Starting with Goofy

I ran my fifth and final race of 2010 this past weekend: the OBX Half-Marathon. While standing with one of my running buddies in the corral waiting to start, I struck up a conversation (like you do when penned in like a herd of cattle) with an Amazon woman standing next to me wearing a shirt from the 2009 Goofy Challenge. You know, the one where you go down to Disney World and run the Donald Duck 13.1 on Saturday and the Mickey Mouse 26.2 on Sunday…and walk away with 3 medals and two very sore legs. And she’s done this not once, not twice, but FOUR times…and will likely do it again in January. According to her, once you do it once, you are addicted. She has also run the Boston Marathon–not because she qualified, but because she raised funds. She, like me, admitted that she’d never be fast enough to qualify. But she got my hopes up, especially when she said running Boston was everything everyone said it is. And this woman, mind you, has an average 13.1 finishing time that is slower than mine.

Somewhere in the first couple of miles of this race this weekend, I started thinking about why it is that thousands of people pay money to run lots of miles on a Sunday morning–and do all the training leading up to it. And I realized that every runner has a story. And every runner has a reason.

For some, it’s to make an extra couple of grand on the weekend when they finish 13.1 miles in 62 minutes.

For some, it’s to commemorate the birth of a child–and getting that pre-pregnancy body back.

For some, it’s the only thing that keeps them going…because focusing on 13.1 or 26.2 is way more fulfilling that that stupid number on the scale that never seems to budge.

For some, it’s proving something to someone else.

For others, it’s proving something to themselves.

For some, it’s showing the world that 42 is better than 35, and almost-31 is better than 21.

For some, it’s the feeling you get when you finish faster than you ever did…or just that you finish at all.

For some, it’s about letting go and trusting–really letting go and trusting–the work you’ve done and the hours and miles you’ve logged training to get you through a few hours in a day where so many variables can make or break your race experience.

For some, it’s the feeling of knowing that you are loved and cared for when your favorite people are at the finish line.

For some, it’s the feeling of knowing that the people bundled up in their coats and drinking coffee(?) are there to cheer you on–even though you are all complete strangers. But a stranger’s encouragement can be the thing to get you over the bridge.

For others, it’s about reclaiming–or claiming for the first time–one’s identity as an athlete…or as a runner.

There are many reasons to run. But whatever got you out there to the start line pales in comparison to the feeling you get when you cross the finish line.

And that’s why I run.



Race Weekend Recap

At long last…the marathon recap…

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Pick up packet and hang out at the expo

3:15 p.m.: Walk into the Macaroni Grill…where there’s a half hour wait. Seriously.

4:00 p.m.: Join the majority of senior citizens in the Eastern Standard Time Zone as we all eat dinner. We knew we also had to go to bed about the same time of many senior citizens, so an early dinner was a must. And it was yummy.

7:30 p.m.: Everyone who’s running gets back to the off-site hotel to get ready for bed. Ali stayed with Al and I, while Robin stayed with Stacie. Derek was smart and stayed with the big family over in Animal Kingdom. For some strange reason, he didn’t relish the idea of people waking up and getting dressed at 3:30 in the morning.

8:40 p.m.: Ali and I are asleep while Al watches some football and plays Zelda.

9:00 p.m.: Lights out.

11:30 p.m.: Wake up thinking “Surely it’s almost time to get up.” Nope. Still a few hours. Also–very strange to wake up in “the middle of the night” and it only be 11:30.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

2:00 a.m.: Wake up. Why? Who the heck knows?

3:25 a.m.: Alarm goes off.

3:30 a.m.: Al, playing the part of Goofy, calls Robin and Stacie to make sure they’re awake.

4:00 a.m.: Load up in the Charger (SWEET RIDE) and head over to Epcot. I learned on the way there that I have become remarkably accustomed to Al’s driving. The other girls…not so much. Suffice it to say we got there in one piece…though everyone in the back seat questioned whether we would several times.

4:40 a.m.: Park the car…with the heat on Death Valley. You see, good readers, Orlando experienced a 20-year low in temperatures on this particular weekend. By the time we would reach the start line, it would be 30 degrees, with a 19 degree windchill. And 10-12 mph winds.

4:45 a.m.: Ali and I brave the cold to hit the port-a-jon in the corner of the parking lot. Not the worst experience…she experienced victory. I did not.

5:10 a.m.: One more trip to the can. Smell noticeably worse…in other words…if you weren’t awake before going to that part of the parking lot, you definitely were once the door to a port-a-potty opened. Still no victory for yours truly.

5:30 a.m.: We all bust it for the starting line.

5:50 a.m.: Fireworks to signify one starting wave.

6:00 a.m.: Fireworks for our starting wave. Shed the cheap layer of clothing you bought at Target the night before. Leave it right there at the line…it’s time to go.

P.S.: On the way to the start line, Ali looks at me and says, “I have to pee.” “Me, too. Let’s hope it’s the nervous kind and it passes.”

Miles 1-2: We might as well be walking for all the people that are around. And there’ s nothing to see since we’re on the road headed toward Epcot.

Mile 3: Port-a-potty. Those same ones that we visited a couple of times already…the smell hasn’t gotten any sweeter. But. Since our urge to pee has not passed…we stopped. And got in line with the rest of the people. The potty was much more disgusting at this point and it was definitely a squat stop. Given the fact that it was so cold, there’s a high chance I somehow peed on myself. 10 minutes later, we’re skating through the mile 3 water stop.

Seriously. Skating.

You see, when runners go through the water stop, they take their sips and throw the cup with whatever liquid is left. Water and PowerAde splash everywhere. This is not usually problematic…unless the temperature on race day is sub-freezing. We would be walking through water stops almost the whole way.

Miles 3-4: Epcot. Lit up in the pre-dawn hours…and the Christmas tree was still up. It was amazing.

Miles 5-9: Between Epcot and the Magic Kingdom. It was nice to finally get clear of some people. For crying out loud, if I’d wanted to walk 26.2 miles, I would. But I came to run. We pulled to the edge of the crowd and moved in and out of people just to be able to run. It was like my own personal episode of C’mon Man!

Props to Disney race organizers. These would have been 4 long, boring miles had they not lined up a couple of marching bands from Orange County high schools. They were playing the theme from Rockey when we passed by. And those poor little cheerleaders. They did great cheering us on even though they froze their little hineys off.

Mile 9: Al’s IT band pulls up suddenly…and he’s barely walking. You should know that I was running with my husband…and with a woman who was 4 months pregnant. We all channeled our inner Marine the night before and made a pact that no one gets left behind. If one goes out because of some sort of medical reason, we all go out. I seriously thought he was going to have to bag it. Medical tent up ahead. Hello, Biofreeze. Al slapped that junk on his leg and knee and popped some Tylenol. He was good to go.

Mile 10: Hello Space Mountain.

Mile 10-11: Main St. Disney and then…Somewhere in the middle of this we passed through Cinderella’s Castle. Complete with the Royal Trumpeteers (or whatever they’re called) announcing the way. Pretty awesome.

Miles 11: Exit Magic Kingdom and head for Animal Kingdom

Miles 12-15: The stretch between the two. Thank you, Sharpie, for putting those lovely signs along the way. Between the fun facts and the random questions, we were thoroughly entertained.

And whoever put those lost tourists out there…NICE WORK.

Miles 15-18: Animal Kingdom. African drum circles, Lion King music, Jungle Book characters, a toxic smell I’m pretty sure someone should get checked out, an actual bathroom with real toilet paper and a real seat where I could sit down for 30 seconds…more food and water/PowerAde and skating through the water stops. And then we were headed for Hollywood Studios.

Miles 18-22: Random entertainment…DJ’s…trampoline jumpers…guys on stilts…good music…and the woman who will probably kick her sister’s ass when she gets home. You see, this woman had a sign on her back that said “My sister got knocked up and left me to run this by myself.” I told her to tell her sister that she was running near a woman who was 4 mos. pregnant.

By mile 19, though, we were walking. My hamstring went on strike officially, and no amount of Biofreeze was going to help. Well…I didn’t actually try. That would have meant stripping in front of God and everyone at a medical tent…but everyone was content to walk. Even Alison, who cursed me at one point when I told her it was time to run again…Also, random character sightings…I think that’s where we saw the golfing Goofy.

Miles 22-25: Hollywood Studios. Dug from Up…Bert and a couple penguins from Mary Poppins…the costume shop…main street through Hollywood…raisins. We were supposed to get candy at mile 23. I saw candy wrappers flattened on the ground as I scarfed down my raisins. And there was the guy near us who had heart surgery 6 months ago…doin’ this marathon.

Mile 23: Chip ‘n’ Dale…personal Disney faves were out and we stopped for a picture. Al, standing in between them, says, “Hey, guys, there’s an extra acorn in it for ya if you show us the shortcut to the finish line.” They grabbed him and started pointing, pulling him along. Fear not, though, we didn’t let him cheat…

Mile 25-26: Around the lake/marina thingy…along the boardwalk. The wind all along was just uncalled for…but it was the worst here. Also uncalled for: the 5 different people at 5 different points who kept telling us that mile 26 was “RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER.” Yeah. right. We passed FIVE corners before we saw it. Liars. The whole lot of them.

Mile 26: YES. Not that far to go. Back to Epcot.

Mile 26.1-26.2: We already made the decision of how to cross the line. Some people have already busted it across by now. Some will hit the 26 mile marker and start the sprint to the finish. We put Al between us to let him look like the stud with 2 hot ladies and strolled across the finish. But we were finished.

And we actually got some good official race pictures out of the deal. Of course, I have to order them and pay with a couple of limbs…but they’re good pictures.

Robin and Stacie rocked this race and finished well before us. Although…they had their own struggles along the course…including experiencing borderline hypothermia by the end. Fortunately, everyone finished and finished healthy by the day’s end. And there’s no other feeling of accomplishment that I’ve experienced. Ever. There’s nothing like a good race and crossing that finish line. I may change that statement if/when I birth a child…but nothing has come close to that feeling to date.

And maybe THAT’s why I can be talked into darn near anything after a race. That’s how I got talked into the marathon in the first place: sitting in the hot tub after the Shamrock Half Marathon in VA Beach in March.

Of course, I quit this race several times this past fall…and swore every Saturday morning that I was never. doing. this. again.

But Stacie is still talking NYC marathon…and she saw the chink in my armor on the flight home. “C’mon, Mary. You can do another one.”

I haven’t committed…though I’m considering another one. And New York would be cool: getting to see the city without having to worry about traffic…having people cheer you on every. step. of the. way….celebrity sitings…this could be a good thing.

The problem is: having the time to train for such a thing.

But I did it. Al has officially retired from running. Robin has officially done her marathon and will do nothing more than a half from now on. We all know about Stacie’s plans…and I think she’s talked Cindy into doing it with her. Cindy who Robin tried to peer pressure into this one and she wouldn’t crack (I’m starting to question Robin’s powers of persuasion…).  Ali thinks she might do another. She has a friend thinking about the Disney marathon next year. And I…well…I’m still rehabbing that hamstring and setting my sites on the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston at the end of March. It’s a 10K and I’m running for a charity. And hoping to run the whole thing in an hour flat. There might be another marathon in my future…but not this year.

I’ll say this, though. If you’re going to do one…and only do one…Disney is the one to do. You are guaranteed an incredible race experience. And it’s always better to do it with friends.

My New Friends

I made two new friends today. It was an unexpected meeting…not my usual crowd. But I think we’re going to have a good relationship. I hope so, at least. I’m hoping they’ll stay with me through thick and thin…come rain or shine…on the road and off…on bad days and good. Because on January 10, when I cross the finish line at the Disney Marathon, they’ll be with me. Still going strong.

New Friends