I started the day at 2:30 am on Saturday, after just a few hours of sleep. I made my way to the massive start line with members of my Team in Training chapter, walking at least a mile through the back streets of Disney at around 3:00 in the morning. That in itself is a story! The race started just outside of Epcot with a
I managed to keep a quick pace with one of my teammates, Bob, for the first 3 miles, but then lost him in the pitch-black stretch of road following mile 3. I don't even remember the sun coming up, to be honest, but I guess it must have at some point between mile 3 and 4, because at mile 4 I could clearly see the man with enormous Mickey gloves dancing to Gangnam Style on top of the bridge we were running under. That definitely brought up my spirits and my pace!
Next, we wove around parking lots and into the Magic Kingdom through a back entrance, where we were dumped out straight onto Main Street! Spectators were only allowed on the left side, so I weaved my way through the running crowd to be on the left, since I knew my mom and brother would be waiting somewhere in the Magic Kingdom for me. As we were running up Main Street, I spotted the image of my dad's head waving high above everyone else's head, next to the signs that read, "GO JACKIE!," so I started waving my hands and screaming (which was reciprocated by many spectators who weren't my family) and eventually saw my brother and my mom, where they snapped this lovely picture:
After we ran up Main Street, we looped around the back of Cinderella's Castle, and filed in through the middle to come out the front of the castle. There was a major backup getting down the ramp in front of the castle, and at that point I decided that I didn't care too much about my time, and decided to just have fun with it. I had passed up several photo opportunities over the first 5 miles, but decided to stop for a picture in front of the castle and later on in the Magic Kingdom with Tiana. We kept running through the Magic Kingdom and finally made our way back onto the main road. I was feeling great up until about mile 9, where I think the lack of sleep and the heat that I wasn't used to really caught up to me. I ran through the beaming sunshine without really focusing on where in Disney I was or what was going on, I was just looking out for the next water station or mile marker, getting closer and closer to the finish. My pace slowed a lot, but I didn't stress about it or push myself too hard, since I already knew that I didn't care about my time.
Around mile 10 or 11, a goddess descended from Heaven in the form of a Team in Training coach, whom I did not know. She saw that I was struggling, and since I was a fellow Team in Training member, she ran for about half a mile with me, giving me extra water and Sport Beans, and doing all the talking so I could just listen and keep up with her pace. It helped me so much, I wish I could find her now to thank her, but I'm hoping she gets plenty of appreciation from her Team in Training chapter. After she dropped off to help out another team member, I continued with the quicker pace as I neared up on the final stretch. I saw my fantastically enthusiastic Team leader, Alex, and she cheered for me as I came up on mile 12, just outside Epcot. We entered Epcot through a back entrance, staffed with Epcot employees to cheer for us, and made our way around Spaceship Earth (the iconic Epcot sphere) and out of the park. I knew that the finish line was just outside the park, so as we were running outside of the park, I got a huge busrt of adrenaline and started running faster and faster. I passed the 13 mile mark and ran even faster, knowing that there was only ONE TENTH of a mile left. I sprinted through to the finish line, waving my arms and screaming again upon seeing my family.
I crossed the finish line at about 2 hours and 30 minutes (nowhere near what I was going for, but I'm okay with that!) and received my medal, while glowing and smiling and nearly in tears. I made my way out of the corral and to the Team in Training tent, where I checked in, received my Team in Training finisher's pin, met up with my mom and brother, and got a snack. I met up with several of my teammates from Rhode Island and found that everyone's race went extremely well.
After relaxing for a few minutes, I caught up with my grandpa and his friend Elaine, who had been waiting for me at the finish line the entire time. It was so incredible to know that loved ones were waiting for me along the course, cheering me on and encouraging me. That, along with thinking about my dad, all the other wonderful people I've come across in this journey, and everyone who's shown their support through generous donations kept me going throughout the entire race.
Running a half marathon, especially through Disney World, was certainly an incredibly magical feeling. I'm so inspired by all the wonderful people I spent the weekend with, and I can't wait to cross the finish line of the Rock n Roll Marathon in DC in March! Hopefully this was the first of many rewarding races.