Your friendly neighborhood TallGuySurfing is still alive with no new injuries and is no longer a marathon virgin. That's right folks! In the face of some pretty heavy adversity we came, saw, froze and conquered the coldest Disney Marathon in history. But first, let's start at the beginning.
To bring you up to speed it all started at the beginning of last summer. I was at my friend Harrison's house drinking some beers. We had this great conversation about marathon running. At first I told him he was insane for wanting to run said marathon, but a few beers later I stood up and proclaimed to the world that "I too shall run this so-called marathon!" Then the training began and this blog transformed into a mostly surfing blog to a mostly running blog (don't worry I will always be a surfer first) and then I injured my Achilles tendon the first week of October. Training program be damned and the decision was made to run the Disney Marathon (non-refundable deposit) as a fun, relaxed and experience gaining race. Eventually it was decided to run with Harrison (who uses the Galloway training program of running combined with walking) and perhaps finish with him since I could not run my normal pace because of the injury. Finally race weekend arrived and that brings us up to speed.
Since the Disney Marathon officially starts at 5:40 a.m. and all the instructions sent out by the race coordinator instructed us to be at the starting area before 5 a.m. preferably 4 a.m., our little crew was grateful to be put up by a surfer friend (Dees) that lives in Orlando very near Disney World. On Saturday afternoon, myself along with my girlfriend (yes, TallGuySurfing now has a girlfriend :-) she's a marathon runner and she's awesome and soon I'm gonna make her into a surfer as well, hehe), Harrison and his wife, D, headed over to Orlando a day early. First on the agenda? Race packet pickup and the Expo!
The first thing I noticed about the pre-race experience is how well organized Disney is and with little effort we found our way to The Wide World of Sports Complex and easily picked up our bib numbers at the Milk House and even managed to get Harrison upgraded into Corral B with me so we could run together from the start and not be lost in a maze of 24,000 runners. Soon we entered the actual expo. This was super exciting for me. It seemed like everyone who is anyone in the running world was set up offering their newest products. We spent about two hours trying on shoes, talking to venders, laughing at funny T-shirts, making race posters at the Sharpie booth and eating some wonderful samples of Cliff products. It was a perfect expo experience; not too crowded and not longer enough to tire our tapering legs.
Right around dinner time we arrived at Dees house, which happens to be in the same neighborhood as Tiger Woods home (don't worry he didn't attack any of us or hit on my girlfriend). Dees was stoked as always to see us and it was great to see him and his house. D made us all the perfect pre-race dinner (grilled chicken breasts and pasta with white or red sauce). Whenever D makes anything it's good. I'll even eat foods that I hate if she has cooked it. I started carb loaded two days before in small portions so after this meal I felt more fueled than ever! The only thing I was concerned about was getting a pre-race poop in before having to start running. So far my body was not having it, which is very strange for me. After dinner Harrison and I got everything organized for our 3:20 a.m. wake up call and even put on a little fashion show. OK, well, I did by trying on all the cheap thrift store throw away clothing I purchased a few days earlier.
Throw-away clothing inventory:
70% Wool trench coat - $8
Cotton Sweatshirt with my work logo on it - Free
Sleeveless zip-up Fleece - $4
Over sized Cotton sweatpants with the legs cut open - $3.88
Cheap white gloves to wear over running gloves - $1.50
Neoprene Face Guard (aka Ninja mask) - $2
After making sure everything fit I cuddled up on the couch with the girlfriend next to the fireplace and we all watched a surfing video Dees had just bought. Pretty soon everyone went to bed and the last time I looked at the clock it was a little after 11 p.m..... that was until 2 a.m. when I woke up sweating for no good reason. I got up and used the bathroom. That's when my whole world started closing in on me, you know, like when just before you pass out? I leaned over, put my hands on my knees to stabilize and tried to decide if I should lay down or throw up in the toilet. I managed to collect myself and return to the couch where laying down helped. Girlfriend got me a glass of water and I felt better and thankful at the same time. Seriously, I don't know what the heck was wrong with me, but it passed and soon it was time to get up, eat a cliff bar, two bananas and some almonds, drink a LOT of water and hit the road.
We were out the door by 4:20 a.m. (we planned on 4 a.m.). I knew this was not good, but tried not to stress too much about it. Almost as soon as we exited the Interstate onto Disney property we hit traffic congestion, just as the race coordinators warned. It wasn't until 5:20 a.m. that we found a parking spot in the Epcot parking lot. Then we had to walk about 1/2 mile to the starting area. I decided not to check a bag at the last minute. There was already too much stress in the air to worry about it. Just before the bag check-in tents (where only runners are allowed past) we found the typical long lines of portable restrooms with long lines of people waiting. Not knowing if we'd have another chance we wasted about 10 minutes waiting and going to the restrooms. Still... no poop for me. I swear with all the pre-race stress in the air I think I was more concerned about the fact that it had been more than a day since I pooped and I had eaten twice as much food as I normally do in that amount of time. Where the heck is my body storing it all??? I know sometimes I'm full of crap, but seriously? SERIOUSLY?
Just as we left the bathrooms explosions sounded and we could see fireworks in the far distance. Shit! The race was starting and we were not even close to the start line. A quick goodbye was said to the Girlfriend and D and Harrison and I started "jogging." I quickly ditched my wool trench coat (a bloody shame) and Harrison pulled off his outer layer sweat pants. First, we went through the bag check tents, then followed signs for another 1/2 mile. We passed many people walking, who seemed not to care that the race was beginning. The Girlfriend gave me a card the night before and told me to read it just before the race. I struggled to rip it open with the double gloves I was wearing. Then I read it aloud so Harrison could hear. I regret having to throw it away because I can't remember it word for word, but it was one of the best good luck wishes I've ever read. Included inside was a sticker of a raccoon sticking his head out over top a log. It read "Seize the Moment." I peeled it off and stuck it to my chest. As we approached what appeared to be a staging area for our Corral B a volunteer told us we were too late and the course was closed. We would have to start in the later corrals. Disney starts its marathon with many corrals divided between two courses. Both courses merge at the 4 mile point. The course we were supposed to start in looked like a disaster area with clothes thrown about everywhere almost as if 10,000 people stripped down and went streaking. Parallel to our intended starting course was the second course with many MORE corrals, half of which were still waiting to start; another 10,000 people in various stages of removing clothing and crowding together.
I asked two different volunteers if we started in the other course if our D-chips would still register and our races would be officially timed and got two different answers. This concerned me greatly, but there wasn't much I could do about it other than make sure I time my own race on my own watch. A few seconds later we found ourselves herded into the last corral of the entire race. I just kept thinking about the fact that 24,000 runners would be ahead of us and how much it is going to suck to try and pass slower paced runners the entire race. I looked back at Harrison and he seemed to be as confused as I was with a huge look of pure stress upon his face. A few other runners next to us were in the same situation. Then about 10 of us jumped the fence between the two beginning courses and started jogging past the thousands of runners all clumped together trying to stay warm and waiting for their corrals to get the green light. My morbid mind equated it to a scene in the movie "I Am Legend" where Will Smith is trying to get his family out of New York City. It seemed like a good quarter mile we ran past thousands of runners until we found the front and were immediately stopped by more volunteers. Upon showing them our bibs with our corrals they let us onto the course and said "go ahead and start."
I looked back and could see the endless pack of runners ready to pounce. The start line must be 100 feet wide. Seeing this just behind you and then hearing the dude on the load speaker start a countdown from 10....9....8..... is intimidating as hell. Ahead of us nearly another quarter mile was the official start line for the course we were not supposed to be starting from with nothing but scattered clothing and plastic bags everywhere! 7....6....5....4..... I looked at Harrison and said, "man we gotta get some distance from them," and we picked up the pace a bit. Before leaving the house I incorporated about 10 minutes of stretching into my routine. Harrison did not stretch with the intention of stretching at the start line, not that stretching in 26 degree weather would help. I could see the stress on Harrison's face and noticed how quiet he was being. 3.....2......1......BOOM.... corral G was starting several thousand feet behind us. I looked back and couldn't see them it was so dark. Just knowing how many people were running behind me freaked me out a bit, but I was then distracted by the official start line. We crossed and the clock read a little more than 17-minutes. I started my own watch (yes, TallGuySurfing remembered to wear his watch) and heard a high pitch beep as I crossed, which I hoped was my D-chip registering in the race computers.
Pretty soon we were swallowed up by the biggest crowd of runners I've ever experienced. Instead of the well known sound or pitter-patter of thousands of feet gliding across the pavement I instead noticed a new sound. Something I have never heard before and something hard to describe. It almost sounded like a faint and ill ocean, but in reality was thousands of trash bags, plastic ponchos and aluminum or Mylar blankets swishing and swashing, mushing and mashing as runners found their strides and attempted to stay warm with any means available.
Soon the chaos, loud music, announcers voice and cheering crowd was faint in the distance as I realized the immense distance before me and Harrison became a reality. We had already run more than a mile before even reaching the start line and now, 26.2 miles before us, lay a highly anticipated course that we spent hundreds of hours and months training for (well, Harrison more than me... stupid injury) and never in our wildest dreams would we have known it would all start like this.
Stay tuned for Part II coming soon!
*I apologize for my absence from the blogsphere the past two days. My only excuse is being slammed with work, not muscle soreness as it was nothing as bad as I had expected. More on that in part II of course!