For as long as I can remember, running always intrigued me. Somehow, though, I wound up a swimmer throughout high school and college. Being a part of a sport that allowed me to work individually while also contributing to a team was just what I needed as someone who is internally extremely competitive. While I could have continued swimming in a Master’s program, and haven’t yet ruled that out, I decided to take up running after college. I’ve been running now for about a year and a half, and just completed my second half marathon.
The idea of running a half and/or full marathon seemed to be more of a dream than a reality. When I started running, my focus was just to run a 5k. My first race wound up being a 4 miler, and even though I struggled, I was hooked. Running is a funny sport, at least for me, in that I feel like I always need to be one-uping myself. This means increasing the milage I race. I ran my first half marathon in April, and it was awesome. I had stumbled upon the Disney Marathon before I had even started running, and it was always a goal of mine in the back of my mind.
When my fiancé and I planned a trip to Disney with a group of friends for the very same weekend of the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, I just knew we had to sign up. It wasn’t really possible for us to run a full marathon yet, so we opted for the half. Training started out well, and as we all know, I had some serious injuries that put me on the back burner. First it was my ankles and Achilles, and then it moved on to my shins. Come race day, though, those pains were gone. Instead, I was left with serious pain on the top of my left foot, and in my left knee. These pains I think were just due to overcompensation for all of the other injuries my left leg was sustaining. I’m still having some trouble walking pain-free because of my foot, but hopefully the next three weeks off will help!
The half marathon race was on Saturday, so we headed down on Wednesday to enjoy a few days in the park beforehand. In retrospect, if I ran the race again, I’d prefer to head down later, and only spend one day in the parks, as I think all the walking contributed to the pain I felt during the race. However, being that I had so many injuries during the race cycle, I planned to just run this race to finish. Of course my competitive side tried it’s hardest to keep me going as fast as I could, but the second half of the race was just a little too painful, and my logical and rational side took over (good thing).
The race started early – at 5:30a. My fiancé was in corral A, while I was in corral B. The race had 27,000 registrants, with just over 23,000 that actually crossed the finish line. We had a wakeup call of 2:45a, and we were out the door by about 3:15a to catch the bus to the start line from our resort. Once we got there, we wandered around a bit, had a few Gu Chomps and a last few swigs of water, while also taking a bathroom break. From there, we shed our clothes, checked our bag, and headed to a big group of people, waiting to be allowed to make their way to the start.
Once we got to the corrals, fiancé and I said our goodbyes, and I anxiously stood in corral B. Before the race, they announced that a group over in Iraq would also be joining us, as one of the soldiers who ran the race last year was deployed, but his wife was there in Orlando to run with us. Of course, pulling on my heart strings, I had to wipe the tears away as they were able to get a satellite connection and they gave their pre-race good lucks. After that, there was a brief hello from Al Roker (who I saw when I passed by!) and other members of the Today show, that were also running. My fiancé’s corral started just after the wheelchair start with fireworks and all. About 10 minutes later, it was my turn!
I started slow, realizing the potential for pain was high, and I wanted to try and hold it off for as long as possible. Because of my lackluster training and the fact that my feet were sore just from galavanting through the parks, I kept a steady pace just under 9 minute mile almost the whole way. By about mile 6, though, the pain started. First it was my foot, then it was my knee. I managed to keep shuffling along, with the pace of each mile going up and down, sometimes still under 9 sometimes well over. Even though I was in pain, the miles still flew by. The second half of the race had some serious hills. The worst was somewhere between mile 10 and 12, where it was not only up hill, but also on an on/off ramp loop. With knee and foot pain, not being on a level surface was torture. As I saw people running by with knee straps, I was envious, thinking how nice it would feel to have some serious pressure on my left knee. Aerobically I was doing just fine, and could have pushed myself a bit more, but knew that wasn’t possible with the pain. So, I tried my best to distract myself with the surroundings, reading the different signs, checking out the spectators, and just overall enjoying the experience.
Despite the pain, once we got back to Epcot, I knew it was go time. We took a loop past Spaceship Earth and to the Christmas Tree (they left the decorations up), and back out to the parking lot where I asked my tired and sore legs to push it one last time. Somehow, despite my lack of training and injuries, I managed to finish in 2:03:45, a mere minute and a half slower than my first half last April. I couldn’t be happier! I can only imagine what my race would have been like if those pains weren’t there, and even more so if I had been able to train properly. I’m really looking forward to April’s race, as I will hopefully have a successful training cycle. I’m definitely hoping to break 2 hours, maybe even 1:55!
After I crossed the finish line I got my Donald Duck medal, grabbed some water, was handed a mylar blanket, and tried to hobble around to keep my legs from tightening up. I called my fiancé, who had finished in a blazing 1:33:05! We reconnected and had our picture snapped before catching a bus back to Port Orleans, where our friends were anxiously awaiting our return. We didn’t skip a beat, hopped in the shower, guzzled some more water, and headed to Epcot for the day. After a full day in the park, we had a celebratory dinner at San Angel Inn in Mexico – yum!
On Sunday, we had the opportunity to cheer on some of the full marathoners as we headed to Animal Kingdom to start our day. We first passed them while on the bus, and I tried my best to send mental cheers. From there, I was happy to see them both in and outside the park, so we all stopped to cheer them on, and my fiancé took some pictures. The craziest part, was that there were people running the full marathon that were shouting out congratulations to us for finishing the half (we were wearing our medals)! I love how friendly and congratulatory/cheerful runners are. I really couldn’t believe there were people only at about mile 18 of their full marathon saying “congrats!” and “great job!” to us – they were the ones deserving the cheering! For the rest of the trip, we were constantly passing people with their full marathon Mickey medals, and others with their Goofy challenge medals (meaning they ran both the half AND full). It was then that both my fiancé and I realized we can, and will, run a full marathon. The hardest part will be finding a race to run. Since we’re getting married in September, it might be hard to train for something only a few weeks after the wedding and honeymoon. But, we’ll see! If anyone has any recommendations for decent marathons for first timers in the general Northeast (I’d say maybe no more than a 3 hour drive from Central NJ), I’d love to hear it!
So for now, I’m going to let my little legs (that are growing, thanks to the milage!) rest for a few weeks, and then get back at it – slow and steady of course. But I can now say I finally ran Disney. Maybe in a year or two I’ll run the full marathon… maybe even go Goofy!