… Continued from Part 1
I crossed the start line at 6:01 AM. Beside me was Roxy, who was faster than me and I would soon say goodbye to. Behind me were my Marathonfest group leaders, Emily and Sue, and fellow group member and first time marathoner, Christina. Or at least I thought they were behind me. A few minutes later I turned around and they were gone in the masses. It would be 20 miles before I saw Christina again.
I found myself alone, yet surrounded by runners. I popped in my ear buds and settled in for the long haul… one foot in front of the other for the next five plus hours.
The start of the race had us running down Epcot Center Drive and looping back around to the front of Epcot. I knew Donnie and my mom would be right in front of the entrance on the left-hand side. As I approached the crowds I started trying to focus on the many faces. My night vision is horrible and I was scared that I would somehow miss them.
I found them just before the entrance and started waving. They later teased me for not stopping for a photo op, but I knew I would see them around mile 9 again and figured I would stop then. My original intent had been to stop and take off my arm sleeves before Epcot, but it was still cold out. I kept running.
When I entered the park, the infamous Epcot ball hovered before me, glowing in the night. I instantly felt like a kid again, amazed by its presence.
We ran partially around the World Showcase Lagoon and I thought about all of the wonderful food I had tried there recently during the International Food & Wine Festival. My pre-race breakfast of an english muffin with peanut butter seemed like ages ago and I was already hungry.
We exited Epcot through a back exit. Next up was the Magic Kingdom, but it would be several miles on property highways before we reached it.
I kept myself entertained myself by taking inventory of all of the people running in costume around me. There were Tinkerbells and Peter Pans and Minnie Mouses and Snow Whites galore! My favorites were all the men running dressed up as Tinkerbell, even wearing tights. Sometimes I would just stare at a costumed runner in front of me and think to myself, “That just can’t be comfortable.” I’m glad they didn’t turn around to see me staring at them with a puzzled, yet amused look on my face.
Towards the end of the run to Magic Kingdom, the sun had come up and I rolled my arm sleeves down. As we approached crowds I started to look for Donnie and my mom. I was so happy to see them that I asked for not one, but two kisses from Donnie. I thought he was taking a picture of me, but it turns out he was video taping me:
I love how you can hear my mom yelling my name at the very beginning of the clip. And Donnie cracked me up. Ha!
As we entered the Magic Kingdom I got really excited. As a kid growing up in Orlando, we used to visit Disney at least once or twice a year. But it had been more than 10 years from my last visit, and I was looking forward to running (literally) down memory lane.
When you enter the Magic Kingdom, you run down Main Street towards the Cinderella Castle, but veer through Tomorrowland first.
I found a volunteer and asked them to snap this shot of me in front of the castle:
My next stop was a bathroom in Tomorrowland. I have to say that one of the pros of running Disney is that it’s possible to never have to use a port-o-potty. At each of the four parks you visit you have access to their clean restrooms.
Running through the Cinderella Castle I couldn’t help but think how small it looked. When I was a little girl the castle always seemed so BIG! Either it got smaller or I got bigger. Regardless, it was still pretty magical.
Next up would be Disney’s Animal Kingdom, approximately four miles away. But first, we got to run through their compost facilities. I can pretty much cover that with one word: Ew.
As we entered Disney’s Animal Kingdom through a back entrance, they had a bunch of animal handlers lined up with different animals. I saw a goat, the cutest owl I’ve ever seen, rabbits and some other animals. A lot of people were petting them, but the last thing I wanted wanted were dirty animal hands. I kept running. And I kept my eyes peeled on the ground ahead of me. I could smell the poop and didn’t want to step in it.
I’ve never been to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, so I was trying to take it all in. Funny how I never noticed the giant mountain behind me:
Here I am monkeying around:
Shortly after that picture, something horrible happened: my iPod Shuffle’s battery died. I panicked. What was I going to do without my most amazing playlist to get me through the final miles? Around this time I started to notice how hot it was getting. Were there really no clouds in the sky?
Lucky for me, they were handing out cold sponges at one of the next water stops (mile 17.5). Hooray for small miracles! That little fifty cent sponge could’ve been gold to me at that point. I had remembered Donnie telling me that he had kept his during the ING Miami Marathon and had wet it during every water stop so rather than toss mine like everyone else was doing, I kept it. I was so glad I did!
Here’s a pic of me and my golden sponge:
Around mile 18, my IT band in my left knee started to hurt. I pulled the wrap I had tighter and grabbed some extra-strength Tylenol at the next first aid station. It helped enough to keep me moving.
The run to Disney’s Hollywood Studios was more highway, which means we were out in the open with no protection from the sun. I really missed my music. And the sunglasses and hat that I always said I was going to buy but never actually did.
This is a good time to mention that I trained with run/walk intervals. I run five minutes, walk one minute, run five, walk one and so on and so forth. I did this on race day as well. Up until around mile 18 starting back up on the run after walking hadn’t been so bad. But slowly that was changing.
I think I had just taken one of the atomic energy bites that Emily had given me from her final stash when I heard my name. I looked back and saw Christina. I was so happy to see her. I think I screamed when I saw her. In my head at least. I may have been too tired at this point to actually make any noise.
She looked and sounded great. Her energy level was up and she was keeping a good pace. I, on the other hand, was having trouble bending my knee and the sun was killing me. I had hit the proverbial wall and she looked like she had just climbed it and kicked its ass.
We caught each other up on our race so far. She had lost Sue and Emily and had been running the last 10 miles by herself. She felt good and was stopping to get pictures and had caught up to me. I grunted something about my dead iPod.
Mile 20 and 21 are a bit of an out and back so I got to see some friends that were ahead of me. I was surprised that we weren’t far behind one particular group of friends. I later found out that they had stopped to ride a ride in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Ha!
At one point I felt bad flaunting my nice cool sponge in front of Christina so I tore mine in half and shared it with her. I think she loved it almost as much as I did.
I got excited when we hit mile 23 because I knew some fellow Marathonfesters would be manning the candy table. I spotted two of my group members immediately and they dumped lots of chocolate in my hands and pushed me on my way. It was a nice little boost for our final 5k.
Between Disney’s Hollywood Studios and back through Epcot we ran on the boardwalk that runs along Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resort. I struggled here the most. Let’s just say that the walk breaks came more frequently at this point and every time I started back up to run I sounded like a sailor. I also started to get angry at people that were yelling “You’re almost there!” Sure, three miles might be a short run if you just started, but after running for 23 miles, it seems like forever away.
At the end of the boardwalk we came across the local Lululemon girls that had come out to cheer on the runners. Andrea from Run, Eat, Date, Sleep was there and blogged about their cheering here. Their energy was great and their signs made me smile. And I was amazed that the educator that had helped me pick out my race day clothes a week earlier remembered my name. Now that’s outstanding service!
As Christina and I entered back into Epcot, I almost cried when I saw that we had to run around most of World Showcase Lagoon again. Wasn’t there a monorail we could take to the end? And why were all of these people smiling? Didn’t they know how much pain I was in??
As we neared the Epcot ball for the second time that day, I willed myself to keep moving. I only had to run for a couple more minutes and this would all be done. We could hear the crowd up ahead and suddenly I was overwhelmed with emotion. I remember trying to thank Christina for sticking with me, but only managed to get out about half of it.
As we rounded the last corner and saw the finish line, my body suddenly got lighter. I heard my mom yelling and I saw Donnie jumping up and down and hollering my name. And seconds later I finished my first marathon.
I honestly still can’t believe I did it. Years ago I stood on the sidelines of the New York City Marathon and said that I could never run a marathon. Well… never say never.
- Disney is the happiest place on earth
- You get to run through all of the theme parks
- Local race for Central Florida residents
- Access theme park restrooms during the race
- Take photos with Disney characters along the way
- A lot of people dressed up, which makes for fun atmosphere
- Best start of a race
- Spectators can take monorail to different cheer points
- Costly Race ($160)
- A lot of long highway stretches with limited accessibility for spectators
- Limited shade / coverage from the sun
- Running by compost/trash facility (ew)
Here are some pictures from after the race: