The approach to the Magic Kingdom wasn't as bad as I had remembered from the relay last year, but there was a pretty nice hill to get up before hitting ticketing and transportation. This was the first of the huge crowds, and that was a nice mental boost that I needed just at the right time. As we passed the Contemporary and entered the Magic Kingdom, I started looking out hardcore for mom and Tim. This was the only spot where we had planned for them to be, so I didn't want to miss them. The crowds running were still thick, so I stayed to the left where the spectators were. I had kept my headphones off to this point to make sure that I saw them. I heard Tim yell! And for 5 seconds of those numerous hours I had spectators cheering just for me. Here's the video Tim captured of me running through Magic Kingdom:
Leaving the headphones out for this time was kind of funny, as I heard a guy chanting phrases in very scary sounding voices. He was taking himself far too seriously at this point, saying things like, "don't call it a comeback, I never left!" as though someone had personally offended him. For Pete's sake, we were running through the Magic Kingdom!
When we got to the castle (a lot earlier this year because of the new route), another guy yelled out, "well! We've all signed up to run 26.2 miles for this moment!" That encouraged me to stop to get a picture with the castle. That's why my mile 6 split was a bit higher. It was the only picture I stopped for for the whole race, but I decided that I needed it to signify this race for me. There was a bit of a line and it ate up 20 or 30 seconds, but I'm glad I did it; I'd do it again.
I saw Mary, what was volunteering in the cheer squad, at mile 6.5, and it boosted my spirits. She ran with me for a second and I told her that I didn't think I was going to be meeting my time goals today and that I had stopped for a castle pic, but she said I was doing great and looked good! After those encouraging words, I pressed on (it was a theme of the day).
Mile signs 7 and 8 came and went, and though the pace felt harder, I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly the miles seemed to be going by. At about 8.5 I cursed pacing groups forever, as I got stuck behind the 4:15 Galloway group who walked and took up an entire water stop. I said a few less than ladylike words and ran around them. Soon, we would approach the speedway and a huge sign warning us of a steep hill ahead. I was hoping it was a joke and that it would be a downhill. It was! But unfortunately right at the bottom was a super steep uphill of the same height.
Then, we were on the speedway. There were tons of cars parked along it, including the cars from Disney's Cars! It was tempting to stop for a picture, but I decided not to to try to maintain my time. It was daunting to see how big the speedway was! You don't realize how big they are until you're running a race on one. Soon, though, we were off and running the Animal Kingdom!
The sun was finally peeking out a little bit and the humidity was dropping to an incredibly dry 95% or so, and I finally started feeling better. There was a bit of a cloud cover, and for the only time the whole day, I looked down at saw an 8:XX on my watch. I pulled myself back a little bit. During this time I ran into Kate, the girl that I had spoken to for a little at the start. We discussed that it was not a great day for a marathon, what our favorite parks were, and what we do. It was nice to have company for a mile or two. I told her right before we entered Animal Kingdom that I'd have to pull back because I couldn't keep this pace up.
Nothing exciting happened during this time, and there were very few spectators along the back freeways of Disney.
Running through the park was fun, but somehow I was hoping it would cause me immense relief and a boost of speed; it did neither. It was a bit hard running on the rock that made up the sidewalk of Animal Kingdom. I loved seeing the rides, and I enjoyed all the different cast members and characters that were dressed up. I again kept thinking about stopping but knew I'd be doing the Princess in around a month and would get another shot then.
When I left the Animal Kingdom I suddenly realized that the cloud cover was gone. The sun was out in full blast, and the temps were probably in the high 60's by that point. I read somewhere that when you're running it feels like it's 15-20 degrees warmer, so I basically knew we were in for a scorcher.
One of my favorite moments on this long stretch from Animal Kingdom to Wide World of Sports was seeing the mile 14 sign. Up to that point in my racing career, the highest mileage sign I've ever seen was 13 for the half marathons! Suddenly, I was at 14! And I realized I still had 12.2 to go. It got real at that moment, and that's when I pulled back a little more. This was a key moment that I'll definitely look back on for future races. It was the moment that I realized I actually was running a full marathon and that I couldn't maintain that pace that I had set out with in the temperatures and with the humidity that we were experiencing. It was somewhere along this stretch that a man at a water stop was just opening bottles of Dasani and pouring it on people's heads instead of having us pour cups ourselves. It was great.
After the freeway overpasses that felt like hills to the sun, my mind started playing trick on me. I had to walk for one minute at mile 17. I decided at that point that I would run walk intervals of 9 minutes run 1 minute walk. That worked for a few times before I decided that I would just walk for thirty seconds at each water stop and at each mile marker.
Running through Wide World of Sports was hard. There were so many turns and twists, and running around a track and baseball field were daunting by this point. I had picked up a sponge they were handing out right before mile marker 17, so I carried it through these miles wiping my face and neck as I went. It was also during this time that I had to stop for five seconds at a medical tent for a kleenex (I had had a cold the week before, and I was probably at about 90% health when I started).
Around Champions Stadium was a loose rubbery-like substance that was a bit hard to run in, but there were a lot of crowds in the stand, so again that pumped me up a little bit. I do remember at one point, though, I heard the announcer say, "You're all looking great!" and I said fairly loudly, "No we're not." Someone did look at me kind of funny, but I'll be darned if they weren't thinking the same thing.
It was during this time though that I realized I had hit the wall. I was getting a bit delusional and at one point decided that I was going to take my phone out of my arm band, call my mom, and tell her that I couldn't do it anymore. When that thought subsided somewhere along the way, I decided that as soon as I finished I would be quitting my job and spending my time sitting on the couch. At one point I also swore I would never run again. As though perfectly timed, I saw a guy with a sign that said "Humpty Dumpty had wall issues too...". I appreciated it at that moment, though it didn't get me through the wall.
Just like everyone had told me and I had refused to believe, mile 20 came, and I thought to myself, "there's absolutely no way in hell I can run another 6.2 miles". At that moment the distance from one mile marker to another felt like a marathon in itself. The mile 20 spectacular was okay; I don't know what I was expecting, but between a Mickey hot air balloon, shouting our names at Champion Stadium, and six big glitter puppets I just couldn't figure out what to think. I ran under the Mile 20 banner and I just wanted an ice pop or something. I definitely think Disney could have sprung for a Mickey shaped ice pop for each of us. That would have been unprecedented, and much appreciated.
I'm not in any of these pictures, but my twitter friend Jill shared the ones her husband took of she and the Corral G group! They had a ball. Jill and Marcia are shown with the Mike Wozawski puppet above. Thanks so much for letting me show these on my blog Jill!
Though the screws fell off at mile 18, the wheels fell off the bus at mile 22. Looking at my splits for these miles I'm shocked that I never hit above 12 minutes for a mile. Though I was walking every few minutes, I never let myself walk for more than one minute at a time, and I couldn't slow my run down slower than 10:00-10:30/mile because it hurt too much physically to go slower. My hips were screaming at me, but only in a "we're running a marathon!" way, not in a "we're injured! stop!" kind of way.
The 4:30 pacing group passed me up a freeway on-ramp to the mile 22 marker, and I would have been more phased if someone had told me that there were in fact ice pops up ahead. I couldn't have cared less at that very moment, even though 4:30 had been my C goal going into this whole mess.
Miles 23-26.61 (because I just decided to run an extra .41 miles after the finish line. No wait. I ran an extra .41 miles along the course):
This should have been the most exciting part of the race. We ran through Hollywood Studios, past the Boardwalk Hotel, and through Epcot. Both parks were open, and there were SO many people cheering with fabulous and witty signs. I really can't tell you much about it besides that I had to walk more than I wanted. Again, I don't know how my splits stayed under 12 minutes. If you had asked me to guess my mile times on each of those miles I would have staked my life's savings (which isn't much after signing up for all these Disney races) that they were 13-14 minute miles. I just wanted to live, though at the time I thought passing out right then and there might have been a better option.
I cannot tell you how hard these last few miles were. What I can tell you is that I was not sure that I was going to finish this race until I was actually crossing the finish line. I remember seeing the finish line and still questioning if I was going to make it there. I made myself run the last .5 or so miles without any walking, and it almost killed me. I think I tried crying when I crossed the finish line, but there was no liquid left in my body. I got my medal, saw mom and Tim, got my food, and after walking around for a couple of minutes, just wanted to sit down. So I did.
My final time was 4:36:00, which is an average pace of 10:32 per mile.
I forgot to mention the fueling strategy that I had. I took a Gu at mile 6, 12, and 18 and ate two honey stingers every two miles with water. By the time I hit 18 though I just couldn't eat anymore. I felt so full. I drank water and powerade at every stop starting around 14 and ate a dark chocolate mini Hershey they were handing out at mile 23. I've never tasted candy so delicious in my whole entire life. I had carried endurolytes with me, and since salt was crystalizing on me as I was sweating my insides away, I decided to take that salt tab at mile 22 or 23. To be honest the last 6.2 miles just blurred together.
I've heard from many people that the heat that day made things a bit worse than normal, but I can honestly tell you that I've never experienced something so difficult in my entire life. The last 6.2 miles of a marathon are what turn girls into men. Not women, but full fledged men. I had heard about it, and I had thought to myself, "Oh, I'm sure it's hard". No, it's not hard; it's like nothing you've ever experienced in your entire life. Pushing through those last miles is both a mental and physical struggle, and at the time, I just didn't know how much longer I was going to last.
That being said, after crossing that finish line and giving myself time to let it sink in, I've come to realize that this experience will always be a milestone for me and a shining moment in my memories. It's something that I worked for 18 weeks to accomplish, and the race itself was a celebration of all of the tough work. Though it didn't go as I had hoped as far as my three time goals were concerned, I crossed that finish line running and with a smile on my face. And I had a smile on my face in almost all race pictures that I've seen. I only write about how tough it was to make myself remember. I don't think anything anyone could have said would have made me give up those time goals, and looking back I know I'd make them all again. So this is just my own personal reminder, because about three hours after my race I was already calculating my future race plans and figuring out how to improve upon that performance.
I am blessed to be able to run, and I am blessed to have had this amazing experience in less than amazing weather. There are so many things that I learned in this race that I can't wait to implement in my next marathon. I don't know when it will be, but I've got some thoughts in the back of my head. I am so proud of myself after all of the hard work that I put in to earn this. I can't believe that I finally did it. After all of the time I spent thinking about it, planning it, working for it, dreaming about it, and of course, running, it came, and now it has gone. It's a little bittersweet in a way.
I'm going to post a separate post on things I learned in my first marathon and things that I will do differently in my next. That being said, I'm so pleased with all of my preparation, and I think it was things that were out of my control that really pushed me over my C goal on Sunday. I did meet my main goal after all--to finish. And now, I'm a marathoner!
Will I do it again? Absolutely!
And will I post more about it? You can bet on it!
Any questions or comments? I feel like I'm leaving stuff out, but after looking at the length of the post I'm not sure it's possible.
Official race photos to come!