The alarm went off way too early. Luckily, I had gone to bed early the night before and had managed to wake up a few minutes before the alarm went off. It was still a struggle to get out of bed.
Once I managed to get myself out of bed, I quickly freshened up and put on all my clothes and gear that I had laid out the night before. I made sure that I had my iPhone, water, and snacks. When I was ready, I quietly left my room since my roommate was still asleep and I met up with some of my teammates before heading to El Centro. The coaches had declared a 2:45 am meet up time. Once all of my teammate arrived, we gathered for a team picture, and then we headed out to the buses to get to Epcot.
The holding area was packed, but we managed to find our usual waiting place and hung out there for about 20 minutes. Once it was time to head to the corrals, I dropped my bag off at bag check before we had to make the long, slow trudge with the masses. During the pre-race festivities, I got a little bit nervous. Okay, a lot bit nervous. And emotional. I started tearing up. I glanced over at one of my teammates and she was tearing up too!
I checked my phone one last time and saw that I had a text from my friend Mel cheering me on. She was working in the medical tent at the finish line, so I planned on seeing her later. I responded with “OMG OMG OMG!” Then just after the fireworks went off for my corral, Mel gave me a call and gave me some encouraging words. Before I knew it, I had crossed the start line and I was on my way! And I had to go to the bathroom. Ugh!
I didn’t want to wait in line at any of the porta-potties that I was passing, and I definitely wanted to run over to the side of the road. Being a park veteran, I thankfully knew where the restrooms were once I got into Epcot. Of course the ones across from Spaceship Earth had a line out the door and the ones at the Odyssey were too far off course, but the ones in Norway were perfect. Once I took care of business I was back on the course feeling like a new woman and already making my way out of Epcot.
We went down Epcot Center drive then made our way up World Drive, past the Speedway and through the Magic Kingdom parking lot. The crowds cheering us on at the Ticket and Transportation Center were amazing! It was still pretty early in the morning but they were all there and full of energy. The road by the Contemporary was nice and familiar to me. I was mentally prepared for the hill at the water bridge and it didn’t bother me this time! Before I knew it I was entering the Magic Kingdom and turning up Main Street.
I made my way when I suddenly heard her someone shouting my name. I looked over and there was JL and Todd right there on Main Street! Todd managed to get this picture of me. I was still smiling at mile 10 ½. I can’t even say that I have been smiling at that mile for every half marathon I’ve done.
I love running in the Magic Kingdom. After the few minutes in Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, you suddenly find yourself being greeted by trumpeters as you make your way through the castle to look down Main Street one last time. It’s then time to weave your way through Liberty Square and Frontierland before you head back stage and make your way out of the Magic Kingdom area.
Around the time I was reaching the halfway point, I was feeling okay, but I was starting to get really hungry. What I was really craving was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but that would have to wait til the finish line. A coach told me that food wasn’t too far ahead and she wished me luck before sending me on my way. Just around mile 14 was the food I was promised. They were handing out whole bananas. I was worried that it wouldn’t settle well with my stomach, but as soon as I took my first bite I knew I would be okay.
During the long trek from the Magic Kingdom to the Animal Kingdom, Disney provided lots of entertainment. There were a lot of characters, the tacky tourists, and “Vladimir” from Hollywood Studios.
I was very thankful when the Cast Members welcomed me to Animal Kingdom. We entered Animal Kingdom at the back of the park between Africa and Asia and turned towards Expedition Everest. Then we headed through Dinoland and out of the park behind the Dino Institute. We weren’t in the park for too long, but knowing how warm the park can get, I was thankful that we were our of there quickly. As soon as we left Animal Kingdom, we reached another water stop and this time, they gave us some soaked sponges. It was very refreshing to be able to wipe off my face and neck.
The course went by the gates of Animal Kingdom where there were tons of cheering spectators again. In the parking lot at Animal Kingdom, there was a high school band and cheerleaders, and there were some grave diggers out there – digging a grave of course!
Before long we were on Osceola Parkway and on our way to the Studios. Just after mile 20, the course jumps over to the westbound side of the road and you start the long out-and-back portion of the course. At this point in time, I looked at the clock and at how much time I had left and how many more miles I had to complete and for the first time during the race, I felt confident that I could finish! With that in mind, the out-and-back portion of the course was a piece of cake.
For a brief few minutes, I was back on World Drive before heading onto another exit ramp for the turn into Hollywood Studios. There was a nice surprise in the backstage area of the Studios. Chocolate!!! The course in the Studios was fun. You head through the costuming tunnel from the Backlot Tour, and then turn out onto the Streets of America. After heading down the New York Streets, you go in front of the ABC Commissary and past the Hat. A quick jaunt down Hollywood Boulevard, and suddenly I was outside of the park and heading towards the Boardwalk Resort.
You enter Epcot near the International Gateway. Once I made it into the UK, one of coaches, Aram, joined me and he said he was sticking with me too! He had already finished, but he came back into the park and waited for me. His wife and my roommate were waiting for me just before the finish line.
This was the moment I had been dreaming about. The World Showcase. Whenever I would get bored on a treadmill, or frustrated during a run, I would visualize this moment. And at this point I was soaking in every moment. Aram even offered to get me a beer for the finish line (and don’t think I didn’t consider the offer)!
When I passed Mexico and made the turn towards Spaceship Earth, I started to get teary again. I couldn’t believe I was almost finished! I saw Todd, Cheryl, John and Shalon one more time and Todd snapped a few more pictures of me. And then I saw my Mom! She had made the trip just so she could see me do the race! It was so exciting to see her there. She was waiting in almost the exact same place when she saw me during my first half marathon almost two years earlier. She was cheering, and even though I couldn’t see, I’m pretty sure she was crying.
I somehow summoned the energy for my legs and managed to run across the finish line. I headed towards the medals and even though one of the volunteers tried to give me my medal, I knew that Chris L. (NDU#8) was waiting to give me my medal. I found him and he put the medal around my neck before giving me a huge hug. We both started crying of course! Once he let me go, I turned around to find Mel there to give me a hug too! I cried some more and she made me promise not to ever leave her to do something crazy like a marathon again. I agreed! She made sure to let me know that her husband and the baby had come to see me too. It felt so great to have so many friends there to support me during the race.
To this day, I can’t believe that I finished the race. I have my 26.2 pin from TNT and my Mickey medal! What really hit home was when I went into my Twitter profile and changed it from “wannabe marathoner” to “marathoner.” I haven’t completely ruled out another marathon, but to say that I have completed one makes me incredibly happy!
Megan is the DDL Fitness Blogger. She is also the creator of Megan in Wonderland.