I didn’t manage to blog on Marathon day. It’s the end of the day after now but I’ll try and capture how I felt about it all immediately after and save reflections etc to a later post.
I woke up before the alarm again. Before I even moved I scanned my body wondering what would hurt from yesterday’s half marathon. Nothing. I didn’t quite trust that. I got up, made coffee, felt terrified. I was fairly sure that there was no way I could run a marathon. Both of us were anxious. I felt sick. I got ready. It crossed my mind that it would be easy to just crawl back into bed and just not do the marathon. After all, I already had 3 lovely medals and a fabulous half marathon personal best. But I didn’t come her for personal bests and I didn’t come here for three medals. I came to do what I don’t think I can. I came to do the impossible. I came to do Dopey. I know I completed it in 2016. I know I finished the London Marathon in 2016 but it doesn’t seem real, maybe it never will. I still don’t see how it is possible that I did that. Dopey always has and probably always will seem impossible. Yesterday we proved (again) that sometimes the impossible just needs to be done.
Anyway, we were both a bit of a mess but I think we both started feeling better once we got dressed and out the door. I’d not been too bad until runDisney had issued a weather advisory for warm and humid for the marathon day. That did not settle nerves and I was worrying about hydration and fuel and heat and and and. Still, we were doing this. in the lift we met a group of lads coming back from a night out and they were confused and impressed that we had been to bed and were heading to run. The little exchange with them lifted my spirits. We got on the monorail and to the Race Retreat tent. It was far too noisy. The music was really loud, there was nowhere quiet and it wasn’t really relaxing. We had our breakfast, went to the loo a couple of times, got organised and checked in our bags. Then we walked to the corral. F again for this one. I didn’t really feel any more settled.
We were both quiet, creating our own bubble and shutting out the world. I was trying to pretend that this was going to be fine, that 26.2 miles was no big deal but I wasn’t really kidding anyone. Finally the national anthem came (better version than any of the previous three) and things started moving. There seemed to be two waves per corral which made me worried as I tried to figure out how big my time buffer was exactly. It looked like I would be in F1 and so there would be another 5 waves behind me. I just hoped that that would be enough. I needed to pee. We set off. There is something completely bizarre about setting off to run 26.2 miles. It’s just so totally insane. I laughed at myself but as I started moving I also realised that I felt ok. I had no ill effects from the half marathon. I could feel the humidity and it was a little warmer than it had been but fundamentally I felt ok.
We stopped at the first toilet stop. We’d jogged to there, gently finding our pace with Kath reassuring me that we were being sensible and had slowed down from the previous day’s pace. It was all good. We ran on and dropped into run/walk about at mile 2. Ok, so far so good. Last Dopey I’d had enough at this point so I was already doing better. The first part of the route followed the same path as the half marathon so this was familiar. I was ok with this and 3 miles, then 4 came easily. The pace was consistently sensible. We ran past our hotel and the Magic Kingdom came into view, Mile 5 ticked by as we entered through the font gates. The castle looked spectacular and kept me moving forwards up Main Street USA. We made our way through Tomorrowland and back round through the castle and out of the park through Frontierland. 6 miles done. 20 to go. I felt ok. Not great but ok.
Kath had been encouraging me on, talking to me all the time, telling me the pace was sensible and good, giving me little reminders about form, telling me I was doing great. At times it felt like it was just me and her running. The sun was starting to come up and the humidity was beginning to really get to me. I was finding it more and more difficult to get enough air in and over the next 3 miles or so a couple extra walk breaks sneaked in. Still, we’d made good progress really. I was concerned about how hot I was feeling, how dehydrated I was getting in spite of drinking at each of the frequent drinks stations and how energy zapping I was finding the warmth. Kath kept talking to me, reassuring, urging us onwards. She had also grabbed a small bottle of water in the Race Retreat and was carrying it. She kept passing it to me for little sips in between drinks stations and she refilled it several times throughout the run. Without it I think I would have been in trouble.
I began having serious doubts about mile 10. I fought the battle in my head. I pushed on and made it to the animal kingdom park. Running through the park gave me a bit of a boost but things were starting to tighten up and hurt. My hips weren’t happy at all but mostly I was just too hot, too thirsty, too hot, just too hot. After the Animal Kingdom I mostly walked. Kath kept us moving by making sure we were striding out and marching not just ambling along and by putting landmark to landmark runs in, short ones, but effective ones. Running 2 minutes was now out of the question but running from street sign to street sign seemed possible. Somewhere around 15 and a half miles or so we found ourselves with a run/walk pacing group who we’re running 30 seconds and walking 30 seconds so we briefly thought we’d try and fall in with them but their runs were too fast and their walks too slow, it just didn’t work for us so we went back to doing our own thing.
Then suddenly we were approaching ESPN Wide World of Sports. I hated this last time. It was just endless. I was determined to enjoy ESPN this time. As we entered it the DJ was playing Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer. It gave me a boost. I picked up the walking pace. I managed some more lamppost to lamppost running and we had a giggle through the ESPN complex. I even ran some on the track and in the stadium. I also got gravel in my shoe. I wondered if I should stop and empty it out but I was scared to stop, I did t want to risk losing momentum. It’s easy to keep moving if you’re moving! We exited ESPN and hit the 21 mile marker. Just after that we saw the balloon ladies and sweepers heading towards ESPN. We were a little over 4 miles ahead of them and according to Kath still ticking off each mile within Disney pace. I dared to hope.
Kath kept a little protective bubble around me. She got me water at drinks stations, she carried a cooling towel with her and re-wet it along the way so she could wipe down my shoulders and arms and the back of my neck, she grabbed cooling sponges for us and poured water down the back of my neck. She always let me have the shade and she kept talking to me, telling my head to shut up, telling me to stride out, nudging me to jog little sections. Without her the heat would have been too much. I would almost certainly have been poorly.
The last 5 miles are a bit of a blur. I remember seeing Hollywood studios. I remember running a bit through the park, the cheers of the crowd lifting me. I remember exiting and hitting the walkway between Studios and Epcot. I remember people encouraging us and telling us we were so close. I remember willing every muscle in my body to keep working. I remember the Boardwalk and I remember a slope onto a bridge that we did during the half too that had seemed like nothing. Now it seemed soooo hard. I heard Kath telling me to power up it. And then we jogged down. There were people with signs, signs that were making me cry. Everything was making me cry. I was in danger of being completely overwhelmed with about 2 miles to go.
I got a grip as we left the Boardwalk and entered the Epcot backlot I’d seen twice before. We entered Epcot proper through the UK but then turned right towards France and went the opposite way round the World Showcase than we had in the 5 and 10k. It seemed to go on forever. I managed a few more little jogs. Kath was urging me on and reminding me to look around and take it in. Before the start of the Dopey Challenge I’d thought crossing the finish line with a beer or margarita would be fun but there was no way I was going to stop or that I could even contemplate drinking anything other than gallons and gallons of water. I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I used the energy from the crowd to jog a little more. I walked the short backlot stretch as we left Epcot and then we could hear the cheers, started jogging, turned the corner and saw the finish line. I could feel the tears coming, we were going to cross that finish line. We’d done it. Kath had got us round. Together we were doing the impossible. We crossed the line holding hands.
Then I stopped my watch and as I did I saw the time. Then the tears came. We had just smashed our marathon personal best by about five minutes. As I now know, Kath kept us within Disney pace for every single mile of the marathon. Her protective bubble kept me safe and her encouragement kept me within pace. It was not pretty, it wasn’t a good marathon, it was messy and it was a very fine line between doing it healthily and risking heat stroke or something. I got away with slight sunburn on my shoulders and heat rash. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t actually have a melt down. I probably went mentally before I started struggling physically but although the doubts were there, they were not the only voices to be heard. There was also a quiet determination, just something refusing to give up and also refusing to be controlled by fear and doubt. I remember saying to Kath that I wasn’t sure how much I could run but that I thought I could walk with some jogs and that that way I could take it in, maybe even enjoy some of it and stay healthy.
Anyway, reflections on it all over the next few days. For now I just feel incredibly proud to have run half marathon and marathon personal bests on back to back days but I am in awe of a Kath who really did all the hard work. All I did was put one foot in front of the other as best as I physically could. Kath did the mental and emotional work to get us both round and the mental and emotional work required for a marathon is, well impossible to explain but we got there, somehow, together and that’s bloody awesome really.