It’s hard to believe that the race was already 6 days ago! I’m not going to do a regular race recap of how I felt mile by mile, but I do want to tell you what I loved about the experience, what I didn’t like about it, and a few little lessons learned from our first marathon experience. Let’s start with the good stuff:
What I loved…
1. The start line! The Disney Marathon was a top-notch event, which is not surprising at all. They do everything with such pizzazz and magic we knew it was going to be an amazing experience. The fireworks at the start of each corral being “launched” was so exciting.
2. All of the medical tents that were along the way – there had to have been at least 4 or 5, maybe even a few more. They had Biofreeze, Vaseline, band-aids, and I’m sure a host of other first aid gear. Mama E took full advantage of the Biofreeze. At mile 22 I couldn’t figure out how to pull my pants legs up high enough to get it on my knees so I didn’t get to feel the icy goodness.
3. The volunteers! They were out there for hours and hours (and hours) with smiles on their faces and words of encouragement as we went through each hydration station. They really made all the difference in the world.
4. The characters! The costumes and makeup were so great up close. Frozen’s Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff waving from a balcony of Cinderella’s castle was really exciting early in the race.
5. Lots of spectators which meant lots of cheering and lots of fun signs. My favorite this time was “The mortuary is up ahead, look alive!” That one came at a good time, I think somewhere between miles 23 and 24.
6. Running the first half with Mama D and then somehow stumbling upon Mama E around mile 15. Mama E went in a corral ahead of us and by the grace of God I found her in a sea of people at the moment I needed her most. It’s still pretty incredible to think that we found each other on a 26.2 mile long course and with 20,000+ people every which way.
7. The medal! It’s an amazing (and heavy) medal that looks so good around my neck. We wore them on the trip home. When we got off the airplane I waved to everyone waiting at the gate as if I was an Olympian in the opening ceremonies. I didn’t care. I felt like a champion.
8. The t-shirt is the best race shirt, hands down. Love the giant red “marathon” across the front.
9. The expo was huge and had so many vendors. I wish I had won the lottery a few days before the trip. There was so much gear that I wanted to buy. I settled for a FlipBelt which I used in the race for my phone, Gu, gum, and lip balm. It worked out pretty well.
10. Guilt free eating for a week! Bongos in Downtown Disney made a fabulous post-race lunch.
11. My favorite part of this event was that there were so many people of all different ages, sizes, abilities, and fitness levels each with different goals. We met people along the way that were doing this purely for fun and we saw runners with their finishers medals around their neck (while we were somewhere along the course). I took comfort in knowing that at any time, there were other runners hurting just as bad as I was. When I stopped to stretch I wasn’t the only one. When I was bent over on the side of the road trying to catch my breath, I wasn’t the only one. When I needed to walk (and keep walking), I wasn’t the only one. At any given time, there was a handful of people cramping up, limping, and suffering just as badly through their mile. It’s strange that I found that brought me peace, but we all know misery loves company.
12. The FUN! DJs, acrobats, local high school marching bands, and cheerleaders all along the course really brought the energy.
What I didn’t like so much… (which turned into lessons learned)
1. Getting up at 2am to be at Epcot by 4am for fear of a traffic jam and being late for the race. We hung out in the car until about 4:15 and then went to the bag check area to go to the bathroom and check our belongings, but we didn’t need to be that early. Walking about a half mile from the gear check and port-o-potty area to the corrals was unexpected. Walking, standing around, and waiting for 4 1/2 hours before running is not good for your energy levels, both mentally and physically.
2. The post-race “party” at Downtown Disney was a bit of a let down. There was no party, it was just a few discounts at restaurants if you had your medal. I guess it was a good thing to do some gentle walking after the race, but we walked really far to try to find this shindig and then really far back to the car. I think we probably did about 30 miles when all was said and done with that day.
3. Starting in the last corral – corral P! Mama D and I wanted to try to stay together for at least the start of the race and since we were in different corrals according to our bibs (they were strict about checking the bibs) we had to start in the last corral. It was really hard to wait an hour after the official start of the race to actually get to the starting line.
4. Getting the stomach virus Friday night into Saturday morning. Trying to run a day later while recovering from that nastiness was a really big challenge.
5. Feeling completely unprepared for the run! That taper week coupled with the virus really messed with me mentally. Mama D hit the nail on the head when she questioned on Saturday if she ever ran before.
6. Being angry during portions of the race. I knew this was going to be an emotional experience, but I didn’t expect anger. I think I was tired and overstimulated by 10am. I think I was shooting laser beams out of my eyes at a girl shouting the Rocky theme song into a bull horn at mile 23. Bless her heart, she was trying to help and I just couldn’t handle it.
1. Trust the training!
2. Expect the unexpected (and be okay with it)! No matter how ready you think you are going into a marathon experience, you just have no control over certain circumstances. It rained hard and twice during the race even though the weather channel said there was only 20% chance for that Sunday. We were slimy with sweat, rain, and salt. Our eyes burned and our clothes were soaked. Mama E had the two dread-lock pigtails for hair by the end of it, but what could we do? Keep moving forward.
3. Do NOT shave your bikini area two days before running for 5+ hours! I won’t reveal who made this mistake, but just know it did not end well. Chafing (especially around the lady bits) should be avoided at all costs.
4. Throw one arm up in the air as if you are raising your hand in school to let runners behind you know that you are going to stop and walk. I never knew this before. It was happening all around me and I thought these folks were signaling something to their group. I was wrong and it’s a good thing to know. Mama D insisted that she did this every few seconds for the last 6.2 miles of the race, but we don’t believe her.
5. Try the Jeff Galloway method. A wonderful older man we met on the airplane told us that using the 4:1 interval method (run 4 minutes and walk 1 minute) was the way to ward off the death feeling after mile 20. He ran up to 9 miles in the race then followed this method to feel strong the rest of the distance. We are going to try this out….eventually. 🙂
6. Worry less about breaking the rule of “nothing new on race day”. We were really bad. Mama D and I wore new “untested” shirts, and Mama E wore a new fuel pouch. I wore the FlipBelt, drank lemon-lime Powerade at each hydration station because I desperately needed more than water, and I had extra things in my backpack which made it heavier (I didn’t need that camera after all). It all turned out fine.
7. Set a simple goal like finish with a smile! Mama D and I had set time goals for ourselves and with all the “uncontrollables” out there it became stressful thinking about racing against the clock.
8. Have a fuel plan and even a backup fuel plan for when you start running a whole lotta hours after waking up. We should have eaten two breakfasts and didn’t. I felt it around mile 2 and had to eat a Gu at that point. I didn’t expect to feel so depleted and hungry so soon into the race. We were eating trail mix by mile 7 and were so thankful for the bananas they supplied at mile 11.5. We were prepared, but we were definitely thrown for a loop.
Inspiration along the way…
To all the cheerleaders, families, friends, and supporters of runners: never underestimate the power of your encouragement before, during, and after these events. A few words can deliver an extra dose of energy, strength, and courage. Here are a few that brought me to tears and kept me going.
*From an Original at 7:37am: You’re doing it! I’m so proud of you. Right on pace, nice and steady. You got this!
*From my mom at 8:30am: Girl Power! Don’t give up! Do it!
*Me (in a text to my husband at about 9:15am): Babe- I can’t do this. I’m not even at 15.
Hubbs: Yes you can. Find oranges or gel. You did all the hard work. Keep going!…
*At about 9:36am (Erin didn’t even know how badly I was struggling): Hey there super strong mama!! You got this! You have trained so hard and that finish line is calling your name! You can do it!
A little later (from Erin again): Here’s the thing about the marathon, it’s a trillion races and challenges in one big race. You have successfully completed the training. You need to convince your mind that you can do this. Don’t let your head break you. Break it down… are you at the halfway point?
Me (in tears so grateful for her text): Almost at 20 – feeling better than earlier.
Erin: 10K to go! You are amazing! Good work girl! I often close my eyes briefly during the last couple of miles of a marathon. Just to get inside my head and block out all the pain that my body is feeling. If it gets to be too much, close your eyes, take deep breaths and think of how strong you are!!
I smiled and kept putting one foot in front of the other.
*10:09 am from my mom: See the finish, you’re almost there! Smell the victory!
Me: 6+ to go!
Mom: You can do 6. Dig deep!
Erin’s right. The thing about a marathon is that it’s a race made up of a trillion little runs, runs and walks that you can do even though they don’t all feel very good. Along with that advice, my new mantra for life came in the form of the back of another runners shirt:
FINISH THE MILE YOU’RE IN.
Be inspired today!