It’s been over a week since the Disney marathon, giving me plenty of time to reflect upon the race. I chose to do a modified version of the Hansons Advanced Marathon plan, now known as the Luke Humphrey Marathon Method. I had the most epic build up to the race- I was able to hit pace on all of my major workouts, I didn’t miss any runs due to illness or injury, and I ran the most mileage I’ve ever run in a marathon build up (hello 70 mile weeks!). As the taper craziness set in, I did develop an inflamed tendon in my right ankle that had me on edge, and the weather had me a bit concerned. I was definitely one of those insane marathon runners who kept refreshing the weather reports from three or four different sources to see if there were any changes. Of course the weather every day leading to the marathon and after were predicted to be in the forties, maybe the fifties. Marathon morning was predicted to start in the 60’s with humidity in the 90’s. Quite a difference from the 20’s and 30’s that I had been training in.
I arrived in Disney Thursday afternoon and raced to the expo to pick up my stuff. I was doing the 10k on Friday morning. I argued with my PT about it, as he did not want me doing it. However my training plan had a 6 miler two days before the marathon, so why not get a Minnie Mouse medal for it? I eventually won, thought I was supposed to run easy, in the low 8’s and he highly approved of me stopping for character pics. I got up at 2:30 am Friday morning, braved the 45 degree weather, and ran a LITTLE faster than I was supposed to, around a 7:48 pace, but it felt pretty easy and I did stop for a bunch of pictures. My ankle was a little sore after, and unfortunately I began to experience some GI issues after the race that continued through out the day, making me a little uneasy. I ate lightly the rest of the day, and really light on Saturday, which was really not a good idea the day before the marathon.
I woke up before my 2:00 am alarm on Sunday and started getting ready early. I already could tell my stomach wasn’t going to be happy with me. I ate my usual breakfast and drank some Nuun before heading off to the race retreat. It was nice to have a place to sit and relax before the race, with private portapotties that I frequented several times. I still didn’t feel right, so I tried doing a short warm up run and then began the long walk to the corrals. Standing in the corral I felt oddly calm, which is really weird for me because I am normally an anxious mess and with the weather not being optimal and my stomach off, I had a lot I could have been worried about. But I watched the race announcers entertaining the crowd and allowed myself to just zone out a bit before we were sent off with major fanfare and fireworks.
The first mile was a little frustrating to me. Being in A, I didn’t expect to have to dodge a bunch of people right away, but I was stuck maneuvering my way through a lot of runners. I wanted to set a quick pace to start, knowing that when the sun came up, the humidity and heat would begin to take its toll. At the 5k mark, just after you hit the Magic Kingdom gates, I was pretty pleased with the pace I had so far. A little on the fast side, but I didn’t feel like I was pushing too hard yet. It was fun running through this area. There’s always great crowds at the transportation center, and knowing that you’re going to turn on to Main Street soon and see the castle all lit up, it makes the time fly. I decided to stop for a picture with Donald and a picture in front of the castle once we hit the Magic Kingdom, and was happy that I had maintained a pace in the 7:40’s through the first 5 miles (38:25), however I could feel my stomach getting upset as we left the park.
I held out until about mile 8, when I finally stopped at a set of porta potties. It was a quick stop, and I was off running again, hitting up cone alley, noticing that the humidity was getting more obvious. Through ten miles I was still holding on to pace, even with the bathroom stop (1:18:41). We finally turned into Animal Kingdom area, which was a relief because it would provide some entertainment. As we wound around I decided to hit up Timon and an ostrich from Fantasia as there was no one at either picture stop. Even with those stops, I was at a 1:43:36 at the half split. Then I actually came across a friend from Buffalo upon leaving the park, and we talked for a minute before I wished him luck and he ran on ahead.
I could feel my stomach getting upset again and I was debating if I would stop at the portapotties that I knew were always outside of the Animal Kingdom parking lots. I decided to see how long I could hang on without a stop, passing them by, and headed towards ESPN. I made it to about mile 17 before I had to stop again, frustrated with my body for betraying me. This stop took longer and really dropped my 20 mile pace (2:42:02).
A lot of people hate ESPN, and I hate the road leading into and out of it, but I actually don’t mind being IN ESPN. There’s always a band, nice people handing out sponges, characters (yay Minnie!) and food options, which I turned down since I was struggling so bad. There’s also some shade in areas, so I really don’t mind it. Leaving ESPN I started cramping a bit, so I took my first walk break that wasn’t at a water station, right between miles 21-22. It was super short, and I began plodding along again. By this point there were a lot of runners who were stopping to walk as the heat was definitely going up and the sun was fully in the sky. I just kept telling myself I had less than a 10k to go, and began counting down the miles.
The course into Hollywood Studios was ridiculously short, and we were out of the park before you knew it. I do love the stretch between Hollywood and the Boardwalk. I think it’s really pretty and at that point, you know you only have like a 5k left and the end is near. I also love the support on the Boardwalk, so I was pretty happy once we hit that part of the course. There were tons of people out cheering, and I smiled and continued to run towards Epcot. I took water at the last stop and looked at my watch, realizing at that point that I still had a chance to qualify to Boston, even with the two bathroom stops and the character pics that I took since I was sure I didn’t have a chance. I started running again, and took a deep breath as I entered Epcot and passed the mile 25 sign.
It was just after that I began getting a terrible cramp in my side. I tried walking for 10 seconds to see if it went away, but it only got worse when I started running again. My mind began whirling. This couldn’t be happening now. I had never had a cramp so agonizing before. I stopped running again, practically bending over sideways, trying to stretch it as I powerwalked around the world showcase. This 10 second break seemed to do the trick because when I began running again it slowly went away, much to my relief. I would be able to run this thing to the end. As we finished circling the world showcase and went past Spaceship Earth, I began picking up my pace, averaging a 7:16 pace according to my Garmin for the last half mile.
I made that last turn out of Epcot, totally focusing on just finishing strong. I noticed the crowd cheering and began looking towards the finish line, hearing the announcers call my name. My eyes zeroed in on the clock above the finish line and I watched the seconds tick up, realizing that I was going to do it. Despite the heat and humidity, despite by GI tract deciding to rebel on me, I was going to still going to qualify to Boston. I was going to achieve what I had worked for over four months. I crossed the finish line in 3:33:33. I hunched over right away, as I always get super dizzy after a race, and the medical staff immediately put me in a wheelchair. I saw my husband from the chair, and he gave me a thumbs up and I nodded. I told the volunteer that I was okay, and after confirming several times with me, she let me get up and walk to get my medal. I immediately walked over the fence, where my husband waited, nearly in tears. All I could say was, “Oh my God, I qualified to Boston!” He took my picture and I continued the long walk towards the family reunion area.
Looking back at this race, I have so many mixed feelings. Was it a good race? Absolutely not, but it proved to me that even when things went wrong, I was still able to persevere and fight to the end. I could have given up, in the past I might have when things started unraveling. I achieved my main goal of hitting my first Boston qualifying time. That is what I had told my PT back in June. That I wanted to train for Disney and qualify for Boston. We both knew it would be a challenge as my PR time was only a 3:59, but we went for it and I achieved a 26 minute PR. I can say I qualified to Boston.
But there’s a part of me that knows I can do better. A part of me worries that a 1:27 cushion won’t be enough. So I know I’m going to have to run another marathon this year, in hopes that I can push myself even further and cut my time down a little further., and grudgingly my PT has agreed with me. I really want to run Boston in 2020. Right now I think I’m going to look for a race in early September, before the registration opens. As a teacher, I will have the summer off to really focus on training, which will make it way easier to train than it was trying to balance everything during the school year. I’m registered to run the Star Wars half in April, which I’m going to train for and hope I can PR, which would be a great base to go into another marathon training block with. And hopefully my next marathon will be another PR, giving me a better chance to run Boston in 2020. Here goes nothing…