How horrible that I've waited so long to write this post! But, in my defense, I was in Florida for a week after the race to celebrate and then the post-vacation re-entry into real-life the last week has just sucked.
But.....I finished my first half marathon!
Wanna hear how it went? I will warn you this is a long post.
I got to Florida late Thursday night and stayed at a friend's house. Friday I spent the early part of the day checking into the Boardwalk Villas, picking up park tickets, and picking up my race packet. This was the first race expo I had been to and it was kinda fun. I loved seeing all the cool gear and mingling with like-minded crazy people.
I got my bib number, picked up my uber ugly race t-shirt that was included with registration, hooked myself up with a spiebelt I had been wanting, and bought a not ugly shirt to commemorate the event. It was all starting to feel very real. The fact that I had to run 13.1 miles (in a row) the next night was making me excited and sick all at the same time.
I passed the rest of the day meeting up with some friends for dinner, lingering in Epcot, and then heading over to the Polynesian to meet some more friends. I have to say, I wasn't feeling very festive. I felt like my vacation really couldn't start until after the race the next night. I called it an early night and headed back to the Boardwalk.
Oh man! This was the day I had been planning for all year! I forced myself to sleep in as late as I could - which meant about 7am. My kids were happy to have a relaxing morning and had no problem at all sleeping later than that. So I took the time to finish unpacking and organize the room. I made sure all my race stuff was together and tried to enjoy the morning. But I was really nervous.
Confession time - The two weeks leading up to this vacation were horrible for me. HORRIBLE! You know that 10k I was all excited about? That was the last time I ran up to this point. Yep. 6.2 miles two weeks prior and I thought I could lug my body 13.1 across a finish line? So you see why I was stressing, right? I just had all these crazy demands on my time prior to vacation and I couldn't even manage to get more than 6 hours of sleep each night let alone find time to run. It was really, really crazy and not at all how I envisioned the last two weeks of my training.
So I'm coming to grips with the fact that I'm really not prepared for this, but the race is happening with or without me so I might as well just suck it up and see how it goes.
I kept the rest of the day easy. Met up with some runner friends at the Beach Club, rode a few rides in Epcot, and then returned to the room to decompress and attempt a short nap. My friends were meeting me in the lobby at the Boardwalk to catch the bus to the starting line at 7:30pm.
The line for the buses was crazy long. But the time passed easily since I was able to chat with friends while we waited. Once we finally boarded the bus we were trucked over to Wide World of Sports. At that time my friends all went in different directions. Deb and I had to wait in line for gear check. It was another crazy long line, but I liked having someplace to be and someone to talk to rather than just roaming around aimlessly and dealing with all the worry inside myself.
I was amazed at the number of people there. Wow! There was such excitement and energy. It was great to watch, but I didn't at all feel a part of it. I wasn't sure how I actually made it this far, standing amongst all these fit, healthy, energetic runners. What a poser!
After standing in one more line for the port-a-potties Deb and I said our good-byes. She was in Corral B and I was in Corral C. (This placement would later prove to be the only reason I was able to finish this race! I don't know how I lucked into it - but it was a break I needed.)
So now I'm standing in the Corral waiting for the start. I had about an hour before the race would begin. Leaving me alone with my thoughts for that amount of time seemed rather dangerous. I started dinking around on Facebook to pass the time. I sent a rather vague status update of "is questioning her sanity" and within minutes I had several supportive messages from friends who knew exactly what I was referring to. That made me feel better and their positive messages were starting to drown out my negative thinking.
I was proud that I set a goal and didn't give up on it. But there was still 13.1 miles to go before I could declare Mission Accomplished. I was really worried about just giving up. I was in such a bad place mentally. I was beating myself up about slacking off these last two weeks and I felt so ill-prepared. I decided that I would run each mile for someone important to me. That way I wouldn't want to quit on that person's mile. I tend to give more of myself when I'm doing something for someone else - so it seemed like a good idea.
Finally, everyone was standing. The announcer was speaking. The national anthem was being sung. The fireworks were going off. And we were moving.
Apology Time - I'm sorry for not taking pictures. I tried. Really I did. I even bought a small little camera to carry with me just for this run! But it was dark and there were so many people and I just gave up. All the pics I took are blurry and horrible. I'm really bummed about this :(
So we're running. Or shuffling to the start line, as it may be. Once I hit the start I made sure to start the time on my Garmin. I had printed out some pace bands (Thanks Liz!) to help keep me on track and I would need Gary's help since he, as usual, was the only running partner I had.
I ran Mile 1 for God. The Bible says to give our best to God and usually the first mile is the best I've got. I spent the time being thankful for getting to that point and counting my blessings. I was consciously trying to bury all that negative self-talk I had been dealing with all day.
I glanced down at Gary to see I was perfectly paced at a 14 min mile. If I went any faster than that I would never be able to finish this whole thing. But wait! What the heck? Even though Gary was calculating my pace, my time was still set at zero. I was so irritated. I must've hit the wrong button when I went to start the timer. That sucks! So now I was gonna have to guesstimate how long I had been running and how far I had gone. I think it was about half a mile, so I figured I could add 7 minutes to whatever my time was and that should be close. Still. I was not happy about this.
Mile 1 ended up being really hard for me. I just felt so inadequate. Of course that could've been because of the throngs of people passing me. But this was my race and I needed to just stay positive. I seriously wanted to stop after Mile 1 because the thought of running 12 more of those miles, followed by another .1 mile for extra credit, just seemed daunting.
But who's gonna quit on God's mile?
So I passed the Mile One marker and checked Gary to see if my estimate was close. It looked about right and I kept moving along.
Mile 2 was for my daughter Courtney. I love that little girl. She is growing up so quickly though. I'm proud of the young lady she is becoming and also sad for the little girl we're leaving behind. I still felt yucky. I've run much longer than two miles. And I didn't know why I was feeling so bad so early. When they say running is a mental game they are not kidding. Those negative thoughts and worry bouncing around in my head were making this race miserable for me!
After Mile 2 there were port-a-potties. I kinda had to go, but there was a line and I didn't want to take the time. This is Disney. I'm sure there will be more potties soon.
Mile 3 I ran for my son Cory. Cory is pretty awesome. He's only 14, but the man of the house. He takes really good care of me and watches out for his sister. He has somehow figured out how to do things like re-thread the line in the lawn edger without the luxury of having a dad show him how. I don't even know how to work the lawn edger. But there is some male DNA in him that has made such things possible for Cory.
Mile 3 was actually much better for me. I was sticking to my pace and starting to feel more positive. Of course, now I really needed a bathroom.
Note to Self: when you see a port-a-potty and you "kinda have to go" make sure you stop!
I saw some port-a-potties right before we entered Animal Kingdom and I sprinted up to them. Whew! I spent a little more time in there than I wanted just contemplating the fact that I was really doing this. I was also realizing that I still had ten miles left of this thing. TEN MILES!!!!!
Running miles 4 and 5 through Animal Kingdom was kind of cool. They had some really neat lighting I had never seen. People were complaining about how narrow the passages were. I just tried to stay out of the way and keep moving in a forward direction. I ran Mile 4 for my Mom and Mile 5 for my BFF Heather. It did help to focus on friends and family like that, so I kept up the little game.
My friend, Heather, is so amazing. We have both made these huge changes in our lives this year and her support has been pivotal in every success I've had. Thinking of her made me smile and even brought a tear to my eye. I really felt like she was there with me right then.
At the exit to Animal Kingdom I had to use a bathroom again. What the heck?! It had only been 5 miles. And I ran a whole 10k without having to stop once. I think this is where the night racing thing wrecked havoc on me. I was trying to stay hydrated all day and now I was paying the price. When I run in the mornings I'm not drinking the whole night before - but it seemed I was the only person having this problem. All the rest of the people were still passing me. And now my time was starting to stink with all these pit stops!
Exiting Animal Kingdom we passed the relay transition point. Oh how I wanted to run in there and just find a relay partner instead of finishing on my own!
I ran Mile 6 for my friend, Tina. She has been an inspiration in my life. We've lost touch this past year, but I wanted to spend the next mile thinking of all the great times we shared. She helped me through a very difficult situation in my life and I will forever hold a special place in my heart for her. She was with me when I first declared that I would run this race. And when people around her questioned whether or not I would follow through with it she said, "If Kelly says she's gonna do it. You better believe she's gonna do it." I love that she has that kind of faith in me. So as much as Mile 6 sucked - I was not stopping during her mile!
Mile 7 was for my friend, Deb. She is the crazy person who said that I could do this. Her story of how she began running is inspirational and every time I thought I wanted to give up she was there to tell me no. This body of mine had never run further than 6.2 miles and I thought it appropriate that Deb's mile was the one that took me passed the point I had actually reached in my training.
Around Mile 7 I heard a woman encouraging her friend to keep going. She said, "Just push through it now and its gonna get easier." I knew she was right. I've experienced this myself. I hadn't hit that point yet this race. And I was anxiously awaiting the mile after which all the other miles would just start ticking by.
I'll tell you now that that point never came for me. I know it was my fault for not training properly. I felt every single inch of those 7 miles up to that point. I was hoping to get to that happy, giddy place where you just fall into a stride and run it out. Its a great feeling - but not one that I had the pleasure of getting for this particular event. Nothing but sheer determination was getting me through this race.
Mile 8 was ridiculously hard for me. I ran this one for Dee and Steen. What awesome people! As if on cue, Dee sent me an encouraging text. I texted back something along the lines of I wanted to die. It almost came apart for me here. I had to make another potty stop. My phone and camera fell out while I was getting all recombobulated and it was dark. I just really wanted to hop on the next bus and meet my friends in Epcot for the party. But I couldn't quit during Dee and Steen's mile. They are this fun, sincere, amazingly intelligent couple who I love spending time with. They've given me advice when I ask for it and love and support when I don't. If you knew them you wouldn't stop during their mile either!
That brings me to Mile 9. Somewhere during this mile I saw a bunch of buses. There were people sitting on the buses and walking over to the buses. Passing those buses could very well have been the hardest 100 yards of that race for me. I wanted it to be over. And I hadn't picked anyone to run for yet. So I wouldn't be quitting on anyone. I slowed down - almost to a stop. I passed the buses and then lingered for a little before I made the curve. I really, really wanted to give up.
But I thought how I had almost gone 9 miles. And I was never, ever gonna do something like this again in my entire life. I didn't believe I would finish the race. But it didn't seem right for me to leave on my own. I was just gonna wait for the sweepers to come get me. As long as I could put one foot in front of the other I was gonna keep moving. But I was defeated and I believed with everything in me that I would not finish this race.
About this time a lady running near me said softly, "Keep going. You're doing great." That was all I needed to just lose it. I started crying. Not just a tear in my eye, getting emotional crying - but a big blubbery mess. To my surprise the lady yelled at me. I was startled. I remember word for word what she said:
"Stop crying! Don't you dare waste one bit of your energy on crying! Do you hear me? Stop it right now and keep moving!"
Frankly she scared the bejeezus out of me and I regained my composure. She told me of how this was her third half marathon and that she twisted her ankle the week before. She was in pain, but she was finishing this race and they would have to carry her off before she stopped. I didn't have much of Mile 9 left after I lost her, but I ran the rest of it for her.
Miles 10 and 11 were run in Hollywood Studios. And to tell you the truth....I don't remember much of it. I was a mess by then. I wish I could've enjoyed this more because there was some cool stuff we got to see. We ran through the tunnel of the Backlot Tour and all the windows were lit up so you could see the exhibits inside. But I was sidetracked by the bicycle medic asking if I was alright and telling me that I only had 5 minutes to get to the next check point. It freaked me out and I picked up the pace so that I could hide amongst a group of Team in Training runners. I knew they wouldn't sweep all of us.
The coolest thing of the whole race was that they had the Osbourne Lights on for us. It was so magical when I turned the corner and saw the street lit up. I've been at DisneyWorld during Christmas when they have the lights on display and it is always packed with people. Here I had the street (almost) all to myself. It was the first time I felt a little of that Disney magic and I sure needed it right then! I've read reports of other runners who said there was Christmas music playing, but I didn't hear it. Either I really don't remember or they had shut it off since I was at the back of the pack. There were still folks behind me - but not too many.
They also put us on the big screen when we ran by the Lights, Motors, Action stage. Again, this would've been a perfect place to take a picture but I was just trying to stay upright for the next few miles.
Mile 10 I ran for you guys! Once I got into Hollywood Studios I was a bit re-energized and I wanted to make sure I didn't have the temptation to quit again. So I ran thinking of the folks who read my blog. There are a few who comment and I feel like they are new friends, but even for those who anonymously read about my plight - I wanted to be able to write this post about finishing. I thought of other blogs I like to read and supportive comments from strangers. It really helped see me through!
Mile 11 was for friends I made on a travel forum I frequent. Some of those friends were here for this race and they were amazingly helpful. Lynda is loaded with practical advice. Liz posts her workouts on Facebook and inspires me to get off my butt. My dear friends Reid, Karen and Riley have travelled to DisneyWorld with the kids and I on several occasions. I thought of how I had to cancel on them last October and how they ran a 13k without me and how now I was finally running my Disney race. Thinking of all these people - way too many to name - kept my mind busy for that entire mile.
Mile 12 was tough. We ran out of Hollywood Studios and I thought for sure this is where I was gonna get swept. I tried to keep up with a group of girls, but it was getting so hard. I just had nothing left. People kept yelling things like "you're almost there" but it didn't seem that way. It was still almost two miles that seemed insurmountable.
I thought of my family. Some had not been very supportive of me lately. And, frankly, I wasn't gonna run a mile for them. But now in my humble state of brokenness I realized how much they mean to me. Sure, we have our issues. I don't think they will ever understand how hurtful their actions have been. But I was running this mile for them because they are still part of me. Part of who I am.
Once I reached the Mile 12 marker there were a bunch of people cheering. I heard someone say, "You're all gonna finish!"
This was the first time the whole entire race that I really thought I was gonna finish it. There were still a few folks behind me and I looked back to make sure they were finishing too. Wow! I still had 1.1 miles to go, but I finally felt like I could enjoy it without all the worry and negativity.
I stopped to readjust my shoe. I had a ginormous blister, but didn't want to take the time to do anything about it before for fear the sweepers would catch up with me. I moved my sock around to make it a little more comfortable. And then I proceeded to enjoy the last mile of this race! We were running behind the Boardwalk on the walkway in front of the lagoon and it was beautiful. I still hurt. Every part of me hurt, but I was running this mile for me.
It was very symbolic of my life. I had given all I could to everyone else and now it was time to do something for me. It was a difficult mile, but knowing that I was gonna finish and that I would get that medal made it worth it. Sadly, I heard a lady go down behind me just as we were entering the Boardwalk. We were almost there and she couldn't make it. I heard her friends and knew she had people to help her so I just kept going. I just couldn't look back or stop. It was so emotional and I knew I would completely lose it if I allowed myself to. I had to be selfish and run this mile for me. I saw her later on a gurney. I really hope she still got her medal. She was so close.
I could hear the finish line before I could see it. I started running just as fast as I could. It couldn't have been all that fast, but I felt like I had wings at that point. That last one tenth of a mile went to God again. It turns out that that was the best I had in me that race. And having just seen the injury behind me I was feeling mighty blessed at that moment. I heard the announcer say my name and, in that one moment, I was proud of what I had accomplished.
Once I was in the runners chute I wanted to go to a medical tent to get something for my blister. The entire heel of my right foot was an open wound. A volunteer told me to get my medal first. Once I got the medal I wanted a picture right away. Then I forgot about the medical tent and I was shuffled into the bag check area. Every part of me ached and I just wanted to get into an open space and sit down so I passed up all the amenities and bee-lined for the door. I was pretty bummed when I saw how busy Epcot was. There were a bazillion people here for this party. I just wanted a place to sit.
I hobbled over to the UK and plopped on the ground with some other pathetic looking souls. I texted my friends who were a little surprised that I had made it. They walked over from France since I was firmly planted on the ground and couldn't get up if I tried.
My friends showed up quickly and proved their devotion by hugging my sweaty self. I was so thankful for them being there. I was a zombie. They grabbed my stuff while I made one last potty stop and it was nice not to worry about anything. I noticed that my medal was missing a charm. Suddenly this became a very big deal.
In unison my friends all whisked me back to the runner area. Lynda held my shoes and my phone, Deb held my bag, and Dee held my arm and we went back to try to trade in my less-than-perfect prize.
This was Dee, "My friend just finished her first half marathon. I am very proud of her and I really think she deserves a medal that's not broken." It was so sweet. She was adamant on getting me a new medal. I seriously wouldn't have had the energy to go back and say anything, but she would have none of that.
Deb and Lynda were waiting for me again. I felt so horrible telling them I couldn't celebrate with them. But I was still not feeling the giddy enjoyment that everyone around me was. I just hurt.
Dee walked me to my hotel. I was staying on the Boardwalk which was awesome since I didn't have to deal with buses or any other transportation. But it still seemed like a long walk. We stopped at every available park bench on the way. Here I had just ran 13.1 miles and now I could barely hobble to my room less than a half mile away. I was so grateful for the company. It takes a pretty good friend to carry shoes you just wore for 13.1 miles, hug you when you're all sweaty, and listen to your manic ramblings of how stupid this was all at 3:00am!
Somehow we managed to get to my room. And, true to the events of the last few hours, many people passed us along the way. But wearing that medal on my neck, and walking with my friend in the early morning hours was an experience I will never forget.
Completing that race was hardest thing I have ever done in my life. But I learned a lot about myself on that course. I learned a lot about the power of determination. I have a new appreciation for the strength of positive thinking and negative self-talk. And I'm not afraid to set some more lofty goals.
By the way....thanks for keeping me accountable through this blog and helping me through Mile 10 ;)