I woke up much earlier than I had hoped, probably around 8am. I laid around for a bit, debating whether or not to get up, head to the food court, and get some breakfast. My intention all along was to have something like an english muffin with peanut butter and a banana to start prepping my body. But I am not typically a breakfast eater, and I didn't think it was a good idea to start adjusting my body to an unusual food regiment on the day of my race. That, and I liked the warmth of my bed. I did enjoy a bit of Downtown Disney where I stopped at Earl of Sandwich for a caprese sandwich. Not long after, I returned to my room in the hopes that I could take a nap. Never happened. I think I was just too excited about the race.
The field was full of runners and their spectators. Some (ok, a lot) were in line for a Mickey meet & greet. Some were standing around chatting. Some were on the field dancing and warming up to the songs they had playing. After checking in my bag, I decided to join the last group. It was probably a very good choice since I was freezing and had forgotten to pack a throwaway shirt. After dancing my heart out to songs like "I Gotta Feeling" (which I had been hoping they would play) and "Gangnam Style" (Yes, I danced to that. There is photographic evidence. I will not post it here.) I headed to a meet up with my fellow DISboards friends...
They are truly a great group of people, and I was excited to finally put faces to the names that I have been chatting with for so long in preparation for this race. They became my running family. I do hope that I will have the pleasure of enjoying future races with them.
After the meet up, I headed to my corral. Since I was in the very last corral, I wanted to be as close to the front as possible. In other words, I wanted to be as far away from the balloon ladies as possible. Jeff Galloway called them the grim reapers of the race, and they truly are. They are the ones who make sure that the runners are keeping up with the the pace. If they catch up to you and/or pass you...you are swept. I waited in my corral for the start...which wasn't going to be for another hour and forty five minutes. Finally, 10pm came. The National Anthem had been sung a few minutes before, and fireworks went off to set the first corral loose. In five minute waves, each corral had its own fireworks send off. Then, it was my turn.
|About one minute before the start|
I decided not to take pictures of all the mile markers for a few reasons...
I didn't want to fight through the runners to get over to the markers.
I didn't want to stop my own momentum when I had found a pretty good pace.
I didn't want to waste precious time and risk seeing the balloon ladies.
But I did get a few momentous ones.
Mile marker 4 came within Animal Kingdom. Only single digits left for the race miles! I have never seen Animal Kingdom in the dark. It is beautiful. How it is lit up just reminds you of small villages with little lighting, and it gives a wonderful intimate feeling. I loved looking around as I ran through.
After leaving Animal Kingdom, I knew the worst part of the race was in front of me: the stretch to Hollywood Studios. I knew that if I made it to Hollywood Studios, I would likely be able to finish the race. But that stretch is just pushing myself to get there. I quickly stopped at a porta potty (after checking to make sure no balloons were chasing me down), pumped out a bit of hand sanitizer, and ran back out on the road. Then the fatigue started to set in around mile 6. It was late, my legs were starting to get a bit worn out and sore. I wanted to finish, but didn't know how it was going to be possible. Yet, at the same time, I couldn't bear the thought of being swept. So...I started talking to myself. Literally talking to myself. I kept my voice so low that it was audible only to me. But it was the only way to keep myself going. I told myself to just make it to mile 7. That's all I had to do because then I was past the half way point. Just make it to mile 7.
I made it to mile 7. :)
Once I got there, I told myself it was all downhill from there. Poor choice of words, because that came just as I was starting to go uphill on some ramp. Which, by the way, felt like I was scaling a mountain. I was amused by the green army man they had who was motivating us to keep going. I then started telling myself to just make it to mile 8, because there will be food and drink stop. And in spite of "full food stop" signs, food (by race definition) is a Clif Gel Shot. They shouted out the flavors, and I decided to grab a raspberry one to try. I took a bit of it and threw it away. UGH gross!! And it was a big risk to take...trying anything new during the race is never a good idea, especially if you don't know how your stomach will react to it. I was fortunate it didn't do anything to me. I stuck with my honey stingers and glucose tablets. And by the way, I am glad I brought both to break up the monotony of having only one type of fuel. Yes, I did also talk to myself about rewarding myself with some fuel at certain points. I began telling myself to just make it to mile 9, because shortly after that, I would reach the 15K point (and the final tracking point before the finish). 15K came within Hollywood Studios. I had been looking forward to reaching it because I knew we would see the Osborne lights. Oh how I have wanted to see that!! But first I needed to get to mile 10. Come on, make it to mile 10. If you can make it to mile 10, you only have a 5K left to do. Only 3 miles. You can do this!
Then came the sight I had longed to see....
I have a few pictures of this section. And really, pictures don't do it justice. It took my breath away with how amazing and beautiful it was. Most people just walked through this, stopping for pictures along the way. I had kept up with my run/walk intervals. There were only 3 times I walked through my run interval and it was due to a side stitch. No matter how beautiful this area was, I didn't want to give up on my intervals. I kept going. We left Hollywood Studios and we were in the path between that and Epcot. And along that path, I found my friend who said she would be waiting to cheer me on. She called out my name and a huge smile came across my face. I was so happy to see her. I was so happy I made it that far. But it wasn't over yet. Epcot was just ahead of me. Finally, I made it in. I ran through Future World, briefly stopping for only a moment to snap a quick picture of Spaceship Earth. It was a bit odd running through there since the after party was already going on. I felt like I was just running through the park on any normal night. And there was a bit of frustration with this as in one area, some spectators seemed to lose sense of "courtesy" and were cutting through us to get to whatever side they wanted to be on. Not ok. Not ok for us to have to watch where WE are going for the spectators to cut through. But it was almost over. I kept talking to myself. You are almost there. You will cross that finish line and enjoy a celebratory margarita at the party. Absolutely.
YES!!! Strobe lighting, laser effects, loud music, and only .1 miles to go. I abandoned my intervals and ran that last bit. There was no way I was crossing that finish line walking. I crossed it running, smiling the entire way. I finished, threw my hands in the air...and started crying.
I couldn't believe it was over and I made it. I checked my tracking, and I finished in 3:32:14 (the clock time in the above picture shows the time elapsed since the first corral started). It was longer than I had hoped it would take me to finish, about 30 minutes longer. I don't care. The important thing to me was that I finished, period. My medal hung around my neck. I was happy. I grabbed the handouts (bananas, Powerade, and a snack box). I took my finisher's picture.
About a moment after the picture was taken, the pain set in. I started hobbling instead of walking. My legs did not want to function. I decided that the after party was just not going to happen. Besides, I made my appearance by running through it and that was good enough for me. I tore off the "drink voucher" part of my bib and picked up a sangria, and eventually (and slowly) made my way to my bus. And at some point, I also made my way back to my room and into my bed. This, of course, was after throwing my shoes away from my body and saying, "I hate you, I am never running again!"
I finished. In spite of continually looking behind my shoulder, I never even saw the balloon ladies. I have no idea what they look like. I hope I never have to find out. There were nearly 14,000 registered runners according to runDisney. There were 11,617 finishers. I was one of them. Me. The girl filled with self doubt crossed the finish line. I am a half marathon finisher. And yes, I WILL be running again. This will not be my last race.
Race disappointments: Really, there were only a couple. There were plenty of interval runners like myself. But many of them lacked the courtesy of moving to the side during their walk intervals. Several of us had to weave around people to do our running. This was particularly frustrating in the path between Hollywood Studios and Epcot, where it is already narrow and some walkers were side by side in groups of 4 or 5 people. That should never happen. Second, I did see someone in front of me at the finish who had their medal placed around their neck. I had to grab mine from a volunteer who looked disinterested. Look, I know it is a long time. I know there are thousands of people crossing that finish line. But this is an accomplishment for each and every runner. We are putting forth more effort into running those 13+ miles than it is taking you to hang a medal around our necks and congratulate us. If you are going to volunteer, please make us feel as accomplished as we really are.
Race highlights: Well, everything else! This was an incredible experience. The volunteers were incredible with their constant encouragement throughout the course. I recall one specifically saying, "you all are half marathoners!!" It took everything in me not break down in tears at the realization that I was exactly that. The on course entertainment was so much fun. Floats from the Main Street Electrical Parade AND Spectromagic, character photo ops (I didn't take any), bands/DJs along the way...it was great! Then there were the parks, the Osborne lights, the amazing finish. That feeling of accomplishment. I can be excited and proud all I want for days to come...but nothing will top that very instant where I crossed the finish line and knew I did it. And that trumps any disappointment.
Sunday, November 11th. I am a half marathon finisher.