The run from Animal Kingdom to Hollywood Studios was not exciting or motivating, to say the least. The course took us back the way we came, which was through the parking lot and on to one of the major roadways encircling Disney World and all it’s attractions and resorts. The course took the road to a ramp to another road. When I say it was unexciting, I really mean it was unexciting. Perhaps if it wasn’t raining there would be more characters, more sites to cruise by. But with the rain, there weren’t many spectators or characters. But so I ran. Or did I walk? Eh, it was a mix of both.
I remember thinking I was a third of the way done, and if I could make it to Hollywood Studios, I’d be more then half way. I could do this. But why did I care to do this? I had already raised the funds for PIFK, I just completed a 5k, which was farther than I had run in a while, and I had pretty much communicated to friends and family I was most likely not going to complete the race. What did it matter?
You would think I would have answers to these questions. Well, I don’t! I’m not really sure why I kept moving through the rain. Through the chaffing of my arms against my wet clothing. Through having to stop again to dry off my glasses so I could see. Through the pain in my legs, that was no longer in my knee, but you could say every muscle and then some.
So after the second ramp, at about mile 7 I think, I could see Hollywood Studios! It looked so close and I got a burst of energy! I also got my tracker alert for the 10k marker – 16:04 pace. I was still at the needed speed to finish! The rain had slowed a bit too so I increased my pace, ever so slightly telling myself that just a bit further to the park and then I could walk a while and enjoy the sites! Only the course into the park was not nearly as close as it seemed. After not even a half mile, my energy ran low again. My arms were sore, but I hadn’t yet realized how bad they were chaffed. I found myself walking, again. Damn, how far away was this park?
Finally, I don’t even remember exactly how we entered, but there I was, in the Main Street of Hollywood Studios! Bright lights! Characters! The rain had completely stopped, and there went that little voice in my head again, “you got this!” So again my walk went to a run and it felt good running through the park. After Main Street, the course took us to the back lots and what I call the “disco tunnel.” The course went between two buildings and there was a disco ball guiding you through. After this came the Christmas lighted streets! I love Christmas decorations and lights, so I had to stop and take some pics! It was, I hate to say it, Magical. But stopping for pics did nothing to keep my pace. After that stop, I found it more difficult to go from walk to run. Until circling back past the “disco tunnel” I noted there were no more runners! Eeek! I knew hundreds if not thousands of runners had passed me, but how many were left behind me, and how far back were the sweepers?
The thought of getting swept, again gave me perseverance to pick up the pace. For whatever reason I did not want to be told I was too slow. And although in pain, I was still not ready to quit! By this point other runners were motivating each other. An older couple passed me ( I say older, but they were probably in their 50’s, so really my age, but in my mind they were older) and commented “you can’t stop now. Only a 5k left!” Yep, just a 5k! I got this! Right….. My legs could barely carry me but on I went to the Boardwalk!
If you have ever stayed at any of the Boardwalk resorts, you probably know there is a running path that connects them to Hollywood Studios. It is a regular running path and it was now part of the course. Imagine thousands of runners going from running on a wide street, then through the parks, which yes the paths are narrower but still wide enough for 8 or so runners across, but now to a regular old running path designed for individual runners. The spread out group I was part of in the park quickly consolidated into a dense pack of runners who pretty much all were fluctuating between running and walking. One could not help but slow their pace as it was nearly impossible to get around.
I may sound like I’m complaining, but really I couldn’t go much faster even had I wanted. I was still worried though about getting swept and found myself looking back more often than I should looking for those “balloon ladies.” And then wherever there was a slight gap, I found myself maneuvering around and ahead of my fellow runners. I had suddenly gained confidence again because I had run this path a few times having stayed at the Boardwalk and Swan in the last few years for business. I did this run before, I could surely do it now. Of course the last time I had run down this path I had not just run 9 miles leading up to it! Oh, and yes, the rain started coming down again!
I finally crossed on to the Boardwalk and all I could think of was – yes – Epcot is not even a mile away! You got this! I had not looked in detail at the course and had no idea that Epcot was close, but I still had to run in, around and out to the parking lot before crossing the finish line! It was then I realized that there was still a mile or so ahead, I pretty much stopped caring about getting swept. My legs were so tired, my arms burned and I was starting to get cold. The rain with falling temps, was chilling me to the bone. I couldn’t run if I tried. I was going to walk, and if I got swept, well then so be it. That last mile must have taken me 20 to 30 minutes to complete. The only thing that kept me going at that point, was it probably would be just as far to walk to the World Showcase or to the buses, so I might as well finish. And finish I did! At 2:17am, 3 hours, 45 minutes and 4 seconds after starting, with a 17:11 pace, I crossed the 2014 Disney Wine & Dine half marathon finish line! I was cold, sore, thirsty and hungry. But I was at the finish. I didn’t get swept! I felt accomplished.
So why did I do such a grueling race with a sore knee and in the rain? It’s almost a week later and I am still pondering that question. I am not a runner. Was never on track and when we had to run for gym, I usually was last and landed up walking part of the way. I took up running as an extension of walking. I started running to ensure I could complete my first half marathon. In doing so, I noticed running helped me loose much of my excess weight. So now, in all honesty, I run to eat! I run to ensure I can walk and hike and do all the outdoorsy things I enjoy. But still why push myself for this one event? In the rain. Through a painful knee. Why was it so important to me that I finish? Well I think it really was two-fold. First, having so many people believe in me. Although no one would have said I’m taking my pledge back since you didn’t complete the race, internally I felt obligated to finish since they showed such faith in me by contributing to my fundraising goal. The second is more emotional and tied to not wanting to age. I believe I pushed myself because I was afraid if I didn’t complete this one, I would then most likely not complete another. And if I don’t complete another, would I give into aging and my bad knee? Would I start to do less hiking? If I stopped running would I regain the weight I lost? It was my own personal challenge to ensure I stay in the same physical shape. Pre- race they announced the oldest runners. Both male and female were over 80! Over 80 and running a half marathon! I want that to be me. I don’t care about the time – except not being swept – I’m really not there for the medal – although it is sort of cool to now have three – I want to be able and capable of all I do now, 30 years from now. That’s why I finished. It was for no one but me. And I think next year, I will do another half, just for me!