Exactly one week ago today, I ran in the Disney World Marathon. It was probably my biggest athletic accomplishment yet. Even more so accomplishing than riding my bike 80 miles (my longest distance on the bike yet).
As I think back to when I registered for this race, I can’t tell you why I did it. I think it had something to do with “if I’m going to be an Ironman one day, I’m going to need to run a marathon.” Whatever the reasoning, it seemed like a good idea at the time. After the race, I was confident that I never ever wanted to run another marathon ever again. A week later, I’m thinking I might be crazy (of course, we all know that marathon running is a mental sport and that we’re all insane), but I also think I would like to do another marathon again sometime in the far away future (at least 6-8 months from now). Of course, I’m getting ahead of myself now. Let’s back up to last week before I jump into the future.
Let’s back up to the night before the marathon when I was beginning to freak out a bit. Well, more like I was freaking out a lot. I was sure I was going to vomit I was so freaked out over the idea that in the morning I was going to walk/run 26.3 miles. Luckily, I have good friends like Nancy to help talk me down off the ledge and put things into perspective. She also helped improve upon my race mantra, which was “finish and don’t die” but that’s also everyone’s mantra so she came up with “today is not the day I give up!” That mantra became very crucial to me in the last couple miles of my race.
Race morning came and I was good to go. I was up at some ungodly hour of the morning (3am) and it was all good. I didn’t proceed to freak out again until I was parked in the Epcot parking lot and the start was an hour away. Once again, I’m lucky to have good friends, because at a quarter to 5 in the morning, I was able to call Lolo and she talked me through…I have no clue what, I just remember that I was freaking out because I was going to run a marathon and had no freaking clue why…after a bit I let her go back to bed and I headed towards the start line. (I totally have to give Lolo props because she had set her alarm so that she’d wake up early and call me and give me my race day talk.)
It was a long walk from my car to the start line, I’d say almost a mile. By the time I had stopped at the lou and walked to my corral the race was getting ready to start and it was the most spactacular start I’ve ever seen/heard. Disney sure does love their pyrotechnics. The “gun shot” was actually fireworks, it was magnificent. Well, fireworks and this flaming fire thing above the start line. Like I said, it was awesome.
It took 10 minutes for me to get from my corral to the start line. And then it was chaos. With so many runners, I had to jog to hurry up and get out of the way of the peeps that were trying to run me over. I worked my way over from the left side where I began to the right side where it was appropriate for me to walk. Even then I was still getting run over, but once I felt safe enough to walk, I did. In fact, that’s how I met Amy. It was Amy’s first marathon too; and her strategy was much the same of mine, walk the first 8 or so miles so that our bodies were in tune with what we were doing and then jog. And it was for 8 miles that I stayed with her.
About the time I was ready to run, I made the smart decision not to because the roads were crowned. I couldn’t afford to destroy my knee again. This was rough for me because I didn’t train to full out walk a marathon and walking is very different from running. I had to pick up my pace for fear of the dreaded flag bearers (this are the cyclists on the course with red flags. If you see them stop and put up the flag, that means you’re not keeping pace and they’ll pull you off the course and load you on the bus and take you back to the start, where you don’t get to finish. It’s a sad and scary thing to see them. More on this later.) to a min of 16 min/mile pace. That’s faster than I normally walk and it caused a little strain down the road, but not much.
Ok, that’s all technical stuff, now back to the good stuff.
So, from the start, I went about 3 miles before heading into Epcot. We went through a part of the world and then exited Epcot to join the rest of the runners that were in a different part of Epcot so that things weren’t congested. By the time I got to the point where were merged I was probably in the back of the middle pack so things weren’t congested anyways. At about mile 4 I ran past where the start was and they were already almost finished ripping down everything and there were these big street sweepers just waiting to go clean up the mess we had made. The other thing I noticed was that any clothing that had been tossed aside was being picked up, and it’s my understanding that it was going to be donated. That’s cool I think.
Oh, did I mention how the weather was perfect for this New Mexican to be in a shirt and a tank top and not be cold. It was most wonderful for me to not have to layer. It was really funny because I was talking to people (of course) and they asked how I wasn’t cold and I told them I came from a cold state. Some people had come from up North and even they were in sweats and sweatshirts. It kindof made me giggle…low 50s should’ve been like a summer day to them.
So, somewhere around mile 10ish, I got to enter the Magic Kingdom through a back route that spit us out onto Main Street. And when I did step though this little side “door” onto Main Street there was the glorious smell of garlic bread. It smelled so delicious. I seriously thought about stopping and eating some, but then upon me commenting on how great it smelled I was told “you have 16 miles to go, you really don’t want to be eating garlic bread right now” and that kept me going.
We went past Tomorrowland. But I don’t really remember it.
I do remember going past the carousel and I remember the castle. It was cool at the castle. The stepmother and stepsisters were outside of it, but even cooler were the trumpeters up top announcing our arrival, like we were the important people approaching the castle if it were old skool medieval times. It was awesome.
I also remember passing a couple country bears and hiding out on a back lot was a pirate ship and captain jack sparrow and some of his crew. But then I was back out in the open and on my way to the Animal Kingdom.
Before getting to the half way marker a large smile was put on my face by the sight of the penguins from Mary Poppins. As I turned a corner to use the lou, Mary Poppins and Burt were coming around the corner and Burt said “top of the mornin to you”. He was so good lookin. It’s my favorite non-animated Disney movie.
I was really excited when I passed the 13 mile mark because my pace was excellent for me. I would’ve had my best half marathon time yet if that’s all I was doing.
I could smell when I was approaching Animal Kingdom, it smelled like animals and upon entering the animal kingdom there were all kinds of crew members with animals out there cheering us on. There was a little pigmy goat thing named Violet that I stopped and petted.
At Animal Kingdom, which came just after mile 16, with only 10 miles left to go, I was starting to wear down. I don’t even remember going past the dinosaur in what I’m referring to as “the land of the lost”
I do however remember going past Everest because it’s my most favorite ride at Animal Kingdom, I only rode it 6 times in a day last year.
I also remember seeing Baloo the bear and King Louie of the Apes and regretting at this point that I had forfeited carrying my camera.
The next park was Hollywood Studios, but before I entered the backlots at mile 22 there were several things that happened along the way.
I saw the evil mean guy from the Hunchback of Notre Dame, Claude Frollo. He was at somewhere around mile 19. The mile where I hit my wall. The mile where all of the sudden there was a big hill we had to go up and it was hot and there was no shade.
At mile 20, I discovered a blister on my foot. More like I felt it, and it hurt A LOT!!! And I sat in a chair at the med tent and they bandaged my foot. Mile 20 was an out and back, and as I u-turned at 20.5 miles I noticed that there were no more people coming along. I was in the back of the pack.
At mile 21, I saw the dreaded flag bearers, they were waiting to put their flags up. If you want to see Courtney run, show her the red flag. I was a minute 30 ahead of pace. I rounded the corner and saw the bus sitting there waiting to be loaded with athletes that weren’t keeping pace. It is a marathon runners worst fear. To have made it this far and then to be threatened with being pulled off the course and sentenced with a DNF. I had every intention of not getting swept off the course.
During this time of fear caused by the flag bearers that kept riding ahead of me, people all around were asking if anyone knew how much ahead of pace we were. I found out that the person to talk to was a woman in a Mickey Sorcerer’s hat that was about a quarter mile in front of me. I was told to keep her in my sights and I’d be ok. That wasn’t good enough for me. So I ran to catch up with her. She told me that if I was with her or ahead of her that I wouldn’t get swept and I’d finish before they stopped clocking athletes. Staying with her, wasn’t good enough. I could barely run at this point, but I was so determined to get to the finish and “officially” finish that I pushed through and ran when I could.
When I entered Hollywood Studios it was via the back entrance, and it was cool because we got to run through the costume area. I think that’s all I remember of Hollywood Studios. I do know that at some point I ran past the big Sorcerer’s hat.
The next couple miles I spent on the boardwalk or around the boardwalk or whatever it was. This was me. I was plumb worn out. It’s also where I was feeling a good deal of pain. And it’s also where I started thinking and speaking my mantra “today is not the day I give up”.
The final park that I got to go through was Epcot, this time I got to go all the way around the world, but I wasn’t thrilled. I was so done. Going around the world was a mile all in itself. And all I had to do was get to the big ball. The ball kept moving and I was in quite a state of despair when I couldn’t see it.
I went through France.
When I finally left Epcot, I think the best part of my marathon begun. It was when I was approaching the finish, they were counting down the time till they stopped timing us. What that meant was that we would get our finishers medals but not get an official finishing time or a finishers certificate. I had 25 seconds to go about 200m. At that point, I knew I had come too far to not “officially” finish. I kicked it into high gear and all out sprinted to get across that finish line before they got to 0.
I could barely walk when it was all said and done, but I finished, officially finished, and that was all that’s all that matters. I finished in 7:04:40, not the pace I wanted, but it doesn’t matter, I finished.