Monday, January 09, 2006

Went the Distance

I did it! I finished the 2006 Walt Disney World Marathon, which was my first attempt at the 26.2 mile monster. I got choked up and fought back tears after I crossed the finish line to recieve my finishers' medal, and I'm still riding a wave of emotions as I reflect on this accomplishment.

Going into the race, my goal was simply to finish without walking or stopping. Although I said that I really didn't care what my time would be, I did have a secondary goal of finishing in 5 hours.

Based on my training times leading up the event, I believed my time might actually be in the neighborhood of 5:15 or even 5:30. But after giving Mickey and Minnie Mouse a high-five after the fireworks signaled the start of the race, I felt good and was running at a pace that would actually have me finishing in less than 5 hours.

I tried to temper my excitment, however, because I knew I had a long way to go, and I remembered what I felt like during and after my longest training run of 20 miles. I focused on keeping a nice steady pace. Mile 20 came and went and so did mile 21. I kept waiting to "hit the wall."

At miles 22 and 23 I could tell my pace started to slow. Then I finally "hit the wall" around the middle of mile 24. The last 2.2 miles were gruelling. My pace grew even slower, and I felt like I was merely giving the appearance of running simply because I was moving my arms in rhythm with my shuffling feet.

At the 26 mile marker on the way out of EPCOT Center, a gospel choir was singing. I mustered a little more energy to go the final 385 yards. I scanned the crowd for Scott and Jen who came down to support me but I didn't see them due to the throngs of people. I crossed the finish line in stride but didn't have the enery to raise my arms or celebrate, but when I checked my time I had finished in 4 hours, 44 minutes, and 38 seconds -- 15 minutes less than the 5 hours I wanted to make.

Well, I could go on and on about the marathon, and I'll probably do more posts about it in the coming days. But all in all, it was an exhilerating experience -- running through the four Disney theme parks, having Disney characters in costume along the course, Scott, Jen and the other spectators cheering you on, and of course, the feeling of accomplishment that comes with setting, pursuing and achieving a difficult goal.