Today: 26.2 miles of smiles… Part II.

If you like to do things in order (you’re probably one of those people who reads the directions), and you’re wondering what happened to the first 20 miles, feel free to start with Part I. Or maybe you just want to dive in, you wild thing, you.

Here we go again. I’m guessing I misjudged my mileage in Part I, because I seem to have omitted the Animal Kingdom entirely.  Maybe I was high.  You know, with runner’s high?  Or maybe I just can’t handle simple math.  To make up for my error, here’s a photo of me, awkwardly posing with Chip and Dale.

10 points if you know which one is which.

The route through the Animal Kingdom was shady (in a good way), and offered a welcomed break from the heat.  Our little Southie team planned to visit that park the following day– marathon finishers got free admission, so it was nice to get a preview.  I even got to see some live monkeys!

What an unhelpful photo.  The monkey’s in the center-right.

Soon we were back on the road.  As I neared Mile 21, a bit of panic set it.  Our training plan maxed out at 20 miles, so I was entering uncharted territory.  Would I hit the proverbial wall?  Would I die, you know, like that fabled Greek soldier, the second I crossed the finish line?  I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  Mostly because I didn’t study the course map very well.

Disney has a way of making even physical pain look cute!

Whoever said that Disney is the happiest place on Earth was clearly unfamiliar with Miles 20 and 21 of the Walt Disney World Marathon, an out-and-back stretch of highway.  I had no idea how far out I’d have to run before the hairpin turnaround, and considered laying down on the pavement so I could be trampled and henceforth have a legitimate excuse to seek medical attention.  But there were people watching.  And I think that sort of behavior is general frowned upon.  So I kept running, and I kept smiling (like a maniacal freak person).

Sarge from Toy Story and Elizabeth from Weirdo Story.

Nearing Mile 22, we climbed an on-ramp and I was once again thankful to have been training in our hilly neighborhood.  Sarge from Toy Story was yelling to runners, “Climb that hill, civilians!  Double-time it!”  It was nice to see that I wasn’t the only person on the course wearing makeup.  There was no line, so I took a mini-hill break for a photo.

I worried that I had begun hallucinating when an accordion band, people jumping on a trampoline, and a woman holding an owl started popping up along the side of the road.  Scrolling through my digicam, there seems to be no photographic evidence of any of these… so maybe I was hallucinating.  Can anyone confirm or deny?

I  barely used my iPod at all, listening only to a bit of Michael Jackson during the long stretches of highway.  Shortly after stalking Sarge however, there were speakers along the road playing “Sweet Caroline” over and over and over.  I love the Red Sox (and Neil Diamond, sort of) as much as the next girl, but this was a bit much.  I tried to drown Neil out with my own music, and subsequently went deaf for a minute or two.

I’m sorry, did you say something?

This photo is surely a Code Orange on the Spandex Terror Index.

Mile 23 brought us through Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  While standing in line for the photo above, a woman asked me who I was running for.  She was running for her son.  I could feel the tide of emotion rising and wondered if I’d be able to keep it together for the last few miles.  Then I was distracted by a group of tourists taking a bunch of pictures of me, standing in line…  That didn’t strike me as odd until just now.

New York City, Florida.

The route  took us through the behind-the-scenes and costuming areas, which was rather cool.  I knew my friends Kristine and Christie, who ran the half marathon the day before (wahoo!), were planning to be in the park, so I kept an eye out as I came around each corner and tried to look as alive and well as possible.

These half-marathoners are fully awesome.

Shortly before exiting Hollywood Studios, an older woman called out, “Thank you, Elizabeth” in a voice that rang out above all the others.  Later, my teammate Amy would mention that same woman– she was thanking every Team member as they passed her.  I burst into tears.  Fortunately, there was a little narrow curve that took us behind a building before the next cheering section, providing just enough time to catch my breath and stabilize (a little).  Though I was still running, albeit at the speed of an injured slug, and my body felt strong, at this point I was emotionally exhausted.

As I rounded the corner, a TNT coach whom I had seen earlier on in the course called out, “Great to see you still smiling, Elizabeth!” and I couldn’t help but laugh.  I was ready to be done.  I exited Hollywood Studios and worried that I had run right past Kristine and Christie.  And then I saw them, about a quarter mile away, standing on a bench.  I started waving frantically and suddenly had the energy to sprint up to them.  Man Women, that was exactly what I needed.  Thank you!

So close… yet so necessary to document.

I spent the last two miles in the proverbial zone.  I remember running along the Boardwalk and through Epcot, but it was pretty much a blur.  As much as I felt like I had been running forever, it was hard to believe I was nearly done.  I stopped to have my photo taken at Mile 26, which in retrospect seems basically demented.  Why stop now?  I could hear the crowds cheering, but um… I sort of didn’t want it to be over.

South Boston Victory Tour 2011.

After a quick right hand turn, the finish line was before me.  There were people clapping and yelling, a Gospel choir singing, and… it was over.  Before I knew it, there was a medal around my neck and an over-sized piece of tinfoil being wrapped around my shoulders.  I am a marathoner.  I got to the finish line, with a lot of help from my friends.

A few final (um… until I start talking about this again) thoughts on the experience:

  • The marathon is a gift you give yourself. Like most experiences in life, you get out of it what you put into it… but I hobbled away from the marathon feeling like I had hit the jackpot.  I learned a lot about myself during those hours on my feet, and over the course of our training.  I proved to myself that I can do something pretty incredible.   I overcame physical weakness with emotional strength I didn’t know I had.  And on top of that, I had a really, really good time (as in experience, not clock time… obvi).
  • The marathon is a gift your fellow runners give you.  Unlike 5k or 10k races, people actually talk to one another during a marathon.  The “we’re all in this together” spirit is pretty unbelievable.  My marathon experience feels sort of like a quilt of people sewn together.  It boasts patches of Endorphin Dude, TNT runners from chapters across the country, and a leukemia survivor from Long Island that I was blessed to run alongside for a quarter mile or so.  These people gave me laughter, inspiration, and courage.
  • Running a marathon is hard. That’s sort of the point. There were moments that broke my heart, and miles that nearly broke my legs.  There were times when I wanted to quit, and felt so sick that I worried I would have to quit.  But nothing– nothing– can compare to the overwhelming joy I felt when being thanked by a spectator, encouraged by a coach or fellow runner, and having a big, fat medal draped around my neck.  I did it.  And if I can do it, you can too.

I am so thankful for all the kind words, and I appreciate your letting me share this experience.  And I am sorry for the Spandex photos.  Very, very sorry.

Also On Tap for Today:

What’s your big goal for 2011?  I need a new challenge to take on. 🙂

25 thoughts on “Today: 26.2 miles of smiles… Part II.

  1. Thank you so much for writing about this! It was inspirational! It made me want to start training today. Maybe this is the year that I run a marathon, and what better place to do then Disney? Thanks, again!

  2. What an awesome story! And you tell it so well:) Congrats on completing a big goal in your life! That’s something you can take with you forever…

  3. This is hands down, pants down the best marathon recap I’ve read! I love that you took the opportunity to enjoy the moments instead of counting the minutes…I’m sure it was very motivating! I’ve never run a marathon (because frankly, it IS kinda crazy!) but this is the closest I’ve felt to actually registering for one. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  4. this is my first time on your blog and i felt compelled to comment after you wrote, “a marathon is a gift you give yourself,” (also felt that i had to comment after i wept throughout your marathon reflection). i’m running my second marathon on januray 30 in miami and when the training gets tough i have to remind myself that i’m giving myself a gift, and also that i’m very lucky and eternally grateful that i can physically do this. congrats on your great achievement!!!

  5. AWESOME RECAP. You just made me so excited to run my first marathon (Feb 20th) and I’m even more excited (and bummed that I have to wait a year) to run Disney!!!!!

  6. These two posts about the marathon were great! I found the link on Carrots and Cake! Very inspiring. I just started training with Miles For Miracles – Children’s Hospital Boston for the Boston Marathon, you give me hope that I can make it!!! Nice job!

  7. Another great recap! While I’ve always wanted to run a marathon, this really made me want to do one!

    Black nose = Chip, red nose = Dale 😉

  8. Congrats on your marathon -awesome! I loved reading your two part recap! I ran the half last weekend. Yay for smiling the whole way through too! 🙂

  9. Aw girl, this just makes me love you more and long for the day I actually drag my behind to Boston and meet you. Hands down one of the best marathon recaps I’ve ever read. I absolutely adore that you didn’t focus on time or minutes and took the time to smile and enjoy your moments. Way to go! Very proud of you. 🙂

  10. Thanks for such an awesome race recap. It’s always great to hear about people getting great clock-times or whatever, but it’s always soooo much better to hear about people truly enjoying and learning from their experiences!

  11. Congrats Liz on your Marathon! I still don’t think people grasp the milestone of a marathon. It’s like turning 30, getting married, having a kid, graduating from college. You did a wonderful job you truly pushed yourself and had a lot of fun at the same time. What is Disney without the characters and magic. Celebrate and have fun. You deserve it for all your hard work and perseverance! The time spent raising money for TNT and hard work training truly looks like it paid off 🙂

  12. Congratulations Elizabeth! I had so much fun doing The Goofy Challenge as well! I have your blog bookmarked now. Good reading 🙂

    I love this:
    “My marathon experience feels sort of like a quilt of people sewn together. It boasts patches of Endorphin Dude, TNT runners from chapters across the country, and a leukemia survivor from Long Island that I was blessed to run alongside for a quarter mile or so. These people gave me laughter, inspiration, and courage.”

  13. Congrats on your first marathon! I saw your post over on Healthy Disney and had to come read the full recap. This was my first full as well and is it sad that I get choked up and teary eyed every time I read someone’s recap of their first marathon, esp at Disney? 🙂

  14. I have to tell you… I just found this after doing a Google search for running with IBS. I’m running the Princess Half next month – my first – and have struggled trying to figure out how to manage my IBS well enough to run and not get swept! But what you said in the first half of this post – “The moments matter more than the minutes” – wow. Thank you so much for reminding me why I’m doing this. I’m running for my dad. He passed away last April, but while he was here with us he conquered many health issues just by taking better care of himself. There were so many things he still wanted to do, so I’ve chosen to change the course of my life to capture as many of those opportunities as possible. And this is one of them. I’m also running for my kids, to show them that anything is possible. Thanks for the reminder – it really means so much. 🙂

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