‘Twas the night before the full marathon, and I was ready to go!
I even printed out a race pace bracelet. 6:51 would be a PR, and I know that was a very slim chance, but I just wanted to keep track of my pace somehow.
I arrived at Epcot at 3:45ish, met up with my running buddies, and headed to the corrals.
It took almost an hour for us to reach the starting line, but we were greeted by none other than Mickey Mouse when we did get there!
And we were off!
I started this race off with :30/:30 intervals (30 seconds of running, 30 seconds of walking) for quite a few miles.
Like yesterday’s half marathon, the first 5 miles are run on the road going from Epcot to the Magic Kingdom toll booth to the Transportation & Ticket Center and passed the Contemporary Resort.
I was keeping ahead of my desired pace, which was 15:40. I was feeling pretty strong, and I felt confident with my intervals.
Right after the fifth mile marker, we were once again reunited with Magic Kingdom!
We reached the 6th mile marker while still in Magic Kingdom somewhere around Splash Mountain. After that, we were taken through some backstage areas and out on the single-lane road by the fire station and the Grand Floridian Resort for a few miles.
Most of mile 9 is spent on the raceway, which is probably my least favorite part of the course because it’s on blacktop with no shade, and it’s really boring! But I kept up with my :30/:30 intervals and kept on truckin’ until I hit the medical tent right outside of the racetrack so I could lather up with some Biofreeze.
Miles 10-12 are run on the back roads going to the backside of Animal Kingdom. It’s a mostly boring stretch of road with a few characters sprinkled in. And they always have some animals and their keepers out as you get closer to Animal Kingdom. There’s also a banana station right outside AK.
It was right around here when I started to lose focus. My splits were getting longer, and I wasn’t running the tangents as well as I should have, which makes the miles longer and longer. By this point, I was reaching a mile marker .3 miles after my Garmin had told me I crossed it. Does that make sense? It was disheartening, and I just couldn’t keep up the pace anymore.
I walked through most of Animal Kingdom and wondered how I would keep up the pace enough to stay away from the sweeper ladies. My intended pace of 15:40 was already flirting with getting swept. I was losing steam quickly, so I had to change my mindset and just dig deep to keep running whenever I could.
There was a nice group of spectators just outside Animal Kingdom who were handing out teeny tiny, cold washcloths. Brilliant! I took one and stuffed it in my bra to later be soaked down again at every water stop.
After Animal Kingdom, it’s a long trek on Osceola Parkway to the Wide World of Sports, another unpopular part of the marathon course. Along this part of the road, I started picking trees and road signs to run to and then take a walk break. I’d also pick other runners who were also doing intervals, and I’d tell myself I’d keep running as long as they did. It made the time go by a little quicker to have something else to focus on.
It’s also along this stretch of road when you start seeing the faster runners on the other side of the course who had already been through the 3 miles inside the Wide World of Sports. This certainly played with my mindset. I wanted to be them. If I were an immoral person, I’d jump the median and skip the WWOS altogether. But we all know I wouldn’t.
Around mile 16.5, we finally entered the road going into the WWOS. Around the 17th mile marker, they were giving out even larger washcloths this time. I ditched the smaller one and kept the bigger one draped around my neck.
I was really starting to slow up. It never crossed my mind to all-out quit, but I was starting to get really nervous about the sweepers. When I looked over my shoulder, there were still a lot of people behind me, but they were thinning out. The sweepers couldn’t have been far behind.
Right before the 18th mile marker, we had to run around the 400m track, where we were greeted with the most positive, energetic high school track athletes. They wanted pictures with everyone!
When I hit the 19th mile marker, I looked over at the 18th mile marker. There weren’t any runners in sight. I only saw the medical staff on their bikes. The sweepers were only a mile behind me. This was when I really started to get scared. I started running in spurts for as long as I could to gain some ground.
Once we ran around the bases of the ball field, we were finally on our way out of WWOS. On the road going back out to Osceola Parkway, I really felt like I was going in slow motion. I was walking, but other walkers were passing me.
Around the 21st mile marker, they station the sweeper buses, and I started to feel a sense of relief when I passed yet another sweeping point. I was safe for another mile. It was also at this point, when I saw my friend Mike (check out his blog!!). I told him how nervous I was about the sweepers, but he encouraged me to just keep going. One foot in front of the other.
There were more sweeper buses at the 22nd mile marker. I passed those too. More relief!
At this point, we were heading in to the backside of Hollywood Studios by the Tower of Terror. This is also where the volunteers were handing out chocolate and gummy snacks. They told us to take a lot because they had so much left, so I did not refuse. Last year, all that was left were wrappers on the ground. So disappointing!
It was at this point when the sweepers really caught up. The people on bikes with the orange flags were riding beside me, but they weren’t yet telling anyone they were in danger when I passed them.
It wasn’t until just around New York Street in Hollywood Studios that they finally said something to me. I was 2 minutes ahead of pace. Still safe, but I was getting nervous. I was kind of under the impression we were pretty much safe once inside Hollywood Studios because they no longer had to keep any roads closed.
I tried my hardest to keep running in spurts as often as I could. There was no way I was going to make it this far and get swept.
By mile 23.5, we were out of Hollywood Studios and headed down the path to the Yacht & Beach Club Resort. It was at this time when I looked behind me and saw everyone sprinting. I said out loud “what the hell is going on?” The guy next to me was a Team in Training coach and he said “the balloon ladies are right behind us.” The balloon ladies are not official Run Disney staff, but they’re at every race and keep a 16 minute pace the whole time. I saw them on the walk to the corrals with their balloons and jokingly said to my friends “look, it’s my worst nightmare come true.” Little did I know then that it would possibly come true. But the coach continued, “Don’t worry. Calm down. I can’t guarantee you that you’ll be safe, but it is highly unlikely that they’ll sweep you now.”
The balloon ladies were right behind me when they yelled out “YOU’RE SAFE! We’re just keeping our 16 minute pace. Keep going!” What a relief!!! I was safe. I’d finish this, and that Goofy medal would be placed around my neck.
I slowly made my way inside Epcot and strolled around Epcot as quickly as I possibly could. There was obviously a large blister on one of my toes, and it was getting harder and harder to put any weight on it. The spectators around the World Showcase are always so encouraging, especially the ones who have already finished, gone back to their resorts, showered, and come back to cheer us on.
When I made the turn just after Spaceship Earth, ran passed the gospel choir, and saw that finish line, the tears started to flow. I finished something I swore I would never even signed up for –the Goofy Challenge. I finished something some people told me I couldn’t. I completed a race so many of my friends knew I could finish even when I thought I couldn’t. I had never doubted myself so much in a race, but it was done. I was Goofy.
I mustered up enough energy to lift my legs just enough to run to the finish and get a high five from Minnie.
I finished in 7:29:06, a pace of 16:45/mile (I ended up run/walking 26.80 miles).
I picked up my checked bag so I could switch out my sneakers and socks for some compression calf sleeves and flip-flops. That’s when I discovered I did in fact have a very large blister on one of my toes. Ouch!
I sat for a while on a bench before making my way to my car. I was feeling dizzy, so I wanted to make sure I could even get to my car without needing medical attention. But I did make it there, and I made it home.
When I got home, I ate a protein bar and downed some chocolate milk almost immediately. Unfortunately, this was also when I started to get really sick. I took a shower, napped for a few hours, and hoped I’d start feeling better.
Once I did wake up, I was feeling slightly better but I was still unable to properly walk, which is normal. I had made reservations at Beaches & Cream at Disney’s Beach Club Resort with my friend Alison, and I was ready for some guiltless indulgence.
I had a bacon cheeseburger, a real Coca-Cola, and that delicious hot fudge sundae. So worth it!
After dinner, I don’t even remember going to bed. I was so exhausted!
Unfortunately, my illness, which I’ve now dubbed “The Disney Disease”, lasted for about a week, and I’m still harboring a nasty cough almost 2 weeks later.
Now it’s time for a little reflection…
First, I just want to thank my family and friends for their ongoing support. My mom makes sure I know every day that I’m doing the right thing and that I’m following my heart. My friends Sara, Kelly, Sarah, and Ellen texted me both days to cheer me on, and it was honestly the sound of those text messages coming through that kept me going. They assured me I had the strength inside me to keep going. Anne Marie, Mike, Bethany, Bethany’s dad, and my newest running buddy Jenn all completed the Dopey Challenge that weekend, and it’s this group of people who inspire me day in and day out to even get out of bed for these races.
I don’t think I’ve ever been more embarrassed and more proud at the same time about a race. I was terribly undertrained, which I certainly take responsibility for and don’t condone. I’ve never been so close to the sweeper buses before. My times have never been so slow. But I’ve never had to dig that deep before to pick up my feet and finish what I started. I had to think really hard about who I had become in the last few years. I thought back to the time I actually argued with a YMCA employee when she told me to sign up for a 5 mile race. I truly thought she was crazy. Five miles? No way.
I will never forget what it took to finish this race. I will never, ever forget the feeling of crossing the finish line of my third full marathon. The tears. The pain. The chafing. The embarrassment. It was all incredibly worth it to earn that Goofy medal.
I remember quite vividly watching my friends sign up for Goofy races and thinking to myself how crazy they must have been. I would never even dream of signing up for that, let alone finishing it.
I cannot even believe I found the strength to not only finish my 11th half marathon, but to decide to wake up the very next day to run 26.2 miles. That’s strength I never thought I had.
But I’m not going to deny I’m very embarrassed. I’m disappointed in myself. I made every excuse in the book to skip every training run in the last few months. I consciously made a decision to binge-watch Scandal rather than train for this race. I’m disappointed in myself for making a promise to myself after my previous two marathons to never run another marathon at 200+ pounds. It’s painful, and it’s difficult to move at this weight.
I’m not going to make any big decisions right now about how I’m going to lose the weight this time or train better for the next race. I’m not going to make any promises. But I will take a break from races. My wallet and my mind need the rest. I will keep running, but I’ll do it when I want to. I’ll do it for the heck of it. For the fun of it. I haven’t done that in almost 8 years.
For now, I’m hanging up the medals, and I’m going to enjoy life without worrying about the next race.