Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 2014 Day 5- THE MARATHON!

Instead of a long, detailed post about the WDW Marathon, I wanted to tell the story of my first marathon the best way I know how- through Disney songs :-) I'll still cover the basics of the race and what exactly went down, but I feel the best way to capture this life-changing event is through some of my favorite Disney lyrics.

Marathon morning. 2 am wake-up call. Fourth day we've gone through this routine. We got on the bus, randomly met up with a twitter friend of mine (Andrea @andrea_820- she's amazing, by the way!), and went to meet up with the same tweeps we met yesterday for the half. Also, we got to meet up with Matt from Hokeyblog- I can't tell you how great it is to see familiar faces when you are insanely nervous.

1st time marathoners!

Andrea, Me, and Matt all looking chipper for 4 am!

To say I was nervous was an understatement- I was about to run THE BIG ONE. 26.2 miles. Unreal. Anyway, we'd pumped Matthew full of meds and he seemed ok. After chatting with friends for a bit, we went back to the corrals and found Dave. Since he and Matthew have done so many marathons, they were giving me last minute advice. While we sat there waiting for our turn to start, I kept thinking about all the reasons I had wanted to do this, all the reasons I trained so hard for this, all the reasons that kept me running.

Since I started running three years ago, I'd always wanted to be "Part of Your World"...

"Flippin' your fins, you don't get too far
Legs are required for jumping, dancing
Strolling along down a - what's that word again?

Up where they walk, up where they run
Up where they stay all day in the sun
Wanderin' free - wish I could be
Part of that world"

You can't help but sing along to this one!

I've watched Matthew complete three marathons. Most of my running friends have a "26.2" sticker on their car. From the moment I completed my first 5k in June 2011, I had desperately wanted to call myself a marathoner. Through the years, the motivations to run a marathon have only multiplied but the first one was to belong. To belong to an exclusive club that only so many people will ever belong to. I felt just like Ariel.

Somehow, I look a little more nervous than my friend, Ariel.

Sooner than I thought, we were off! Though nervous, I felt like this was answer to the question "When Will My Life Begin?"...

"For like the first time ever, I'm completely free!
I could go running
And racing
And dancing
And chasing
And leaping
And bounding
Hair flying
Heart pounding
And splashing
And reeling
And finally feeling
Now's when my life begins!"

True story, this is exactly how I felt!

After a quick pit stop in the trees lining the first mile (corral L had a long wait and I have a small bladder!), we were headed towards the Magic Kingdom. There we got to run through the castle- it never gets old!- use a real bathroom, and briefly see Matthew's family. Matt and his wife Kim were able to get some fabulous pictures of us running down Main Street and with Matthew's family- thanks again!! :-)

Happy girl on Main Street, USA.

Cinderella Castle selfie!

Our awesome cheering section!!

From there we headed out to the Walt Disney World Speedway. The sun was coming up but the weather was perfect- cool and breezy. I felt so good, that I couldn't help but want to sing...


My oh my, what a wonderful day!
Plenty of sunshine heading my way,

Mister bluebird on my shoulder,
It's the truth,
It's actual,
Everything is satisfactual!

Wonderful feeling,
Wonderful day!"

There might have even been cartoon birds :-)

By now, it was around mile 10 and we were both feeling awesome! We were keeping pretty even splits using the 2:1 method- walking for two minutes, running for one. We were averaging around 14:30- 15:00 minute miles. Highlights of this section included the Disney Water Treatment Plant (smells exactly like you'd think it would!), and running into Rafiki in Animal Kingdom! I also got to meet Kimberly Markey from Maker Mother Marathon Runner. She'd finished chemo six days before Dopey. She is the definition of strong- I am so glad I got to meet her!

The speedway.

First time we'd stopped all weekend for a picture!

Mt. Everest selfie!


Taken just after we crossed the halfway mark.

At this point, we'd been out for around 3 1/2 hours, we were past the halfway point, and were making the trek to Wide World of Sports. The entire six months of training I'd told myself, "Just make it to WWOS and you're almost there. Single digits left after mile 17." Matthew and I both felt great physically, but this part of the course is where the mental toughness has to set in. There are some straight sections where you can see runners that are 3-4 miles in front of you- that can really mess with you mentally. Luckily, I was thinking about just the song to help us "Dig a Little Deeper"...

"You gotta dig a little deeper,
Find out who you are.
You gotta dig a little deeper,
It really ain't that far.

When you find out who you are
You'll find out what you need.
Blue skies and sunshine guaranteed!
You got to dig (dig)!
You got to dig (dig)!"

Mama Odie is a wise woman.

I can't begin to thank all of our cheering section for helping us get through these miles. We received countless texts, tweets, and facebook messages all pushing us on. From the funny to the sentimental- we loved them all. We got through the hardest part of the course and then headed towards Hollywood Studios.

My favorite!
Champion Stadium- mile 19ish

Tom Petty's "Runnin Down a Dream" played here. There was fist-pumping.

Really, how cool is that?!?!?

Right around this point, Disney was playing songs that fans had voted for- "Let It Go," "Don't Stop Believin'," and "Roar." Luckily for us, one of our favorites played during this part of the marathon and gave us the little pick-me-up we needed to "Let It Go"...

"It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small.
And the fears that once controlled me,
Can’t get to me at all.

It’s time to see what I can do,
To test the limits and break through.
No right, no wrong, no rules for me.
I’m free!"

Yeah, that about sums it up.

If I could give one word to describe miles 21- 24, it would be unstoppable. It was during this time I realized that I was going to finish a marathon. And feel AMAZING while doing it! I literally had to keep checking the mileage because I didn't feel like we'd gone the amount of miles I knew we had gone. Maybe it was the magic of Disney, but I can't even describe how awesome I felt. Unfortunately, Matthew's cold began to rear its ugly head around these miles. My new focus became to get us both to the finish line so we could get him some more medicine.

Almost to DHS!

Sorcerer Mickey selfie!

We left DHS and were headed toward the Boardwalk. We knew we just had to get around the Boardwalk and take a quick lap around World Showcase to get to the finish line. I knew then that we'd both be able to "Go The Distance"...

"I will find my way,
I can go the distance.
I'll be there someday,
If I can be strong.
I know every mile
Will be worth my while.
I would go most anywhere
To feel like I belong."


We were so close! We'd just passed mile 24! In just a few short miles, I'd be a marathoner! I almost couldn't believe it. After rounding the Boardwalk, we entered World Showcase through near United Kingdom. There were a few characters out and we were able to get a few quick pictures. We also got to see Matt again and he snapped some great pictures for us.

"Hello complete stranger! I'm proud of you!"


Weird faces.

Belle! Look at Matthew's smile :-)


Spaceship Earth selfie! We are almost there!

We left World Showcase and ran through Future World. Then we saw the 26 mile marker and we were "Almost There"...

"There's been trials and tribulations,
You know I've had my share.
But I've climbed the mountain, I've crossed the river.
And I'm almost there, I'm almost there.
I'm almost there!"

You don't have to carry me across the finish, boys. I can run it :-)

The sound of that gospel choir has never sounded so sweet. I grabbed Matthew's hand and we ran those last .2 miles hand-in-hand. We finished what we'd set out to do. We'd run 48.6 miles in 4 days. I ran my first marathon. Nothing has ever felt so amazing :-)

Finish line Mickey!

We crossed the finish line. I danced all through the medal lines, getting our food, and then kept dancing while we met up with Matthew's family. I smiled from ear-to-ear. We did it.

However, Matthew wasn't feeling great (turns out he had an upper respiratory infection- ugh). We sat down and gave him some more medicine, snapped a few pictures, and then got back on the bus to our resort.

The best medal I've ever earned.

Our awesome fans!

Didn't they make us awesome signs?!?

Happy, happy Dopey finishers.

Crossing Dopey off our "bucket list"

So. Much. Bling.

My first marathon was an absolutely wonderful event. For as crappy as I had felt during the previous three races, I was on cloud nine the entire time during the marathon. I've never had so much fun and I really cannot wait to run another one.

The journey that brought me to my first marathon has truly changed who I am. I am so grateful to God, to Matthew, and to all my friends, family, supporters- thank you for getting me to the start line and pushing me to the finish line.

And to those who said I couldn't- who doubted me, told me I was an idiot to run with plantar fasciitis, that I'd never make it- here are some words from my good friend, Walt:

I'm still basking in the glory of being a marathoner. I hope it never goes away. And if it does, then I'll just have to chase another finish line to get it back :-)

Happy running, friends.

Dopey Challenge Finisher.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 2014 Day 4- Half Marathon

You know that feeling when you've finished a race and you just feel so incredibly awesome that you wish you could bottle it and sell it? Well, that was the exact opposite of how we felt at the end of the WDW Half. Let's start at the beginning.

We woke up for this race a little later than the other two. Since we knew there weren't going to be any characters at the pre-race area, we figured we'd sleep in until 2:30 :-) After having to run back to the room for my forgotten bib (luckily before we got on the bus!), we arrived at Epcot a little before 4 am and headed straight towards bag check. We were meeting a few friends from twitter for a pre-race meet up.  And what friends they turned out to be! It was truly fantastic to meet the people I'd been chatting with for the last few months- @lrnbailey, @brandi1369, @jsmerc26pt2, @whatthe5k, @harveymonster, @amieelanter, and @sas_rubel are all awesome and you should follow them! Also, Jeff gave us all rubber Disney bracelets- he saved "Love to Sparkle" for me! Thanks, Jeff!

Tweeps! Amiee, Jeff, Steph, Me, Patrick, Nathan
While we were chatting, I noticed Matthew just looked... off. We decided to head back to the corrals. At Disney, you have about a 20 minute walk to the corrals from the pre-race area for the half and full marathons. While we were walking, Matthew really started to feel crappy. His body was aching, he was coughing- not good. He got a dose of Tylenol from a medical tent and we kept walking. Once we were in the corral, we immediately sat down. It was muggy and incredibly humid. I secretly hoped it was the temperature change (it was -2 in Baltimore the day we left) that was making him feel so bad.

As we were waiting in the corral, our friend Dave found us from the day before. We all sat around and chatted until the 5:30 start. We also agreed to meet in the same place, same time for the marathon. Since we were in corral "L," we didn't cross the start line until around 6:15.  Soon enough, we were at the front of the corrals about to embark on a quick 13.1 run to Magic Kingdom and back.

Our new "Perfectly Goofy" friend Dave!

Always a fantastic starting line for runDisney races.
Since we've done this course before, we knew what to expect- a few miles until Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC), then a few miles until Magic Kingdom, and then straight back to Epcot, with a few overpasses around mile 11. What we hadn't counted on was the weather or Matthew feeling awful. In short, this wasn't a very fun race for us. I wasn't feeling it. It was humid, my body felt fatigued and sore, and I was desperately trying to stay upbeat for Matthew's sake- I could tell he was just feeling terrible.

Luckily, because of all the training we have been doing, we ran this half on autopilot. 13.1 miles doesn't seem like such a long way to go when you've been doing training runs of 17, 20, 23  and 24 miles. Again, we didn't stop for characters (lines were very long) but I did manage to grab a couple of pictures.
Pirate Ship around mile 2.

We are getting there!

Great DJ near mile 4.

Quacken your pace! Haha!

Almost to Magic Kingdom!

Hooray! The best part of the race!

You can see how windy it is by looking at the sign on the left.

The famous overpass around mile 10.

Elsa, Anna, and Olaf!

The employees of the new Starbucks in Future World came out to cheer for us!

Quick finish line pic with Goofy!
Matthew's family got this GREAT shot of us crossing the finish line!

I don't think I've ever been more happy to see a finish line! By this point, Matthew was really sick. I started to get really worried about him for the race tomorrow. I was also worried about myself- my body felt terrible. I felt untrained, tired, and unmotivated. And scared. If we were feeling this way today, how would we ever be able to complete 26.2 miles the next day?

We got our medals and then went through the lines to add another bracelet to our ever-growing collection. I saw a man with a Dopey Challenge sign and had to get a quick picture.

Just one race left!
Disney magic....on our arms!

We made our way back to our resort, rested, ate, and got our stuff ready for the next morning's race. To say we were nervous was an understatement. We gave Matthew as much medicine as we could- luckily his mom is a nurse so she was able to help us figure out what to give him.

Going to sleep that night was relatively easy- we were both exhausted. We just hoped we'd feel better in the morning and have a good race. I can't explain how frustrating it is to have trained so hard for an event and then to feel terrible while completing the event; especially when in Walt Disney World. We both put out a call for support on social media and were absolutely flooded with responses! Runner friends in the area offered to go off-property to get Matthew medicine, other friends at home included us in their prayers. We were truly touched by the encouragement and support from all of our cheering section.

We prayed an extra prayer for health that night and went to sleep around 6 pm. We had a marathon to run the next morning :-)