I feel that life is about challenging yourself to see what you are truly capable of. Too many of us think “I could never do that” but what if you could? I had those same thoughts running through my mind last year about running. I’m in no way thin, but I have great lower body strength and I used to run before my child bearing days, so I knew that I could at least try. And honestly that’s all that life is about, just trying and seeing if something works for you or not. So this is my story about a girl with a dream to accomplish her first half-marathon – enjoy!
So backing up to the Expo- it was truly amazing! I picked up my packet on Thursday evening with the family and it was cool to show them Wide World of Sports and all of the neat running merchandise. It was exhilarating already being in line at the half marathon booth knowing that this was the bib I would be wearing. When you sign up, you choose your Princess and also add in your pace time. Now I hadn’t run anything of significance (Yes I ran the 5K Jingle Jungle but not for time) so I put down my average yand safe time of 15:30. I had been training on that and sometimes it was better and sometimes I crossed into the 16 minute mark. I knew that I had to stay above it for the half, so I had no problem putting that time in. RunDisney then puts you in a Corral that is also with others of the same time, so I was in “O.” I did head back to the Expo the next day and got to meet Jeff Galloway, bumped into friends for a nice chat, and bought some new ear buds, visor, and a timer- I was set!
I went to bed at 8p.m. the night before the big day determined to get enough sleep for the run. I slept pretty well and was well rested as I woke up at 2:30 a.m. for one of the biggest days of my life. What I didn’t count on was that my Aunt would come into town that very morning, along with the fact I was just getting over being very sick from the prior week. Ugh, well ok, I thought nothing I can do but pray, medicate, hydrate and move.
I was in Epcot by a little after 3 a.m. and it was beautiful being there that early in the morning. I walked into the holding area with a big old goofy smile on my face because I KNEW that I could do it, I was just worried about the elements I couldn’t control. Soon DeeAnn was there to hang out with me before my running pals came, and it was nice to just sit and relax my nerves before the run. HUGE PROPS for her coming at 4 am to cheer me on and help calm my nerves- a true friend!
Once Wendy came I hugged Dee goodbye and started the routine of preparing for the run. Bathroom check, which by the way there are some in the holding area and then another set right before the Corrals. I knew it would be the last time I would go until the end, so I made it count and walked to the Corrals with Wendy. Her and I were in different ones, so I hugged her and then hurried up to wait, and wait, and wait. The race officially started at 5:30 a.m. but I didn’t hit the start line until 6:30- so it pays to just sit and wait it out rather than stand the whole time (like I did).
The nerves were setting in…what had I gotten myself into? Was I really going to do this? Then it happened….the countdown, the fireworks, the cheering and then we were off! I had trained running a minute then walking a minute, so I stuck to it as each mile passed by. The weather was misty so it felt good running in it- just a small blanket to cool you off. I felt great, and it could have been the Midol, or the caffeine, or just pure awesomeness.
I ran past the pirate ship, then the huge princess sign. As we were going towards Magic Kingdom, the winner was running past us already heading to Epcot- WOW!! We clapped for her and kept moving forward. We got the MK autoplaza and I started to get weepy…that is where it hit me that I was actually doing this. I was running a half-marathon, this cheesehead girl from WI was pulling it off in the State of her dreams…truly a miracle. My pace was great, I wasn’t having any cramps, and no hip issues yet. We ran under the waterway near Contemp, music blasting, and I even ran up the hill with no issues.
Then there was that magical left coming…I knew the Magic Kingdom near. We ran through the back and then I was on Main Street, a street that meant so many things to me but I was there RUNNING. I was a mess…I cried seeing the Castle, seeing the people cheer, and just felt incredible. I loved running through each land and was almost a bit sad to leave so soon. But my FAVORITE part was running through the Castle as the trumpeters “tooted” above us while we entered the tunnel. (Yeah I know how that sounds LOL).
I hit the 10k mark which was behind Splash Mountain, and I remember thinking “Wow we are only half way there, barely.” But, I still felt really good. I was hitting every water station taking some Gatorade first then some water, I knew I was ok. And then I got out on World Drive, and the sun started to come out. The sun wasn’t as bad as the humidity setting in…and it got hot and sticky. My Midol was wearing off and so I grabbed some Tylenol at a medic tent to help the tummy troubles starting. I hadn’t seen the balloon ladies yet so I was sure I was good to go.
I remember just looking to my left and HOLY CRUD, there they are!!!! If you don’t know who they are, they are women who walk a 16 minute mile so that Disney knows where the cut off is. Yes, they will “sweep” you right off the road if you don’t stay with them or in front of them. I was terrified! All that hard work training was going to go down the tubes, so I ran and caught up with them. But I could tell that my “Aunt” was zapping all of my energy and fast. I tried to stay with the women but slowly they started getting more ahead of me. Now keep in mind I had run an easy 15:30 training, but I had only trained to 8 miles- my FIRST mistake. My second was not training with my “Aunt” so I would know how it would feel and how to deal with it. I couldn’t for see getting it on race day, nor could I have controlled being sick the week before.
I stayed close enough to the women with balloons that I knew where they were. I kept an eye on the busses and vans to make sure they weren’t moving as I trudged forward. By Mile 11, I had nothing left. Walking was becoming painful for my hip but I was determined that I was going to DO THIS. I was too awesome to let this happen to me, and I didn’t want to let my friends and family down. They told us if you got into Epcot you would be safe. The last ramp, bridge, incline…just brutal. Why at the end of the race???? The only thing great about getting over that last ramp was seeing my good pal Byron at the bottom, hands out with a big smile. I squeezed his hand and thanked him for coming out to support me, he will never know what that meant to me.
Then it was coming… the end. I was so scared and beside myself that I didn’t know what to feel anymore. Was I safe, could I still be swept? Everyone said after Mile 11 we were good, but you never knew. The balloon ladies were now well ahead of me and I was doing everything I good to not stop moving at all. My hip hurt, I was cramping bad at this point, but I was determined to get my butt across that finish line. Princess Sophia was in the back corner upon entering Epcot and I just waved to her, “Aint nobody got time for that.” I could barely get up the Spaceship Earth hill and then it was run to World Showcase and back to SE before leaving the Park itself. As I ran down the small hill, I see two very familiar faces that started the tears. There was Dee and Shelley cheering me on and I just started to cry- real friends in a real situation, no other proof necessary. I ran past the gospel choir (perfect if you know me) and then around the corner I knew what was coming.
I looked around to see if I could see my family but it was hard to find them in the crowd, so I decided this was my moment and I gave 100% focus on finishing strong. I picked up my pace and with each step on the ground I could feel my heart beat saying “You’re doing it, you’re doing it!” There was Mickey, Goofy, and Minnie cheering me on and I gave it everything I had to cross that finish line. With my arms open wide in thanks to my Lord and Savior to getting me across that line, I wept openly and happily as my medal was placed around my neck.
Laurie found me first and then helped me find my family who I fell into their arms for one of the best group hugs of my life. I had done it, I PROVED I could talk the talk AND walk the walk (as I have before) and it was an amazing feeling. I accomplished something huge and I could not be prouder. Thanks to everyone who supported me during my training and the Half. All of your messages of love on the TRT Page. Text messages and my FB page meant the world to me that you took the time to comment. The next accomplishment will be my book coming out at the end of this month, then I can say I am a Half-Marathon finisher AND a published Author…. pretty cool for this chick from WI living out her FL dreams!
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Going from “What If? to “Why Not” is my life motto and I work hard at living that every day. I share everything from moving to Florida to live near Disney World to road trips across the States. I love the cool, quirky, and crazy stuff that I can find on my Adventures, and every dollar you donate helps support my efforts and hard work. Thank you to ALL who support me!