Let me set the stage for you...
The time: 2:30am
The location: Jaimee's room (long story as to how I got stashed in Jaimee's room for the night, but it involves third world housing up in my own hotel room)
The temp: low 60's and humid
And so begins the magical day of my very first (note I said first, and not only!) marathon. It's a very strange feeling waking up at 2:30 in the morning, getting dressed, and trying to eat something in preparation for the biggest, longest run of your life. I was surprisingly able to eat half a bagel with some peanut butter, but it fought me the whole way.
Just after 3am, Ronnie, Jess, Scott, and I made our way to the magical Disney transportation and met up with Scott's friend Joe, who is hereby known as Tweedle Dum. No, no, I'm not being rude. He really is Tweedle Dum!
|'Dee and 'Dum|
So we arrived at Epcot along with another 22,000 or so runners and were herded towards the starting corral. I know this might come as a shock to you, but it was a very, very long walk. Along the way was a bag check, where I stored a protein bar, assorted warm clothes in case I got chilly after the run (sometimes I get really cold), and my stale, half eaten bagel (I forgot to throw it out). Then we made a couple (yes, more than one) stops at various porta-potties along the very, very long walk. As we got closer to the starting corrals we saw dozens and dozens of men (and women!) making their own urinals along the tree line. All five of us started in corral C, although technically 'Dee could have started in B and 'Dum schmoozed someone into getting into corral A.
|Our wolf pack|
Remember my plan to run the highway sections and walk the parks? Yeah, that didn't work. Mostly because what I failed to anticipate was the overwhelmingly thick crowds that never, ever really thinned out. And this crowd was moving at a solid 12:00 min/mile pace, so navigating around people was tricky. Not impossible, as 'Dee, 'Dum, Ronnie, and Jess all managed to dart in and out of people and I never saw them after the first mile. I didn't feel like wasting that energy and getting myself frustrated, so I moved out when I could, and resigned myself to a slow jog otherwise. The other thing that really threw me off was the cult-like followers of the Jeff Galloway walk/run marathon program. Man, that guy really pissed me off. Now I have no problem whatsoever with people walking when they need to, and yes I think it's great that he's brought so many people the opportunity to complete a marathon, but geeeeeez. It seemed that every last person anywhere near me had a special alarm that would beep when it was time to start walking, or start running. After the first hour, it was already bugging me. And I was only 20% of the way done at that point. And people commenting, "oh, yup, it's been three minutes already! Time to walk!" Piss off! It was a constant battle of trying to stay at or slightly ahead of the pace of the people around me, when suddenly everyone would start walking. It really messed with me. I was also somewhat alarmed because in the starting corral I remember being lined up slightly behind both the 5:20 pace group and the 6:20 pace group, and I don't remember ever passing them. Since I'm not good at long distance math, (remember, 13 miles was my longest run ever before today) I had no idea how long it was going to take me to finish this damn race. I kept thinking, it's going to take me 7 goddamn hours to get to the finish line.
For the first several miles I felt good. It was dark, humid, and my glasses kept fogging up, but I was feeling fresh. We first ran to the Magic Kingdom, where I took advantage of actual bathrooms to make a pit stop. I also stopped to take a few pictures here and there.
|Me in front of Cinderella's castle, all lit up! (The castle, not me. Yet.)|
Somewhere during this part of the race I crossed a split mat which shot off my current whereabouts to those who had signed up to receive text message alerts. (This was mile 5, I believe). I got a couple text messages from friends encouraging me. Weren't they surprised when I responded!
After Magic Kingdom we headed towards the speedway, where we ran around the track and saw dozens of very cool classic cars. They were really beautiful, I swear. You'll have to trust me on this one, because I was too lazy to take my phone out for any pictures. Shortly after the speedway, my feet started bugging me. Really bugging me. Not injury-bugging me, but "this is what you get for doing so much walking the last three days" kind of bugging me. It was only mile 7, so that kind of sucked. A lot. I started walking more frequently at this point, although it didn't make my feet hurt any less, so then I reasoned with myself that I should just keep running to get it over with faster. Smart, right?
We trotted around Animal Kingdom, where I somehow got a rock in my shoe and had to stop. I sat down, and thought about just staying there until the park opened. Finally got myself back up, made it through the park, and back out onto another really boring highway. However, look at this handsome devil I made friends with!
|Look, we even match!|
Once outside of the ESPN Complex, we hit the 20 mile mark. They had a ***20 Mile Spectacular!!*** which was a short stretch of road with people dressed up as giant characters, like 15 feet high. Or maybe they were just plain characters, I can't remember. Or maybe I was just hallucinating. I remember thinking, I think I can actually make it. Even if I just walk the rest of the way, I think I will make it. I think the most uplifting thing happened when we went up a hill (it was an overpass of a highway) and I was the only, I repeat... THE ONLY person running. Every single person around me walked up the hill, and I kept hearing people complaining about "the hill". I honestly felt like the single best and most talented and athletic runner in the whole world at that very moment. GI Joe men were lined up screaming at us. He yelled at one guy to do push ups if he wasn't going to run. So, the guy dropped and did 10. I laughed. I wish I got a picture of the GI Joe men. I really loved them.
Finally we entered Hollywood Studios, and saw - gasp - spectators! That's just the boost I needed! Jaimee planned on being in the park, but I wasn't sure where I would see her or if she would even still be there. I had lost all concept of time and thought maybe everyone else ran past her hours ago. I scoured the crowds looking for her and actually spotted her! I ran over to her, stopped, chatted for a while, and did some stretching. She kept saying, "you look great! You look so much better than everyone else! Keep going, get back out there!" All I really wanted to do was just hang out for a while, but after a couple minutes of chatting I took off for the final three miles. Once I entered Epcot, I knew I'd made it. I walked one last time, and then ran the final couple miles to the finish. The finish line was like a mirage. I saw blue banners waaaaaay off in the distance and thought that was the finish line, only to reach the banners and realize the finish line was still out of sight. When I made the final bend towards the finish, I was so, SO happy to see that the marathon spectators had put the half marathon spectators to shame. There were thousands of people near the finish screaming their heads off, holding signs and waving. I felt exactly like I was finishing a marathon. Mickey gave me a high-five as I crossed the finish line, in a time of 5 hours, 24 minutes, and 43 seconds.
My absolute favorite volunteer of the whole race was the one that gave me water after the finish line. Not because she gave me water, but because she made me take two bottles, and yelled at me to drink it. "Drink the water. Drink both waters! Drink them! Right now! Open them up right now and drink them! Now!!!" I had a severe case of Runner's brain when I crossed the finish line. I couldn't really think straight. My brain was all wobbly and tired and nothing really sunk in. She clearly had seen a number of people suffering from Runner's brain and knew the telltale signs. She really had to yell at me to get my attention. She got it, and I drank it!
I wobbled through bag check (the most efficient process, EVER) and two of my new favorite people in the world, Scott and Tricia, were right there waiting for me and snapping a photo.
I don't think I really formulated a sentence but grunted something about "sit" and "shade" and then I was sitting in the shade. After a few minutes I pulled out my phone to take a picture, and realized I had gotten a complete onslaught of text messages congratulating me on the finish. Oh, so nice to get such thunderous applause from so far away. I think it helped bring me back to life! At about this time, Becca called to see where I was and gave me directions to go meet everyone in the parking lot. I remember her giving me landmarks and detailed instructions, and take a left. The only thing I absorbed was "take a left". (Runner's brain!) So the three of us walked in the direction of the buses, took a left, and ended up right at the bus to our hotel. Magical! But... Becca and crew were nowhere to be found. I called them and said I was at the bus but couldn't find them. This is all a bit fuzzy but the end result was that I had pulled a Jaimee and after they had spent time waiting for me, I hopped on the bus without them. And I never lived it down.
Meanwhile, back at the hotel, Tricia (I love her) was making us ice baths for our feet while Scott and I got into our rooms. This is as far as I made it:
|Note: This is not my bed. This is not even my room. (Sorry Scott)|
After drinking lots, and lots, and lots of water and PowerAde, we all showered and headed to the pool. I was pretty proud of myself for just being able to walk to the pool! We did a little light swimming, just enough to keep our legs moving, and then headed up to the hotel room for our post-race festivities.
We all jammed into the room, turned on the Patriots playoff game, and in no time had the room looking like a frat house! Beers and pizza everywhere, and that was heaven!
|Our first drink in Epcot|
|Our last drink in Epcot|
So, overall what did I think? I think for a first time marathon it was a great one. Yes it was hectic and too crowded and too expensive and we were at the mercy of Disney, but it was well organized and it was in conjunction with an awesome vacation with fabulous people in perfect weather. The funny thing is, as "exciting" as Disney is, I thought there were a lot of really boring sections to this course. I may be the minority, but through Disney design, it's nearly impossible for spectators to be anywhere on the course except for a handful of spots. There were a lot of boring miles on endless stretches of highways where I could have used some crowd support. There were some bands playing which helped, but not for long. I'm definitely looking forward to greater crowd support in Boston! Would I do it again? Mmmm... not this year. But yeah, I would probably do it again!
And guys, really... nearly ALL of these pictures were stolen from Scott. So please, check out his blog too!