Part 1 of my Walt Disney World Marathon recap left off just outside of Animal Kingdom. I was halfway through the race and still feeling really good. My friend Katherine (KO) found me just as we were leaving the parking lot at Mile 14. It was really great to see her and have someone to talk to. My iPod decided to die right when I turned it on, so I had been running with no music and no one to talk to this whole time.
We made our way onto Osceola Parkway and began the trek to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (WWOS). I had run Osceola during the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror 10-Miler and the Wine & Dine Half Marathon so I knew I was in for a long haul. What I didn’t expect (since those 2 races are run at night) is how bad the sun was going to be during this stretch. It was almost 9:00 am and the sun was at full blast over the trees and there was barely any shade. We continued on with the 3/1 run/walk pace for a while, but I found that I needed to walk for longer periods of time. Osceola also has a ton of overpasses which means hills…not fun!
B and my mom were meeting me on Osceola right before we made the turn into WWOS and I couldn’t wait to see them! Just knowing they were there was making it easier to push through the heat. B took some fun photos while he was waiting…those cups are quite the sight!
I immediately dove into the bag I packed and grabbed more body glide to lube up under my sports bra (TMI again??). I was trying to avoid chafing at all costs…I have no shame and did that right on Osceola Parkway in front of thousands of my friends. I also switched out my sweaty headband, gave B my dead iPod, restocked my Gu, filled my water bottles and grabbed some crackers.
B said I was looking good at that point…totally the opposite to what I was starting to feel. I really wanted to just jump in the car with them and go grab a beer, but no…KO and I took off into WWOS. As we entered the complex there were sponges…ooohhh sponges! VoluntEARS were handing out sponges soaked in water that were the most amazing things EVER! I have to admit that when I first saw there were sponges on the course, I was a little grossed out by them but I was totally wrong…the cold water was perfect in that heat. I just wish I would’ve kept it for later in the race. Fail!
I won’t go into much detail about WWOS because the whole 3 miles spent in there was my demise. I really didn’t enjoy this part of the course. There was barely any shade, it was hot, humid and most of all it was boring. Around mile 18, my legs started getting sore and I was mentally starting to break down. This was the farthest I’d ever run (we won’t get into my lack of training here…that’s for another day) and the heat was beating me down. At least this guy was here to cheer me up a bit…
We ran through Champion Stadium and on to the mile 20 spectacular we heard so much about. I’m not sure what I was expecting but I felt like the spectacular wasn’t all that spectacular. Yes, the giant sized puppets were very cool, but I was more blown away by them when they were out during Wine & Dine when they were all lit up.
Don’t get me wrong, it was great to see Goofy, Mickey and Donald waving and greeting all of us and the 20 mile banner was pretty cool. I just think that between the heat and the oncoming exhausting I was looking forward to a SPECTACULAR and I just got a small party.
Ok, all that was left was a 10K…I could totally do that. It was a mental battle from here on out. Yes, my quads were screaming and I was starting to feel some blisters forming on my feet, but I could push through that. My goal was to just get through the next 2.5 miles to Disney’s Hollywood Studios and I knew that I could easily get through the rest.
These 2.5 miles sucked. You know that wall you always hear about…well I hit it here. I had nothing left in me. There were buses set up at mile 21 for people to get on who couldn’t go any further and I seriously considered hopping on, but I sucked it up and kept trucking. I had people counting on me to finish…I was counting on me to finish!! I need to thank my friend Cindy who was virtually cheering me on for the entire race…her encouragement really helped here!! How awesome is she?!?!
I was glad to see my favorite green army men on the on ramp to World Drive…they always make me laugh. Some runners were doing push ups with them which was awesome…I would’ve loved to partake and show off my hard work from CrossFit but I just didn’t have it in me. My friends Jenn & Danielle did though…bad ass ladies, bad ass!
Our friend Carrie caught up to us here and it was so great to see her! She was struggling as well, so we all tried to motivate each other to get through this last stretch of HOT highway! At the mile 22 water stop, I really slowed down to refuel. I don’t normally drink Powerade, but I knew with this heat that I had to make it a priority. From the beginning of the race I was taking a Powerade and a water at every stop and mixing them together. Early on I also took a salt packet at the recommendation of my CrossFit coach (thanks Jay!) and I think the combination of all of that really kept me hydrated through the race. I just had to force myself to keep drinking. Carrie & KO were a ways ahead of me and I motioned for them to keep going….I didn’t want to hold them back and I really needed to get my head back in the game.
Finally, my favorite hotel was in sight, the Hollywood Tower Hotel 🙂 This meant we were entering the Studios, this meant we were in the home stretch!
Just as we entered, there was a food station with chocolate! Normally I would’ve loved this, but I just couldn’t bare the thought of eating that in the heat. I would’ve loved an ice pop or something! We weren’t in the Studios for long, but it was just what I needed. Running down Hollywood Boulevard was amazing! The park was open to guests and they were cheering us on! We hadn’t had a good cheering squad since Champion Stadium and the energy here was perfect.
As I was leaving the Studios, I got a text from B checking in on me. People were coming across the finish line severely dehydrated and he wanted to make sure I kept drinking.
Apparently, I wanted to die because that’s the second person I told. Ha! Well something happened after this text…I got some sort of second wind! I popped my last Gu and headed down the the pathway to the Boardwalk. At the mile 24 water stop, the volunteers were giving “Dasani showers” by just pouring the bottle over our heads. BEST! This must have rejuvenated me because I picked up my speed and started really running again!
I was shocked to see Carrie and KO again as we passed the Beach Club…someone really lit a fire under my ass! I think they were just as shocked to see me too. KO decided to start running with me and Carrie just encouraged us to go on. We passed the last water stop and finally, we were in Epcot. This was it…I was almost there!
We had run into our friend Todd just before Epcot, who is part of the WDW Radio Running Team and he said the whole group was right in the UK cheering. And man were they cheering…that was awesome! My friends Jillian and Kelly were also there…I’m sure I looked to be in a very different state from when they saw me earlier in the Magic Kingdom. I almost ran over and grabbed Jillian’s beer, but I had to focus on this last mile. I was very close to the 7 hour mark and was determined to finish under that.
World Showcase was horrible. If you’ve ever walked around there on a warm day, you know it can be like the Bataan Death March. Now try doing that after running 25 miles…WORST! It felt like it was going on forever and ever and ever. But finally, we made it to Future World and I knew what was in store…my favorite gospel choir!
As I rounded the corner towards the Epcot parking lot for those last .2 miles, I was in shock. The amount of people who were there cheering was insanely overwhelming. It was nothing like I had ever seen before. It literally stopped me in my tracks and I became overwhelmed with emotion.
And there she was…the finish line. I had made it all 26.2 miles.
I crossed strong with tears in my eyes. I couldn’t believe I actually just did that and to be honest, I still find it hard to believe. Running a marathon never seemed like a possibility to me. I’m an ex-smoker, I have ulcerative colitis, I’m clearly overweight…people like me don’t run marathons. Well guess what…I DID!!
I staggered over to the medal area to find my friend Aurora who was giving out medals. She actually found me first and put that beauty around my neck. She gave me a huge hug and I just started balling. Aurora had given me my first half marathon medal at Princess less than a year before and now she was giving me my first marathon medal. Couldn’t be anymore perfect than that.
I grabbed my food, a Powerade, 2 waters and set off to find my family. People were dropping like flies all around me from dehydration and the heat. They had a health official right after the water making everyone who passed her open up a bottle and take a drink or she wouldn’t let them pass. It was a little scary so I just kept on drinking to be safe.
I found my Mom first and she gave me a huge hug. I can’t say enough how important it was to me that she was there supporting me…it really made what I just did worth while to see the smile on her face. And then there is B…sigh. I can’t write this without tearing up because he has been the most amazingly supportive husband through this whole journey. He listens to all my craziness about running and travels with me to these races. He listens to me complain when my legs are sore and pours ice in my recovery bath even when I protest. He’s my #1 cheerleader. Oh and the best part, he had a beer waiting for me after the marathon 🙂
The family reunion area was hectic, but I did manage to run into Andy from Attractions Magazine. We had been talking a lot before the race since it was a first marathon for both of us, so it was great to see him!
We got on the bus back to the hotel and all I wanted to do was get in an ice bath and a shower! My official time was 6:55:13, almost an hour longer than I had hoped. But with all the challenges I faced (being sick, heat, humidity, etc…) I am just happy that I finished! I’m not sure I will ever do this again. The distance was just too long for me, but we’ll see. All I know is, I can officially say that I’m a marathoner and that’s pretty awesome 🙂
Disclosure: I was invited to attend the entire weekend as media. My hotel expenses, meals and park admission were provided by Disney. As always, all opinions are 100% my own and I am 100% obsessed with runDisney events.