"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream."
Today I ran my first half marathon. I ran 13.1 miles through Walt Disney World at the runDisney Princess Half Marathon. All of the hard work, the training, the nerves, the self-doubt and anticipation culminated into one amazing event.
Last night I purchased a runner's meal (box with a bagel, cream cheese, etc. perfect!) from my food court here at Port Orleans Riverside. I finished my costume & got everything ready for an early wake-up call. My sweet daughter was kind enough to wake up at a very cruel hour to take these pics of me as the Cheshire Cat.
I boarded the bus from my hotel at about 3am and headed to the start line. Once I checked my bag, I used the restroom one last time before starting the long walk to the corrals. On my way I ran into Elvis.
Walking to the corrals was pretty interesting. I had heard multiple times that the walk was far, and it was. But what I had not been told was how dark the area was, how wet/muddy the grass was and how crowded the walkway was. I was starting to get nervous, but when I finally reached my corral I decided to tune out my nerves and just stretch until it was time to run.
Before long the race started. Well, the race started for the runners in corral A. I felt like at least 30 minutes had passed before my corral (F) started. But soon enough, GO time came.
Thankfully, the weather was warm-ish, but not humid. Despite my nerves, I physically felt strong. When we started running I got caught up in the frenzy and euphoria of the race and forgot all about my walk/run program! Before I knew it, we were entering Magic Kingdom! I stopped, reminded myself to chill out and snapped a selfie.
Even though I was having a fabulous time, I was constantly worrying about my pace. As a result, I started taking pictures of characters as I ran by, rather than waiting for a photo myself. I was so afraid of being swept, and the lines for photos were SO long!
Soon we made our way through the backstage area of Magic Kingdom and began running up Main Street. I was completely floored by the amount of spectators and support on Main Street. What an awesome crowd!
While running through Magic Kingdom, I kept thinking I knew where I was going - but then found myself completely confused. That's because I kept referring to Disneyland for my location - which was throwing me off. Finally, the castle moment did happen. And when it did, it was epic!
After the castle, we ran towards Liberty Square where I paused for this photo. It was important for me to hop off course for a second because I have a pic of myself at these stockades from 1992. I'm looking forward to comparing the photos side by side.
The theme song for the mid-way point of the race was Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger", as voted on by all of us runners. I was feeling awesome, and looking forward to taking pictures
Knowing that I was on pace and not would not be swept, I finally decided to really enjoy myself. That's what runDisney is all about! So between miles 7 and 12, just before entering EPCOT, I stopped for photos. I asked strangers to take pictures of me and I didn't care how ridiculous I looked. I was going to make every mile magic - just like the race program said it would be.
Finally I reached EPCOT. I felt refreshed (a light rain had fallen on us just as we began climbing the overpass at mile 11 - just in time to cool us down), and was excited to get my medal. As we ran through the park we met our Fairy Godmother. On the way out we were graced by the voices of a gospel choir. This is the moment in the race where I became emotional. I felt uplifted and proud of myself, but I also suddenly felt really alone. I was eager to get back to my daughter.
And just like that - I was nearing the finish line...
...and then I was done. I'd reached my goal - I'd run my first half marathon.
Here's where the sad part starts. The bag I checked was missing from the tent where I'd checked it in. Yes, that bag. The clear runDisney bag with the sticker that I filled with a jacket, face wipes, snacks, my room key, a couple of dollars, flip flops, etc. - was gone. Everyone in the tent was desperately searching for the clear bag with the sticker that matched my bib and nobody could find it. And then it started raining. And I started crying.
After 13.1 miles, over 3 hours on my feet and months of training leading up to this moment: here I was sitting on asphalt with a dead cell phone - crying like a dumb ass. I was exhausted, I was wet, I was hungry, I was out of contact with my kid and I was FINISHED. I just wanted to leave.
Soon an event manager came to talk to me. She looked at my bib, asked for my last name, asked once again if I was SURE this is where I had left my bib (yes, I am sure) and then told me not worry. She assured me that she would personally see to it that my items were found and that I was back on a bus to my hotel ASAP. She told me, very confidently, that in all of her years working these races at Disney - a bag has never been lost on her watch and it wasn't going to happen today.
20 minutes later she returned with my bag. She and a few volunteers searched every bag check tent until finally mine was found. Apparently, I was given the wrong sticker (the numbers didn't match my bib) at packet pick-up. Therefore, while I had technically checked my bag in the right tent based on my bib - the sticker on the bag was wrong - so it was "refiled" with the other bags in another tent.
I was so happy to have my things and to be able to get back to the hotel that the details escaped me. I was just so very thankful to this Cast Member and the volunteers who made this right. I was offered a ride back to the hotel, but declined because I didn't want more attention. So, with rigor mortis and a salt-covered face, I happily boarded the bus back Port Orleans Riverside.
When I arrived my beautiful daughter was waiting for me. I hurriedly got ready and we headed to Magic Kingdom to celebrate together.
Running has taught me a lot about myself. It has reinforced the fact that I worry too much. I worried so much leading into this race about my pace and not being able to finish - when I was more than prepared.
Although, the fear of being swept and not finishing is a very real and common fear amongst newbie runners. And rightly so. If you start in a corral that is too far back, and you are not a fast runner, you cannot stop for all the pictures. That was my biggest takeaway from my first big runDisney race. Train hard if you want to play hard. Otherwise, keep very close watch on your pace and stop as long as you can stay ahead. Do the math and have fun.