As you leave the Magic Kingdom the course once again does it's best to prevent you from running as fast as you possibly can along Floridian Way. The course narrows to about a 10 or a 12-foot width that prevents you from getting into too much of a rhythm.
Because of the narrow course runners are quite bunched up and some tend to run on the grass. I tried to pick my spots and continue as steadily as I could.
So what happened was that I ended up doing something that I try to avoid but frustration took over and I weaved in and out of folks. This is not recommended because it results in running an extra distance...but I did it.
From this point on I found myself stopping at every water stop. It was worth slowing down and making sure that my body was continually hydrated. The water and PowerAde kind of re-energized me too…and I needed all the help I could get.
After passing the Magic Kingdom toll plaza again I saw the princes and the pirates except this time some of them were on the sidelines and runners were stopping to have their pictures taken with Prince Charming and Captain Jack Sparrow.
From that point on, other than seeing Flick near the Tough to be a Bug billboard, there was no entertainment and it was gut time for me.
In January I had stopped running at the10 mile mark. For some reason after 10 miles I felt best to walk a bit and did so before continuing to run.
This time around as I passed the 10-mile mark I felt fine. I surmised that this time I had run a smarter race and had taken advantage of the water stops during this race, something I had not done in January.
By now the sun was out and it was warm so I made a pact with myself that from this point on I would take advantage of every water stop and to make sure I took in fluid.
Before the first hill I grabbed an energy gel and then some water and hoped it would kick in before that nasty mountain.
Now I had been keeping track of my time and knew I was going faster than I had in January but was not really sure as to what my exact time was so I could not let up.
The first “hill” is actually a ramp from World Drive and it goes on forever. Imagine running some 10 plus miles and then having to do a rather long ramp. I've done it four times before but only once was I able to run the entire ramp; it's that long.
This time I had a plan. The ramp banked considerably to the right and of course common sense says run on the inner bank of the curve or ramp because it would be the shorter distance.
I decided to go against that thought process and ran on the outer rim of the ramp. Why did I take this approach? Well in looking at the ramp I noticed that the outer rim somehow did not appear to have that much of an incline as did the inner rim.
Again the argument can be made that says running on the outer room requires you to run a longer distance to get to the top of the ramp…but I needed to try my theory.
My thought was that the outer rim was also higher than the lower rim and it you watched your steps real carefully you would not feel as if you are running uphill as much because frankly…there is no banking of the road on the outer rim.
Well it worked.
I made it to the top of the ramp with much more gas left in me than in my previous half marathons and in fact every once in a while I looked to the right and found myself passing folks that were supposedly running a shorter route.
The next hill was a long stretch of a hill….I want to say it is about a half mile…a gradual upgrade….I had some problems with this part of the race because once again the course narrowed and there was a water stop that caused so much congestion that we almost had to stop running….grrrrrr….but I did not stop running……what was ahead of me was the killer hill.
Those of you who have run this course know what I mean. There is a hairpin turn and then a final hill (overpass) that runners must climb before the final descent into EPCOT.
Again, I knew I was going to finish faster than I had in January because frankly I had run the entire distance so far. Something I had not done in January.
This overpass hill would bear to the right and I used my theory again…this time on the right side of the climb and I focused my sight on the ground…did not look up…and listened to my music.
I had NEVER been able to do this hill and I was determined to give it my best shot.
When I got to the crest of the overpass and began to feel the ground even out it was the most exciting feeling I had ever had since finishing my first WDW Half-Marathon in 2006.
I knew at that point I was going to run the entire distance for the first time and I raised my fist up in the air and said “Yeah!”
On the way into EPCOT there was a mile marker with a clock on it…I
knew I was definitely going to have a better time than in January but I had to do the math to be sure.
Once I figured it out I said to myself, “Holy cow I may have a shot at a Personal Record!”
But did I have enough stamina left in me?
I was excited about conquering that last hill and felt energized…just had to push on for that last mile or so….my feet were burning but my heart was racing with excitement.
I had no timer or clock to let me know how I was doing…I just had to go as strongly as I could but I knew that sprinting at this point in a race is not the smartest thing to do...pulled muscles and cramps can come out of nowhere so I continued to run just at a steady pace and as I entered EPCOT and saw the crowd...more adrenalin hit.
I did not sprint but instead tried to lengthen my stride a bit.
I needed that gospel choir at Spaceship Earth to give me one last boost...and they made my day.
When I turned the last corner and saw the home stretch I could barely make out the clock at the finish line. As I got closer I got excited as I noticed that I was within a minute or so of my PR I had set in 2007.
“Steady Mike!” I said to myself. I was careful not to overdo it.
I had completely forgotten about my back issues and was now worried about other muscles...I kept saying to myself, ”Steady…Steady” and as I moved closer and closer to the Finish Line I did the math over and over again…had I miscalculated? Was I excited for nothing?
I finished the race and after running through the finish line turned around and looked at the clock. I immediately did the math and was pretty convinced I had come close to my PR and was pretty happy; but was my math correct?
When the official results came in later that day it was final...I had beaten my PR by just over one minute.
That made this medal a bit more special than the others I had previously earned.
I searched around for some familiar faces to celebrate with but among the mass of runners I could not for the life of me find any of my friends who had run that day.
I grabbed some nourishment...banana…fruit cup…fruit bar, water, and then went to baggage claim to get my car keys, towel, and other things and headed for the car.
When I got to my room I immediately took a shower and headed out the door. I learned from my first Half-Marathon that taking a nap after 13 miles is not the smartest thing to do.
Besides this prince was anxious to show off his medal…his tiara medal.
So….let me see…Wine & Dine Half Marathon erh?
The previous post in this blog was The Princess Marathon Chronicles: The First 10K.
The next post in this blog is Project Future: The Inside Story Behind the Creation of Disney World - Chad Emerson.