Last year about this time some friends of mine were talking about doing the Walt Disney World Marathon in 2016. I was new to enjoying running, but they said: “Disney races are magical!” “We’re going to wear costumes!” “Self-torture is so fun!” and I was convinced. In April, we sealed our fates and registered to do the marathon on January 10, 2016.
The training plan I used started in July. It seemed pretty doable until about halfway through. My 15-miler was OK. My 17-miler was really bad. My two 20-milers were utterly horrible. “Well, that’s to be expected,” I thought. “Training runs are supposed to suck! Race Day Magic is legit [no, really, it is], and surely it must be tenfold at Disney World!”
Race day was this past Sunday. First things first, and I knew this going in (yet still signed up for this?!): for a race on Disney World property you have to wake up so early that it’s actually late for some people. In this case, our alarms went off at two freaking forty-five a.m. 2:45am, people!
The race itself started at 5:30 so even if you could just magically appear there, it’s still pretty dang early. Instead we had to walk about a mile from our bus dropoff to the pre-race area, then another 1.5 or so before we even hit the starting line. Yes: we had walked 2.5 miles before the marathon even started. Our corral didn’t start till about 6:00am, so if you’re keeping track, it was three hours from wake-up to actually starting the race.
Finally – finally! – the race started! Hooray! Excitement! Fireworks! At first it was crowded, dark, and just on regular roads, but time passed quickly and we reached Magic Kingdom! Running down Main Street and through Fantasyland and Cinderella’s Castle and Frontierland was fantastic.
But shortly after we left Magic Kingdom it got bad. Very bad. We had trained properly, we had tapered properly, we didn’t go out too fast, we had eaten and fueled and dressed properly, but still it was awful. Instead of having sore feet around mile 14 like in our training runs, we had sore feet beginning around mile 8. Rebecca left us around then because she’s a fast person and couldn’t take it any longer. (We wanted her to for her sake!) Kelly and I wanted to stay together unless the sweepers were an immediate threat, so we did a lot more walking early on because of sore feet and because, did I mention, she’s pregnant… with twins?! Although it was probably easier on my muscles to walk that much, I think that extra time on my feet made them worse. By mile 14 they were on fire.
When we got to mile 16 and had been hurting for eight miles and realized we still had ten miles to go…
Interestingly though, thinking of it as five miles to five miles instead of ten straight did help mentally. And I pointed out to Kelly that we had already been pushing the stupid wall for five miles at least by that point and we could push it another five more, and then another five more. Quitting or giving into the pain was not an option, and neither was being swept, because there was no way I’d ever do 26.2 again.
In the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, around mile 18, Kelly recognized Emily from a Facebook running group we’re in and called to her. She ended up hanging out with us for the rest of the race, and she was awesome. Turns out we have a lot in common, including kids who were born in Ethiopia! Having friends to talk to definitely made this thing slightly less horrible.
[Intermission: I should take a minute here to say that runDisney puts on a great race. There are tons of water/Powerade/fuel stops, plenty of medical tents, lots of character photo ops, bands, and distractions, and the crowd/spectator support is fantastic. Apart from the absolutely ungodly wake-up time and the 2.5 mile walk before the starting line, it was not the race’s fault that my experience was so bad. Actually, I’ve already signed up or another rD race! Spoiler alert: it is NOT a marathon! /Intermission]
I’ve never been excited to leave Disney’s Hollywood Studios before, but this day I was thrilled; the sweepers were closing in and once we got past the buses outside that park, between miles 23 and 24, even if they passed us we were safe and would be allowed to finish the race no matter how long it took. The bus drivers cheered as we passed them; we had made it!
We hobbled by Kelly’s family. We hobbled by the Boardwalk and Yacht Club resorts where Emily’s friend gave me the best Coke I’ve ever tasted. We hobbled into EPCOT and I laughed because I was so happy to get to EPCOT and since it’s my least favorite of the four Disney World parks I’ve never had that reaction before. We hobbled around the World (Showcase) and pondered why EPCOT had to be so freaking big. We hobbled by the big golf ball. We hobbled by the gospel choir at the long-awaited mile 26 sign. We hobbled till we could see the finish line. And then we used the last of our strength and ran it in!
Rebecca had to wait for us for about two hours, but she’s used to waiting for me after races. Heh. My blood sugar dropped after the race and I had to lie down a while. They made me get up to get this group shot, and I’m thankful that we have a finished shot of the three of us. (My face, though, was actually because my husband said, “Say ‘can’t wait to do this again someday’!”)
My Garmin almost went kaput at the end of the race, so I have no record of my steps from after about 3:00pm, but even without that I’m legit thinking about getting a 50K sticker for my car because I ACTUALLY RAN/WALKED 50K in just race-related distance.
We hobbled about half a mile toward our much-too-far-away bus before spotting courtesy wheelchairs. I was in way too much pain to have any pride, so as my husband wheeled me toward the bus (and Rebecca pushed Kelly) I just whimpered because my feet hurt that bad and I wasn’t even using them at the moment.
But, y’all – we did it. I DID IT. People say that doing a marathon is 90% mental, and they’re right in two ways: 1) I finished this out of mental stubbornness and refusal to quit even though my feet were screaming for me to do so, and 2) you have to be 90% mental to attempt it. Heh.
The thing with doing a marathon is that supposedly everyone hates it while they’re doing it and for a day or two after while the memories – and pain – are still fresh. Then they change their mind a few days after the race, for a few reasons. I’ve seen this happen with my own friends a few times.
Well, it’s Wednesday now – three days later, and I am pain-free – so what about me? Have I changed my mind? Do I want to do it again? Do I hate having my only marathon experience forever be that terrible? Do I wonder how much faster I could do it on my own? And if you keep smugly saying, “Mm-hmm, sure, we’ll see”?