Race Recap: Disneyland Half Marathon

We went.

We ran.

We conquered the Disneyland Half Marathon.

And it was AWESOME.

Now, I feel like kind of a fish out of water writing this race recap because I’ve never written a recap for a half marathon before. So as I’m typing this, I’m thinking “what do I even say about this weekend? How can I put into words how fun and hard and great and tiring and rewarding but also pretty insane and let me not forget how HOT it was?” I’m sure someone who’s run multiple half marathons before (ahem, Cam, Meridith, Victoria, Brooke, ahem) could – would! – be more eloquent about it. But all I can do is tell you that it was fun. And hard. And great and tiring and rewarding and completely insane. And very, very hot.

Well, I can tell you some other things, too. Doing a half marathon isn’t something I thought I’d ever do. I loved running when I was little – the burn of my lungs and the wind whipping through my hair, the adrenaline pumping through my veins and that lovely soreness in my calves from pushing, pushing, pushing myself. But adult me definitely lost the love of running. It’s no secret that I still don’t love it, even (or maybe especially) during my training for this half.

All that said, this will probably remain one of my fondest life memories. I reclaimed the feeling of loving running and turned it into something else: the love didn’t come from the burn or the wind or the exhilaration of running. The love came from the pride of actually doing this, and doing it with two of my most wonderful friends by my side. How awesome is that?

With all of my personal musings out of the way, let’s get to the important stuff: the actual race! Not that I didn’t know this before, but I got to see firsthand what an amazingly well-oiled machine the Disneyland Half Marathon is. I mean, these people are not fooling around. From the expo (during which I spent much money at Raw Threads) to the race itself, everything was executed without a hitch. For people who have run Disney races before, this is probably not a surprise. But I have to admit that I’ll probably be ruined for other races going forward, and the seamless execution of every event last weekend is only one reason.

I’ll get to the other reasons…right now!

Prior to flying down to Anaheim, I checked the weather and saw that it was supposed to be in the mid-80s on race day (Sunday). Cue me freaking out because I hate heat. I have a zero tolerance policy for heat. If it’s above 75, I’m complaining. Needless to say (but I’m going to say it anyway), I was worried about how the temperature would affect my performance during the race. But Meridith assured me I would be fine, and I agree with her on most things, so I decided to agree with her on this as well.

At any rate, we all rolled out of bed at 4 in the morning on race day and got dressed up in our SUPER CUTE Timothy Q. Mouse inspired costumes that the ever-talented Cam made (stay tuned for a post from her on that!).

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Do the bustle!

 

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Were the riding crops our favorite part of the costume? Maybe. Probably. Okay, yes.

Once we were dressed and had a pre-race donut and some water, we headed over to the park to the start line.

As did about 16,000 other people.

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Yeah. It was a little busy. We had to make our way cattle-call style to the J corral, which we would later come to call the “JUST LET US GO ALREADY” corral. Because we had to listen to the announcers’ jokes and “Let It Go” when they released corral A. And then we had to listen to the announcers’ jokes (the same ones) and “Let It Go” (the same one) when they released corral B. And then C. D. E. F….you know the rest of the alphabet.

"OMG, DUDES, LET US GO."

“OMG, DUDES, LET US GO.”

And let me tell you: I didn’t know the words to “Let It Go” before this race, but by the time we were given the go ahead, I sure knew every word.

LET IT GOOOOOOOOO.

LET US GOOOOOOOO.

And they did!

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The course took us through Disneyland and California Adventure, then through the streets of Anaheim, before eventually looping us back into the park for the last mile. And while the miles inside the park were infinitely more entertaining, there were sights to see in Anaheim, too. More on that later.

For now, the park!

Meridith and Cam told me that characters would be available to take pictures with as we ran through the park, so we made sure to take advantage. I thought there would be more characters – maybe a princess?! – but the ones we did snap pics with were great. I can’t really complain about having the entirety of Disneyland to ourselves, can I? Plus, the cast members – ALL OF THEM – lined up along the side of the course and cheered us on, gave us high-fours with Mickey Mouse gloves, and were just generally awesome. We had such a huge cheering squad.

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Scandalized by our whips, Jafar?

 

Juicy tidbit: my army guy broke character and said “whoa” when he saw our riding crops. In my unofficial poll during the race, I noticed that the menfolk tended to respond very favorably to our props.

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The castle!

 

We continued our jaunt through the park, keeping up a pretty nice clip for the first four miles.

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And then…WE TOOK IT TO THE STREETS.

Of Anaheim. For a lot of miles. At that point, we made a group decision to take it easy and just enjoy the race. We all had various physical pain points and none of us were looking for a PR. So we slowed it down to a fast walk – sometimes a prancercise – and took in the sights, the spectators, and the great, awesome signs.

An approximation of our fancy walk.

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Adorable Hawaiian dancers!

Mariachi dancers!

Mariachi dancers!

Classic cars. There were SO many! We asked for a ride, but alas.

Classic cars. There were SO many! We asked for a ride, but alas.

I have to say, I totally appreciated that we weren’t left high and dry when we left the park. There were dancers and high school bands and cheerleaders to cheer us on as we made our way back toward Disneyland. And once you hit a certain mile – in our case I think it was around mile 8 – we really, really needed to hear people cheering for us. For strangers to get up super, super early to do that…well, it really touched me.

And let me NOT forget about the awesome signs we saw along the way:

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My absolute favorites of the race. Hands down. Great reminder. I needed reminding at that point.

Getting back to the weather: we had overcast skies and even a teeeeeeeensy breeze until we hit mile 8. And then the sun decided it wanted to shine its hot little death rays on us. Of course, this was the part of the course where we were running next to a dried-up reservoir type thing on our way to Angels stadium. I think Meridith asked multiple times, “WHO DESIGNED THIS PART OF THE COURSE?”

Not our favorite part.

Not our favorite part.

Yeah. Hot.

But THEN we got to Angels stadium which, despite my fervent love for the Oakland A’s and thus my fervent loathing of the Angels, was really, really cool. The stadium was packed with Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts and their cheering parents and it was just so damn awesome.

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RIGHT? RIGHT? HOW COOL IS THAT?

Of course, we had the 16-minute mile pacers breathing down our necks, and this is kind of the part where it all went to shit. The track we were running on was super narrow and the 16-minute mile pacers were yelling that we were behind schedule and everyone needed to MOVE MOVE MOVE, so people started panicking and pushing and I got separated from Cam and Meridith for a few minutes while people acted like bizonkers.

But then we reunited and it really DID feel so good. And we kept going. And going. And going. And encountered more high school bands and cheerleaders and amazing spectators and I just forced myself to take it all in despite the fact that I was hot and tired and starting to hurt.

And then: Mile 12. We hit it. We got back into the park. We were almost there. People were TELLING us we were almost there. Meridith asked, “How almost there is almost there?” but no one would tell us. Just that it was almost. So close.

 

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Ring the bell for energy! We totally did. Not sure it worked. Malfunctioning bell?

Finally, someone took pity on us and told us we had less than half a mile. That kept us motivated until we crossed the finish line, which I have no pictures of because we were just so happy to be DONE.

And then we were! Done, that is. And my feet were so thankful, because dude. 13.1 miles. That’s a LOT of miles.

We got our awesome medals and Meridith put mine on for me, which was adorable.

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AWWWWWW.

I whipped this race (get it?)!

I whipped this race (get it?)!

We did it! Couples finish together!

We did it! Couples finish together!

 

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My first half marathon in the books. Thank god for Instagram filter.

We wandered around the finishers area like zombies for a bit, picked up Meridith and Cam’s Dumbo Double Dare medals (because they had run the 10K the day before like crazy people), drank all of the water and some bananas, and then made the painful trek back to our hotel.

I can’t tell you how not fun it is to have to walk back to your hotel after you’ve just completed a half marathon. But we did it. And then we did this.

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So yes. We went. We ran. We conquered. And we had an amazing time.

 

 

A Day in the Life: Jess

Welcome to my exciting day in the life! It began with waking up. Always a good sign. Some other things happened after I woke up, including:

  • My child woke up (ready to party)
  • My husband woke up
  • We all ran around
  • There was a little getting-myself-ready action
  • There was a lot of getting-Bug-ready action
  • There was a LOT of sweating from getting-Bug-ready action
  • No pictures were taken during this time because it was too hectic, but trust me, it all happened
  • As per usual, our morning routine ended with running for the cable car to get Bug to daycare!
An old picture of cable car cuteness.

An old picture of cable car cuteness.

Once I sweated my way down three or four hills with Bug and dropped him off at daycare, I headed down a few other hills (THIS CITY IS ONE VERY LARGE HILL) to wait for the bus.

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Dear MUNI, are you there? It's me, Jessica.

Dear MUNI, are you there? It’s me, Jessica.

 

 

Then it was off to the second day of a two-day off-site meeting for new managers, put on by my company’s parent company. Follow that? Me neither. It’s okay!

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Notes, an iPhone and coffee. Not much else a girl needs, am I right? I spent the first part of the morning learning about business-y/manager-y things, but there was the small matter of USA playing Germany in the World Cup, which NBD. EXCEPT VERY BIG DEAL. Thankfully, my friend Heidi was kind enough to text me updates throughout the game.

I got overstimulated by emojis.

I got overstimulated by emojis.

Also thankfully, our first break of the day coincided with the end of the game, so we crowded around someone’s iPad to see the last four minutes and confirm that – phew – the US was indeed going through to the knockout round! Victory! America!

It's okay, America! You still made it!

It’s okay, America! You still made it!

It should be noted that I had no idea I liked soccer until the World Cup. But it’s great. It makes me sweat and feel like I am on the verge of death due to stress whenever I watch it. What a time to be alive!

More business-y/manager-y things happened after lunch, and then we were lucky enough to sit through a presentation about the history and making of champagne (yesterday, the CEO of a beauty brand presented to us, as well as a luxury retailer. Kind of a jackpot situation). Did you know that champagne (champay-nyuh if you are French) can only be called such if it’s made in the Champagne region of France? It’s true. Fascinating stuff. I feel so lucky to work for a company that puts on events like this for their employees. I learned so much!

And drank champagne. I mean,whatever.

So delicious, I can't even.

So delicious, I can’t even.

After a networking happy hour, it was off to my humble abode to see my precious family, after a pit stop to pick up some dinner for myself. Had to absorb the champay-nyuh somehow.

Ah, the bus. We meet again. It was packed. Hopefully you can pick up the vibe here – I didn’t want to take a picture of faces because generally strangers frown upon that. Weird.

Was digging this girl's bag, too.

Was digging this girl’s bag, too.

Hello, family!

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Literally so excited to see me.

Literally so excited to see me.

Before I dug into my food, I picked up after said precious family, because that’s what moms are for.

The before:

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Surrounded by barbarians.

 

And the after:

Moms get stuff done.

Moms get stuff done.

FOOOOOOOOD from one of my favorite Mexican places nearby.

Me: "Hey food, be delicious." Food: "OKAY!"

Me: “Hey food, be delicious.” Food: “OKAY!”

Tried to shake off this little vulture, but he was persistent so I caved and gave him some morsels.

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Then we moved on to the Get Bug to Sleep portion of the evening, which typically includes a bath (not pictured for obvious reasons), some playtime, milk and PJs and then crib city.

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And that brings us to now, when I’m stretched out in bed, and will be ending the evening with some intense reading.

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And that’s all she (I) wrote! I wish I could share the noise of the ambulance that seems to be driving right through my bedroom right now, but alas. You will have to imagine it.

So! Are you Team USA or Team USA? Who’s tuning in for the match against Ghana on Tuesday? Who’s your favorite player?

*chants* I believe that we will win! 

 

A Day In the Life: Bec

When we talked about these ‘day in the life’ posts, I really had to think about whether I wanted a weekend day or a weekday. My weekends are busy, but these days, it’s mostly just me driving people to different places and then sitting there for an period of time. However, a weekday in my life can swing anywhere from a sort of average-busy-working-mom day to barely controlled chaos.

I picked a weekday and hoped for the former. I wound up somewhere closer to the latter. But that’s okay, because it will make this pictorial a bit more interesting (I hope).

Every day starts with coffee. Because I don't like yelling at people. Also, I'm a bit in love with my new water infuser (lemon and mint, so delicious!)

Every day starts with coffee. Because I don’t like yelling at people. Also, I’m a bit in love with my new water infuser (lemon and mint, so delicious!)

 

Since I knew the day would involve pictures, I went with the full blowout, makeup and contacts. I'm vain. Judge away.

Since I knew the day would involve pictures, I went with the full blowout, makeup and contacts. I’m vain. Judge away.

It ended up that the day I chose had a doctor’s appointment, which meant working from home in the morning, and then heading to the office later.

View from my home office. Laundry is my whole world.

View from my home office. Laundry is my whole world.

 

Tracking points. This Weight Watchers thing works, guys.

Tracking points. This Weight Watchers thing works, guys.

Then, me and Kay headed off to the doctor. With a quick stop for more coffee. As you do.

Me and my bestie.

Me and my bestie.

 

After getting her dropped off at school, I settled in to work and unpacked.

 

My lunch. Yes, just for one day!

My lunch. Yes, just for one day!

 

View from my actual office. Please note the lack of laundry.

View from my actual office. Please note the lack of laundry.

 

At the end of the day, I headed back home to perform the remainder of my mom duties.

 

I get greeted by the cutest boy in the whole world. It makes it all worth it.

I get greeted by the cutest boy in the whole world. It makes it all worth it.

 

Dinner, Weight Watchers style. Omnomnom.

Dinner, Weight Watchers style. Omnomnom.

 

After dinner, I got a text from my walking buddies. It was a nice night, so we decided to head to the track. It’s been a long winter and the cold has been lingering here, so we’ve got to take these moderate temperatures where we can, before the full summer of ridiculous hot rolls in.

Track selfie! In my Scoot shirt, of course.

Track selfie! In my Scoot shirt, of course.

 

And how do I end this marginally crazy day? I think most of us know the answer to that.

No, YOU eat ice cream every night.

No, YOU eat ice cream every night.

 

I hope you guys enjoyed this glimpse into my little corner of the world. Happy Friday!

 

 

 

Happy Running Day!

Happy National Running Day! I’m not running, of course. To make matters worse, I wore my sneakers for a little (okay, a lot) longer than I should have on Sunday and ended up with some pain around my ankle on Monday. Since then, I’ve been in the boot for most of my walking time, and now I feel ready to ease back into sneakers. Again. I should have been more diligent but now I know a little more about what my foot can handle. This injury stuff sucks.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about running, and also trying not to think about running. Sara sent me a text last week to tell me that the Gasparilla half-marathon registration opened soon, and it was quite a low moment for me. I can’t even walk in sneakers for more than four hours right now, so obviously, I’m not registering for any more races until I’m running again.

That said, I know I will run again. Tendonitis is a common injury, and not super serious (don’t tell my doctor I said that, omg.) and I feel whiny and I hate that- I have a 6 year old, a 4 year old and an 18 month old- I hear enough whining during my days without having to listen to my own. Setbacks happen to all of us and the best thing for me to do right now is take the time to heal, and remember that there’s always another race. There are more sunrises to see while on my morning run, more things to chat about during my long runs with Sara, more shoes and patterned pants to buy and many, many more runcations with my Scoot chicks.

School is out down here and I’m in full camp mom mode with my awesome kids. I’ve been looking forward to this since Spring Break because I love creating activities for them (on Monday, we painted rocks to make tic-tac-toe game pieces) and I love taking them on field trips (yesterday- the library and a picnic at a local playground). I think they’re the coolest. I’m planning to take a little break from blogging because I have a lot going on during the day, and most of it is mommy/kid stuff and not exercise stuff, which makes me both happy and sad. I’ll still be reading blogs, of course, so please link yours below.

Today, I’m going to share some of my favorite running photos with you, in celebration of our favorite sport.

With Meri, before the Rothman 8k in 2011

With Meri, before the Rothman 8k in 2011

Running with my middle babe at the Disney Princess kids races in 2012

Running with my middle babe at the Disney Princess kids races in 2012

Happy at mile 13 at my PR race, the Melbourne Beaches half marathon in 2012

Happy at mile 13 at my PR race, the Melbourne Beaches half marathon in 2012

It's not often we get to run together! A beach run with my husband last summer.

It’s not often we get to run together! A beach run with my husband last summer.

Post- UCF 5 miler with my family (we all ran a race that day except the boy!)

Post- UCF 5 miler with my family (we all ran a race that day except the boy!)

Wine and Dine with Meri and Lisa (who had a huge PR that night). Love these girls!

Wine and Dine with Meri and Lisa (who had a huge PR that night). Love these girls!

New Year's Day run with my girl, Dorothy, who is blurry because well, we were running.

New Year’s Day run with my girl, Dorothy, who is blurry because well, we were running.

Before the 10k portion of Disney's Glass Slipper Challenge. I miss my running time with Sara almost as much as I miss running.

Before the 10k portion of Disney’s Glass Slipper Challenge. I miss my running time with Sara almost as much as I miss running.

A friend gave me some advice many years ago- to hold onto a memory, to really be able to pull it back into you mind, you should take a mental picture. Focus on the smell, the sound, the scene before you. How you feel. This isn’t easy to do during a race, because your body is so tired, your mind is thinking of everything, or nothing, or that pain in your whatever…it’s almost impossible to soak in a single moment in time for later recall. I carry my phone in my hand to snap pictures, but my mind does a decent job, occasionally.

I will never forget how I felt after I crossed the finish line after the Melbourne half in 2012- partially because I had achieved the sub-2, and also because I was breathing pretty poorly and worried I was going to pass out. (Later I found out I had bronchitis. Oops.)

I will always remember the joy of crossing the finish line with Mer at her first half marathon. It was such a tearful, happy moment.

My friend Danielle ran my last run of the RW Holiday 2013 streak with me, and went a lot farther, mile-wise, than she planned to because she wanted to help me get to 100 total miles. I don’t remember what the weather looked like, or what we wore, but I remember how grateful I felt for her friendship.

Watching Anne finish her first half-marathon in April is probably my favorite running memory of 2014. I felt high all day because of it (okay, a little bit was due to my own race. But mostly hers. Seeing a friend believe in herself, and achieve something they’ve worked so hard for is magical.)

I can’t wait to get back out there and make some new memories. Share one of your favorites with me?

I hate running… Wait, no, I love running!

I’m going to let you in on a terribly kept little secret.

Sometimes, more often than I care to admit, I don’t like running. In fact, I don’t use the H word often but I might have said that I’ve *hated* running once or twice.

I’m sorry, I’m sorry; Please don’t shun me from the runner’s club!

I say it’s terribly kept because I’ve got no qualms telling anyone who asks what I truly think about running. My relationship with running has always been tumultuous. In fact, the “it’s complicated” status would be what I’d use to describe us (you know, if Facebook wanted to know the nitty gritty details of me and running).

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Cam, Me and Vic before my first race ever (smiles can be deceiving – I was terrified.)

It’s just that, well, there are some days that I’m quite reluctant to run. Once I’m moving, the reluctantly usually subsides, but the motivation to get going is a challenge. I always wind up doing it because I’m fairly driven, but I understand and sympathize with people who say to me “I don’t know how you do it.” Because, honestly, there are days when I’m not sure myself how I do it.

I just do.

I run on the treadmill more than I run on the road, because that’s what currently fits in my life. And also because I feel like when I run outside, people are judging me. The rational part of me knows otherwise but the scared girl who walked around the track in high school instead of running the mile doesn’t want to look foolish.

For years I said those four words that so many people say: I’m not a runner. I had a million reasons why I wasn’t a runner. My knees. My body type. My genetics. It’s Thursday. I don’t run unless I’m being chased.

But the real reason I wasn’t a runner?

Because it’s HARD.  Running is a challenge, physically demanding and it occasionally hurts.  I remember asking Vic if it gets easier and I think she told me that it does. Or at least that’s what I want to believe she told me because I’m still waiting for that to happen.

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Injuries after my first 5k (which happened to be a mud run).

Maybe one day?

I sign up for races because I know that it will encourage me to train consistently. I have moments of greatness with running. They usually happen while I’m running alone with my ear buds in and I lose myself in the run.  Like I said, it doesn’t happen often but I’m constantly searching for those moments of greatness because I know they exist, the almost mythical creature that shows up just when you start thinking that maybe you imagined the entire thing.

I get a great sense of accomplishment that I’m running. It’s mine, and I don’t have to be the fastest or the best. I’m a non-competitive person by natural, at least where athletics is concerned. So when it comes to running, it’s enough for me that I’m actually doing it, after 34 years of not doing it. I don’t beat myself up (too much) if I don’t hit a PR goal or get upset if I’m 62 out of 67 in my age group. I’ll take it because the fact that I’m participating is what matters most of all.

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Let’s get back to those moments of greatness. Lately, they’ve been showing up more, little glimmers that remind me why I do this (other than the health benefits). Maybe I’m actually figuring out this running stuff a bit more. Maybe I’m improving as a runner and therefore I’m seeing them more and it’s all related.

Maybe I actually like running.  A little bit.

Okay, fine.  A lot.

I can and I will.

Do you find yourself falling more and more in love with running every day?  Or is your relationship status “it’s complicated” too? Do you run to race or to say you’ve done it?

Haddonfield Adrenaline 5k 2013

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I did it again. I lost a friend I was pacing mid-race.  But this time, my running partner blessed my zippy feet. Before Saturday’s 5K race through Haddonfield, NJ., Meridith had asked me to pace her. BUT, only on the condition that IF we lost each other, I would race to the finish.

Agreed.

Our happy group for the Haddonfield Running Company’s Adrenaline 5K included two first time 5K-runners, not-so-silent Bob and Jay, Mer’s husband. Friends, Brandi and Megan, and their respective trailblazing husbands, Sean and Matt, rounded out our colorful group.

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We arrived at Haddonfield HS about an hour before the 9 a.m. race. We had access to the school to use the bathrooms and keep warm. We sure did, as temps dropped into the mid-30s Saturday morning.

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Brandi showed us her dual watches, however, neither one worked properly during the race. Bummer!

Soon enough, we lined up outside the school on Kings Highway and before we knew it we were off. No, really, we had no idea the race began until people around us shuffled forward.

Within the first quarter-mile, we saw two firefighters donning full turnout gear – one man hauled a fire hose and the second carried an American flag. We thanked them for their service and waved as we passed by.

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We passed some other interesting characters, including a dog in a green tutu, and another canine – a senior golden retriever named Birdie — running the race.

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Sean, in the red shirt and orange cap, paced his wife Brandi in the first mile as Brandi aimed to break her personal 5K record. She waved him on mid-race.

I started the race alongside Meridith and tried to stay just in front her, to force her to chase me through the streets. But it wasn’t Meri’s day. I turned back more than once to see her smiling face nodding. But shortly before the first mile marker, she grimaced and waved me on.

I rounded a bend, onto Washington Avenue, and picked up my pace. But oh, there were obstacles. Mini-Cooper-sized potholes. You really had to watch your step as you ran, for fear you might turn an ankle in one of those potholes.

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As the runner pushing a stroller in this photo said, “We come to Haddonfield for the schools, not the quality of the streets.”

I headed down a hill, taking full advantage of gravity, rounded a few bends, passed by a water stop and ran up a small hill near the high-speed rail line. I was passing people left and right (thank you, running partner Ray for pushing me to run hills each Tuesday night!).

Ultimately, I sprinted that last mile. I ran to the finish knowing full well it was not my best or my worst time. I received a medal and stalked the finish line to snap photos of Meridith. She rolled in a few minutes later – grinning.

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Like me, it was not her best run nor was it her worst. She joined me at the finish and we waited for her husband to appear. And the flurries started to fly.

Soon enough, we spotted his blue jacket in the distance. He was approaching – fast. We yelled – not that he could hear us. But he sprinted, realizing he could surpass his time goal and flew past several runners.

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He finished just under 39 minutes and was soon surrounded by his fan club (seen above and to the right.) Well done, group!

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Megan, Meri, Brandi and Vic at the finish. Most 5K races don’t reward finishers with medals, but the Adrenaline 5K has a pretty kick-ass medal…which doubles as a bottle opener. And we put those medals to good use at the Haddonfield Running Company’s Sweet 16 Party back at the store, 121 E. Kings Highway.

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There was quite the variety of beer – ranging from Guinness to microbrews to Coors Light. The store put on a pretty stellar post- race food from a local catering company, Apron.

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And of course, there were sales. Oh yes. And we shopped. (Really, we needed a few things.) We visited with friends for a pretty great day. Thanks Haddonfield Running Company. We’ll be back.

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My Monsoon Marathon

If there’s one thing I knew about Los Angeles, it’s that Southern California is typically sunny and dry. After a brutal 10 weeks of winter marathon training in upstate New York, which included a 20-miler in 6 inches of snow and sub-zero wind chills, I was ready to run amongst palm trees and blue skies.

Wrong.

Forecasters predicted rain for the Los Angeles Marathon. 100% chance of rain.

“I know it says its going to rain tomorrow, but it never does,” said my dear friend and hostess Kelly. “It just doesn’t happen here. And if it does, it’ll be nothing.”

Famous last words.

You know this if you ran LA in 2011. It was the year of the monsoon marathon.

I ran the Stadium-to-Sea course with my good friend Emily that spring. We had trained together and would run together. And we were both aiming to break 4:30. A lofty goal since we’d each only run one marathon at a far slower pace.

On our way to LA, we picked up a celebrity fan, Richard Simmons.

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Richard sat by Emily and me  as we waited to board our flight. He was rather excited to learn we were running in LA and promised to cheer for us at the tail end of the course. Here, he dragged me onto his lap for a photo.

The night before our race, we stayed at a Wyndham hotel downtown. We knew we’d be a short drive to Dodger Stadium, where the race would begin. Emily’s boyfriend planned to ferry us there, but we ultimately hopped a complimentary race shuttle shortly after 5:30 am.

We arrived with plenty of time to use the bathrooms, eat and stretch. We waited with the 4:30 pace leader until it was our turn to begin, chatting about race strategy. (It was simple – keep pace with the group.) Soon enough, we ditched our throwaway clothes and we were off.

That first mile was rough. We ran through the stadium’s lackluster parking lot, dodging and weaving around other runners as we struggled to keep up with our pace group. The pace leader had warned us that the first few miles would be the hardest. She was right! It was difficult to navigate the crowd, especially since less than a mile in, many people in the middle of the pack were already walking.

And then it started to rain.

It began as a drizzle, but steadily gained momentum. By the time we reached mile 5, we were drenched. But honestly, we didn’t mind because it was far better than running in the snow!

We ran up an incredibly steep hill near the Walt Disney Music Hall downtown, and were rewarded with a concert from musicians at the top before we rounded the bend.  We ran past Echo Lake, where I recall spotting big, fat raindrops splash into the water.

Soon enough, we turned into Sunset Boulevard (the less-than-exciting stretch.) A few miles later we turned onto Hollywood Boulevard where – about mile 10 – we passed the Columbia Records Tower, Hollywood & Vine, Pantages Theater and Mann’s Chinese Theater.

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We were soaked. We splashed through puddles as we rounded a turn off Hollywood toward Sunset. We were headed toward our designated West Hollywood meetup spot with Kelly. Her home was a block off the marathon route, so we planned to meet her at the corner.

We approached familiar landmarks – Bristol Farms gourmet grocery and the Coffee Bean, my lifeblood when in town. Then I saw my Kelly, huddled under an umbrella at the corner. She spotted me, lit up, waved and passed me some GU gels. Seeing her at the halfway point really energized me. I knew she’d waited in the chilly rain for quite some time, so it meant a lot that we were able to find each other.

Through mile 15, we ran down Sunset, past the Laugh Factory, Chateau Marmont and the hotel I’d stayed the previous year when bestie Meridith and I traveled west for Kelly’s baby shower.

I knew this area. Familiar landmarks kept me going. That and the rain!

We turned off Sunset and ran down a hill, splashing through more puddles as we moved.

“Is it raining?” Emily yelled. “This is all you got? Bring it LA!”

Most runners around us ignored our antics as we chanted that a rainy run was far better than running in snow or ice.

It was also around the point in our waterlogged race that we realized we could go to the bathroom while still running, and no one would be the wiser. (We didn’t, for the record, but were jazzed to know we could!)

We also didn’t bother to slow down or walk at water stops. We were already wet, so what did it matter if we sloshed water all over our faces and clothes.

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Multiple times we found and lost our pace leader. As we approached Beverly Hills, we located her again and stuck with the group for several more miles.

At mile 17, we turned onto Rodeo Drive. We window-shopped as we passed those designer stores. And here, there was also a huge crowd of spectators, braving the elements to encourage friends, family and strangers. And believe me when I say they were nearly as wet as the runners! We were so appreciative.

We never did spot Richard Simmons in the rain, but knew he was there, handing out water and cheering runners along.

We left Beverly Hills and within a few miles approached the VA Hospital grounds, arriving around mile 21. Within the next mile, we trampled a muddy, narrow path and I lost Emily on a hill. A short time later, I lost the pace group too. I cursed those hospital grounds.

I had 4 miles to go – about 40 more minutes. I could do that. Miles 22-24 were a slow low-grade uphill. I repeatedly cursed that hill, but didn’t stop to walk even as the downpour continued. I knew gravity would carry me home once I hit the other side.

Soon enough, I was headed downhill and picked up the pace. I needed to regain any time I lost trudging up that hill.

Around mile 25, I spotted the 4:30 pace group, looked at my watch and realized they were ahead of pace. I grinned ear-to-ear as I passed by.

I heard some lovely volunteers cheer my name and tell me how great I looked. I loved them all. I was almost done.

The finish line was just ahead. I sped up and my quads screamed, so I dialed it back a smidge. I managed to maintain a 9:20 pace for that last mile.

Soon enough I spotted the Pacific Ocean! I rounded a turn onto ocean avenue in Santa Monica, where a wall on wind knocked me backward. Oh, right. With rain comes wind. Fantastic.

I pushed through the whipping winds and rain and crossed the finish with a huge smile on my face. I saw Emily immediately as she’d crossed seconds before me. She promptly burst into tears after crossing the line, turned around to locate me and voila!

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We hugged, laughed and cried – and shivered. We surpassed our goal and were thrilled. I ran 4:27:21, a personal record by 18 minutes.

As easily as we found each other at the finish, we also lost one another in the post-race crowd. Everyone was soaked and searching for disoriented runners. I finally exited the claustrophobic chute and walked toward a predetermined meeting spot.  I tripped into Emily’s boyfriend, who handed me my drenched bag of clothes from the hotel. I told him I lost Emily when I stopped for a bottle of Gatorade. He assured me it was all right.

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The mass of people at the finish.

A short time later, I found Kelly and together we walked to her car. She tried to shelter me with her umbrella, since I was shivering and my teeth were chattering. I assured her I was fine. I was soaked to the bone and there was no saving me at that point. Save yourself Kelly!

Once at the car, Kelly helped me change into dry clothes and wrapped me in a towel. She tucked me into the front seat and blasted the heat the whole way home.

It was later that the reality truly set in. I ran my best marathon in a monsoon. And this time remains my fastest marathon, even though I’ve completed two marathons since my soggy journey.

How do you cope when the weather is undesirable?

Part 2 of the Goofy Challenge – the marathon

This is it, Marathon Day. Also, it’s the final part of RunDisney’s Goofy Challenge – 39.3 miles over two days.

Yup. You read correctly A marathon and a half – 24 hours apart. Goofy it is.

We started off with the same routine as for Saturday’s half. We woke at 2 am and were again on the first bus out of the Saratoga Springs resort. Once at EPCOT, we walked to the holding pen and camped out on the exact same bench we used the previous morning. We like routine.

We were nervous about running a marathon one day after completing a half. But we were ready. After all, we were Goofy.

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A little pre-race silliness with my Jennifer

Soon enough, we checked our bags, hit the bathrooms and walked to the corrals. We had a fourth crew member in tow until we reach Corral A. Our friend Ray was gearing up to run his fourth Disney marathon, with a goal of 3:40. More on Ray’s journey later. He went to the front of the corral with the speedy speedsters.

Aaron, Jen and I sat and stretched near the back of Corral A. We were there about an hour before the 5:30 a.m. start. Better early than late – I learned that in 2012 when we barely made it to our corral before the start of the Princess half marathon.  Holy moly! Not the way to start a distance run, for sure.

After a quick pit stop in the woods (classy girl I am) I returned to the corral with time to spare and an extra surprise – bramblies on my lulu running skirt and inside my underwear. Sigh. Fortunately I had enough time to remove the burrs, but what a cluster! That could’ve been a fatal error.

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Soon enough, fireworks sounded and the race was underway!

The day’s forecast called for extremely hot and humid weather, so we decided to slow our pace and to hydrate as much as possible.

We ran and ran and ran. This year’s marathon course was different. Like previous years it passed through all four Walt Disney World theme parks, but for the first time runners also zipped along the speedway and spent several miles on the heavenly fields at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. Aaron ran the marathon (his first) last year so he outlined some of the differences as we ran.

I won’t rehash our journey mile by mile, especially since much of our first hour was a repeat of Saturday’s run. But I’ll say there’s no race like a Disney race, which includes characters, floats and thousands of cheering spectators as you ran past some of the places where you made some amazing childhood memories.

But here are a few of my fave pics:

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Jen, Aaron and me in front of the castle

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Running THROUGH Cinderella’s Castle

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stunning fog and sunrise on the golf course – again

As we approached the speedway, a flashing sign warned “STEEP HILL AHEAD.” Not something a marathoner ever wants to see. We laughed off the warning, since we couldn’t imagine anything to warrant such a dramatic sign. We were WRONG. Ouch.

Soon we were rewarded with the sunrise over the speedway, which was lined with all sorts of vintage cars, sports cars and characters from the movie Cars. Awesome!

After leaving the raceway, we passed the waste water treatment plant (shudder) and came across a gaggle of villains. Jen and I jumped in line to pose:

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Jen and I pose with the villains!

Miles 12 and 13 sent us through Animal Kingdom. It was my first time inside the park and it did not disappoint. I met some goats as we entered the park:

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(Me and a goat)

And we ran into RunDisney’s marathon training expert Jeff Galloway who graciously smiled as I snapped his photo:

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Yep, that’s Jeff Galloway!

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Everest! My first glimpse inside Animal Kingdom

At our halfway point, we returned to our run-walk-run plan for the remainder of the marathon. We paused around mile 15 to visit some gravediggers. HAHA!

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It was wonderful to get off our feet, even for a few seconds

We made our way to ESPN’s Wide World of Sports, where we received a lovely drenched sponge at an aid station that put some pep in my step. We ran through soccer fields, baseball fields, the track and ultimately rounded the basement in Champion Stadium. That pleasure was wasted on me because I kept obsessing over the possibility of getting rocks in my shoes here. Ah well.

Soon enough, we approached the 20-mile spectacular, in which several oversized puppet-type characters lined the street and classic Mickey, Minnie and Pluto were on hand for runners to meet. Just before we rounded the corner, Jen suggested the event should include money or free park tickets to indeed qualify as spectacular. HA! Nothing compared to that suggestion, but we danced our way past the celebration.

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dancing our way through Mile 20

Miles 21 and 22 took us past the little Green Army Men to Hollywood Studios, where we received chocolate at an aid station, zipped through the backlot and the tour tunnel and wound our way through the park and out the gates.

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In the backlot tunnel at Hollywood Studios

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Running down the streets of America at Hollywood Studios

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Still running through Hollywood Studios

I high-fived a slew of spectators outside the park. Boy did that feel fantastic!

We ran and we walked. We zigged. We zagged. Now repeat.  We passed the Boardwalk and entered EPCOT.

One mile to go! We zipped past the world showcase, passing France, Morocco, Germany and loads of other runners and we headed toward Spaceship Earth, the gospel choir and the FINISH LINE!

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Nearly at the finish with Jen

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We crossed together — and I high-fived Goofy!

I still cannot believe we ran a marathon and a half over the course of a weekend. But we did and I had the time of my life.

It was incredibly hot, so we took it easy, finishing in 5:31. Well over our expected time, but we didn’t care in the slightest. We finished and we stuck together and that was our true goal. I’d love to do it again and let her rip… 2014 perhaps?

(NOTE: I promised a recap on Ray’s race: He finished in under 4 hours, but walked a bit, something he doesn’t like to do when racing. But the heat was a factor and he listened to his body.)

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From left, Aaron, Ray, Vic and Jen

Part 1 of the Goofy Challenge – the half marathon

We were ready to run.

After a fabulous carb-loading dinner (gnocchi for me!) at Downtown Disney Friday evening, we slept for several hours before our 2 a.m. alarm sounded.

Now let me say, my running pals are Type A  early birds who would much rather arrive at the race site early rather than rush to our corrals just before start time.  I agree wholeheartedly.

I should introduce you to my race partners for the Goofy Challenge Jen and Aaron. Jen is one of my closest friends and was my first “real” friend in college. I met Aaron a few years back here in Rochester and we run together regularly.

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(left to right, Jen, me, Aaron at our pasta dinner!)

So to sum up the next few less-than-exciting hours, we prepped, headed out the door for a shuttle pickup and were on the first bus out of the Saratoga Springs resort, arriving at EPCOT shortly after 3 am. We sat on a bench for a while, then checked our bags, made our way to Corral A, where we waited some more.

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Finally, the fireworks went off and we started running. Within a mile, my glasses fogged up from the humidity. Awwwesome.

We zipped into the first toilets we saw – no lines! Huzzah!! But otherwise, we ran and ran and ran some more. Around mile 3, came up to the toll gates for Magic Kingdom and started chanting; “Caution runners, road narrows, speed bumps ahead.”

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We got a few other runners in on the action – Hey, we had to entertain ourselves SOMEHOW.

We ran through the parking lots, past cheering crowds at the kingdom’s transportation center, toward the contemporary resort.  And there it was, our first glimpse of Cinderella’s Castle on the predawn horizon.

It always takes my breath away, just for a second. We’ll be there soon!

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We passed by Space Mountain – and a rather dark stretch just outside the park – and then we passed through some back gates and entered Magic Kingdom! After a loop behind the scenes at the park, we entered Main Street USA. This is always my favorite stretch of any Disney race: it’s a bit like stepping onto a stage.

Crowds of cheering loved ones and many Disney cast members lined the street. We, of course, stopped for several photos on Main Street and in front of the castle, which was covered with stunning wintry lights.

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Jen and me running along Main Street USA! (jazz hands!)

We hung a right and headed into Tomorrowland – and straight to a lovely restroom with flushing toilets. One member of our crew needed a rather lengthy pit stop here. (We didn’t time it, but it was well over 10 minutes.)

Soon enough, we were again on our way. We ran toward Fantasyland, stopping by the teacups, a favorite ride of mine and Jen’s dating back 15+ years.

We passed a few more characters before it was time to run through Cinderella’s Castle! Such a magical feeling to cross through to the other side!

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Cinderella’s Castle still in its winter splendor.

We ran down the ramp and veered into Frontierland. We waved to Princess Tiana, saluted Woody and Jessie, cursed Splash Mountain (for being closed for repairs) and were spooked by the idling train on the tracks as we left the park just past mile 6.

The sun peeked over the horizon as we passed parade float storage, which now also housed all of Splash Mountain’s unused log boats.

Queue the Disney-induced mist and fog over the Magnolia golf course – breathtaking! (More on that in the full marathon post.) We ran past several more resorts and headed back to the highway.

Starting mile 7, we launched our run-walk-run  plan to conserve energy, our legs and our sanity for Sunday’s marathon. We walked 1/4 mile and ran 3/4 mile for each remaining mile through the end of the race.

The miles clicked off and soon enough, we entered EPCOT. The last mile loops through future world, past Spaceship Earth to the finish line in the parking lot. Just before mile 13, we passed a gospel choir jiving and singing Hallelujah!

Jen and I joined hands in the last stretch as Aaron whipped out his camera. Together we crossed the finish, hands in air.

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Medal number one!

When a Race Goes Horribly Wrong

The Pittsburgh Marathon was meant to be MY race.

But little went as planned on May 6.

I trained long and hard last spring for my third marathon. I dodged snow plows, braved whipping winds on frigid, single-digit days and completed two 20-milers, one at a 9:40 minute/mile pace, my best yet. I actually paid attention to my diet and adjusted accordingly. I was ready to race.

But on race day, instead of celebrating a 26.2-mile journey, I was weeping in the shower.

I know it sounds bonkers, crying over exercise. But that’s how it panned out.

I headed to Pittsburgh the day before the race with two good friends, including my trusty running partner Gary. Early May in Pittsburgh was unseasonably hot, we realized as we walked to the expo from our downtown hotel. We took this as a sign to hydrate even more.

The highs reached into the 80s both days we were in the Steel City. It was sunny and humid, without a cloud in the sky.

I woke up race morning feeling fresh and ready to run. I ate, dressed and headed to the lobby with my running partners Gary and Audra.

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We bid our loved ones farewell and walked to the starting line.

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It was go time. I was antsy before we started running, but attributed to nerves.

There were other signs, however, that it was not my day.

Clue number 1: It was warm at 6 a.m.

Yep, it was hot and humid before we even started. Weather Service stats place the temp around 75 before we even hit the pavement. I struggle with speed in warmer weather. We should have adjusted our planned race pace to reflect the day’s forecast. But we were excited and knew we were well-prepared.

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Clue number 2: I felt like crap at mile 5.

I figured my energy would kick in several miles down the road. Some days I’m just not feeling it until I’ve logged a few miles. I just hoped the boost wasn’t too far off. Unfortunately, it never came.

Clue number 3: I stopped talking.

I’m typically a Chatty Cathy when running with my pals. I stopped contributing to the conversation shortly after mile 6.

“I knew something was off when you went quiet,” Gary said later.  “It’s not like you to be quiet for so long.” No offense, he added.

Gary and Audra kept asking if I was ok, I grunted affirmative answers. Audra checked if I wanted to walk and I declined. But I should’ve listened to her suggestion. There’s absolutely no shame in walking and it really may have made a difference.

Clue number 4: I couldn’t get enough water.

I grabbed multiple glasses of water at several hydration stations, dumping most in my mouth but some on my head. Gary handed me a drenched bandana to cool me down somewhere around mile 8.

Clue number 5: Things started turning purple.

That’s when I really started to take notice that something was wrong.

I’ve been overcome by the heat on training runs before and know that when start to see colors it’s time to listen to my body. That’s when I called it. This marathon wasn’t happening for me.

“Guys,” I grunted shortly before mile 10 and the turnoff for the half-marathon course. “I need to cut it at the half. I might make it 5 more miles but another 16 just isn’t happening.”

It killed me to say it. But I knew it was the right call. I knew if I dropped, they’d stop too. The last thing I wanted was to take my running partners down with me.

“You do what you have to do,” Audra assured me. “It’s ok.”

Moments later, we reached the split, I turned left with the half-marathoners and walked across a bridge that spanned the Monongahela River. Marathoners were running across the westbound lanes, and I veered toward the concrete barrier, prepared to climb over the wall, find my friends and to return to my rightful place in the race.

I stopped and shook my head. I couldn’t even run across the bridge, let alone another 16 miles.

I burst into tears.

I walked a half-mile or so before I started running again. I wanted to throttle anyone kind enough to cheer me on, assuring me I was running well and almost done. I wish.

Those last few miles were rough, I walked then ran and walked again. I finally saw the finish line and headed there as fast as possible. I grabbed a bottle of water and drained it.

A volunteer handed me a medal. I tried to dodge it, but it was plunked around my neck despite my protests. It was the least of my problems.

I made my way over to the family reunion area, where I fortunately located Gary’s wonderful family, who were surprised to see me, but took care of me nonetheless.

Two hours later, I was thrilled to see Gary and Audra finish the race, but teared up since I wasn’t with them.

Some runners tell me I need several factors to align on marathon day. I had trained properly – check. But the weather was not favorable. It was a good 25 degrees warmer than what I’d hoped for.

I should have heeded the warnings. There were so many things I could’ve done differently that may have allowed me to at least complete the race

But I didn’t. Life’s full of lessons, isn’t it?

Since May, I’ve completed two more marathons and am planning to run another in the fall. Can’t keep this runner down.

Have you ever had a race not go as planned?