Well hello there! Welcome to my first official Unicorn Wellness blog post!
First off, I wrote this first part a little over a week ago. Please make sure to read the update at the end!
Yes, I went there. Running sucks for me. And I have my 6th half marathon to finish in a few days. First, let me give you some background on where the whole "running sucks" thing came from!
Five years ago, I was surfing the interwebs and came across a tumblr page called Ben Does Life. This guy Ben decided to take up running while going through college and blogged about it pretty much every day. He lost a huge amount of weight and his day to day stories were mundane but facinating at the same time. I was looking to lose some baby weight and I thought, "hey if a 300+ guy can do this, I can too!" I read his whole blog and decided on a plan of action. I started reading other running blogs and websites, and started shopping for my shoes online. But they problem was , I needed something to train for. A goal, however far fetched, to reach for. Because I can honestly say I hate running. Enter the RunDisney Tinkerbell Half Marathon.
RunDisney announced the new addition to their line up shortly after I made the decision to start training. It's a half marathon weekend at DISNEYLAND (squee!) that also includes kids races, a 10k, and now a challenge (10k+the half). My husband was incredibly supportive and we started making plans to go.
I was not incredibly consistent in my training due to an ever-rotating work schedule and a new baby in the house. But I did what I could and was so happy to finish the Inagural Tinkerbell Half that the rest of my family started joining me on RunDisney races. I made a promise to myself that I would to Tinkerbell 5 years in a row and get my Legacy medal.
But then Crossfit and Olympic weightlifing came along and I found myself not having much time for running. Why spend my time doing something I really did not have a passion for when I could be doing what I love? The Crossfit training kept me in shape and although I had slightly slower times, I finished year 3 and 4 with no problem.
Now, this year. In September, I took a fall and hurt my back. After months of doctors, tests, and physical therapy, the things that still kill my back are sitting for long periods of time, standing for long periods of time, and....duh duh duh....RUNNING. I have been told by multiple doctors that running aggravates my condition due to the jarring pounding on my back and I should avoid it at all costs.
But I had committed (and paid) for two more races this year. The Dark Side Half at Walt Disney World this past April and my 5th (and I guess final) Tinkerbell half. The idea to go to Florida was so my husband and I could get our Coast to Coast medals (2 halfs in 1 calendar year, one in Disneyland and one in Disney World). I have seen quite a few power walkers outpace the final pacers in my last 4 years, so I thought I could continue doing races power walking.
Well, turns out leg length and corral placement play a big role in that plan. I started in the second to last corral and was cruising along...until I saw the pacer balloons between mile 8-9. The ladies were yelling at everyone, "if you aren't in front of us by mile 9 you are getting swept!" Aw crap, that meant I had to start running if I was going to get a safe distance ahead of them. So I did. And it hurt. I'm not sure how I made it the 3 mile stretch of flat highway with the sun blasting me in my face, but I did! And the pacers seemed to disappear once we left the highway back onto Disney property. But I was wrong.
I had my headphones off at this point and other runners were talking about the pacers not being an issue for the last mile. And half of the last mile was very congested so I wasn't going anywhere fast anyway. But at the last water station, those damn balloon ladies popped out again. Where did they go and where did they come from? I had no idea. But I had to start running again to get some more distance from them, because if they crossed the finish line before me I would not qualify for my coast to coast.
The good news is that I made it before the pacers. The bad news is that I was in pretty bad back pain for the next couple of days but it would have been worse and longer recovery time if I didn't have my BFF. The even worse news is that I am in the very.last.corral for Tink.
I have been having dreams about not making it and getting swept. But I have a plan! 1. Get to the corrals super early so that I can get in the very first part of the corral, the farthest I can get away from the pacers. 2. NO STOPPING FOR ANYTHING. 3. I know the course fairly well by now, so I know where the sucky parts are. Take advantage of the downhills, run intervals on the city streets. 3. Put my faith in pixie dust!
I don't want to hear about how if you aren't able to run a half, you shouldn't participate. Disney runs are magical and it should be something anyone of any age or fitness level can enjoy. It's not the Boston Marathon. It's Disney. If I learned anything from weightlifting it's that anyone should try to compete to have something to look forward to and work for.
I finished and earned my legacy medal AND coast to coast!
The race started off well. I was able to negotiate myself into the first half of the last corral and took advantage of the downhills. We got into a huge bottleneck when we first got into Disneyland and were at a standstill for over 5 minutes. Once we got going, I was able to make up some time by running through the park (even though I wasn't supposed to). The long stretch of residential area sucked, but I stuck my head down and focused on the feet of the people in front of me and trying to pass them. I quickly figured out who the race crew was and asked every time I saw someone on a bike how far ahead of the last pacer I was. I was 7-8 minutes ahead of them though this stretch.
Around mile 7, I saw a woman around my age or a little younger with her knee wrapped up struggling to keep up. I noticed she was not wearing headphones and I debated whether or not to try to talk to her. I could have passed her, but I was getting bored and she looked like she was struggling. I took my earbuds out and asked what happened to her knee. She told me she normally is a good runner, but her knee got taken out in the park by a stroller the day before. She was also trying to get her coast to coast and knew she should not be racing, but she didn't come from the east coast for nothing. I continued to chat her up and kept her apprised of our pacing with my Garmin. Having someone to talk to made the long stretches and boring parts bearable, while keeping each other on pace. I knew I couldn't slow down because of her.
At mile 11, she was getting lots of text messages. We both would not check our phones up until this point as we did not want anything slowing us down. It was her boyfriend and parents who were worried about her. Her 10 and 15k split times did not come through so they thought something bad happened to her. She shot her boyfriend a text telling him she would see him at the finish line and plowed on.
The last mile is always excruciating. All of the spectators are yelling "you are almost there!", but in reality, it is the longest mile ever. You can't see the finish line. You don't know where the pacers are. You are giving it everything you have, and then a little more. We saw her boyfriend in the CheerZone and he was absolutely ecstatic she was about to cross the finish line.
We crossed and got our medals! We hugged and she limped off to find her boyfriend, as she was in too much pain to take pictures or exchange email addresses.
Stephanie from Florida, thank you for allowing me to accompany you to the finish line. I am very proud to be a small part in that moment and I don't think I could have kept up that pace without you. I hope your knee is better and you are recovering!
My husband asks if I will do Tink next year. Half marathons are like childbirth; once you finish one, you forget the pain it took to get there. ;)