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Marine Corps Marathon Race Strategy

Updated: Oct 26, 2019

Marine Corps Marathon Course Report Race Strategy

Marine Corps Marathon: Be Patient and Enjoy the View

Fallback point: Miles 5-8

The Strategy: This is a TERRIFIC race!  Hooray for good decisions!

Fun fact about MCM: SO MANY runners will fear their ability to ‘beat the bridge’ they will end up in the first corral; you may want to push as close to the front as possible and get ahead of them.  Consider this a gift though: your first 5 miles will be unnaturally slow.  Use this to your advantage, do NOT get angry or frustrated or try to dodge people.  You’re going uphill for the first 2.5 miles, anyway.  Lock your cage, sit into the uphill and recover on the downhill, we are just getting started.

Next up: a little hairpin turn action.  The entire crowd will have to narrow, and slow, down to make this turn happen.  Accept and be patient, and be on the left so you’re not crushed in that turn.  Seeing the post-turn crowd running away from you will tempt you to pick up the pace and you’ve GOTTA resist that urge.  Your time is coming.

Mile 4 you are heading towards the Key Bridge into DC- position yourself on the left side of the road, look left and you will see my alma mater, Georgetown, on your left.  You will also see runners on Canal Road and the Whitehurst Freeway, my old stomping grounds.  This used to be a dodgy part of town where I was scared to run alone; now it’s #sofancy.

Enjoy the view while you lock your cage and ascend the Key Bridge.  Big uphill, nbd, slow your roll and use the downhill to recover.  We’re not working yet.  Everyone who has been working is now hurting and will start to 'fall back', you will pass people without trying.

At Mile 6 you’re heading into a second out-and-back with a hairpin turn, same rules apply.  Stick to the RIGHT this time to avoid getting crushed.  As you come away from it you will finally on a long straight patch of course and can find your groove.  No one will pass you after the mile 8 marker, so that’s a good time to start picking up the pace a bit if you are able.  Don’t get greedy though- we aren’t halfway finished and the next 13 miles are flat. Mind your pace and effort caps so you don’t burn out too quickly.

Generally speaking, I encourage my runners to avoid taking water until they’ve safely passed the fallback point AND have reached a point in the race where things naturally slow down a bit.  Mile 11.5 is good, as is 14.5 since you’ll have to slow for the hairpin turn anyway.  These miles are terrific scenery BTW so be sure to take time to enjoy the view.

Dogleg turn at Mile 18 and your tour is nearly over, it’s time to work.  The fatigue is setting in and the least fun part of the course is waiting for you on the other side of the Rochambeau Bridge.   You may struggle a bit with #alltheturns that define Mile 20, so grab some water at the 20.5 mark and mentally prep for a few more out-n-backs as the fatigue mounts.  Mile 21 you will see runners who’ve rounded the next hairpin turn- put your blinders on and ignore them.  RESIST that urge to speed up, we’ve got miles to go and we do NOT want to walk them. 

Grab one last drink of water at mile 21.5 and get ready to giddyup.  Round the hairpin turn on 22.5 and it’s time to use that energy cushion you’ve built up- negative split to the finish.  

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