The morning of my first marathon arrived. I had to be up at 3 am to get ready and head down to catch a bus to the start at 3:30 am. I was nervous and after I got on the bus realized that I had forgotten my Power Bar. Coffee was my only race morning nutrition, but I was not sure I could have eaten anyway because I was so nervous. It was about 45 degrees outside and cold in the bus. I was shaking from cold and nerves. I got off the bus, used a potty, and then it was time to go to bag check and take the long hike to the starting line. There was this mob of thousands of people making their way down this path in the dark. It was amazing. I was in the second corral, so I had a long walk to the start. We waited shivering in the cold for a while. I tried to keep moving and stretching a little. I had run less than 10 miles in the past two week and was horribly worried about how my foot was going to hold out. To make matters worse, my grandfather had gone into the hospital the previous afternoon with a stomach bleed. They were not sure he was going to make it through the night. It weighed heavily on me, and I was afraid I would get to the finish line and find out he had died. So, my heart was heavy with anxiety at the start. We started with fireworks, and I was keeping pace with the others in my start group. I felt a little tired and heavy from not running much lately, but I was keeping the 9:30 pace I thought I could handle for the whole race.
Around mile 9 I saw my friend Janina, and I ran over to the side to talk to her for a minute. My ball of my foot was starting to hurt, but seeing her really lifted my spirits and the ball of my foot didn’t hurt much after that. We were heading into the Magic Kingdom. Since I was letting myself have fun and not worrying much about time, I stopped and got pictures through the Magic Kingdom with a few characters and in front of the castle. This part of the run felt amazing and was as magical as I had hoped. I had to stop at mile 13 for a potty break, and this is where things started to go wrong.
I had not broken in my marathon sneakers well since I was injured. I was starting to get a blister on one of my toes. I stopped at the mile 14 medical tent. They lubed my toe and told me to stop at the next medical tent for second skin if it was not better. The next medical tent was at mile 16. I stopped there and let them work on the blister. I knew it would be killing me soon if I didn’t get it some attention. My stomach started hurting at this point too. I grabbed a Ginger candy out of my pack as I ran through Animal Kingdom. I was starting to worry about making it to the end because I felt like I was falling apart. But as we came out of Animal Kingdom around mile 18 there were crowds of people cheering, and my friend Janina was out there too. I stopped and got a hug from her and kept on going.
At this point on the course it is a 4 mile stretch of open road before getting to Hollywood Studios. Looking at the course map, I thought you would be getting closer to some of the hotels and stuff to look at. You were just on the main road the whole time though, and it was mentally taxing as the physical exhaustion really start to set in. Right around mile 20 I got a really sharp pain in the right middle toenail. I had to stop and sit down to see what had happened. My toenail had not come off (this was a really bad looking one with 5 months worth of trauma under it) but needed to come off. An EMT on a bike rode up and offered to ride me to the medical tent ahead. I was like “NO FREAKING WAY!” I was at mile 20. I was not going to stop now for anything. So, he put a bandaid on it and told me that at the next medical tent they could tape it up better. So, again at mile 21 I stopped at the medical tent and got my toenail wrapped up so I could at least finish the race. It was hurting pretty bad, but I knew I was going to make it. I pushed through the pain and continued on into Hollywood Studios.
As you entered Hollywood Studies at mile 23, the volunteers were handing out little chocolates. They were like little pieces of heaven to me, and it was fun to run through the crowds of people just entering the park. Some of them called out my name, and it was a great boost. Except I think I really hit the wall hard as soon as we exited the park. There were only 3.2 miles left, but it felt like as much as my heart wanted my legs to move they just could barely keep going. At mile 24 I started to think about the finish and my grandfather. I was so choked up I could barely breathe. I just tried to keep my legs moving. There were people all around cheering, but my brain had checked out. I just had to keep running. We entered Epcot at mile 24.5. We had to run around the back of the park through the countries before coming up through the front of the park to the finish. I have walked through all of those Epcot countries a million times, but this time I just kept thinking to myself “why are these countries suddenly so far apart?” and “how am I only in Japan??” As we passed the mile 26 mark, I still could not see the finish. Once I came around the last corner and saw it, I also saw my mom there cheering me. I gave it everything I had until the end. I crossed the finish. It was not the experience I had hoped for. I was still worried that I was about to get bad news, and that took away from the joy of the moment. But I had persevered through difficult times and finished with a time of 4:25. I got my blanket and medal and headed over to the medical tent where they yanked off my toenail. Then I went and met my mom, husband, and kids. My grandfather was hanging on, and I felt like we could finally celebrate.
In the aftermath, my stomach was a mess. I spent a few hours feeling really sick to my stomach and suffering from the chills and shakes. I was later well enough to hobble back to Epcot to celebrate a little with the family. That night I woke up in the middle of the night with the chills and then sweating like crazy. I think it was just my body’s reaction to the exhaustion and dehydration. My husband asked if this was the end of this marathon insanity, and I said no. I knew I would do it again. I made it, but I didn’t get it quite right this time. I wasn’t sure if I would do the Disney marathon again. The course was kind of arduous at the end, but I think I could deal with it better if I was better prepared. I know what I need to do differently next time. Not sure yet when the next marathon will be, but I know there will be one within the next 12 months. I didn’t get any of my own race pictures (more bad planning on my part which will be fixed next time), but I’ll post some of the official pics when I get them.