Am I Goofy or What? Race Recap Part II: Walt Disney World Marathon

In Case You Missed It:
Read the first part of my race recap HERE.

I woke up even earlier on Sunday morning. The wake-up call came at 2:00 a.m. (and my cell phone and travel alarm clock went off too – just in case). I hadn’t got much sleep. I think I tossed and turned for about two and a half hours – the only two and a half hour I spent in bed. I hit the snooze button on my alarm for 15 more minutes.

I had to get up. I rolled out of bed put my feet on the floor. My first few steps were painful. And so were the ones following that. The bottoms of my feet literally ached with every step I took from the bed to the bathroom. Walking on my blister was like walking on shards of glass. Cold relief on the bathroom floor, but only for a few moments.

I got dressed in the dark. My quads, calves, ankles and even my knees were feeling fine; but my feet throbbed. They were swollen and read and it was not pleasant stuffing them into my second pair of shoes. I hobbled to the lobby and outside of the hotel. It seemed to take forever. Not a good sign, but I remained positive, convinced that once I got the blood flowing things would feel better. After all, I did just roll out of bed in the middle of the night to run a marathon.

I caught the first bus at 3:00 a.m. in an effort to avoid another traffic jam and having to rush to the starting corrals, which I was no thankful for even though it meant I had to get up early. Naturally, there was no traffic and I got to the baggage check in about 11 minutes. Perfect. I found a bench to get off my feet. It was busy in the Family Reunion area – people rushing around to get their gear together and still others lying on blankets trying to catch the last few minutes of sleep. I think it was too early for anyone to be talking much as it was pretty quiet except for the DJ who was literally blaring any and all obnoxious pop songs.

As I was getting ready to head into the gear check when I remembered Stephanie from Running to Health was running her first marathon today. I texted her to see where she was and as it turns out, she was right in front of the Information Tent, which was right in front of me! I navigated the thickening crowd searching for her when I heard someone call out my name. It was Stephanie, one of her friends and her brother, who was also running the Goofy Challenge. She said she wasn’t feeling well due to a cold and was a little nervous. It was so awesome meeting Stephanie! She was nice and encouraging and everything she is on her blog – a great friend to have on your side. I love this picture of us:

I waved goodbye to Stephanie, wishing her well and checked my gear. Just outside of the tent, I found a self-service aid tent offering bandages, tape, Tylenol, Biofreeze, Vaseline and a myriad of other quick fixes. I grabbed some bandages and Vaseline and a chair. I took off my shoe and smothered my left toe and foot in Vaseline. As I was about to apply the bandages, a couple came up to me and asked me if I had a blister. They were running the Goofy too. I said yes and they told me not to bandage it, but to tapeit. They helped me and I did. Between that and the Vaseline, the friction on my blister was reduced, but my feet were still swollen. I resolved not to care. I was going whether it hurt or not.

I made it into the corral by 5:00 a.m. and waited again for the wheelchair start at 5:30. The waves seemed to move a lot faster today, maybe there were less people running the marathon. I looked back and was able to see the end of the race and the balloon pacers behind me. I couldn’t do that yesterday. My goal was to stay ahead of them and worst case, with them. Start out strong and make my gains early. I could walk some of the second half if I needed to, but I wanted to run hard for the first five to six miles. Mickey gave the go-ahead and we were off!

I ran hard for the first four miles. My feet were still hurting. I started to fall back behind the pack I was running with. Quickly. A guy on a bicycle rode up next to me (I learned later he was part of the pacing team, we’ll call him Chase) and asked me how I was doing. I smiled and said great! “Really?” he asked me, “Because your gait says differently. I don’t want to see you hurt. It’s not worth it.” I’m going to keep going. “Let me know if you need anything, we’re here,” he said as he rode ahead, stopping to check on the next runner ahead of me. Some other bikes coasted by. I felt like I was moving slower already. Keep it together. Don’t stop running.

Epcot (for the first time), done. Magic Kingdom, up  next. Then Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and back to Epcot. No problem, keep running. You’ve got this.

I fell in with a new pack of runners. We were slow and running just with the pacers, but we were doing it. I came to rely on this new group of friends for the next several miles into the Magic Kingdom and the halfway mark. There was Manny who was also running the Goofy and he told me how this was his first half and full marathon. There was Billy the Kid who was only 14 and running the marathon relay with his mom. He was running the first half, we heard his parents cheering as we neared the Kingdom. He kept repeating that all he had to do was stay with the balloons. “You’ve got this, Kid,” I told him over and over again. He told me he was chaffing and it hurt like a bitch.

There was Molly who carried the balloons and normally runs at a 14:00 minute pace. Today she was walking a 16:00 minute mile. She paces the Disney races every year. She talked about the rainy training season they had. And several others who helped me through those miles with little words of encouragement or stories from their own lives.

It was hot as we came into the Magic Kingdom. A lot hotter than any of the weather reports had stated it would be. The sun was glaring off of the blacktop and I wasn’t dressed for warmer temperatures. I tried to ignore the heat and the pain. 13.1 down, 13.1 more to go. The Kid was gone. I know he turned off to finish and made his parents proud. Manny was behind me and working hard to keep up. I waved at him, yelling at him to keep it up and he started running again. “We’ve got this, Manny!!!!” I screamed.

The next three or four miles were surreal. Somehow, I managed to pick up my pace to a 14:00 and I was flying. I was feeling confident again and I couldn’t have stopped even if I wanted to. The pacers faded from my sight, a good sign. I kept running hard.

In the Magic Kingdom

Then, I crashed. My pace slowed and I was back with pacers, Manny and the others. They caught up quick. Chase zipped by and asked me how I was feeling. “You’re gaits worse, my friend and your limping. Tell me what hurts.” My feet. My foot, a blister. All this for a blister? “Do you need a medic, Sara?” No. Just let me run.

The pacers were ahead of me as we ran into the Animal Kingdom. It was hot and I smelled the animals. Some were out with their handlers to greet us. I vividly remember seeing an owl what seemed like inches from my face, but that is about it. I passed another checkpoint and saw the Pace Crew waving red flags. I was behind. Keep running.

I looked behind me and saw bikes only. A lotof them. I started to get scared and tried to run faster. One of them rode up to me. His name was Joe. “You know there is a hard cut coming up next.” What does that mean? “They’re making cuts after the next mile. If you can, catch up to the balloons and you will be safe for a few more miles.” I’m never safe. I can’t possibly catch up to them. They’re wayahead of me. “Yeah, they are, but you can try your best.” You’re right, Joe. I kicked it.

That mile, Mile 17, was an 11:30 pace. I caught up to the balloons, just as they made a cut. I looked behind me and saw the gate to the Animal Kingdom coming down. I saw runners on the other side, unable to pass, including Manny. I waved to him frantically. “You GO, Sara!” he screamed. “YOU GO!”

I turned my focus back to what was ahead of me. My phone was ringing and it was my husband asking where I was because he just sawthem make a cut. I blubbered something about a fast mile. “Hang up the phone,” he said, “I see you.” He was there running beside me with the pace team and I started wailing at what I know was the top of my lungs. “This is my husband and I did it! This is my husband and I did it!” I don’t know how many times I said that. My sister was there too. They had bananas and an icy cold wash cloth. It was heavenly. It was perfect. I continued to wail and cry and say I couldn’t believe I caught up to the balloons. My husband and Mollie faded from my side.

We were on our own again. I knew all I had to do was keep up with the balloons. You did the hard part. Now stay here. Just take it easy. You did the hard part. Another mile down. And another.

Joe was riding next to me again. “Sara!!” he exclaimed “You did it! You’re here.” You! I wailed and retold the whole Mile 17 story again. I was crying again Joe was hooting and hollering. I did it, Joe, because of you. I had to try, just like you said. And here I am. “You keep running, girl, keep running.” Joe rode off.

It was going into Mile 20 now and was steadily going uphill. I started noticing the pain again. Still. It was hot. And I was thirsty. Someone rode up next to me on a bike. On both sides. On the right, it was Chase. “Sara,” he said softly “Mile 20 we’re making a cut, but I’m not pulling you yet. You have to run, though, run hard.” I started running. The balloons were gone. Where did they go? When did I get away from them? I must be behind. On my other side was Adam, another pacer. “Are you thirsty?” Yes, God yes. “Hang on, Sara, hang on.” Chase was gone. Adam was gone. Checking on other runners. Someone ahead of me, who I passed, was complaining that the bikes were too much pressure. No, I thought. I wouldn’t be here without them. Keep running.

Through Mile 20 and more red flags. I kept running. No one told me to stop. Adam was ahead of me, riding towards me with a cup of PowerAde. Thank God. No, thank Adam. I chugged it and felt some new energy. “You’ve got this, Sara. If you can make it to Mile 22 then you’ll be safe.” I’m never safe. But, I made it to Mile 17 I cried hysterically! “You did! And that was awesome! You can do this too.” I can? “I believe in you. Look at me – I’m riding a bike. You’re doing all the work here. You’ve got this.” I do. Adam rode with me for most of Mile 21. He was talking, telling me how proud he was.

It was then that I knew I wouldn’t make it to 26.2 miles. I knew my race would be over at Mile 22. And, perhaps most surprising to myself, I felt a bit of relief. My feet were hurting horribly and my blister felt like it had consumed most of my left foot. I kept running. Then, out of nowhere, I started crying again. I had to do this. For my Mom. “Sara, you did do this. You are doing this,” Adam said. He was still there? For how long? A car rode up next to me. A squad to be more specific. No, I thought. “You’re hurting, Sara. How bad is it?” How did you know my name?

“She’s been limping since Mile 4 and this girl is still running.” It was Chase. He was on my other side. Mile 22 and a bus. I kept running. Chase circled in front of me and put his arms out to gently stop me. I fell into them. “I know,” he said as he hugged me, “I am so proud of you, Sara.” The next thing I knew Joe and Adam and Chase were all off their bikes circling around me cheering and clapping. I was swallowed whole in one gigantic hug. I think I was still on my feet. Joe put his arms around me and told me, “I am so so proud of you. You did this. YOU did this.” I think I was crying or wailing or both. My feet wouldn’t work. I mumbled something about my mother.

Joe grabbed me by the shoulders and looked me in the eye and said, “Sara, your mother is so proud of you right now. Don’t you ever doubt that. You may not be okay with this today or tomorrow or the next day or the days after that, but one day, you will see that you did do this.” I did? But, it’s only Mile 22. I failed. “No you didn’t. NO YOU DID NOT. And if nothing else, me and these guys don’t ever forget how proud we are of you.” I was crying. I think Joe put walked me onto the bus. He said something under his breath to the Guest Services man waiting for me on the bus. He quickly grabbed some PowerAde and started asking me to drink it. Did I look bad? I must. The driver was staring at me.

I remember sitting on the bus as it started moving. The man who was with me was talking to me about how I was not a failure and how I gave it my all and that is what mattered. I looked at him and asked him if he ever dropped out of a race. Remind me never to ask that again. He said he was a professional runner in his “other” job and that he had never attempted the Goofy because it was one really tough race. He said the conditions were about the worst you could ask for on any given race day – unexpected heat and fast. He said he wouldn’t even go out for a few miles on a day like today. He said, “You can come back next year and really show Goofy whose boss!” Hell No. I’m never doing this again. “Of course you will,” he mused. He told me every great runner has a race they didn’t finish – they couldn’t finish or weren’t permitted to finish. “It makes you real.” I wasn’t before? What happens next?

I called my husband and told him I was on the bus. Dead silence. He didn’t have to say anything to let me know he was worried. I told him I would see him at the Finish Line. He said he would make his way there.

I got to the Finish Line and the aid tent. Someone helped me off the bus and sat me in a chair. A nurse was taking my shoes off and looking at my toes. Ew. I wouldn’t want to touch those right now. Adhesive tape on my skin being torn off. They had no choice. I winced and wailed some more. “Your toe is raw, my friend,” he said. Really? I had no idea. Ouch. Ouch. What are you doing to it? “Why did you tape it so much?” I don’t know! Water. I need water.

Someone put a Marathon medal in my hand. I don’t deserve this, man, I didn’t finish the race. “You ran the race. We want you to hold onto the memory.” I didn’t finish the race.

“Who here is Sara?” someone yelled. I looked around. There was only one other person in the medical tent. Me? Me! It was a woman wearing a pace jacket and she had a phone in her hand. “Call for you!” Who? What? Me? Me!

I grabbed the phone. It was Joe! “Always remember I am proud of you,” he told me. I don’t remember what I said.

I hobbled to the Family Reunion area, stubbornly refusing any assistance in the wheeled or human form and fell into my husband’s arms. He was with my sister and we didn’t say much. I think I recounted the whole race as we inched back to the hotel. Everything hurt. My feet were huge, my blister had consumed most of the bottom of my left foot and all of my pinky toe. It looked hideous. My very first battle wound. “How did you run on that?” someone asked me. I just did was my response.

I met my Dad at the hotel who assured me that he and my mother were both very proud of me. I told him I knew. “I didn’t quit, Dad.” I don’t remember what else we said.

I managed a smile when it was all over. Maybe it was the whiskey.

I didn’t make the Goofy Challenge – only 35 of 39.3 miles – but I would not trade this experience for the world. It was amazing. And totally worth the pain (I still can’t walk right and my toe is a mess and I have a horrible cold).

And yes, I will be back to show Goofy whose boss. I can’t let him be the one that got away after all.

Disney Medals.
My now full Medal Display!

Until the next mile marker, 


Am I Goofy or What? Race Recap Part 1: Walt Disney World Half Marathon

We arrived in Orlando, Florida last Thursday to sunshine, blue skies and 71 degrees. Hello, Florida. Goodbye, Ohio. This time I think I might break up with you for good. We checked into Disney’s Beach Club and dropped a few things off at our rooms. Here is the view from our balcony on Thursday afternoon:

We headed over to Beaches and Cream (a resort soda shop) and ordered lunch before we did anything else. Here we are, sunshine really does wonders for your mood in a short amount of time:

Me & Michael


Dad & my sister Mollie

Then we headed over to my favorite theme park – Epcot. It was perfectly pretty once the sun set:

And we visited some of the countries, including Norway where we rode the boat, narrowly escaping the trolls, so they say:

Yes, that is his happy face. Picture Number 11 of 5,497.

“It’s for my blog,” pretty much became the reason for every picture I needed. Thank goodness I have a husband who understands (or just ignores me when other people are staring at me taking pictures of everything).

Friday morning we woke up early and headed over to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for packet pick-up. It was only about 10:00 in the morning, but the bus was jam-packed and the lines were already getting long. I didn’t have to wait very long to get my bib, but I did take my time browsing the RunDisney shop and the Expo.

That’s me!


Mollie & Me at packet pick-up.
Dad & Me after the Expo.

I was nervous and my stomach was upset most of Friday, which I gather is just going to be typical for me the day before a big race the biggest race of my life. I kept my diet pretty close to normal and tried to eliminate fried foods on Friday. Destination racing always proves to be a challenge in terms of food and hydrating. Thankfully, Disney allows water bottles in the park so I started drinking water early on and didn’t stop most of the day. It probably would have been smart to stay off my feet on Friday and hang around the pool, but….it was DISNEY! Mollie, Michael and I went to Hollywood Studios and rode Aerosmith’s Rockin’ Roller Coaster and the Tower of Terror. Neither had a long wait and it was totally worth it. I’m guessing all of the other runners were resting, hence, no line for me. Score?!

Michael & Me at Hollywood Studios.

 And we walked along the pier at our resort. Again, why was I walking? I don’t know now?!

 And I convinced my husband that I needed more pictures, of course. This time it was an ordeal:

I don’t remember when I went to bed on Friday night, but I do know that the wake-up call to get up and get ready came at 2:45 a.m. Yes, it was that early. We wanted to be down on the bus by 3:30 a.m. I don’t think I got more than a couple hours of sleep. Mollie and I left the hotel and waited for about 15 minutes for the bus to pick us up. We chatted with other runners in front of us, each of whom were eagerly checking their watches to see how late it was getting. We had to be on a bus no later than 4:00 a.m. and in the corrals no later than 5:00 a.m. I kept hearing it was at least a 20 minute walk (!?!) from the gear check to the corrals. It was, they weren’t kidding. Now I was nervous too and checking my Garmin. At least I had it, I watched a couple of people sprint back to the hotel to get a forgotten item.

Finally the bus arrived and we boarded, only to get stuck in a gigantic traffic jam for over half an hour. It was nearly 4:30 a.m. when we unloaded and headed for the gear check, dropped off our bags and started the long walk march to the corrals. It was crowded and I could barely see or hear anything but my sister. She stopped to use the bathroom and I stopped to use the bathroom. It felt like we were getting nowhere fast, but we finally made it to our corral – H for last! – in time for the 5:30 a.m. wheelchair start. 

Me & Mollie in the starting corral.

So, it was now 5:35 a.m. and Donald started Wave 1. It was 6:17 a.m. before Wave 8 started – that was us. I think I was tired before the race even started! But, in typical Disney style, fireworks went off for each wave and Donald, Mickey and Goofy were there to cheer on all the runners. I felt like Disney made sure the last runners knew they were just as important as the first runners.

We were off and headed out toward the Magic Kingdom at the start of the race. Mollie and I separated fairly early in the race. I was feeling pretty good at first. It felt great to run and work out the kinks and stiffness from flying, walking around, riding and sleeping in a strange bed. After the first couple of miles, I reminded myself to slow down (more) and take it easy. This was a short run compared to the marathon in the morning. I wanted to save what I had. My plan was to relax, have fun, go slow and enjoy what was most likely a once in a lifetime race for me! I started run-walking intervals as we neared the Magic Kingdom:


I was still having pain in my right foot. And around Mile 4 or 5 when I was warmed up and the adrenaline wore off, I started to feel it. I know I started compensating for the pain by putting more of my weight on my left foot and I could feel a blister forming underneath my left pinky toe. I rarely got blisters (this would be the time, of course), but I figured it was no big deal and kept running – and compensating. I saw my MIT friend, Kim on the sidelines cheering around this time and she asked if I was okay. I said my foot was really hurting. She told me to take it slow and see how I was feeling, that no race was worth an injury. Kim was sidelined from running the Goofy with us due to a stress fracture that was diagnosed in December. I knew how badly she wanted to be out there running that day. I’m thankful she was there to cheer us on because I know that couldn’t have been easy at all. To see someone I knew at that time, though – especially a training friend – was more than I ever could have asked for.

It was completely awesome running down Main Street U.S.A and in front of the castle. To run through it was even more spectacular. Definitely something I will never forget:

Running through Cinderella’s Castle was emotional for me. I was thinking of my Mom because it was her favorite thing at Disney. She loved Disney, especially the castle when it was decorated and lit up. I am smiling in this picture because I like to think a small piece of her was there with me:

As we left the Magic Kingdom, nearing Miles 8-9, I started looking for my Dad and husband who would have more Gu for me. I saw them! And, my sister! I thought for sure I wouldn’t see her until the end of the race. She said she was struggling and had slowed down. You wouldn’t know either of us was hurting from this photo, right?!? 

The last four miles were pretty tough. We kept ahead of the 16-minute pace per mile, but just barely. I did my best to smile as we entered Epcot and neared the Finish Line:

And, we finished! For me, it was my eighth half marathon. My official time was 03:35:29 (Remember, I have 26.2 to run the following day!)

And, I hurt. I think more than I was willing to admit at that time. I immediately wanted to sit down and get off my foot. My blister was a lot bigger than I had originally thought and appeared to be taking over the bottom of my left foot already.

Once I was able to move, it wasn’t pretty. I hobbled back to the hotel with the help of my husband and immediately took an ice bath. My first and only, I will say. THAT was horrible! By this time, my blister had developed a pulse of it’s own (for the first time, that is) and my husband did his best to patch it up with mole skin. It was pretty big already. 

Ice baths are NOT fun!

And, of course, I still didn’t stay off it. Again, was I thinking?! No, it was DISNEY! We went to Chef Mickey’s to celebrate:

Another 13.1 done!

My salad.
If you’ve never tried the Napkin Dance, you’re missing out!

 And, we had a visit from Goofy himself – LOVE this picture!

And then, my husband and I hobbled around the Magic Kingdom and visited Snow White’s Scary Adventure (my favorite!), the Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain and a few others. It made for a long, but completely happy evening. 

I went to bed (far too late, I might add) with a smile on my face, a throbbing toe and foot and truly believing that I would start and finish 26.2 more miles come sunrise!

Until the next [magical] mile marker,