There is a long stretch of road after leaving the backstage area. It can be really boring for some people since there aren’t any spectators for about a half mile. There were plenty of TNT coaches along this part though. They were cheering on all of us.
Once we got near the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian, the crowds grew again. There were characters on the golf course in their Argyle sweaters. And not too much further was the the half way mark!!!
Around the time I was reaching the halfway point, a coach from the Maryland TNT chapter hopped out on the course with me to check how I was doing. I was feeling okay, but I was starting to get really hungry. Nothing I was carrying on me would be enough to satisfy me either. What I was really craving was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but that would have to wait til the finish line. The coach told me that food wasn’t too far ahead and she wished me luck before sending me on my way.
Just around mile 14 was the food I was promised. They were handing out whole bananas. I was worried that it wouldn’t settle well with my stomach, but as soon as I took my first bite I knew I would be okay. I ate about ⅔ of the banana and tossed the rest.
During the long trek from the Magic Kingdom to the Animal Kingdom, Disney provided lots of entertainment. There were a lot of characters, the tacky tourists, and “Vladimir” from the Hollywood Studios. He even recognized me from our meeting in the parks earlier in the weeks! When I say the trek between these two parks was long, I mean it really felt like it was taking forever. It was really only about two miles from when you leave the monorail resort area. There are no spectators on this portion of the course though, so you start to feel pretty lonely out there.
I was very thankful when the Cast Members welcomed me to Animal Kingdom. I had just passed mile 16 when we officially entered the backstage area. We entered Animal Kingdom at the back of the park between Africa and Asia and turned towards Expedition Everest. Then we headed through Dinoland and out of the park behind the Dino Institute. We weren’t in the park for too long, but knowing how warm the park can get, I was thankful that we were our of there quickly. I loved that I was doing this part of the course during the day. I had just done it during the Wine & Dine half and it was a lot more fun this time around.
As soon as we left Animal Kingdom, we reached another water stop and this time they gave us some soaked sponges. That was very refreshing to be able to wipe off my face and neck. It was starting to get warm enough so I took off my running jacket and tied it around my waist. I love wearing this jacket because it doesn’t slip around when I tie around my waist unlike some other jackets I could wear.
The course turned to go passed the gates of Animal Kingdom where there were tons of cheering spectators again, including some friends who had Twizzlers. I grabbed one to snack on. Thankfully nothing seemed to be disagreeing with my stomach during this race. In the parking lot at Animal Kingdom, there was a high school band and cheerleaders and there were some grave diggers out there. Digging a grave of course.
Before long we were on Osceola Parkway and on our way to the Studios. I think this part of the course was even more boring than the part between Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. For about 2 miles, you head east. There were some performers along the course, included some people on a trampoline and a few DJs.
Just after mile 20, the course jumps over to the westbound side of the road and you start the long out-and-back portion of the course. My coach, Elizabeth, joined me here and told me she was with me until the end. At this point in time, I looked at the clock and at how much time I had left and how many more miles I had to complete and for the first time during the race, I felt confident that I could finish! I knew I could comfortably complete 6 mile in the more than 90 minutes I had left. With that in mind, the out-and-back portion of the course was a piece of cake.
For a brief few minutes, I was back on World Drive before heading onto another exit ramp for the turn into Hollywood Studios. There was a nice surprise in the backstage area of the Studios. Chocolate!!! I grabbed one from a volunteer and when I saw that it was a Krackle bar, I professed my undying love and devotion to the volunteer.
Compared to the Wind & Dine half, the course in the Studios was nice and easy. You head through the costuming tunnel from the Backlot Tour, and then turn out onto the Streets of America. After heading down the New York Streets, you go in front of the ABC Commissary and passed the Hat. A quick jaunt down Hollywood Boulevard and suddenly I was outside of the park and heading towards the Boardwalk Resort.
I love this portion of the course. Even when I am not staying at an Epcot area resort, I always find myself in this area. There were lots of fans along this portion of the course. Probably the most memorable moment here was seeing a woman in a wheelchair who was holding a sign that “I don’t know you stranger, but I am PROUD of you.”
You enter Epcot near the International Gateway. Once I made it into the UK, one of my other coaches, Aram, joined us and he said he was sticking with me too! He had already finished, but he came back into the park and waited for me. His wife and my roommate were waiting for me just before the finish line.
This was the moment I had been dreaming about. The World Showcase. Whenever I would get bored on a treadmill, or frustrated during a run, I would visualize this moment. People cheering me on while I was in my last mile of the marathon. It was just like I thought it would be. Well, except I had wasn’t running. I had given up on running when I knew that I was going to make it. I wasn’t trying to get a great time during this race. I was just trying to finish. And at this point I was soaking in every moment. Aram even offered to get me a beer for the finish line (and don’t think I didn’t consider the offer)!
When I passed Mexico and made the turn towards Spaceship Earth I started to get teary again. I couldn’t believe I was almost finished! I saw Todd, Cheryl, John and Shalon one more time and Todd snapped a few more pictures of me. And then I saw my Mom! She had made the trip just so she could see me do the race. It was so exciting to see her there. She was waiting in almost the exact same place when she saw me during my first half marathon almost 2 years earlier. she was cheering and even though I couldn’t see, I’m pretty sure she was crying. (I get that from her!) Aram went with her to help her find me near the finish line and Elizabeth and I headed backstage for the last .2 miles.
The Gospel choir was there singing and the crowds were loud. It was great! Elizabeth told me to go ahead and run to the finish. I somehow summoned the energy for my legs and managed to run across the finish line. I headed towards the medals and even though one of the volunteers tried to give me my medal, I knew that Chris L. (NDU#8) was waiting to give me my medal. I found him and he put the medal around my neck before giving me a huge hug. We both started crying of course! Once he let me go, I turned around to find Mel there to give me a hug too! I cried some more and she made me promise not to ever leave her to do something crazy like a marathon again. I agreed! She made sure to let me know that her husband and the baby had come to see me too. It felt so great to have so many friends there to support me during the race.
After the race, I couldn’t stop moving and made my way to get my snack bag and my checked bag. I made my way over to the TNT tent to check in and waited for everyone to make their way to me. I was certainly done moving!
To this day, I can’t believe that I finished the race. I have my 26.2 pin from TNT and my Mickey medal! What really hit home was when I went into my Twitter profile and changed it from “wannabe marathoner” to “marathoner.” I haven’t completely ruled out another marathon, but to say that I have completed one makes me incredibly happy!