But lets go to the beginning of the day. It was an early one with a 3 AM wake-up call. I got to bed later than I wanted to the night before, but slept well and pretty much hopped out of bed when the alarm went off. All of my gear was laid out so all I had to do was slip my clothes on. After several attempts trying to put in my left eye contact, I finally did it, and went downstairs to eat breakfast. I had raspberry Chobani yogurt with crushed Kashi Island Vanilla; it was quite tasty. I looked over my checklist to make sure I had everything and my mom, step-dad (Andy), and I got into the car.
My mom had run the half last year so we knew we needed to make sure to have enough time to get through traffic for me to reach my corral by 5 AM. This year there were 27,000 half marathon race participants, so traffic was a little crazy. As we were in the car I sipped on a glass of water and munched on some Chex cereal and M&M's. I also got my sneakers, Garmin, and knee braces on. Once we pulled into our parking spot I double checked that I had everything I needed and headed to the race area.
It was a bit cool that morning so I brought an extra shirt, pants, and trash bag to wear just in case. There were lots of people there and after a quick bathroom break I said goodbye to Mom and Andy and made the half mile trek to the start corrals. As it was 4:45 in the morning, it was pretty dark and since there were so many people it was a slow, crowded walk to the corrals. When I finally made it I found Corral E and a spot to sit. I ate a mini chocolate chip Clif bar and drank a glass of water. I ended up not using the pants or trash bag I brought so I dropped them on the side of the road. Disney does a great thing where all clothing that is left after the race is donated to charities, so I didn't feel guilty about dropping it.
After my snack I stood up, turned on my Garmin, and listened to the announcers speaking. Al Roker, Natalie Morales, and Meredith Viera from the Today Show were running the race so they spoke to the crowd briefly. Then the announcers spoke with some soldiers in Baghdad who were also running the race there. One of their wives was running here in Orlando and they got to speak to each other. They were going to use their Garmin virtual partner feature to run together. It was a heartwarming conversation that made me a bit teary eyed.
|ASI Photo via @DisneySports|
There was a lot of adrenaline pumping through my veins. I tried my best to not weave around people and to keep a comfortable pace. After mile one I had warmed up and tossed my long t-shirt to the side. The road was packed with runners as I kept with my run four minutes walk one minute pace. I must have had too much water before the race because I needed to go to the bathroom as soon as the race started. Every porta-potty stop had really long lines though, so I kept running along and hoped to find one with a short line.
The race started in the dark and it was pretty dark for the first few miles of the race. When I checked my watch I saw that I was keeping a pretty fast time and tried to slow down a bit so that I would have enough for the second half of the race. I reached mile four after going up and down a small hill and I spotted my fans, Mom and Andy. They had a sign and were cheering me on. It was really nice to see them.
Soon we passed the ticket booths for Magic Kingdom and I decided I needed to stop at the bathroom, because I knew I would be more comfortable, especially since I was going to drink more liquids for the rest of the race. There was a line, but it was the shorter than the earlier stops. I made sure to stretch my legs while waiting. As fast as the line would allow I got in and out and hit the road again.
During mile four the top right of my ankle began to hurt. I had never had a pain there before. I broke my leg a few years ago and had to have some screws put into that ankle, so I think maybe something was up with that, but it did not feel too good. I tried to focus on the entertainment and my music instead of my ankle. Also my ITB strap and knee braces began to slip down, which was uncomfortable. I made quick stops at the medical stations to rub some Biofreeze on my knees. The cooling sensation the gel provided felt good and helped me to continue.
Throughout the race there is lots of entertainment including bands, music, dancers, cheerleaders, balloons, Disney characters, and the spectators. The water/Powerade stops were consistently placed around the course which was appreciated. I carried my G2/water mix with me, but I probably would have been fine without it. I ate three to five Honey Stingers about every three miles throughout the race. The extra fuel and energy definitely helped me throughout the race. I had a runny nose, which sometimes happens when I run in cool weather and with no tissues I had to use my shirt a few times. The race was packed the whole time I ran. With around 27,000 runners there was not a ton of space between people, especially when the road narrowed.
Running in Magic Kingdom was one of the highlights of the run. We got to run down Main Street, around Tomorrowland, and through Cinderella's castle. The only drawback to this part of the race is when the road gets small, which lead to tight running conditions and traffic slowed to a walk. The mile markers came faster than I expected throughout the race though which was a good sign I think.
Next we passed the Grand Floridian and Polynesian Resorts. At this point my legs were starting to ache and I was hoping for something to lift my spirits and there were Mom and Andy cheering me on around mile 8.5. They said I was "doing great" and that "I could do it." It was great to see them again. Unfortunately, that was the last viewing point until the finish line. I was doing OK, my pace had slowed a little with stopping for water, knee strap adjustments, and the Biofreeze stops, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other. At mile 10 there was a highway on ramp that we had to run up that was not fun. One of the toy soldiers from Toy Story was encouraging runners up the ramp. The hill part wasn't that bad, but the whole slant of the road was not good for the legs. I tried to run on the grass (which was more level) when I could.
I was now running farther than I ever had before as my longest run had been 10.5 miles. As I reached mile 11 I tried to stay positive even though my knees were feeling the distance. I thought about how amazing it was that I was actually running this race. After a few overpasses we made it into Epcot for the final mile. There were Disney cast members there blowing horns and cheering us on as we passed a few more characters and went around the big Epcot ball. I had started the race with pace band for three hours, but after my knee stops I knew that it would be hard to make that time. It wasn't a big deal though, since it was my first half marathon, I truly just wanted to finish.
After a final minute walk break I approached mile marker 13 and saw the finish shoot ahead. On the right hand side there was a choir singing "We are the Champions" which made me both laugh and cry, because it was just too perfect for that moment in the race. I picked up my speed and sprinted (as best I could) through the finish. Donald and Goofy along with hundreds of spectators cheered all the runners to the end. I crossed the line with a time of 3:14:17! I am a half marathoner!
I also just want to say that I truly appreciate the words of encouragement and support I have received throughout my training and the race itself. Thank you!
*More details about what happened after the race and what is next, coming soon...