Thursday, January 14, 2016

I am a marathoner...and not just the Netflix kind

I completed my first marathon over the weekend and I still cannot wrap my head around it. Michelle talked me into this race in the spring and we started training not too long after. It has been a long journey filled with more than 500 miles, countless hours in the gym, things that cannot be unseen along the trail, blood, sweat, tears and so much more. It all culminated in that one race.

My sister, niece and my niece's childhood friend were also in town for the weekend. Cathy was running the half marathon and Lorren was running the full with me. I love our race weekends together and let's be honest, Disney is not the same when the Bednarek girls are together.

We spent a rainy morning at the Expo and after changing into some dry clothes, headed to Hollywood Studios for the day. We called it an early night since Cathy was running the following morning and we were her cheering section.

Yes, we were all set to cheer Cathy on along the course. We had our own course plotted out and ran our own little half marathon to meet her along the course. We also had signs, glorious, glorious signs.

Yes, I Photoshopped my sister's face on Queen Bey. 

Our cheering almost didn't happen though. We tried to follow the rules and not board the bus until after 5 am. What we didn't realize was that the last bus left at 5 am.  So there we sat with no way to the race with our awesome signs. Thankfully, between my wonderful husband and some ladies that were part of the cheer squad, we scored a ride to the start line. Second best part? The coffee stand at Epcot was open. Success was ours. 

Our first stop was the Magic Kingdom parking lot. We saw a ton of great costumes and inspirational runners. Then I got the text alert that Cathy was at the 5k mark so our eyes were peeled. Once we saw her we booked it for the monorail to head to Magic Kingdom.

I have always wanted to cheer on runners on Main Street. This is usually mile 5.5 for the race and everyone can always use that extra push. Plus, who doesn't want to run up Main Street towards that big beautiful castle?

After we saw Cathy we hopped on the monorail for the Polynesian. During the ride Lorren had the grand idea to find a Donald Duck whistle at the gift shop. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how you look at it) she did find one just in time. We ran over to the roadway, that smelled like delicious delicious bacon, and Lorren cheered everyone on with her new duck bill. 

Since we had been running all over, we had to make a food stop. I mean, come on, those runners were getting clif shots around the corner, the least we could do was stop for a delicious pastry to refuel on our way back to Epcot.

Once we arrived back at Epcot we headed for the mile 12 stop and cheered on the runners. This is another one of my favorite spots along the course. It is the final mile of the race where everyone needs a push. I was thrilled to see my sister come around the corner and head into her final mile. 

After we saw Cathy we booked it across the parking lot for the finish line. I cannot tell you how happy I was to see my sister round the corner and head into the last .1 of the race!

 I am so proud of her!

We decided to Skype with my parents after Cathy's race, which included my Mom yelling at Lorren about the duck bill whistle. It was magical.

Magic Kingdom was next on our journey and included a carb fest at Tony's. My nerves were really starting to set in at this point and even the most delicious bowl of spaghetti was hard to stomach.

We only stayed for a few hours and then headed back for an early night.

The alarm went off a lot sooner than I had hoped. I had a rough night of sleep, mainly because I was worried about oversleeping. Lorren and I got ready and headed for the buses.

We walked right on to a bus and headed to the race start. It was finally sinking in that we were about to run 26.2 miles. Michelle met up with us at the corrals and we waited for our start.

It was really humid at the beginning of the race. By mile three I was literally pouring sweat, which honestly, only happens in the middle of August. This was also the point where we saw Cathy and Maggie. I will show you the photo of my sister's sign later. I just can't even right now...

I have to say that running in the marathon was a lot nicer than running the Princess half. I feel like it wasn't as crowded along the course. I didn't have to stop as many times as I normally have to during Princess.

Running up Main Street was amazing. Main Street is always a special place for me (it's where Scott and I met) so every time I get to run up the street, I savor the moment.

The course changed a little once we were inside Magic Kingdom. We were able to run through the new Storybook area and next to Big Thunder Mountain. I loved the new course and I hope they keep it for future races.

Once we left Magic Kingdom I knew we were about to enter unchartered territory. Somehow on the back access road, I lost Lorren.  I literally turned around and she was gone. I'm not sure how I lost someone wearing hot pink, but it happened. I did happen to run into my friend Chelsie though, which was unexpected and amazing!

This was also around the time I saw my first text from my friend Tim. It was like he knew I would need encouragement along the route. Seriously, every text came at the exact moment I needed a push.

Running into Animal Kingdom was pretty cool. Many moons ago I worked there and have a special place in my heart for this park and its animals. Some of the trainers were on the course with animals, including a vulture that had a sign that said to "look alive." There was also a turtle, a goat and a ferret. It was really awesome.

We came into the park through Africa, ran past the backside of the tree of life and then into Asia. A few runners cut off the course and hopped into the single rider line for Everest. Maybe if I was in an earlier corral I would consider that.

We left Animal Kingdom through Dinoland and ran through some of the parking lot. The next stretch was going to be my own personal Everest. I have a bad relationship with running on Osceola Parkway. It was the death of me during the Tower of Terror 10 miler a few years ago (granted I had a sinus infection from hell).

The stretch was long and blah. There were people along the route cheering us on and handing out french fries (which I passed on) and that definitely helped.

My favorite moment though of the Osceola stretch was running into my pacer from Lake Nona and OUC. I love her to pieces and literally jumped into her arms at the water stop. She kept yelling "You're a marathoner!" It was so fantastic and just the push I needed as I entered ESPN's Wide World of Sports.

Oh Wide World of Sports. You big beast you. I honestly did not realize how large the Sports Complex was until I was running through it. The best part of it though was the cold sponges they gave us. That was like a gift from the heavens.

We walked a bit inside ESPN though because I made the mistake of taking a GU. I had not taken one that late into a run before and should have known better. My stomach does not handle anything other than water and electrolytes after mile 16. Rookie mistake.

I did feel better once we hit the baseball field though and I have to say it was pretty amazing to be able to run around the field. We rounded another corner and I saw my sister and Maggie and it was just what I needed to continue to push through.

On the road out of ESPN we saw the SAG vans. We had a 2.5 mile head start on them, but the pressure felt very real. The road to the Studios included a biofreeze stop. Again, nectar of the gods. It also included very poor karaoke to Journey's "Don't Stop Believing."

Stepping foot in the Studios was perfection. I knew the end was near. We entered through the Streets of America and I was even able to kick along to "New York, New York." Not too shabby, right?

When we were running out of the Studios we passed MSG Cedric King. He’s a military veteran who lost both legs in Afghanistan. He was struggling and leaning on both of his guides to keep going. He was amazing and an incredible inspiration.

I knew once we hit the walkway to the resorts we were in the home stretch. This was it. The marathon was mine.

It was hard to not get emotional during this final stretch. As we rounded the Yacht Club I saw a Peggy Sue cheering section. After the race I saw that someone in the group was holding her actual "I'm Proud of You" sign. I did receive some extra cheers from them as I ran past and it truly meant the world to me.

Entering the countries in Epcot made it all so real. Seeing mile 25 in France was amazing. This was it. I was 1.2 miles away.

The tears started forming as I ran towards Spaceship Earth. I held them back the best I could and then someone holding a sign of Peggy Sue holding her sign pointed at me and maybe one or two fell out. This was as we made out way to mile 26 with the gospel choir. That final turn  seemed surreal. I do not know where the final push came from but I ran down last stretch with everything I had. I could not believe it happened.

I was a marathoner.

Not only was I a marathoner, my hubby was waiting for me with my bling. I literally jumped up onto him and gave him a big old kiss. I managed to scrape my leg on the barricade on the way up. I made it the entire race without a scratch. 26.2 miles with no injury and the damn barricade took me down.

After a quick visit to the ice station, I saw Michelle. The tears were a flowin' at that point. I am so proud of what we accomplished. Those early mornings and long runs made it so sweet.

I found Cathy and Maggie and sat my happy butt down to eat my banana and wait for Lorren. She crossed the finish line very close to Santa (no, really). I am so proud of Lorren and thrilled that she crossed!

I'm still in a state of disbelief. I cannot believe I finished my first marathon. I did not go in with a time in mind, my only goal was to finish and to finish strong. I did just that and could not be happier.

So, will I do it again? You bet. I have my eyes set on Chicago because that is my hometown. But, you never know you may see me at Disney again.

Thank you to everyone that supported me through this process. I could not have done it without you!

Oh...and here is the sign my sister was holding...


1 comment:

Chelsie Sloan said...

Woah!! Tears in my eyes reading your story, still so many exciting emotions from this race :) So proud of you and SO happy I saw you out there!!!

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