Life Lessons, Running

WDW Marathon Recap {lessons learned from a DNF}

{you can read about the expo/pre-race activities here and read the race recap here}

I did not finish.

I DID NOT finish.


Man, that’s a tough pill to swallow. I was super emotional about it right after it happened, but tried to suck it up… After all we were at Disney! Then I would remember that moment I knew I wasn’t going to cross that finish line and my heart would sink.

Looking back I can see there were several practical lessons to learn from my DNF. I want to share those with you in case you are thinking about doing a marathon, so you don’t have to make the same mistakes I did.


  1. Conquer smaller distances first. I know, this one may seem like the logical thing to do; it is. Looking back, I should have done it. Before I signed up to run the marathon I hadn’t run in an actual race. I ran a 10k back in my internship days, but it was just around campus and not a true race experience. In the first few weeks of my training I ran a small local 5k, but that was nothing like the huge race experience that Disney is. I should have run a half-marathon or even a 10k. Not only is knowing how the flow of a larger race important, it is also a great confidence builder!
  2. Track your mileage accurately. For all of my training I used Nike+ with the shoe pod. The problem was it would never calibrate properly. So for every mile I thought I was running, I was really only running .90ish miles. Which adds up during long training runs. It also gives you false hope of a decent pace, so my estimated time was WAY off. I have since invested in a Garmin, which is way more accurate… but some times depressing when you realize how slow you’re really going… but I digress…
  3. Race in the Environment that You Trained in (At least for your first). While I started my training in the summer, I did the bulk of my mileage in the fall/winter. The temps I was used to training in were in the 30s and 40s. On race day the temps got in the upper 70s, probably at least 80. This is probably by far the biggest problem I ran into. My body hadn’t seen temperatures that high in months, let alone run in them! It made me (even) slower than I already was! If you are planning on running a big race for the first time at least make sure the race temperatures will be relatively similar to those that you trained in to ensure success.
  4. Plan for bathroom stops (or not). I know that I could have finished had I been allowed to. It wouldn’t have been fast or pretty, but I would have finished. And the difference between them letting me finish and making me stop was literally 10 seconds or less. They were letting people complete the race once they passed the on ramp that I got stopped at, even if they were slow beyond that point. I’ve thought about this time and again and if I could have a do over of just race day with my same training I would simply pee on myself. I stopped at Miles 3, 11 and 18. Each stop was probably at least 5 minutes. That’s a 15 minute difference. Thats a whole mile at the pace I was going. I should have just peed on myself…

While having a DNF (did not finish) on record isn’t what any runner wants, it’s better than a DNS (did not start). I learned a lot about myself and turned my negative into a positive. Now I’m more determined then ever to get into shape and sometime before I’m 30 I will return to Disney to redeem myself. Not only do I want to finish the Disney Marathon, but I want to one up it and do the Goofy Challenge (Where you run the Half-Marathon Saturday and Full on Sunday). I tend to overcorrect, haha.

Have you ever had the opportunity to turn a “failure” into a lesson learned? Tell me about it!

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WDW Marathon Recap {race day}

{Read about the expo and pre-race day activities here.}

Sunday, January 8, 2012. It was here!

I didn’t sleep well at all. My stomach was in knots from the nerves. I kept wondering if I drank enough water… why did I go to sleep so late… what if I missed all 3 of my alarms… I had crazy weird dreams about the race. I ended up having to get up to use the bathroom around 2:30 (guess I did drink enough water!) and decided to go ahead and start getting ready.

Hot pink tshirt: check. Favorite compression capris: check. Hot pink compression socks: check. Pink sweatband: check. Bib: check.

I ate part of my special pre-race box meal I bought from the hotel cafeteria (bagel and banana) and drank all the water. I brought an extra “throw away” hoodie to keep me warm until start time (not that it was that cold…). I had my fuel and water bottle. It was a little after 3 when I stumbled to the bus stop at our resort. There were a few other people there, but our bus was pretty empty. We all sat in groggy silence all the way to drop-off. They had an excellent pre-race area set up. I didn’t check a bag since Chris was bringing me my stuff later, but it looked pretty organized. They had a DJ and some of the characters out there, so I took full advantage of that!

I did make a friend on the walk from the bus to the pre-race area, which actually help make the time pass and honestly calmed my nerves a little… Thanks Melanie!

It came time to start heading over to the corrals. It was about a 20 minute walk. Some people complained about it, but I honestly didn’t mind it much

I ended up in Corral E. I loved all the pre-race hype up and had a fun time watching the people around me. Especially the guy dressed up as Tinkerbell. He had moves like jagger.  Wish I took a picture of that!

Before too long they were counting down for the start. My heart was racing. My mind wasn’t far behind. This was it. The culmination of 6 months of hours and miles, sweat and tears. They released Corral A… B…. C…. it was happening so fast…. D…. and then we were up. I was at the back of the corral. The countdown… then BOOM, fireworks, and we were off!


There was lots of shuffling and people passing and guys stopping to pee on the side of the road… You see we had been in our corrals for over an hour. With all the extra hydration it seemed as though everyone had to go! I didn’t have anything to track my time with and all the clocks at each mile started with Corral A so the reality is I had NO idea how fast I was going. I ran with the 5:50 pace group for awhile and felt pretty good about that until I saw port-a-potties around mile 3 and decided to stop. I never caught up with that 5:50 pace group.

We ran around Epcot, which was fun in the dark because they still had all the christmas lights up.

We ran back out of Epcot and headed towards Magic Kingdom… Down a long stretch of boring road with a few random attractions on it that I didn’t take pictures of…. except this guy with the awesomely huge Mickey hands. He was funny.

I was obviously going so fast this picture came out blurry. Or I knew I wasn’t going fast enough and couldn’t stop! lol.
I was getting pumped up about running through Magic Kingdom. I mean we got to run through Cinderella’s Castle! Not to mention there were crowds of spectators cheering us on. That was awesome. And just like the map said… Just after mile 10 we rounded the corner to Main St USA and there it was…And I got closer…

And closer….

And went right on thru it. YAY! That was such a rush. I had a huge smile on my face and was feeling pretty good about myself. I still didn’t know what kind of time I was actually making… which could have been good or bad. Good because I actually took the time to enjoy the surroundings and have fun, bad because I didn’t know if I was going too slow for disney pace regulations. I stopped for another potty break after mile 11 and then I ran into Jessie the Cowgirl!

We ran out of Magic Kingdom and through some back roads. We passed the half-marathon mark and I felt a huge sense of accomplishment along with a stinging jealousy of those relay racers who were going into the chutes to tag off to their partner. It was getting hotter and hotter and being done was sounding pretty good, but I was still determined to finish.

As we headed into Animal Kingdom I was starting to feel the fatigue. I had been having problems with a “tailor’s bunion” on my left foot and it was bothering me off and on. I still felt strong mentally though, so I kept truckin along.

I found good ole’ Jiminy Cricket in Animal Kingdom. They also had real animals out to greet us. We ran past Expedition Everest and as we were nearing the end of Animal Kingdom I found Minnie!

Just after leaving Animal Kingdom I also found Minnie’s Main Man, Mickey!

 IMG_3699(please excuse my ugly face, I was trying to mask the exhaustion with silliness and clearly failed)

As I continued on the miles seemed to be getting longer and longer. My feet were aching. I was exhausted and feeling parched and sunburnt. I got some encouraging texts from my friend Jenny who had run the Half Marathon the day before telling me she was waiting for me closer to the finish. I also got texts from Chris encouraging me. I told him I was feeling beat but still felt like I could finish… maybe not in the 6 hours I wanted, but I was going to finish.


Coming up on mile 20 they were playing the Rocky song. It was just what I needed to hear. Getting into the 20’s felt so good! I knew from here it was going to be just 6.2 miles and after 20, 6.2 sounded easy!

My pace had slowed considerably at this point. I was in direct sunlight and my body seemed to be in shock. Keep in mind I trained in the Midwest. In the Winter. My long runs were done in the 30’s and 40’s and it was pressin 80 out there in the sun.

As we rounded a corner I could see the sign for mile 21. I kept telling myself 5 more miles once you get to that sign… but as I turned around on the out and back my heart dropped.

I saw several white vans and pacers on bikes with orange flags.

and I knew just what that meant.

They were calling time.

I got to Mile marker 21 with about 15 seconds to spare according to one of the pacers. I tried to make my legs go faster but felt like I was in slow motion. I ripped through a water station gulping down one sip without stopping and tossing the cup to the side. With tears in my eyes , from a combination of pain and fear of failure, I rounded the corner to the on-ramp that led to Hollywood Studios. There was one guy a few feet in front of me and a few handfuls of people behind me. Just before making the turn a wall of people stopped us.

The guy in front of my bolted around them into the bushes and refused to stop.

I don’t blame him, I contemplated the same thing.

They said they had to re-open the road and we couldn’t finish.

and it was over.

(ha. I thought I was over it, but even as I write this the tears are falling.)

6 months of hours and miles, sweat and tears.

and it was over just like that.

I felt robbed. by the guy on the bike with the orange flag.

if I was literally 10 seconds faster they would have let me finish.

I’ve replayed it in my head a million times. I shouldn’t have taken so many walking breaks. shouldn’t have stopped to use the bathroom. should have pushed just a little harder.

because sometimes 10 seconds make all the difference in the world.

They put us on a bus and took our names, ya know, to make sure we didn’t try to jump back in the race and finish once we got to the end of the race (not that I thought of that at all…)

Looking at my split times you can see that between the half marathon marker and the 20 mile marker my body just wasn’t performing well, despite my mental determination to finish.

They still gave us a medal. I call it my pity medal.

It took me awhile to come to terms with the fact that while I can say I have run in a marathon… I can’t say I’ve finished a marathon. Next to my name on that roster is a big fat DNF (did not finish).

I’m still proud that I tried.

and that I made it over 21 miles.

“The Miracle isn’t that I finished. The Miracle is that I had the courage to start” – John Bingham

I learned a lot that day. Some deep philosphical lessons. and Some practical lessons.

I’ll share them with you Thursday, so stay tuned.

What is something that you have been looking for the courage to start? 


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WDW Marathon Recap {The Expo/Pre-Race Day}

So, it’s been 3 months… It seems like forever ago, but it seems like yesterday at the same time. I’ve went through the day in my head a million times. I have reflected on the lessons learned. And I I’m finally ready to put it into words. I’ll be doing this over a few days this week, so I don’t overwhelm you with too much in one post. Ready for part one? Today I’ll be talking about the Expo and Pre-Race day at Disney. Here we go…

I had been playing with the idea of doing a marathon for a while. I like the idea of racing to keep me motivated towards bigger goals. One of the biggest goals in running is to finish a marathon. So, I signed up. I trained for six months. When I signed up for this race I had only run a few miles at a time. I ran a 10k back in my internship days… I don’t remember my time but it wasn’t fast thats for sure. In that same internship I couldn’t even run the mile fast enough to qualify for a team hike. Either way, I was registered and was nervous like crazy. I tracked all my runs on Nike+. My longest run in training was twenty-three miles. I felt confident that I could finish, I just knew I was slow. I was confident, but slow.

It was nerve wrecking having to pack for a marathon that you have to travel for. I checked and rechecked my packing list. We flew into Orlando on Thursday before the race and stayed in a hotel just off property. We checked into our Disney Resort, Caribbean Beach, on Friday and were planning on going to the expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports to pick up the race packet.


We eventually got there (it was PACKED!) and had a pretty easy time finding the actual bib pickup. Getting into the expo to pick up the swag bag… that was another story. With a husband and toddler in tow, getting through the sweaty packed expo without a stroller (they weren’t allowed inside) was a chore! It was semi-organized chaos in the actual Disney store portion. I was able to grab a few souvenirs and get out pretty quick. I wish it wasn’t as crazy in there so that I could have spent more time looking at the booths, some of the stuff looked awesome! This was my first “big” race so I’m not sure if all expos are this crazy or if it was just because it was Disney. Guess I’ll find out at my next race expo in 2 weeks!

Once I got my bib I got even more nervous, I mean it was REALLY happening.


Don’t let the smile fool you. I was terrified.

We spent the day Saturday at Magic Kingdom with the Family and had a blast. I was hyper-vigilant about hydrating and eating right. I loved seeing the half-marathoners walking around with their medals. At that point I was kinda thinking the half-marathon might have been a better idea at this point. Those nerves were getting me!

I ate the pre-race dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table and they were VERY accommodating with having a carbolicious pre-race meal. I had Chicken and Pasta, very simple and very good. Dinner lasted WAY later than I expected and I didn’t get to bed until 10:15ish…

I set my alarms and hoped for a good nights rest, but was so anxious I wasn’t sure that was going to happen…

{come back again Tuesday to read about my Race Day Experience and then again on Thursday to read about the lessons learned from my runDisney experience!}

What are some of your favorite pre-race meals? Do you have a set routine before races?

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