As I’ve mentioned in my past few blog entries, my goal for 2012 is to run a marathon during each calendar month of the year in order to generate awareness and donations for The Dream Team Project. Well I am happy to report that I survived marathon number two on Sunday, February 12th. I completed the “26.2 With Donna Marathon”, run in Jacksonville, Florida in a time of five hours and fourteen minutes. I’d like to briefly share with you the day’s experience, because it truly was amazing.
As I walked out of the hotel which was wonderfully close to the start/finish line of the race alongside the Mayo Clinic campus, I realized that I may have bitten off a bit more than I could chew this Sunday morning. As the doors swooshed open, cold air blasted me right in the face. Should have looked at the temperature before getting dressed….it was 28 degrees. With a strong wind. Which was currently whacking me in the face. I ran upstairs to my room and changed into long pants, 3 shirts and a sweatshirt (which represented approximately 85% of the clothes that I actually brought on the trip). I never ran 26.2 miles in long pants before….but there’s a first time for everything I guess….
This marathon has grown substantially since it’s inception five years ago, and it’s growth can be primarily evidenced in the quality of the Runner’s Village. What a great setup. I cannot recall another marathon offering oranges, bananas, and freshly-baked chocolate chip muffins that immediately reminded me of the Boardwalk Bakery in Walt Disney World (a personal favorite of mine whenever I’m hanging out in La Casa de Walt). What a great way to kick off a really cold morning. The chocolaty goodness took my mind off the freezing temperatures, that’s for sure!
After I dropped off my bag (along with my sweatshirt – hello wind chill) and headed to the starting line, a couple of people asked me about the WDW Radio Running Team. So I gave them the quick explanation of The Dream Team Project, and why running for the team means so much to me. They, in turn, shared their own experiences running for another cancer charity…and it was wonderful to listen to the passion in their voices as they were so grateful to get an opportunity to do something to help a cause that was close to their hearts.
Before you knew it, the gun sounded and off we went!
The first mile presented an immediate challenge: a rather long incline. Fortunately for me I chose to run with the five hour pace group – a bunch of runners slowly plodding along together, following two “pacers” that carefully watch their GPS devices whist running with several balloons attached to a three foot stick in their hands (the balloons attached to stick act as a target for runners that begin with the pack that may fall off pace due to a water stop, pot-o-potty break, or simply because the time that they were shooting for did not correlate to their actual pace / training). I had hoped that the chill that ran down my spine from the cold temperature and rather impolite wind (oh trust me – the wind was rude…no manners whatsoever) would dissipate as my morning exercise commenced. Boy was I wrong.
The five hour pace group ran using The Galloway Method. Now if any of you reading this have not heard of this distance running method and are interested in possibly attempting a distance event of any sort (from a 5k to a marathon – it doesn’t matter), I highly suggest reading Mr. Galloway’s books on running. They emphasize taking “walk breaks” throughout your run, in order to allow your body to “rest” for a minute or two between periods of jogging / running. Sticking with this group from the start was a wise move for me (and I usually only get about 5-8 wise moves a fiscal year, so I have to use them sparingly), because it provided a welcome distraction from the miserable conditions and the 25 miles looming ahead.
Miles two through five carried us in to the Jacksonville Beach area. This neighborhood seemed quite sleepy at this early hour, although the streets were lined in pink. The bright decorations on the homes signified that the residents were with us in spirit…but 6:30am was a bit early for them. We weaved our way through the town’s streets, winding up on Jacksonville Beach at mile six. The pace group synchronized 2 minutes of running at about a 9:20 pace with 60 seconds of walking. At this point in the race, a 9:20 pace was just fine with me. Things were looking good thus far, from a course strategy standpoint. But this is me we are talking about – it’s just a matter of time before the fit hits the shan.
If it wasn’t so mind-numbingly cold, I would have really soaked in the incredible view that Jacksonville Beach presented from miles six through eight. The wind was 10-15 miles per hour off of the water, making the group waddle the miles together like a bunch of emperor penguins. It was between miles seven and eight where The Tool announced his presence with authority. As the cold really began to work its way through my damp upper layers, I let the growing discomfort distract me from the business at hand. The little schmuck decided that it was time to engage the enemy.
“Wow. It’s cold,” the little nuisance muttered in my ear.
“Yeah. I noticed. Thanks, Captain Obvious.”
“Well I couldn’t help but notice that we’re only at mile eight. If my math is correct, that means there are eighteen more miles to go,” said The Tool.
“Well check out the CPA over here. Glad to see you can do simple math.”
To which, the tiny jerk responded: “….I can see you’re busy. I’ll check in later.” …and then he let out a chuckle that sounded something like Dr. Evil from an Austin Powers movie. Not a good sign.
By mile eight, we turned away from the beach and back on to town streets. This far into the race, my body had not heated up enough and the cold was becoming a distraction that overpowered by ability to focus on the job at hand. I resigned myself to the simple fact that this wasn’t going to get any better, and I just need to soldier on.
Unfortunately, the next twelve miles went by in a haze. Two minutes of running at a 9:20 pace, followed by one minute of walking. Run. Then walk. Run again. Then walk. The only way to distract myself from how horrid I was feeling was to focus on the two minutes of running. Two minutes at a time. This marathon was going to be run in 120 second increments. This went against my race strategy…but it was working so far, so why screw up a good thing? Small yet sturdy groups of fans braved the cold and provided the warmth we all needed to continue waddling onward.
By the time we approached mile twenty two, we transitioned to running along a major roadway – J Turner Butler Blvd. It was at this moment of the race – with only four miles to go, where the wheels began to come off. I began to falter. I slowed down to grab some water and detached from the pace group. I hustled to catch up, trying to pace at 9:00 while the group clipped off their 9:20. As I attempted to catch up, I ran right into The Wall, face first. And guess who was right there, waiting for me. Bingo. That little 4cm tall moron.
“Well good for you. You at least made it this far. Too bad you are broken”, uttered the little imp.
“Shut up” was my witty retort.
“Four point two miles is still a bit of a trip to the finish. Look – you never quit before, so there’s no shame of quitting now.”
I didn’t have the clear head to fire a solid come-back line.
“it’s so hard to motivate yourself to begin running again after you’ve been broken, isn’t it?”
He had a good point.
“Hey look – there’s mile marker twenty-three. A long way off. Let’s shut this down for the day and grab a burger & fries.”
A burger and fries. Man did that sound good.
The next two miles were spent in just this fashion, with The Tool whispering nonsense into my ear as I tired again and again to locate some of the momentum I had long lost.
Shortly before reaching mile twenty five, a large hill greeted me. The mile marker sat atop the rather rough-looking incline, like a twelve foot-tall carrot hanging in front of my overly-pale face. The final obstacle loomed. I was still on my feet and somewhat coherent, so I took that as a sign to get my rear-end in gear and finish this.
The last mile is basically a downhill coast to pay dirt: a wonderful finish line and a quick waddle back to the nearby hotel.
I truly recommend this race for someone that is looking to participate in a distance event without the feeling of pressure to reach a specific time goal. I would rival the friendly atmosphere of this event to that of the Walt Disney World Marathon – only at a much, MUCH smaller scale.
Any of you that have read my prior blog entries know that I have a passion for the ING New York City Marathon and ALL Disney races. However, I can honestly say that I will definitely run this race next year, since the experience was enjoyable, memorable, emotional and very motivational. It would definitely be a great event to fit into your schedule on your way toward preparing for a Disney event!
Next up for me: marathon number three in my year-long odyssey: The Ocean Drive Marathon in Cape May, New Jersey on March 25th, 2012.
In my next installment, I’m planning to offer up some tidbits on how to stay focused during your run, regardless of the distance. Until then, make sure you double-knot your shoe laces, get out there and get moving! And remember: you can do anything you set your mind to. There are no limits.
If you’d like some information on The Dream Team Project or would like to make a donation to their amazing cause, please stop by the website: www.wdwradio.com/the-dream-team-project I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I really believe in what The Dream Team Project stands for. It raises money for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, helping to grant the wishes of children suffering from life-threatening illnesses. Being s former wish-granter for the NYC Chapter of the Make-a-Wish Foundation, I can tell you first-hand just how much of an impact this organization makes in the lives of children. Please consider donating to this worthy cause. Thanks!
…and if you’d like a bit more information on the WDW Radio Running Team, please check out WDW Radio’s website at: http://www.wdwradio.com/running/ , or the Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/WDW-Radio-Running-Team/163606410344409