Now onto the good stuff!! I cannot believe this ended up being such a good marathon for me. Is it because my expectations were rock bottom or because I had a surprise shock of happiness at the start? I don’t know! But pretty much every mile of this race I was more surprised than the last – “I can’t believe this… I’m at mile 8 already?… I’m halfway?… Mile 17?? no way… Shut. Up. Mile 20?! I don’t even believe it… Ok I cannot believe I’m at mile 23… UGH… this last half mile SUCKS!…” and then I was finished! I still can’t believe any of it!
If you read my Part I race recap HERE, you’ll know that before I started the race I wasn’t in a great frame of mind, to say the very least! But somehow after I started running, everything felt so good! I think for all us marathoners there’s something happy about doing a long run again after weeks of tapering for race day.
I did a lot of things differently for this race but my shoes weren’t one of them. I was saying silent prayers to the run gods to let my shoes hold up for the 4th marathon I’ve put them through. I still hadn’t gotten around to getting new shoes and since I didn’t think I was actually going to even RUN this marathon, I didn’t think I needed to solve the shoe problem. Whoops. Cut to me at the start line wearing shoes with holes in them, no cushion left, and a bajillion miles on them. But they were fine! I think I have to bronze them now.
Here are the things that I did differently and somehow added together to make my best marathon ever:
I didn’t eat breakfast. I ate a ton of “simple starches” in the form of bagels and bread the day before the marathon. And since I was getting up at 3am for a 530 race I didn’t think I could digest a breakfast properly in that short time. I hoped that eating so many simple carbs the day before would be good enough and, turned out, it was!
I ate during the race. I never eat anything during my marathons. I stick to race gels and water and sometimes sports drinks. But this time, since I truly figured I’d be out on the course for 7 hours or something, I thought, hey, might as well get some food right? They offered bananas twice on the course and I ate half a banana each time. I even stopped and walked and leisurely ate the banana! I wasn’t in any rush at all!
I listened to audiobooks. This one I can’t believe either, but I listened to audiobooks for around 22 miles of the marathon! I had sort of tweaked my last marathon playlist by deleting songs and adding 4 new songs. I could only find 4 new songs that I liked. As you may have read in Part I, I started the race listening to a dark thriller of a book that suited my initial mood. But around 5 or 6 miles I switched over to Tina Fey’s Bossypants (which I had downloaded a year ago but only listened to once or twice for a short run) and it kept me so distracted that I absolutely credit it for getting me through the Wide World of Sports area of the marathon (aka the dreaded miles 17-21). I was just a distance runner out listening to a good book. It was all that simple.
I stopped during a race to take pictures. Yes sirree… I finally became that happy run tourist/race blogger who was in such a good mood that I wasn’t just thinking about getting done with the darn race but was perfectly happy to stop and take pictures of interesting things and places. Who ARE you?! 🙂 But yes, not only did I stop a million places but I didn’t feel pain with the stop and start that I normally feel at races when I do that. I got pictures of things I always tell people about but can never show them. And I got a picture of a pig! Animal Kingdom always has animals out when you enter the park and last year I distinctly remember there being the greatest owl I’ve ever seen. This year there were snakes and another bird and other animals but when I saw the piggy I stopped and got his picture! He was so cute! My husband keeps laughing about how it’s the race where I stopped to take pictures of pigs. (he loved that picture!)
I walked up every incline. This one I decided on the fly. Actually everything I did differently in this race I made up as a “race rule” in the moment. But one thing I had suspected for years now is that because I train at sea level, literally by the ocean, when it comes to race day any incline that I run up or down just destroys my legs in some way. It either aggravates my plantar fascia, kills my achilles, or makes my knees or IT bands ache. I just KNEW it wasn’t a lack of fitness or going from 20 miles to 26 miles on race day that was doing it. So this time I said, nope, no hills! I saw a hill and I walked. And there are a lot of inclines from overpasses between parks.
For the first time in EVER, I had NO PAIN in my legs during or after the race!! That’s so huge for me! That has never happened! And I only did three 12/13 mile runs since MCM in October! I barely ran the past 2 months! And for MCM I only ran an 18 at the most. To me this proves that it’s the hills that kill me. Too bad I can’t go back and re-run Marine Corps with this strategy! Last year at Disney when I came out of Wide World of Sports at the 20/21 mile mark, I was in extreme pain. My calves hurt so bad I had to stop and I think I even hit up the medical tent for Tylenol (I block out bad race experiences). This year I breezed through mile 21 thinking – “YIPPEEE!! THIS RACE IS AMAZING!!!!” …. also I thought – “I want a Coke.”
At around mile 21 or 22 of the Disney Marathon there is this monster hill you have to climb. And they put 3 “toy soldiers” that yell at you that you need to get up that hill!! – “If you have time to take pictures then you have time to do five pushups!! Get up that hill!!!” haha. Their costumes were amazing. They looked just like those plastic green soldiers you get in a giant pack. Oh, and I actually did run up this hill…. a bit… until I got past the soldiers so they wouldn’t yell at me. I really didn’t want to be yelled at by a drill sergeant! Been there done that!
At the top of the hill I decided to switch over to listening to music for the first time in the race. I ended up listening to the 4 songs I downloaded, over and over and over. My husband thinks this is crazy but all of you out there who have run to the same songs all the time, you know what I’m talking about! And I don’t know if it was the new songs or the fact that I was so close to the finish line but I ended up dropping around 45 seconds of my pace in the last miles. I kept telling myself to slow it back down but then I figured, ah, who cares, let’s go! I’m definitely getting my shower before checkout now!!
I kind of skipped over a lot of the race highlights of the Disney World Marathon but I’ll write more about that later. I wanted to get down all the feelings I had during the race so I can remember what works for me when I run my next marathon……… in 2019.
When I got to the finish line I saw my husband and my kids waiting for me. My oldest said “Hi mommy!!!” My youngest said “Daddy didn’t give us any food to eat.” 🙂 I got my medal and my food box and gave my kids all the snacks in the box as a reward for hanging in for so long for mommy to cross the finish (I kept the banana). They’re so young still so they did really well standing there watching the race in this huge crowd. I didn’t get a single picture at the finish line (also a first for me) because I think I was too caught up in the moment of pure happiness and shock. Everyone keeps telling me my finish line picture, that the race takes of people after the medal, looks so happy and normal. As in I don’t look ready to puke or something. And I keep saying that it’s exactly how I felt – happy and normal!
Also, I initially thought that I had beaten my time at Marine Corps because, weirdly, in my head I had added something like 15 minutes to my finish time. I don’t even know why I did that. That should show you how I thought about my race. I had been telling people I ran it 15 minutes slower than I did. I only realized it later when my mom asked what time I ran this race in and what I ran Marine Corps in. Turns out I was a few minutes slower here at Disney than MCM. But it was pain-free and I stopped a lot to take pictures. I even recorded video for a full minute – twice! And then there was my walk-up-the-hill strategy. And yet only mere minutes difference. I’d call that worth it!
GREAT RACE! But I’m officially on break now. Break from marathons. I’m very content with what happened at Disney and I’m happy to end on a high note. Now it’s back to grad school and trying to lower my half marathon PR at my leisure.
Did anyone else run Disney Marathon this weekend? Did it go the way you expected it or not? What is something you completely changed up for a marathon that ended up making it a better race for you?