Spoiler alert … I finished the Disney marathon without the help of Goofy, performance enhancing drugs, or an ambulance. Jakestrong! However, my physical and mental limits were stretched further than I could have imagined. The saying “It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” is factually true, but what is never mentioned is that, “it’s not a half marathon either - it’s two half marathons.” Which is to say it’s a really, really long way to run!
Sitting in a restaurant at Disney’s Wild Kingdom Lodge two nights before the race, two zebras eat their dinner outside the window, and I contemplate whether I need a drink or not. “Need” is the wrong word, as it had been a long day of work and travel with the added bonus of seeing Mickey’s face everywhere, and hearing his voice constantly since landing in Orlando. I opt for the mango margarita. Rationalizing that the benefit of the fruit puree would outweigh the deleterious effects of sugar and alcohol on my body 2 days before a marathon, I place the order.
Flash forward to mile 20 of the marathon and I realize I made the wrong choice. This is no Jimmy Buffett concert. My left hamstring is now so cramped I can barely walk and I am sure the Vitamin C from the mango is all used up. The first half of the race had gone by so smooth, but the last 6 miles were tougher than I could have imagined.
Around mile 13 I felt poised for success and kicked it in to high gear. Seven miles later the hot Florida sun began taking its toll, and all the cheery Disney characters along the course were replaced by their snarling, villainous counterparts, weird right?. With only 6 miles to go I was crestfallen, and wondered how I was going to finish. My leg muscles were shutting down after 20 miles of running in 70+ degree weather and 100% humidity. Every ounce of fluid I poured in to my body was being pulled out just as fast. My mind wanted me to go faster, but my body kept telling me that wasn't gonna happen. Cramps are no joke, and running the last 6 miles of the marathon was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. My goal was to finish the race in 4:20, and my total time in crossing the finish line was 4:51, but I did it.
As exhilarating as it was to finish my first marathon, I was humbled by the difficulty of the physical challenge and the huge mental effort it took to finish. A nice self-realization occurred slapping Goofy a high five at the finish though … I had run head long into my limitations and found I could keep going. It wasn’t pretty, but I didn’t stop. I know deep down that I will never stop, and that is some pretty powerful stuff.
The choices we make have consequences. Choosing to run a marathon led to months of training, which had a huge positive effect on my life. Regardless of how I felt on any given training day, I couldn’t quit or slack off too much because the race loomed over my head, driving me forward. Choosing a margarita two days before the race contributed to cramping up at mile 20. For better or for worse, the amount of control we have over our lives is astounding. Signing up for a marathon, actually led me to run a marathon, so from now on, I chose to be awesome. I’ll let you know how it works out.