Walt Disney world, Orlando, Florida. The happiest place on Earth? Maybe. The happiest marathon ever? Not exactly.
I have to admit that I didn’t train properly for this marathon, but the worst part was that I under-estimated how cruel the sun of the Sunshine State could be. Not as advertised or hoped we would have an average 40-50 degrees temperature in January, in fact, on Sunday January 7th, the marathon race day, runners had to run under almost 80 degrees and extreme humidity.
I stopped at every water stop and replenished myself with as much liquid as I could acquire; I ate some banana; I greeted to Mickey Mouse and seven dwarfs. I tried my best, but the weather defeated me and my legs almost failed me. I was happy at least when the race started with amazing fireworks; I was happy at least for the first half of the marathon when the sun wasn’t able to force my eyes shut and I managed to maintain my training pace. Then, my respiratory and perspiration rate skyrocketed along with the temperature. I believed that I saw steam coming out of the pavement. I was even convinced that the smile of the evil step-mother of Snow White was sincere. No wonder desperate desert travelers see mirages.
At least I reached the finish line with four hours, forty-six minutes, and thirty-eight seconds of struggle – all because of Mickey Mouse. The cute, golden, Mickey Mouse finish medal allured me more than the first apple did to Adam and Eve.
Here is the whole story:
The race started at six o’clock. It was very foggy which made the fireworks extraordinary. The crowd was denser than the fog – we had over 12,000 runners – and it took me almost six minutes to get to the start line. Surrounded by numerous runners, my pace was set by the crowd; it didn’t matter that much because I could use the slow-paced first couple miles as warm-up. The problem was the warm-up was too warm: I constantly felt the heat radiated from the people around me. The steam room effect would be great if I were doing yoga workouts; however, during the marathon, this effect canceled the marginal benefit we obtained by running pre sunrise. Therefore I realized this marathon was doomed to be a hot and humid one.
My husband wasn’t able to accompany me for this race, so I registered his cell phone number on line so that he would get a text message when I crossed mile 5, mile 10, the half point, mile 20, and the finish line. I was glad that I did that because I could pretend that at those points he would wave at me and yell “you can do it.” Not until I participated in a race alone, did I realize how important it was to have someone there to cheer me on, even though for the most part I would not be able to see him.
I pushed with my training pace to the half point – the chip time gave me 2:09:24. Not like the previous two marathons I have done, this time I didn’t feel the second wind after I passed mile 13.1. Under the circumstances, I should have been more conservative; trying to run with my training pace was just too naïve because that pace was for ideal conditions. My exhausted legs echoed the mistake and delivered me that message that the second half of the marathon was going to be catastrophic.
Damage had been done, and I started to slow down, no matter how much my mind wanted to keep up. Soon enough, my mind surrendered, and to walk or not to walk became a question. My basic instinct refused to compromise and it never gave up bargaining with the exhausted muscles – “let’s push another two miles.” Another two miles after another two miles, I crossed the mile 24 marker, and I only have two more miles. My ego declared, “I am going to run the whole race.” The glory didn’t last long – after another 0.5 mile, my right hamstring cramped. It was so painful that I could barely walk.
I had to stop to stretch, and all the tears prepared for the finish line were about to dump. I pulled out my cell phone and called my husband, and he answered his phone with a sleepy hello. Damn it, he was still in bed while I was in pain. “Lovely, my right hamstring had a cramp; I don’t want to walk but I have to. I am so upset right now. Please say something cheerful.” I was begging for encouragement as a little girl wanted some candies. The sweetness carried me on to mile 25, and I decided to give it another shot. I hung up the phone and started to jog.
I jogged, I walked; then I jogged, and I walked. Finally I saw the landmark of Epcot Theme Park, the globe, which indicated that the finish line was up ahead. I decided that it was time to jog through the remaining distance at one go, and I jogged through mile 26. I was getting closer and closer; the finish line was upon reach. And all of a sudden, my left hamstring cramped on me. “Oh! Not again!” I wanted to ignore it, but my left leg was like stone. I leaned on the fence and stretched my left leg; my eyebrows were tangled because of pain or perhaps more because of disappointment. I could see the finish line. I wanted to minimize the stretch time, but my leg didn’t let me. After three times of going back and forth between stretching and standing up for running attempt, I started to jog again. The crowd burst out cheering and applauding. I was so moved even long after the host announced my name while I crossed the finish line.
It was a good experience – definitely memorable. Will I do another marathon? The answer is positive. I like marathons, because running marathons makes me feel good. I was never a “somebody” in any sports or gymnastics classes in school. The stars were those fast sprinters and I was always the last for the 100-meter running exams. I don’t run fast in a marathon either, but I know as long as I finish it, I can be proud of myself. And it’s nice to know that even though you are not good at something by a certain standard, you can feel accomplished looking it from another angle. Therefore you are motivated to keep working because all the efforts will be rewarded and your self of tomorrow will be better than your self of today.