaded Capital Crescent Trail (which is lovely but we’re both tired of it since our group has done most of its long runs there this summer). Fun DC city/monument loop it was!

The miles went by relatively quickly thanks to all the chatting, and the cooler temps made such a difference in terms of not feeling like death. It didn’t feel easy, of course – long runs never do – but it didn’t feel terrible, which was quite an upgrade from most of my long runs this summer. (See also: the hottest/worst 18 miler a couple weeks ago.)

We did a huge loop that took us all around the monuments/National Mall/Capitol building, over to and around the tidal basin (that’s the MLK Memorial in the photo above), and over the 14th street bridge and onto the Mt. Vernon Trail on the Virginia side of the water. We ended up throwing in a trail mile loop on Roosevelt Island, too, just for fun – Paul had never run on it before!

For fuel this time, I kept things simple and just snacked on my nut butter stuffed salty dates. I think I had 5 or 6 of them over the course of the 20 miles. I love those – the bit of protein and fat from the nut butter really helps with keeping me from getting too hungry (and helps me to not feel sick to my stomach later in the day, too, like I do if I just have all gels/gummies).

Wearing my standard marathon training long run uniform (I’ve seriously worn the same thing almost every week – stick with what’s comfortable!): 2 liter hydration vest, Garmin 225, Chaser 5” Running shorts, Ghost racerback tank, UpRise Crossback sports bra, compression sleeves, Bombas socks, Brooks Ravenna 7 shoes <—all affiliate links

We made it back into Georgetown at 14.5 miles. Nice – I only had to do a few more solo!

For my final solo miles, I decided to keep it simple and do an out and back on the Capital Crescent Trail/C&O Canal trail since it was right by my car. Out and backs are also easier for me mentally than loops when I’m running alone – I can trick myself with things like “just run xx miles, then run back” vs. “run a total of xx miles.”

When I started the run I was originally planning to do 18 miles, because my last 18 miler was so terrible I felt like I should stick with that and hope for the best. But when I said goodbye to Paul at mile 14.5 I was still feeling relatively decent, and I remembered my coach saying that if I did 20 yesterday that I could do a slightly shorter run over the coming weekend. Full 20 it was – a bit more pain now for less pain later, if you will. 🙂 So – I did 5.5 miles solo to cap off the run.

It had been so long since I’d run 20 miles that I forgot how running that far makes your whole body ache, and how it gets harder to regulate your emotions when you’re that tired, too. I’d swing from feeling totally fine to wanting to stop and cry within minutes. I was really having to dig deep to get myself to keep going and finish it out, and when I finished out the 20 and started walking back to my car my whole lower body ached so badly I had to sit down and stretch for awhile before I could make it back. I felt fine about 15 minutes later and the rest of the day (and today) feel like normal soreness, so not sure what the deal was – has that ever happened to you guys before?

Basically, running far is really hard – duh. Amazing how your brain wipes out that part of the memory and just leaves you with the endorphins so you keep signing up for races… 🙂 (Sidenote – I just had a fun trip down memory lane reading my blog recaps from previous super long training runs: my first 20 miler in September 2013, a 22 miler in October 2013, and a snowy 20 miler in February 2014! Also, I totally forgot I did a Tough Mudder in 2013 a month before my first full – not the smartest idea, but luckily it worked out! In other not so smart ideas, this year I’ll be hiking a mountain in Seattle the weekend before the Marine Corps Marathon – you only live once, right?!) 

I’m proud of myself for getting that done, and grateful that I had some flexibility in my work schedule yesterday to start the workday a couple hours later than usual. I came home, took a quick ice bath, refueled, and then got to work! I was SO tired last night, as you can imagine!

What’s the longest distance you’ve ever run? Mine is 26.2, as you know!

Related posts for my runner readers:

  • How to Eat for Running: Top 5 Nutrition Mistakes Made by Runners
  • How to Fuel for a Marathon or Half Marathon
  • First Marathon Training Reflections
  • Running Nutrition Q&A Myth Busting
    • Want to become a runner? This post is for you.

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