I was awake before the alarm.
In fact, I had only managed 40 minutes of sleep the entire night. And that’s being extremely generous.
There was nothing I could do but shower and change into my race clothes. Mr PugRunner was incredibly sweet and supportive about it, but that didn’t stop me from bursting into tears.
Marathon: 1. Me: 0.
At 4:00 AM we met everyone in the lobby. Rather than hop on the shuttle, we planned to drive over. Mr PugRunner was going to drive back after dropping me off to get my brother-in-law, who was en route. And then we would be able to drive back to the hotel after.
I was pretty numb at this point. Part of it was probably the chilly weather. The other part was obviously flat-out denial. I just kind of followed the crowd, not really absorbing anything. For some reason, it didn’t feel as crazy or busy as Tower of Terror in 2013. Maybe that’s because we stayed close to the gear check and didn’t venture anywhere else. Maybe things were better organized. Maybe I was in the zone. Who knows?
While waiting for friends, we hopped on the portapotty line. Everything went pretty quickly, but I did have a small emergency for which I was completely unprepared. Mr PugRunner saved the day for me once, and then again when I had to trade his regular Hurricanes visor for my sparkly one. It was pinching, and I knew that if it was bothering me at that point, it would be unbearable in a mile or so. He was a trooper.
And then it was time to head through to our corrals. We made our final checks of everything, I said goodbye to Mr PugRunner, and we started the long walk to our respective positions. It was actually so far that we stopped at another bank of bathrooms on our way! It was a little nervewracking because the fireworks signaling the start of the first corrals started sounding and we still had a bit of a trek to go.
However, there was at least 45 minutes between Corral A and Corral M, from where I was starting, so I forced myself to take my time and relax.
Since the marathon had already officially started, the wait in the corral wasn’t too long.
I was able to make my way to the front of the middle and felt pretty comfortable with that. Finally, we were walking to the start line, the music played, and our fireworks rang out.
I was running my first marathon.
Here’s how it was going to go.
I broke the race into segments, because it seemed easiest. And that’s how my brain remembered everything.
This was the road to the Magic Kingdom. I crossed the start line and fell easily into my intervals. I was surprised at how crowded the course was, and also, at how many guys hooked a hard right to relieve themselves on the side of the road, especially so close to the start. I had to do some weaving to get around blocks of people, but it wasn’t too bad. As it was still dark, there wasn’t too much to see and the weather was ok. I was able to shed my long sleeve shirt at around Mile 3 and felt ok with that decision.
There were some character stops and while the lines weren’t too long, I didn’t feel like stopping. I grabbed Gatorade at the water stops to conserve what was in my own bottle
Miles 5-6 – Magic Kingdom
This? This was fun. We cruised through the crowd-packed Ticket and Transportation Center (Mr PugRunner and K were there cheering for me, but I didn’t see them!), around some paths and then we were rounding on to Main Street.
Half the road was lined with spectators cheering us on, and the other half was open to runners. We turned into Tomorrowland, wrapped around through Fantasyland (there were rumors that Mine Train would be open for the runners, but that proved untrue), and then we were headed to Cinderella’s Castle.
There was a line of cast members holding out tissue boxes so we could wipe eyes and noses on the way through the castle. Queen Elsa, Princess Anna and Cristoff waved us on as passed through,
and on the front side? Snow fell softly on us. I did stop for a castle photo. I couldn’t not.
Miles 6-7 – Speedway
We wrapped around Magic Kingdom and after a bit, I heard someone behind me yell “Watch the ramp!” and I knew we had reached the Speedway. I had read about the super-steep ramp that led down, then up to the track, and was prepared to carefully pick my way.
It wasn’t awful.
The track was not my favorite. Fortunately, we got to run on the flat, pit portion, and it was really neat to see all the spectators who had parked their cars for the occasion. I loved the classic Corvettes and the Mustangs lined up. I half-heartedly thought about snagging some selfies, but the sun had peeked through the clouds and was beating down on us and I didn’t want to linger. The track was huge and I was really, really, really thrilled when I saw the other runners veering off to the left to the next portion of the race.
This stretch of road beat me down. Badly. It was still so early in the race, but there was nothing to see and no end in sight. It was hot. My foot was hurting, I was crampy and for some reason, I was having a really hard time taking full deep, breaths. Maybe it was the humidity? I tried to lose myself in my music and even in admiring some of the costumes and outfits around me, but it wasn’t working. I was extra discouraged because I knew that there were tougher stretches ahead, and I hated expending negative energy so early on.
On the plus side, there was a banana station at around Mile 11.5, and they were quite yummy. I don’t usually take food on a race course, but I am ever mindful of my calves and it was nice to get a boost of potassium. I just had a few bites, but it was enough.
We passed the recycling center, and the smell was absolutely awful. I’m usually good at ignoring things like that, but ugh.
Would it ever end?
Miles 12-14 – Animal Kingdom
After what seemed like hours, we turned a corner, into the back of Animal Kingdom. Cast members were lined up with some of the animals from the petting zoo, namely some adorable goats and an owl. I would have stopped to pet them but I was on the other side of the road. They were certainly sweet, though.
The pavement in this park was pretty tough – pitted and uneven. I wasn’t the biggest fan. The park had also just opened, so guests were starting to filter in. We turned a corner and I saw a real restroom with no line and made the decision to take a necessary pitstop. I hated having to stop, especially for something as un-fun as going to the bathroom, but it had to be done.
Right after the bathroom was the queue for Expedition Everest. Stopping for this roller coaster was something I had been toying with the entire time I have been in training. On the one hand, who gets to ride a roller coaster during a marathon? On the other, I was out there to run. Since I had stopped for the castle and for the bathroom, I just didn’t want another break. It killed me to pass on by, especially when another woman caught my eye and said “Come on! This is the fun part!” The line looked long and I just couldn’t make myself do it.
One day, I will figure out how to be spontaneous.
Two parks done. Two to go. Crowd support on the way out of Animal Kingdom was amazing. So many signs and smiling faces. It was a great sendoff.
Miles 14 – 17
The road to Wide World of Sports was supposed to be dull and mind-numbing, and I was prepared. I switched from my music to Episode 10 of my Serial podcast, figuring I could just zone out and listen to the story of Adnan and maybe even get to the finale by the time the finish line came.
My top of my foot was really bothering me now. There was nothing I could do: if I took my shoe off, there was no way I was going to get it back on. I didn’t think anything was seriously wrong – it was something with my laces or the tongue or the insert that was creating a painful rub. I adjusted as best I could and tucked back in.
The beauty of this stretch of road was the spectators. There were TONS of people out with signs and cowbells and music. And most of them were offering treats. Dixie cups of Coca Cola, Twizzlers, pretzels, oreos, gummy bears…. It was like a buffet! The idea of a Coke sounded awesome, and once that went down, I was suddenly ravenous and no longer interested in my own fuel. I took some pretzels and a Twizzler and an Oreo, and I can’t begin to tell you how incredibly happy it made me. (I was, of course, amused. I’m not really a germophobe, but here we all were, sweaty and snotty and God only know what else, taking food out of open packages from strangers, without hand washing or sanitizer or anything. PS. It didn’t matter. Everything was delicious and I would do it again.)
It’s the little things.
My joy was short-lived, because as we started down into Wide World of Sports, the rain started. Soft and freezing, but wet and gross all the same. I hate running in the rain, and it’s even worse when there’s no getting out of it. Fortunately, it was light and short-lived, but it was rough all the same.
Ironically, even though I wasn’t hurting anywhere (besides my foot), I decided to get some BioFreeze. Kristin had told me several times to just get it at a med tent because it would change my life. I didn’t think I needed it, but I didn’t want to miss out. It felt great and cold, but no sooner did I apply it then the cold rain began. So I don’t think I got to really experience the true benefits. Oh, well.
Miles 17 – 20 – Wide World of Sports
Here’s where the wheels fell off my bus and I hit The Wall. Everything was ok. I ran into the complex and got my cold towel from the volunteers. It was nice to wipe the sweat off my face and kind of clean up a little. I tried to save the towel for later, but I didn’t have anywhere to stow it comfortable, so as we entered the track, I chucked it to the side.
I started on the track, expecting the springy surface to be heavenly for my sore feet, but for some reason, it had the opposite effect. It was like that Lord of the Rings Movie, I think the third one, where those little hobbits are running to Mordor, and they run and they run and they run, and every time they stop, they’re no closer than before, and it’s just impossible. Three quarters of the way around, I pulled over to the side, bent over and burst into tears. I felt like I might need to throw up and I couldn’t breathe. I had come so far, worked so hard, and yet there were still so many miles to go. I wanted to text Mr PugRunner, tell him I was done, and wait for the sweeper bus.
And then I realized that there was no way for the sweeper bus to even get to me, here inside the complex. Not only was I failing at the marathon, but I was failing at quitting the marathon. How does that even happen? I wanted to go home.
Suddenly, someone was next to me. She asked me if I was ok and then she asked me if I was hurt. I could barely speak, but I managed to tell her that I was technically ok, that I was overwhelmed and couldn’t breathe and that something was wrong with my shoe but I wasn’t actually “hurt.” She assessed for a second and told me to come on. I was going to stay with her and her friends and we were going to finish this thing.
D, G and M got me talking. Two of them actually live not too far from us! They were all doing the Dopey Challenge and they were so kind and supportive. They were doing intervals, and mostly walking at this point, but G kept pointing out that we were way ahead of the sweepers and even at a walk, our pace was well faster than the course requirements, so as long as we kept moving forward, we were golden.
I was still struggling to breathe (it was like my diaphragm had just quit working), but my anxiety was definitely lifting and I was able to switch my focus from my misery to my new buddies.
Wide World of Sports lasted forever. We went around the baseball stadium, and a few more roads, and then M promised that we were so close to done. That once we got into Hollywood Studios, everything would fly by because there was so much to see.
It sounded heavenly.
Miles 20 – 24 – Hollywood Studios
At some point, D bounded off ahead, and so it was me, G and M. They were good enough to let me stick them, and even though I was still a little weepy, I was doing so much better. With the WWOS complex behind us, things were looking up.
As we turned into the back entrance of Hollywood Studios, we were treated to the sight of volunteers with bowls of Hershey’s Miniatures. Yay! I took a couple, because chocolate makes everything better.
At this point, I was pretty familiar with the route from countless visits, and my legs went on autopilot. We swung around the hat (which is in the process of being removed) and up the main thoroughfare.
Crowds were cheering and I was getting giddy. We were almost done!
We had to follow a long path along the waterway to get to the Boardwalk and then it was on to Epcot.
Miles 24 – 26.2 – Epcot & Finish
In all fairness, Epcot is not usually my favorite park. At this moment, I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to see it. We burst into World Showcase, and I was amazed at how euphoric I was feeling. Talk about mood swings. Now, the sporadic tears were happy instead of defeated.
G and M had been talking about stopping for a pretzel and a margarita and I thought that was a fantastic idea. Not that I wanted anything, but it was just the idea that we could.
My tunnel vision was evaporating and suddenly, I was able to see the things around me again: runners taking a break and sitting down at a table for a beer before the finish line, guests of the park offering high fives on their way to lunch, cast members applauding us on our way.
I was even able to flash a peace sign to a photographer.
It was all so beautiful. And so almost over.
M began coaching me to the finish line. There were some turns and corners. And then there would be a Gospel Choir. And then the straightaway to the end!
I think I cried when I heard the singers. I don’t even know.
There were bleachers set up to the left, and G and M asked where my husband was. I was scanning the crowd, wondering how I would see Mr PugRunner and my brother-in-law among so many faces, but then there they were, waving and yelling.
My brother-in-law even got some pictures of me, shuffling along.
Everything was a blur. My last logical thoughts included that I was going to finish my first marathon, that I was NEVER going to do this again and also, why on earth would there be major characters with photographers right before the finish line; how do you stop when you’re so close?
I compromised by high-fiving Pluto
and crossing the timing mat.
And just like that, oh em gee, thank the flying spaghetti monster, it was over.
I collected my medal.
I got water and Gatorade and a snack box.
I posed for my finisher photo.
I smiled for the photographer standing right past the finisher backdrop.
And then I staggered through the crush of people to bag check to find Mr PugRunner and my friends.
All I wanted was to rip my shoes from my feet and burn them.
Mr PugRunner saw me first and ended up crying on me! What was up with that??? (In all fairness, poor guy had been stuck out there for five hours with no visor and no sunglasses since he couldn’t get out of the parking lot and back to the hotel. I guess I would have been crying, too.) I almost cried when he told me my flip flops were back in the room with his sunglasses, but what was a little more time in shoes after the past few hours?
Everyone hugged and squealed.
We had run a marathon.
At this point, all we wanted was to get clean and then possibly eat. A lot. Everything. I don’t even know. We said our goodbyes and began the trek to the car. Mr PugRunner, bless his heart, was kind enough to take off my shoes and my compression socks. I put that right up there as one of the tests of the strength of one’s marriage.
Tomorrow, I will touch on the aftermath and the feelings, but this post is long enough. I want to end with the following.
- To Mr PugRunner, for everything, including the visor and the shoes and the months of support.
- To Mom and Dad, for watching little man this weekend and for being my biggest cheerleaders.
- To K, for traveling so far to see me finish, even if I was so slow that I didn’t get to hug you afterwards because you had to book it back to the airport.
- To D, for stopping for a fellow runner in need.
- To G and M for letting me stay with them and carrying me through to the finish line. There is no way I would have gotten there without them.
- To S and T for the sweet goodies and the tireless encouragement. I have learned so much from you.
- To Kristin, Mr AMOTR, A, J, C, and Andrea, for being awesome race and running buddies. I love traveling with you guys and meeting up with you and spending time with you in and out of running. Having M and M there was awesome, too.
- To my amazing friends. You guys have been so supportive and encouraging and I love you all.
- To my IRun4 buddy, Z. I had your name on the sole of my shoe the whole time, and I didn’t want to let you down.
- To the staff and volunteers at the race. You guys rocked my socks. (Especially you people with the Coca Cola. Never stop doing that. Never.) These races would be so diminished without all that you do, and I am thinking that I would like to volunteer my services at a runDisney event soon, to pay it forward.