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Ah well

The marathon came, the marathon went. I ran a grand total of 11 miles in December, due to the chest infection that required antibiotics, then recovering from the antibiotics (amoxicillin rash is not cool), then picking up another sniffle that promptly closed my lungs right up again. I did 6 of those 11 miles in Florida, and I was quite seriously worried about starting the marathon. My lungs just weren't working with me. Fortunately the marathon was another week and a half away at that point, so I dedicated myself to attempting to eat more food than I would normally see in a month (a slight exaggeration, but not much), soaking up the Disney vibe and generally healing as best I could. My support crew was in a much worse state than me and distracted everyone from noticing that I wasn't entirely well either!

Starting a race at 6am is no picnic. We stayed in a Disney hotel to make transport as painless as possible, but still got up at 3am, to catch a bus by 3.30, to be standing in my corral by around 5. It got colder between 5 and 6, down around 10 degrees Celsius. That hour before dawn is not just the darkest. Then we stood and waited while the sponsor talked at us (normal), the race organiser talked at us (normal), and the national anthem was sung (not normal for the UK, apparently normal for the US). And then they started letting the waves go. That bit was awesome. Each wave went at around 3 minute intervals, and each wave got fireworks.


The first 4 miles were along to Epcot and through future world then back to the start. The lake was steaming gently, all the lights were on. It was beautiful. I remember thinking "next time I'm here I'm nearly done", but it was just a lovely thing. I spotted Clarkie at the 4 mile mark, so I (slightly prematurely as it turned out) gave her my thermal. I felt pretty good after 4 miles.

4 miles

From there it was along more service roads to the Magic Kingdom. I got a bit cold on that section. I was sweaty, but my legs felt cold and I started to feel a little less happy. Clarkie took the monorail across to Magic Kingdom and saw me at 9 miles. Then she had to go and checkout of the hotel and stuff, so that was the last time I saw her before the finish. 

9 miles

After Magic Kingdom comes a loooooong stretch of service roads before you reach Animal Kingdom. We went past the halfway mark on that stretch, and I was feeling ok. Starting to struggle, but I'd warmed up. I was slower than on a good day at the halfway mark, but I was still on track for my PB. I was quite jealous of the relay runners though. (Disney were doing a new thing this year, the Chip and Dale relay where two runners each do 13.1 miles. The first leg get their own finish and everything. I think it sounds brilliant, personally. Just have to persuade a certain someone to run it with me!)

Disney had done their best to liven up the dull bits. There were characters, boards with random facts on, cast members cheering... And really, it was a run through green trees and on flat terrain, so it wasn't too bad. It was warming up but not hot yet, almost perfect. Trouble was I got through 15 miles in slightly over 3 hours (well down on normal) and my legs and feet and brain stopped coordinating really well. After that it was pretty much a battle the whole way. My PB dreams went out of the window, and it became totally about finishing by any means I could. Which meant a lot of walking. 

I can tell you that the pavement in Animal Kingdom is quite textured. The park was open by the time I got there, and I saw people stop running to go on the Everest ride. More people meant more cheering, and that was definitely welcome. Having our names on the race number meant loads of people shouted for you directly, and that was such a boost. I'm not sure spectators really appreciate the difference they make to the average runners. They really do. Should you ever find yourself spectating, take something to make some noise with! Clapping hurts after a while...

The section between Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios was my personal hell. We were out on some of the main roads in Disney at this point, in direct sun, on overpasses with no shade, with one lane still open to cars. The car drivers were miserable and seemed intent on ignoring the running. No horn beeping, no windows down and cheering, nothing. Just the exhausts making it worse. (Coincidentally, this was between around 19-23 miles. Never good. So my report may be coloured by that.) A high point was 'Sweet Caroline' coming on over the speakers, and a load of the runners started singing along! 

Hollywood Studios to the end was much more pleasant. We went along the edge of water back through the Beach Club resort and into Epcot World Showcase around the back of the United Kingdom (I know that means nothing unless you've been there, but this is for my memory as much as anything else), and it was so nice to get away from the cars and back amongst people. I saw my parents at the Christmas tree where World Showcase meets Futureworld (around 25.5 miles), and nearly started crying and gave them my sweaty camelbak. Another runner there cajouled me into running for a bit more - I wasn't sure my legs were on the right way round by this point - and the finish was a lovely, lovely sight. 

Goofy high five at the finish

In the end my chip timing didn't work (no record of my start), and I forgot to turn off my watch at the finish (other things on my mind). But it was around 6 hours 9 minutes, or 10 minutes slower than my already incredibly slow PB. I am happy that I did the best preparation my body could do, and the best on the day that I could, but I'd have given an awful lot to not get that chest infection. 

The thing that really made this marathon for me was all the people. The cast members who were out in the dark at 6am to cheer us on, all the other runners, the volunteers who ran all the food and water stops, the people who were sweeping up the cups after us and the spectators were all awesome. The atmosphere was fantastic. Every waterstop, runners were thanking the volunteers for being there, and they were telling us back to keep going because we were doing fine (even when we patently weren't!). 

(Very little makes me as emotional as long distance running, so forgive me if I'm gushing.)

The other thing that makes this marathon unique is the day after. I was ok - very stiff, some chafe marks, a couple of tiny blisters - so we went into Epcot mid-afternoon. I'd been told I had to wear my medal and tshirt, which felt a lot like showing off for this Brit, but I did it. I am so glad I did. There were lots of medals at the park. We congratulated each other, with nods and smiles, and other people congratulated us too. Half marathon, full marathon, Chip and Dale or Goofy (half on the Saturday, full on the Sunday) didn't matter. It was really special. Clarkie said it was like I'd joined some cult club. 

Ellie with her medal by the Epcot Christmas tree

I am really glad I did it. It helped me put my London result in perspective, and was an amazing experience in it's own right. I feel like a runner now, like I've worked that into my life rather than just training for the one thing. A very slow runner, but that's ok. Would I do it again? One day. I'll finish the PhD first, and work on my half-marathon time. But one day I'll do another.


Walt Disney 2012 marathon map

The rest of Clarkie's photos of the day

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Reader Comments (3)

Serious respect to you, congrats x

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterStevie

You did extremely well to finish at all. Your careful preparation paid off even though you were not well. Many congratulations, proud of you!

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBarbara

Great blog -and well done again!

January 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJay

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