Let the Races Begin
Grab a cup of coffee, tea or whatever you wish. This is one wordy post. My apologies in advance, but I promise by the end of this post I will finally finish that darn marathon I keep talking about!
The Disney Family Fiesta 5K
The 5K began at 6:30am on Friday, January 6,2012. My friend, her husband, her daughter and I all got up around 4 that morning. She came into the kitchen looking absolutely gorgeous despite the wretched hour.
Just a little background on my best nursing school friend. She has never been a runner. After recovering from foot surgery she announced that she was going to start running with hopes of completing a 5K. She followed the Jeff Galloway run/walk method throughout her training. In April 2011 we ran a local 5K together along with her husband and her next door neighbor. She finished it and later decided to sign up for this race.
We left early because we weren’t sure what to expect with traffic and road closings. The weather was very cool, in the 40s. There was a fun vibe at the starting area with a DJ blasting music. I was getting very excited about my own race. Many of the runners were wearing adorable and interesting costumes. As they announced the start the daylight began to break.
We said our goodbyes as my friend walked, nervously over to the starting area. We headed to the bleachers at the finish line. The amazing thing about a 5K is that within 15 minutes you have your winner. Incredible!
My friend did an amazing job. She finished the race and didn’t come in last as she feared. We knew she wouldn’t come in last. I’m so proud of her. She admits that she has not quite fallen in love with running. If she never runs again that’s ok. She committed to running the races, trained for them and completed them. I give her so much credit. Not that it matters, but my friend turned 50 the week after the Disney race. I wish I could put her photo up because she is one stunning lady who doesn’t look a day over 40 in my opinion.
The 2012 Disney World Half Marathon
Next up was my friend’s husband, “D,” who ran the half marathon on Saturday morning. His race was scheduled to begin at 5:30am. The plan was to bring D to the starting area around 4, return to the hotel for about an hour and then head out again to try to catch him on the course before heading over to the finish line.
Our plan was foiled a bit because we kept getting directed in circles as we tried to find our way to the parking area in the Magic Kingdom. Roads were closed and spectator traffic was heavy even at the early hour. We finally managed to park and made our way to one of the spectator zones near the Polynesian Hotel. It was still fairly dark out and though my friend caught a glimpse of D pass quickly by, I missed him. I must have blinked! At this point he was doing great. We were receiving text updates of his time and pace.
D was a serious runner years ago when he was in the military. He talks about when he could run a 6 minute mile with ease. He has suffered from some knee and calf problems in recent years making running a bit of a struggle. His training was derailed a few times by pain and injury. To me the fact that he was out there at all was a triumph in and of itself, but I was in awe of the pace he was maintaining.
We hopped on the monorail and headed over to Epcot to get a spot at the finish line. We were cutting it close and ended up running from the monorail to the finish area. We scored a great viewing spot about 300 yards from the finish line. The crowd was going wild, cow bells and loud cheers surrounded us. My friend held up the neon yellow sign we had made for each of us so D could easily find us. I had my camera ready to shoot. Then we saw him coming around the bend. He looked strong, gave us a wave and pushed forward towards the finish.
Ultimately D’s goal was to simply finish the race. His A+ goal was to finish in just under 2 hours. He was a little disappointed by his official time which was just under 2:05, but he shouldn’t have been. He did start hurting in the second half of the race. For his first half marathon in many years and a challenging training, I think he had a lot to be proud of.
My friend and her husband have been so encouraging of my running. I was honored to be there to watch them accomplish their own running goals.
Spectating races is almost as much fun as running them. I loved being there on the side lines cheering other runners on as they passed by. The energy of the crowd was infectious. As faces go by I wonder what their running story is because everyone has one. One particularly interesting runner was a blind man running the Goofy Challenge which involves running the Half Marathon and the Full Marathon and in his case he also ran the 5K. Can you imagine running over 42 miles in 3 days never mind running it tethered to another person who is acting as your guide? Talk about inspirational!
The 2012 Disney Marathon
My alarm sounded at 2am on Sunday, January 8, 2012 but let’s back up a little. On Saturday I received an incredible surprise. If you haven’t read about it please do. You’ll find my post here. My pre-marathon carb loading fest was a family affair with my Mom, sister, Dad and his girlfriend, my husband and son. We met my cousin who was participating in the marathon as a Team in Training coach. She always goes to the same Italian restaurant in Celebration, FL the night before the marathon. I stuck to a simple bowl of pasta with marinara sauce. Dessert took place at a near by ice cream sweet shop. I treated myself to a small bag of chocolate truffles.
Back at the hotel I prepared my things for the morning and settled down to sleep around 8:30pm. I was up at 2:15 before my alarm even went off. I was surprised at how good I felt. No headache, my voice was back and there wasn’t even a hint of a cough or congestion. I took a quick shower to wake up, ate my typical long run breakfast of peanut butter toast and banana.
I took a photo of myself and texted it to the girls at work! Who the heck else is up at such a ridiculous hour?
After the half marathon we discovered that the hotel did indeed have a shuttle bus going to the starting area. We had asked previously and had been told that they weren’t having any shuttles. Apparently it was a last minute decision. I woke up my husband and he and D walked me over to the bus around 3:30. I wasn’t feeling nervous. I was sort of anxious to get started.
Despite the more than 15,000 runners arriving at the starting area I managed to literally bump into my cousin, Jenna within 5 minutes of getting off the shuttle.
I was so happy to see a familiar face. She had done the Disney Marathon 5 times before so I just followed her lead. We hit the port-a-potties and then filtered into the herd of runners heading to the starting line. I really did feel like I was one in a herd of cattle. The mood was oddly somber and we were walking at such a slow pace. It was dark and cool out, but the temperature was comfortable. I never needed the blanket I brought so I ditched it in a pile of other discarded clothing to be donated by the marathon organizers.
I bid my cousin and her team farewell as they dropped me off at Corral D. I found my spot on the far right about 3/4 of the way to the back of the corral. I soaked up the scene. The DJ was playing music. All I remember is Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.” Before I knew it Mickey and friends hit the stage, the fireworks erupted and the wheel chairs took off. Next Corral A, then B, then C and then finally it was my turn. I have learned the hard way never to start out at a race with a fast pace. This was no exception. I hit the ground at a slow jog, picking up my pace slowly. I do not wear my Garmin when I race and the time clocks along the way were reflective of the time that the 1st group started. However, I knew by the 5K mark that I was doing well, better than I expected. I fell into a comfortable pace and I stayed there for a while.
The race was well organized in my opinion. There was a water station and a medic station at every mile. Twice there were volunteers handing out bananas and twice Clif representatives were on the course passing out Gu and other Clif products.
Running a Marathon
I am one of those runners who just runs. I don’t stop too often other than to drink or if I really need to take a walking break. I run alone. I tend to get lost in my thoughts or my music. My pace during a long run is often the result of whatever is playing on my iPod.
I ran my heart out on January 8, 2012. I took in all the sights and sounds of the race. We ran through Epcot, the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Disney Hollywood Studio. I was motivated along the way by the spectators who were cheering and waving. Having my name on my bib was more exciting than I thought as people called out encouraging words to me; people I didn’t even know! I saw my friend and her daughter around mile 9 across from the Shades of Green Hotel. I know they couldn’t tell, but my eyes immediately welled up with tears when I spotted them holding that big fluorescent yellow sign.
Running through Cinderella’s castle was so exciting. The Magic Kingdom was lined with spectators and their energy was infectious.
I saw my cousin around mile 21 and she ran for a little bit with me before turning back to be there for her team.
The spectators grew in numbers as I neared the finish line. Having been at the finish line for D’s race the day before I knew exactly when to expect to see my family and friends. I was propelled through the last half mile by the energy of the crowd. Seeing my little guy again brought tears to my eyes.
I’m not going to lie, my legs were really sore and I don’t know where the will came from but I picked up my speed and crossed the finish line with a sense of determination I have never felt before. As one of the volunteers placed the medal over my head I started to cry.
I really can’t seem to come up with the right words to describe this experience. I accomplished a goal I never thought possible. In all the years I have struggled with my weight and body image it never occurred to me that I would someday be fit enough to run a marathon. I’m so proud of myself. I’ve also never said those words. Truthfully this was one of the most incredible days of my life. It is astonishing how empowering it can be to push yourself physically and mentally past your comfort zone and beyond any limits you had previously set. Crossing that finish line eliminated any doubt that I can do anything I set my mind to. There was never a moment during the race that I thought I might not finish. I dug in with my heels and I went for it with all I had.
Though I don’t place too much emphasis on speed I did have some goals in mind. First and foremost I was intent on finishing the race, but I knew it was a reasonable challenge to set my A+ goal to finish in just under 5 hours.
5:01:37 on the clock. I wasn’t disappointed though. After all wasn’t it Walt Disney himself who said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
My official chip time was 4:48:19. What!!!! I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t. I exceeded even my own expectations. I have been walking on air since. Every time I think about the marathon I smile. I beamed nonstop for at least a week. I actually wore my medal into work my first night back!
Thanks for staying with me through this loooonnnngggg post! I appreciate all the support I received here on the blog. I have enjoyed getting to know many of my visitors as well. The marathon may be over, but that was just beginning. I will be back with some upcoming plans.