I know the Star Wars Light Side just wrapped up and everyone is still talking about this great race weekend. I went to Disneyland with my family and we all ran the 10K (and my little one ran her first kids race). I’ll be recapping all the fun next week from Virginia (gulp!) but for now I still have a couple stories to share from the WDW Half cancelation.
Did you know that 1500 half marathon runners who had their race canceled said, eff it- I’ll run the full!
Seriously. They came for a half (some of them their first half!) and changed to the full the day before. That’s some Disney magic right there!
One of those runners is guest posting today for me. Meet Lindsay: half runner turned Marathoner!
A 26.2 Mile Accident
by Lindsay Baranowski
Pictures just as terrifying as the one above flooded social media as WDW Half Marathon runners slowly began to understand what was happening?RunDisney had done the unthinkable: canceled. Runners came from everywhere to offer their commentary and for a few hours, the RunDisney community was in a mild state of panic?What would happen to the 20,000+ runners that had planned to run on Saturday morning?
I?m sure we?ve never met, so here are a few things you should know: I am a fairly new runner. I started running in an effort to lose weight and find a positive outlet for anxiety and extra energy and finished my first 5k in January 2015. I finished my first half in June 2015 (Summerfest Rock and Sole, Milwaukee), first RunDisney weekend in 2016 (Princess), and two additional half marathons in 2016 (Kentucky Derby Festival & Rock and Roll Las Vegas). There are a handful of 5 and 10ks and a random 10-mile race thrown in there somewhere. I enjoy occasional adult beverages and cookies. Lucky for me, many of the events I choose have both of these at the end of the race!
When asked if I would ever graduate from half marathons to marathons, I laughed and said, ?Oh my body can?t handle that! Some scientist would have to laser print me a new set of hips and knees before that would happen!? However, on Friday night, I found myself on the phone with someone at RunDisney trying to figure out how I could sign myself up for a full marathon. By 11:30pm, I had done the unthinkable?I had signed up for a marathon.
For the next 36 hours, I didn?t really think about what I had just done. If we?re being realistic, I?m in fairly decent shape. I run 10-15 miles per week, ran a half marathon in November, and ?trained? for the WDW half. (?Trained? in air quotes because I?m 99% sure experts agree alternating between an elliptical and a treadmill for 8.5 miles two weeks prior and run/walking a 10k the week before do not qualify as training. Oh, and I ran a 10k on Thanksgiving?does that count?) In the best possible situation, I was undertrained for the half. I would have finished, but it might have been ugly. So why not take that ugly finish and move it 13.1 miles further? And why not pay someone to move that finish line for me? Here, RunDisney, please, take my money!
3am Sunday morning rolled around and I contemplated staying in bed. Outside, it was 35 degrees with a wind chill somewhere in the 20s. Everyone I talked to about switching to a full had told me not to do it?I would end up hurt, not finishing, or just miserable until the much-feared balloon ladies found me on the side of the road somewhere. Plus, we had lunch reservations at Be Our Guest for 12:15 AND Fastpasses for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and 7 Dwarves Mine Train for Sunday morning?decisions, decisions.
During the dreaded march to my death?I mean corral, I planned my strategy?How can I make it through this without dying? Run/Walk/Run, or interval training had never been on my radar. In fact, (and I will shamefully admit this), I was one of the runners who was ?too proud? to interval train. I had always prided myself on being able to run a whole (insert race distance here). Here I was walking into a race where it was ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE for me to run my normal race. Normal pace? Out of the question! So how did this whole ?run/walk/run? thing work? A quick Google search led me to choose intervals that were somewhat similar to my running pace for my first half. I could always slow down, but I was determined to avoid that dreaded ?wall? that the running community always seems to talk about. (If someone would like to clue me in on what the ?wall? is, let me know if I hit it at the end of this).
I was fortunate enough to have a great starting location for 13.1, which was all I planned to run. I had a different demon to battle over in corral D?intimidation. My corral was filled?well actually, the first couple of corrals are pretty empty, but you get the idea?with ?real? runners. There may have been a couple of Boston qualifiers in my corral. The expected finish time for my corral was definitely under 4 hours. Just listening to the conversations around me was intimidating, and I was grateful for the extra layers covering up my blue half bib. I told two people standing near me that I was a half-turned-full marathoner and this was my first full and the look of shock, surprise and ?well, good luck? was enough to psych me out and keep my mouth shut for the rest of the wait.
I was no stranger to the start of this race?I had run the Princess Half Marathon the year before. I also knew that almost every person in my corral was faster than me and would pass me in the first 30 seconds. I ran the first mile at my normal, comfortable pace, switching to intervals by mile 2.5. I was frustrated, annoyed, and in shock/mild admiration of people who interval run regularly. For me, running is all about finding a groove and continuing there forever. It?s mindless. It clears my head and lets me forget about everything except for running. It?s calming and peaceful. Interval running requires concentration, thought and careful planning.
By mile 3.5 or 4, we were close to Magic Kingdom?s main street, and I felt like I had been running forever. I knew I wanted a picture with the castle while the lights were still on and the sun was starting to come up. Tossing aside the idea of ?pacing myself,? I ran down Main Street and into Tomorrowland. However, ?pacing? turned into ?photo op.? The Beast, a missed photo opportunity last year at Princess, was a stop I didn?t make on my way to a PR. This time, I had nothing to lose. No one expected me to finish?the expectation was to get to 13.1, wander to the hard sweep point at the end of Animal Kingdom, hop on a bus and continue on with my day.
I really can?t tell you what happened between leaving Magic Kingdom and arriving at Animal Kingdom. I was shocked to discover that after crossing the mat for 13.1, I felt pretty good! I was still interval running and was amazed to see my ETA at the finish–10:54AM. I was still moving at the same pace as the 10-mile update. I knew the next hard sweep point would be at ESPN Wide World of Sports, so I figured why not keep going?it was just an hour away. I was more disappointed that Expedition Everest wasn?t open yet. I discovered the next day that I completely missed seeing the giant tree in the middle of Animal Kingdom, and that the guy taking the selfie was actually taking a selfie in front of Everest?which I also missed. Maybe it?s safe to say that I don?t really know what happened in Animal Kingdom, but technology says I was there at one point.
The next major milestone was the 20-mile mark. With every mile that passed between 13.1 and 20, I was setting a new personal best for distance?prior to this, it was 13.1. People weren?t kidding when they said that World of Sports was the longest part of the race?it went on forever! All of a sudden, I looked up and saw Joy and Sadness (no, I wasn?t hallucinating and seeing my emotions come to life) from Inside Out! Better yet–no line! I couldn?t believe how lucky I was?the wait was FOREVER when I was at Epcot the day before!
By the time I hit the 20-mile mat, I had somehow started running negative splits and my finish ETA was 10:47am. As with most other things in this race, I?m still not entirely sure how this happened, but I blinked and was at Hollywood Studios. Another blink, and it was behind me. Someone had told me that once you got to Hollywood Studios, the race was basically over, and they weren?t kidding. Running the next few miles along the Boardwalk to Epcot were beautiful, and I?m pretty sure I was fueled by adrenaline, hilarious signs and crispy M&M?s.
As I entered Epcot, I considered stopping in Mexico for a margarita. Instead, I found something better?ALADDIN! After pausing for my 3rd and final picture of this race, he assured me that the finish line was a mile down the road and told me to enjoy the last little bit. This part of the race was familiar?just like Princess, and I knew I had less than a mile to go. I took off towards Spaceship Earth and the front of Epcot, and as I turned the corner, there?s the gospel choir! (Side note: they?re always there– always at that last turn before the chute?somehow, still a surprise.)
At this point, I couldn?t breathe. If ?hitting the wall? is heaving sobs and the biggest ugly cry you?ve ever seen in your life, I hit the wall. If not, this was just my body?s natural reaction to running 26 miles. I wish I could say there was this epic fanfare and the whole world was there cheering, waiting for me to finish. Unfortunately, someone was celebrating his 52nd birthday and he finished a few seconds in front of me so the DJ/MC was too busy playing some variation of ?Happy Birthday? and wishing him happy 52nd to announce my name. Honestly, I don?t care. What comes next is more important.
I broke down into the ugliest cry known to mankind. I owe the next 3 minutes of my life to RunDisney?s wonderful volunteers?the woman who congratulated me and handed me a Powerade. The man who tied the Mylar blanket around my shoulders because I couldn?t do it myself. The 20-something who realized I was sobbing too hard to take a medal, so he put it around my neck. The medical volunteer who asked me if she could hug me, told me congratulations and then asked if she could open my Powerade. (After telling her yes, she made me drink it. I was disappointed to discover the whole thing was probably an elaborate charade to make sure I was hydrated and not about to pass out?no worries, I made enough bathroom stops for everyone out there!)
When I think back on my experience, I think of the 1500 or so ?accidental? half marathon runners. I never expected to finish, and I know from various postings on social media that I am not alone. I never planned to run a marathon–I had come here to run a half with a friend who became my biggest cheerleader and my biggest fan throughout this whole thing. There were many half marathoners who became cheerleaders and supporters for those of us who went to the starting line on Sunday. I ran two half marathons that day?one for me, and one for her.
There is something wonderful about finishing what you start?no matter what you?ve started and how you finish it. There is something magical about finishing a RunDisney event. Each runner has a story of how they got to the starting line this morning, and Disney does the best they can to make sure that each runner makes it to the finish. In spite of all the ?Disney Magic? that is clearly present in each race, the most amazing part of a RunDisney event is finding the magic that was inside of you all along.