Saturday, January 15, 2011

Walt Disney World Marathon Race Recap

"You can never be sure. That's what makes the marathon both fearsome and fascinating. The deeper you go into the unknown, the more uncertain you become. But then you finish. And you wonder later, 'How did I do that?' This question compels you to keep making the journey from the usual to the magical." -- Joe Henderson

The quote above perfectly describes my first marathon experience at Walt Disney World.  It was fearsome, fascinating, and above all, it was magical. :)

I got a great night of sleep before the marathon.  This was such an answer to prayer.  I was able to go to bed around 8:30pm, and I slept soundly until 3:00am when my alarm clock went off.  I did wake up a few times in the middle of the night, but I was able to fall back asleep quickly.  When my alarm went off I felt ready to go!  I had laid out all my stuff the night before...

I quickly got dressed, and ate my breakfast.  Here I am ready to run!

We left by 3:45am and headed to Epcot.  We had a little trouble getting there.  The road was closed at one point due to an accident, and there was SO much traffic headed into Disney.  It cleared pretty soon, and we arrived at EPCOT around 4:45.  My parents dropped us off, and Mathis and I headed to the corrals.  It was cold and windy at this point (41 degrees).  I wore sweat pants and a jacket that I planned to shed before the race.  It took us probably 20-30 minutes to walk to the corrals.  They were pretty far away (at least it felt that way), and everyone was walking very slow to get there.  It was fun being around all the runners, and I felt really good at this point.  I was so happy to be up, at the race, and ready to run!

We finally made it to the corrals, and Mathis and I had to part our ways.  He was in corral B, and I was in C.  We kissed, and planned to meet at the finish line.  From this point on I tried to be calm and take everything in.  There were a lot of runners gathered around me.  I talked with a few, but mostly I just stood and waited for the race to start.  I started crying before the race even started.  I was so happy to know that I was hours away from accomplishing my dream.  A dream I once thought impossible.  I had to hold it together, because I could tell I was so emotional.  They sang the national anthem, and it wasn't long before the fireworks went off.  The race started right on time at 5:35am!

It didn't take long for my corral to start, and I saw all the characters as I ran by the starting line! :)  They were all in running outfits and did a great job kicking the marathon off!

For the first few miles I was completely distracted by my Minnie Ears.  They weren't holding up at all.  I made a rookie mistake by running with something I had never run with before.  I didn't realize that they wouldn't stay up, and they were driving me crazy.  I was so disappointed that they were flapping around, and not staying in place.  I really wanted to run with them, and I even prayed they would hold up.  I had a lot of spectators yelling, "Go Minnie!" and it encouraged me so much!  I readjusted them, and I even took a picture so I could see if they were still in place... haha!

The race started in EPCOT, and it was really cool running by all the attractions.  Somewhere along mile 2-3 I saw Mathis.  He had been trying to find me, and it is such a blessing that he did!  He said that he started the race and soon realized he wanted to run it with me.  I cannot believe he found me among 17,000 runners, but he did!  I was so happy to see him, and he promised to stay with me the rest of the race.  He let me set the pace, and we both ended up really relying on each other to finish.  

Around mile 5 I knew my Minnie Ears needed to come off.  They had really distracted me for the first 5 miles, and I was spending way too much time trying to keep them on.  We stopped so I could take them off, and re-do my hair a bit.  I clipped the ears to my belt so I could still save them.  I was seeing so many women with Minnie hats and headbands, and I wish this is what I had done.  I thought that a headband might bother me, and maybe it would have.  I'm sad because someone on the etsy site I ordered the ears from said that she had ran a half-marathon in the Minnie ears, but I have no idea how.  When I saw her comment I figured that the ears would work for me during the race.  But the ears were flopping around and just didn't stay straight up. :(

From this point on, I still had my Minnie skirt on, but I felt a little incomplete.  I remember the first time someone called me Minnie after I had the ears off, and it made me so happy!  Someone later yelled, "Go Nicki Minnie!" and this was by far the best comment I received.  It assured me that I still looked like Minnie Mouse even without my ears.  

Right before Magic Kingdom Mathis and I stopped to take our first character picture with Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet.  The sun was just beginning to come up at that point.

We knew we weren't going for time whatsoever, and so we agreed to stop and take as many pictures as we could.  At each character stop we probably waited a good 5-7 minutes, but it felt worth it.  I am so glad to have all these pictures, and I wouldn't trade them for a faster finish time.  There will be other marathons (God-willing!) where I focus on finishing for time.

Here we are somewhere around mile 7... 
you can see an Epcot hot air balloon in the background.

And here we are going into Magic Kingdom!!!!

It wasn't long before we saw Cinderella's Castle!!!!

Mathis spotted my parents on Main Street, and we were SO happy to see them.  My parents were able to receive text message alerts throughout the race to notify them of our time at certain mile markers.  This was such a cool feature that helped them know we were alive and still running! :)  We felt good at the point we saw them, and we stopped for a few minutes to say a quick hi.  These pictures make me laugh, but they truly capture our deliriousness happiness.  

After stopping to say hi to my parents we ran off towards the castle.  

I remember looking up and seeing characters dressed up like castle officials playing the trumpets.  It was definitely a magical moment.  We stopped right after the castle to get another picture.

And here are some other random shots of Magic Kingdom I managed to take while running.

I was so excited when we saw Woody and Jesse from Toy Story in Frontierland! :)

We made our next character stop with the Pirates of the Caribbean.  
Jack Sparrow looked a lot like Johnny Depp!

It wasn't long before we were out of the Magic Kingdom.  A lot of the miles were spent running between all the parks.  The weather was still great.  I never got hot, and I had been worried about that.  Around the halfway point we were both starting to feel it.  I can't remember when I stopped to use the port-a-potties, but I had to stop twice during the race.  I waited in line at least 5 minutes at each stop.  At mile 16 we stopped for a good length of time to stretch.  We even grabbed some biofreeze from one of the medical tents for our legs, but neither of us felt it made a difference.  I was starting to worry at this point.  We were both really feeling the pain, and we still had 10 miles to go.  It was definitely getting rough.

I'm not sure why we felt the pain of the run so quick.  We definitely missed out on a few good weeks of training thanks to the winter weather in Virginia.  Maybe it was getting up at 3:00am to run?  Or walking so far to start and then waiting so long to begin the race?  Or stopping so many times to take pictures?  Or maybe a marathon is just really tough!  I kept the miles really slow at the beginning, because I had this fear that I might use up all my energy early on in the race.  All I wanted to do F-I-N-I-S-H, and I was trying to do that as best as I knew how.

We stopped on the golf course to get a picture with Donald Duck and Goofy.  Again, you can see how great the weather was.  Couldn't have asked for a more perfect day!

Somewhere after mile 16 we made it into Animal Kingdom.  I had never been in this park before, and it was fun to get a chance to see it!

I was so excited when we spotted Minnie Mouse that I put my ears back on for a picture with her!  

After mile 17 I remember everyone around us getting excited that we only had single digits left to run!  This might sound crazy, but your mind starts to go after so many miles! :)  So we celebrated that there were only 9 miles left in this crazy journey.

I really tried to soak up every mile and every experience of this race, but it was definitely starting to hurt. By mile 19 I was in tears.  I was so emotional, and I now realize that this was when I hit the infamous "wall" of the marathon.  I looked over to Mathis and told him I didn't think I could do it.  My legs were so heavy and full of pain.  It's hard to describe but it took everything I had in me to keep them moving.  Running hurt.  Walking hurt.  Standing still hurt.  Mathis became my rock, and he got me through the last 6 miles.  We walked all of mile 19, and from mile 20 on we did running/walking increments.  We would tell ourselves that we were going to walk half a mile, then run a mile and a half.  I stopped worrying about running to the finish, and worried only about making it to the next mile marker.

Towards the end we ran through Hollywood Studios, and this was fun.  I didn't take out my camera, because it was all I could manage to keep myself moving.  The parks were getting really crowded at this point.  Some people tried to cross the race path, and a boy stopped right in front of Mathis while he was running.  Mathis nearly hit him, and he definitely had to jump to get out of the boy's way.  This was frustrating to both of us, but we just kept moving.

On a more positive note -- let me stop and say that the spectators and volunteers at this race were nothing short of AMAZING!  So many people cheered us on by name!  This was the great thing about having our names on the race bibs.  I cannot explain how great it feels to hear "Go Nicki!  Go Mathis!" shouted out by strangers as you run by!  The volunteers always had water and powerade ready to go with a smile and word of encouragement.  I stopped at nearly every water stop because I was worried about getting dehydrated.  I took three GU throughout the race.  I had four, but one dropped out of my iFitness race belt.  I was really disappointed that this happened and disappointed in the belt too.  I also ate half a banana at one of the stops.  At certain points I felt myself get really hungry, and I could tell I was low on energy.  But I never felt dehydrated which was good.

Around miles 23-24 my chest started to hurt.  It was a weird pain -- nothing alarming, but definitely some noticeable pain.  I hadn't experienced this before on any of my runs.  I'm not sure if it was my heart or my lungs, but I could tell I was operating at full capacity.  I had really been working hard to get the miles done.  It took everything I had in me to keep going.  At this point I had picked up a lot of extra mileage.  Because of the stops we made and the weaving we did through the crowds while running I had ran an added .35 miles.  It was frustrating for me to look down at my Garmin watch and see 26 miles, when I really had over a quarter of a mile to go to reach mile marker 26.  I know this happens frequently in races, but it really became a mental barrier for me to have picked up so much extra mileage.  Towards the end of the race we were back in Epcot, and I felt myself get excited to know it would soon be over we were about to cross the finish line!!!

We neared the end, and tears started to flow.  
We saw my parents cheering in the crowd, and I was overcome with joy.  

I felt such great relief to have crossed the finish line.  WE DID IT!  I ran 26.2 miles (and then some according to my Garmin!) :)  I was so happy to have accomplished this dream.  A dream I once considered impossible for myself.  We crossed the finish line, and all I could think about was the Mickey medal.  I really wanted to have that medal around my neck!  We walked slowly and got our medals, mylar blankets and some water.  We had our picture taken, and they handed us some fruit and a muffin.  We walked to the place we agreed to meet my parents and quickly found them!  I shed a few more tears once I saw them and hugged them.  I remember telling them about how hard it was.  But it was a good kind of hard.  It was a difficult journey that I was determined to finish.  I gave it everything that I had.  My official chip time was 5:40:27.

It meant the world to me that my parents were there to watch me finish the marathon.

After a few pictures we hobbled to the car and drove back to our condo.  I didn't want to originally do it, but we each took an ice bath.  I was still really hurting at this point, and the ice helped to relieve a lot of pain.  That afternoon we relaxed and later celebrated with dinner out together.  My parents gave me a Mickey Mouse watch and necklace to celebrate the marathon.

They are both really beautiful and such fun memories of a truly magical day!  I am so blessed to have been able to have run this marathon.  ALL the glory goes to God who gave me a healthy body, the desire to run, time to train, and such wonderful friends and family to support and encourage me along the way!  This was definitely a magical day I will always remember.

Miles: 26.2
Time: 5 hours, 40 minutes

Miles this Week: 26
Miles this Month: 29


  1. Congratulations! I loved reading your recap and seeing your great pictures. It was cute that you put the Minnie ears back on for the picture with her!

  2. I'm so proud of you, Nicki! Almost makes me tempted to try a marathon...almost. :)

  3. Congratulations, Nicki! Your post brought me to tears! How very exciting and what an accomplishment!

  4. Congratulations on your first marathon, Nicki!!! Looks like you picked a fun one and I'm glad you had a blast. Great pics!

  5. Hooray! I love your story! You'll be so glad later on that you took the time to take some pictures! What great memories you will have! Congratulations!

  6. Great race report ! Congratulations on getting it done in Disney. I was there for the marathon also, and was actually able to nail a PR there, which is surprising because of the number of runners there on the course. Either way, it really was a great, great race.

    Congrats again. :)

  7. I got linked to your blog by Turnerlifearound... and had to read the recap of your first marathon!! It is inspiring!!!! Deifnitely a new follower!

  8. Great Job you are on our Top 10 List for best dressed Runner's @ The Walt Disney World Marathon!