The Walt Disney World Marathon went well, all things considered. Yes, I did run it 9 minutes slower than my last marathon 11 weeks ago (a personal worst). But you know what? I don’t even think about that. I’m too happy thinking about all the things that WORKED for me in the race this time around.
It was cold as hell. MY personal hell… which is a frozen tundra where you’re left naked in the snow. That’s how I felt the hour we waited in the corral. I wore tights, which helped. I was worried I’d regret the tights but no. I could have easily raced in long sleeves and I wouldn’t have regretted that either. It was cold and it rained on us. Not sprinkle or mist but straight up can’t-see-because-it’s-raining-in-your-eyes rain. That came later though. In the beginning, I could see my breath for the first 5 miles and at that point I started to feel my hands again. This really nice girl I met told me her phone said it was 53 degrees. That’s freezing to me.
I met this girl at the resort hotel and she was racing alone like I was and we got to talking over bagels. She ended up being in the same corral so we went the length of the morning together, riding the bus there and then waiting at the start. She was 22 and told me she had only ever run 15 miles before but she figured she’d be ok for a marathon. Ahhhh… the things you can do at 22. Just a few years younger than her I ran my first marathon too and I didn’t do a lick of running for it, certainly not 15 miles. Anyway it was nice to talk to someone before the race to keep me calm and distracted. For instance, her talking about her upcoming wedding distracted me from the fact that a bus full of runners was screaming at the bus driver because apparently the driver was lost or took the wrong turn. Normally I’d be one of those panicked people too (I wouldn’t have yelled like them though!) but this time I just serenely listened to someone talk about her family and vacation plans and assumed everything would work out even if I didn’t join in the panic. Actually I said a little thanks that we had more time to be warm in the bus this way!
We finally got there and had plenty of time to use the restroom and figure out where we needed to go. As always, Disney makes everything very very easy and painless. I sat down in my corral and pulled my arms into my shirt and tried to remember what I once read about Navy Seals trying to keep their cores warm after exposure… look, you live in south Florida for so long that you acclimate! Under 64 is coat and hat weather for me! My new friend in the corral was from way up north so she felt fine and probably thought I was weird for rocking back in forth like I was in a trance.
There were a dozen fireworks before we ended up crossing the start line. There was even a firework explosion during the Star Spangled Banner at the “rocket’s red glare… the bombs bursting in air” *BANG!!!* I mean, come on. Not sure that was appropriate and certainly not cool for any PTSD troops in attendance but whatever.
I don’t know what to say about the body of the race though. It was difficult for me to run a marathon without having trained much the past 11 weeks but it went well. I was deep into the mental part of it and really disassociated myself from every mile. That probably sounds weird but what I mean is that I knew I was doing it, that I had to do it, that I was going to finish what I started, and pain and discomfort and wanting to quit did not get me anywhere at all so put one foot in front of the other and suck it up! That’s how I got through the race. I didn’t have that big mental breakdown at mile 8 like I did at Marine Corps Marathon. It wasn’t agonizing to get to the halfway point. And it didn’t kill me to go from mile 22 to the finish. It was a completely different race from Marine Corps. I was a much more easy going runner. And it made the race that much more enjoyable.
For as easy going as I was, I’m surprised I only had a 9 minute slower finish time. I thought I’d have somewhere from 30 to 45 minutes slower. It probably “helped” that it hurt way more to walk than it did to keep running. See, I also had a plan to walk at times and manage my pain and unpreparedness that way. My ankle, however, had other plans. Every step of a walk was excruciating. So I had to keep running at all times. I did, however, stop and stretch out my calves and ankles at times along the course. And I stopped for Tylenol at mile 20 because my feet were in such pain again. It’s the hills! I’m not used to that push off up the hills. I vowed for the new year I would work on hill training but we’re barely IN the new year! I haven’t had time to put it into practice yet!
Really all my pains had to do with the hills. The Toy Soldier guy yelled at us sometime after mile 20 or 21 to get running when we came up to this non-hill that was extremely steep. He said “FLORIDA DOESN’T HAVE HILLS!! GET UP THERE!!!” It’s this funny joke down here. No, Florida does not have hills, but the overpasses count as much as any hill I’ve ever run up before. Only the place I live doesn’t even have overpasses that are that steep. I truly do not have any hills in a 3 hour radius in which to practice on. I am not doing another hilly race until I can properly train for these, because they kill me every time.
I did not take my CamelBak and just used water stations along the way. I have an interesting story on that later. But all of their water stations were great. Again, I can’t say this enough, Disney does an amazing job with water and nutrition and the volunteers and transportation and everything. They are like an all inclusive resort (I imagine… I’ve never been to one) where you don’t have any worries at all and everything is attended to. Oh, I should mention that I cancelled my Orlando hotel reservations Friday night after randomly calling Disney to see if they had any resort rooms available, on a whim. I just wanted to see if they had any good deals, even though “last minute” and “good deal” seemed like a long shot. But they did! I got this Florida resident/winter rate that was insane!! Two nights at their resort with free morning shuttle to and from the race were less than I used to pay to get my hair done in DC. I booked it and brought the whole family. That wasn’t the original plan of course. I imagined myself with a weekend away and prepping for and recovering from the race in peace without little kids in diapers running around.
But it was a great weekend and the kids were wonderful and my husband was great and everything went so perfect! I’m not just saying that either. Last time I was at Disney my kids were not that great. And my husband really helped out with a lot, from the time before the race when I was a nervous wreck to after the race when I was so out of it and couldn’t do anything at all. It was a fantastic weekend, apart from being cold. At the end I felt good and not broken and ready to run another day – you know, maybe a week or two from now. My kids got to come and see me race for the first time. They saw me cross the finish line and saw me get a medal (and a banana, which was the real highlight for them) and my husband said the medal was the best looking one of all of mine to date. It took me about 24 hours to get back to normal and appreciate all that happened but, when I snapped back into a normal human being, I really appreciated the whole experience even more. I’m really glad I went instead of skipping it because I knew I wouldn’t get a PR. Sometimes you just have to show up because you’re a person who loves running.