Monday, January 10, 2011

26.2 Magical Miles... COMPLETE!!!

That's right... I did it! I completed the 2011 Walt Disney World Marathon. It was an amazing weekend... one I will never forget.

The weekend got off to a rocky start. Nerves were getting the best of me. I arrived at Disney on Friday doubting I would finish the race. My best friend and running mate tried keeping my mind of the dreaded 26.2 miles, even though she was probably worried even more than me. We kicked off our Disney adventure with a trip to the Health & Fitness Expo to pick up our race numbers and goody bags, activate our timing chips, check out some of the merchandise and, of course, take a photo.

We finished our Friday evening with a trip to Celebration, the town Disney built. It was kind of Truman Show like. So perfect and pristine. We had a nice pasta dinner at a local Italian restaurant in their downtown area, walked through the Sanrio store (hooray for Hello Kitty) and wrapped things up with some ice cream from Kilwin's.

Saturday was another relaxing day. We walked around Downtown Disney and went to a movie. It was a horrible movie, which was probably a good thing because it kept our mind off the race. Then we had another pasta dinner and went to bed... at 6pm. Sleep did not come easy Saturday night. We found ourselves looking at the clock only to see that thirty minutes had passed. So we gave up, watched some crappy TV and read our books until we finally felt drowsy enough to get some rest.

1:30am Sunday... time to get up. Yes, that's right. We were up at 1:30am. On a bus at 3am. And at Epcot for the start of the race by 3:30am. It was a lot of hurry up and wait. At around 4:30am we were corralled in a waiting area. Then at 5am we were lead on a 15-20 minute walk to the starting line. This is where the nerves hit hard. I was in my starting corral waiting for the race to begin when I had a mini panic attack. I actually cried and started wondering why I decided to do this. But I had to suck it up. It was almost time to run. I will say the start to the race was amazing. Since there were so many runners, the starts were broken into eight waves. And every wave got their very own countdown and firework show.

Race day was chilly, but I didn't want to wear a lot of layers. So I was pretty cold when the race began. I actually don't think I felt my toes for the first few miles, but I just kept running... and running... and running. I tried not to think about the distance or anything really. I just enjoyed the music on my ipod and the entertainment. Disney had a band, a parade float, characters, performers or something every half mile. You really didn't have time to think about your distance, pain or anything because you were just enjoying the views. We started with a run through Epcot and half the world showcase. I remember coming up on Epcot amazed at all the people waiting outside the park gates to cheer us on. But that was nothing like the next park. Magic Kingdom was pretty cool to run through. You start by running down Main Street, which was packed on both sides with spectators screaming for you. Then you head through Tommorowland and Fantasyland before running under Cinderella's Castle. There were photographers taking photos. I can't wait to see how those turn out. Then it was off to the half way point and the next park... Animal Kingdom. Disney had a few animals along the way if you wanted to stop and pet them or take photos. But I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and running towards my goal.  After Animal Kingdom and miles of highway, I hit Hollywood Studios. That was around mile 24 and instead of a water stop, there were people handing out chocolate. Surprisingly, I resisted the temptation and moved ahead. I was too close to my goal and didn't know how my stomach would react. The final mile was a trip around the World Showcase at Epcot. That was my favorite part of the race and where my extra burst of energy kicked in. Despite the sore and tight legs and the fact I had already been running for more than four and a half hours, I dug deep and just ran. I passed so many people that last mile. Then I saw it the Mile 26 sign. I got so excited. And as an added bonus, my theme song (Firework by Katy Perry) started playing on my ipod. It was storybook. Yes, I know how cheesy that sounds, but it was. Six months of training and almost five hours of running, I crossed the finish line. It was an unbelievable feeling that was made even more special when I looked to my left and saw my friend April shouting my name. I began to cry, but I think I was just too dehydrated for any tears to come. Then I was blessed when two more friends, Stephanie and Chris, came to congratulate me. It was really nice to see some friendly faces at the finish line.

All and all, as much as I hate to say it, running the marathon was an exciting and rewarding experience. You learn a lot about yourself through the training and race process. Running is more of a mental game than anything else. It requires strength, determination, perseverance and belief that you can do it. And while I may have doubted myself along the way, now I know I can and have accomplished it. With that said, many have asked if I will be running another marathon anytime soon. The answer is NO. While my race experience was in no way bad, nor did I have any true injuries during the six months. I do not think I want to put myself through all of it again. It just takes up too much of your time and puts too much stress on your body. My goal was to finish a marathon and do it in under 5 hours. I accomplished both on Sunday. I finished the marathon in 4:45:34 and couldn't be happier with my achievement. So I have no problem letting this be my one and only 26.2 mile adventure.

I want to thank everyone who supported me through this physical and emotional journey, especially my best friend Stephanie who not only talked me into running the race but also ran it with me. I also want to congratulate Stephanie and my other friends who completed the Disney marathon (Anita, Erin, Julie and Ruben). I hope you enjoyed the experience as much as I did and are now stretching and resting your tired legs.