Running My Own Race

It’s been a month now since I ran the Walt Disney World Marathon and I have another marathon on my schedule for this Sunday, so it’s high time that I either blog about it or make a conscious decision that I’m not going to blog about it. Even though this wasn’t my first marathon, they are still a special (rare?) enough occasion for me that I’d say it’s worthy of a few paragraphs.

My last marathon was the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) in 2009 when I was sixteen weeks pregnant with Nathan. It was a less than pleasant experience, in a lot of ways, but still a good one because it opened my eyes to what it’s like to be in the back of the pack (not that I’ve ever been in the front – I’m a solid midpacker). Then of course there’s always that thing about being able to tell people that you ran a marathon while pregnant (really cool and sometimes a little shocking to people).

This year’s WDW full marathon was a bit of a redemption race for me, as I had paid to do the Goofy Challenge in 2010 (i.e., run the half on Saturday and the full on Sunday) but was 27 weeks pregnant at the time. I did complete the half, but both my doctor and my body emphatically told me NO! to attempting the full. I had also hoped to break five hours at MCM, but that goal went out the window when I found out I was pregnant. Disney was a chance for me to make my comeback and attempt to break that elusive five hour mark. I was also excited that I was, for the first time, actually going to have a member of my family there at the race to see me finish (it was Nathan, so of course he didn’t know what he was seeing, but I would know he was there).

Fortunately, I had three friends – Linda, Joey, and Jenn – from ROTE who were also gunning for a sub-five marathon, and we planned to run together (Linda and Joey were actually going Goofy). The thing about the marathon is that it’s really great to have a friend (or two, or three) along with you to pass the time. The other thing about the marathon is that every person has to run their own race, which often isn’t conducive to having a friend (or two, or three) along with you. The four of us managed to stick together through the first half of the race, including the Magic Kingdom, but around mile 13 Joey started to sag a little bit and asked us to go on without him. We insisted that was NOT acceptable behavior and made him stay with us through Animal Kingdom, at which point he tried to lose us a couple of times at water stops until we finally conceded that he did not, indeed, wish to continue the rest of the way with us and we let him off the hook.

At MCM, I acquired the ridiculous habit of updating my Facebook status as I ran. It was a lot easier to do that day when I didn’t have a time goal and spent a lot more of the race walking. However, I opted to do it again because I knew my super-awesome Disney fanatic friends who also run would undoubtedly see it and send me encouraging messages that would spur me on. I was right, as far as it went.

At around mile 18.5, I received a text from my friend Katie, who was shuttling Nathan around to watch me run.

Monorail blue broke down, good news we’re on red, bad news, on track directly behind monorail blue.

My heart sank just a little bit. I knew I would have friends waiting to cheer me in, but I wanted my baby at the finish – especially if my finish time started with a “4” instead of a “5”.

Our monorail is getting backed up because blue has broken down. Need to find alternative transport to EPCOT.

I texted Katie back just to do the best she could. At that point, I was around mile 20, and predictably, I had started to hurt a bit. Nothing unexpected, debilitating, or even discouraging, but I felt a bit deflated that my boy might not make it to the finish. I decided I needed more than just Jen and Linda’s company at that point, so I updated my status to mention the 20, the monorail, and the pain.

The next three miles weren’t too terrible, but I was definitely hurting. My last on-course status update was simply “22” because that was all I had the strength to type. We were still on track and I tried not to fret about Nathan and Katie. We made our way through Hollywood Studios and I began to feel confident that I was going to reach my goal – only 3 miles to go! Those last three miles, however, were tough. I no longer looked forward to the water stops – I NEEDED them. We saw a number of ROTErs cheering us between DHS and Epcot, so we kept plodding along. I was still talking, but I wasn’t nearly as perky or cheerful as I had been earlier.

On a bus loading for EPCOT now.

We might make it but will be near finish not in EPCOT.

I badly needed encouragement at that point, but I was too tired to check my phone for messages anymore, so I tried to draw strength from Linda and Jen and the knowledge that I was on target to meet my goal. As we left the Boardwalk/Beach Club area and headed into the back of Epcot, I kept telling myself that once we got inside the park there would only be a mile left to go and the crowds there would push me to the finish. I remembered what it had been like two years earlier as I ran through Epcot during my Goofy.

As we entered Epcot, it was eerily quiet, and suddenly it dawned on me: I was coming through about 45 minutes earlier in the day than I had for the Goofy, partly because I was running much faster and partly because I had started earlier. I decided it was time to pull out the big guns: playing Christina Aguilera’s “Reflection” so I could think about Sarah Kate as I ran. It backfired on me. I made it about halfway through the song before I was so choked up that I had to turn it off. Suddenly, with only one mile to go, the wheels were starting to come off. I slowed to a walk without saying anything to Linda and Jen, and did some quick math in my head to figure out what pace I needed to keep to finish under five hours. After a moment, they noticed that I wasn’t there and called encouraging words to me. I started to run again.

Prior to this race, I had never Hit The Wall before. I’ve always been very good about holding enough in the tank to keep going, and almost always run a negative split (i.e., faster second half than first half). Once I realized that if I just kept running most of the last mile, no matter how slow, I could reach my goal, I slowed down. Linda and Jen looked back at me one last time, and they knew what I had already discovered. It was time for me to run my own race.

As I entered Future World, my ROTE friends Kelly and Bob were waiting with a camera, snapping happily away and buoying my spirits for the last push.

On bleachers near finish

My baby had made it, after all. I continued running at my slower, but still steady, pace to the finish, where my friends and (the smallest member of) my family were waiting.

My official time…..4:58:52