Yesterday I posted a picture titled “Yeah, That Just Happened“. It was a photo of me and my friend Sarah Donahue crossing the finish line of the Epcot Wine & Dine Half Marathon at Walt Disney World on October 1st, 2011. This was a “first” for both of us. Sarah had run the relay in 2010 and I had never attempted anything more than a 5K (3.1 miles).
I had registered for the marathon months ago thinking that I would follow a training plan during the weeks leading up to the race. That never happened and then I found myself 14 days away from the event with no training under my belt. It’s September. It’s Central Florida. It’s HOT! No body wants to run outside in that. Well, two weeks prior to race night I set out on a 4 mile jog. I did it! I was totally spent afterwards but I got the 4 miles in. One week later I set out with the goal of doubling that run to 8 miles. That didn’t happen and I was spent again after 4. This was not looking good.
The day of the marathon was spent taking it easy for the most part. I slept in and then I carb loaded for breakfast at Whispering Canyon Cafe at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge Resort. Three mickey waffles with butter, syrup and whipped cream, a slice of bacon and a ton of skillet potatoes. After breakfast we headed to the Expo to take a walk around.
Then it was back to the hotel for some RnR. I caught up on some TV I had missed and tried to drink as much water as possible. It was creeping up around 5pm. We had to be at Epcot and on a bus around 7pm so that we could get to the ESPN Wide World of Sports and in our Corrals by 9pm. The race started at 10pm. I was extremely nervous about what to have for dinner. I didn’t want something that wouldn’t agree with me so it would have to be something tried and true. McDonald’s Southern Style Chicken Sandwich with extra pickles and cheese and an unsweet iced tea fit the bill. Sarah and I ate and threw on our running gear and headed down to the car. It was the start of an epic evening!
We finally made it into the Epcot parking lot around 6:45pm and could see the mass of buses waiting there to pick up all of the athletes (I love using this word…never thought of myself as one…more on that in a minute) and transport them to WWofSports. We met up with another running buddy Marc Bigbie and boarded the bus. At this point, there was no turning back. Intimidation crept in as I looked around me at all of the ‘hard-body’ folks sitting on that Disney bus. This was definitely a different crowd than was present at the 5K’s I had attended. There were no walkers here. These were runners! The bus ride was quick, much like the pace that the evening was about to take. We arrived at the ESPN WWofSports field around 7:00pm and decided to pose for some pictures.
Mickey and Minnie were both set up to take photos with runners at their own individual booths. The lines were relatively short so we got our photos with both of them. There was a DJ spinning tunes and hoards of marathoners doing the electric slide, cupid shuffle, etc. Were they NUTS!? Why expend all that energy pre-race? We found a nice cushy spot in the grass in a fort of port-o-potties and just waited….
The sun was starting to set and I was trying to keep my mind distracted from the task which was shortly going to be at hand by responding to all of the outpouring of support from my Facebook and Twitter friends. (I love you ALL!) Via social media we were able to hook up with some more Disney runners. =)
This group of friends was scheduled to start in different corrals. The corrals were scheduled A-E and each had a start time 5 minutes apart. The fast runners like Marc were starting in A at 10pm. Nicole was in B. Tim, Jim and I were in C and surprisingly the gal who actually RAN in this race last year was in E! wth Disney? Well…Sarah and I were bound and determined that she was going to get up to Corral C with me. The announcer called runners to their corrals. The Nazi VoluntEARS were not going to let ANYONE into another corral and Sarah…my coach who promised to stay by my side…was forced to go back to corral E. Panic set in! I still had Jim and Tim but both these guys had already run in half marathons before and I was sure I would not be able to keep up.
As I looked around at all the runners surrounding me in that sea of spandex and iPods I was reminded of my thought on the bus ride over. What was I doing standing here with all these athletes? I felt totally out of place! It reminded me of when I first had my daughter. I was a young mom and an only child. I had NEVER been around babies before and I was learning as I went along. I recalled the very first time I took my infant daughter to the mall to go shopping. I put her in the baby stroller and as I was pushing her through the mall entrance I felt like I was just pretending. Like she wasn’t mine. Like at any moment I was going to be figured out. The fact of the matter is, that was all in my head. None of the people in that mall were looking at me thinking I was pretending. Just like none of the people in that half marathon corral were looking at me wondering what I was doing there. They were all too busy thinking about themselves and getting through the monumental 13.1 mile task at hand. You see…the run is 90% mental. If you’re in good health, you can power walk a 16 minute mile (the minimum race pace) the rest of it is dependent on your mental toughness as I was about to find out.
10 pm and the fireworks have sounded…wheelchair racers are off! Corral A is off! Corral B is off! Corral C slowly moves to the start. The MC announces that over 65% of the runners in this race are women and the average age is 36. I can totally relate. There is a 70-something-year-old running and a hand full of 14-year-olds (the minimum age to runDisney). I got this! The fireworks sound and we are OFF! Everyone is polite and courteous and I am at a slow jog just moving right along. I tell myself that I will run to the turn onto Osceola Parkway and then I will walk for a bit. I’m feeling good as I round the curve onto Osceola Parkway. I’m going at a good “run-walk-run” as I watch streams of Corral D and E runners pass me up. It’s OK…I’m going at my own pace. I start to see Corral A runners on the other side of the road, they have already run through Animal Kingdom and are headed back down the other side of Osceola Parkway. I am rubbernecking looking to see if I can spot my buddy Marc. Nope. Trying to concentrate on the task at hand. Looking around periodically to see if Sarah has caught up with me from Corral E.
As we head into the Animal Kingdom parking lot I am looking for a port-o-let. Finally…this is going to add some time to my run but I have to go. To much fluid intake. Drats! That was the longest pee of my life. I could hear the seconds rushing by as I struggled to get my sweaty clothes situated and fuel belts adjusted in that tiny dark cell so that I could reappear outside. I was kind of looking forward to the Animal Kingdom portion of the run. I had run it before when I completed the Expedition Everest 5K a few months prior.
I was almost to Mile 4 and the Tree of Life when I heard a familiar voice from behind! It was Sarah! She had kicked ass and caught up with me. Boy was I relieved! She was quite a bit faster than me and that’s when the pace picked up. I now had to try and keep up with her. She had been training and was lighter in the feet and was always 10 steps ahead of me for the remainder of the race. Kind of like a beacon of light in the distance that I was always aiming to reach. We sailed through Animal Kingdom and came out on the other side of the parking lot which was the relay exchange station. This was the point where the 5 milers switched out with the 8 milers. WHY HADN’T I DONE THAT?! It was at this point that I just wanted to quit. I was done. I had run farther than I had ever run before and was finding it extremely difficult to keep pace with Sarah. I kept telling her to run faster but she refused to leave my side. My brain was saying no even though my body was still going. Hunger and fatigue were starting to set in and I needed a boost of something. From here on out I stopped at every water station and downed two cups of Powerade. It was now time to head back out onto Osceola Parkway and to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. if I could just make it off the main roads and to “the Studios” I was less likely to be swept.
At one point Sarah pointed out the Sweep Vans positioned on the side of the roads. BIG MISTAKE! Now every time I passed one of those vans on the course I had to stop myself from crawling into one and surrendering. Around mile 7 I felt like I was at a rave! Music pumping through the air outside, people sweaty and gyrating to the music. People talking out of their heads from exhaustion. Hearts pounding…the sound of an ambulance in the distance. It was so bizarre! Closer to mile 8 I could hear the sound of Kevin from Disney’s movie “UP”. It was that horrible call that she made when she was looking for her babies. It was disturbing to me and made me feel desperate, like she had been when she was captured. I just wanted to get past that point and I was also starting to get a cramp in my right leg just above the knee. Great! What the hell do you do for a cramp? I’d never had one….I had never gone this far! I just had to work it out.
We finally got past Kevin and headed up yet another hill for the stretch down World Drive. There was a green army man hollering at us to “Get Up that Hill!” I was walking anticipating a run down the other side of the hill. This was when I saw my first race related injury. On the side of the road…a man being strapped to a board by paramedics. Eep! Glad it wasn’t me. I could see the turn onto Buena Vista Drive! WooHoo! I was almost off the main roads and into the clear!
It was at this point that I got a text from my husband. “15 minute mile keep it up!” I was at Mile 9. I used to work at DHS so I knew this park like the back of my hand. By this point my body was full of adrenaline. If I slowed down to a power walk my body’s cardiovascular and nervous systems felt sick and wanted to go faster but my muscular system was telling me to slow it down. Also at this point my second toenail on my left foot was starting to hurt…bad. I could hear runners around me talking about their feet going numb. Been there! My leg was cramping up again and I was STARVING! I could see the marker for Mile 10. Holy shit! I got this! Only a 5K left to do. We ran across the set of Lights Motors Action and there was a camera capturing all of the runners and projecting it up on the big screen. There we were! Running a half marathon and almost done with it too! We headed down the Streets of America to the sights of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights and Christmas music. What a treat!
The rest of DHS and the Boardwalk area were muddled with “Will this ever end?” Lots of runners were walking at this point feeling safe from being swept. When we got up to the Yacht and Beach Club we saw runners who had already finished heading back to their hotel rooms. “You’re SO CLOSE!” they would each say to us. Finally…backstage at Epcot and Mile 13. There was a big hot air balloon a cast member was deflating. What?! Keep that stuff UP! It’s the runners in the back that need the motivation! I saw a sign that said “Congratulations…You just burnt 1300 calories!”. I was frantically looking for the finish. Mentally I had been telling myself for the past three miles…”I’m never going to do this again!” and I believed it! Sarah said, “Come on! The finish line is just around the corner!” I picked it up to a slow trot and then it happened. I crossed over the Finish Line and heard my name called “AMANDA TINNEY”! I raised my arms in victory and fought back the tears. I was taking in what I had just accomplished and finally feeling the pain from three hours and 29 minutes of physical exertion. I hugged the neck of my friend and fellow VoluntEAR Rora as she draped that medal around my neck. Choking back tears, I whimpered in her her ear that “I never wanted to do that again”. Then I joined my “COACH” Sarah who had so loyally stuck beside me the entire time. WE DID IT MY DEAR FRIEND….WE DID IT!
Much LOVE and respect to the loves of our life Sarah and Barry for waiting until almost 2am to watch us cross the finish line and document this momentous event on film. And words can not express the gratitude and love that I felt from all of you that cheered me on via Twitter and Facebook. Proud to call myself a runner and can’t wait for my next race! #GetOffthe Couch