First off…let’s just start right out of the gate with this picture…
Goofballs. L-Jo (the BFF, for those of you just joining my blog), and I are going to blame this insanity on the fact that we had to be up around 2AM, on a runner bus by 3AM, and it was currently around 4AM at the time this pic was taken in race village before the start. I honestly don’t remember a lot of the shenanigans that apparently ensued around this moment as there’s also these pictures…
And then this happened?
I don’t know. Call it race anxiety over the fact that I’d previously broken up with running for several weeks prior to this half marathon, I for some reason had not had my pre-race poop (shut it. You all know we worry about that), and the humidity was a whoppin 98% at that point in time? Or I’m just crazy. You decide.
Thanks to my friend, Stacy, for capturing all this for the whole world to see.
Let’s start at the beginning. And by “beginning,” I mean my 1:45 AM wake-up call. 3.5 intermittent hours of sleep prior to this.
Fortunately I’d laid out all my (new Team Sasquatch) gear the night before. I literally just had to throw it on, shove my typical pre-race breakfast down my throat, and await L-Jo’s arrival to our hotel room.
See? We can do normal.
At promptly 3AM, we headed out the door and to Caribbean Beach’s (where we resided for 8 glorious days) bus stop to be picked up on a giant coach bus taking runners to the start.
I was nervous as all get out. I have never been so unprepared for a race in my entire life before. I ran the Mankato Half in October after coming off my right tibial stress injury with very little training as well, but WAAAAAY more than I had leading up to Disney World. As many of you know, this past month and a half has been a very trying time for my husband and I with our failed adoption and our world was turned upside down. I found myself lying in bed crying or shutting out the entire world more than I care to think about now for a loooong time. And running, training, etc. got completely thrown out the window because of it. I don’t suggest having that happen to you a month before the biggest bucket-list race you’ve ever had, but it’s what we knew could happen going into the adoption process, so it was what it was. I’d run like a whopping 15 miles in all of December and 10 in January leading up to the half. I’d also just spent the 5 days prior to the race walking Disney parks for 10+ hours a day and my feet were full of blisters and screaming at me with every step. It was safe to say I was one giant hot mess; which is why the first few pictures may have happened. Truly.
We arrived at the race area around 3:30 and we promptly headed over to meet up with my coach, Speedy Sasquatch at the JDRF charity tent. Yes! My coach was there from NYC to run the Goofy Challenge (he’s TOTAL crazy pants coming off injury and running both the half and full marathon the next day, but I love him for it). And this was going to be the first time we’d ever really run together. I’m surprised he still wants to be my coach after how I lost it on the race route, but we’ll get to that later. Let’s just say he’s probably not shocked after coaching me for a year and a half, getting frantic phone calls and texts from me and dramatic emails all the time.
Disney knows how to do porta-potties at their race village. I wish I’d taken a photo. I didn’t have to wait long at all and there were 23,000+ total half marathon participants, so that’s sayin something. I even went twice and didn’t have to wait.
We hung out there for a while chatting and taking apparently goofy pictures, before Coach, L-Jo and I all headed to our corral. Somehow my slow butt got put into Corral B, and I’m pretty sure that’s because the time I submitted upon registration was for my current 10K PR that would put in the grave if I had to run that time now. Getting to the corral was veeeeery frustrating. I’m not going to speak too much on this as it kinda painted a bad picture, but 23,000 runners had to walk through this dark forest-type area for what felt like an eternity. We couldn’t see anything, the ground was horribly uneven and I almost twisted my ankle a million times, and it was a loooong walk only to find out we’d made a huge circle to the other side to enter our corral. Huh?
My nerves were seriously getting the better of me and I had to pee a third time. Guess what? This time DW didn’t do porta-potties right. The lines were huge and no TP available. I was going to just go in the woods (with apparently a bazillion guy runners doing the same thing) and just do my biz. Fortunately we found a shorter line before it came to that, and I jumped in and had a race first; no TP. Just keep movin and don’t think about it. Guys…you sure do have it easy.
After finally making it to the corral, we hung out there for a bit. Disney put out a grand show complete with characters on the big screen (the Half Marathon is “run” by Donald Duck”) and fireworks blasting off with every corral start. I was honestly so nervous about this whole thing that I don’t remember much. I do remember Joey Fatone (from NSync) up there talking and Jeff Galloway, but I was just trying to not focus on the fact I was going to run 13.1 miles with no training.
As you can see…Coach was mortified by all things over-the-top Disney
I believe it was at this time when I said to my coach “Was I supposed to stretch?” Whoops. Yep. I didn’t even stretch for this race. Don’t worry. I paid for that decision for a solid 72 hours post-race. Especially since I sorta just sat down immediately after it and forgot to post-race stretch for about 2 hours as well. Yet another thing I don’t suggest doing. Learn from my mistakes, PEOPLE!
So the race promptly started around 5:40 AM. We took off and just hung out in the massive Corral B crowd for quite a while. I was doin fairly well. Coach, L-Jo and I were just chattin away and things were feeling surprisingly good. Somewhere along the way, I believe it was after the 5K mark, I ended up getting separated from L-Jo. This is when things went downhill. She was carrying all my race fuel and I had nothing on me. Nada. And not only that, I was hoping we’d be able to stick together the whole time. Not the case.
I just kept running with my coach. At mile 3.5ish, I saw my dear friend Maddy and her son Stone! I wasn’t able to stop and say hello, but I definitely threw an air kiss her way and was thankful for the familiar face as it gave me a bit of a boost. Around mile 4ish? 4.5ish? We headed into Magic Kingdom. Holy smokes. Talk about take my breath away. It was still dark out, so the whole place was lit up. I had visited the park multiple times that week prior to the race, but seeing it while running a half marathon took it to a whole new level. We turned onto Main Street and Cinderella’s Castle was directly in front of us all lit up. I’m SO MAD I didn’t come to a complete stop on the side to take a picture as this one is definitely blurry. The course became significantly more narrow right at this point as the spectators were on half of it, and the runners were on the other. AND people didn’t seem to feel the need to stop on the side and take a pic. They just stopped directly smack dab in the middle and started taking photos. If you run a Disney race in the future, please think of this. The whole park experience, while REALLY beautiful and fun and full of lights and race spectators, was mildly dangerous due to runners not thinking with their heads a bit more than they probably should. I am hoppin mad about this pic being blurry.
The course took a right and we wound through Tomorrow Land, into part of Fantasy Land and then directly THROUGH Cinderella’s Castle before exiting the park through Frontier Land.
Here’s proof we were at the Castle. It’s the sparkly stuff behind us (yes I stole this pic).
This is where the wheels came off for me. I mean BAD. It was hotter than all get out. I’d not run anything longer than 7 miles prior to this race, and that was with run/walking intervals. The heat was totally taking its toll on my body. While I’m thankful I’d spent the week in FL leading up to the race getting used to the temps, it’s just plain hard running in that high of humidity period. I was sweating out my fluids like a crazy fool and my stomach was so knotted up and crampy that it felt like the Alien was trying to escape from my intestines; just like in the movie.
And then the negative self-talk started. I was running so slow. I had to go to the bathroom again. I stopped “hearing” my coach and his encouragement. I lost it. I started to walk. I started to think back on how hard this year had been for me in different ways. I was mad as all heck that my pace was slower by a TON than I’d been able to easily put out a year ago. It all came crashing down. The heat, the bad thoughts, etc. I started to walk. Coach thankfully didn’t let me walk any more than a minute at a time before physically pushing me to get moving again. I started to tear up. This wasn’t me. This wasn’t the Courtenay I’d known in my “running world” prior to last month. I was supposed to be tough as nails. I cried, sure, but I didn’t cry in front of people. I certainly wasn’t supposed to cry in the middle of the Walt Disney World Half Marathon. I was sabotaging my own experience. I was angry that I was ruining what was supposed to be a good run with the guy and dear friend who I put my faith in to get me there in the first place. I had lost all faith in myself. My stomach was killing me, I felt dizzy, I was dehydrated and that Gatorade I forced down at mile 3 was threatening to come back up.
Somehow we got past the 10K mark, but I was admittedly the biggest whiny baby on planet earth. I was starting to rage. I knew that the cliff fuel stop was somewhere after 8. It certainly didn’t show up right at 8 and I was so mad, when we finally came upon it, to find out it was only Cliff gu or gel or whatever. I had never taken gel in my life. I am a sports beans girl, but this was all I had to go with (thanks to my idiocy of not having any fuel supply on my person). I couldn’t even get the package open, but my coach did and I slurped it down. Who the HECK wants to eat something that tastes like vanilla cake in the form of gel at almost mile 9? Not this girl. To those of you that do Gu or gel, God bless you. I can’t.
The Alien sensation in my gut finally calmed down, though, and I kept pushing. Because of my whiny baby walking experience, my coach had to let me go around mile 9. My enormous amount of walking due to mentally fizzling out, was tearing up his body and given he had to run the marathon the next day, I had to go it alone at that point. Totally understandable. We laid out a plan of 7 minutes running 1 minute walking to the end. I believe I actually pinky swore I was going to execute that and then he took off.
Right after that moment, I found myself on the side of the road puking up the gel and any amount of liquid I managed to still have in my body. Not good. Really REALLLLY not good. I was on the side of some road in between Magic Kingdom and Epcot and I just literally lost it all over the pavement. I think some fellow runners slowed down to check on my well-being, but I just decided that was it. I was going to run when I could, and walk when I had to and just find the inner strength to get through it. I’d already mentally destroyed a portion of the race I wasn’t happy about, so I had to find a way to keep myself on two feet and in an upright position. I couldn’t allow myself to think about not being hydrated or that I was running on empty. I didn’t allow myself to think about the heat. I focused on the fact that this was the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, I was in FL running a race most runners dream of getting to, and I was running period. It was then that I noticed I was 100% pain-free. There was no pain in my feet, hips, and surprisingly my legs. This was an absolute first for me. I had been distracted enough by my coach and the world around me that I, for once, wasn’t hyper-focused on my injuries. This was just the push I needed to keep going. I ran as much as I could. I walked a little here and there. I honestly tried the 7:1 ratio, but I can’t tell you how much I really stuck with it because I was in such a fog.
I started to pay attention to the Disney characters and other attractions they had all along the race route for the runners. There were bands, and cheer squads, and Disney characters lining the entire route. You didn’t have to go far before someone was distracting you and calling out your name on the front of your bib. I chose to throw my attention completely into that instead of the fact that I had over a 5K left to get through on an empty tank out there alone. I decided not to stop and stand in line to take pics for the characters as I knew this late in the game of the race, my body was getting ready to wage war so I just focused on moving and watching as I ran by.
The sun started to come up and I started to run and take pics at the same time (clearly not thinking about it being blurry still).
This was in between mile 10-11. I think we were running on freeways. It was kinda bizarre.
The fun mile markers Disney had along the way…
After this point, there were 2 guys standing on the side of the road telling the runners to yell to them where we were all coming from across this “small world” of our’s. I yelled out “Minneapolis” and one of them announced it. Not 5 seconds later, I heard someone yell out “Minnesota.” Made me feel good to know I wasn’t probably the only frozen tundra resident most likely fighting the heat at that moment and I imagined myself in good company.
At mile 12ish, we turned into Epcot. I knew I was almost home, and then I didn’t want it to end. This seems like a weird concept given how I felt like I was running through the Sahara desert after not having had anything to eat or drink in days. Turning towards the giant ball in Epcot got me goin again. It was the kick in the pants I needed and I started tearing up again; only this time in a GOOD way. I thought of a dear friend of mine who I have known for years who just found out she may never be able to run due to a medical condition earlier that week. She has a very strong desire to live a healthier lifestyle and life is throwing her HUGE curve balls left and right at the moment. I needed to finish this race strong; not only for me, but for her. It was imperative that I not let that moment be lost on me.
There was the cutest little elderly lady who worked for Disney standing on the side of the road. She had a small pom-pom, a sign and was jumping up and down screaming in the tiniest voice “Go Runners!!! You are so cool!” Runners were stopping and taking pictures of HER! It was the cutest thing. She was definitely the best spectator I’ve ever seen.
We rounded a few corners and then THIS was right in front of me. Crazyness. Total crazyness.
I tried to hold the tears in as my head was becoming full of snot because of it and I didn’t want to lose the good stride I found myself in coming towards the finish line. My body felt AMAZING. No pain. No bad thoughts. I had just about run 13.1+ miles on NO training after my whole world felt like it had been turned upside town less than month prior.
(PS…I’m actually ordering these photos – and I NEVER order pro race photos)
We turned the last corner and I heard the gospel choir singing for us. I’d heard about this gospel choir multiple times in the past from other runners who had been fortunate enough to have this experience. A nice boost at the end. I came running through the finish line and hit my Garmin. I remember the crowd at the end being HUGE. I let this wonderful volunteer place my new ridiculously cool Donald Duck finisher’s medal around my neck and I proceeded with the crowd through towards race village.
It was then that I realized what had just happened. I just ran my 3rd half marathon in 8 months. Remember the days when I couldn’t even get myself to the start line of my first? Remember when I was injured 24/7? Remember when I was at the end of my rope with the things life had thrown at me and I wasn’t sure I was going to live to see another day? That all just hit me like a ton of bricks. While I am still thoroughly embarrassed by the way I acted for several miles in the middle of Disney World, the end result was that I had overcome life’s obstacles. While it wasn’t my best time at 2:33:41, I managed that with walking, taking a pee break AGAIN after the 10K, vomiting around mile 9.5, running on empty in 90%+ humidity, and having not trained at all.
I’m OK with that. This race was about me proving to myself that I am NOT down for the count. I really AM still tough as nails, and it’s OK to allow yourself to be vulnerable at times. This was me making a statement that life isn’t going to take this passion for running away from me, no matter how hard it tried to take me down out there.
Here I am 6 days on the other side of it still 100% pain-free and more fired up than ever to get back to running and training properly. I promise you all, though, that this year I will not let my brain take over. I am having an entirely clean slate. PRs of the past mean nothing anymore and they will no longer control how I view myself as a runner. I have a lot to work on with form, core strength, and the entire mental game and it’s time I got with the program.
I am thankful for this experience. I love my coach even more for putting up with me and not yelling at me when I’m sure there were times he thought I was a moron. Not to mention he has never once given up on me when life has tried to tear me away from running so often. He has done nothing but fully believe in me and it’s time I listened and believed in myself. I’m so blessed to have a best friend in L-Jo who doesn’t hate my guts for getting separated from her during a race we both were looking forward to for months now and continually supports me on a daily basis. I’m thankful for my husband and our friends who got up at 1:45AM to stand in the heat to see me have yet another amazing life-changing moment.
I ran my 3rd half marathon and it was ultimately amazing. I shall never forget how hard it was for me to get to the start line of Fargo last May. Never again will I let the fact that I’m allowed to run at all be taken for granted.
Running Disney World was as fantastic as everyone told me it would be. Worth every dime. You had better believe that after a 25-minute power nap at my resort, I wore that gorgeous medal all over Magic Kingdom for the rest of the day. I wasn’t the only one.
Congratulations to all of you who ran either the half, full marathon, or you were insane and ran the Goofy Challenge (the 1/2 on Saturday and full on Sunday). The whole experience is one I’ll cherish forever and you had better believe I will be back to Run Disney again in the future!
Stay tuned for future posts early next week about the Expo (I sorta hung out with Bart Yasso and Drew Carey), and the rest of our awesome week-long vacay doing all things Disney.
OVERALL PARTICIPANTS: 9650/23126
AGE GROUP (W 30-34): 735/2090
TOTAL FEMALES: 4217/13128