2013 Walt Disney World Marathon Race Recap - Part 3 & Finale

When I last left you, I had just about eaten my weight in Magic Kingdom corn dogs after a rather fun and low stress half marathon.

Leaving the Magic Kingdom, my wife and I took the boat back to the Wilderness Lodge, and let me tell you, there is nothing greater than that trip. The boats are low to the water, which adds to the intimacy of the experience and if you have a good skipper the trip is perfect. It reminds me of when I was a little kid and when we stayed at Fort Wilderness, but that’s another story…..Family Trip to Disney

Anyways, when we got off the boat, we headed back to the room and I couldn’t shake this nagging feeling in my left heel, which was getting tighter the more I walked. We both decided to call it an early night since the race was a few short hours away (this being my wife’s first-ever marathon, she wanted to make sure to get enough rest). After packing our stuff we headed to bed and just like 20,000 other runners, waited for that early morning phone call from the front desk.

Swapped out my shoes

Similar to the previous morning, we hopped on the bus to Epcot and followed a similar pre-race routine. At the corrals, I wished my wife good luck and headed to the A Corral. Disney does this great thing where next to A Corral they have a blank stretch of road where runners could warm up. It’s a really nice addition to give speedsters a place to stretch out before the race start and I took advantage. To be honest, it’s a little intimidating since all the elites are there working through their routine and I was just hoping not to look like an idiot.

I made my way to the top of the road and started my light jogs and leg lifts. About 25 steps in I felt what seemed to feel like a large golf ball in between my left heel and shoe. “Hmmm, this isn’t good,” I thought, “maybe just a few more laps.” But, the more I ran, the bigger the golf ball seemed to grow. I decided to stop and camp out in the corral and wait for the race to start and try not to think about the Titleist in my shoe.

The race began and I went about my normal race routine, of starting out comfortable and then picking up the pace. I was being realistic, given the previous day’s race, and shooting for a 3:58 full. I don’t know if it was the adrenaline from the race start or what, but the pain in my heel disappeared. I felt fresh and continued forward enjoying the amazing experience Disney provides in its races.

Passing Mile 4 at the TTC and then Mile 5 at the Contemporary, things were going well. My pace was quick and constant as I neared the turn onto Main Street USA. As I made my way through the screaming fans, I saw my family, gave them a wave and took off on the path I had traveled just 24 hours before.

As I made my way through Tomorrowland, that nagging heel started to resurface, but this time, instead of a pressure, it was full on pain. It hurt so badly, I lost my breath and got sick as we passed the steam train at Splash Mountain and onto Floridian Way

As we headed towards the Grand Floridian, the pain in my heel was so intense I could barely walk, let alone continue on at a good pace. To make matters worse, the course is significantly narrowed at this point so I had nowhere to go without getting in the way of other runners. This was bad, I mean really bad. For the first time in my life, I actually thought about having a Did Not Finish on my race stats. I couldn’t believe it, the cost of the race, the Goofy medal, and I had already bought the “I Finished”  Goofy T-shirt. At Mile 8, we headed into the Indy track (which would have been a cool experience if I wasn’t nearing passing out). The long ramp going up to the track made things on my heel even more unbearable.

As I hobbled my way around the track, I ran into an old friend who works for the car experience there and he walked with me around the track and tried to keep my mind off things.

At Mile 9, before we headed into no man’s land, I stopped at the First Aid tent and told them of my issue. I told them about my heel pain, getting sick, and then walking. They wrapped my leg and I tried to run on it to which I immediately hit the ground in pain. Doing the smart thing and fighting back tears, I told them, “I’m done. I’m out.” I was dejected, defeated, disheartened, and just awful.

All the training, the injuries, the long hours, it was all gone at Mile effing 9.

After about 10 minutes of waiting (which felt like 10 hours), the medical lead showed up and told me since it had only been an hour into the race, I would have to wait until the sag wagon would come around to pick me up, which would possibly be 3-4 hours away. Hearing those words “Sag wagon” resonated in my ear like a bass drum being struck in your bed while you sleep.

So, I decided to do something absurd, stupid, brave; I decided to walk the remaining 17.2 miles and get that damn medal, even if I was the last person to cross the finish line.  The medical team cut a maxi pad and shoved it in the bottom of my shoe, gave me enough Biofreeze to stop a team of oxen, and Tylenol and sent me on my way.

As I headed back out, with the throngs of runners shooting by me like a meteor storm, I slowly and cowardly hobbled on the side of the road at a measly pace. I decided to call my Mom and let her know what was going on. I knew they were all still at the MK waiting for my wife to pass so I knew it was going to be tough for my family to hear their phones. I finally reached my father-in-law and told them I was injured and would be walking the rest of the way. Being good parents, they stayed on the line and tried to talk me out of continuing, but I was determined. I guess there’s something about the human spirit that leads us all to do crazy things.

The back roads of Mile 10 -13 have always felt lonely, but this time they felt one thousand times worse.  At Mile 14, the Tylenol kicked in and I was able to muster up a measly trot through Animal Kingdom.  Moving onto Osceola Parkway, the sun was now blistering and my leg was throbbing, but I continued on. From then on, my mantra was “screw time, just finish.”

To be totally honest, Wide World of Sports was a total blur, other than the run around the baseball field and the 20 Mile Celebration which had some pretty cool puppets, to which I had never seen before (a Disneyland parade perhaps?)

I was hobbling pretty badly and now my ace bandage was soaked from sweat, Biofreeze and water so it felt heavy and slick, not making my trip any easier. More than a few people in the crowd pointed at me and some even asked if they wanted me to have them pick me up and take me off the course. But, I trucked on.

Heading into the Studios, I ran into the husband of one my running friends. He too, was suffering from an injury, so we walked together for a while and traded war stories of our injuries and our journeys. I tried my best to shuffle through the Studios since every Disney race I ever run the Studios always seems to be the one place that kills me, still I love that place.

Heading towards the Boardwalk, I knew the race was coming to a close, so I put on the best tunes I had and began to pick up the pace as best as I could. It was short lived though, as my trip through World Showcase was back to the walk-limp-walk story that had plagued me for the past 15 miles.

Fighting back more tears, I made my way through the thoroughfare of fans in the last few steps and crossed the Finish Line at a, what seems respectable now,  4:53:51. Still under 5 hours, I’ll take it.

As I got my bag, I ran into a dear friend of mine who was running in his first marathon and finished in 4:15:00, pretty damn nice. I was pretty upset and lost it for a little bit, I didn’t even notice my mom had shown up. Putting the finish time aside me, I had just overcome an experience, the likes of which I have never experienced before, and I just needed to get it out.

After getting a few bags of ice, we waited for my wife to finish. She had a great experience and is looking forward to her next marathon. 

Worth It

Throughout the day and following day, my foot continued to swell up. It turned out my plantar fascia and my Achilles tendon were so tight they pulled my heel (calcaneus) bone in opposite directions, splintering the bone and it all came to bear at Mile 5.

Since the Marathon I have not been able to run, but just today got out for a light 2.5-mile jog. Hopefully, within the next 3 weeks I’ll be able to get back to serious running..

Overall, I think the main culprit was running in somewhat new shoes for the half and doing so brought the injury front and center. So, let this be a lesson, no new gear on race day!!!!!

Overall, the weekend was amazing. From the Meetup, to the Wilderness Lodge, to the races, it was all amazing. I’d really like to thank the medical staff at Mile 9 for helping me out and doing all they could to get me back on the road (my choice not theirs).

And if you are wondering if I’m going to attempt a Goofy Challenge ever again, you bet. But this time, a smart training and race plan to make sure I finish in the time I set.