On the Friday prior to the race I woke up at my normal time and went to work for a 3 mile run. I ran it at about a 10 minute per mile pace and tried to enjoy it. It was actually a difficult run even though it was so short. That didn’t do a lot for my confidence. After the run I came home and finished getting ready for the flight to Orlando.
We didn’t have any issues with the flight and we arrived on-time in Orlando. Our first stop was the expo to see my sister and to pick up race information. By the time we got there it was about 4pm and I was hungry. Instead of going into the expo we ate at a restaurant at the Wide World of Sports complex. I, of course, ate a pasta dinner as I had done nearly every night for the week. At the expo I picked up my goodie bag but I didn’t feel like looking around. We met up with my sister and then headed to her house. Donna was nice enough to let Mary and I stay at her place for the weekend. Disney put her up in a hotel room so it worked out very well for us. I think I was alseep before 9pm again.
On Saturday morning Mary and I just bummed around Donna’s house. I watched TV and started getting nervous about the
race. On Friday I was worried because it felt like I had an infection on my large toe on my right foot. It had hurt enough that I had to walk oddly on it. On Saturday however the pain was gone! My cold was gone, my shins were in decent shape, and my toe didn’t hurt. With all of the stupid stuff out of the way I was free to simply worry about the race in general…and I did. I had a head splitting headache the entire day. Even taking Tylenol didn’t make it go away. I’m pretty sure it was all induced by stress.
Saturday was a calm day. Donna got us tickets to an all-start high school football game. We went to that but didn’t stay very long because it was very hot outside. It was nearly 85 and humid. After the game we stopped for dinner at an Olive Garden. I had spaghetti with meat sauce. For my next race I’ll probably just get plain pasta. The garlic in the sauce and on the breadsticks made me thirsty.
Although Donna offered her home to us for our entire stay I decided to get a room at a Disney resort for the night before the race. I didn’t want to worry about traffic and closed roads on the way to the race. Disney provides transportation to the race from all of their resorts. Essentially I chose to pay 108$ for a bus ride to the marathon! When we checked in at the Caribbean Beach Resort we asked for late checkout. Unfortunately they could not accommodate our request and so we decided to put all of our belongings into the car while I ran the race and pick up the car after I showered at Donna’s house.
The cold was a blessing in disguise. To help overcome it I was going to sleep near 8pm each night. Even though I was nervous I was able to fall asleep relatively early. I think I fell asleep by 9:30. Around midnight I was awakened by another guest who decided that the best place for a late night phone conversation was just outside of our door. I learned that she was in town for the Bob Seger concert. I couldn’t sleep because of her so I forced the air conditioner to turn on. That was loud enough that I couldn’t hear her and could sleep again.
Sunday, Race Day!
At 2:30am the alarm on the cell phone went off. A few seconds later the alarm clock in the hotel went off. I prepared by showering, eating, and brushing my teeth. Mary and I packed our bags and headed out. We were out of there shortly after 3am. We stowed our luggage and hopped on the bus for our 108$ bus ride. It was a very nice bus that had televisions and reading lights.
We arrived at Epcot and made our way via a short walk to the runners area. Donna bought me access to the VIP runners tent so I went there to try to relax before the race. The VIP tent was pretty nice. It was large. It had quite a few tables with where you could eat breakfast at. They had bagels, coffee, tea, and a number of other items. There was also plenty of room to relax on the carpeted floor as well. The carpet was an outdoor carpet but it was certainly nicer than the pavement I would have been faced with outside the tent.
Mary and I ended up talking with two elite runners. They had gotten on the wrong bus and thus were at the wrong place. Elite runners have a special starting area but came to the VIP tent as a second best alternative. One of the runners had been running for only 4 years and has complete a marathon in under 2:30. That is incredible! He was nice to talk to. He felt that my goal of completing the race between 4 hours and 4:30 was a realistic goal considering the approximately 30 miles per week I put in for training. When he achieved his personal best he was running more than 100 miles per week! He recommended to me, for future races, to bring my own gel packs and to consume one approximately every 5 miles. I think I’ll take his advice on this for any future events.
One of the best features of the VIP tent was the reserved toilets. We had almost no line and so I took advantage of them 2 times prior to leaving for the start. It wouldn’t be the last time I’d go before the race. It’s amazing what nerves and being fully hydrated can do to your bladder.
Finally, at about 5am it was announced that runners should make their way to their corrals. After a bathroom break I hugged my parents, Donna, and Mary one last time and started my walk to the start. I was a little bit cold during the walk because I had removed my shirt. It was nearly 70 outside and rather humid. Still, I was cold because I wasn’t running and because of nerves. When I arrived at my corral there was still a lot of time before the race so I stretched and relieved myself in the trees once or twice.
Eventually I had to just stand and wait in the corral. I was incredibly nervous and my stomach wanted to reverse itself. I tried not to think about that as I waited for the start. …And then, after some fireworks and some amazing flames the race began…
…And then, after some fireworks and some amazing flames the race began…
The start was on a back road near Epcot. We snaked around until we reached the entrance to the Epcot parking lot. On the way to Epcot I decided to stop off at the side of the road to relieve myself one last time. I didn’t want to waste race time for that but I figured it’d be better early in the race than later. Some of the lanes had green lights (for cars) and a few were red. I jokingly wondered to myself if I could use the red lanes or not. When we passed through the gates a guy near me fell flat on his face after tripping on the speed bump. He was OK because he got back up immediately. Apparently even marathons must slow down when entering Epcot Center.
Once inside Epcot we passed through the center of the park which was lit up. I liked that part of the course a lot. It didn’t hurt that it was very early in the race and I wasn’t tired at all.
Then we left Epcot and headed towards the Magic Kingdom via some highways. There were many miles on the way to the Magic Kingdom. When we arrived near the front of the Magic Kingdom, at about mile 9, I saw Mary! I was really surprised to see her. I didn’t expect to see anyone I knew until the finish line. I was able to give her a kiss as I passed by.
We wound through the park and then came through the castle from the back of the park. I’m not sure why they have it setup this way. It may be because it offers a perfect opportunity for professional photographs. If we entered the front of the castle the runners would have a better view but there wouldn’t really be a photo opportunity.
It didn’t take long before we left the Magic Kingdom and we were back on highways. At around mile 10 or 11 I was getting hungry. I was nervous before the race and didn’t want to eat much. Mary encouraged me to eat most of a very large bagel. I was concerned that I was going to end up hitting the wall way too early in the race because I didn’t have enough food in me.
While I was wondering about food I spotted Mary and my parents somewhere around mile 13. Once again I was shocked that I actually found my “fan club” during the race. That distracted me from my hunger for a while.
Shortly after seeing my fan club I came across a food stop! They were giving out banana pieces so I took two. I slowly ate them and felt less concerned about hitting the wall. I really wanted a gel pack but settled for bananas. It was at about this point where I felt the first signs of fatigue. It was very minor. I really felt great and was surprised at how well I was holding up. I hadn’t been pushing myself, in fact I had been slowing myself a little bit. From my training I knew that things would get difficult later in the race and I wanted to make sure I’d have energy to complete it.
I’m not sure at what point in the race that I walked first. I think it was around mile 18 but it may have been sooner. Things started to get rather difficult starting at mile 18. The sun was coming out and the temperature was increasing. The humidity didn’t feel like it abated at all. By mile 20 things were extremely difficult.
Mile 20-21 and just beyond were my least favorite parts of the course. It was hot, I was very tired, and that section of the course was a big u-turn with no shade. Mentally it was challenging because I knew that I was only running to the end of a u-turn and that I’d have to run the entire thing again in reverse. I know that I walked a LOT during this part of the course. I’m pretty sure that it took me about 12 minutes to complete this mile.
The u-turn was the most difficult and most boring section. After that there was only 5 miles to go. The last five miles included running through MGM Studios, the boardwalk, and finally through Epcot. I never knew how close MGM was to Epcot. MGM wasn’t too bad but the sun and heat were very difficult to deal with. Inside the park it was nice. There was shade and we even ran through a tunnel where costuming is done. Once we were outside the park it was another story.
The boardwalk and the remainder of the run through Epcot center was very hot. The last 3 miles or so didn’t feel that bad. I suspect this was due to adrenaline. When I came around near the Innoventions area I really started to pick up my pace. There was a woman whom I had run nearly the entire race behind that I encouraged to speed up and run with me. She did. She kept up with me right until I saw the finish line. When I saw the finish I broke into a sprint.
Running the the finish I felt my headphones pop out of my ears. I didn’t care. I only cared about making it through the finish as quickly as I could. I didn’t look for anyone in the crowd I only set my eyes on the finish.
When I did make it through I was tired and very much out of breath from the sprint. I let someone remove my timing chip and then I headed over to pick up my medal. At that point I saw Donna who hugged me and congratulated me on finishing my first marathon. I was pretty out of it physically and mentally at that point and I didn’t say much back.
I picked up my medal and a volunteer asked me if I was OK. I said I would be OK in a couple of minutes. I had my picture taken with my medal (which, is oddly missing from ASIs archives of my pictures). The photographer made sure I moved sideways so that my bib number was visible.
Inside the VIP runners tent I sat down on the floor to stretch. I thought that my toes were blistered. I though that there were hefty blisters under my toe nails but when I removed my socks I found no blisters. My feet and toes hurt but never blistered.
I expected to feel like garbage. Often after races or very intense training runs I would get stomach cramps and have difficulty walking. It was tough to walk from the normal muscle soreness but it was much easier than I expected. I didn’t get any stomach cramps. I think that was because I stayed hydrated and drank a fair amount of sports drink during the race.
For my victory meal I had my favorite sandwich - the Caribbean Jerk Chicken Sandwich from Earl of Sandwich at Downtown Disney.
I’m pleased with my times for the race. I probably could have done a little better had I pushed myself harder but then again that could have backfired leaving me with little energy for the end of the race. I’ve learned a lot and I’m planning on running more marathons. I’m strongly considering running the Marine Corps Marathon this fall with my sister Donna.
My splits for this race were:
- 5 mile 48:54 9:46 pace
- 10 mile 1:35:17 9:31 pace
- 13.1 mile 2:04:49 9:31 pace
- 20 mile 3:13:12 9:40 pace
- 26.2! 4:18:20 9:52 pace
As you can see my pace slacked off considerably for the second half of the race, especially for the last 6.2 miles. When I train for my next marathon I’m going to do long runs of 24 miles instead of 20 miles. To improve I really need to get a handle on the END of the race.
Right now I’m itching to find a race to run. I’d like to do a half marathon in the near future. In the fall I think I would like to run the Rochester Half Marathon again. For the most part it is a very well put together race. In some respects they actually outdid Disney! If the timing works out I think I will run the Utica Boilermaker again this summer.
I can’t believe that I’ve actually run a marathon. Not more than a year and a half ago I hated running. When I started running in the fall of 2005 I had trouble running for 20 minutes and now I’ve run for more than 4 hours! I’ve had a lot of people help me get here. My wife, Mary, put up with me devoting insane amounts of time to training and encouraged me to do it! My parents encouraged me and helped me during training by bringing me water and candy at the half way point of my runs. My sister, Donna, encouraged me to start running. If it weren’t for Donna I probably never would have run a marathon and I probably would never have gotten into distance running.
Greg Rowe http://www.therowes.net