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Mile Posts: Marine Corps Marathon Tips

Are you running the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday? Dorothy has great last minute tips!

Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.


Marine Corps Marathon

In less than two days, thousands of runners will take to the streets of Virginia and Washington DC to run the Marine Corps Marathon. Since MCM was where I ran my first marathon, the race holds an extra special place in my heart. I’ve run the marathon 8 times and the 10K twice. Hopefully have learned a thing or two along the way that will help you on your journey on Sunday!

Wear sunscreen – There isn’t much shade on this marathon course. During most of the years I have run MCM, the sun has been shinning even if it’s chilly out. Do yourself a favor and wear sunscreen so your face and body do not get burnt.

Wear sunglasses or a hat – It gets windy on Haines Point and the bridges. If you are wearing sunglasses, it will help keep the dirt that other runners kick up from flying into your eyes. With a hat, you are helping to protect your face from the sun and the wind. When the wind blows, looking down will allow the hat keep to the dirt out of your face. Just be careful that if you go the hat route, it fits securely on your head. I’ve had a hat fly off mid-race.

Don’t overdress – It’s usually pretty chilly at the start of MCM. You will also need to arrive extra early so Marines can look in your bags at the check points. This mean you are there earlier than most marathons. It’s easy to think that you will need to wear long pants and a long shirt during the race. But trust me- not only do you warm up. but the course warms up as well. There aren’t many trees to block the sun from shinning down on you. If you overdress and sweat too much, you may get yourself into a situation where you become dehydrated. Often times runners think more is better if it’s cold out but that is not always true. If you sweat too much in the beginning and your clothing is soaked, you are going to feel like you are freezing when you get on to the windy bridges. If you are wearing shorts and a tank with a hat and possibly throw away gloves, the sweat will evaporate.

Line yourself up in the correct corral – Once upon a time I would have advised against this because other people always seed themselves faster than they are. I hated trying to weave in and out during early miles, expending precious energy. I have now changed my opinion on this one. My husband has told me that nothing is more demoralizing than getting passed the ENTIRE race because you started too close to the front and got sucked into going too fast. If you start in the appropriate corral, you will more than likely pass people the whole time. Passing other runners in the later stages of the race can be a huge confidence boost!

DO NOT, I REPEAT, DO NOT GO OUT TOO FAST – Going out too fast in your first mile can ruin the whole race for you. Start slow, finish strong. By starting out too fast, you put your body into oxygen debt long before it can handle it. Check out this article for the science behind working into your pace. You want to beat the bridge. The absolute last thing you want to happen on race day is to get picked up by the sagwagon and not finish all 26.2 miles. Remember the marathon is about patience, so have it.

When the road splits, it doesn’t matter what side you are on – In the first mile of the marathon the race course will split. It will appear that those on the left have to run uphill while those on the right will be running down hill. Don’t jump the median and risk twisting an ankle or falling. Yes, those on the left run uphill but they also go downhill, while those on the right go down first and then go up. It’s the same race distance whatever side you are on!

Your pace may slow on the bridges – Don’t get discouraged later in the race if your pace slows on the bridges. Concrete takes more out of your body than the pavement does. Whatever time you lose on the bridges, you can gain back later on the flatter parts.

Run up the hill – The last .1 of the race is uphill. You are tired and so close to the finish line. The hill isn’t as long as it seems. Just think to yourself, “Slow and steady. You can keep running.” Power up the hill and finish strong. Use the energy from the crowd cheering.

Let a Marine put your medal on – The Marines at this marathon are some of the best volunteers you will ever see at a race. They are so polite and helpful. When you finish, get in line to have a Marine put the medal over your head. Don’t just grab the medal and put it on yourself. There is something special about this moment. I can honestly say I have felt like a champion, no matter my race performance, every single time this moment happens.

Questions? Tweet me @mileposts if you have any last minute race questions!!