2018 WDW Marathon Weekend

A rocky road to 26.2:

If you’ve read some of my other posts, you know that Chicago was a disaster for   me.  I finished, but in agony, and took myself to a PT and signed up with a running coach.  I had the Disney Marathon in three months and I wanted redemption.  Initially at the PT we were treating it as an IT Band injury, and it was going well- I had run the Wine and Dine half relatively strong and finished a local Turkey Trot in a much faster time than I had anticipated.  I was pretty excited as we were approaching one month to go, until my knee started really acting up again during my two peak weeks.

My PT re-evaluated my knee and threw out a word no runner wants to hear: meniscus.  Of course my mind started whirling.  He wasn’t saying that was it necessarily, but some of the tests he did were indicating a tear and he wanted me to go get an MRI.  He kept saying I’d still be able to run, but I was anxious as I was in a fair amount of pain from even short runs.  How was I going to run 26.2?

Then I went to an orthopedic, who spoke of legs exploding due to stress fractures or needing surgery because my meniscus would be so far gone.  I left there frazzled, scared, and unsure of whether I was going to be able to run.  Thank god for a PT/running buddy that helped keep me somewhat grounded during this whole ordeal!  She put up with a lot of anxiety and panic over the course of about ten days.

I went to get my MRI done, but then couldn’t get back in to see the ortho before I was supposed to leave for the race, so we also sent the results to my PT.  The MRI was clear of any signs of a meniscus tear or stress fracture, which was a relief.  I was still in pain, but at least I didn’t have to have the image of my leg shattering haunting each running step.

Then, on January 1st, less than a week to the race, I woke up with a 101 fever and feeling like I was hit by a ton of bricks.  I was really frustrated.  We had just ruled out some major concerns for running the marathon, and now I was going to be sick.  Last time it went into a full blown case of bronchitis which had lingered for a long time, so I went to immediate care and they gave me antibiotics.  I’m not sure they did much, but at least they were something else to help battle whatever was making me feel like garbage.

WDW Marathon Expo

My husband went to Disney early than I did and went to the expo on day one.  It was insane.  Lines everywhere, and he went later in the day, so it wasn’t just the mad rush of the opening.  They did seem to have plenty of merchandise out, but none of the marathon stuff was overly appealing this year.  The Dopey and Half stuff were much better, which was disappointing since this was the first year I was only doing the full.  He bought me a couple of things he thought I’d like and we went back on Friday morning.

Friday wasn’t a big deal.  There weren’t really any lines, and we got there shortly after opening.  We went to the merchandise area first, which was still pretty well-stocked.  It was relaxing and not very stressful, so if you are not in a rush for any particular merchandise, I definitely recommend waiting to go.

I was excited when I found the race weekend Alex and Ani bracelets and bought one of those.  It was super cute and a nice new addition to the merchandise.  The race merchandise was separate from everything else again, which I still think is a great idea.  It has a much larger space now, which allows for easier browsing, and it clears up space in the main expo building.

After hitting up the race merchandise and getting my bib and shirt, we wandered the expo for awhile.  I wanted to get a black long sleeve to have as an option for the race and Raw Threads had one on sale, which made me happy.  I really love their stuff, it’s really comfortable to run in, so I was glad to pick up a new shirt for a decent price.  I also grabbed three pairs of ProCompression socks from their booth.  They were having a big sale, buy three for $60, and they had some styles that they haven’t had in stock online in awhile.  My husband also picked up some race fuel because he had forgotten to bring his.

Race Day

I was really anxious going into the race.  During my shake out run on Saturday I had felt a lot of pain in my knee, and I found this to be very concerning.  I spent a lot of time with my leg propped up, icing or using my TENS unit.  The only time I really was on my feet was when we went to Disney Springs to get lunch/early dinner.

We woke up at 2 AM and I meticulously applied my kinesiology tape.  I was worried it would fall off while I was running, which has happened on a few long runs, so I was very careful when I applied it.  After getting ready, we wandered to the bus stop.  We stayed at Port Orleans French Quarter, so there was only one bus stop at our resort, but then we went to every stop at Riverside, so it took forever to get to the staging area of the race. I found this annoying at the time, but it helped lessen the time we had to stand out in the cold, so I guess it was a good thing in the end.  We didn’t get in line for any prerace pictures because the lines were already really long, so we just hit up the bathrooms a few times (I am such a nervous pee-er, lol) and then checked our stuff.

We were in corral B, so luckily we didn’t have to wait too long.  I huddled in a ball under a thermal blanket for awhile, and was not happy when I stood up to start warming up and realized I had to pee again.  There were not any portapotties near the corral so I realized I would have to stop on the course- my first time ever having to stop in a marathon, but there was no way I was going to make it through the race.

Disney sent us off in its usual extravagant fashion, and we went off on a rather slow start.  I was right at the front of one of the waves, but I had to do a lot of dodging in the first mile of the course, which I’m not used to.  It was actually pretty frustrating.  I did get lucky when we got to the first bank of portapotties since I found an open one right away, which meant I didn’t lose much time, and then I set out on my way, running up the shoulder of the road a bit to be able to get back into my pace.

The Actual Race

After stopping for the bathroom, I really felt like I was able to get into a rhythm.  I wanted to stay around 9:00 miles for the first thirteen miles.  If I did that, I could drop to as low as 10:00 for the last half, keeping in mind that my knee tended to get worse later in the run, and still get my second fastest marathon time.  My PR was a 4:04, and I wasn’t sure that I would have that in my legs, but I wanted to beat a 4:18 so I could at least have my second fastest time and take over a half an hour off of my Chicago time.

The first few miles ticked by, and I was happy that I was maintaining a decent pace without much effort.  Besides the first mile being about 10:00 with the stop, I had an 8:44, an 8:37, and an 8:50 for the next few.   You hit the Magic Kingdom area around mile three, though it takes a few more miles before you actually hit the park.  I slowed down once actually in the park, stopping for a picture at the castle, and enjoyed the sites and cheering crowds.  That’s always such an exciting part of the run, with everything lit up and so many people there to support the runners.

After leaving Magic Kingdom, where my splits were at or just over 9:00, I returned to sub 9:00 pace, stopping for a few more pics on the outskirts of the park.  However, I was noticing knee pain starting during mile five, and it became more apparent as I left the distractions of the park.  I kept telling myself to push through, that it wasn’t that bad yet and I could slow down at mile 10 if I really needed to, but to try to keep to the plan because I was doing so well thus far.

I continued on.  Animal Kingdom was slower with the hills, sharp turns, and sites, but I was still below pace and was noticing less pain in my knee, so on I went.  I hit the halfway point still going strong, only walking for a few seconds at water stops to make sure I was adequately hydrating.  I have a tendency to choke on my water if I drink while running, ruining my breathing and rhythm.  It’s really classy when I start coughing and dying, so I figured I’d avoid that at all costs, especially since I was still feeling the effects of being sick all week.

The stretch after Animal Kingdom is quite boring, and I   made it to ESPN still going relatively hard, but I could feel myself struggling a bit.  I stopped for a pic with Minnie at ESPN, and with Joy and Sadness, and felt my gait shifting because my right upper IT Band was getting annoyed.  I noticed my pace was dropping, but I was near mile 20, so well beyond mile 13, where I had initially told myself I could slow, so at this point I started doing the ma  th in my head, figuring out what pace I needed to finish at certain times.  There are a few overpasses after you leave ESPN, and I cursed one of them out loud, leading someone nearby to encourage me up it.  I smiled at her and was thankful for some moral support.  It helped pass the time as I approached my favorite portion of the course- the stretch in Hollywood to Boardwalk/Beach Club, and into Epcot.

By this point I had definitely slowed down, and took a slightly longer water stop walk break at the hill going into Hollywood than the others, but I kept plodding on, doing math and enjoying the scenery, stopping for a picture with Oswald.  I love the cheering crowds in this section and knowing your so close to the end.  There’s always lots of people as you run by Beach Club, and I recognized some signs that I had seen earlier on the course now gathered there.  Upon going back towards Epcot, they shuffle you backstage, where the final water stop is, before you enter near the UK in the worlds.

I had one mental break down in mile 25, where I allowed myself to walk without being at a water station.  My leg hurt, I was mentally exhausted, and I was getting discouraged as my mind was starting to tell me I wasn’t going to get my goals.  Then I did the math one more time and realized if I hauled butt, I could actually go under four hours.  I hadn’t really thought that would be possible, not with the injuries going in, and being sick that week on top of it.  But the math didn’t lie, I just needed to keep running.

I urged my legs to move and continued around the world in Epcot.  As I passed Spaceship Earth, I looked at my watch again.  The pace I was holding wasn’t going to be enough.  My legs, dead as they were, needed to move faster if I was going to go under 4:00.  It took everything I had to move faster.  My watch beeped for 26 miles, but I knew my mileage was off at this point.  I continued on, feeling inspired by the choir that I knew stood near the finish line.  We turned the final corner and could see the finish line and I gave my watch one more look, realizing I had less than a minute to get there.  I laugh, because the last split after my watch hit 26 averaged 8:27 pace, but man did I feel like I was doing a 100 meter sprint.  I moved my legs as fast as I could, watching the clock above the finish line, which didn’t match my start time, but I used it to pull me forward.  When I realized I was going to do it, I almost started crying.  I high fived Chip or Dale (I was freaking out mentally too much- no idea which character), and stopped my watch, frantically checking my time.

3:59:42.

I covered my mouth with my hand and could feel myself wanting to cry, and also wanting to pass out, so I moved to the side and bent over for a minute as my mind raced with my time and my body was growing accustomed to not moving.  A medic came over and hung with me for a minute, and I assured her I just needed a minute to collect myself, and then I moved on.  I got my medal from a girl near the end of the line, and collected the rest of the stuff Disney gives runners.  I was really excited to get special Mickey ears for running the 25th anniversary race and I was beaming in my I did it picture.  I was euphoric.  After everything that I had been through prior to this race, the ups and many downs of my training cycle, I couldn’t believe that I had gotten a PR, way beyond my goals.

I had some time to get character pictures at the finish line while I waited for my husband to finish, and my phone/Facebook/Instagram were blowing up from people who were either tracking me, or saw my ecstatic post when I finished.  I really appreciated all of that support at the end.  It was nice to have people to share my accomplishment with.

After the crappy running year I had in 2017, I can’t believe that 2018 has started off so amazing already.  This race, even with all of the curveballs that I had to endure, beat my expectations and gave me a new PR when I haven’t PRed in any race distance in years.  I really have to thank my coach, Melina from Next Level Running, for creating a training plan for me that helped me get there, and for my PT, Scott, for putting up with me and helping me become strong enough to make it through the race.

Now I’m not sure what my goals for 2018 will be, I have so many things I want to do and need to prioritize.  It’d also be nice if my knee could heal up, but I am just so happy to have finally experienced some success at running and am looking forward to what this year might bring.  🙂

Race Report: Wine and Dine Half Marathon

On the first bus out of Pop!
As I mentioned in my expo post, I miss when the Wine and Dine half was at night.  It used to be so fun to start at ESPN, hit up a bit of Animal Kingdom, and then arrive at Hollywood Studios and run through the Osborne Light Show.  There was something so magical about turning the corner and just being completely immersed in Christmas lights and cheer.  It was a great way to start the last third of the race.

Then the race got moved to the morning, and with all of the construction in Hollywood Studios, the course has changed drastically, with the start moving to Magic Kingdom.  I wish there was a way you could actually run IN Magic Kingdom for a bit.  It’s like they taunt you a bit, brining you so close to the park, but then have you running away from it towards Animal Kingdom.

This race always has characters out dressed in restaurant or chef gear, and it’s fun to get prerace pictures with them.  We were able to get Donald, Minnie, and Mickey before we decided to jump in the bathroom line.  This seemed to be a bit of a mess.  there was a cue for the portapotties that wrapped back and forth and ended in the middle of the line of portapotties, rather than the lines that people usually form.  This wasn’t working well because there were often bathrooms left empty because you couldn’t tell from the middle if they were open or not.  It moved slowly and I don’t think this was the best thing.  Usually you can jump in line and get through relatively quickly prior to the race, but this time I was not overly impressed.  The castmembers were telling us there were available bathrooms once you went into the corral areas, but after being in line so long we didn’t want to get out of line in case it was just as chaotic in the other area, which still ended up being congested when we got in line there later.  I’m a nervous runner and usually have to use the bathroom A LOT before a race, so these long lines stressed me out.

I raced into corral A after they had already left the corral and walked to the start line.  I lined up at the back of the corral, which I’m not really used to, and tried to tell myself it would be ok, that I wasn’t going for a PR and it was okay if I got caught in some congestion.  Luckily, as the front corrals have become smaller in recent races, I really didn’t have a problem with too slow of a start or getting trapped like I used to.  I watched the usual announcers discuss the race, invite Minnie and Mickey up, and then send us on our way.  The fireworks at the start were awesome and we began our 13 mile trek around Disney.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel like Disney did a better job of placing characters and entertainment on the course.  I never felt overly bored, which I have on some of their more recent courses as they have had to divert around various construction projects.  They had some bigger names out, like Tink starting the list of characters, though her line was already long when I passed by in the middle of the A corral, and I chose not to stop.

You didn’t get to Animal Kingdom until around mile four, and you only got to be in the park for about one mile, but it was cool to run through Pandora.  It looked pretty neat in the dark.  I was excited to see Rafiki in the park, and I stopped for a quick picture because there was no line!  I was a little disappointed at the lack of picture opportunities during this segment of the race, but it was still fun.  The course was pretty curvy at this point, and I noticed my pace dropped a lot while in the park, and this is also where my knee became a bit more noticeable, so I had to pick it up once we got back onto access roads and then the main roads.

Mile 5 looped around the from of Animal Kingdom and the parking lot, then 6 took us back to the highway. Miles 7, 8, and 9 all were pretty much on the main roads.  There were some characters and entertainment, like the Green Army Man who yells at you as you get closer to Hollywood Studios on one of the few hills.  I love when you see the Green Army Man because it signals that you are closer to Hollywood, and I like the course after you hit Hollywood Studios.

 

We spent a little time in the park, where they had some of their Christmas stuff up.  It wasn’t nearly as cool as before when it was the Osborne Lights, but it was exciting after being out on the roads for awhile.  As we went into the park, I noticed a “set” off to the side and a camera person, but no character.  I was a little disappointed, and as I started to pass it I suddenly saw Oswald coming out.  I cheered and turned around and quickly got a pick before continuing on.  Shortly after the Oswald stop I saw the Genie coming back out and counted myself lucky as I stopped to snag a picture with him, too.  You looped out of the park, as usual, and started down the walkway towards Boardwalk.  The walkway had these big green fences up, which disappointed me because I’ve always liked the view through that area, as it follows the waterway.  Luckily they eventually stopped, so you could see the scenery and get a breeze again.  There were a fair amount of spectators out as you neared the Boardwalk and circled around through the Beach and Yacht Club areas, which made it more fun.  One of the negatives about Disney races is the lack of crowd support because you spend so much time out on the roads, so that is probably one of the reasons I love the stretch from mile ten to the end, since it tends to have more spectators and things going on.

Once you neared the back entrance to Epcot, we looped around through the back area, and then came out and followed the marathon route around the countries.  Remy and his brother were out from Ratatouille, so I made a quick stop to snag a picture there, and then just enjoyed the trek through the countries and around the lake.  It’s always so pretty and there were cast members out cheering us on.  After the countries you loop up near the ball and head out a back way, towards the parking areas.  I was a little sad that the choir that usually sings around mile 13 weren’t there.  I always enjoyed them and they’ve become almost an expectation for me.  There was another group there that was good, I was just surprised.

The finish line area is always exciting.  I love that the announcers call out your names as you approach.  Confetti covered the ground when the first finisher crossed, which I was pretty psyched to hear was a girl!  I didn’t see any characters at the finish line, which I thought was weird because usually someone is there and you can snag a high five as you cross the finish line.  Instead I just celebrated as I crossed the finish line, though my race photos show some pretty creepy faces, which I’m going to not include in this post.

One of my complaints about RunDisney races is how far you walk immediately after the finish and how much stuff they give you, with no bag.  I walked pretty slowly through the chute because I knew my husband wasn’t too far behind me as I was tracking him through the runner tracking system on my phone.  I stopped and got some ice for my knee, which they strapped on quickly and sent me on my way.  As you continue to wind through the chute, you got a cooling towel, water, PowerAde, a banana, the coveted RunDisney food box, and THEN they stop you for pictures, so you have to put everything down if you want a finisher picture.  I feel like that should be sooner in the line up so that you don’t have to juggle everything, or they should have a bag they give you so you can actually carry everything without a struggle.

They make you keep moving through the chute, so I had to wait for my husband outside the finisher picture area.  They let us both go back in so that we could get pictures together.  Then we grabbed my bag from the bag check, which is quick and easy, and we went back to the merchandise tent to see what was left.  There was tons of stuff, but nothing new, so we went and got a picture with Chip and Dale and then caught the shuttle to go back to our resort since we had a breakfast reservation at Cape May at the Beach Club and needed to get moving.

Wine and Dine Half Expo Review: Changes galore

Thinking I’m so cool at my first Wine and Dine Half in 2012
I did my first Wine and Dine half in 2012 and have gone back every year since.  That year I had just gotten into running and was intrigued by the Disney races.  My in-laws had never been to Disney, so my husband and I decided to bring them down with us.  We stayed at All Star Music in a cute suite, and I got to see RunDisney in all its flash and glory, which obviously got me hooked.

This was back when you could register for RunDisney races a few weeks in advance, rather than getting on the computer right when the regi

This year
stration opened, praying that you’d get in.  I think my husband and I both registered for the 5k about a week before the race, which would be my husband’s first ever race and start his slow pull into running.  A lot of changes have happened since that year.  Overall, RunDisney became really popular, making registration stressful and forcing people to register nearly a year in advance.  This definitely could be a turn off to people, and it seems that race demand is in decline. RunDisney has already moved next year’s marathon registration back to April, versus the February it was this past year.  That’s helpful, particularly if you don’t allow for transfers, deferrals, or refunds, and makes it nicer if you want to try to make a more “last-minute” trip to do a race.

 

The Wine and Dine Weekend has also changed, now offering a challenge for completing the 10k and half.  When I started running it in 2012, it was the 5k on Saturday morning with the half marathon that night, finishing with a party at Epcot, where runners could stay until three or four AM.  There was something really neat about starting a race at 10 pm and running through Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, the Boardwalk, and Epcot at night, but that has changed.  Now the race weekend extends over three days, with the 5k on Friday, 10k Saturday, and the half Sunday afternoon, with the party that night, which can be difficult to take off of work for another day if you are an out-of-towner.   This change, to me, has decreased the uniqueness of the Wine and Dine, and I think the fact that registration was still available going into race weekend shows that I am not the only person who feels that way.  However, I digress.

I brought up change because the expo underwent many changes for this race weekend, which were obvious from the start.  My husband went down early this year, and he texted me from the expo, telling me how different it was.  I didn’t really know what he meant until I got there.  First of all, the buses drop you off in a different spot, likely due to construction, but it seemed substantially closer than the old locations.  You used to walk a fair amount just to get into the ESPN complex.  Now it wasn’t so bad.  The first stop to get your bib was in the same building, but here’s where the changes started. When you walked in, going one way would take you to bib pick up, the other way would take you to a merchandise location.  There was always an area to get the coveted RunDisney race merchandise near bib pick up, but now it was in a different room.  As we walked to the race merchandise, my husband warned me how different it would be.  I couldn’t even fathom it when we walked in.

You used to be crammed into little areas with people pushing each other just to get to items.  I’ve seen people yelling, throwing things, and breaking things in order to get stuff.  Usually this behavior was more around Princess weekend, but I’ve seen aggressive shoppers during other weekends as well.  It was always drama filled.

This year the merchandise was basically in its own level of the arena, in a sprawling area where people could easily navigate and pick out the items they wanted.  There was a section of generic RunDisney stuff, an area for men and women apparel for each race, and miscellaneous drinkware, with the preorder stuff along the back wall.  I couldn’t believe it!  It used to be very stressful to get your merchandise, and this was so peaceful and laid back.  I was able to look at everything and really see it, instead of being jostled over items that were the most wanted.  People were milling around rather than rushing to get things.  I don’t know if the fact that RunDisney didn’t release any race merchandise previews helped, but it was a totally different atmosphere.  My husband had been there right when it opened Thursday, and we were both there right when it opened Friday.  There was no overcrowding or issues at all.  I also feel like they are doing a better job with ordering enough stuff.  There were a few things that sold out, but some of the more popular items were still available at the end of the weekend, such as jackets, Tervis mugs, and other race shirts.  I know this is a smaller race, but I was still so surprised by the positive changes.

After the merchandise and bib pick up, we still had to go to the other building to get the shirts.  They still have it at the back of the arena, forcing you to walk through the vendors to get there.  It’s good marketing, but still is a bit of a pain to have to go over there.  There wasn’t any race merchandise in this building like there normally is, so everything was much more spread out in there and made it easier to walk around and browse the various stalls.  We quickly picked up my shirt and shopped, before stopping for a drink to get the RunDisney cups that you can get when you purchase a beverage.  This time they were clear with glitter, and we’ve gotten a number of different colors over the years.  We were able to enjoy our drinks outside, people watching and musing over how much easier this expo had been than previous years.

So, while I discussed some changes that may not have been for the best at the beginning of my post, I do have to say that the changes made to the expo this time around are very positive.  Kudos to RunDisney for addressing a problem that has been building up for awhile now.  I hope that they use this system for marathon weekend.  I’ll report back for that one and let you know how that expo goes in two months!

 

Training week 1

The fall foliage is turning, however the humidity was still in full effect on Sunday.  The hubs and I did 5 miles, working on achieving negative splits.  

Monday and Tuesday consisted of easy treadmill runs because my treadmill is finally fixed!  It’s been over a month since I really have been able to use it.

Wednesday I was able to convince my PT to let me run a mile as my warm up instead of the elliptical, citing that I will run one after for my run streak, so could I just do it now?  He agreed as long as there was no pain and I got my 1.1 in to maintain my streak.

Thursday and Friday were easy runs on the treadmill.

Saturday was a quarter marathon race.  I was super nervous  for this run as I haven’t run short in a race since August.  I’ve also been super mental lately, doubting myself, and I feel this race was a breakthrough as I was able to push myself to a first place in my age group at the end, giving one final hard effort during the last mile.  


Sunday was another easy treadmill run, hitting four miles.  
Total mileage for 8 days: 30.9

Reflection on the week:  My legs are feeling pretty good after Chicago.  My knee is acting up a little bit after the race on Saturday, but overall it’s feeling pretty good.  Just need to stick with PT and make sure I’m diligently strengthening and stretching.

  My biggest achievement was the race.  I really did a nice job mentally, reigning in an over enthusiastic pace, controlling it, and pushing it at the end instead of holding back like I often do.  Looking forward to next week’s training, as miles increase and I start incorporating some speed work.  

Chicago Marathon Reflection…

When I found out that I got into the Chicago Marathon last December, I was so excited.  My mind instantly began racing (no pun intended), imagining the excitement of such a big race and the huge marathon PR I could get on such a big stage.  It was going to be epic.

However, life doesn’t always seem to go as planned.  I ended up getting a new job at a new school over the summer, while taking three online graduate classes during July and August.  My summer consisted of being stressed over interviews, writing grad papers for 4-5 hours pretty much daily, and really just trying to get my life together, which is not an easy task for an OCD planner like myself. 

Let’s just say my running took a hit over the summer.  I was running, but other life demands took their toll on me.  I also started noticing some knee pain in August.  Never debilitating, but just enough to cut back on some runs and to be a nuisance.  Then mid-August hit and I started my new teaching job, and with it, a whole new world of stress.  It’s good stress, because I really do love my new school and students, but stress nonetheless.  So while I tried to fit in runs during the beginning of the year teacher exhaustion period, I wasn’t always successful in doing so.

Then, of course, I got sick mid-September.  It wasn’t like the flu or anything.  I was never completely knocked down, though I did spend one Saturday sleeping for about twelve hours.  As I got bronchitis right before my last marathon, I became very paranoid.  I cut back on my running, missing my last long run before my taper and really not running much in the two weeks leading into Chicago.

Thus, I knew I was definitely undertrained as I lined up race day.  I stood in the F corral, eyeing the 3:55 pacers, my adjusted goal time that I had set over the summer when I knew that I couldn’t meet my original enourmous dream time.  I texted my husband, talking about running with them, but kind of knowing that it was not going to happen.  I wasn’t ready.  I knew it.  Plus, it was already 56 degrees, with temperatures predicted to approach 80.  I am NOT a warm weather runner, so that was weighing on my mind a bit.

The first few miles flew and I wasn’t far off of my goal pace.  However, I could already feel my legs at the 5k mark.  I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hold my low 9:00  paces.  I texted my husband around the 8k mark, telling him I wasn’t going to be able to maintain, and he encouraged me to slow a bit.   This is where my knee started to complain, and I added walk breaks through water stations.  By mile 8 I was hurting and my mind was overwhelmed by the amount of remaining miles.

I hadn’t realized how bad a hit my endurance had taken when I was sick and not really running, but I was feeling it heavily early on in the race.  My knee was angry about the pounding, likely having enjoyed its rest period while I was sick, and it expressed itself early on with pain.  Then the pain travelled up to my hips, and my shins began cramping.  My legs weren’t ready. 

It was mentally hard to run this race.  There were times I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to finish.  I’ve never felt that much pain so early in a marathon, and I was worried that it was going to get to the point that I would need to stop, that my body was going to give out on me.  It was that unknowing, and constant reminder with discomfort and pain shooting through my legs and hips on each step, that made my race an inner turmoil for me.  I wasn’t sure how far I was going to make it, and that was killing me.

One great thing about the Chicago Marathon is the crowd support, and I truly believe that is a major reason I was able to finish.  As I passed the halfway mark and the temperatures began to climb, I noticed a lot more people start walking.  This race was impacting a lot of people, not just me, and that was a little reassuring.  I guess misery loves company, right?  But it was also during this time that I began to rely on the crowd cheering to help me through.  I purposely wore one of my Sparkle Athletic skirts, a super shiny one, to draw attention, and I achieved my goal.  Lots of people called to me that they liked my outfit, and that helped me continue on.

People lined the streets throughout the race, which was quite amazing to see.  Not only did they cheer, but the supplied things like candy, drinks, food, and even tissues!  All of these things were greatly appreciated.  My favorite was the people who gave out freezie pops.  I can’t even tell you how amazing that was.  It was sunny at this point and super hot.  I had salt caked to my face from the sweat (ew, right?).  Then all of a sudden someone handed me a red freezie, and my life got a million times better.  I don’t know if these spectators realize how great their actions were, their cheering or their supplies, but I know that they definitely helped me finish a difficult race and I am forever thankful.

I almost cried when I crossed the finish line.  I had really wondered if I would make it at times, and it was a relief when I hit mile 26 and I was able to pick up the pace on the turn and finish somewhat strong.  It was easily one of the hardest things I have ever done, and I plan on not making the same mistakes twice.  I learned a lot from this race.  I am running the Disney marathon in January, which I am now looking at as almost a redemption race, and I plan on throwing everything I can at this race.

I have gotten a coach for this race.  I’m looking forward to getting a training plan that runs much higher mileage, because I realized that my best marathon was off of a training cycle that had a number of 55-60 mile weeks, while this time I was around 40.  I also am hoping the guidance and accountability of a coach will help keep me consistent, finding time to make these runs work as I settle into my third month at my school and I feel that I have finally fallen into more of a routine there.

I have also started physical therapy.  I had my first appointment, and started a rehab program to help with my knee pain.  I’m obviously facing some muscle weaknesses and imbalance because I think my soreness from my first PT appointment might have been worse than my post marathon soreness.  I need to make cross training and strength a bigger part of my training plan.  I also need to stretch more as I was told my legs were pretty tight.

Hopefully with these steps, I can redeem myself in Disney.  I am still dreaming of a marathon PR, which would be right around four hours.  I’d be thrilled to break four.  I think if everything comes together, and if my PT goes well, I might be able to do it.  It’s a huge jump, but I’m going to throw everything I have at this goal.  I’m not going to make the same mistakes as I did with Chicago.  This is going to become a priority now that my life seems to be calming down and I’m ready to take it on.