by Jamison Reynolds
“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”-Steve Prefontaine
On Sunday January 13th, my best was my worst. The 20th Anniversary of the Walt Disney World marathon was my most difficult run in the five or so years I have been pounding pavement. I simply crashed. I turned in my worst time. I swore multiple times that I was done running. I am quoted as saying "I want to punch running in the face." I hurt more than I had ever hurt before…and I would do it all over again.
As a runner I normally don’t have the luxury of having someone running with me. I train alone in the Shenandoah Valley in the great state of West Virginia. The cold state of West Virginia I should add during the training weeks leading up to marathon weekend. Many of my fellow northerners were fretting about the temperature forecasts but I honestly wasn’t worried about because I was going to have a running buddy for the marathon. My friend and teammate Christine Griffin and I were going to run together and I excited to have someone to talk to a crack jokes with for 26.2 miles.
The marathon started with a nice temperature predawn and although the course was tight in places Christine and I were maintaining a decent pace. We decided not to stop for pictures and characters early as to try and get as far as possible ahead of the heat. We made it to the Contemporary before the sun started poking out and it was still dark enough when we hit Main Street to truly appreciate the beauty of the Castle fully covered in ice.
We were still running strong together as we entered the speedway when we got our 1st look at the effects of the impending heat. The mist over the speedway was incredible. It looked like something out of a special effect department. It was beautiful and eerie at the same time. I should have known that ominous view would be a precursor to my race going horribly wrong.
On the way to Animal Kingdom was when it happened. Right before mile 10, I felt a twitch and then in an instant my calf cramped. I pulled over to the right and watched my friend disappear into the crowd. I walked for a mile and then tried to run but after a few minutes it cramped again. I don’t know if it was the heat, poor hydration prior to the run or something else, but there was no more running for me.
I know there is a difference between hurt, pain, and injury and I knew this was not injury so I had two simple choices. 1) Stop, head back to the room and shower and meet my family at Magic Kingdom to drown my sorrows in a Dole Whip. 2) Keep moving forward. I know how lucky I am to be able to do this race in Walt Disney World and I did not want to sacrifice the gift so I kept going.
I ran/walked intervals for 1 minute increments until about mile 16, past Animal Kingdom, past my friends from Team Allears waiting with the most delicious can of coke I ever had, over the World Drive overpass until I couldn’t ever do that anymore. From that point I was going to walk, which was crushing because I could already feel the blisters forming on the balls of my feet.
I hit my wall shortly before the mile 20 “spectacular” (infer as much sarcasm as you would like) but at that moment, THE DAN RAJNIK came up caught me on the course. Dan is one of my teammates and one of my good friends on the team and after some jokes and Boba Fett sightings we decided to finish to course together. My feet hurt, my leg hurt and my ego was gone… and it was some of the best 6 miles I’ve ever had in a race.
Although I could feel the blood in my shoes, and my leg was starting to lock up, we had a blast. We cracked some great jokes. We chatted with runners and some the great fans along the course (including the many members of Team Allears and Allcheers). We took full advantage of all the hydration options available along the course. We picked up team member Rob Wilhelm at mile 25 and the 3 of us finished together. As a reward for my course struggles I got to see Dan win his 1st Goofy Challenge. When I got back to my room, my family had made a sign to greet me and they were waiting to great me in person at the Magic Kingdom. It was all worth it. I would do it again.
Prefontaine’s quote runs through my mind all the time. I think about what the GIFT is. I don’t think the gift is some singular thing. Its something that changes based on a given situation. Why did I keep going? My gift is the fact that I am a healthy able bodied person who FINISHES marathons. There are those who cannot. My gift is that I have a loving and supportive family that inspires me to keep going. There are those who do not. My gift is that I am a part of a caring and dynamic support structure of a running team. Some just aren’t that lucky. To walk off the course would not have been my best. Yes, my best was my worst, but I was not going to sacrifice my gifts.
The previous post in this blog was The Adventure Begins .
The next post in this blog is Who Is Team AllEars.