Sunday, January 26, 2014

Letting it Sink in...

On January 12th, I completed a goal.

A big goal....a goal that was fairly high on my Bucket List.

One that I had been actively working on for over nine months.

One that I had first made when I was a Senior in High School, but had to let go of for a while.  I got the idea when about a month before graduation, a teacher was asking us what we wanted to accomplish in our lives that was not related to work or family.  He listed a bunch of things, but only one item stood out.  Run a Marathon.  This quickly went out the window as a not going to happen item, when five days after Graduation, I had the first of three knee surgeries.  After the third one, I was told due to tight hamstrings, weak quadriceps, and bad form, I needed to stop running.


Twenty years later, things had changed.  My hamstrings while still a battle to stay loose are better; my quadriceps are stronger; and most importantly, a trainer helped me to change my running strike.  I was a toe runner, basically, never having a heel strike.  Not good, as it added strain to my knees.

As documented here, I started with a 5k and permission from my knee surgeon.  I progressed slowly and with no pain.  The twenty year gap was needed, but not for the reasons I thought.

I had a training plan that physically seemed possible and gave me some extra time.  The part I did not expect was the psychological aspect.  It was tougher and harder than the physical part.

This is where that 20 year gap came in handy.  I had toughened up, gotten more dedicated when things went wrong, and been introduced to meditation.  In fact, if you recall, in 2013 I had set a resolution to meditate every day.  There are decisions that when you look back on them seem really really smart, and this was one of them.  I wish I could say that I knew the effects meditation would have on my running, but I had no clue.

I picked the Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando, Florida on January 12, 2014.  I picked it for a couple of reasons--#1.  It is recommended for runners as a good beginner marathon.  #2.  I love Disney and the course went thru the four parks.  #3.  It was a fairly flat course.  I found out that running downhill for an extended period of time bugs my knees.

Training was at times frustrating, exhilarating, tiring, and energizing.  It ran the spectrum of emotions.  I started to struggle once my training runs were past 18 miles.  I had to slow WAY WAY down in order to survive.  That was not easy for me to accept.  Although, my only goal was to finish the marathon, when I first started increasing my miles, I had a plan.  I was aiming for about a 4:30 to 5 hour marathon.  Reality and acceptance told me it was going to take a bit longer.

If you are wondering when I am going to talk about the actual race, I will...
but I have realized something in the time since the race, the time on course, while a big deal is not what a marathon is all about.  It's the training......because the training makes race day possible.  The race day gets the attention because you are there with a bib with a number on it; thousands of others attempting the achieve the same goal; that lovely medal you get at the end; and the amazing people who cheer you on on course, but you do not cross the finish line without the time and energy put forth in the training.

I have a obnoxious trait that shows up about a couple of days before a race that has a new distance, I start questioning my ability to do it.  I stress and drive people around me CRAZY!!!  This should never happen again, as I have now run races at every distance.  I should of meditated more and just believed more, but the focus I had put on this event started to weigh on me.  I just wanted it over, good or bad, finish or not........the pressure, that was only in my head, had gotten to me.

Now for some race details...
There were 20,000 plus marathon runners at the Walt Disney World Marathon.

In addition to the marathoners, there were 2 crazy groups of people... Group #1 were called Goofy's.  They ran the Half Marathon on Saturday and then the Full Marathon on Sunday.  They totaled around 9,000.  Group #2 were called Dopey's.  They were insane...on Thursday, they ran a 5 K, on Friday, a 10 K, on Saturday, the Half, and on Sunday, the Full..  All totaled they would run/walk 49 plus miles in 4 days.  There were 7,000 of them.

As you can tell, there were a lot of people on course.  All 50 states were represented and all continents, except Antarctica.  We started in waves, but had to be at the start line at 5:30 no matter what wave you were in.

With a 5:30 start time, I was up at 3:20!!!  Me up at 3:20.  It was not pleasant.  I caught a shuttle to take me to the start line at 4 am.  There was security to get thru, stretching to do, bathroom breaks, and calming by family!  I ,then, went to the start line, which ended up being almost 2 miles away.

5:30 am the elite wave left.....

About an hour later, the starting gun for my wave finally went off and I started my marathon.
(FYI, the elite runners were at mile 13 when I started)

To prevent me from starting to fast due to adrenaline and the surge of runners, I planned on a run/walk strategy for the first 3 miles.  It went well.  Then, I went to a slow run phase....

I alternated between the two phases until mile 21...

and my left foot fell asleep.  Not good.  When we were not in the Parks, we were on the roads that connected them, which were angled.  Great for draining water, but after a while not good for runners.

I had officially started my marathon.

Why do I say that?  Marathons are exercises in discipline, dedication, in learning about yourself, and the knowledge of what is temporarily uncomfortable or actually dangerous.

My asleep foot fell into that temporary category.  At a water/aid station, I leaned against a table and lifted my foot and shifted in my shoe and the tingling immediately went away.  No damage, just a fun little quirk I had to work thru.

I slowed WAY WAY WAY down, barely running until mile 25, but I KEPT GOING!

And this is the lesson I learned....
The voice in your head that says you can not do it.

I felt better by the time I got to mile 25 and started slowly running again and ended up running across the finish line with tears streaming down my face as I high fived Minnie Mouse and looked for my mom.

I saw her, threw my hands above my head, and yelled, "I DID IT and NEVER AGAIN!"

Happy Crying at the FINISH Line!!

The next step was to get the finisher medal around my neck.  More tears....

I love that medal...

I was exhausted, but not in pain, which was my goal all along in training.  To finish without pain.  We made our way back to the hotel where I took a much needed shower, changed, and made some phone calls.  I rested but never for too long.  We then went over to Downtown Disney for dinner and to celebrate.

It seemed surreal for about a week, what I accomplished...
like it was someone else who did it or that it was just a dream.

Now, I can say I am a Marathon Finisher!

and no, I will not do it again.

One last thing, even though this post is running long, while many aspects of training and running a Marathon are solitary endeavors, the support and love you get from the people around you are invaluable, so THANK YOU!!  A million times THANK YOU!



  1. Even after reading prep, I still say it was an amazing feat! Good on ya, Tigger.

  2. Thanks JJ and I hope you know that one of the big thank yous at the end was for you!!!


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