The road to the starting line of the Disney World Marathon wasn’t as straight as I’d expected. After the horror of the Boston Marathon Bombing, I decided that I had to run the NYC Marathon in November, 2013.  NYC became my “goal” marathon and it didn’t take long to realize that I couldn’t have 2 goal marathons 10 weeks apart.  Although I finished the NYC Marathon without any injuries – other than some minor wounded pride – I felt spent.  It took a few weeks for me to get myself motivated to run again.  I was inconsistent with my training for the first month.  This was made worse by a wonderful trip to Hawaii (jet leg much?) and then a short pre-Christmas trip to Disney World.  I did manage a 20 mile run in Hawaii and a 27 mile run about 4 weeks before race day.  During my taper period I started doing speed work to prepare for my April Half Marathon and aggravated my old left foot injury (stupid, stupid me!). I was well-prepared to finish 26.2 miles but not necessarily ready to have the race of my life.  At least not from a speed perspective.

After finishing the 10k on Friday, I was on a mission to hydrate and recover.  Unfortunately I made some poor food choices and ended up with gastroenteritis starting at dinner on Friday and continuing all night and into Saturday.  Luckily I was able to drink fluids and managed to stay on top of my hydration.  I made the decision to test my stomach with a few roller coaster rides on Saturday morning and seemed ok.  By Saturday night I felt confident that I wouldn’t be dehydrated for the marathon and hoped to avoid excess pit stops on the course. The weather reports were looking promising and I was optimistic that I could have a decent race.  I was even thinking I might pull off one of those unexpected PRs that happen when the stars align.

Sunday morning started at 2:30am with my alarm.  I quickly got myself ready to head out the door.

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Another great selfie!

I wore an OR gown over my running clothes for some pre-race warmth and hopped on the monorail.  Once at Epcot I took advantage of my last indoor plumbing stop for many hours and then wandered over to the bag check area.  Again the security was tighter than in previous years.  I made it through the security stop and dropped my bag off before heading to meet up with Team Studios Central.  Fortuitously our meeting spot was near several other popular Disney running teams and I saw many friends.

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For several weeks I few of my runDisney friends had been inviting me to run the marathon with them.  I wasn’t sure what to do.  Part of me was worried that they would use long run/walk intervals and I wouldn’t be able to keep up.  Part of me was worried that I wouldn’t enjoy running the race for fun instead of trying to do my best.  And, of course, part of me was worried that they’d find me annoying by mile 10 and then feel like they were stuck with me for 16.2 very long miles! We had spent some time talking at a Mickey Miles Podcast meet on Friday night and I felt pretty convinced.  Luckily for me I saw them early on Sunday and they wouldn’t take no for an answer.  I was running with them and I would like it.  Whether I wanted to or not! Agreeing to join the group turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life!

I ended up joining a group of about 11 people.  We added some and lost some over the course of the race but the core group of 11 was pretty much together for all 26.2 miles.  (Or 27+ miles when you add the extra miles for our antics).  Some in the group are super fast and accomplished runners who have qualified for Boston.  Others (like me) are back of the packers who can manage the distance as long as we aren’t expected to go to fast.  I was definitely one of the slowest in the group but I had a slight advantage in that I was one of the few non-Dopey runners so I was better rested than most.  (The Dopey Challenge is a 5k on Thursday, 10k on Friday, 1/2 marathon on Saturday, and full marathon on Sunday.)

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The gang in the starting corral.

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Mickey Mouse and Rudy Novotny calling the start of our corral.

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I’m ready to run 26.2 miles! I was wearing a pace band prior to this picture and realized that it wouldn’t be necessary since I was giving up any time goals for fun.

And off we went! Our friend was working at the 1st water stop just before Mile 1 but I didn’t get a picture with her.

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One advantage of running with fast friends is that I could send one of them ahead to get the pictures I wanted.  Here’s Fast Eddie with Mile Marker 1.  I was on the other side of the road waiting for other friends to use the ports-potty.

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While a few friends were waiting in line for the bathroom, we waited for a picture with the Johnny Depp look-alike.  Arrrrgh!

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Mile 2. This was definitely a “No runner left behind” type of group.  Which is great when your one of the slower ones! We used a 30/30 ratio.  Except when waiting for someone to catch up after a potty break.  Then we used a lot of walking.

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It’s hard to get great pictures when it’s still so darn dark out! Still one of my favorite signs to see during the race. Magic Kingdom!

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And then it became clear that I needed to pose with each mile marker.

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We had recently watched the Nightmare Before Christmas for a movie night with my kids.  I *needed* this picture!

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Mile Marker 4 was in a bad spot for a picture and I realized as I ran on by that I wasn’t going to get.  My thoughtful friends offered to try to go back for it but it was a narrow spot in the course and it really wouldn’t be fair to other runners.  So here’s #5.  At the 5 mile mark I got a text message with my split.  What was the number? I have no idea! I remember saying that we were enough ahead of the 16 min/mile pace requirement but that’s all I know.  I did announce that I wanted to finish within the 7 hours time limit for the sake of my pride.  The overwhelming response of the group was that I would learn that pride and hanging out with this group wouldn’t really go hand-in-hand and I should just get over it!.

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