I earned the tiara. My finishing time was 3:26, not quite as fast as I had hoped but I finished and that was what mattered to me for my first half marathon. I had some milestones. I ran for 32 minutes without stopping – perhaps a first for my life. It was about 2.5 miles at that point. (And, yes, I could hear Sam saying his favorite thing to me – “you don’t know the doors you have just opened.”) I walked and ran the rest of the race. For the next few miles I alternated running about 5 minutes and then walking. I was at a 3 hour finish pace through mile 5 but then I started slowing down. Also, I was a minute faster at the 5 mile mark than I was at the Brenda LaDun 8K at the end of January. Mile 10 to the end was the hardest part of the race though I did manage to run some of the final 3.1 miles and did run across the finish line. I kept thinking it’s only a 5K to the end but I still walked more than ran the final leg. I thought there were several hundred women behind me. As it turned out there were a few thousand women behind me.
17,000 runners entered the Disney Princess Half Marathon this year. (That is the official number I have seen but they don’t count the men in the finishers since this is a Princess half marathon so if you look up places the number is smaller.) Five of us got up at 3 a.m. to get ready and go run together. Amy and Dionne were in the fastest corral, Jean and Linda were next and I was in the final corral. Even though we did not literally run together, I think we did in spirit.
My corral was F – fit, fantastic, fabulous, fun, finishers – as the Fairy Godmother who sent us on our way described us. (Note – not fat!) There were fireworks to send each group onto the course. As I said, I started out running for 32 minutes, including running up a slight incline. There was grass so I was able to stay on the side in the grass much of the first part of the race. Many of us were first time half marathoners in the final group. My initial strategy had been to run 2 miles and then begin walking. I kept going though and I also decided to find someone ahead of me to keep up with or to catch up with once I started walking. During my first 2.5 miles I passed a lot of women. I spotted a Tinkerbell and decided she was the one I would keep my eye on. That worked until she stopped for a photo op. Then I found someone else to stay with or catch. I ran with different groups of women to keep my pace up. This helped quite a bit. Also, the music that was playing along the course helped me run faster. (Elizabeth T. your theory is correct.) I did not stop for photos with characters because the lines were very long and I was really afraid I would never start again if I did.
In my dreams I am a Kenyan…
…a slow Kenyan, but a Kenyan, none the less. I know I sound like a broken record, but a year ago I could barely walk. This year I ran a half marathon. I am amazed. The most emotional moment was running through Cinderella’s castle. I’m not really sure why, but it was and I cried. After I passed through the castle I was fine and I thought about the progress I have made. Even though I had never run 13.1 miles before I felt very ready for this race. I have been training – running, weights, swimming, etc. – and I knew I could do this even if I wasn’t the fastest. I thought about many people who have inspired me – Richard, my friend Andrea’s husband, who is Kenyan and who was a marathoner, my cousins who were ahead of me, all of my librarian running friends, the women who surrounded me on the race course. Each one of us had her own story for why she was up at 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning to run 13.1 miles. I also thought about the people who have encouraged me and coached me – Sam, of course, Cathy, David and Krista.
There was a lot of support along the course. My favorite sign read, “Stop reading the signs and keep running.” Many of you have sent me notes of support and I appreciate those very much. There may be more that I will write about this experience. I experienced another mental shift in the hours after the race. It is something I have thought about and have wanted to do but never thought I would or could. Now I know otherwise.
Here are a few more photos:
In the next month I will continue to train. I have a couple of 5k’s scheduled and at the end of March I will complete my first sprint triathlon. There are more races scheduled – a whole season- but I’ll save the details for later.