Yesterday morning was another very early wakeup call. I actually think it was easier to get up because we had gotten up this early for Brad’s half marathon the day prior. I slept great the night before, no doubt due to being super exhausted and a Tylenol PM.
I got dressed, which was easy since I set all of my clothes out the night before. I ended up putting my number on my blue short sleeve shirt, thinking I would eventually take off my top layer and tie it around my waste.
I also put my fuel belt together the night before. In it: 4 packs of Gu and a pack of Clif Shock Blocks. I also had plenty of water to sip on in the car on the way to Epcot, where the race began.
Because it was $10 extra dollars per day to add Brad as a secondary driver for our rental car, which we opted not to pay, I had to drive to the race and attempt to eat breakfast at the same time. I packed two pieces of Ezekiel bread, an individual packet of Justin’s Peanut Butter and a banana in my suitcase for my pre-race breakfast. I packed this same breakfast for Brad for his race too. A boyscout Type A is always prepared.
I usually eat my banana on my bread, but due to the driving, I had Brad hold it and pass it too me periodically while I forced down my PB sandwich.
Why was I forcing it down? Because I was still had stomach issues!
Confession: I had a mini breakdown in the car on the way to Disney. My stomach cramps continued just as they had the night before and it was overwhelming to know that I had worked so hard and trained for so long and I might have significant trouble finishing this marathon. I tried to force it out of my mind and tell myself I could do it.
We finally arrived to the parking lot outside of Epcot and walked to the pre-race area. It was super chilly, but I’m not going to complain because I’ve heard tales of last year’s sleet and count myself very lucky that I waited until this year to run Disney.
I met up quickly with Heather and two other of her friends, whose names I cannot remember. I am so bad with names!
I postponed going to the start of the race as long as possible. Brad ingeniously suggested hot chocolate, which was perfect. It warmed me up a bit and a little more sugar in my blood couldn’t hurt, right?
I started to see less and less runners so I finally kissed Brad goodbye and headed through the gate that led to the start. It’s about a half mile walk to the corrals and there were so many people, 17,000 actually, which caused us to move very slow. I kind of felt like we were cattle, because there are so many people and we moved so slowly in one huge group.
I made my way to my assigned corral, which was C, the third wave of runners. I probably should have been further back but I gave my fastest 10K time when I signed up and I think it inflated their expectations of my speed. We stood and shivered as a huge group while we listened to Jeff Galloway, who was running his 156th marathon, offer us some words of inspiration. After some encouragement from Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck, and Goofy, the first wave started. I was sooo ready to start at this point, just so I could be warmer. The anticipation was killing me!
Finally, it was my corral’s time to start and as we ran over the start line, I felt warmer from movement and the fire coming out of the starting line’s archway. I was super excited and ready to experience actually running a marathon, after years of wondering and months of preparing.
We ran down a long road as a huge pack. I saw other runners in the first 10-20 minutes starting to take bathroom breaks and I realized that after all the water and some hot chocolate, I really needed to go too. We passed a middle school band, which made me smile. How cool is it that 11-13 years old would get up so early in the morning to cheer us on?
We finally made our way into Epcot and I spotted the women’s bathroom (not a port-a-potty) along with about 10 other ladies and headed that way. I went right in and came right out. My cold/sickness from last week is still hanging around a bit in my sinuses so it was nice to stop and blow my nose. When I came out of the restroom, I got right in step with the 4:30 pacer. “How lucky!” I thought. 4:30 was the pace I wanted to keep for this race.
I had a great time running through Epcot and another runner and I commented on the great smells coming from “China”. We soon left Epcot and continued on some long service roads. I laughed at an older guy who was cracking jokes as we ran. He kept saying things like “Geez, how long is this race, by the way?”. I also asked another runner about the Vermont Marathon after I overheard her say she was from Vermont. Brad and I have been talking about that race, so it was nice to hear good things about it from a local.
At mile five I started eating a Shot Block at every marker and finished my last at mile 10. I also got a sweet text from Brad who was tracking me. He received notification via texts when I crossed certain mile markers.
Go Kelly. It told me you crossed 10 miles. Good job!
At some point we made it the Magic Kingdom and I whipped out my iPhone for my favorite part of Disney.
The crowd was thick! Tons of spectators are always encouraging. 🙂
Disney left their Christmas decorations up, just for us.
I tried many many times and finally got a good photo of the castle.
Before running through the castle, we took a trip by Space Mountain, the least scary roller coaster I’ve ever ridden. 😉
During the race, I made myself walk through about 1/2 the length of ever water station. I cannot drink water from a cup while I run. It always gets in my nose or down my wind pipe. During halves, I usually take water only twice, but I knew I needed to take hydration more seriously during a marathon. I also stopped twice at medical stops to grab a paper towel to blow my nose. My stomach still continued to cramp every 10-15 minutes, but I trudged along and tried to just breathe deeply through the tightening knots in my stomach.
At mile 12, I stopped again at some port-a-potties and also lost the 4:30 pacer. I was starting to feel more tired than I usually did at this point during my training runs. I think being sick last week and my stomach cramps, were taking a toll on me. I tried not to focus on the length of the race I hadn’t covered and started thinking about when I would take my Gu. I decided to take my first at mile 13, then every four miles from there on out.
Around mile 15, I started to get much slower. I usually can maintain a 10 minute mile pace until mile 17-18, but today I didn’t feel normal. I felt weaker, but I knew I still had it in me to finish. Not finishing was not an option.
I focused on pressing on and taking my next Gu at mile 17 which I assured myself would give me more energy. As time went on, I continued to focus on the race in four mile increments, which I think is so important. Just thinking about the race as a whole and how much more of the route you have to cover is way too overwhelming when you’re already experiencing achy legs and fatigue. I told myself that when I took my next Gu, it would be mile 21 and I would have then ran further than I ever have in my whole life. These are the things that run through my mind and get me to keep pressing on. Running may be 80% mental, but I swear, during a marathon, it’s 99% mental. I knew that to finish this, my head had to be in the right place.
Around Mile 17, I think, we went through the Asian part of Animal Kingdom, which I have never been through before. I loved this and can’t wait to return to this part of the park when Brad and I have kids and take them on their first Disney trip. Minnie and Mickey were there in safari suits. 🙂
I knew I was several minutes behind a 4:30 finish and that my pace would gradually decrease as I became more tired and more sore. I made peace with this and pressed on. At mile 21, after taking my third Gu, I concentrated on seeing Brad at mile 22. We had chosen this mile as his post for photo taking. Also, I knew after hitting mile 20 I was going to need to see a familiar face.
Mile 21 was a down and back path. As I ran down, I passed the runners who were ahead of me, making their way back up the path. It was strangely comforting to see the front of people after staring at so many runner’s backs for so long. These are the strange things you find comforting/interesting when you’re 21 miles into a marathon.
Other things I found entertaining: The sarcastic and informative signs on the side of the road for our entertainment. Some of my favorites that I remember…
- Albert Einstein never knew how to drive a car.
- The Eiffel Tower shrinks 6 inches every winter.
- A clean desk is the sign of a very messy drawer.
- Why is the word abbreviation so long?
Mile 22 ended up being an exit ramp and I never saw Brad. This didn’t worry me because we had discussed this happening and I knew he would be at the last mile of the race if he couldn’t make it to 22.
Soon after mile 22 we headed into Old Hollywood. I suspected we would be “entertained” the last few miles of the race by running exclusively through parks, not service roads, and I was correct. It was nice to continuously pass spectators with plenty of things to look at. Upon entering Old Hollywood through a back lot, Disney employees greeted us with mini chocolate bars like you find in the Hershey variety packs. This lifted my spirits, as chocolate often does. I gladly took a bite size Mr. Goodbar and wondered about the candy I saw uneaten on the ground. Who doesn’t need a little chocolate at mile 22?
I pressed on and actually was able to enjoy running through the costume design area. The building is split in half by a covered path and you can see the seamstresses and large costume patterns through gigantic windows. The staging and design part of Disney really intrigues me.
By the time I left Old Hollywood, mile 23 had come and gone. I decided to go ahead and take my last Gu, knowing I could benefit from some extra energy, even if I hadn’t reached the 25 mile marker. After passing mile 24, I found myself on a boardwalk and running beside a small lake, which was a nice change of scenery. We were still inside the parks and and I knew we were getting closer to Epcot where the course would end.
I walked through my last water stop and a woman I had been running near the whole race came up behind me and said “You can do it!” That meant so much to me. I found out her name was Polly. She was from Washington state and this was her first marathon. I ran beside her for a while, until she stopped to walk. I think she was following the Jeff Galloway walk/run method.
After hitting mile 25, I somehow got a little burst of energy. I think just knowing how close I was to the end enabled me to push through the pain. I was so close to being done and that in itself made me happy and gave me the strength to push through. I passed through Epcot retracing my steps backwards from the start of the race, past China, past Norway, and past Mexico.
I ran through the entrance to Epcot and past the 26 mile marker. I fixated my eyes on the crowd to look for Brad and saw him! 🙂
I was so happy to see his face! Brad yelled encouraging words as I picked up the pace for the last 0.2 miles. I felt like I was sprinting, although I know I was still pretty slow at this point. I rounded the corner where stadium seating was set up for the crowd and saw the finish line within a few hundred feet. I ran even harder until I finally reached the finish line.
I slowed to a very slow walk/shuffle and started to get weepy as I realized I was done. Just Like Heaven by the Cure was playing which made me even more weepy because it was the first song Brad and I danced to at our wedding (covered by another artist).
I took a Disney trash bag to wrap around my shoulders, my medal, and a water bottle and continued the granny shuffle until I found my way through the crowd and out of the gate where spectators could stand. Brad and I had agreed to meet at the C-E tent (alphabetized by last name for meeting up post-race). I found him and gave him a big hug.
He helped me lay out the trash bag and I tried to smile (I thought I was smiling at the time..haha) while he snapped a photo of me and my medal. My legs felt like rubber. I stretched them out and when I was ready, I folded them and ate a mini Clif Builders Bar and an orange. Brad also gave me a mini chocolate chip brownie Larabar, which I downed.
One last medal shot for the camera and a little more resting and I decided I was ready to make the trek across the parking lot. I even drove back to the hotel, because we didn’t want to violate the rules of our rental car service. Brad was very patient with me as I shuffled my sore legs.
I’ll walk with you when you walk this way all the time because I’ll be old too. Then we’ll take our dentures out and make them kiss and I’ll grab your butt in public because it’s cute when old people do stuff like that.
He also told me how proud he was of me, despite me being a little disappointed with my time which was 4:51:41, way over my 4:30 expected time. I still feel good that I was able to finish despite not feeling 100%.
I ran a marathon and only 0.1% of people in the world can ever say that. 🙂