Disclaimer: these are some of the most horrific pictures I've taken in a while. It was dark, my hands were cold and I was a wee bit distracted. I fully intended on taking pictures during the race, but every attempt yielded a blurry mess. Had I not been concerned about time, I would have stopped to take better pictures, however, after logging 301 training miles over the course of 16 weeks, in preparation for this race, I didn't want to stop for pictures; I had something to prove to myself.
Our race day morning started at about 2:50 am. Yep, 2:50 am. Marathon buses were coming between 3 and 4 am to take us to Epcot where we would then take a 20 minute walk to the start lines. I suppose you could chalk this up to divine intervention, or maybe just dumb luck, but our hotel, which I chose rather arbitrarily, was a couple minute walk from the start line. While at the pool on Saturday, I overheard a woman say they always forgo the early bus + 20 minute walk and just walk to the start lines.
And that is what Craig and I did. Instead of catching a bus at 3 am, we slept a little longer and stayed inside our warm hotel room until nearly 4:30.
Pre-race breakfast of champions:
except I forgot to eat the banana.
With our food digested, it was time to put on all of our race day gear, which we laid out the night before.
I didn't even use my ipod. They're essential for training runs, but with Disney World as your backdrop and people all around you, I didn't feel the need to listen to my own music.
Can't forget the toe caps; not that it matters....I still got blisters.
Do I look ready?
After a short walk, we arrived at the start line. All we needed was to hop the little fence.
Destination: Corral C. Craig was actually assigned to the speedy Corral A, because of his previous marathon time, but he moved to the middle of the pack to be with me.
We arrived well before those who were walking from the buses. The corral was empty, which provided us with ample room to conduct our pre-race rituals.
I think Craig isn't going to be happy I posted this picture. Eh, he'll get over it. :)
Eventually, the corrals started to fill up and we were entertained by some rather cheerful race day announcers. It's amazing how cheerful you are when you're NOT about to run 26.2 miles.
Time for self portraits.
As the start time neared, we were suddenly surrounded by the 4:00 pace team.
Um, yeah. That's not going to happen.
At 5:30, the fireworks went off, signaling the start time for the wheelchair participants.
I tried to get a picture of the fireworks, but again, my frozen fingers failed me.
At 5:43 Corral C's fireworks went off and we made our way across the start line.
And just like that, we were done!
Well, not really.
Click here, and you'll see the course Craig put on Map My Run. It'll take a second to load, just scroll down a bit.
We ran through four of Disney's theme parks: Epcot, the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and then back to Epcot for the finish.
Our first stop was Epcot. The big golf ball was beautifully illuminated against the dark background of the night time sky. Our time there was short, but we knew we'd be back for the big finish.
The trip to the Magic Kingdom took several miles. By the time the sun rose and the crowds were out in full force, we ran through Cinderella's Castle around the 10.5 mile mark.
The longest and most boring stretch of the race occurred between the Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom. I'm not sure how long it was, but I think it was around 7 miles of boring roads, water treatment facilities and the recycling center. Thankfully there was some sort of entertainment placed at about half mile increments on the course.
It really helped to break up the monotony.
My memory is failing me now, but near the 20 mile mark, after we had left the Animal Kingdom, we heard 'Sweet Caroline' playing, which gave Craig and I a little extra boost. Once we reached the 20 mile marker, we took the first of four walk breaks. I had never run 20 miles straight before, so this was quite an accomplishment.
The sounds of Frank Sinatra's New York, New York serenaded us as we ran through Hollywood Studios; at that point, I was ready to be done....and also ready to eat french fries. All I could think about was salty foods.
After eating three sugary GU packets and two bananas on the course, which I chased with either Powerade or water, I was ready for french fries. Towards the end of the race, they handed out miniature candy bars. Now, I like chocolate as much as the next person, but chocolate at mile 23 of a marathon isn't the least bit appealing.
French fries, yes. Chocolate, no.
What's with me and fries? It could be worse; after a few long training runs, all I wanted to eat was beef jerky. Blech. How does a quasi vegetarian crave beef jerky?
Anyway, after Hollywood Studios, we ran through a boardwalk area and on to the countries portion of Epcot. Not before long we had run through Canada, England, France, Japan, Morocco, China, Germany and Mexico (and some I'm surely forgetting). With the big golf ball in sight, I knew the race was almost over. Hallelujah!
I was never so happy to see the 26 mile sign, which gave me a little surge of energy, knowing the end was really in sight. Two tenths of a mile later, Craig and I crossed the finish line, hand in hand at 4:33:13.
As hard as all the training was, as painful as the blisters and sore legs were, as much as I worried about Craig's body and my own mental strength, I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat. To be honest, I was concerned from the beginning that Craig and I wouldn't make good running buddies; a few times, my fears were proven correct, but in the end, we did it together and I'm so happy we did.