I began training for the WDW Marathon in May of 2013. This would be my first ever marathon…ahem, my first ever race, actually. I’m always embarrassed to say that, most likely from fear that people will think I’m absolutely crazy. But that’s why I run, right? 😉 I set out to achieve this goal with my mother in law, Mary. After my “epiphany” that I had while on the treadmill one day, I realized that this was a goal that God would see me through. I’ll warn you now, this post is going to be long and include far too many details, but I’m writing it for myself and for Mary. So when it comes to the point where we can’t remember the details we can look back and read through this and make the memory fresh again. I want my children to know the story of “when Mom and Grandma decided to run a marathon together.”
So here I am! Writing the race recap! The rest is history. On with the show. I arrived at WDW Friday evening (Mary had been there a week already with Nellie, Anna, Isa, Christina and Asa) and the race was Sunday. Saturday Mary and I focused on trying not to walk too much (always a temptation when you’re at DISNEY WORLD!) which was almost impossible with all the walking we had to do going from the Expo, to our hotel, to find food, etc. I ate a big plate of pasta for lunch and had a very small dinner since I would be up at 3:00am the next day. I knew I would be better off keeping dinner small or I would feel heavy on race day.
Here’s what we referred to as our “last supper.”
After a late lunch we headed back to the room, where we momentarily got stuck in the elevator on the way there. We seriously debated not telling anyone that the elevator was stuck and just staying in there until the race was over. We had food and water with us…we were good! No one would ever know we missed the race! Needless to say, we were terrified.
Saturday we went through all the stages of grief. Denial, hysteria and somewhere along the line (probably more around 3:30am on race day) acceptance. We could not believe we were actually there at Disney and tomorrow was the big day. The day we had been training for 8 months for. Wow. After lunch, a run to Target for painkillers, and an attempted escape plan by hiding in the elevator we went back to our room and started getting everything around for the morning. We finally crawled into bed around 6:00pm and surprisingly, we slept.
2:30am rolls around and we’re up dressing for battle. At least that’s what it felt like.
We kept imagining the beginning of the race being like the starting scene of the Hunger Games. A bloodbath. Running for our lives.
We thought we were going to die.
We grabbed a bagel and got on the bus that would take us to the starting line. It was an interesting ride there. It’s Disney, so many costumes were involved. Hopping on the bus and seeing two elite male runners dressed as pink flamingos just makes you feel better, you know? We decided to ignore the fact that this was it, we were on our way there, so we started talking about midwives and babies instead. Typical.
The race began at 5:30am but we were in the very last corral, so we didn’t start until 6:30. Being there surrounded with all the other runners was comforting; some nervous, some excited, some indifferent. We slowly began moving towards the starting line. About every 6 minutes fireworks went off for the start of each corral. It was coming. Finally we are where we can see the starting line. We’re next.
And there was Mickey Mouse on stage ready to count us down! “Three, two, one, GO!” Oh my gosh we’re running.
“Melanie, we’re running a marathon!”
Wow! Hello adrenaline rush! We were running out of Epcot onto the main roads on our way to Magic Kingdom. There was a band cheering us on, plenty of spectators and encouragement. The first three miles FLEW by! Heading into Magic Kingdom we saw the Pirates of the Caribbean ship and Jack Sparrow, always fun. Right after that I found out that I cannot run in a knee brace. I had very light sleeve on because my knee had been “clicky” a few days before. I never ran with a knee brace before and thought I’d bring one along just in case (rule #1 that you shouldn’t do during a marathon…try new things), but I knew I would rather be over prepared and chuck it than on the course wishing I had one. By mile 3 the knee brace had made my foot fall asleep, so I pulled to the side and yanked it off as quickly as possible. It was my job to keep us on pace and I certainly didn’t want to slow us down. The WDW Marathon has a requirement of averaging a 16 minute mile, which was plenty of time, but being that it was our first marathon we didn’t know what bumps we might encounter along the way that could slow us down and potentially get us picked up by the “pace patrol,” the team that pulls you out of the race if you aren’t going fast enough. That was our biggest fear. We didn’t come all this way to get kicked out of the race.
We were in Magic Kingdom before we knew it and man, that was fun. Huge crowds of people cheering us on, high-fiving us, holding up signs…and there it was. A beautiful, beacon of hope…Cinderella’s castle. We ran through it and came to the mile 6 marker where we took our first supplements. From there my body was in cruise control mode and I was just loving it. I felt great.
I can’t remember exactly where but sometime around here we saw our awesome friend, Mary Ramsower! She purchased a cheer squad package and followed us through the entire race. Not only that, she hooked our family and friends up with race text updates so everyone knew where we were. Basically, Mary was our angel. Seeing her face right around this time gave us confidence. We were running out there like scared puppies until we turned a corner and there she was! Screaming for us! We got a big bear hug from her and she told us she’d see us at the end. That’s when we knew we could do this. We’ll never be able to thank you enough, Mary.
After seeing Mary we came across a lot more volunteers who came out to give us whatever support we needed. Whether it be food, water, a high five or a hug, these guys were there for us. I will never think of race volunteers the same way again. I never could have imagined what each and every volunteer meant to me; not just volunteers, but the average Joe’s who came out to watch and support the runners. You guys are what got me through the race.
The majority of the race was out on the main roads that take you from park to park. Not much time was spent running through the actual parks, but when we would get to one it was magical. As for our pace, neither of us had a goal in mind other than to finish. I was surprised how much the water stops and bathroom breaks slowed us down. This is something I’ll want to work on in the future. For the first 10 miles we were averaging about a 12 minute pace. After that we decided to slow down to make sure we didn’t exhaust or hurt ourselves.
The weather that day was, in my native Floridian opinion, perfect. High of 73, low of 49 and sunny.
I was feeling great and before I knew it we were at mile 10…double digits! Mary and I constantly were checking on each other during the race. One of the many reasons I was so thankful she was with me. Pretty soon we were at mile 13, half way there! We were still feeling great. It was probably around this time or a little after that things started to get real. By that I mean that the moods of the runners around us started to shift. I heard people that were really hurting and began seeing more and more people pulling to the side to puke. At first this freaked me out. I thought, “these people are here to run a marathon and they’re pooping out at mile 15? Why? Did they not train enough? Could I be next?” That little voice of doubt tried to creep in my head and freak me out but I squashed it…quick. I felt fine. I was properly hydrated and properly fueled. I trained hard for this. I was prepared.
Mile 17 came around…almost to 18 (which I heard was the breaking point). Mary and I were very focused on our running, but of course we made time for jokes and the usual comment “I can’t believe we’re really doing this. And I can’t believe we still feel good!” And there it was, mile 18. Two more miles and we would be in the twenties. We felt strong, we felt good, we were going to finish this.
By this time we were averaging a 14 minute pace. I wasn’t going to complain. We were having the time of our lives! I had read that it was good to keep an eye on the people around you in your corral during the race, to make sure you aren’t falling behind or speeding up too much. There were a few people that had been running near us for about the first 10 miles, so we decided to keep an eye on them. At mile 18 I realized we hadn’t seen any of them in a long time. Especially the guy in the kilt that we pin pointed. Yes, there was a guy running the marathon in a kilt…and he was our favorite. We realized that we had probably gotten way behind. Discouraging, but it was OK because we were only in this thing to finish it and not get picked up by the pace patrol.
People around us were drained, but we still felt strong. Thank you, Jesus. I don’t remember exactly what mile it was at, but at some point we were on back roads going through a very swampy, sewage area. It wasn’t exactly the pretty part of the run. Right around then a large, enthusiastic man behind us starts singing “We Are the Champions” by Queen. A few moments pass, and suddenly all the runners around us are singing it together.It’s at moments like this that you realize that these people aren’t machines. They feel pain. Running isn’t easy…it hurts. It’s the people that hurt and choose to sing through it anyway that are champions.
Eventually we were in the Wide World of Sports and holy cow. We felt like we were trapped in that park. It NEVER ended. At least it seemed that way. We were doomed to be trapped running in the Wide World of Sports forever and ever. And I had to pee. And there were no bathrooms, or bushes…greaaaaat.
All that water I had been drinking caught up with me. Earlier in the race we had managed to find one bathroom in Animal Kingdom with no wait at all. That was a miracle! After that every bathroom had a line that would at least take 8 minutes to get through. It got to the point that I couldn’t wait, so we jumped in a line at the Wide World of Sports (our least favorite park). Mary was gracious to accompany me. She’s a good mom. It took 8 minutes to get through the line, which really made me worried about the pace patrol grabbing us and kicking us out of the race. We hopped back in the crowd and started running faster. Then about 5 minutes later we see kilt boy run past us. Then the next few ladies we had been watching to keep pace with. “Oh my gosh! Mom! We didn’t get behind! We got AHEAD of everyone!” That bathroom trip put us back to the group we started with. That was very encouraging. And suddenly, were were out of the Wide World of Sports.
Running up the highway we approached mile 20. Holy cow. 20. Where did the time go? It seemed like we had just started this thing (well, kind of). And there it was…20. We passed it. Onto mile marker 21. Let’s finish this thing. We were both surprised how good we still felt. Obviously our feet hurt, but overall we were fine. We had been running for a very long time and wanted to see that finish line. “There goes mile marker 21. Keep going. We got this. We’re good.” Those were basically the phrases that we kept repeating for the next 5.2 miles.
Mile marker 22 came. Only 4.2 more miles. Holy. Freaking. Cow. “Ok, where’s 23? I want to see 23! No sign of 23. We’ve been running a long time and haven’t seen mile marker 23. What the heck? Ok some guy just said we’ve already passed 23. Three more miles!”
Those were the longest three miles I have ever run. I was tired; I felt good, but I was tired. At this point was the only “mistake” I would say I made in the race. I had been drinking a ton of water the whole time, and at mile 23 I was not about to stop and have to use the bathroom again, so I stopped drinking water at mile 23. Lo and behold, mile 25 comes around and I got the first cramp I had gotten during the race. Really?! Now?? We’re almost done! I had to stop and try to walk it out. Mary talked me through it, gave me pickle juice and started praying over me. Like I said, she is such a good mom. I am so incredibly thankful that I had her with me. We walked it out for about 5 minutes and after that prayer she told me to start running. “I’m good. I’m good. Nope.” It came back. Walk it out, stretch it out, drink some water…we’re almost there. At this point I think it was more mental than anything, so I had to say enough. We called on Jesus, and this time I had confidence. He brought me this far. I was not about to walk across that finish line. So we ran. And right around the corner was our entire family!
Our family is LOUD. And they know how to have fun. Seeing them then and there could not have been more perfect. They cheered, they ran with us…they were so proud of us! Seeing them made it real. This was it. We were about to actually finish this thing. The next half mile was a celebration of how hard we worked. Our spirits were lifted. We reflected on all of our hard worked, joked about how we said after this race we would never run again, and before we even saw the finish line we started to get weepy. This had been our thing for nine months. It was the ultimate mother-daughter in law bonding experience. And here we were at the end. It was time to finish strong. This was the race to the finish line.
Around the next turn was a gospel choir singing praises. How perfect! Wow. I heard some coaches on the side line telling us that the finish line was just around the next turn. I really hoped they weren’t lying. Those last three miles I had heard about 20 people saying “you’re almost to the finish line!” The encouragement is great, but it gets to be a little annoying after the 15th person says that and you aren’t there yet. We started turning a corner and there was the biggest crowd we had seen yet! We got all the way around the curve and there it was! The finish line! OH MY GOSH! I had never felt such an overwhelming happiness. There was Donald Duck dancing and cheering us on. We grabbed hands and put our arms in the air and I hear over the speakers,
“Melanie Yost and Mama Yost! Congratulations! You are a marathoner!”
Wait, Mama Yost? What? How did they know that’s your nick name? That was strange…and super cool.
And we crossed it. And I cried. That was it…we did it. But then we kept running! (Plot twist! Ok, not really…)
Mary goes, “Are we done now? Can we stop?” Hahaha! That was the best. We were delirious. How could we actually be done?
We were presented our medals, got some food and went to find our family to celebrate. I couldn’t believe it was over. We felt so proud. Having our entire family there to celebrate with us was just the best. Wow. Just wow. Here are some pics of our celebration:
Me and my sissy, Nellie
My husband, Martin, got to watch his mom and wife finish together
Our family is very loud and emotional. There were lots of happy tears
My youngest sister in law, Isa.
Mom and daughter
Martin and his mom…and his dad in the background disguised as a tourist 😉
As soon as it was over we started talking about our next race. We got the bug. I was officially addicted. And now we start training for our next marathon.
To all the volunteers, you have no idea how much you meant to me during this race. To the lady with the pretzels on the bridge, thank you. Your generosity and smiling face gave me extra energy. To the kid and his dad in the stands around the race track, you were so sweet to come out and just watch and wave to everyone. To the woman who clapped for us and told us we still looked strong at mile 24, bless you. To every volunteer who filled up my water bottle and gave me food, thank you. You kept me going, literally. To the lady on the overpass with the sign that said “Pain now, wine later” you have no idea how excited that sign made both of us. And to every other person who showed us support, you are the best. I used to thank race volunteers probably didn’t mean much to the runners. Wow, was I wrong. From here on out I don’t care if I’m the only person standing on the sidelines of a race with a sign. I’ll know that to some person, that sign, that presence of just being there, will get them through their race.
And of course to my mother in law, Mary. This was one of the greatest experiences of my life. You took care of me, you pushed me past limits I never thought I would be able to go through. You were the best training partner anyone could ever ask for. I couldn’t imagine doing this race without you.
There you have it. Thank you, Jesus, for bringing us both through that race. In the end, You are the one that truly brought us to the finish line.