It started as a joke and became a quest. A quest to run not one but four half marathons during 2013. As I approached the start line last Saturday night, I couldn't bring myself to claim the goal as achieved just yet; nope, not until I finished.
But I'm getting ahead of myself, aren't I?
On Saturday night, November 9, the same crew with whom I travelled to Florida back in February - Linda, Shelly and Di - and I returned to another RunDisney start line, this time for the Wine & Dine Half Marathon. Thirteen-point-one miles, through the night, starting at 10 p.m.
|Linda, Me, Shelly and Di, ready to begin our race.|
For Disney races, you arrive literally hours before the start of your wave. I kinda like this, because it allows me to chill without the stress of getting where I need to be. And to us, "chill" means sitting in the grass, applying acupressure to each other's hands, and taking liberal potty breaks. Seriously, we have tiny bladders.
|Di and Linda, hand massage.|
Running at night is something I really enjoy. There's something about the night air, the stars and the freedom of the shadows that just feels right to me, so in a way this was totally my race. I started out running slowly, according to plan. My first mile went by without me even really noticing, in 14 minutes. Yes, slow, but right in my proper wheelhouse. I was saving my energy. I was running this race without any GPS feedback, relying on my own ability to do math at each mile marker, so I really didn't know how fast I was going along the way; I was just joyfully running. It felt great.
The race begins at the Wide World of Sports complex, and heads out along Osceola Parkway toward the Animal Kingdom. By the time you reach mile 4, you're deep within the theme park, and it's dark, and there are a lot of people. But you just keep running. Mile 2 was 14:34; Mile 3, 15:01 (damn, I was slowing down); Mile 4, 15:03. Okay. Conserving energy. We're in the middle third now, time to pick it up.
Leaving the Animal Kingdom via the parking lot (Mile 5), we ran back along Osceola (Miles 6 and 7) to World Drive (Mile 8) and onto Buena Vista (Mile 9), finally entering Disney's Hollywood Studios. I sped up along this stretch - Mile 5, 14:14; Mile 6, 13:37; Mile 7, 13:27 (my fastest mile). And then I started to run out of steam. Mile 8, 15:41. Mile 9, 14:48. My playlist kept me motivated and I just ... kept ... running.
|Running through the Hollywood Studios.|
I can't believe the smile, either.
Right around Mile 10, inside the Studios, we entered the Osborne Family Festival of Dancing Lights. Or as I like to call it, "Every Christmas light ever." Usually when you walk through here, people are shoulder-to-shoulder and it's not all that much fun. This was amazing; I felt like I was flying through here. (Spoiler alert: I wasn't.) Mile 10, 15:27. I would not go any faster than this for the remainder of the race.
The thing is, I knew I was slow. I knew there was a chance I wouldn't beat my abysmal Princess time from last February. And it didn't matter. I was having a blast. Literally every picture the photographers caught of me, with the exception of one that appears to showcase all nine of my chins, shows a happy, smiling Maggie. I was joyful and strong through the entire race. We left the Studios at Mile 11 (16:42), wound through the Yacht and Beach Club resorts, the Boardwalk at Mile 12 (15:45), and into Epcot, winding around Spaceship Earth at mile 13 (15:43); 13.1 was just outside Epcot.
|Me, with Spaceship Earth behind me.|
Did I have my perfect race? No. Disney races can be tough. The camber of the road slopes in a way that makes my plantar fascia cry. My left ankle went numb at mile 2, but it didn't hurt, and I never stopped feeling awesome despite that bit of weirdness. So I just kept going, listening to my body and walking when necessary, but for the most part, I powered forward.
|I don't know who the walking chick is,|
but the girl on the right? She's one
damn happy runner.
I don't think I have ever finished a long-distance race quite so happy, and it had very little to do with how well (or not) that I did. I finished in 3:20:12, fully eight minutes slower than my performance in the Great Western Half last May. But I had so much fun, it didn't really matter. Each Disney race, I have improved a bit; my first Princess was 3:24, my second 3:22, and this one 3:20 ... so if I improve by two minutes each race, it will only take me 12 more to get under three hours!
More than 2,000 people out of 12,143 were slower than I was. More than 150 in my age group and more than 1,600 women were slower than I was. Not that comparison is the point, but it does help me to see where I stack up. Either I'm getting better, or everyone else is getting worse.
But that's beside the point. The point - the only point - in all of this, in running to begin with, is to give your all. Yours. Not someone else's. Part of what made this race so fantastic for me, personally, was that I felt good the entire time (right up until I stopped running, but that's another story for another time.) I pushed when I could, I held back when I felt it appropriate, and I left nothing out on the course. Usually runners gauge their personal record, or PR, on beating a previous time. But this race, this magical night through three Disney theme parks, was my half marathon PR in a way that really mattered. I may not have made my time goal, but I did have the best time ever out there on the course.
And isn't that what it's really all about?