There’s a saying in Japan that goes something like this: There are two kinds of fools in this world: Those that have never climbed beautiful Mt. Fuji, and those who have done it more than once.
Yesterday, I ran the Walt Disney World Marathon in Orlando, Florida. This was my first marathon. I am a self proclaimed Disneyphile whose foray into running started with the desire to run and not be swept from an untimed 5k at Disneyland in January of 2012. That experience with running reintroduced me to the concept of doing things that are bigger than myself. Things like running the Walt Disney World Marathon.
Setting a goal for a first race is kinda tricky. I’ve trained hard but have no experience with this distance. I’d like to hold an even pace throughout the race, and with the possible exception of the food stops (not sure how to eat a banana while running) I’d like to avoid walking.
I suppose the true goal or mental exercise of this race is to test my foolishness: to see if this is something I ever want to do again. I don’t consider running a marathon to be a bucket list item. I’m a runner and the marathon is a running race
I used Pfitz’s 18/55 plan to train for this marathon and I found it very challenging. I got a copy of the plan from Pfitz’s book Advanced Marathoning. This is my first marathon. Is Advanced Marathoning a place I should be looking for advice? Shouldn’t Beginning Marathoning by John Bingham or Jeff Galloway be a better place to start? Who can say? I can say that when you run at my paces, Pfitz’s 18/55 training plan is a crap ton of time on one’s feet.
I have two competing voices in my head. The first voice sounds an awful lot like my wife. It says, “Rick, you are 3,000 miles from home and on day 3 of a two week east coast vacation. Don’t hurt yourself.”
The second voice sounds an awful lot like mine. It says, “This is a race. The point of a race is to get from the starting line to the finish line as fast as possible. This may hurt a bit.”
The Start to Mile 5
The race starts on EPCOT Center Drive in the pre-dawn darkness. The first five miles head up World Drive, the six lane main north-south artery through Walt Disney World. From there it passes through the Magic Kingdom’s toll gates, across the parking lot and past the Transportation and Ticketing Center, Contemporary Hotel and into the Magic Kingdom through a side service entrance.
As I’m running these early miles, I tell myself to keep it slow. It’s a long race and I don’t want to hurt myself. Yes the voice of reason (my wife’s) is winning the debate.
Mile 1 – 12:02; Mile 2 – 11:41; Mile 3 – 12:28; Mile 4 – 11:31; Mile 5 – 11:07
Miles 6 to 10
The course then runs right up Main Street USA, hangs a left into Tomorrowland through the castle gates out through Liberty square and onto a service road south.
It then passes the Grand Floridian Hotel, Shades of Green Hotel, the Polynesian Hotel, across the Magic Kingdom’s parking lot around the NASCAR track at the Richard Petty Driving Experience.
As I passed the Polynesian Hotel, I spot my wife in the crowd. I embarrassed her by yelling “I love you Laura Green!” at the top of my lungs.
Outside the NASCAR track, I hit the port-a-potty. I have lost many toenails from running; I think I might loose a fingernail. As I was getting in the port-a-potty, my thumb gets caught in the doorjamb. OOOWWWIIIEEE! This really hurts.
Mile 6 – 11:08; Mile 7 – 11:03; Mile 8 – 10:48; Mile 9 – 11:25; Mile 10 – 12:08
Miles 11 to 15
This section of the course travels down Bear Island Road, a back stage area of the complex. Walt Disney World recycles all of the food waste from the parks. The race course passes the happiest compost pile on earth. The smell was less than pleasant.
From Bear Island Road, the course passes through Disney’s Animal Kingdom park. I have friends who will stop and ride Expedition Everest Roller Coaster during the marathon. I was unable to do so as the park had not opened when I passed by.
I’m still feeling pretty good. The sun isn’t quite up yet, and the thick vegetation makes for lots of shade. Also I’m only 15 miles in.
Mile 11 – 11:10; Mile 12 – 11:53; Mile 13 – 11:23; Mile 14 – 11:54; Mile 15 – 11:34
Miles 16 to 20
These are the most miserable miles of the entire course. This leg of the course is along Osceola Parkway, a six lane divided highway. The sun is now up. There is very little shade, on-course entertainment, or Disney Magic out here. The course then takes a right turn and heads into a serpentine path through ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex. I’m getting hot, and tired. I’m also somewhat disoriented from all the twists and turns in the sports complex.
Mile 16 – 13:02; Mile 17 – 12:47 Mile 18 – 12:56; Mile 19 – 13:40; Mile 20 – 14:12
Miles 21 to 26.2
The course leaves the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and heads over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and the finish line. As none of my training runs were longer than 20 miles, we now also enter terra incognita: The undiscovered country.
At this point of the race, the pain in the rest of my body eclipses the pain in my thumb. I am barely running. I am repeating the mantra “Six more miles of running” in my head to try and push out the pain.
Disney placed one of their Green Army Men characters at the top of a hill at mile 21 to encourage runners up the hill. I stopped here, dropped and gave the Green Army Man 10 push ups. The Green Army man salutes me and I returned his salute and trot off. Why did I do this? Honestly, I’m not sure. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
As I’m leaving Disney’s Hollywood Studios, I spot my wife again. I run by, give her a big kiss and trott on down the road.
As I entered Epcot, my intestines told me that they wanted attention and they wanted it now. Yes, my dreams of marathon glory and an end to this present misery will be delayed because I had to take a dump. I asked a volunteer at the medical station if they had a port-a-potty. The volunteer replied that the closest bathroom was behind me. There was no way on God’s green earth that I was going backwards.
I pushed on into Epcot and ran into the bathrooms in Morocco-land. I used the handicapped stall so I could use the handrails to get up off the commode. Back out on the course, I jog across Future World, through the parking lot and across the finish line. I am now a marathoner. A five hour and twenty-nine minute marathoner, but a marathoner nonetheless.
Mile 21 – 13:03; Mile 22 – 13:56; Mile 23 – 15:42; Mile 24 – 13:38; Mile 25 – 13:38; Mile 26 13:46
The Most Important Voice
The vast majority of my marathon training runs were run as an out-and-back run from my house along the bike path paralleling Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in Huntington Beach. As my training progressed, I began to associate the different landmarks with their distance from my front door. The corner of Beach Boulevard and PCH is a mile from my house. The bus bench at 17th and PCH is 2 ½ miles. The bathrooms at Bolsa Chica State Beach are 4 miles. Harbor House Café is 10 miles.
One Sunday evening in October, I was returning from a 17-mile long run. I was tired, sore, racked in pain, and moving at a pace that could barely be considered running. My head was swirling with thoughts of quitting and /or walking. I reached one-mile marker. I told myself that I only had 10 more minutes of running until this present misery ended. I repeated that message in my head over and over again until it turned into something of a mantra. I repeated this message for a minute when I then told myself that I had nine minutes of running. I counted down the minutes of misery until I hit my front door and stopped running.
As the training cycle progressed, I adopted this mantra at earlier points on the return leg. When I hit the toilets at Bolsa Chica State Beach I started the count down mantra “four more miles of running”. It was no longer a statement of a desire for the misery to end. Repeating these words simply turned in to something for my brain to do or a happy distraction.
I also noticed that on the long run when I used the mantra, my split time actually decreased. On a sixteen to twenty mile run, I ran the last four miles faster than the first. This mantra effectively blocked out the pain, the misery, and the desire to walk the final miles of long training runs.
In the last six miles of the marathon, I had a wide variety of things I could have told myself. I was hot, tired, drenched in sweat, and sore. I’d never actually run 26.2 miles before. I could have come up with a million excuses to stop and walk. Instead, I chose to focus my mind on these simple stupid words: Six more miles of running, and I keep on running.
The broader life lesson or the application that transcends running is this: The most important voice in my life is my own. What we chose to tell ourselves is more important to our well being than anything that anyone can tell you or me, or anything that can happen. Stuff happens. Life happens. We have a choice how to react to it, and success and failure lie in that choice.
To borrow the words of William Ernest Henley, “ No matter how straight the gate or how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.
So, Rick How About Another Marathon?
I’d never considered the marathon to be a bucket list or one-and-done kinda thing. Like the 5 kilometer or 10 kilometer race, the marathon is a standard road race in distance running. I think I’m foolish enough to do this again, but given how I feel the day after the race (tired and sore) I don’t think I’ll be running another marathon any time soon. I may be a fool, but I am no maniac.
PR: 5k 26:17 (10/13) 10k: 57:44 (7/14) HM: 2:18:26 (9/13) FM: 5:29 (1/14)
Sounds to me like you ran a marathon, Rick! Great job. Congratulations on running your first one. Bummer about the thumb...that does not sound fun. I really can't say I know a lot of runners who injured their thumb during a marathon.
Congratulations on a great first.
Dropping and giving 10 push-ups to Green Army man at mile 21. You are my hero! Congratulations on your first marathon.
“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” - T.S. Eliot
Great job Rick, and a great RR too! I'm digging the pushups. Hope the thumb feels better!
2014 Goals | sub-19 5k done! | sub-40 10k | sub-1:25 HM | BQ done! | sub-3 M
Great job, Richard! Great job on your first and you picked the right race to be less stressed about the first marathon!
So, Disney 2015, no?
See you in August.
Damaris, Marathon Maniac, Ultra Runner
Next: San Francisco Marathon
"The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire."
Richard, congratulations on your first marathon! I'm so glad that it was a positive experience for you. Your pictures are great, I enjoyed them a lot. What a fun course to run on! Now recover well, enjoy the accomplishment and then, get back into training!
PRs: Boston Marathon, 3:27, April 15th 2013
Cornwall Half-Marathon, 1:35, April 27th 2013
4 years racing, 14 marathons, 14 BQs
Awesome Rick, you took me back to my first race last year, oh how memorable it was. Your progression from the depths are remarkable. You are blessed with a supportive wife and a great daughter. I love how you take the introspective lessons and turn them into positive life changes. Plus you look like you lost more weight
I remember last year when I hit Wide World at mile 18 that is where I reached my endurance levels. My pace increased about 1:30 per mile reflecting the lack of long distance endurance I had, a simple symptom of not doing this long enough. You were averaging 11:30 to 12:00's for the first 10 miles or so, although the 10:48 at mile 8 probably did not do you any good. A jump to the 13:00+ range after 19 is to be expected.
One thing that is also noted is your pacing is rather broad, from 10:48 - 13:56, reflecting a lack of experience at this distance. Who cares, you DID it, you are a marathoner. Disney is not the place for even splits, and the joy of running through the Magic Castle is amazing. Enjoy your vacation, and now you get to gear up for a less crowded west coast marathon in the fall.
Rick, I knew you were running so I've been watching for your RR. Huge Congrats on your first! You DID it! Thanks for sharing the insights you've gained through this process - both in training and in the race! Love the pics! Love the push-ups! And, love that you embarrassed your wife early in the race! Priceless!
But The Smile That I Sent Out Returned With You.
Great job! Your report echos what it's like for a lot of people, especially first timers. The marathon distance is no joke. Way to complete it!
So much fun to read. You did a great job. I'm impressed. Congrats!
Did you post your finish time, or did I miss it?
Congrats on your first marathon...and nice pics too. Rest up and enjoy the recovery. You deserve it.
marathon pr - 3:16
Will run for scenery.
Congrats on your first marathon ! Whether you climb Mt. Fuji again or not, the first time is always the big one.
I didn't hurt my thumb at WDW, I hurt my wrist. We were in the parking area, in our family van lined with shag carpet. I tried pulling the Alice Cooper 8-track out of the player and my big sister dug her fingernails in deep enough to draw blood. That was the summer they opened (1974/5/6 ?). Looks a lot different now !
Congrats on your first marathon! It's race reports like these that make me think, "Hmm, maybe I could do a marathon..." Very inspirational.
5k - 25:15 (11/18/12)
10mi - 1:33:18 (3/2/14)
HM - 2:06:12 (3/24/13)
9/21 - Beat the Blerch HM
10/18 - Baltimore HM
Everything you need is already inside. [[Bill Bowerman]]