It’s hard to believe, but just three days ago, I toed the starting line of my 8th runDisney event of the year, the 2013 Wine and Dine Half Marathon (recap here), capping off an excellent season of magical miles. While it would be nearly impossible to pick a favorite race of the year (see this page for all my runDisney recaps) this one will definitely stay in my mind for a long time to come – and it’s taking me these past few days to collect my thoughts, and to share just why it was so different, yet just as rewarding…so here goes:
The Mental Game
My very first runDisney event was the 2011 Walt Disney World Half Marathon – it was also my first 13.1 distance, and though I had stuck to my training plan, and felt good going into it, there were so many unknowns – how would my pacing be? Would I be able to sacrifice time to walk through water stations? On top of it all, I had just gotten over the flu and due to a combination of other reasons, my longest training run had topped out at 8 miles. Still, armed with my CamelBak, and non-technical running clothes (I was a newbie) I managed to run a 2:04 and seriously thought I was one of the last finishers.
Oh, and that was the last time I was in Corral D.
Now, I don’t say this in any way to de-value anyone’s corral placement, but starting in a later corral was definitely a different feeling – I started there in this race because I was pacing my friend J, and in runDisney events, you can always move back, but not move forward. I am always in Corral A (due to times I submit from my ‘faster’ efforts) so I never realized that just being in a later corral – whether that’s Corral B, or Corral J – messes with your mind! Maybe it’s the fact that you associate the Corrals with grades, like in school (can you tell I am a bit of a perfectionist) or that you mentally size yourself up with fellow Corral runners, but being in Corral D this time – I have to admit, it made me realize just how different a race experience can be for the wide spectrum of participants – for better and for worse.
Here’s two examples:
#1 – Mile Markers – I know that this will sound kind of silly, but when I am running, math doesn’t really make sense in my mind (who am I kidding, it often doesn’t – but I digress). Although I was wearing my Garmin and could clearly see my splits, seeing much higher numbers at each Mile Marker was a little trippy.
#2 – Course Support – My weekend race roomie started in the last corral, and placed last in her age group – but she still went out there and ACCOMPLISHED something huge. I was so proud of her! But, I was totally bummed when I found out that after she finished, there were no more free drinks. I realize that there are time parameters in place, but seeing as we all paid the same race registration fee, it was sad to hear that.
I had to sneak in a hashtag, of course (Social Media nerd) but this is one that I just could not get out of my mind – something I like to call “Overheard at runDisney.” You see, before the race, after the race, and even during the race, I relate very closely to Roz from Monster’s Inc:
…and along with ALWAYS WATCHING, I am ALWAYS LISTENING. You see, as in most races, runDisney discourages the use of headphones (for safety) but I have to admit, running this event without any musical accompaniment did more than kept my ears open to hearing announcements or warnings from other runners, but it created an atmosphere that wasn’t always the most encouraging.
You see, when we were crossing back toward Hollywood Studios, we could see, on the other side of the roadway, the motorcade, the participants bringing up the rear, and yes, those infamous balloon ladies (see P’s post on them for more). As we proceeded forward, we even saw the busses and vans that would act as “sweepers.” I had never, ever seen any of these elements at a runDisney race before, and personally, it was an educational moment for me, but looking around, I was extremely thankful that most others were wearing headphones when I heard comments like these from people running nearby us:
- “Ugh, look at those people WALKING! Why would they even try?”
- “What’s the point? Why don’t those people back there give up?”
- “Haha! Look who’s about to get picked up.”
I was in disbelief. If I had not been centering all my attention on the well-being and progress of my friend that I was pacing, my bitten tongue would have been lashing out at more than a few people around me. Sure, we might not all be fast runners, but who are we to judge anyone who was out there, working hard to accomplish a goal? We don’t know everyone’s story. Heck, do we always even know our own story?
That Same Feeling
Despite those negative things, for us – in Corral D, anyway – it all came full circle. When we entered Epcot, Sara Barellis’ “Brave” came on, and that, coupled with the swirling lights and roar of the crowds – still brought me to tears. For me, it was the 12th half marathon finish line I was about to cross, and as in each time, it was, at that very moment in time, one hundred thousand emotions all at once.
This wasn’t J’s victory that she had hoped for, but crossing that finish line with her, I couldn’t have been more proud – and that’s what I think brings me back each time. Overcoming adversity, fear, disappointment – they’re all parts of real life – but for one singular moment, we can rise above it all.
…and I wouldn’t change that for the world.