The 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon has been a longtime goal of mine, ever since I took up running in January 2011. Back then I made a goal to run a Half Marathon in a year, which I did (at Disney) in January 2012. After completing that run, I made it my goal to run a Full Marathon in a year, which I finally accomplished (at Disney) this past Sunday, January 13, 2013. So, if my calculations are correct (I can’t remember if I’m supposed to carry the 4…?) this makes me, officially, a Marathon runner. Or is it Marathoner? El Marathonerio? Ahh I forget…
But holy crap, I actually did this… I ran a MARATHON!! Makes you want to cue up some Rocky music and pound a side of beef in a meat locker!!
I first heard about Disney’s Marathon Weekend from listening to Lou Mongello‘s WDW Radio podcast years ago, long before I ever strapped on a pair of overpriced sneakers and hit the asphalt. He had run the Half and was waxing poetically about what an amazing experience it was, both as a runner and later as a spectator. Being an unrepentant Disney nerd and an unrelentingly out-of-shape blobule, I figured running a Disney race would be a fun (and, hopefully, attainable?) goal, so when I started on my path I gave myself that full year to train. I probably could have done it in six or seven months, but I’m glad I gave myself the opportunity to build up slowly over time. When I finally ran that Half in 2012, I was well ready for it. Given another year to train for the Full in 2013, would I be just as ready for that race as I was in 2012? Or would I end up just flipping ye olde proverbial bacon-trampoline here?
Read on, gentle friends…
THE SAGA BEGINS…
Boots and I left our home in Fort Lauderdale on Thursday night and made it to Disney’s Port Orleans French Quarter resort about 3 hours later. After checking in, getting to our room, unpacking, decompressing, and passing out, I woke up Friday morning at 6am and went for a walk around the grounds. Waking up early and going for walks is quite habitual for me in the days before a race. It was cool, damp, and breezy out, and I walked along the Sassagoula River listening to Patton Oswalt on Spotify, at a strolling pace, enjoying the atmosphere. As usual per staying on Disney property, I saw more than a few bunnies darting in and out of the landscape. I always consider that good fortune, so any chance to bank karma before a big run is more than welcome. After grabbing some coffee at the Riverside food court, I eventually made my way back to the room and “found Boots to be awake already”. Meaning: “I passive aggressively made noise until she woke up, and then innocently said, ‘Oh, you’re up? Let’s go do things’…” If I didn’t have the schmucky likability of a young Steve Guttenberg, I probably wouldn’t have any teeth left.
After morning ablutions we walked to the food court at Riverside for breakfast (I was CONVINCED French Quarter had no food court… uh oh), then made our way to the Health Expo at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex to pick up my registration materials. We did it last year, and I remember how bustling and crowded it was then, so I figured this year would be no different. And while it was definitely crowded, the lines definitely kept moving and spirits were pretty high, so well-done on crowd control there, Disney. First we did the usual entrance pic:
Then it was off to the HP Field House, where I went to register and pick up my racing bib and commemorative pin. I always “splurge” for the pin (all of 13 freakin’ bucks). Now that I have four of them, they look kinda spiffy next to each other. The Field House wasn’t very crowded at all. Most people were there to register for the Half, so the Full area was pretty open. There was only one person ahead of me in line, so I was in and out fairly quickly. Although the two entertainingly feisty ladies at the booth could have kept me standing there in stitches all day.
Then came the tag test, followed by what seemed to be an eternity in line at the merchandise area (another Disney innovation: convincing you to stand in long lines to spend money on crap you really don’t need!), and with those completed it was out the door to Stage 2 of the registration process: picking up your swag bag at the Jostens Center!
Last year, we simply walked into the Jostens Center.
This year, not quite so easy. The line was so huge, it literally wrapped around the building and grounds in a perfect quadrilateral. ZOWIE! But like I said before, it was a long line but it kept moving. I don’t think we were outside for more than 10-15 minutes before we finally got in to grab the swag. The race shirt was nice but, as a long-sleeved shirt, I’ll rarely use it. South Florida weather precludes its utilization for pretty much 97% of the year. After I received my stuff, we noticed the CIGNA booth was taking free green-screen pictures and decided to take advantage. Being natural goofballs, *this* was the end result:
A good friend of mine described this picture as epic. I’m inclined to agree. Even cooler though was the appearance of none other than Drew Carey himself, snapping photos right next to where we were posing. Again, we took advantage, hopped into line, and got this shot:
Drew is a regular Disney runner, but he had a blown knee and was sitting this one out. He wished me good luck on my first Marathon. That was pretty goshdarn cool. 🙂 Seriously, cue up some Rocky music, I gots me a celebrity endorsement!!
OK so after that, I hit the vendor area and bought some new compression leg sleeves. I was not going to run in those heinously awful tie-dye colored Zensahs I had been using up to that point. It was gonna be black and ONLY black. I decided on a whim to try on a pair of CEP calf sleeves and became a fan almost instantly. They didn’t look as dorky as the Zensahs and had much better support. I ran the entire full without any calf or shin issues, and coming off a nasty case of shin splints that hit me in late December, this was a serious concern. Consider this a hearty endorsement, CEP. Now send me free stuff. JUST kidding! Maybe.
With that we were done with registration, so went over to Animal Kingdom for the day (had a real fun time), had dinner at Boma over at the Animal Kingdom Lodge (freakin’ AWESOME! Loved every second of it), and turned in that evening. The next day — the day before the race — was pretty low-key and easy. I woke up at 5am, went on another stroll, managed to watch the fireworks and listen to the crowds and announcer as the Half Marathon was starting (our hotel was extremely close to the Epcot starting line, so I could hear everything), and saw a few more bunnies. Another trip to the food court for breakfast, then we hopped the boat from Port Orleans to Downtown Disney and spent a casual few hours hanging about.
The infamous “Ruin To Jesus” skywriting disaster occured that day. Given that it was Marathon Weekend, someone paid this company probably a good fortune to paint “RUN TO JESUS” in the sky. Reading is fundamental, kids. This was the end result:
Someone is so fired. No Rocky music for you.
After a quick lunch at Pollo Campero, we took the boat back to the hotel, relaxed for a bit, went over to the Cape May Cafe at the Beach Club Resort for dinner (it was good but it was *no* Boma, plus where were the Oreo bon-bons?), carbed up, and returned back to our hotel for an early turn-in. I popped my favorite palindromic sleep-enabler, laid out my gear for the next day, and by about 8:30PM I was OUT.
The cell-phone brightly chirped out its Samsung-y melody at 3:00AM on the dot, and I shot out of bed like a madcap Rick Weaver-ism. SHOWTIME! The excitement and adrenaline pretty killed off any sleep remnants or exhaustion of any kind, I was gunning to race. I quickly covered a bagel with peanut butter and jelly, scarfed it down with a banana, drank a bottle of water and started sipping at Powerade. I did the Body Glide slide on all the usual parts, and got dressed in my running regalia — Millheiser RULES!!! team running shirt, shorts, manties, brand-new CEP compression sleeves, Thorlo socks, and my trusted Saucony Mirage 2 kicks. My arm pouch was fitted on, cell phone inside, and I packed about seven GU gels: one for before the race, six during. 100 calories of malodextrin- and fructose-powered energy every 45 minutes, on the dot. Running sunglasses in hand, to be slipped on at sunrise, and earphones hung on my collar, for optimal tunage delivery.
I was a king’s cut of awesomesauce with a side order of buttkickery and derring-do!!
Boots and I didn’t bother with the resort bus. Those lines looked heinous and obnoxious, and quite frankly I’m grossly allergic to lines of any kind. So we hopped into our car at about 3:45AM and drove over. It probably took about 40 minutes to literally go right across the street, but we were in the Start Area by around 4:30ish. Already runners were beginning to begin the long walk to their corrals, so after a few quick pics I bid Boots adieu and started the long trek down to Corral D. I was hoping to say hi to sis-in-law Natalie, Jeannie, and their friend Michelle, but it was entirely way too much of a hectic scene for any real coordination. But they all went outfitted as Disney princesses, which was rather apropos. There were plenty of women dressed as princesses, and more than a few dudes sa well. One year I’ll do it in costume. Maybe a Chernabog, if I can make the wings work somehow. And the horns. And the raising up of infernal spirits to terrorize the moral world. That last part might be the easiest.
After the ceremonial PRP and an additional pee break (what IS it about Disney runs that make the bladder so afflicted?) I set out on 20 minutes of slow trekking to get to Corral D, arriving there around 5:15ish. There wasn’t much to do except “enjoy” the pre-race entertainment, which consisted of video screens showing “interviews” with Mickey, Donald, etc. They managed to get some face time with Joey Fatone, who was doing the Goofy Challenge that year. Psycho. That was his first time racing, ever. I’m doing the Goofy next year, but we’re talking after 3 years of racing and training. This guy, this guy right here, he just waltzed right into it without ever racing before. Sheesh. I snapped one final picture of myself before putting the phone into Airplane Mode and going into radio-silence. Finally at just before 5:30AM, we got some encouraging words from Disney Race management, a well-sung National Anthem (I still cover my heart when I hear it. I wish more people would…), and then the wheelchair racers were off and running. Shortly thereafter, the race began proper with the elites in Corral A taking off from WAY ahead of me.
Corral B took off about 10 minutes later, and Corral C 10 minutes after that. Finally, at right around 6:00AM, Corral D was jockeyed into position, and my fellow runners and I were shoulder to shoulder with excitement. Mickey laid down the countdown, my earbuds went in, I heard the final “3-2-1-GO!” Fireworks went off, I readied my Garmin watch, and we began to move forward, a slow walk at first and then a slight job. As I was yards away from the Start Line and the pace began to pick up, I hit the Garmin and it began the 26.2 mile tracking of my movement. On my phone, I punched up my traditional Disney Start-Line song — No, not the Rocky theme, but Metallica’s Master of Puppets — and crossed the threshold. It had begun — I had sliced through the early morning anxiety, left behind all my fears and doubts, put my trust in all the training, long hours, hard work, sweat, pain, and sacrifice I endured to get here, and embarked on running the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon!!
I already had to pee again…
Miles 1 – 6
Any thought in your mind that you might set a Personal Record is squashed in that first mile. The first TWO miles, really. It’s bumper to bumper, people are pacing themselves moderately (as well they should), the streets can sometimes get narrow, and there’s an incline that seems to stop people cold in their tracks. Lots of people running in the grass to avoid the crowd. The usual groups jogging 6 abreast, or coming to a dead stop in the middle of the road and then beginning a walk break, instead of doing it on the sides as they should, etc. etc. This is a DISNEY run. Although it would be great to have people follow Runners Etiquette to the best of their ability, it just ain’t gonna happen here. You have to know that going in, or you’ll find yourself quickly frustrated. The way I saw it, the first two miles were going to be my warmup. And it was pretty easygoing, for the most part. The usual marching bands, Disney characters, DJs, and other on-course entertainment stops were all there aplenty. The course itself took us west down Epcot Center Drive for nearly a mile-and-a-half, before curving north onto World Drive, where the street significantly widened, allowing runners to pick up the pace. I was worried about my shin splints coming back, and for awhile there I felt a bit of tightness both in the shins and in the arches of my feet, but those quickly dissipated. I kept my form and stride rock solid: striking on the mid-foot, a medium stride that wasn’t too quick or too long, breathing the usual 3-count-intake, 2-count-outtake, and moving steadily. My pace was purposefully slower than my usual 13.1 pace, running 5:1 intervals instead of 6:1. I didn’t want to tire out quickly. With those crowds, I doubt I could have gone much faster anyhow.
Right before Mile 3 we crossed through the Main Entrance on World Drive (where you pass through and pay to get to the Magic Kingdom parking area), past the Walt Disney World Speedway, and by Mile 4 we were through the gates of the Ticket and Transportation Center. I’m feeling pretty solid at this point. The pain in my shins and arches are almost gone, and the palpable excitement of getting closer to the Magic Kingdom is keeping my spirits real high. By Mile 5 were are passing the Contemporary Hotel and only then am I coming to the sudden realization that I am, in fact, quite sweaty. The morning weather is pretty nice for a run: there’s lots of condensation in the air, but this isn’t summer humidity. It’s cool and moist, and it almost deceiptively keeps you from feeling as hot, sweaty, and heated as you actually are. Thankfully, none of this is taken for granted. I’m regular with my hydration stops (Powerade) and taking care not to go any faster than I’m already going. I’m checking my Garmin to maintain pace and so far, so good. At mile 20 I’m predicted to finish in 5 Hours 3 Minutes. I’m shooting for 4:45-5:00 time, and I’m not too worried. I plan on upping the pace a bit in the next phase of the run, maybe even get, dare I say, a negative split? Ahh, hubris…
Soon we turn left past the Contemporary, onto a perimeter road running westward parallel to the park. At around 5.25 miles we enter a tunnel that leads us backstage at the Magic Kingdom, right behind Tony’s Town Tavern. We enter Main Street USA and head north, with Cinderella’s Castle in the distance. It’s lit up beautifully, with the winter lights that make it look like it’s covered in ice. Spectators are all about cheering. I notice Lou Mongello and his fellow WDW Radio cheering squad across from the Confectionary, and I realize I have to thank the guy who got me started on this running goal in the first place. I jog over and excitedly tell him, “Lou Mongello! You’re awesome!!” and we fist pump. He responds enthusiastically with smile and a “No, YOU’RE AWESOME!” and that was that, back to the race and all that business at hand.
As I hit the hub, I notice Boots waiting near the entrance to Tomorrowland. Undaunted, I pose heroically for her, and she manages to capture this quizzical oddity:
I have no idea what this pose is here. What the heck is wrong with me?? No Rocky music for you…
After running over for a quick smooch and some words of encouragement, I continue my sojourn, through Tomorrowland, up past the New Fantasyland, and then down through the Castle itself. I stop for a castle picture that I’m not too crazy about and won’t be posting here, and then it’s onward through Liberty Square and down through Frontierland. There are tons of characters out and photo ops, with lots and lots of people stopping for them. I debated on maybe grabbing a few along the way, but other than the Castle shot, I only stopped to take a character pic with Bullseye, Woody’s trusted steed. How could I *NOT* stop for that fine fella? Unfortunately, the pic hasn’t posted to MarathonFoto yet. When it does, I’ll update it here. Fooey.
With that, we exited Frontierland through a side road and we were backstage. There were more photo ops here, especially an ENTIRELY too long of a line for Captain Jack Sparrow in front of the Black Pearl. Ahhh, no thanks. Soon after, we were passing Mile 6 and exiting the Magic Kingdom.
Miles 7 – 14
This 8-mile segment was probably my favorite stretch of the entire marathon, for a variety of reasons. For many people, the thought of leaving the Magic Kingdom is entirely anti-climactic, since the “magical” moments are gone. Let’s be real: as much as you might love the other parks, they don’t have that same whimsical pazoo that the good ole MK delivers in abundance. Nonetheless, the weather was still very agreeable. Although it was warming up, it was still cool, clear, and breezy. We made our way southbound down Floridian Way, passing the Grand Floridian and Magnolia golf course. I pick up my pace slightly, averaging about 30 seconds per mile faster than before, but I’m being careful not to overextend myself. About 8.5 miles in, the run takes an interesting turn as we’re directed onto the Walt Disney World Speedway. That’s right: we ran just under a mile on the racetrack itself! This was pretty special. All sorts of vintage, antique, luxury, and of course racing cars were lined up on the entire track, with plenty of spectators and owners to cheer us on. I know several runners were complaining about this segment, thinking it’d be too hot, too hard on the feet, too . I thought it was pretty incredible, and really loved this segment. All those 400m track repeats I’ve done over the past 4 months probably helped too, since I only had to turn left during those as well. In my mind, the Rocky music is playing loud and proud!
Alas, this had to end as well, so after nearly a mile we were off the track, crossing a grass median and onto Bear Island Road, to make the 3-mile journey from the Speedway to Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I probably loved this part more than any other. This stretch of road is pretty much off-limits to guests, as it passes by Disney’s water treatment plant on the back way to AK. It was so beautifully serene, with the untouched wilderness on both sides of the road, towering high and casting long shadows, keeping runners cool and away from the vaguely threatening, slowly rising sun. It’s during this stretch that I made my best time, and felt most at ease and comfortable. There were still several character moments, photo ops, and various other entertainments, but I kept moving. At 10 miles, my projected finish was looking to be 4:58. I didn’t think 4:45 was going to be attainable, but if I could make it under 5:00, I’d be more than happy. So I kept trucking along. At the start of the 13th mile we entered the backstage of Animal Kingdom, and were greeted by several sheep, goats, and one awesome black-spotted pig, all looking rather excited and pleased with themselves, and all of them wearing racer bibs. I was tempted to snap a shot, but decided to keep going. I was now entering the second park of the day!
Particularly of note is the fact that the halfway point of the race is smack dab in the middle of Animal Kingdom, a fact that did not go unnoticed as I took this picture at the 13-Mile marker:
I’m not overly familiar with Animal Kingdom, despite having spent some time there two days prior, but it was a pleasant, shaded, and enjoyable run through that park. We entered next to Rafiki’s Planet Watch, down past Africa and through Asia. I’ve heard reports that the Expedition Everest roller-coaster was not only operational, but that runners were allowed to actually stop and ride it! If that were the case, I wouldn’t be any wiser from it, as I kept on going by. Besides, I had ridden the thing barely two days before, and it was awesome, but I wasn’t going to waste precious time on it. Onward and outward, we passed the Finding Nemo Musical building, then past Dinoland U.S.A. and out through a front entrance. At this point we were running on an EXTREMELY narrow sidewalk, which didn’t present the most optimal of running conditions. Disney may want to consider another route out of the AK next year.
After making our way through and around the parking area, including running under and then onto the Osceola Parkway, I took my one and only Porto-Potty break of the race. Why do I mention this now? I have NO idea. Maybe because I was about to hit:
Miles 15 – 20
If I had one word to describe this next leg of the race, it would still be ‘albondigas’. I can’t get enough out of that word. ALBONDIGAS! Now that we have that particular non-sequitur handled, let’s get back to the real point of this opening paragraph: TO ABSOLUTELY UNDERSCORE HOW UNBELIEVABLY SCORCHINGLY DEVASTATINGLY HOT IT HAD SUDDENLY BECOME!!
No kidding, dudes and dudettes. Our nice cool, shady, breezy morning turned into the Sun’s Anvil. Remember when T.E. Lawrence and Sherif Ali had to cross the Nefud? This was NOWHERE near that bad. But it still was powerfully draining and the heat slowed me down considerably. This is January, mind you. It should be 60 degrees, tops, but I was looking at just over 80 and rising.
Don’t forget, there is no shade on the Osceola Parkway. Now is where things start to get a bit ugly. My pace drops accordingly, roughly about a minute/mile slower than I was going in the previous stretch. Energy-wise, I’m holding up pretty well. I’m feeling the race more than ever now, but overall I’m not feeling tired, worn out, or spent, but my system is definitely being taxed harder. I’m much less aware of the course goings-on, and while all the Disney entertainment is still happening, I’m pretty much actively ignoring it in favor of monitoring how my system is holding up. Overall, I’m OK, and I’m moving on, a bit slower now but steady, over a pretty boring part of the race. The course continues to take us east, over Buena Vista Drive (where thankfully the McDonalds there didn’t entirely reek of french fries and send its wafting aromas over the race course, like it did during the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror run), and past World Drive on a 2.5 mile run on our way to the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. I’m sweating profusely from the heat and hydrating myself accordingly, although at this point I am sick to death of the flavor of Powerade. The water station right near the turn south onto Victory Way does something awesome, though: they are handing out sponges that have been soaking in ice-cold water. THIS was amazing. I grabbed one and cooled off my head, face, and neck, and it was a most refreshing and much needed refinement. The water station volunteers have been awesome this entire time, but I gotta shout out to those who offered to also pour cold water on top of your head for you. I had this done MANY times. Instant second wind.
Now here’s, unfortunately, where things start to go badly. And with no Rocky music to be found, anywhere…
After heading south on Victory Way, we enter the ESPN complex and work our way around the various fields, tracks, trails, etc. As we hit the 400m track, just before the start of the 19th mile, I suddenly and ominously feel it. My left quad, just above the knee, almost instantly starts to seize up in pain as I take my first few steps on the track. I wince and walk for a few seconds, then try to run again. Not even three steps into it, the pain comes back, MUCH more severe now. This is where you have to listen to your body. If I kept running at that time, I would have done some serious injury to my upper leg and never would have finished. I stopped, and worked my way over to the fence, and began to do some light stretches. I worked my calves, quads, groin, and hamstrings, taking about a few minutes to really make sure I wasn’t injured. Thankfully I wasn’t, but I had pulled the muscle and I didn’t want to damage it. Sore as hell. I walked slowly for a few minutes then slowly increased my pace until I felt comfortable enough to try jogging again.
My quad still felt pretty painful, but I could jog, albeit slowly on it. I slowed my intervals down to 4:1’s, and then 3:1’s, thinking that if I lowered my pace and increased walk breaks, I’d be able to maintain myself throughout the rest of the race. It wasn’t pretty. In fact, I was downright aggravated and cursing myself knowing that I would now never make even a 5-hour time. But slowly, I continued. The entire Wide World of Sports Complex was not a fun time for me. While I was able to continue at a reduced pace, at least I was mostly jogging. By the time we reached the baseball stadium, I was mostly annoyed. The soft, dirt-like track was making the pain more pronounced, and I stopped once to do a quick stretch, but I kept moving. My time was dropping some more: the 19th mile took me over 13 minutes, and the 20th over 12. Still, not too badly, considering. Besides, as I finally left the ESPN complex, I was about to experience Disney’s Mile 20 Spectacular!!
And Here’s A Few Words About Disney’s Mile 20 Spectacular
What a steaming, squirming, anticlimactic load of horse-poop.
OK but for real, Disney was hyping this for MONTHS now. Given that this was the 20th running of the Walt Disney World Marathon, Disney decided to have a huge celebration at the 20th mile. Calling it this ginormously-huge spectacular surprise in all of the hype, all the videos and emails and announcements and tweets, and everything, I had no idea WHAT to expect. Whatever it was, it certainly wasn’t just a bunch of puppets and Mickey, Goofy, and Donald standing up on a stage waving. OK so this wasn’t a Phantom Menace-styled letdown, but it was pretty rotten anyhow. Blerg. The fact that I was still slowly jogging/limping along in pain probably didn’t help matters much.
Meanwhile the pain my quad returned with a vengeance, even harder this time. I limped to the median and stretched again, this time taking even more time to stretch properly, working the same groups over until I felt satisfied enough. Getting up was painful, but I managed to pass Mile Marker 20 and embark upon…
Miles 21 – 24
This stretch took us out of the Wide World of Sports Complex, north on Victory Way, then back west on the Osceola Parkway. It curved north on World Drive to Buena Vista Drive, and finally entering the third park of the day: Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
This was the single hardest, most painful, most taxing stretch of the entire race for me. I was in physical pain, and my confidence was shaken pretty hard. I couldn’t run more than 30-40 seconds at a time before the pain became pretty harsh. I ended up walking a lot more, and under that blazing sun I was utterly drained. My endurance was ebbing more than it was flowing, and I started to ask myself if I had it in me to finish. I started to doubt. My confidence was flagging. By the time I got to Hollywood Studios, I was completely walking. For about a half-mile, I only walked. It stopped being a challenge, and started becoming a trial, and…
OK. I got ALL of that negativity out of my system. If I wanted to hear any Rocky music, it could only appear once I exorcised those particular demons.
So yeah, I had my moments of doubt and crises of capabilities and all that bullcrap, and then I let go of all of it. I had come WAY too far to turn back, and I didn’t. After Mile 23, I stopped to stretch once again, this time taking 5 minutes to stretch and 5 minutes to just breathe and relax. I imagined the spirit of Ganesha before me, removing all obstacles. I even made a rare mid-race Facebook appearance, texted Boots to let her know what was going on, and then got on my way again. Surprisingly, I found a rhythm that worked for me. I jogged a minute, then walked a minute. Then jogged two minutes, walked two minutes. I finally found a good rhythm with jogging 3 minutes, walking 2, and I got my groove back. Sweet. Let’s finally cue the Rocky music!! Oh… it’s not ready yet? No worries..
Leaving Hollywood Studios , we turned down a walkway heading under Buena Vista Drive, heading directly into
The 25th mile was a welcome, shady change. While it was still insane hot, we were by the water going through Disney’s Boardwalk and Beach Club resorts. There were plenty of trees, and with that came plenty of shade, and the breeze made the whole mile much more serene. I had a my rhythm back, I was moving, I was still hurting but feeling much stronger. I even managed to catch a glimpse of Run Disney TV mainstay Dennis Marsico, who had been all over Run Disney’s videos for the past year. Plenty of nubile young women in bikinis cheering us on probably helped elevate spirits as well. I was BACK, baby! NOW cue the Rocky mus– still not ready? Fair enough.
Winding our way through The Boardwalk and The Beach Club trails, we finally made our way backstage into the UK Pavilion, and sure enough there we were in EPCOT! The fourth and final park of the day, which meant that I was, at long last, arriving at…
The Last Mile!
There Boots was, waiting for me right at the UK Pavilion… and coincidentally, almost right next to Lou Mongello and his entire WDW Radio entourage. What are the odds? I ran over for a quick hug and some MUCH needed encouragement, kissed her goodbye, and turned to run the last mile of the race. I was slowing down a little bit, but that was OK. I was almost done, and on safe, familiar, happy territory, so even if I could only crawl the rest of the way to the Finish Line, I still was going to make it! I was determined to finish as strong as possible, and ran as much as I could.
Incidentally, Boots informed me that while waiting for my arrival, she noticed bunches of runner who upped and QUIT, right at the 25th mile. What the F!! Who quits a marathon with ONE MILE TO GO?? You could literally take a ten minute break in the shade, sipping some water or a smoothie or whatever, stretch, socialize, check your email, then take a VERY leisurely stroll around EPCOT to the reach the Finish Line, and STILL be a marathoner. I don’t get it. Not one bit. Oh well… Anyway, from the UK I crossed the bridge into France and Morocco.
I was running the entire way. Maybe slower than before, but I was motivated, strong, and steady. I was going to keep moving no matter what. Nothing was gonna stop me. NO-THING!! Or at least until I happened to come across THIS particular Hottiepants by the Germany pavilion:
Ahhh, Mary Margaret. What a righteous babe Snow is. Plus I found her right by her wishing well. If only… alas. Anyway, I bid the fair princess Auf Wiedersehen and continued around World Showcase, then north past the fountains, past Innoventions, and then by Spaceship Earth. I’ve got cheering going on on both sides, with people cheering me on by name, holding out hands for high-fives. I’m almost entirely fried, but I keep running. Not much more to go now. Making that final right turn, I hit backstage Epcot and there they are: the gospel choir that always marks the arrival of Mile Marker 26. That final 0.2 miles might seem longer than the first 4 miles, but now you can see the Finish Line. The back straightens up, the gut gets sucked in, shoulders back, and you strive to finish upright and strong as you make your final moments count.
And sure enough, I finished strong and running. And with shades of the Disneyland Half I ran in 2012, I managed to high-five Donald AGAIN, right before crossing the Finish Line.
With a final effort, I pushed past the Finish Line. I had done it! I completed my first Marathon! 26.2 miles, run and done, one for the record books!!
I’d never felt so much agony before in my life. Every cell in my body screamed PAIN. My legs were barely functioning as a primary support mechanism. I was parched, dry, and in dire need of serious hydration. I was quickly knighted with my new, awesomely shiny and spinning Disney medal (It’s seriously a WAY cool medal; they went all out on this one) and took the requisite Finishers Pic, which quite surprisingly turned out rather decently.
I finally found my way to the snacks and water tables, which they delivered in a cheesy cross-promotional bag from that new Oz movie Disney is releasing. Both the water and the Powerade was warm, but it was very welcome at that point. They had also set up a cooldown area, complete with fans blowing cool misty water, and I parked myself there for several minutes. I was in dire need of a serious cooldown, and this totally hit the spot. I was still high, sore, tired, depleted, elated, confused, happy, angry… a veritable Ralph Wiggum of emotions. I was proud of and hard on myself all at once; proud for finishing, critical for doing it 30 minutes longer than I had projected. But overall, I was pleased. Sure, all my training, hard work, sweat, sacrifice, long hours, and endless amounts of GU had me believing I would have done much better than I did. But if I hadn’t put any of that effort in, I never would have been able to finish at all. I couldn’t have handled pain, injury, heat, long hours, and endless tests of willpower. I pulled through, quite respectably. Rocky music now? What? MORE WAITING??? Sheesh…
So, as always, here is the Quantitative Analysis:
Sorry for the tiny-ness of that shot, but here’s where we stand in terms of stats: I finished in 5 hours, 29 minutes, which to me is respectable for a first marathon, especially with an injury, but yeah, I wanted to do MUCH better. Overall I placed 9,608 out of 20,679, which places me in the top 46.5% of all runners. For Men, I placed 5,267 out of 10,061, which puts me in the top 55.9%. And for my Division (Men 40-44), I was 1,140 out of 1,930, which lands me in the top 59.1%.
Did I want better stats than that? Of course. But I have to say, I’m still elated that I finished. Even roasting in that midday sun after the race, experiencing a whole new kind of agony, I was COMPLETELY over the moon. After all, I had just run a marathon.
I had just FINISHED a marathon.
My FIRST marathon.
Holy cripes! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, can someone PLEASE cue the damn Rocky music?? Ahh there it is: