When my girls at Scoot A Doot asked me months ago if I would write a guest post for the Disneyland Half Marathon and the Dumbo Double Dare I, of course, said “yes!” I thought it would be an easy-to-write recap of an epic day. Little did I know how epic my day would end up (and how difficult it would be to put into words).
The Dumbo Double Dare was a challenge presented this year by runDisney where if you ran the Inaugural Disneyland 10K and then the following day ran the Disneyland Half Marathon you would receive an extra medal (and some extra pride).
Two weeks prior to Dumbo I was playing soccer in an over 30’s Women’s tournament and was tackled HARD. I flipped and the first thing to hit the ground was my left shoulder. Immediately I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t lift my arm and the pain, oh the pain! Later, as we sat in the ER, it dawned on me that I would not be running the races that I had so diligently trained for.
Before my shoulder injury, I was feeling so good and prepared for the Dumbo Double Dare! Based on my training runs, I truly felt I could PR both the 10K and the Half Marathon.
In my over 28 years of playing soccer this would be my worst injury. My Orthopedic Surgeon informed me that I had separated my shoulder, torn some ligaments and had some nerve damage. He followed that with the best news I could have heard: I could probably run the half marathon, it may hurt but I would not do any further damage! Since I had already come to terms with the fact that I would NOT be running Dumbo this was all amazing news for me! I was cleared to use a stationary bicycle, so I hopped on and cycled my heart out. The Thursday before the race I was finally cleared to run both events. I did a short run and it was awful. My shoulder hurt so bad that I got nauseous during the run (it probably didn’t help that it was 90 degrees that day). The good news is that every day my shoulder was better than the day before, so I had hope that it would feel better by Saturday morning.
We packed the car and drove up to the Expo on Friday morning.
Fast forward to the morning of the Disneyland 10K. As I stood in my corral I was so nervous to take those first few steps! I had an amazing cheering section (my wife and dog) and a ton of support from family and friends so I knew that no matter what happened that day I would be okay.
I ran the first mile very carefully and quickly realized that my shoulder felt good, my legs felt good, my lungs felt good and it felt so good to be running again! When I crossed that finish line- I crossed it with the biggest smile ever! I checked my time and I PR’d the race by 6 minutes! I don’t run too many 10K races so it was a PR that was long overdue, but it still felt so good to get it!
I woke up the next morning with my shoulder aching a bit and my legs feeling a little sore from the day before otherwise I felt good and I was so excited to be running the half! My wife, Laurie, and I left the hotel and walked to the starting line – with our little dog in the basket of Laurie’s bike.
Once we got closer we parted ways and I headed over to Corral C to get ready to get going. This was my first runDisney race that I would be completing without Laurie next to me (along with the 10k).
The energy at runDisney races is incredible and contagious. I was once again very nervous but all the excited people around me helped to clear my mind. It was an abnormally hot and humid day in Anaheim and my legs were already a little sore, how would I do in this race? I knew I would finish, but how bad would it hurt?
They did a countdown and sent us off with some fanfare and Mickey and Minnie waving to everyone. I tried to take photos but my water bottle was very full and I could not hold it in my left (injured) arm for very long. I tried to take photos with my left hand but that was a total failure! I did manage a few photos through Disneyland and CA Adventure- but they were very blurry.
At this point I was moving at a very cautious pace. My legs were feeling a little sore, but my shoulder was feeling good (unless I held the water bottle with my left arm to take pictures). I decided that I would just keep going and tuck my camera away. But not before getting the one picture I really wanted:
At around the 4 mile mark you are out of the parks and you embark on your journey through Anaheim. If it wasn’t for some amazing High School Bands, Cheerleaders, Dance Groups, and friends and family of the runners, this section would have been a very boring run on the streets.
I had last seen Laurie in between California Adventure and Disneyland and as I approached mile 6 I spotted her again! It was so great to see her, as I needed a morale boost. Every step was hurting and it was so hot out, but seeing her (and our dog) helped me forget that. She rode next to me for a ways and then left to meet me somewhere else (I never knew where she would be). As she rode next to me she snapped this shot with the GoPro camera (which subsequently ran out of battery):
And I took this picture of her:
I started having to dig down deep in order to keep myself going. My doubts were setting in, could I go another 7 miles?! I just kept telling myself that I could do it, and it worked as I kept going.
At the mile 8 mark something amazing happened. I saw this guy and took my last picture on the course:
I knew that the 2:15 pacer started a ways in front of me in my corral. This meant I was going a little faster than a 2:15 half marathon! My PR was 2:16. Was I REALLY going PR pace?! Right then I heard Laurie yelling for me. I ran over to her and said “did you see the pacer?!” she immediately knew what I meant. She had been doing runner tracking so she knew what my pace was but I did not (until I saw the pacer). I forgot to look at the clock when I started so I didn’t know how many minutes to subtract and I made a few guesses but nothing was official. It’s always best when I don’t focus too hard on my pace (you’ll see why). Laurie took this picture of us before I took off again:
This was around the area where there was about a mile of classic cars. This part was so awesome! So many people there with their extremely cool cars (eye candy) cheering for total strangers very early in the morning!
Mile 9 was just before Angels Stadium. Right around here I lost the pacer as he was in front of me and I could no longer see him. I was feeling pretty deflated. I had tasted a PR, I had it in my grasps and I felt like I had let it go. I felt like maybe I should just walk, but I quickly talked myself out of that and just kept moving.
As we entered Angels stadium I got chills! I had done this race twice before (2009 and 2010) so I knew this part would be incredible. The stands are packed with cheering Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and many screaming families and spectators. The noise is deafening yet uplifting. Not all of us are professional athletes (clearly) so having a stadium filled with people yelling for you and everyone around you feels pretty amazing.
Shortly after we left the stadium we hit mile 10. Mile 10 for me, usually (I have run 10 other half marathons), is where I get the most excited. It is the point in the race where I know I have made it. The point where I feel I am done with the hardest part of the race. This day, alas, I did not feel this way at mile 10. It was tough and I was really pushing myself to keep moving.
I don’t know how I made it to mile 11. It wasn’t pretty but I just kept repeating my mantra “I am alive” reminding myself I was okay, I was breathing, I was going to do this. I hunkered down and pushed myself harder than I have ever pushed myself. I wasn’t going to stop. Right around here I saw Laurie once again. She saw I was struggling and she asked me if I was hurting, I told her I was (but she knew this already). She told me to keep going because I was going to finish! I could do it! I honestly would have stopped and walked if I didn’t have her voice in my head over and over telling me I could do it. Let me be clear, there is nothing at all wrong with walking during a race. We walked almost all of the Princess Half Marathon, but this race was just different for me. I was so thankful to be able to run! Laurie also knows me so well if I really looked like I needed to slow down or stop she surely would have stepped in and said so. I trusted her and I just kept going.
At mile 12 I was absolutely shocked. I caught up with the 2:15 pacer! He was stopped and waiting for people to catch up. My guess is that he was ahead of schedule. That was my cue to stop doubting and start pushing. I ran. I ran HARD. He would NOT catch me again! I would get far enough away from him that if I needed to slow down I would still be in front of him. I have never pushed myself so hard. When I took the last turn to the straightaway to finish, I knew I was close and I sprinted.
I sprinted past the screaming/cheering spectators that lined the course near the Disneyland Hotel. I sprinted past the mile 13 sign. I only slowed down to high five Minnie Mouse before I crossed the finish line. I couldn’t believe how hard I pushed- and what was my time?? I immediately checked my email because I was having my official times tracked and sent there. There it was: 2:10:32. I had PR’d by 6 minutes!! I was in shock!! I made it to where they put the medal around your neck and I was such an emotional mess. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that I had actually finished this race after thinking that after months of training hard I wasn’t going to be able to run it- and on top of that I finished with a new PR!
Right after I got my half medal, I burst into tears. Tears of joy. Tears of exhaustion. Tears because I did it! I tried to compose myself while they gave me my Dumbo Double Dare medal.
Shortly after I crossed the finish line my phone died. When I plugged it back in a little later I got this text from my mom “Anya, you are my hero”. She had apparently been tracking me and she sent me that text right as I crossed the finish line. Cue the waterworks again. Boy, was I emotional!
The breakdown of my race (from the tracking emails):
There’s something magical about the runDisney races. I have always had such an amazing time when I run them, and despite this one being such a difficult race for me I finished with a huge smile on my face! I don’t think I could have PR’d so close to my injury at any other race. I am so thankful for every single stranger that cheered for me. Thankful for all the volunteers who worked! Thankful for the volunteers helping me fill my water bottle again. Side note- I drank 2 full water bottles during this race (that was a first for me as well) on top of Powerade at most of the later stations and 2.5 GU’s. I am also thankful for all of the Anaheim police who were out controlling traffic on the course. I am even more thankful that I had Laurie racing around on her bike to cheer me on. She truly is the reason that I was able to finish. I love the Disneyland Half Marathon and I am so excited to have a shiny new PR as well as 3 shiny new medals from running the Dumbo Double Dare (that’s a lot of shine!).
Oh and our dog? Apparently it’s exhausting riding around in a basket!
This race really showed me that I have the strength to reach my goals if I get out of my head and just go for it. I will never give up on myself again. This race was such an emotional victory for me. I feel like I really became a runner (like, a runner) this weekend. I have so much support from the people that love me it’s overwhelming. My friends and family were so awesome cheering me on and congratulating me. They are my inspiration. I am also proud of the training I have done this year. It is a true testament to my training that I was able to take 2 weeks off from running (and basically all exercise/movement) and still complete 19.3 miles in 2 days. I still feel
Oh, runDisney you got me again. What a wonderful time I had! I will be back!