February 02, 2004

January 11, 2004 - Marathon!

It was hovering in the high 50's, after climbing from a brisk 38 early that morning. We were running down the main thoroughfare of Epcot Center, having just passed through the eight countries of the World Showcase. The crowd was cheering, the guy on the loudspeaker was doing his best to entice runners to sprint that final little distance. It took everything I had to keep my legs moving those last couple meters to the finish line, where my thermal blanket and huge Mickey Mouse finisher's medal were waiting for me, along with bananas, oranges, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, water, and Powerade.

I finished the Disney Marathon in 5 hours, 37 minutes. It was by far the hardest thing I have ever done - physically, mentally, and emotionally.

The race itself was wonderful; tiring, but wonderful. It started at 6:00 am (long before sunrise) just outside of Epcot. Mickey and Minnie were there at the starting line. We circled Epcot, then ran up through the center of the park (where the race eventually finished) where all the buildings and fountains were lit up in that magical Disney style; wound our way over to the Magic Kingdom where we ran up Main Street and through Cinderella's Castle; headed over the highways to Animal Kingdom; continued on to MGM Studios and the Boardwalk; and finally headed back to Epcot, around the World Showcase, back down the main thoroughfare, and across the finish line. There were water stops every two miles in the first 13 miles, then every mile from 14 to 26. There were bananas at mile 16, PowerGel at mile 18, oranges at mile 20, and the very best - chocolate bars! - at mile 22. Disney characters, a few animals from the Animal Kingdom, two people dressed as Sponge Bob Square Pants, and lots of spectators lined the course. Steve managed to find me and cheer me on at miles 8, 13, and 25 1/2. I had the support of TNT staff, coaches, and mentors from across the country, checking in on me, sometimes running with me, and even making me laugh, mile after mile after mile.

It was an incredible experience; one that I hope to someday repeat.

There were many, many times during my training that I broke out the notes and letters I received, to give me a much needed mental boost to get myself out the door for those long runs. My training didn't go quite as well as I'd hoped - my longest distance before the marathon was just over 13 miles. I fought a few minor injuries, fatigue, flu, and the New England winter. However, due to the biting cold, hilly terrain, and strong headwinds that were with us throughout our training, our coach was sure that we would have no problems finishing the race. He told us that we were by far the strongest team he had coached so far - perhaps not physically, but certainly mentally. Who else would show up for a Saturday run in the middle of a blizzard, only to return home to run because the parking lots were closed due to the snow fall? (We ended up with 18" of snow that day.) I'm not sure what it was - the knowledge that our efforts were going to help patients with Leukemia, or all of the letters and donations I received from my family and friends, or the comaraderie of our little group of 5 runners from the North Shore, or the dedication of Greg, our coach, and Jay, our mentor, who were there every week cheering us on and having water, Gatorade, and tissues available every couple of miles - but we all made it, and set new personal records for ourselves in the process.

February 02, 2004 at 02:45 PM