Category: Marathon

The Calm Before the Storm

This photo was taken just minutes before Rita Jeptoo of Kenya crossed the nearby finish line of the 117th Boston Marathon. It was a beautiful day today, cool and crisp, but sunny; a perfect day for a long run.

Carlos and I were standing just behind the metal barricades on Exeter Street, a mere stone’s throw from Boylston Street just ahead where you see the line of yellow jacketed people. That is the Lenox Hotel awning to the left. Although we could catch a glimpse of the elite runners as they neared the finish line, we mostly watched on the big screen in the distance. The mood, as always, was exciting. Boston is a buzz with energy on this day each year. Besides the marathon, the Red Sox play a mid-morning game on the same day.

By now you probably know how this day ended. If not visit this link. Thankfully Carlos and I left around 1:15 to return to my sister’s office in South Boston for lunch. We were on our way out of the city at 3 when my sister called to tell me about the explosions at the finish line of the marathon.

I’ve listened to and seen as much coverage as I can bear. My heart breaks for all those affected by this senseless tragedy. I’m so blessed to be home safe with my little boy. My thoughts and prayers go out to Boston.

Redefine Possible

If you read my last post  then you might be wondering what I decided to do the morning of the marathon. Having never visited Philadelphia and staying about 15 minutes outside of the city I was concerned about finding somewhere to park. The marathon website had some information about road closings and parking options. I found out that the train stop closest to the hotel didn’t begin operating until 8 a.m. – no good. The woman at the hotel desk suggested maybe calling a taxi which would have cost a small fortune. With about 30,000 runners set to descend on the city I didn’t know what to expect the morning of the race so I decided to err on the side of caution. I set my alarm for 3 a.m. and drifted off to sleep.

All too soon I was up, showered (yes I shower before races) and ready to go. I checked out of the hotel and hit the road Philly bound. I was armed with 3 sets of directions to various parking lots just in case. There were few cars on the road so I made it into the city in no time. After a couple of missed turns I finally found one of the parking lots. The woman at the gate welcomed me with her raspy good morning as she blew cigarette smoke in the cold air. She said I could park all day as long as I had exactly $8 because she had no change. For someone who never carries cash I had thought ahead and lo and behold I had $9 in cash in my wallet. I paid up and pulled into a parking spot.

Soon other cars began to follow suit. We all stayed in our cars to keep warm. I ate my pre-race bagel, banana and peanut butter while listening to comedy on Sirius radio. Around 5:20 I decided to walk over to the starting area to find a port-a-potty. A perk of getting to the race early is still unused port-a-potties. Thanks to the flashlight app on my iPhone I did not have to pee in the dark.

I walked to the Philadelphia Museum of Art where many runners were stretching and warming up. I climbed the famed “Rocky Steps” and took in the early morning view from the top. Sadly I have no photos as it was still too dusky to capture the scenery. I found a secluded spot to do some stretching and tried to channel my own inner Rocky. I told myself to just enjoy the day, do my best and smile along the way.

Around 6:30 I called home to say good morning to Orlando and Carlos. Wow I missed them so much. Carlos is a bit (understatement of the year) of a mama’s boy. He was happy and sad to talk to me. He told me to hurry up and get home because he missed me too much. Orlando wished me good luck. I hung up and walked around the starting area in search of my corral. I was in the orange corral, second to last corral to start. I found a spot and waited.   I listened to lots of stories around me. There were a few first time marathoners and two women who were supposed to run the NYC marathon a couple of weeks ago before the destruction of Hurricane Sandy forced the cancellation of the marathon. Philadelphia opened up a lottery to welcome 3000 runners registered to run the NYC marathon. All throughout the race it was great to see the outpouring of support for those runners most of whom were wearing their orange ING race shirts making them easy to spot.

At 7 a.m. the race began…for some. It took nearly 30 minutes before I crossed the starting line. We moved in slow motion it seemed. The sheer volume of runners was massive. As we left the starting chute the road swelled from side to side with people trying to run. It was difficult to get any sort of momentum because of the crowd. Eventually I was able to get into my groove. As always the supporters along the course especially in the beginning and at the end make me smile from ear to ear. I get such a kick out of the signs along the way. Here are a few that I remember and enjoyed:

“WTF, Worst Parade Ever”

“You’re a better running mate than Sarah Palin.”

“If you were Paul Ryan you’d be done by now.” (somewhere not too far from the beginning)

The miles began ticking by and I was feeling great. The weather was perfect. I was comfortable in my pace. I knew I was holding around a 10 minute mile. Suddenly I saw the 4:30 pacer not too far in front of me. I know the pacers are out there, but I’d never actually seen them. I managed to catch up to the runner holding the balloons with the 4:30 sign which meant he would finish the marathon in exactly that time, 4 hours and 30 minutes. Hmmm I thought if I stay ahead of him I might actually beat Oprah’s time of 4:29:15 from her one and only marathon the Marine Corps Marathon in 1994. It’s all in good fun to try to beat celebrity times. I’ve already surpassed Katie Holmes, Al Gore and Kate Gosselin (of John & Kate Plus 8).

At mile 13 we bid the half marathoners adieu as they turned to the right to finish their race. The marathoners veered to the left and enjoyed a bit more open space on the road. Let’s do it all over again I thought as we headed into mile 14. I couldn’t believe how great I felt though. I think one of the best parts about doing a new race in a new place is that the course is a total surprise. I never get bored because I’m not sure what’s coming up. We passed Penn and Drexel universities. We ran past the Philadelphia Zoo and down Landsdowne Drive, through the Manayunk District and alongside the Schuylkill River. There were historical landmarks, a park, a bridge, shops, cafes and skyscrapers.

Somewhere around mile 17 my legs began to ache. I stopped for a Clif Shot and water. I walked through the hydration station and as I started up again I saw the 4:30 pacer ahead. Damn it! I stayed at a steady pace waiting for my legs to ease up in hopes that I could manage a fast spurt to catch up to the pacer once again. It never happened. He was gone, lost in the crowd and out of my view. OK I thought move on and keep moving.

From mile 18-26 the name of my game was just keep running no matter how fast or how slow. And just like that my marathon went from the best race of my life to a mental challenge. Oh how those last miles dragged on by, each one seemed longer than the last. Finally I was at mile 24. I kept telling myself to run and if a hill came I could walk it. I’m not sure why I thought there would be a hill ahead, but there wasn’t. No hill appeared so I kept running…slowly. My legs were sore and my feet hurt. Despite the pain never once did I contemplate quitting. Then in the distance waved the Mile 25 flag. I smiled knowing it would be over soon. As I passed the mile marker my pace kicked up a notch.

For the previous 6 miles or so fan support was thin but I could hear the crowds cheering as I got closer to mile 26. As I rounded the bend and the Museum of Art came into my view along with the last mile marker I felt a force surge through my body. My legs started to move like I was running my very first mile. The emotions welled up and I fought back the tears as I sprinted the last half of a mile to the finish line. I was by myself. People cheered for me by name reading it off my race bib as I passed by. I crossed the finish line and blinked back the tears as I wrapped the foil blanket around my shoulders. When the medal was placed over my head I could no longer hold back and I cried tears of joy, disbelief and awe.

As I walked through the crowd I was overwhelmed by the way I felt. I didn’t even know my time yet. It didn’t really matter because I knew I did exactly what I had set out to do…run MY best race.

In 2012 I have:

  • Run 2 full marathons
  • Run 2 half marathons
  • Run 2 – 10Ks
  • Successfully lost 12 pounds and counting (more on this soon I promise)
  • Spent 3 days roaming around Atlantis in the Bahamas in nothing but my bathing suit (a skirt tankini mind you but can I get a holla for improved body image!)
  • Applied and was accepted into Graduate School
  • Attended a Zumbathon
  • Took ice skating lessons
  • Hiked
  • Traveled to new places

The Philadelphia Marathon’s slogan Redefine Possible couldn’t be more fitting to describe my year and what this race meant to me. However, I almost think redefine impossible would be more applicable. In this year alone I have truly redefined what I always believed was impossible for me.

Philadelphia Marathon Finish

My official time for the Philadelphia Marathon was 4:38:52. This is almost 10 minutes better than my Disney Marathon time of 4:48:19.

I set running goals this year such as running a 10K in under and hour and for fun to beat Oprah’s marathon time. I haven’t accomplished either goal yet, but you better believe I will.

Thanks for reading this crazy long post. Now go redefine your possible!

Philadelphia Marathon Plans

I registered for the Philadelphia Marathon on April 1st. That seems so far away now. I can’t believe the weekend is finally here. I’m as ready as I can possibly be to run this race. However, the long family weekend I had planned has turned into a solo trip. A lot can happen in 7 months to change even the most well thought out plan, but our plans were actually derailed in the course of the last two weeks. It’s for the best that I go alone, but that decision was not made lightly.

I’m disappointed that my husband and son will not be with me, but it is because of their unending support and love that I am able to go to Philadelphia this weekend to run my second marathon. Over the past 5 days I booked a flight, rented a car and reserved a hotel room. I have set up directions to and from places in my phone. I have inquired about race day transportation from the hotel to the starting line. I have given myself countless pep talks to counteract the negative thoughts of guilt swirling in my mind.

As I sit here in my tiny hotel room trying to figure out the best plan for the morning I’m still not sure I made the right decision. However, I’m here and I’m going to give it my all tomorrow.

Sitting Out

I always try to show a positive attitude here. I’m blessed with health, family and a good job. So rather than write a long paragraph justifying my right to feel like crap once in a while I’m just going to say it…I can’t run and it hurts physically and emotionally. I hate it! I mad, sad, frustrated and annoyed.

I ran my longest long run last week, 22 miles. It went quite well or so I thought. Two days later I felt a twinge of an ache above my ankle on the back side of my leg. I stopped running. I haven’t run since Sunday. The area is sore and the soreness increases to pain whenever I increase my activity. I couldn’t pin point the location so I wasn’t sure it was my Achilles again. I was feeling great today so I decided to take advantage of my afternoon alone and go for a slow stroll at the college. When I say slow I’m talking I walked at a very leisurely pace. I read blogs on my phone and drank tea. Little by little the pain behind my leg just above my ankle increased. Upon returning to my car I had to walk uphill and that’s when I knew it was my Achilles.

All signs point to Achilles tendonitis. I will try to write a more detailed post later as I learn more, but essentially running is a really horrible idea right now. I’m writing this to reach out to my blog friends. I need some words of wisdom and support. I am mad as hell. I have worked so hard training for this marathon and I’ll be damned if I can’t run it. Having dealt with this back in late spring I’m certain with proper care that I will be able to run the marathon which is a month away on 11/18.

I know there are much bigger problems in the world. I don’t mean to be unnecessarily dramatic. I just never imagined not being able to run would break my heart this way. I was passed by no less than 20 runners on my walk and my heart surged every time they ran by. I wasn’t jealous. I felt sad. These injuries have made me realize how much running has become an integral part of my life both for my physical health and my mental well being.

I need to stay active without risking further injury. I need to watch my diet very carefully because stress = emotional eating for me which obviously leads to weight gain. If I’m going to run this marathon without the last couple weeks of training then I need to be wise. Please offer up any advice from your own experience or that of your family or friends.

Summer Races: Lake Placid/North Elba Half Marathon

Maybe if someone had told me that I could combine travel and running I would have began running much sooner. I had mentioned back in the spring that I would be running a half marathon at the end of September in Lisbon, Portugal. I was so psyched to run an international race. We planned to combine the experience with a week of travel in Portugal. Unfortunately we discovered that my husband would need to go through a lengthy process to secure a visa. He is a permanent resident of the U.S. and we have never run into a situation where he required different travel documents. We also found the flights to be offered at extremely inconvenient times resulting in the loss of 1-2 full days due to travel. The flights were very expensive and seemed to increase in price every time we checked on them. For a couple of hundred dollars more we could fly to Mozambique to visit my in-laws.

After much deliberation we decided to forego the trip, rationalizing that it was not practical nor financially feasible for only a week away. We were both really disappointed, but the shorter trip we have planned in early October is undoubtedly going to be a huge hit with Carlos. We are pretty excited about it too, but more on that in a couple of weeks.

Since I wasn’t going to be running the half in Lisbon I began looking around for another September half marathon to include in my marathon training plan. I found one in a place I’ve never been and always wanted to visit. Another bonus was being able to coordinate a visit to see my friend and former Peace Corps site mate, her husband and their adorable baby boy. Without hesitation I registered for the 42nd Annual Lake Placid/North Elba Half Marathon on Saturday, September 8th.

We headed up to Lake Placid late in the afternoon the day before the race. By the time we got to the town it was dark. I arrived with just enough time to grab my race packet. We continued on to our hotel, the beautiful, rustic White Face Lodge. Upon arrival we were told we were being upgraded to a Deluxe One Bedroom Suite and it was gorgeous. The bedroom was on the second floor. There were two fire places, a balcony, full kitchen, and a bath and a half. We want to live there.

Yup I’m that person who takes pictures of bathrooms
The bed was so comfortable and the room very cozy
The Whiteface Lodge

The morning of the half marathon I was planning to have my usual banana and peanut butter toast. The breakfast buffet was included with our room. Everything looked and smelled amazing, but lo and behold no bananas, no peanut butter and no toast. Well there were bagels and I probably could have asked for peanut butter. Since I was already short on time I broke rule #1 of running a race. I abandoned my running rituals and did something different on race day. I ate a bowl of oatmeal with raisins and nuts (gasp!). Oh and I also wore a new shirt which I love by the way, but race day is not the time or place to be trying out new running apparel.

A little blurry, but we got the pre-race photo!

The race began at the Olympic Speed Skating Oval. Lake Placid hosted the Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980. Pre-race I had some time to walk around the oval and read about the olympians who skated there. If standing on the same ground Olympians once stood on isn’t inspiring I don’t know what is.

This was a small race with only 192 participants. We set off promptly and ran up Main Street through the center of Lake Placid before circling Mirror Lake. The weather was absolutely perfect for running, high 60s and overcast. The course was revised this year and followed a different route from past years. We ran past the Olympic Ski Jumps. Orlando and Carlos toured the ski jumps while I was running. From just before the ski jumps the course followed an out and back course. It was beautiful with the colorful autumn leaves, surrounding mountains and a rambling river.

As the ski jumps came into view on the turn around the wind picked up in our direction. It was forceful and felt as though an entire football team was trying to keep me back. It slowed me down some, but I kept pushing through. About a quarter of a mile before the end we had to climb a pretty big hill. I knew it was coming because we had already run down it miles before. I conquered the hill as quickly as possible but that basically amounted to a really fast walk.

The race ended at the North Elba Horseshow Grounds. As I rounded the corner into the parking area on the grounds I could see the people cheering. This race was not a spectator race, but not unlike the finish area of most races this one was lined with cheering spectators as well. Having people clap and cheer as you run by never gets old! I spotted the time clock ahead. Up until this point I had absolutely no idea of my time.

Recently Marion from Affection for Fitness wrote about fitness magic. Did you know that chickens could fly? I didn’t. Marion asks if you ever felt like a chicken who couldn’t fly. I think I have been feeling that way most of my life especially when it comes to fitness.  I was never inactive per say. I’ve always been a hard worker, but I wasn’t ACTIVE. I am the girl who almost failed gym because I wouldn’t participate. I remember going for walks with my college roommate with the intent of exercising, but we smoked the entire way. I have joined countless gyms in my life. I have tried various activities to incorporate exercise into my life and most have lasted oh about 3 days.

Running is what finally gave me my wings and during this particular race I felt my fitness magic. Perhaps it was the Olympic spirit present in the air, but when I crossed that finish line in 2:10:12, a full 4 minutes 35 seconds faster than my last half marathon, I felt like I was flying for the first time in my life.

So like Marion asked in her post have you found your fitness magic? If not would you like to?

Summer Races: Lake Wyola Road Race

Back in April I announced my plans to run the Philadelphia Marathon in November. Despite the fact that I haven’t written a single post about marathon training I have been training since July. My training came to a screeching halt early on thanks to a sore hamstring followed by a stretched Achilles. I am happy to report that both issues have since resolved. Marathon training is going well despite some bumps in the road, scheduling challenges and a serious lack of time. I have competed in 3 races that I have yet to write about. Two were repeat races that I hope to make an annual tradition and the most recent was a new race in a new place.

Lake Wyola Road Race

On June 10, 2012 I ran this local race for the second time. This was the 32nd running of the Lake Wyola Road Race. Carlos and I frequent the lake all summer. The small beach is a part of the Massachusetts State Parks system. It is a hidden gem about 40 minutes away from home. Race proceeds benefit the Lake Wyola Association.

The website describes the course perfectly. “This scenic 4.8 mile race starts at the Lake Wyola Association Hall and runs counter clockwise around the lake on mostly tree-canopied country roads. The first half of the course is paved with a challenging uphill climb. The second half is dirt roads with a small bit of pavement at the finish line.” 

The uphill climb in this race is a great precursor to another race I run each summer. I love this race because it is extremely well organized, very family friendly and the course is picturesque. The pre and post race offerings are among the best of any race I’ve run. The volunteers go above and beyond to make everyone feel welcome and at home in the community of Lake Wyola.

Lake Wyola Road Race 2012

Going into this race I assumed I would do better than last year. However, it didn’t turn out to be one of my best races or even a great run. I broke some cardinal rules which led to a near disaster. I worked the night before which I try very hard not to do before a race. I ate nothing at work and then instead of my usual peanut butter toast and banana I ate only the banana and peanut butter before we left for the race which was a little too early to have eaten. I was not well hydrated despite the heat. Training had been sporadic due to the shin splint I got from ice skating in the spring.

I ran more of the uphill portion this year than I did last year so I felt strong going out. However, on the back half of the course I felt shaky, sluggish and I knew I was slowing down. It was hot and there were no water stations for the last mile and a half or so.

I wrote about last year’s road race here. I had a great experience last year. Below are my times for both races.

Lake Wyola Road Race – 47:22
Shutesbury, MA – June 10, 2012

Lake Wyola Road Race – 46:35
Shutesbury, MA – June 18, 2011

At first read it probably sounds like I’m making excuses for my poor performance this year. I admit I was a little disappointed when I crossed the finish line. As with any “bad” run I used this experience as an opportunity to learn something about myself and how to train better.

Having just started back at Weight Watchers about a month before the race I was still navigating the points system and how the program would work best with my level of activity. At that time I was backing away from bread and grains because of their high points value. This race taught me that I needed to find a way to incorporate grains back into my diet or marathon training would be a nightmare. I did not fuel properly before this race and I felt the effects especially during the last half of the race. I now use my extra weekly points to be able to eat a healthy amount of whole grain foods. Funny thing is that once I began eating the grains again I began losing more weight.

This race proved to me why I don’t typically run races after working all night. Sure I can run a training run after working all night because I’m not pushing myself to beat my last time.

Despite the fact that I knew it was going to be hot I didn’t hydrate myself properly in the hours before the race. Since I was at work I also drank a couple cups of coffee which didn’t help my hydration.

Silly Carlos

No matter how a race turns out it is still a great excuse to be with my family, do something outdoors and be around other active people. Carlos and Orlando were there to cheer me on. I appreciate all of their support over the last couple of years. I realize that my commitment to running relies on their support. On days when I just don’t feel like going out for a training run my husband is always ready to boot me out the door. When I need to wake up at the crack of dawn to workout because that’s my only opportunity for the day, again my husband will make sure I get out of bed and go. As much as I run these races and workout almost everyday for my health and well being, I also do it for that little guy in the photo above. He is my world and I try to do everything on my part to make sure I will be here to drive him crazy see him grow up.

Lake Wyola I’ll be back next year and looking for a personal record!

April First

I stink at April Fool’s Day jokes and normally I spend the day praying I am not a victim of someone’s clever prank. Some people are so good at that kind of stuff. This was the first year that Carlos really understood the meaning of the day so it was full of 5 year old type April Fool’s jokes. Here’s one I’ve been hearing all week:

Carlos: “Mom why do you have a spider on your head?”

Me: Ahhhhhhhhh get it out, get it out!!

Carlos: “April Fool’s”

Me: Haha you got me!

We put our heads together and tried to come up with a lively prank to play on my husband. This is all we came up with. We are pitiful, but determined to get better by next year.

I called my husband last night from work and told him that I wanted to register for the Philadelphia Marathon as soon as registration opened at midnight. I also asked him for the credit card information. Half asleep he gave me his blessing. After work I went to the gym and then finally home where I found Carlos downstairs alone. I reminded him of our plan and we gave each other a high five. Orlando came down a few minutes later with some laundry to bring to the basement. When he returned to the kitchen I excitedly reminded him that I registered for the Philly Marathon. He gave me a hug and said congratulations. I replied, “Congratulations to you too!” He was instantly confused so I explained, “I registered both of us so we can run it together.”

My husband backed up and started to question me, what?, why?, how? Then came the uncomfortable excuses, “I can’t run a marathon,” “I don’t like running that long,” “I only want to do 5K races.” I started encouraging him with comments like “It will be great. We can cross the finish line holding hands,” “You can totally do it. Look at your muscles.” Meanwhile Carlos was cheering for his Daddy “you can do it Dad” over and over. 

I was seriously ready to burst into laughter the more concerned my husband got. He was pacing around the living room and got more frustrated when I told him how much the registration cost for both of us. “I just don’t understand. I never said I wanted to run a marathon. I’ll run 5 miles, but not the whole thing. Can’t we get a refund?” Finally I lost it and blurted out April Fool’s!!! Carlos tried to keep it going, but the jig was up. Orlando looked so relieved once I told him it was all a joke and of course started nervously laughing hoping we were really kidding.

We were definitely kidding, but only about his participation in the marathon. The other part about me running it, well that was the truth!

Registration Confirmation for:

Dear Aimee,

Congratulations! You are now registered for Philadelphia Marathon Weekend. Please check the event’s official website for updates: http://www.philadelphiamarathon.com/ 

 

MARATHON REGISTRATION

CONFIRMATION!

 
I have had the registration date on my calendar since I returned home from Disney. I wasn’t sure how difficult it would be to register for this particular marathon so I decided not to mention my intention until it was official. On November 18 I will participate in the 2012 Philadelphia Marathon. This will likely round out my race schedule for the year. 2012 started out with a marathon, my very first, and will end with another marathon like bookends holding between them the contents of what so far promises to be a very active, challenging and fun year. While I may not cross the finish line holding anybody’s hand, my son and my husband will be there to cheer me on as always!

 

Disney Marathon Part 4

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!

Disney Family Fiesta 5K Finish Line

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.

Half marathoners still smiling as they near the finish line

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.

Pre race breakfast: Peanut butter toast with smooshed bananas!

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?

Marathon Prep
My race bib: I was way too excited that it had my name on it!

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.

Cousins!

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.

Approaching Cinderella's Castle

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.

Getting emotional as I pass my family

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.

Me and my husband: I am verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves.

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.”

Disney Maraton Finisher's Certificate: I did it! Official chip time 4:48:19

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.

Disney Marathon Part 3

My official last week of marathon training was 1/1/12 to 1/7/12. There was very little running as it was the week of the marathon. On New Year’s Day I did run 10 miles. It was not part of my training plan. I did it for myself. I needed it both physically and mentally. On Monday, 1/2/12 I went to the gym and enjoyed a rather leisurely hour on the Arc Trainer.

Tuesday, 1/3/12 was a day of last minute preparations before our flight on Wednesday morning. I managed to book a very last minute hair appointment when my stylist cancelled. I had my hair colored and cut, did some shopping, got a pedicure and finally settled down to pack around 9pm!

My day was so busy that kept trying to ignore the fact that I didn’t feel great. My head throbbed all day long and I could feel my throat getting scratchier and scratchier. I was popping Vitamin C and drinking Airborne fizzy tabs as often as possible. I took multiple doses of Motrin with little effect on the headache. By the time I went to bed around 11:30 I had been up for over 24 hours, I felt like crap and I had to get up in about 4 hours. Needless to say I did not do any exercise.

Wednesday, 1/4/12 arrived far too quickly, but despite the early alarm we are all very excited about the trip. I felt even worse upon waking, but I was determined to fight this head cold with everything I had. I left the house with a big mug of Airborne. I had a bag full of remedies. Game on sickness! If you consider that other than the rib injury back in September I haven’t called out sick since April of 2007 then you will understand how rare it is for me to be grounded by illness (knocking on wood right now).

Our flight was uneventful. We met our friends at the airport and all drove to their timeshare together. My dearest friend from nursing school and her husband graciously invited us to spend our time in Orlando at their unbelievably gorgeous timeshare.

Our home away from home

By the time we checked in, got unpacked, had lunch, did a little grocery shopping and explored the  resort it was nearing 8pm. I had almost no voice and I felt horrible. I tried to stay up a little longer but I ended up falling asleep before Carlos. Once again I did no running or any exercise to speak of.

On Thursday, 1/5/12, I went to Disney’s Health and Fitness Expo at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. My friend was registered to run the 5K and her husband was running the half marathon. It was the biggest expo I’ve ever been to and being around so many runners, picking up my race bib and seeing Jeff Galloway was just about enough to make me giddy with excitement. I’m a bit of a dork like that. I had a huge smile on my face (much bigger than the one in the photo below!) the entire time. I was just soaking it all up.

Inside the Expo
Jeff Galloway speaking at the Expo

Jeff Galloway is synonymous with the Disney Marathon and serves as a Run Disney Training Consultant. He is well known for his walk/run programs. I don’t personally utilize any of his programs but I don’t hesitate to recommend them to people who don’t feel like they can maintain a running pace for an entire race.

Meanwhile there was a lot of this going on back at the hotel.

Carlos in the pool

The temperature in Orlando our first two days was a bit cool. Fortunately the swimming pools were heated. Carlos and Orlando love swimming together so they enjoyed the morning in the pool. My little guy was so anxious to get to the Magic Kingdom, but he behaved with the patience of a saint.

I had completely lost my voice at this point, but I was somewhat reassured by the fact that it was the only remaining symptom. The headache had passed and I never developed any chest congestion or a cough. I was hopeful that by race day I would be feeling fine. I decided that since we had a long afternoon and evening of Disney World ahead of us I would consider all the walking I would be doing my workout for the day. We had no set plan. We just let Carlos decide what he wanted to do more or less. We saw two parades, a show, rode Thunder Mountain, the Haunted Mansion, the Tea Cups, the Jungle Cruise, Race Cars and a few other rides I am forgetting. Carlos’ favorite hands down was Thunder Mountain.

In front of the Magic Kingdom
In line at Thunder Mountain
Waiting so patiently to get on Thunder Mountain

The weather was gorgeous, sunny and cool. Carlos was in awe of everything we saw. The park was sufficiently crowded to draw long lines, but that didn’t matter. My husband and I aren’t exactly what you call Disney people, but seeing it through the eyes of a child makes it a truly magical experience.

Where dreams do come true!

We enjoyed a delicious dinner at Tony’s Restaurant on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. It was late and we were starving. We watched the fireworks from the restaurant and finally returned to the hotel on one of the last shuttles of the night. By the time we got to the hotel it was past 10pm. I had a 4am wake up call so I could accompany my friends to the 5K. The Run Disney races began on Friday, January 6, 2012 with the 5K. I was excited about attending both the 5K and the half marathon. It’s awesome running a race, but it is a wonderful feeling cheering on other runners. I love seeing the determination and joy on the faces that speed by.

This trip was all about family. I chose to run the Disney Marathon because I wanted to make the experience fun for all of us. Training was truly a family affair. I spent many a weekend morning running for hours. I set out as soon as my husband returned home from work on my nights off to get the miles in. My husband and I coordinated schedules, sometimes we bantered about how I would fit in a double digit run on weekends he had to do side jobs, but we always found a way to compromise. My son grew to understand that I was going for my runs like it or not. He’s a bit of a Momma’s boy (I love it!) and would get whiny at times, but after a few months he would send me off with good lucks and high fives. My husband and my son accompanied me to races, cheered me on and took care of me when I broke my rib so that I could realize this marathon dream. I wanted to show my son that we can do anything we set our mind to. I know he is still a bit too young to fully understand the significance of what I did, but I think he will someday.

Wishes do come true

Before we left for Disney my son told my mother that he wished she could come too. She told him to make a wish when he got to the castle and that sometimes dreams do come true.

This morning while sitting out at the pool watching my husband and son swimming. I caught my husband making a funny face in the direction behind me. I turned and this is what I saw.

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That is my Mom and sister! Needless to say I was speechless and immediately began to cry. They flew in last night and they will be at the finish line. Way back when I started this journey I had fleeting thoughts about how incredible it would be to have my family see me cross the finish line, but Florida is not exactly close by. In the end I will have quite a cheering squad when I finally finish my very first marathon tomorrow. My husband, son, mother, sister, father, father’s girlfriend, one of my dearest friends, her husband and their daughter will be cheering for me! I feel so blessed to be surrounded by family today. So I guess sometimes wishes do come true.

The Disney Marathon supports the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I will be running this in honor of someone special at home who is fighting a courageous fight against leukemia. My thoughts, prayers and wishes are with her. For her I will cross that finish line.