Monday, January 10, 2011

The Disney Half Marathon January 8th

God blessed me!
I ran/walked the Disney half marathon this past Saturday! What an experience! The bus picked us up at my hotel in Disney All Star Music at 3:45 AM. I was on time! The bus was luxurious with comfy seats. I sat next to a high school coach from Florida who told me a story about a little girl named Abby. Her mother was a single mom because when her little brother needed his first heart surgery, his dad left. The mom had no family and now Abby was awaiting some serious surgery. Her digestive system had shut down and she couldn't eat. This gentleman told me he and his wife, who was a first grade teacher, had adopted this family and had them to their home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I told the man I would pray for Abby and for strength for her mom to persevere. He and his wife were each taking ten days off from school to be with the family during the surgery.
When we got off the bus, we walked a long way to get to the grounds where we were to gather. There were 35,000 runners! So many! There was a DJ playing peppy songs and reminding us of the magic of Disney and because it was 4:00 AM, it was still dark. We waited and I met some lovely people. I was alone - the half marathon was actually a younger sister's idea but she had a very good reason to bow out; I travel alone all the time for business so didn't mind going alone at all. We walked to our corrals - there were eight corrals to accomodate the 35,000 particpants. I was in G - most likely because I am 58 and they supposed I wouldn't have a great time which of course I wouldn't! They were right on with that but then my goal was to just finish.
It was cold - 47 degrees - I wore capris, a t-shirt and a light fleece but was so excited, I didn't feel the cold. We walked as a group to find placement in our corrals. At the entrance Disney had a wide red, plush carpet spread out for us. To the left was a very tall man in his 70's or so wearing a pink flamingo suit. He smiled at me - honestly I was so astonished I hope I smiled back. When when our eyes met, I had an epiphany. I knew at that moment I had to finish that race! The tricky part of the race is there was a spotter in the H corral in an orange suit setting a pace - if one didn't keep up, you were picked up and taken in a cart to the finish. Susan - a friend I've known for over fifty years called the cart "the loser wagon" and we joked about me staying ahead of it. I'm not an athelete or really competitive, but I always like to finish what I start. It honestly would have killed me to be taken out.
Then they directed us to our corrals. There was a DJ interviewing a young soldier who had been in an explosion Iraq in 2006 and lost his eyesight. He was running the race, and he sounded like such a lovely young man. I thought how proud his mother must be of him; I know how proud I am of both of my sons! I met two lovely young runners in my G corral. Jane drove up from South Carolina and Sherry was from California. I told them I hadn't trained for the  race other than walking fifteen miles the weekend before and attending a few zumba classes. The holidays and eating got away from me, the race crept up and I knew I should have trained. But I was there and would do my best. I had also gained eight pounds from all the Christmas cookies I baked!
They fired guns off in waves as the runners started. When each wave left and of course I mentioned it was dark, they shot off fireworks. This was the closest I've ever been to fireworks and it was exciting! Jane took pictures of the fireworks. I hadn't brought a camera because I knew I was alone - pictures without people in them aren't so great. Then it came to be our turn! The exhilaration was so cool!
When I ran over the start, there were very large torches above us and they were so warm! The heat felt good.
I surprised myself and was so into not being taken out, that I ran - I remembered someone telling me how to jog over thirty years before. They said relax, count and breathe so that's what I did.
At the first mile a smiling lady held up a sign that said, "You're almost there!" That made me smile.
There were high school bands along the way with cheerleading squads. The girls and band members held out their hands and hit hands with you as you passed. I clapped for some of them and thanked them for coming.
I imagine Disney gave them free admission to the park that day for their participation.
A lot of people wore costumes - mostly Donald Duck, Micky and Minnie Mouse - so cute. One girl that seemed to stay near me most of the race - am assuming she was Tinker Bell -  wore wings that had flashing lights on them - so cute!!!
We ran on highways around Disney mostly. We were running on a six-lane highway - the runners were going down three lanes which were closed off to traffic. The other three lanes had heavy traffic going one way. Two runners collapsed a few yards ahead of me. They stopped the race. Two fire trucks, two ambulances, three emergency vehicles with flashing blue lights and two police cars came tearing down the traffic lane against the heavy traffic. It was something to see!!! Then finally the emergency vehicles pulled off onto the median. They loaded the two runners on stretchers and placed them into individual ambulances. How strange: two collapsed at the same time; am assuming they probably needed fluids and rest.
Then we ran into Magic Kingdom. That was so fun! We ran right through the middle of the castle. The runners were yelling and listening to the echos in the castle. After I ran through the castle, I noted the crowd of people along the side. There was a rope fence holding them back. One lady held a sign that said, "Your knees are replaceable; your pride isn't!"
Then we ran back out onto the highway and I started to get a little bored. I started noting runners ahead of me I thought I might be able to pass so I set about trying to pass them. Then I set my sights on another person I thought I might be able to pass and so it went....This kept me from losing focus and slowing down as well. At every mile they had a clock. I honestly would try to memorize the time and see how fast I was running, but I would always miss the next clock at the next mile or not be able to see it through the crush of runners or I forgot the time on the last one. Most of the runners had nice watches and were keeping pace that way. I wished.....
By mile ten, I looked at runners ahead of me, I thought that was nice but ached all over and no longer tried to pass people. Three miles remaining and there was a Scottish contemporary band playing. I listened as long as I could. They were great! Bagpipies, fiddles and so on....
When we entered Epcot, a man yelled 3/5 a mile remaining! I was trying to figure out how far that was. A lady who was running ahead of me wore a shirt that said, "God, please make there be someone behind me to read this!" That made me smile.
Our names were on our numbers so people cheered for you by name. One lady yelled at the last half mile, "Come on, Mary Sue! You're almost there!!" My eyes teared up at the emotion in her voice.
Then I saw the finish line. It was a wonderful site! The crowds were fifty deep behind the rope fences. I ran over and a nice man handed me a Donald Duck medal. I put it on around my neck, looked up to heaven and silently thanked God.