Confession: I went to bed on Saturday night still completely unsure as to whether I could finish a half marathon. Yes, I trained (hard) for six months. Yes, I knew I was physically ready to cross that finish line. But was I mentally ready? I honestly had no. freaking. clue. And there was only one way to find out. With my alarm set for 2:50 a.m. (WHO WAKES UP VOLUNTARILY AT THIS HOUR?), I tossed and turned for most of the night in my mom’s guest bedroom until I was finally up for the day at 1:45. Joey woke up at 3, we quickly got dressed (I’d carefully laid out all of my clothing and my gear the night before), and then we headed out to meet up with friends of mine, who were also running the race, to follow them into the park.
By 5 a.m., we were in our corral and ready to go – except with about 10,000 runners ahead of us, we knew we wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while. Nerves were definitely in overdrive at this point. We all tried our best to focus on stretching and making jokes, but as we moved closer to the start line, my stomach was in complete knots . . . making me glad I’d only consumed a banana, water, and a little bit of coffee before race time! Fireworks signaled it was time for us to start. We crossed the line around 6:20 a.m. – almost an hour after the first corral – and there were still plenty of people behind us. Parts of those next minutes and hours are a blur. But most of it is still clear: I remember waving to Joey after crossing the start line. I remember thinking, “I don’t know how I’m ever going to get past these people in tutus . . . how are they running in those costumes?” (Side note: I had a tutu. I didn’t run in it. I did, however, pose for pictures in it after the race. I have no shame.) I remember the look of encouragement on Joey’s face when I saw him before entering the Magic Kingdom. I remember tearing up as I watched a woman run as she pushed her sister in a wheelchair, and nearly bawling when a perfect stranger offered to take over the pushing and give her a break. I remember feeling like a giddy kid when I ran through Cinderella’s Castle and waved at Anna and Elsa. I remember the feeling of relief when we passed the halfway point, and then the feeling of exhaustion when I hit mile 9 – knowing I was dehydrated in the growing heat. I remember watching as a double amputee pushed forward from that water station, and thinking, “If he’s not throwing in the towel, neither am I.” I remember reaching the last water station and KNOWING that not only was I going to finish, but that I was going to finish in under 3 hours. I remember the look on Joey’s face, less than a mile before I crossed the finish line. It was something like shock, mixed with joy. (He later told me, “I saw you round the corner and all I thought was, “Holy shit. She’s STILL RUNNING.” I thought the same thing. Later, when I checked my phone, I had this text from him: You’re getting stronger baby! You got this! — He was monitoring my split times.) I remember tearing up as I saw the finish line ahead and heard the announcer call my name. I remember raising my hands above my head and laughing when I actually crossed. Because I did it. In 2 hours, 51 minutes, and 45 seconds, I ran — not walked — 13.1 miles. I placed 8,408 out of 20,182 runners, and 1,725 out of 3,951 in my division. But, most importantly, I finished. And I absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, would do it again.