Backstory: Last year, my friends and I decided that it might be fun to run the Disney Princess 1/2 Marathon for my 30th birthday. Though I didn't consider myself a runner at the time (ie: could not even run a mile without thinking that I was going to die), I signed up. To me, it was a chance to play in my favorite place and spend time with friends that I hadn't seen in a few years. I started training using the Galloway method. I was doing well, until I hit a road block. In July, I had surgery and it caused nerve damage in my left leg. At first, it was numb and didn't really bother me, but then it became painful and running became excruciating. I slacked off on my training big time, but couldn't cancel the race, so I just resolved myself to the fact that I would be walking the whole thing. If I could do a day at Disney, I could definitely do this. My goal became to finish the race without being swept.
Race day came and we all went to our respective corrals. The fireworks with each corral start and the atmosphere were incredible! I was just so happy to be there and when our corral's turn came up, I took off running and almost made it to mile 5 before I decided that I was going to walk for a bit, since I was almost to the Magic Kingdom.
A few minutes into my walk, I saw a younger girl dressed in blue with a blue Mickey balloon tied to her waist- now if you've ever run a Disney race, you'll know that the races are paced by women who are affectionately dubbed "The Balloon Ladies" and they strike fear into the hearts of everyone who isn't way ahead in the pack. They keep a 16 minute per mile pace and if you fall behind them, you are in danger of being swept. This girl was not one of them (as I would find out later), but in that moment, I was convinced that she was and I just started running to get as far ahead of her as I could. I felt much better once I couldn't see her anymore! Soon, I was running down Main Street and on cloud nine! I had to take a picture in front of the castle, so I did!
Running through the Magic Kingdom was amazing and there were crowds of people everywhere cheering us on! It was just the pick me up that I needed to keep on going, so on I went!
Around miles 8 and 9, where the longest stretch of nothing is, I felt like giving up. I was just drained at that point, but I kept telling myself that I wanted this and that I was going to finish, no matter what! At mile 11, my knee started throbbing, so I limped along, trying not to think about how much it hurt!
As Spaceship Earth in Epcot came into view, I started to feel renewed strength. As I went into the park, the race organizers split the runners down the middle directly in front of me and I was certain that this was it, I was getting swept, but the cast members kept cheering for us, so my fears were put to rest. Everyone was so encouraging and it pushed me all the way to the finish!
I DID IT, you guys! I seriously cried huge ugly tears because I wanted this so badly!
After all was said and done, I did run into the Balloon Ladies about 30 minutes after the race had finished. They were not the same person that I saw running with the balloon earlier. Not even close. So I was scared to death for no reason, but I'm convinced that if I hadn't seen the girl with the balloon, I may not have been as inspired to keep going as fast as I could!
It was such an incredible experience, from the weekend events all the way up to the race itself, and I highly recommend it to first time runners! I know I'll be doing it again for sure!