Everyone knows Disney World is the happiest place on Earth, right? The land where fairy tales come true? Well…I found parts of that to be true this weekend at the Disney World Marathon.
Each year, Disney brings back the previous year’s champion to attempt to defend their title. I was the women’s winner in 2011, and the folks at Disney were gracious enough to let me defer my trip for a year due to the proximity of the race to last year’s Olympic Trials Marathon. I feel like this next little bit of info is becoming very “ho-hum”….as in I feel like I have said it a million times over…I know I am personally sick of hearing myself talk about it…but, here I go again for the sake of making the rest of what I am going to say make sense. (Ahem) I have been struggling with a series of injuries since some time last May. It began with (or my mental record of the first “oh shit, I actually can not run anymore” moment) a hamstring strain, when that healed I had issues with the opposing foot, then the hip, then the IT band and hamstring again, then the SI joint/hammy/hip/glute/everything that is related to that whole region and the associated nerves and tendons/ area. I have tried cross training, physical therapy, massage, stretching, needling, ultrasound, cortisone, electro-stem. It seems that just when I am rounding the corner with one injury, another one pops up. Anyway, this isn’t a blog about my injuries (sad that I have an “elevator speech” on my ailments…ha). My point is that I knew going in to the marathon that there was at least a 50% chance it would end in some sort of disaster…. I haven’t had any real quality training since before New York City, and the past few weeks have been exceptionally rocky. All this said, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go back and experience the Disney Marathon again. So, I decided I would just go and put my best foot forward. I promised myself that if all else failed, I would have a good time. I could do as I have done before and post a link to my Garmin data for what (from a time perspective) is my personal worst finish, ever…. but I’d rather just put it into a little song, to be sung (in your head) to the tune of “When You Wish Upon A Star”….
When you push your legs too far Makes no difference who you are Painful miles, and concrete feet Will come to you
Though your heart is in your dreams Your request is too extreme All your GUs and your Sports Beans Can not save you
Yes, I do find myself funny, as a matter of fact. So anyway, I had discussed with my coach a game plan of going out in 6:30s for the first half (this should be a training pace for me, but over the past few months has seemed to be about where my legs stop functioning smoothly, even though aerobically I am not even breathing hard) and if I happened to feel good at that point, I could pick it up over the second half. Well, for a few miles the competitor in me got the better of me and I actually tried to race. I was running with the lead women and we were going about 6:15 pace. There really aren’t words for the frustration of feeling like you are well within yourself fitness-wise, but having such intense pain you can’t continue. I had a little talk with myself about 4 miles in and realized if my hip was already hurting that bad, it wasn’t going to get better in the next 22 miles and I better just back off and stick to the original plan. I settled in to a slower pace and watched the lead women fade quickly out of my sight. I had traveled down to Orlando with a friend who was also running the marathon and hoping for a sub 4:00 finish. I told him if things really went south, I would pull off at the nearest 5 mile marker and wait, and maybe we could run in together. Though I never did pull off, I strongly considered it every mile between 7 and ….probably 23. I stopped to use the bathroom at mile 15, partially because I had to, and partially because I needed mentally to completely accept that this was going to just be a finish for me….maybe a sub 3, maybe not, but nothing worth beating myself up over. I needed to stretch my hips out, I needed to let the clock run, I needed to just let it go. When I started running again I was momentarily rejuvenated. Things felt a bit better….but that feeling was short lived. Between mile 17 and 18, while running around the ESPN track, I got a massive side stitch. It was the kind that you can’t breathe through, and eventually I had to stop and walk. There were definitely some low moments for me during this run….but it wasn’t all bad. I wore a Tinkerbell costume, and the spectators really enjoyed that. I couldn’t help but smile when I would hear them cheering “go Tinkerbell!! use your wings Tink, fly!!” Over the final few miles of the race, I was in a lot of pain, I knew it was going to be the slowest finish time I had ever run, and yet I could not stop smiling. People were even commenting on it from the sidelines “look how happy she is!” “keep smiling Tinkerbell!” Someone even yelled to me “You’re so pretty!”….which is definitely something I have never heard in the final 3 miles of a marathon. I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that this was not a good race. I don’t want to belittle the fact that I ran like crap, and make it sound like “oh well, all fun and games for me!” But there were some good parts. I made other people happy that day. 99% of the people on the sidelines in Orlando had no idea, and never will, that it was such an off day. I wasn’t the 2011 defending champion, I wasn’t an Olympic Trials marathoner, I wasn’t anyone trying to live up to anyone’s expectations in that moment…. I was Tinkerbell. I was the the first place fairy. I was probably the person at that stage in the race who looked to be having the best time. I laughed out loud when I looked at the link to my official race photos the next day. I was smiling in almost every single one….except for a few where I was clutching my side and grimacing in obvious discomfort. I would love to post a few of them, but can’t bring myself to order photos from the race that was my PW. Ha.
There was no amount of pixie dust in all of the Magic Kingdom that could have saved my race that day, but as for my spirit….it just may be true that Disney World is the happiest place on Earth.
Disney in (a few) Pictures: