Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge – Part Four (FINAL Post)

 

 


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Blood, sweat and tears had led to this day. Months of training. Thousands of dollars spent. Injuries, pain, elation and joy; this was the moment I had been waiting for: The 2013 Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge and a Half Marthon. 39.3 miles in two days.

As the alarm sounded at 2:45 a.m. the first thought that went through my head was “Second verse, same as the first, a little bit longer and a little bit worse.” It felt like deja vu, since I had ran the Walt Disney World Half Marathon the previous day.

 

I got dressed silently in the dark, brewed my cup of coffee, pinned my number to my shirt and double checked my gear bag. I walked in silence to the bus stop at the Wilderness Cabins trying to gauge the soreness in my legs. Did I have DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) or was this typical early morning fatigue?

 

The practice of the previous day made getting out the door a breeze and I was on the bust by 3:15 a.m. and at Epcot’s Wonder Lot by 3:45. I had more time to kill before the race this time, so I sat down at the bench, ate my banana, protein bar and water. I decided to head over to my corral when they actually told me to this time since there was so much congestion the day before. I checked my gear bag and decided I most definitely didn’t need my coat or even my light, long-sleeved running shirt that I brought in case it was chilly while I waited. It was already 60 degrees and still the middle of the night!

 

I was in my corral by 4:45, so I had about an hour of waiting before my corral left the gate. This gave me time to observe the runners around me. Many of them had come with a partner and it was interesting to watch the interactions. I saw best friends, dressed like Minnie Mouse helping each other stretch. I saw a couple with matching shirts that announced they were running together to celebrate their anniversary. There were some first timers, some seasoned runners and everything in between. We all had one thing in common: We were embarking on a 26.2 mile journey at the most magical place on earth.

 

I looked around and saw that there were many other Goofy Challengers. This put me at ease because I realized I wasn’t the only one “goofy” enough to take on that challenge.

 

The fireworks burst overhead and we were off. My last thought before starting was, “Why am I doing this?” I reassured myself that I was going to take it easy and I could walk if I wanted to. Given that this was the second leg of my journey and I had just run 13.1 miles the day previous, I was cutting myself some slack.

 

This first mile is always the most rough. I slowly increased my speed, keeping a close watch in my Garmin. I had never kept tabs on my Garmin more closely than I did during the two-day Goofy  Challenge. I made sure I didn’t go any faster than an 11 minute mile during the first five miles.

 

IMG_3535I decided that I would take a picture with the characters that were meaningful and dedicate each of them to a loved on, posting it on Facebook. At mile three I took a picture with Jack Skellington at mile 3 for my nephew Cody.

 

At mile five I clocked in at 1:03:04 with a 12:37 min/Mile. I had a bit of sticker shock when I saw this time, as it’s a lot slower than I normally run, but I told myself that was the goal. Take it easy and just finish.

 

IMG_3537I saw Buzz LIghtyear, my son’s absolute favorite character, who he has loved since he was two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_3538I took a picture with Belle for Emily because that is her favorite princess.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_3536At mile six I ran through Cinderella Castle, which is the absolute most magical moment of the race. It is the moment that everyone who runs is waiting for and the reason why many of us participate in Disney races.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_3539After the jaunt through Cinderella Castle, I took a picture with Bullseye for my Mom because of our inside joke. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At this point we exited Magic Kingdom and head on a long stretch of backroads past Grand Floridian and Polynesian.

 

I mentally chunked the race into the first 10K, 1/2 marathon mark (13.1), mile 20 and then the last 10K. The mental component of a marathon is huge. Breaking down the 26.2 miles into manageable chunks is huge. I had gotten through the first 10K and only had three more legs to go.

 

I downed a GU because a lesson that I learned the hard way during the ThunderRoad Marathon (as I posted about on my everything you SHOULDN’T do before a marathon) was not taking in nutrition during the race.

 

The chocolate outrage GU has always worked for me in the past, so I decided not to change anything on race day (check out my post on my favorite products for marathon running for more of my tried and true methods of what works for me.)

 

IMG_3549At mile 8 1/2 we approached one of the most awesome parts of the race: running around the Walt Disney World Speedway! I LOVE cars and so does my husband, so I dedicated this round to him. I took pictures of all of the amazing cars that were around the speedway. It was  like a car show and a run at the same time. I’m from Charlotte, NC, home of NASCAR, so I guess that explains why I was so hyped up about this part. Runners around me seemed to ignore the beauty of the cars while they slogged their way around the track, but I took it all in and took tons of pictures.

 

 

 

But, all of that picture taking took its toll. My iPhone buzzed that it only had 20 percent battery at mile 12 1/2 and I turned it off so I could reserve battery to find my family after the race. This was a total bummer though because it meant that I couldn’t listen to music, post on Facebook or take pictures with the characters during the race!

 

At mile 10 I clocked in at 2:06:48 with a 12:41 min/Mile pace. We ran through more backroads and we ran past a sewer plant, which made me sick to my stomach. Not the best landmark to pass when you’re running.

 

They gave out bananas around this point and I gobbled it up happily. I typically don’t eat while I’m running (except for GU) and I normally don’t get hungry while I’m running or for hours afterwards, but I think because I was going slow and taking pictures with characters, my body wasn’t experiencing the effects of intense exercise.

 

We approached Animal Kingdom right at the 1/2 marathon mark. They had animals greet us at the entrance, which was cute, but also a bit smelly. I noticed at this point that there were not a
ny Christmas Decorations up at the parks. When I ran the Walt Disney World Marathon in 2011 they still had Christmas Decorations up throughout the parks and resorts. I made a mental note of this so I could advise guests who asked me about how long the Christmas decorations remain up on the Walt Disney World Moms Panel. My half spilt time was 2:48:36 with a 12:52 min/Mile.

 

Miles 14, 15 and 16 went across the Osceloa Parkway and was an uneventful leg of the journey. At mile 16 we could see other runners coming back from the loop around ESPN Wide World of Sports. It was great seeing them come off of that part of the loop and realize that we were entering it. The only thing is that when I ran the race in 2011, the loop was a quick little loop that led us to our mile 20 mark. Even though I knew we were at mile 16, mentally I felt like I only had a quick jaunt before reaching mile 20. The mind plays tricks on you when you are running. That is why they say that running a marathon is all mental – because it really is. I kept thinking that I would be turning around any moment, so it made for a long run to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, which was actually at miles 18 and 19. Also, when you are running 26.2 miles or 39.3 over two days, four miles doesn’t sound like a lot, but it still is about 45 minutes of running (given the pace I was at.)

 

They had a jumbotron up at the complex and we ran around the track and were able to see ourselves on the screen. It was an awesome part of the race! I was feeling awesome and decided to pick up my pace. I picked it up to about a 10 minute mile, which is what I typically run my LSDs (Long Slow Distance) runs at. I even found a pace group behind me that was aiming to complete the race in 5:00 and I tagged along with them to try to aim for a time goal.

 

As we turned around and approached mile 20, I saw the energy of those around me dipping. Mile 20 is one of the toughest parts of the race. Again, with the mental component, mentally you think you are almost finished, but you still have a 10K to go. This typically takes about an hour, so even though you feel done, you still have an hour more to run.

 

Eminem articulates it perfectly in his song “Till I Collapse”

Cause sometimes you just feel tired.
You feel weak and when you feel weak you feel like you wanna just give up.
But you gotta search within you, you gotta find that inner strength
and just pull that shit out of you and get that motivation to not give up
and not be a quitter, no matter how bad you wanna just fall flat on your face and collapse.

 

On a similar note, I find that Eminem always has the right words of wisdom or advice for any occasion. He is a lyrical genius – I absolutely love him!

I had to use the restroom right before mile 20 and I was so pissed because there was a line, which kept me away from the pace group I was trying to follow. I literally waited ten minutes and I was going to just go on, but, when you have to go, you have to go. This is when being a man would come in handy. I just had to pee, but decided to wait it out. However, I had a great conversation with a couple who was waiting in line with me. I discovered that they were actually celebrating the “Perfect 20” which means that they’ve run ALL 20 Walt Disney World Marathons!! Can you believe it? There were about 90 runners who had completed all 20 WDW Marathons. That is an amazing accomplishment and I was honored to meet them!

I hit the road again and reached the 20 mile spilt at 4:06:18 with a 12:25 min/mile. I was hoping to make up for lost time and complete the marathon in 5 hours, so I tried to pick up the pace. At this point we reached quite a steady climb at the only hill I noticed on the course. In front of me was a couple with shirts that read “Tweedle Dee” (with an arrow pointing right) and “Tweedle Dum” (with an arrow pointing left.) As they struggled to get up the hill someone passed them and said, “Your arrows are pointing the wrong way.” because they had shifted and flipped sides. You should have seen the look they gave that runner. At 21 miles into a marathon, there is no joking. This is when shit gets real.

 

Finally we were approaching Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which is a fun part of the race. They gave out chocolate at mile 22, which I gobbled up. Luckily it wasn’t melted when I ran through, although I heard that for some runners who came through after me it was all melted and gooey. We were able to run through the Studio Backlot Tours area, which is one of my favorite attractions.

 

We left Hollywood Studios as quickly as we entered and then headed over to the Boardwalk area to enter the back entrance of Epcot. I was getting excited becaues wee were at mile 24 and I knew I only had a couple of miles to go, but it was also getting very hot around this time and my energy was melting. I felt sunburn on my back and it was about 80 degrees. I had stayed hydrated, but the sun was starting to take it’s toll on my energy levels. We entered the back area of Epcot and I swear I was tempted to get a pretzel from the Germany Pavilion! I was actually feeling hungry (again.)

 

 

The World Showcase never felt so long as I ran that last 1.2 miles through Epcot and into the Wonder Lot. I appraoched the finish line and saw my awesome husband and two beautfiful kids and I felt elated! As I crossed the finish line and the volunteer put the Mickey Mouse Medal around my neck I felt like a million bucks! I headed over to the Goofy Tent and got my Goofy Medal and I stared at them in awe! Two days – Three Medals – Priceless! I finished in 5:25:28 at a 12:25 min/mile pace, which was almost an hour slower than the Charlotte ThunderRoad Marathon, but boy did I feel MUCH better! I consider ThunderRoad a failure, while I consider Disney a success. It’s not about the time, it’s about how you feel and the experience throughout the race.

 

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I took a picture at the finish line with my two medals and beamed as brightly as I could.


 

 

 

 

 

IMG_3778I picked up my runDisney box of treats, which included a pack of crackers, trail mix, chocolate square, chocoalte candy, Clif bar, cheese dip and a wet wipe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_3557I grabbed a few extra bags of fruit snacks for my kiddos and silently thanked myself for not using the last twenty percent of my battery so I could text Shane and ask where they were. They ran over to meet me in the Family Reunion area. I gave them a huge hug and was so happy to see them.

 

 



I actually felt great and didn’t feel like a ran 39.3 miles, 60K, in two days. The first thing I wanted to do after I gave my family a big hug was buy the Goofy “I did it!” T-shirt to celebrate my achievement! I didn’t want to buy it before I ran, because I’m superstitious and didn’t want to jinx it! I also bought the Mickey Mouse runDisney Vinylmation with Mickey, Donald and Goofy medals.

I got my bag and then sat down with the family as we waited for my friends, Christie and Tracy, to cross the finish line. It was their first marathon and I was so happy for them.

 

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I followed Christie and Tracy’s journey, subscribing to their alerts as they crossed over the key mile makers in the race, and I was cheering them on the entire time. Tracy finished in 6:19:41 and Christie finished in 6:53:52. I was so incredibly proud of them!!! Seeing them experience their first marathon touched me deeply and I was honored to be with them at such an occasion. My Disney Moms Panel friends also crossed the finish line that day with amazing times! I was so proud of all of my friends who completed the event!

 

After the race, Christie and I headed over to Senses, the spa at Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, for our massage. WOW is all I have to say! The spa was incredible! We were able to shower at the spa and we changed into fluffy robes. I sank into the whirlpool and relaxed in the sauna while waiting for my appointment. I was even able to lay on the heated lounge chair in the waiting room. After our massages, we ate dinner at my FAVORITE Walt Disney World restaurant: Ohana! Christie, and her husband Stephen, joined Shane, the kids and I at this delicious meal, celebrating Christie’s first marathon and my first Goofy Challenge.

 

In the weeks leading up to the Goofy Challenge I swore I would never do a marathon again. The last thing I said before I crossed the start line was, “Why am I doing this?” But the first thing I thought after I crossed that finish line was, “When can I do this again?”

 

IMG_0524I am a runner. But sometimes I don’t feel like one because I don’t run everyday. I would be bored out of my mind if all I did was run. I like to lift weights, do yoga, dance in Zumba, work my core in pilates and I even did some kickboxing today at 9 Round. I have a love-hate relationship with running. Some days I don’t feel like running. Hell, some days I don’t feel like doing anything except for sitting on the couch and watching 30 rock while surfing the Internet on my iPad. But I’m a runner and I can’t deny it. There is nothing like hitting the pavement and logging miles. There is nothing like crossing the finish line and feeling a medal around your neck.

 

I’ve already signed up for my next challenge, which is the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in D.C. My goal is to complete at least two Rock n Roll Marathon’s this year so I can get the Encore Medal. I also want to compete in triathlon’s again this summer. Have you done the Goofy Challenge? Are you a runner? If so, I’d love to hear about your experiences!

 

 

 

Walt Disney World Marathon: Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge Part II

IMG_3556I’m glad I bonked the Thunder Road Marathon in November.

 

The wise words of Anthony D’Angelo say it all:

 

“In order to succeed you must fail, so that you know what not to do next time.”

 

As I mentioned in my previous post on the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend: Goofy Challenge Part I,I did everything wrong during this marathon. As I drug my dehydrated, defeated body over that finish line I didn’t know if I could ever run again, much less run not one, but two marathon events only one month away.

 

I was physically, mentally and spiritually exhausted. I felt as if I ate too much chocolate cake. I overdosed on something I once loved and I didn’t know if I could ever look at running in the same way again.

 

My training plan had me hitting the pavement again for a six mile run after one day of rest, so I dutifully headed out for my run. It felt like I had cement blocks tied to my legs. I trudged forward, feeling as if I was running in quick sand, getting slower and more entrenched with every step.

 

I stuck with my plan, but with each successive run, I became slower and less motivated. Sure, I’ve had days in the past that I didn’t feel like running or I had to force myself out of my warm bed and lace up my running shoes, but nothing like this. The following Saturday I had a 18 mile run, which wasn’t the longest run in my plan and it certainly was less than the previous weeks’ 26.2, but that was my worst training run. I ran from Leroy Springs Recreation Complex in Fort Mill to the Gold Hill YMCA, which is 9 miles, and back. A simple out and back run should have been enjoyable, but instead I was miserable. I became slower with each mile. As I sat in the hot tub after my run I reflected on my journey and realized I couldn’t continue like this. The Goofy Challenge was only a month and a half away and I was regressing. All signs pointed to overtraining. There is a fine line between adequately training for an event and overtraining. I wasn’t letting my body repair itself in between workouts and I had overtrained. I hope others can learn through my mistakes. Please look out for the following signs:

 

  1. You’re getting weaker and slower and your stamina is deteriorating despite regular exercising
  2. You are losing leanness despite increased exercise
  3. You feel tired, drained, sluggish and have a lack of energy
  4. You’re unable to sleep
  5. You have pain in your muscles and joints
  6. Loss of enthusiasm for the sport
  7. Headaches

 

I consulted with my running coach, Deb, who was amazing through this process. She advised me to take some time off from running to recuperate. So I did yoga, lifted weights, continued with my aqua jogging class and cut back my mileage on my weekly long run. The following week we were on vacation in Walt Disney World, so I was really able to relax, spend time with my family and not worry about my training or running. This worked wonders. I came back the following week completely refreshed and feeling great.

 

I hopped back on my training plan upon my return. I began doing all of my long runs at the Greenway by my house for a change of scenery. I downloaded The Nutrition Diva Podcasts to have something interesting to listen to during my runs. I watched my favorite show, 30 Rock, while I ran on the treadmill. My amazing husband who supported me through this entire process and listened to my running ailments ad nauseam bought me new running gear from my favorite store, Lululemon. In short, I gave myself new motivation to go out and run.

 

 

The Walt Disney World Marathon and Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge was only one month away at this point and the words of Eminem rang in my mind: “Success is my only m$#@* option, failure’s not.”

 

I had invested time, energy and money to complete this challenge and I would not fail. I had announced to everyone that I was doing the challenge. My kids were excited about their upcoming trip. I had everything on the line. But, would I be able to complete the challenge? Was I trained enough since I had to scale back the plan? What if I got down to Disney and bonked this race? There was much more at stake this time. Check back tomorrow for Part III of the Goofy Challenge where I’ll let you know how it turned out and the top running and training tips that you’ve haven’t heard before! In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you. Do you agree that you learn more from failure that success? Have you ever felt like just giving up?

My Disney Marathon Experience

Six months of training. Over $1,000 spent between the event registration, hotel and Disney park tickets. The scare of an early morning stalker. Sacrifices made from my entire family enabling me to train, travel and attend this event.

All of that built up to this very moment. The time was finally here – The Walt Disney World Marathon on Sunday, January 9, 2011.

I was a nervous wreck the night before the marathon, worried that I would sleep through one of the three alarms that I set. Mickey Mouse called as my iPhone sang and the alarm on the nightstand beeped simultaneously at 2:30 in the morning. Yes, you read that right, 2:30am. Even though the race didn’t start until 5:35am, I had to make sure that I got on the bus by 3:00am, as was dictated in big bold letters in the marathon brochure “You must board the bus by 4:00am or you will not make it to the start line in time.”

I sat on the bright yellow touring bus with about fifty other nervous runners. Many of us sat in silence. Others chatted nervously. The woman next to me munched on her cinnamon raisin bagel and clutched her plastic runner’s bag. The girl across me from texted someone, who was also awake at 3:00am, with frantic speed. It was the first marathon for some of us, including myself. Others were seasoned marathoner’s hoping to PR. We all had one thing in common though: we were nervously awaiting our 26.2 mile run through Disney.

I downed two bottles of water and a protein bar while I waited for the bus to arrive at the Epcot Wonder lot. The race arrival area consisted of a concessions stand, merchandise booth, bag check area and hundreds of porta-pottys. As soon as I walked into the area, the DJ began playing “Ice, Ice Baby” and I knew that I was going to finish this race. I bought a coffee, but decided almost immediately that was a bad idea, so I tossed it in the nearest trash can. They urged us to begin walking towards our corrals because it was a twenty minute walk from the arrival area to the starting line. There were eight corrals, labeled A-H, which would start in four minute intervals beginning at 5:35am. At this point it was only 4:20am, but the DJ was not exaggerating, it was a full twenty minute walk to the starting corral. I was in corral C, so I headed that way and stretched while I waited. It was cold, but I brought along a pair of jogging pants that I planned to throw away before the start and I kept hand-warmers stuffed in my jacket pockets to keep me warm. I downed a GU about 15 minutes before the start and then tossed my jogging pants in the donation bin. The wheelchair race started first and they took off in a flash. I heard the countdown, 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, with a flash of the fireworks and cheer of the crowd the race had begun. Before I knew it our corral was moving towards the start line and then took off across the start line.

The first mile was actually the toughest. My mean evil twin began whispering doubts in my ear, “You can’t do this.” “Why are you here?” “Do you really think you can do 26.2 miles?” But, I brushed her off and put one foot in front of the other. I also had to pee like crazy, even though I went four times before the race even started! The first porta-potty wasn’t until mile four, so I was a little distracted for the first four miles. I sprinted to the first porta-potty that I saw and waited in a five minute line. I hopped back in the race refocused and the first nine miles went by in a flash.

I already saw people over at the medic tents lying down on cots, injured. I wondered if they were done for the race or if the would be able to recover. I said a prayer for them and prayed that I wouldn’t meet that same fate.

Before I knew it, I was at mile ten, which was in the Magic Kingdom. I saw my two best friends, Christie and Stephen, wearing bright pink shirts and cheering me on from the sidelines. I scanned the crowd for my husband and kids, but didn’t see them. Seeing my friends gave me renewed energy and I sprinted towards the castle. I had to stop right before the castle for a picture with Rapunzel, since she is my daughter’s favorite Disney character. I hopped back in the crowd and enjoyed the pivotal moment of the race: running through Cinderella’s Castle. I scanned the crowd again for Shane, Joshua and Emily, but didn’t see them anywhere. They were there staring right at me and cheering me on, but I didn’t realize this until after the race when they told me. I felt a little down because I knew they were there for me, but I was really hoping to see them, so the next two miles were a little tough as I dealt with the disappointment of not seeing them.

I regained my composure quickly when I realized I was at mile 13, halfway through the race! I felt great knowing that I was halfway through and still felt wonderful. My IT band that had given me so much trouble while training was behaving and I felt great! My legs were strong, my lungs were strong and I felt like I could go forever. We ran past the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa Wedding Pavilion and a “wedding singer” was singing the “Humpty Dance.” I was laughing as I ran and enjoyed the scenery of the beautiful deluxe resorts, including Grand Floridian, Polynesian and Shades of Green. We also ran past the golf course and lake. We were headed to Animal Kingdom next, at around miles 15-16, and I was excited to arrive because some of the back roads and highways were pretty boring. We were greeted by llamas at the Animal Kingdom gate and I was excited to see that they had a Christmas tree in Animal Kingdom, as well as all of the Disney parks.

We ran up past Expedition Everest and across the bridge to enjoy the view of the iconic tree. I was disappointed that we didn’t get to see any of the animals in Animal Kingdom, other than the few llamas that greeted us at the gate. At this point the park was opened and guests were milling around in the park. Some guests were cheering us on from the sidelines, but others were irritated that the runners were blocking their access to cross the road and hop on the rides.

We exited Animal Kingdom as quickly as we entered and we were back on the long road. This stretch was long and kind of boring. There were not a lot of sites and the road seemed to stretch out in front of us forever. I repeated to myself, “I feel strong.” “I could go forever.” “I feel great.” And I really did feel that way. I was pleasantly surprised that I felt so strong.

I made sure that I employed the run-walk method, even though I didn’t want to walk in the beginning, and I made myself walk for one minute at every mile. I also made myself drink water and PowerAde at every station to stay hydrated. They were giving out Clif Shots at some of the “food stations,” but I brought my own GU because I prefer that brand. I took at GU at hour 1, 2 and 3, but stopped after three hours because my mouth was too dry.

At mile 20 they gave out chocolate and we made a turnaround for the final 6.2 miles. I kept telling myself, “Don’t get too excited.” “You are at mile 20, but you still have an hour to go.” “It’s not over yet.” I felt great though because at mile 20, I was confident that I was going to finish.  At mile 21 I saw a guy rolled up in a blanket on the side of the road with a medic and two frantic runners by his side on their cell phones. I wondered if he was OK and I said a prayer for him. I was worried about him, but I saw the medics were taking care of him, so I kept running. I saw many fit people on the sidelines, unable to finish. I thought about how horrible it would be to come all of this way to be sidelined by an injury.

We entered Disney’s Hollywood Studios and we ran through the Backlot, which is my favorite part of Hollywood Studios. I love watching the cast members make the costumes. We ran past the iconic Mickey Sorcerer’s hat and we saw the Disney Pixar characters such as Sully and Mike from Monsters Inc, Mr. Incredible from Incredibles and Woody from Toy Story. I didn’t stop to take a picture with any of the characters because I was scared that if I stopped, I wouldn’t be able to start again.

I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I felt great and I was ecstatic that my knee wasn’t acting up. I was a little disappointed in my time though because I realized that I wasn’t going to break the five hour mark that I was hoping for. I know they say not to set a time goal for your first marathon, but in the back of my mind I was hoping to finish in less than five hours.

We quickly went from Hollywood Studios to Epcot and ran back through the World Showcase. I wasn’t paying much attention to my surroundings because I was so focused on running as fast as I could for that final two miles. I tried to sprint to the end and went as fast as my tired legs would allow. There were hundreds of spectators lined up watching us make the final trek to the finish. I saw Shane, Joshua, Emily, Christie and Stephen right before the finish and I was ecstatic. I was so happy to see their faces, it gave me the extra energy to sprint across the finish. I crossed the finish at 5:07:47. A volunteer put the Mickey Mouse medal around my neck and like I could achieve anything. A medic tent was to my immediate right and I noticed a lot of runners with ice packs on their knees, shoulders and ankles. Some were lying down, some were sitting. I grabbed a Tylenol and a water bottle and kept moving towards the Epcot reception area to get to the most important part of the race: seeing my family!

We met in the reception area and I was so happy to see them. They lined up to show me their shirts, which spelled out STACY. They even had my ‘90s “popcorn hair” picture on the back and it said “2011 marathoner.” It was hilarious! I walked around the reception area to keep my legs moving and I even posed with Daisy Duck along with Emily and Joshua. I was so proud of myself for meeting my goal. Six months ago I set out to run in the Disney Marathon and it wasn’t an easy road. I had to give up many Saturdays for hours of training. I ran three days a week, giving up my other favorite cardio classes. I had a scary experience, in which a car followed me to my house on my early morning run, forcing me to finish my final long run on a treadmill. I had an IT band injury, bringing shooting pain up my left knee every time I ran. All of that led to this pivotal moment. Was it worth it? Yes. Will I do it again? Absolutely. I’m already looking for my next challenge. Triathlon? Charlotte’s Thunder Road Marathon? I’m not sure, but I do know that I’m not done challenging myself yet.