Oops, I wrote this post last April and apparently forgot to publish it! Better late than never!
After the excitement of my first Star Wars half marathon last year, I knew I wanted to do it again this year. I figured that if I did it once, I could do it again, potentially even faster the second time.
There were a lot of factors working against me for this particular race that I hadn’t anticipated when I registered half a year ago. I had not been feeling well for several weeks prior, which meant that I didn’t have a chance to finish training, and I had not gotten nearly enough food or sleep in the weeks and days leading up to the race. I honestly wasn’t sure if I’d have the energy to get halfway.
Nevertheless, the weekend of the race arrived, and I knew I had to try my hardest to finish the race. I got up, got ready, and headed to the Epcot parking lot, where there were shuttles to take everybody to the starting line in the Magic Kingdom parking lot.
The race started at 5:30, and I was so glad that it was a warmer morning so I didn’t have to stand in my corral and shiver until then, although I knew I’d be wishing for cooler weather after the first few minutes of running.
While waiting in the corral, I saw a person who I recognized as a Galloway pacer from her lime green shirt and her flag that said 3:00. The idea of the Jeff Galloway method is to alternate intervals of walking and running in order to prevent injury and keep up stamina. I had known that there were pacing groups that runners could join in order to finish at a certain time, but I hadn’t really thought about joining one until now. I figured I’d try to see if I could keep up, although I wasn’t sure if a 3:00 finish time was in my future. (Last year, I finished in 3:36, and I was just hoping to finish under 3:30 this year.)
When our corral had started the course, I followed in pursuit of the pacer and the other small group of runners who followed her. We ran for 30 seconds before she put her hand up to slow down, and the rest of our group did the same. Race etiquette dictates that you raise your hand to signal to other runners when you’re going to slow down so that they don’t run right into you. After 30 seconds of walking, we took off running for 30 more seconds before it was time to walk again.
In this way, the first mile passed by so easily. I had not trained enough to work up very much stamina, so the walking intervals gave me the break that I needed in order to easily get through the running intervals.
Several more miles passed, and I was amazed at how my hips, knees, and arches weren’t hurting at all. The biggest hindrance to my training was that every time I felt like I was getting anywhere, I’d have to take a break because of an injury.
Near the end of mile 4, we entered Animal Kingdom. I was starting to feel a little dizzy and exhausted, but the Powerade stops kept me fueled.
Around the 6 mile marker in the Animal Kingdom parking lot, somebody stepped on my shoe. I bent down to fix it, and when I stood up, something was horribly wrong. I was so dizzy that I almost fell over, and I felt like I was going to throw up or pass out or both. It felt like I had run several miles with not enough sleep or food, which was exactly what I had done.
I watched as the pacing group I had been sticking with ran out of sight. There was no way I’d have the energy to catch up to them. I had to do the rest of this race on my own, and I truly wasn’t convinced I’d have the energy to make it. I was worried that even if I was able to walk at my own pace, it wouldn’t be fast enough to prevent me from being swept from the course.
Luckily, I had thought to put an energy gel in my running belt that morning, so I slurped that as I slowly walked along with runners passing me on either side. I was feeling a little revived by mile 7 but still felt like I needed some water or sports drink.
Just after the mile 8 marker, there was a stop for water, Powerade, and energy gels. I got a cup of Powerade, 2 cups of water, and another energy gel. I spent the next mile taking my time with the energy gel and water.
I attempted to run between mile 9 and 10 but my leg muscles decided they had already been pushed hard enough, and after the pain caused me to dry-heave several times, I decided to listen to my body and figured I would walk until I felt like I was in real danger of being swept, at which point I could try to run.
At one point when I was at the top of a hill, I looked behind me and could still see thousands of runners behind me, so that was when I realized that I might not be in as big a hurry as I thought.
Just after mile 10, the course took us through Hollywood Studios.
Mile 11 was just outside the Boardwalk, and Mile 12 was just inside Epcot. This was the point where I started to feel like I was definitely going to finish.
I hobbled through Epcot with the prospect of the finish line keeping me going until I finally made it. It was not the most glamorous race, and I started ugly-crying the second I stepped over the finish line, but I was so proud of myself for finishing. Especially upon realizing that I had finished in 3 hours and 15 minutes–20 minutes faster than last year!
After going home to recharge, I came back to the park to show off my race bling and to see Bae-lo Ren.
Even though I had completed a half marathon before, this one felt more significant. I’m so glad I pushed myself to finish, despite the challenges. It was a reminder of how strong and capable I can be when I set my mind to it!