Running 26.2 miles.

How do you start a post about one of the greatest challenges/accomplishments of your life to date?

My head is still spinning from the absolute roller coaster ride that was that "not quite 5:30 hour" journey through 26.2 miles. If you haven't been following along till now, I just completed my first full marathon- The Walt Disney World Marathon.

First of all though, I could not have gotten to the finish line without my incredible sister and boyfriend. They were the most remarkable support system from the very beginning. I couldn't dream of experiencing this without them and having 2 of the most important people in my life running my first full alongside me was honestly an experience I will never forget. I love them beyond words. 

As is the case with many runner's first and beyond full marathons- there was a wall. For me it came at about mile 15. My knee started bugging me at about mile 3 but I kept making it a point to step off to the side and stretch it out, stop at medic tents for some meds and lots of biofreeze, and just be careful. I was lucky that adrenaline was in my favor and any extra boost helped ease the pain. But once you pass mile 6, you're out of the Magic Kingdom and just into a long stretch of property back roads with entertainment offerings until you hit Animal Kingdom just past mile 12. I was lucky to see a friend along the way just past mile 10 and the push of running through a park got me back in it for 12-13... And then 4 more miles of no man's land before you hit the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex and another 3 and a half miles after that until I could see my friends cheer me on at Hollywood Studios. As I passed mile 14 my knee pain got a little worse. Then worse than that. Then it started to buckle under me. I absolutely panicked. I knew what it was, I had the problem a few weeks prior. I knew it was my IT band just being too tight and doing all kinds of mean things to my knee. But while I trained, I would stop and stretch then be fine or just call it a day because it was just a training run. But this was it. This was THE day that all my work was for. So I just started to cry. My head was spinning with all sorts of "What if after all this, I don't finish?" thoughts. I felt defeated and devastated. Had I been alone, I don't know how the rest of the run would've gone. But luckily I wasn't. My sister and Casey were both so incredibly attentive while still giving me the space I needed to just have my moment and encouragement to keep going. My sister handed me a bracelet I gave her last Christmas before her first marathon- it says "never never give up." So I didn't. And to be honest, I don't remember how I kept doing my intervals. Somehow, we just did. And we kept on doing them. And I was ok. I was trucking along as we entered the sports complex thinking- I may not feel great about it but at least we'll finish. Then I saw one of my old managers that just recently got moved to work at the sports complex. Yes! Adrenaline! What knee pain? What wall? I was ecstatic! He popped up through that part of the course 3 times and even had the announcer in the stadium call out our names!! This was exactly what I needed. As we left sports, the best song came on my running mix and sent me over the top flying.

I wondered, while I was training, how those last 6.2 miles you don't train for would go for me. Would I be dragging, crying, ready to just be done? That's fully what I expected. Thanks to the serendipitous combination of my iTunes shuffle, my incredible running partners, my old manager, and my wonderful friends all through Hollywood Studios and beyond- my last 6 miles felt stronger than the first 6. I couldn't believe it. After mile 19, I was feeling unstoppable. Every time a run interval started I was ready to fly. Me. Running my booty off post mile 20. Flying toward the finish line of my first full marathon. THAT is something I did not expect. 

And I did it. I finished my first full marathon, crappy knee situation and all, in 5:28. The 2 most amazing people by my side the entire way.

I'm not one to brag or be boastful, but I have never been so impressed with myself.

I did it. With a smile on my face for MOST of the way. I did it.

:)

I feel amazing.

I put together this slideshow of pictures of my entire journey. I should've waited for the official race photos... but I didn't. I set it to the song that kicked me into high gear toward the end of my run- OneRepublic's "I Lived." I put it on again to cross the finish line too and I think after hearing it you'll see why.

Enjoy.

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