Monday, January 12, 2009

race report (sorta...)

Once the gun went off, we started running. I felt pretty dazed -- we'd been training for this for so long I could barely believe it was real. We set off at our pace, trying not to fret about the people passing us. We had decided that, since our only goal was to finish happy, we would keep our 5:1 run:walk ratio. The hardest part of that was that we had to move off to the side, out of the way, so that we didn't impede anyone. Of course, some people felt that the edges were the "fast lanes" and were upset about this. But we were relieved to hear so many watch alarms pinging around us -- clearly a lot of people were on run:walk programs. And, for the most part, people around us were well behaved, never clumping with more than 2 people.

The first mile went by really quickly... as did the second mile and third mile because we were in Epcot. I can barely remember it, but we ran under Spaceship Earth, all lit up in the dark, across a bunch of sparkly roadways, and then around the World Showcase, briefly spotting Mulan in China. Then suddenly we were at the merge point and things got a little bunchy. It was strange how the roads would widen out to as many as four lanes for a while, and then shrink down to one lane. But for the most part things went smoothly.

Around mile 6 we went across an overpass and could see the runners on the road below. It was amazing to see how far the runners stretched. It was also a relief when, as we came around the cloverleaf, we could see the long line of runners who were behind us running across the overpass. I heard a woman behind me saying "Those people are behind us? That's awesome!" Yep.

Some more semi-boring highway miles followed, including a trip past the Richard Petty experience. (It suddenly occurred to me that they should have found a way to have us run a loop of the track...). Then we ran past some of the monorail resorts, and then, suddenly, we were "backstage" at the Magic Kingdom. Wil said "Look -- Cinderella's castle!" and I got weepy. (Hey, you would too. I promise.) Then we ran through a gateway and around a corner on to Main Street USA, which was thronged with cheering spectators. This was a complete boost -- here, as with everywhere there were people, people called out our names because they were on our bibs. The first few times I didn't quite realize that the "Good job Sunny!" and the "Looking strong Wil!" were for us. But it was really energizing.

As we approached the castle, we stepped off the course for a picture. Of course, there was a helpful cast member there to snap just the right shot. Then back out for more running, this time through Tomorrowland, the back of Fantasyland, and then... through the castle. Trumpeters and princesses on the ramparts cheering as we ran through. On the other side, lots of race photographers.... including one who happily snapped photos of the people (yes, including us) who lined up to pose in front of the castle.

Then out through Liberty Square (past Goofy and Donald in patriotic gear), though Frontierland, and then we were backstage. We ran past Captain Jack and his pirate crew on the Black Pearl, which was fun. But then, sadly, we left the park and were back on nearly empty roads. I don't remember much about this stretch. At some point we stopped and took pictures with Mary Poppins (who was, indeed, practically perfect in every way). At another point we ran past Disney's garbage dump and water treatment plant. Oddly enough, hardly anyone used the porta-potties in this section.

Then, suddenly, there were animals along the course. Okay, first were Chip and Dale in safari suits... but then there were real sheep, handlers holding owls, a lovely tortoise, and more. We didn't stop -- I think we were both feeling a little tired and wanted to keep on track. A little further on we passed a very excited Rafiki, jumping up and down. Running through Animal Kingdom was odd -- it was the first time we were in a park with people who had paid to be in there rather than were there for the race. So it was the first time we faced angry tourists who weren't allowed free rein in the parks, and who had to wait to cross the course. But luckily we were still pretty early on, so it wasn't too bad. The pathways in Animal Kingdom are strange -- they're narrow and winding and made to look as if they have footprints and wheel ruts in them. So it was something of a relief to get out of the park, and run past a bunch of spectators.

Of course, the stretch after Animal Kingdom was the dreaded out and back... but in the end it was okay. We got to see runners ahead of us, and once we turned around, the runners behind us. Lots of cheering for each other. And great delight when we passed the 20-mile mark!

Things were going well until mile 22... I felt a funny twinge in my knee, which only hurt when I ran. We had talked about cutting back to 2:1, but even with that my knee wouldn't hold up. So since we were well ahead of the sweepers we decided to just walk for a bit.

Walking was interesting -- we went into Hollywood Studios and it was hard not to run down the roads lined with spectators. We seemed to get more cheers as walkers than we did as runners. People probably figured we needed the encouragement. Or perhaps we had started to look like we did at the end of our first half marathon, then the medal-giver told me "You look so strong, and so brave..."

At Hollywood Studios we got to run through the costume department, which was pretty great. And there were a lot of people moving around the park, but they seemed to have the crowd control sorted out a bit more. Right before we left the last backstage area at Hollywood Studios, we saw Pooh, Eeyore, and Tigger. Let's just say that I took off at a sprint to get in line.

We had seen Pooh and Piglet in Magic Kingdom, but ran past because Tigger wasn't with them. But there he was, dancing around. Luckily there were only a few people in line, so we were at the front after only a couple of minutes. I handed the cast member my camera, and ran up to Tigger who gave me a high five and a hug. We took a quick photo and, energized, took off again. Having rested my knee for two miles, I was ready to run:walk to the finish.

The last two miles were strange -- the pathways were very narrow in parts, but we were able to move pretty easily. Running past the Boardwalk and those hotels was great -- lots of support again -- and then we popped into Epcot next to "England". Lots of jokes about beer with the spectators who were standing outside the Rose & Crown. We went up the tiny incline on the bridge across to "France" and a cast member said "This is your last hill! It's literally all downhill from here!" I kept thinking about what people had said about Epcot being a "victory lap", and really enjoyed seeing all the people clapping.

The Future World part of Epcot was a bit weirder than the World Showcase; lots of uncomprehending visitors wondering why they couldn't walk freely. But the castmembers handled it really well so we were able to run freely. Another stretch past Spaceship Earth, this time sparkling in the sun, and then it was backstage -- and an amazing gospel choir dancing and singing... and the 26-mile marker.

We started having that surreal moment again... lots of people lining the route, screaming, clanging cowbells, shouting our names. One more little turn and I could see the finish line. This of course made me cry. We held hands, raised our arms in the air, and crossed in 5:33.

Lots of hugging, happy crying, and then we moved through the finishing area. Mylar blankets? Check! (Who cares that it was absurdly hot and we ended up just carrying them.) Chip removal? Check! Medal? Check!!!!

Then we approached the refreshment tents... first a bottle of water... then a bottle of blue Powerade (my favorite!)... and then, like a mirage, a sweet old English lady approached me with a cold Diet Coke. I don't care what anyone says, it was heaven.

We ate snacks, had our finisher photos taken, and started to stretch. Ouch! Absolutely crazy pain. But, heck, we had run a marathon!


  1. Wow. I'm totally crying reading this. You two are amazing and I LOVE that they had Diet Coke at the end. Disney World really is the happiest place on earth.

  2. I'm so happy for you-I can't believe I even know anyone who has run/finished an entire marathon. Reading your blog notes, I felt like I was there with you. The most thrilling part is that you worked and trained all year for it, and didn't give up, even through days of cold rain, heavy snow, and just exhausting days of daily life! Now that is really setting and keeping to a goal. goal settingI loved the Tigger ears in the photo, and hope that Wil didn't cut his hair! I'm having a Diet Coke right now to celebrate...from your proud sis.

  3. I'm with Lindsay, totally tearing up right now. Congratulations you two, what an incredible accomplishment. Enjoy the rest of your time at Disney. When you get back we will discuss why you have so many emotional friends. :)