Holy moly, it was a hot one! I didn’t need to layer under my tank top, and I carried a cooling towel with me for later in the race. I started with a throw-away jacket while waiting in the corrals, but it didn't last long. Sam ran the marathon, too! And yes, he got to Mile 4 before the last corral even started and almost lapped me!
I started off with happy feet, and that made the rest of me happy! Even before the sun came up, I could feel it was more humid than it had been all weekend. Disney does great with hydration, and I had water, Powerade, or both at every stop. I also started early with fueling and ate something every 40-45 minutes. I had Katie on balloon-lady live tracking sending me text updates, and I had my eyes peeled for all TNT folks to yell, “Go Team!” for a boost of energy – for the giver and receiver! I didn't let my brain get too far ahead of myself, and was ready to start, one mile at a time.
I grabbed a selfie with the green army man before Mile 2, then took a selfie with the mile marker. I heard someone fall right behind me, and then someone else scream, “We need help!” So I darted across the highway back to the cast members with another character, and someone (with a radio who could call for medical assistance if needed) ran back across the road. I don’t know who fell or what happened, but I hope they were able to continue.
I had lost the jacket before the sun even started to rise before Mile 3, and the sun started coming up around Mile 5. However, with a 4-mile Epcot loop before heading to the Magic Kingdom, the sun was coming up over the Epcot ball from the highway instead of over Cinderella’s castle. It was absolutely gorgeous.
Just after Mile 9, our TNT folks had a cheering section. I found Carin, my fundraising advisor, and gave her a hug. The staff members at flags, and cowbells, and were cheering everyone on! Just before Mile 10, we made it to Main Street. This time I saw Janet in the crowd and ran over to her to give her a big hug! Who cares if she was there waiting for Ally and Joe? I wanted a hug, too! I hate I didn’t get a selfie, but I was smiling from ear to ear seeing someone else I knew and getting some energy!
Luckily, the castle wasn’t as bunchy for the marathon, and I got a jump shot! I also found Coach Kim and told her I was feeling good! “My feet are okay right now. I don’t know how long it’s going to last, but I’ll take it as long as I can get it!” My 27-minute Magic Kingdom mile for the half was down to a 17-minute mile for the marathon, and I crossed the 13.1 timing pad faster during the marathon than when I ran the actual half marathon! She looped back to get more folks in Magic Kingdom, and I felt great keeping up with my intervals.
It was at about Mile 15 where I started questioning all of my life’s choices. It was hot. My feet hurt. I still had more than 11 miles to go. I was grumpy there were banana peels at Mile 14 and no bananas left for the few thousand runners behind me. How can you run out of bananas?!? Coach Ed caught me and again told me I was doing great. “You’re almost to Animal Kingdom and Coach Jen’s looping in there!” Alicia caught up with me, too. She’s faster and can stop for more things, so she rode Expedition Everest, while I only got a picture by it!
I didn’t see Coach Jen, and Mile 18 was rough. I was teary. I mentally wasn't sure I had 2+ hours left in me. Katie texted, “How are you feeling?” I replied, “Like hell.” It was easier to record audio than text, so as I’m writing this, I'm listening to my updates. I sounded energetic and upbeat for, “Just passed 7!” "Let me know when Sam crosses the next mat and his pace!" “Feeling good so far!” “Feet haven’t crapped out yet!” However, my “Like hell,” reply sounded, well... like hell. Misery. My next audio was, “Everything hurts and I’m dying,” which we saw on a t-shirt or meme years ago and have had a running joke since then! So when Katie reminded me, “You can do hard things,” I started crying again. But I kept saying that mantra out loud - "I can do hard things, I can do hard things, I can do hard things" (even recording it for her) and it helped. I could, and I would. Shortly after I heard someone behind me say, "I don't know. I don't think I can do it." I yelled, "WE CAN DO HARD THINGS!" So many people around me clapped and yelled it back and cheered, I got a boost, too. So on we all went!
Mile 19 got hotter. So hot that they had buckets of ice water with sponges in them. I had never seen buckets on the course before, and I might have missed it if it had not been for Coach Reem. I recognized her from TNT's YouTube strength workouts. There were about 12 coaches from across the country and all were super nice. They looked for our jerseys, ran with us for a little bit, made sure we were okay, and gave words of encouragement. Coach Reem pointed out the sponges, and after I had already resorted to pouring water over my head, I gladly accepted a sponge and stuck it in my elastic visor on the back of my neck. Each subsequent water pour stayed cool on my neck just a little longer.
Mile 21 was in the parking lot at Blizzard Beach, AND they had bananas available. I swear it was the best banana I had ever eaten! When I left Blizzard Beach, I could see the Balloon ladies getting close to entering. I was a little over a mile ahead of them, but I wasn’t feeling great. In fact, I was feeling a little nauseous. Luckily, I ran into Coach Ed again and walked a bit more. He gave me a granola bar to have in case I needed it, and after a few minutes, the queasiness passed. Just in time, because nearing Mile 22, I saw Carin again! I was already a little teary, and when I stopped to get a hug, she got a little teary, too! "You're doing great!!" Just before entering Hollywood Studios, Joe and Ally passed me. I had added Joe to my race tracker, because after all this time I had to make sure he finished! I knew they were doing well and were moving much better than I was!
Shortly after Mile 23, I found Coach Kim and Alicia and had time to stop for a picture with the Genie! I cannot explain just how helpful it was to have a character, or a friend, or a coach, or crowd support to give me something else to think about – however temporarily – to keep moving forward, one step at a time. By Mile 24, I knew I would finish.
I was about 12 minutes ahead of the balloon ladies, so I could walk the entire rest of the way and finish. Yes, everything hurt, but I was going to finish. I had just entered Epcot and turned by the United Kingdom pavilion when I heard, “Dorothy!!” I look to my right and saw Tia and John. I met them both in 2014 when we all worked for DFCS, and I caught up with Tia in November at Disney, too. She had texted Friday to say they were in Disney that weekend, but I told her I wasn’t going to the parks and just needed to get through these races. Then, unbeknownst to me, they hatched a plan to surprise me in Epcot. I was shocked, gave them a huge sweaty hug, and had Coach Kim take this picture. Later, when I had time to process what happened, I thanked her and couldn’t believe it was such a coincidence. No, they planned to go to Epcot, started in the Mexico pavilion, walked opposite the race course, looked for all TNT shirts, and waited for me for an hour! I have so many memories of the race, but I’ll never forget my shock to see them and how touched I was to know it was an orchestrated surprise.
At about 25.5 miles, I started to get a little dizzy. By this time, Coach Jen had gotten Alicia to 26 and looped back to join me and Coach Kim. I wasn’t feeling like I was going to pass out or was disoriented, but I definitely didn’t feel great. Coach Kim grabbed a bag of ice for me, and I felt okay enough to jog for a few 30 second intervals. At this point, I just wanted to be done! At the Mile 26, Coach Jen and Coach Kim gave me a hug, and they told me how proud they were of me, while I was in utter disbelief I was going to do it. I knew Dad, Donna, and Sam were shortly after the finish line, I grabbed my selfie with Minnie, and I crossed that marathon finish line. Unfortunately, the best picture the photographers got was of me in the background. I don't know if you can tell, but I was ecstatic. I found Dad and Donna and snapped this selfie. Fittingly, my phone held out for this one last picture before it died!
I’m not even sure I cried once I finished. I think I may have been too dehydrated! Dad had brought my Dopey Medal, and I stood in a long line for a few pictures again. And, as Joe and Ally were scanning the crowd for a UGA hat on Janet, they found a UGA had on Dad! So I introduced them to Dad and Sam who had heard me talk about them before. As much as I was hurting, I knew if I sat down I wasn’t going to easily get back up again. Sam and I eventually got on the bus, and when we got to our hotel, I didn’t know if I was going to make it down the stairs! Amazingly, as much as my feet ached, I had no blisters. All my toenails were intact. I had no injuries. I had chafed in a few places, but I was a mostly functional human! I set out to do the Dopey challenge with three goals: 1. Finish. 2. Alive. 3. Uninjured. And by gosh, I did it! I finished my first marathon. I finished 48.6 miles (and then some!) of the Dopey Challenge.