Race Day! It was finally here, the day I had been working towards for months.
After tossing and turning for a good part of the night my alarm went off at 2:30am and amazingly I felt pretty well rested! I showered, got dressed, stretched, had a bowl of oatmeal, finished packing my race bag and was walking to the event bus by about 3:15am. It sort of hit me on the bus ride over that I was really about to do this, I was on my way to the starting line of my first marathon! I remember being surprised that I wasn’t more nervous, I actually felt excited!
Once I arrived at the starting area outside of Epcot I met up with Jenn, Daniel and Patrick who I had met back in October at the Wine & Dine Half Marathon, they were all doing the Goofy Challenge that weekend (running the half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday!). Shortly after, Lisa joined us – she wasn’t running that day, but she was there to cover the event for her blog HealthyDisney.com and to cheer the rest of us on!
At about 4:45am we dropped our bags off at bag check, made one last pre-race bathroom stop and followed the crowd of thousands of runners on the 20 minute walk to the starting corrals. I had gotten a text from my family saying that they were standing on the left side of the road not far past the starting line and I would pass them there and then again at mile 4, so I moved to the lefthand side and got ready for the race to start.
The National Anthem was sung, there were fireworks and the first corral was off! I was in the fourth corral so we slowly moved up as each group in front of us went and right when I got to the starting line I saw Emily, a friend I used to work with in Connecticut! Her company was sponsoring the race so she was there working, I ran over and gave her a quick hug and before I knew it I was across the starting line!
After a bit of highway running the first park we entered was Epcot. We entered right through the main entrance and ran under Spaceship Earth:
We entered the World Showcase and since it was still dark out all of the countries were lit up, it was amazing and this was definitely one of the times it really hit me that I was doing this! As we exited Epcot I knew we were looping back towards where we started and that I would pass my family (I had missed them at the start because they were on the other side of the road). It didn’t take long for me to spot them this time in their bright orange shirts they had made! Seeing them there and knowing they flew all the way down to Florida and got up at 4am that morning to stand on the side of the road in the cold just to support me was incredible. I honestly don’t even think I realized how happy I was to have Jason there until that moment. When I saw him I ran right over and gave him a huge hug!
I hate to say it, but a lot of the race was a blur! There was a lot of highway running between Epcot and the Magic Kingdom so it gave me sometime to think about what my running plan was for the rest of the morning (yes, I know this is something I should have thought about before the race, but better late than never!). I decided that in an effort to conserve my energy I was going to start my interval timer at mile 6 and from there on I was going to use a 3 minute run:1 minute walk ratio. I also decided that I would alternate between Powerade and water at the stops and I’d have some of my Stinger Chews every 3 miles. I had decided to not worry about my time, but I did check my Garmin now and then to make sure I was keeping my pace around my target of 11 min per mile so that I didn’t go out too fast.
When I was almost to the Magic Kingdom (mile 10ish), I got a text from Jason telling me they were on Main Street across from the Confectionary so as I entered the park I made sure to move over to the left hand side hoping to see them. I didn’t have to look hard at all! Right as I entered and came around the bend onto Main Street there they were! I again stopped for a quick “hello!” and some pictures and then I turned back and headed off towards the castle! I abandoned my running plan I worked so hard to come up with during miles 5-8 and decided that I was just going to run through the parks (there was just too much excitement to walk!) and I’d only use the run-walk on the long highway stretches.
Running down Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom towards the castle with thousands of spectators cheering us on was amazing. It was exactly what I imagined the moment to be like, but at the same time nothing could have prepared me for it.
We veered off to the right and into Tomorrowland and Fantasyland and then through the Castle! I stopped for a quick photo then headed towards Fronteirland where we exited the park.
Between the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom there was about 5 miles of highway, but I loved that at least there was a destination to look forward to other than the finish line, it broke up the run nicely.
I had heard about how some people would stop and ride Expedition Everest when they were going through Animal Kingdom and I was seriously considering doing it, actually I probably would have if it had been open when I was running by, but the park opened at 9am and I ran by at 8:58! I decided it wasn’t worth waiting for and kept going…which is when I passed Mickey!
Another 5 miles of highway lay between Animal Kingdom and the last park…and it wasn’t any 5 miles, it was miles 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22, probably the 5 miles I was most nervous about in this race. I was expecting everything to go downhill around mile 18, so I was surprised when I passed each mile marker and still felt pretty good! When I got to mile 20 I suddenly realized that I was on pace to finish in under 5 hours! I didn’t want to get my hopes up though because 20 miles was the longest I had ever run and I knew it could go downhill at any time.
Mile 22 was right around when we got to Hollywood Studios and it was then that I thought, “I’m actually going to do this! I’m going to finish a marathon!”
The race exited Hollywood Studios, ran past the Yacht and Beach Club and back into Epcot for one last lap around the World Showcase.
And then, there it was…the 26 mile marker! And right across from it there was a gospel choir singing! I turned the corner and headed for my last .2 miles towards the finish line…
I’ll write more soon on after the crossing the finish line!