When I had gone to bed the night before, I was stiff. An ice bath and epsom bath hadn't really helped. And I was worried.
But when 2am rolled around, I woke up feeling tired but less stiff than I had been. Marathon day was upon us and I had to be ready to rock it whether my body wanted to or not.
Into my marathon singlet I went...this time I was running in celebration of Anna's recovery!
Because the day before had been cutting it a bit close, our team decided to meet 15 mins earlier and to catch an earlier bus to the start.
I was meeting Nikki at the same place as I had before. I knew I'd beat her there so I had plenty of time to drop off my checked bag (I had really regretted not having flip flops to change into the day before) . Nikki's bus was caught in traffic so I had a bit of a wait so I took some photos of the staging area...
and then I went and asked Santa for what I really wanted for Christmas: to cross this finish line with a smile on my face!
Nikki arrived and we headed out to the startline. We were in corral E again so we went with the corral C and D people so we'd have loads of time. The procession to the start seemed to go faster this day but it was still a crawl.
Can you imagine running a marathon with stuffies tied to your butt-length hair?
The announcers were interviewing people up front, including Joey Fatone - who was also going Goofy.
Then it was fireworks time! and we were off!
The first 9 miles of the course were identical to those of the half - out to the expressway then into the Magic Kingdom and then on to the speedway and animal kingdom. Zipping around ESPN Wide World of Sports. Finally through Hollywood Studios and back through Epcot to the finish.
Soon we were back at the Magic Kingdom and being lifted up by the cheering crowds.
We saw Jack Skellington
and were soon at the castle
Ran past Winnie the Pooh's house
Saw Belle and the Beast
and then it was through the castle one more time!
On to 10k. Feeling overheated but otherwise doing well and running strong. The stiffness of the half had been shaken off by this point, but I was throbbing from the heat.
I was smitten with Mary Poppins so this time we stopped for a character shot. The first shot was a fail because I was so busy telling her "YOU are FAN-TAS-TIC!" She was a Julie Andrews doppelganger. Truly fabulous!
Shortly after, the course strayed from the half. There was a steep hill warning sign as we came into the Walt Disney World Speedway and we descended under the racetrack and came up on the other side.
The race track was scorching hot. There was music playing and local car enthusiasts had brought their prized wheels out to show them off - the track was rimmed with shiny cars both racing and collected.
And the cast of Cars was there as well!
And, in a throwback to the "Cars" of my youth - HERBIE!!!!!!!!!!!!
The race track seemed so long. And because it was so exposed, the temperatures soared. I was melting. I took a gel and chugged some Nuun and carried on.
A short jaunt on the expressway brought us to the Animal Kingdom. Some of the animals came out to greet us. I had to capture Pumba...but there were also little owls and a bunch of goats. This little guy was so friendly.
The stretch that followed seemed the longest and most boring. Running in the heat with little to look at. There were characters here and there and then there was a section where the utilities for Walt Disney world were managed...included a fragrant waste treatment facility. It was really interesting to see the signs they set out, though, detailing fun facts about the water and treatment facilities for the parks.
Then we entered Animal Kingdom proper. Running past vendors and monkeys and then, I had to stop for a pic with Expedition Everest in the background.
They were pulling people off the course to ride the roller coaster if they wanted to. I just couldn't imagine sitting down at that point in the race. We were almost halfway and I was afraid I might not be able to stand back up again, let alone run! But lots of people DID ride it!
Shortly after the halfway mark, my legs were feeling really warm so I tarted dumping water on myself to bring down my body temperature. Nikki and I had a running joke after that about how I wet myself at the halfway point! HA! We are hilarious!
It was about here where we picked up a new running buddy. I never noted his name but he was part of the TNT team in Kansas City. We had leapfrogged a few times - each time with a "go team" but after Expedition Everest, he said "Do you ladies mind if I run with you for a while?" and we welcomed the distraction. I shared my story and he regaled us with TNT stories from his chapter. He was one of those who had taken the opportunity to ride the coaster too! It was so great to have someone there to boost our spirits a bit because the heat was starting to drain us pretty well.
Here's a photo of him from the official TNT pics :)
There hadn't been a mission mile in the half so I was keeping my eyes out for one in the full..when we came upon signs with inspiring quotes on them. Nikki and I stopped for photos and our buddy decided to carry on. Turns out Disney doesn't do the Mission Mile. I definitely missed it.
This is one of my favourite quotes of all time...
Another long stretch happened around this point and we plodded onward toward the ESPN Wide World of Sports, where we were looking forward to the "Mile 20 Spectacular" and spent some time speculating about it. As we entered the park, there was the meanest sign ever! Good thing it wasn't directed at the marathoners...
And then the heavens opened up and a bright light shone down...on the kiddie pool full of sponges!!!!! I cried. All I had been begging for since the 10 mile mark was a sponge. To get one at the 17 mile mark was incredible! INCREDIBLE! I took two and kissed them and wiped myself down over and over. Then shoved one in my bra so I could do it whenever I wanted.
I didn't take many photos throughout ESPN. We wove around alot of the complex. We ran around the running track. My spirits dipped lower and lower as the heat exhausted me. I had a serious case of the mean reds and I could feel my skin burning and my body throbbed and my feet hurt and I felt every inch a marathoner on the verge of the Bite Me Zone.
And then we entered the ball diamond. This was the stadium that is the home of the Atlanta Braves for spring training. Part of me had it in my head that this was where the mile 20 spectacular was to be. When we entered it and it had nothing going on - I was disappointed. It was like I deflated and became really out of it. I couldn't will myself to run. It was all I could do to not wave Nikki onward to leave me to my misery.
We walked the outside of the diamond and when we got out, I told Nikki I needed to stretch a bit.
So, I moved to the side and stretched out my legs. And beat my head against the chain link fence. And mentally bitchslapped myself. THOROUGHLY. I gave myself the most serious talking to I have ever done. I told myself that I needed to suck it up and get through the last 7 miles to the finish.
When I returned to Nikki's side, I was in a better place. My body was still dehydrated and exhausted, but my brain was in a better place. Run, walk, crawl, drag. I was crossing that finish line. Cancer patients don't quit mid-treatment - I wasn't going to quit mid-race!
Soon, we were at Mile 20 and the spectacular for the 20th anniversary of the race! I had spent weeks wondering what it would be. I had pretty much decided it would either involve confetti or that it would be some American baseball thing that I didn't get.
I didn't expect what it actually was. It was cool but I didn't really find it was all it was hyped to be. There were these giant puppets for several Disney characters...
and then, right before you run through a giant archway printed with every medal from the last 20 years - was Mickey, Minnie and Pluto!!!! That was pretty spectacular. The lineup was insane so I didn't pause for a pic.
There may be a photo kicking around of me going in for an attempted Mickey ass grab through the fence...hubby should really be careful what he texts me in the morning...
And then, as TNT races tend to go for me and Anna...it wasn't long before I looked ahead and saw her through the crowd!
She was holding strong so I vowed to see her at the finish and carried on. Shortly after, Coach Ramona caught up with us and ran for a while by my side. We had started asking medical tents for sunscreen (they were all out) and I wish I had asked Ramona because I found out later that she had some! I was really scorched.
After a couple of miles or so, Ramona left us to find the last team mate she wanted to check on and Nikki and I tackled the expressway again.
It was during this time that we also saw how they clean up after a race of this scale. Our route lined up to the people entering ESPN and a bus and a herd of street sweepers were chasing the last of the runners - making the expressway nice and clean and ready for traffic again. The buses were to pick up participants who wouldn't make it to the finish on time.
We saw the Incredibles!
And soon we entered Disney's Hollywood Studios. Around here we started to take fewer and fewer photos. Look at us - we look too hot and exhausted to hold a camera! It was also around here where I tied an imaginary rope around Nikki and just tried to keep her in sight. She was running so much stronger than I was. We were pretty quiet and just kept putting one foot in front of the other...
AHH Shade! We got to run through the costuming department. It was cool to see the sewing machines and fabric and dress forms!
Then through the park and the false fronted buildings...
When we left the Studios, there was a great deal of really pretty scenery I was too tired to capture. Lots of waterfront, but narrow pathways. Through resorts, where crowds cheered us along. I remember reaching a TNT Cheering Section and I went in for high fives and the first lady squeezed my hand and said "you've got this" I cried.
I saw a boy swimming with a duck.
Asked some fairy godmothers for some magic to carry me along.
and then it was into Epcot where each swell of crowd cheering reduced both Nikki and I to tears. One foot in front of the other we plodded ever onward. As we ran around the lagoon in Epcot, I was grabbing TNT coaches to beg for pep talks. Each and every one of them complied and helped me carry on.
At mile 12, someone handed me chocolate...I stashed it for later.
It was the homestretch and past the gospel choir to the finish. I was choking on my tears now. It was so emotional. When we came around the corner and could see the finish - Nikki and I squeezed hands and said "We did it" and ran for the finish! Mickey and Minnie were flanking the line so I swept to the side and wet in for a Mickey High Five before I crossed.
With tears in my eyes, I embraced Nikki and we had a moment of celebration! And joyfully walked to collect our amazing medals.
Of course, there was a TNT photog ready to snap my very emotional face as the medal was put over my head. From the TNT Slideshow...
Our finish time was 6:18
We then left the finish chute - grabbed water and Powerade and headed for the Goofy Tent. I must say, the volunteers giving us our Goofy medals handled us with a sort of reverence...it was almost ceremonial how they placed them over our heads.
And then it was done. All that was left was photos, grabbing food. Getting the hell out of my runners and into flip flops. Then to check in at TNT!
Heat advisory sign...
The TNT Check in also took a victory photo of me with my 3 medals! I was so happy to have packed Donald into my checked bag.
I ran into Anna and the rest of Team Alberta shortly after and then said farewell to Nikki, who wanted to find her travel buddies. I am so incredibly grateful to that girl for sticking it out with me through my mean reds and my heat rage! She's an amazing woman who really rocked this race! I'm proud to call her a friend!
We had done it. We had conquered the Marathon. We had conquered Goofy. We were victorious!
It was so hard. It hurt. It was HOT! it was HUMID! I was tired. But I was elated! I still am. Even recapping this has brought me to tears many many times. I'll let you hang on for my final thoughts to hear how I processed it in the end...
The Garmin Geekery: