The happiest 26.2 miles on Earth

It’s been nearly two weeks since my first Walt Disney World Marathon experience. Two weeks since my 27th birthday spent running 26.2 miles with 20,000+ runners. Two weeks of reflecting on the magic that Disney provided as they celebrated their 25th year of the marathon. And even now, almost two weeks later, I can’t get enough of my Disney marathon memories.

Outside my new home. ;) 

Outside my new home. ;) 

IMG_3858.JPG

To start, I got my hands on two new RunDisney smashed pennies while at the expo with Ben. This has become a tradition for us in the adventures we take together, collecting a smashed penny in each place we visit. Getting these little gems was an amazing little expo find. 

IMG_3864.JPG
I look beyond tired here, because I was. Posing with the RunDisney 25th birthday cake! 

I look beyond tired here, because I was. Posing with the RunDisney 25th birthday cake! 

Signing my name on the wall of Why I RunDisney! 

Signing my name on the wall of Why I RunDisney! 

Prior to getting to the expo I had big plans to spend a good chunk of money on a quality jacket commemorating the 25th anniversary of the marathon, envisioning it’d have the date (my birthdate), but sadly upon arriving there was nothing fitting my vision. I have heard the expo sells out very quickly, but I still have yet to find anything to match my dream even on the internet. If anyone knows of something like this clue a girl in!

 

Night before race day I tossed and turned the worst I ever have. I think our AC unit at our hotel quit and I just felt like it was a thousand degrees in the place. Ben started to snore ever so slightly which is a thing he’s never done. The universe was against me. Before this race, I had completed 9 full marathons and 7 half marathons, so I am no stranger to knowing the sleeplessness one may experience on race eve. I guess adding that in with birthday excitement and you’ve got a pretty anxious Amanda. 

 

I woke up around 3:30am, ate my oats, and got in the car with Ben to get dropped off at Epcot. I got out and started to find where the other runners were heading and went with the flow, seeing volunteers with glowing fingertip gloves telling everyone to high five them for power. This is when I started to get emotional knowing that these people were here to support a bunch of crazies who thought it sounded like a fun idea to run a marathon at 5:30am. I regret nothing! 

 

I got to my corral with a few minutes to spare and soon I was amongst many others who were feeling heavily emotional. In celebration of the 25th anniversary race, they were playing the top Disney song from each year starting with 1994, the year the race began, and ending with the top song from this year, releasing one corral with each song and send off of fireworks. I was constantly choking back tears in the corrals, especially when “Go the Distance” from Hercules came on and a boy around my age in my corral belted it so loudly, and with such a great voice. It was the little spark of inspiration that was an incredibly heartfelt and strong memory that stuck with me the whole race.

 

Running in the dark definitely makes me run quicker. And you should never start a race going faster than your goal race pace (go figure), but I totally lost my head and felt like magic was carrying my legs for the first 12 miles. Overall I wanted to keep my pace around 10:15-10:30/mile. What I got were the following splits.

FullSizeRender.jpg

9:47 AT MILE 10?!? WHO AM I EVEN? Now, I have ran faster further into races, but in all reality my training was not near where it needed to be to hold a pace like the one I did for those first 12 miles. But when you run in the dark, down Main Street, through Cinderella’s castle, with no lack of spectators and glitter on said castle, you can pretty well expect to lose your whole mind out there. And I wouldn’t change it for anything.

 

At this point I hadn’t stopped for any character photos since the lines had been pretty long from the beginning, but that’s when I came across Genie. This led to another chance to become extremely emotional thinking of Robin Williams and all we lost the day we lost him, and of course the heart wrenching quote, “Genie, you’re free.” With only a few people in line I could not pass up a photo op with him. Look at that cheesey smile!!! This was the moment that allowed for various other character photo ops in my race. 

IMG_3849.JPG

 

IMG_3862.JPG

The road out of Magic Kingdom and into the Animal Kingdom could have been terribly boring but they lined it with plenty of groupings of things to look at with music playing at almost every little artistic piece of all things Disney. I had never been in Animal Kingdom so my very first experience of seeing the Tree of Life happened as we ran into the park where the sun had pretty much completely risen. It was nothing short of magical.

IMG_3852.JPG
IMG_3853.JPG

Here we passed Everest that Ben and I got to ride the following day and it is now one of our favorite Disney rides! 

Am I feeling Joy? Sadness? Is it a combination?! My face may never tell.  

Am I feeling Joy? Sadness? Is it a combination?! My face may never tell.  

Onto the ESPN Wide World of Sports where I struggled, as it seems many others felt the struggle hit here as well too. At this point it’s important for me to point out that I had purchased a decal to put on my shirt for race day, and at this part in the race people started wishing me a Happy Birthday now that the sun was up and they could actually read my shirt. It was so helpful in the race where I needed the extra boost and hearing complete strangers wish you a happy birthday on the race course at the Walt Disney World Marathon, it gives you a boost.

At around mile 19 I ran into fellow Nuunbassador, Lynn (@yogalynnruns) who was volunteering at the hydration station. It’s incredible what meeting a stranger who is also a huge fan of running, and your sport drink of choice Nuun, can do for the runner hitting the wall. She had added my name to the team sign and it was just such an incredible experience to get to share a moment of comraderie in the middle of a race. And at the end of the day, without Honey Stinger gel and waffles to fuel me and Nuun to keep me hydrated, I would not have been capable of crossing the finish line an entire 30 minutes faster than Chicago just three months prior. 

At around mile 19 I ran into fellow Nuunbassador, Lynn (@yogalynnruns) who was volunteering at the hydration station. It’s incredible what meeting a stranger who is also a huge fan of running, and your sport drink of choice Nuun, can do for the runner hitting the wall. She had added my name to the team sign and it was just such an incredible experience to get to share a moment of comraderie in the middle of a race. And at the end of the day, without Honey Stinger gel and waffles to fuel me and Nuun to keep me hydrated, I would not have been capable of crossing the finish line an entire 30 minutes faster than Chicago just three months prior. 

IMG_3867.JPG
IMG_3847.JPG
IMG_3851.JPG

We left ESPN for a long trek back towards Epcot, first stopping in to run in Hollywood Studios, past the infamous Tower of Terror and down Sunset Boulevard to Hollywood Boulevard and out to the Boardwalk which was a location I had never seen and felt like it was both so beautiful and so unfortunate to be entering my life as I felt so much pain in my legs. With less than a 5k to go I made it in to Epcot. I was cramping, walking more than running, and then I heard it. “If I go there’s just no telling how far I’ll go...” If ever there was a song that could amp me up in the most challenging of times, “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana gets all my money. I ran for the entirety of the song and at a decent pace for the pain I was dealing with. Sadly as soon as it ended I was back to various walking breaks. Until a man with Mickey Mouse gloves gave me a power up knuckle “pound it” and off I went for the remainder of the race.

IMG_3855.JPG

I remember very little after crossing the finish line, but I can recall being obsessed with my new medal with my birthdate enscribed on it as I walked to the parking lot looking for Ben. He picked me up, had the best post marathon gift of chocolate milk, and off we went to prepare for the very best week we’ve ever had between Universal Studios and the Disney parks. We already are planning our next trip. 

IMG_3698.JPG

I cannot stress how incredible of a race I had. It wasn’t my fastest (and thankfully not my slowest) but it was 100% the happiest race I’ve ever had.  And because the Moana soundtrack has gotten me through so many hard times in my life, and now also powered me through my first Disney race experience, it is the new addition to the playlist this week. If you can listen to the song and say that it didn’t help boost your spirit at least a little bit, I don’t need your kind of negativity in my life. #Fact

IMG_3850.JPG