Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Princess Weekend Day 4, Half Marathon

Day 1 of my Princess Weekend is re-capped HERE.
Day 2 of my Princess Weekend is re-capped HERE.
Day 3 of my Princess Weekend is re-capped HERE.

Sunday morning meant it was time for the big race!  After running (okay, walking) the 10k the day before, I felt I knew a little about what to expect.


As we got dropped off by the bus, I figured the walk to the start line would be about the same distance.

Nope again.

It felt we were walking and walking and walking.  I didn't track how far, but it was a decent distance! We wound down by the potties, through some trees.  Then they split off the corrals AA-?? went one way, we went another.

Finally we reached our corral, but we didn't have the extra time we had the day before.  We got into the corral basically as the AA corral was about to start.  Disney set up large TVs so we could see the start line and they had speakers announcing, trying to get us all excited.  In the 10k, I could see every corral...and even the start line.  For the half, it wasn't possible.  

The corral start times varied, but I would say it was an average of about 3 minutes.  Each time a corral would start, we would walk up into the next corral staging area.  Slowly, but surely we were getting close.  With each corral start, the Fairy God Mother would do her magical bibbity-boppity-boo and let off fireworks.  It was a fun way to start the race.

This is the shot I got right as our corral started, we were pretty much in the middle of the pack.

As we started, we stuck to a run/walk ration that was comfortable for all of us.  But soon, we just ditched that completely.  The first several miles were done on the highway.  At one point, we were running down a split highway.  As we ran down our side, across in the other direction we could see the first person running back...ready to finish.  

I wondered if anyone would notice me running like a mad woman across the grass to run behind her...she had to feel excited though, because everyone was cheering her on!  

As the course continued, we came up to the Magic Kingdom entrance.  Nothing looked familiar to me.  At all.

Even inside the Magic Kingdom, I couldn't tell where we were in the back areas.  That is, until we came on to Main Street.

I loved running this portion!  It felt so mystical and magical with the fog surrounding the castle!  There were lots of spectators lining the streets.  This was by far one of my favorite parts of the course.  I wish the whole course could have been ran in the parks.

We opted to take a quick potty break inside the park. 
I didn't go in, but I heard the bathroom was a yucky mess.
Thank you to the Disney park crew who has to go clean up that crap after we are done!

We wound through Tomorrow Land and ended up behind the castle, ready to run through it.
This was the half way point.

Up until now, the course was crowded, but never bottlenecked.
Through the castle it got tight!

They had photographers snapping pictures, but you had to be on the left side of the castle as you were exiting to be in a picture.  Keep that in mind if that is important to you...

After we left Magic Kingdom, there was more running along the highway.  All of the roads are technically on Disney Property...they just take you from one park to another.  This is pretty much what most of the course looked like:

I had to snap a picture each time I saw one of the busses.
These busses were what shuttled those who were slower than the balloon ladies off the course.
Supposedly, they would pull up blocking off the road, and make everyone pile on.
Each bus we passed, we cheered.  We knew it meant we passed another pick-up.

Disney was cute and they had little "pick-me-up" signs all along the course.  

They made it a fun, sweaty, hard, humid party.
There were characters all along the course.
There was music playing!
The atmosphere was fantastic.

Mile 10 was a pretty big deal.

You see, after mile 10, the chances of being swept are very low.
(At least that is what we had in our minds.)
10 meant there was only 3.1 left...and who can't run a 5k?!

Little did we know that after 10 there was a nasty on ramp we had to run up and it had a strange tilt to it.  My knees were feeling it!  It was awkward and slanted and my least favorite point in the race.  It was also at this point we were able to look backwards on the course to see where we were in regards to those behind us.  It looked like the runners never ended.  
(Little did I know, a lot of them would be swept...)

The weather had been very cooperative until this point.  But it was starting to warm up, and get muggy.  I hate humidity.  It felt sticky when I breathed.  Ugh.

As we were trudging along, we came upon this girl:

It's hard to tell from the picture, but she is being led.
She's blind.
Did you read that last sentence?  
She is blind!

It was at that point that we all talked about how ANYONE can achieve what they desire if they put their heart into it.  I was in awe, inspired by her determination.

Also, in the back ground you see Epcot....that meant the finish line.  But clearly, it was still too far to get overly excited.

As we got into Epcot, the park had opened.  They had people holding off the crowds to let us run by.  Disney sure knows how to run a race!  As we ran through the buildings in Epcot, it got more and more muggy.  There was less breeze and honestly, I was just ready to be done!

But never, at any point along the race did it cross my mind that we wouldn't finish.
When we talked about doing this race together all those months earlier, the plan was always start the race together, and finish the race together.
No questions!

Had it come down to being swept, we were all perfectly fine being swept together.
But I knew it wouldn't come down to that!

This race wasn't about the race.
It wasn't about times.
This race was about friendship.
You see, friends are more important that PR's or medals.
And these girls that I spent the weekend with were my girls!  

I had spent the last year+ of my life, talking with them.  Sometimes crying to them.  We've gotten to know each others families, and pasts.  We have shared the triumphs of life, and the low parts that we'd rather forget.  These girls have been by my side as I struggled to finish nursing school...alone, in raising my kids...while Jason worked out of town.  They have literally lifted me up when I was at my low points.  They cheered me on when I was at my healthiest weight, but haven't blinked an eye after I gained a lot of it back.  They were there for me when I told them what a surprise Madison's pregnancy was.  They were there when I cried because I didn't want to be pregnant.  I have shared with them my honest feelings, some that I was too embarrassed to say out loud.  I've watched them send their own babies off to military, I've seen them get promotions they have worked so hard for and deserved.  I've seen them chauffeur around teenagers to football, rowing, shopping, and so much more.  I've heard about the incredible places they've visited, the difficult times they have over come, and I've become stronger after seeing their strength.

This race was NOT about a medal.
It was NOT about a PR.

This race was the moment we could all come and be together at the same time and celebrate our friendship.  We started as strangers, all those months ago, and crossed that finish line (with tears in our eyes) as friends.

Friends to the Finish!

See that is the amazing thing about races.  You grow and become someone you didn't know existed.  You laugh, you get annoyed, you cry.
But you finish.

Thank you Jenn, Windee, and Marcee.
Thank you for standing by me through the hard times we've each faced.
The finish line tasted beautiful because each of you were by my side!


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