The 2008 Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge was better than expected. I completed the Goofy marathon again. . . for the first time. Though it was the second year in a row, it was a completely different experience from adding a 5K to blisters and 43+ miles in between. It was an exceptional experience and one that will be remembered for a long, long time.
I may have to revamp my thinking regarding the 5K as this was the second in a row that was very enjoyable. The scene was Animal Kingdom and a whopping 8,000 people decided to lace up their running shoes at 6am and give it a go.
The route was picturesque, once we were out of the parking lot. Animal Kingdom is probably the most visually appealing park with its lush tropical foliage, exotic creatures and "sound system" consisting of howling monkeys and screeching parrots, apparently upset that we disturbed their early morning routine. The route included all of this from the Africa section, past the Tree of Life, DinoLand and finished out of the Asia section. All in all, it was an enjoyable experience.
I treated this as an easy run, kind of like watching a Tai Qi tape in fast forward. My goal was to save as much energy for Sunday while enjoying the magnificent sights, sounds and experiences along the way. Day One was done.
The Half Marathon
I was braced for the worst and ended up getting one of the best. Normally, the Disney Half is simply too crowded period. It makes I-4 look like an efficient highway. I may not get on I-4 any time soon, but this '08 Half was a delight. The key was being in one of the first corrals which allowed for "built in" spacing.
The run was an out and back starting in Epcot and wrapped around the Magic Kingdom. Again, my goal was to conserve and enjoy and by all accounts, this was accomplished. The run was smooth and went without a hitch.
Mother Nature loved me today, much the same way She did yesterday. The weather was ideal. In fact, I could not have penciled in any better numbers. Hopefully, tomorrow would be the same.
The Start. I have always loved the start of the marathon. It is a ceremony - a celebration of a special event with characters, fireworks and a moving rendition of the National Anthem marking the send off into a long voyage. We bring our water bottles and our hopes, our gels and our fears and move forward into the darkness with the enthusiasm of a puppy chewing on its first toy. Will we finish? What is in store? So many questions and so many miles. Enough talking, let’s move!
Miles 1-5. My legs felt rather fresh considered the early runs for the past 2 days and lack of sleep. Humidity was at 100%, which basically saved the time of sweating. Walk to the corral, take off the disposable jacket and 30 seconds later, you are soaked to the bone. Such would be the case for the whole event.
I see Lisa and our friend Lisa (that's not confusing) at around Mile 1. Smiles and well wishes abound. Nothing in the world is better than support and appreciation, and there is much to go around here.
Lisa is part of our running group that formed last year and slowly but surely, we are becoming very good friends and an excellent support network. I think of this group as "Bar Raisers;" that is, some one (usually several) is always doing events that push the boundaries. They make you question your self-imposed limits and help you to stretch beyond. Amy and Kay are 2 from this group that are doing the marathon. Amy is soft spoken and extremely talented. Her likability is only surpassed by her humility, as she will undoubtedly finish this run and do so around the 4:30 mark. Kay is similar - talented, humble and always willing to push herself to the max. She does an amazing number of races per year and is one to finish them all, despite the volume of miles. Both are inspirational people and like everyone in our group, great to be around.
Miles 6-7. Experience helps. My legs go from feeling good to salt water taffy. I remember the same thing occurring last year so my mantra is "ride it out." This too shall pass and pass it does.
The Magic Kingdom Miles. This is one of the most enjoyable stretches in the marathon. The views of Space Mountain and the Castle bring a slew of smiles to the pack of runners I find myself in. We enter via a back route which leads up Main Street USA. The sweet smell of fudge does not have the same impact at 7:45am as it would 7:45pm however.
There is a wall of boisterous supporters lined up as long as the road itself. Horns are blowing, signs are being waved and encouragement is being yelled all along the route. Needless to say, this provided a major energy boost. We go past FutureWorld, circle around to Splash Mountain, greeted by horn players on the balcony of the Castle and weave our way onto the roads. Magic Kingdom is at our back and Animal Kingdom is the next main target.
Half Way Point. As the great Hall of Famer Yogi Berra said, "Half the game is 50% mental." Reaching the half way mark is a boost. Now it is on to the back support roads of Disney, the ones never seen by guests. I have an opportunity to practice speaking Japanese with a couple visiting here. It is so surprising to find people from all over the globe who come here just to run. Like my friend from Peru on the last mile, these people fly in on Friday, run on Sunday and back in Tokyo on Monday. Talk about die hards!
Miles 14-17. I am on pace to do a sub 6 hour marathon, which would be a first. I guess that is fine but time has never been important to me. Finishing and collecting experiences are my 2 goals and the latter is certainly occurring. So far, this has been the most enjoyable marathon of the most enjoyable running weekend. Only one problem -- it is going too fast! The Expo, 5K and Half are already history and only 9 miles remain in this event. Who ever said "Time flies when you are having fun!" grossly underestimated the time factor. Yes, it is an extremely physically demanding event. If you have done it, no words are needed here. If you have not, no words can suffice. The "demanding factor" notwithstanding, there is something so rewarding about doing an event like this -- accomplishing something where doubts and concerns are your constant companions. They force you to go inside and find skills and ability that have been dormant for years, some forever. . .until now. This distance will require them and more.
Animal Kingdom miles. The road is rough and hilly but as mentioned in the 5K, it is a visual treat. We are greeted by a couple of animals including a magnificent Red Shoulder Hawk. I take some time to pet and converse briefly with a goat. Why not? They seem like nice people. Traces of Clif gels makes me very popular. Apparently goats are big fans of mango and vanilla flavors.
This also marks the spot where you find how how well you trained for this event. Body is tired. Mind is a little numb. Time for "training legs" to kick in gear.
Miles 18. A familiar face! Lisa is here, waving her "Run David" sign with Goofy stuffed animal on top. Funny stuff! She has the "secret weapon" - an icy cold Coke. I rarely drink soda but there is nothing like a Coke on a marathon. (If you listened carefully, everyone who has ever participated in a marathon just went "Yes!"). The miles are going by quickly as the sun starts to heat up. Until now, it has been very humid but relatively mild temperature-wise. Now, it is just plain hot as the worst stretch is up ahead.
Mile 19. First the squish. Then the burn. Now it feels like walking on cracked glass. I am the proud parent of a sizable bouncing baby blister on my right foot. Never had one, not even in training runs. Now I understand why people have such issues with them. Kiss the sub 6 hour thing goodbye. The focus is just getting to the finish line in one piece.
Miles 20-22. Last Monday, my father in law, David F. Leitl, passed away from pancreatic cancer. It hit me very hard in this section as I was to meet him and wife Connie at this mile marker. My "blistering pace" is slow and at this mileage, I am very tired but not too tired to think, to remember and to wonder.
For a period of time, I was not sure I would do this event. Lisa and others were very helpful and encouraged me to go forward. I was and am very appreciative of this as it was a very good thing. "Do it to honor his passing." "Do it to honor his life" These were a couple of the common phrases used and to be honest, I do not understand either one.
David Leitl was the most honorable man I ever met. Participating in an event would not provide additional honor. He did not need it. He wrote the book on honor -- 12 volumes. Nor did I see how this event would be honoring his life. It was just an event. A fun one. A challenging one but in the end, just an event. It would take me a couple of more miles and a lot more time to sort this one out.
The MGM miles. My favorite park and I am bringing a burning foot and a heavy heart down Hollywood Boulevard. One more gel and 3 more miles. It was a bitter sweet moment if there ever was one. Much like the course, it covered ups and down, joys and sadness and a couple of thousand thoughts and emotions in between. No time to reminisce. Couple more miles to go.
Mile 24. The Boardwalk is now under my burning foot. MGM is at my back and Epcot is on the radar screen. I catch up to my new buddy from the Netherlands who I met at mile 10 or so. Regardless of race, sex, age or any other factor you can think of, there is such a wonderful camaraderie at these events. We are truly nothing less than brothers and sisters who look differently but have a common mindset - push the boundaries and what Risk, Drive and Determination has in store for us.
Epcot and Mile 25. Home sweet home. The last mile and another dosage of bitter sweet. Though I will probably run other Disney marathons, this is my last Goofy Challenge. I achieved everything I wanted to and with the added 5K, maxed out the miles here. Time to move onward and upward and much to my surprise, it is a strange feeling. I have appreciated these 2 experiences and my life is significantly better because of them. The last mile feels more like an appreciative tribute despite the fact that the gas tank is very, very low.
Finish Line. I cross the line and see Lisa with a mixture of tears and a smile. Me too. It is not a race but rather an indescribable, life-changing journey. My body is thrilled that it is over. My foot is nearly smoking from the huge blister but my spirit is soaring from the fantastic experience.
This was simply the best event of the best running year I ever had. I loved virtually every moment of it from seeing old friends at the Expo to sharing a congratulatory hug at the end, this weekend was marked by a powerful, impactful energy. It was the first time in a marathon that I actually took time to appreciate the sights and sounds, to soak in the entirety of the experience. People make this event and I had the great pleasure of speaking, joking and laughing with so many throughout the whole weekend. Lisa was just wonderful, offering support and encouragement all along the way. I felt her energy and presence at every mile on every day. Our friend Lisa and all of the thousands of others who took the time to cheer and clap and shout words of encouragement were so very much appreciated. If you take everything good in this world and in people in general, you would have found an example of it here. Actually thousands of examples.
I thought alot about my father in law along the route as well. I would have loved for him to have been here physically, but he had other pressing plans. I have no doubt that he was there in spirit - encouraging, pushing, supporting. The example that he set toward the end was a model for me. Despite the symptoms of cancer and the accompanying emotional tsunami, he would always get back up. No matter how many times he was down, regardless of the situation, he would always stand proudly. When you set a precedent like this, finishing is the only option.
Maybe the words were right. The order needed adjusting.
"Run to honor his life?"
No. It should read “Run to a Life of Honor!”
Great motto to run by.
Greater motto to live by.