What a difference a month makes, right? I apologize for the delay in this final installment, but life got pretty crazy. But, now I'm back, so let's pick up where I left off previously.
When I last was here, I had just finished the half marathon. After I met up with Jason and crew, I hopped back on the monorail to get a (much needed since it was so hot and humid) shower. We then headed to Epcot for lunch. I had the Croque Monsieur and a strawberry tart. Next up was Space Ship Earth, Soarin', and Test Track. We then hopped over to MK for a Dole Whip and a quick ride on The Haunted Mansion before heading back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.
We had reservations at Via Napoli at 8:30. But at about 8:00 pm, it began to sprinkle a bit. By the time we got to Epcot, if was a full fledged storm. Jason and I grabbed a couple of ponchos, and the girls shared an umbrella as we made our way to the opposite side of the park. Ponchos not withstanding, we got soaked. We finally got to Italy and Via Napoli about 8:45, where we were seated, but told by the hostess that we needed to order ASAP since the kitchen is supposed to shut down at 9:00 pm. I had the spaghetti with veal meatballs and Jason had the pizza. Mine was good, but his looked so much better. After dinner, I headed back to the room to get a little sleep before my early morning.
I decided to start out a bit slower than the day before, but I felt great! Even with ~10k more people, it didn't seem to be as crowded. Photo ops, at least for the first 5 miles or so, seemed to be the same, so I didn't stop for any. When we made our way past the speedway, there wasn't a character where Launchpad (and Darkwing) had been the day before. I kept pushing, and before I knew it, we were headed in to MK. Now, I had gotten a text earlier that Jason probably wouldn't be on Main St. this day, and he wasn't. But Dawn was! After a quick hello and photo, I was off to Tomorrow land. I really couldn't believe how great I felt and how much simpler this was going compared to the day before. I wanted to stop for a couple of characters, but lines were too long, so I kept going.
We wound behind the resorts, and around mile 8, we headed in to the speedway. Now, I must say, that up until mile 7 or so, I had no problem getting around people or letting people by me during my walk interval. But from about mile 7 to mile 8.25, I got behind these two women, who were power walking, and just didn't care to move out of peoples way if they were going faster. So the next mile or so, we passed each other a lot. I'd move to the side, like I was supposed to when walking, but they showed no such courtesy.
I had heard about the ramp in to the speedway. So when we got there, and the warnings were blaring, I knew what was coming. Well apparently the two ladies, who were once again ahead of me, were too lost in conversation to realize. Down the incline we all went. Then, without any warning, they stopped, causing me to abruptly stop. Then came the pain. on the outside of both my knees, but more so on the right one. I was mad, but I ended up going around them on the way up.
Around the race track we went. Seeing a lot of antique cars their owners. Really cool, but not worth stopping for a picture, in my opinion. As we exited the speedway, there was a medical tent, and I stopped to get some tylenol since my knees were starting to bother me more. The next stretch seemed like the longest of the race. We ran to Animal Kingdom along some roads that went by the WDW trash facility apparently. I was trying to keep my intervals, but my knees were hurting so bad that it took a good ten seconds to get to a steady pace, which I couldn't keep for the full interval. By the time we made it in to AK through the back gate, I was no longer keeping my intervals. It was walk only.
We wound through AK and I was hurting, but also amazed at the park. This was my first time ever in AK and I wanted to take it all in. I saw people jumping on to Expedition Everest, and I wanted to join them so badly. But I was too afraid that if I sat down, even for that long, I wouldn't finish. It was then I sent my friends a text telling them I hurt my knees but I was still going. They sent some good encouragement back as I hit the halfway point. They cheered me on even more when I saw them outside of AK. Jason told me I was still ahead of the pace and to keep it up.
Down the road we went. I badly wanted to stop for a picture in the graveyard with Haunted Mansion characters. The picture I would have taken would have been them acting like they were burying me. But I knew if I laid down, I wouldn't get back up. I was going slow. People were passing me left and right. I knew I was in trouble. I knew the balloon ladies wouldn't be too far behind me if I kept this pace. So as I went up and over a bridge, and came down the other side, I could see, on the other side of the road, mile marker 22 and the studios. I knew then I had to make up my mind.
I could either keep up my current pace, and get picked up and driven to the finish line. I mean, I told myself that it would be understandable. You've hurt yourself. People will understand when you tell them. It's not the end of the world. You made it pretty far actually. Or, I could pick up my pace and bust my tail to finish. And as we made the turn in the ESPN, that's exactly what I did. I quickened my walking pace, swinging my arms to keep it moving faster. We wound all the way through that complex. I had no clue it was as large as it is. When we made it to Champion's Stadium, where the Atlanta Braves hold spring training, a runDisney employee walked and talked with me around the outfield and encouraged me. I don't know if she knew how bad I was struggling shortly before or not. But I do know she helped me strengthen my resolve that I was NOT going to give up.
Back out of ESPN and down the highway we went. As we went up the on ramp to Hollywood Studios, I noticed the spot where the Army Men were supposed to be. But they weren't. they had already packed up and gone. A short while later, we came in the HS. I wish I hadn't been hurting as much as I was, so I could have REALLY enjoyed my time running back stage and through the park. The crowds were great. They high fived and cheered us as we passed. And they were also very patient to wait on us to get back so they could cross the street. It was here that marathon foto captured how I felt through the back two thirds of the marathon. I was happy and moving, but I was hurting, just as this grimace showed.
We made our way out of HS and down by the water toward the Epcot resorts. This was my first time seeing these resorts and they looked awesome. Along the way, there were people who had already finished and cleaned up, and heading to the park that cheered us on. It was just outside of Epcot that I saw them breeze by me. The balloon ladies. The reaction they get from a lot of people is totally unfair. They are very nice people. I heard a couple of alarmed cries when they passed some people. I didn't care. I was close enough to where I would have fought someone if they tried to pull me this close to the finish. Plus we were still on pace. As they passed me, they were very encouraging to everyone and even said "Don't worry, you're safe! But we have to keep our pace." And just like that, they were gone over the bridge and out of sight.
Then I saw it. The entrance to Epcot. Oh, and Dopey, but the line was so long, I laughed at the thought of stopping now. We came in to Epcot at England in the World Showcase. I was slow. I hurt. I saw Belle in France and wanted to stop for a picture, but by this time, the regular park goers were monopolizing her time, so I kept going. When I got to Italy, I was reminded of the night before, and our walk in the rain in order to make our ADR.
I saw a familiar face from twitter, but thought it would be weird to say hi in the middle of me trying to finish. As we rounded Space Ship Earth and headed toward the gospel choir, I moved to the right to high five them, like they were motioning for. Only two tenths of a mile left. Cheering everywhere. Jeff Galloway high fived me and commented on the charity I was running for. It was great! I mean, he is the face of runDisney. He's also a former Olympian! Then I saw it. The finish line. I saw my friends in the stands cheering for me and taking pictures. I high fived Mickey and Goofy and finally finished.
I did it! I got my medal, took a few steps, and bent down. This felt so good to my aching knees and back. But really, it was because of how overwhelmed with emotion I was. I'm not scared to admit it either. I cried I was so happy. The emotion of the whole weekend got me and I DID IT! After a little while (not really sure how long honestly), I heard a volunteer ask "Sir, sir, are you ok?" I stood up, smiled and said yeah and that I was just resting. He smiled back and congratulated me. I made my way to the medical area to get my knees checked out. I got some ice and some advice on what to do if they keep hurting and headed to get my Goofy medal. I was walking like a robot, thanks to the ice bags wrapped around my knees.
We headed back to get some lunch. I got a pizza and cupcake at the Contemporary. Then it was time to see Dawn off and head over to Jason's for a shower before heading to MK and DHS. Unfortunately, none of that happened thanks to a dead alternator on a rental car. So I crammed myself in to a car for 7 hours and drove back to Alabama.
So what are my take aways from this experience?
1. Do not under train - I made the decision to do this fairly late in the game for someone who had only run a 5k. This was my first half marathon and full marathon. I followed the schedule fairly closely, but there was rain on just about every weekend when I was supposed to simulate the back to back runs. Give yourself plenty of time.
2. Make sure your gear isn't worn out - I took two pair of shoes with me to Disney. The half was great, and I probably could have (should have) worn those same shoes on day two. But I have a problem and like my shoes to match the shirt or shorts I'm wearing. So I ended up wearing a pair of shoes that were worn out. Thing is, I already knew they were worn out, or at least close. And I paid for it. Still am paying acutally. The blisters... Oh god, the blisters. My feet looked like something out of cartoon when I finally took those shoes off.
3. Have a good support system - Since I was running with a charity, I had a lot of people who were cheering for me from afar. But the people that were down there with me invaluable. Seeing their faces, getting their texts while running, and hearing their cheers and encouragement pulled me through. I seriously wouldn't have made it through the marathon without them. I love them all and they mean the world to me. Thanks Dawn, Jason, and Beth.
4. Be social - This is so crucial to enjoying these races. Talking to people in the corrals at 3 am isn't the easiest thing, but it was great hearing people's stories and checking in with them later on. Next time, I'll be hitting all the meet ups and getting twitter, instagram, or facebook accounts of the people I meet.
5. Have fun - This, by far, is the most important. runDisney has people from all aspects of running that run in these events. From olympic runners, to people who started running last week, just to be at Disney. runDisney is not about being uber competitive and PRs, for the most part. Let yourself go. Enjoy the surroundings and atmosphere. But most of all, enjoy doing something you like, at somewhere you love.
I honestly can not wait to do the next runDisney race, whenever that is on my calendar. I was going to try the Disneyland Half, but it sold out too quick. But even if I don't ever run another runDisney race, I've got a very unique experience to tell people about. Thanks again, to Dawn, Jason, and Beth for supporting me down in Orlando, in person. Thank you to all of the people who donated to my fund raising effort. Thank you to First National Bank of Brundidge for letting me take time off for the race. And thank you to the A-T Cure team for letting me represent them. It's all such a blur now. There is so much I want to do. Here's to the future. Maybe that Star Wars half marathon will get announced soon. I can't think of a better theme...
What runDisney race would you like to run? Or do you have any ideas of what runDisney could do for future themes? Let us know in the comments below.