… to run the Disneyland Half Marathon!!

Today was the day!! We all crashed hard and fast last night and did a great job getting up at our 4am alarms. Because we all took showers last night, we were ready pretty quickly and at the shuttle stop just in time for the 4:30am shuttle. It was just us at first but as more and more people boarded, I couldn’t help but think that I did not belong. These people looked like runners. They looked ready. I sometimes still feel like I’m not a runner and I just felt so out of place.

We made it to Disneyland and walked the mile or so to the race area. It was really something special to be in Disney that early in the morning, “empty” (except for the staff and runners), with all of the lights. I wasn’t able to pick up my race bib, shirt, and packet ahead of time so we stopped to get those. Unfortunately they could only give me my bib so I have to “write to Disney” later to get the rest of my items. That was a bummer to hear because now we couldn’t get a group picture with our shirts later but definitely not the end of the world. I checked my sweater into the bag check, we all took a last minute bathroom break, and then we stopped to take a few pre-race photos. I was getting really nervous but it was just so exciting to be there that it didn’t matter. Everything was so organized and efficient too, which was really impressive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I guess we had to pick a “pace” or race time when we signed up because we each had an assigned corral. We all had different ones and the Disney staff was checking pretty heavily so we split up. I was in corral G, ahead of them. How? I don’t know. When I turned the corner into the actual street with the corrals, my heart stopped. There were SO MANY PEOPLE. I had never seen that many people at a race before in my life. It was crazy. Indescribable. The line went on indefinitely it seemed. No picture could do it justice. The race started at 5:30am but my corral didn’t actually cross the start line until about 6am so I spent the time stretching and texting Kelsey and John. We were all eager to just get going!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first part of the race was a little crowded but spread out pretty quickly. They had the corrals starting far enough apart that it really wasn’t an issue. I’m telling you, other races need to take note!

It wasn’t long until we turned into Disneyland. We started in “Cars” world, or whatever the official name was, and I instantly started crying. They were tears of joy, though. I was so overwhelmed! Everything I had worked for was finally happening. I was in Disneyland. The staff and characters were all out and cheering us on. The Disney music was playing on the speakers. It was all so much and I couldn’t hold back. So there I was, not even a mile into the race, smiling and crying at the same time while running. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a sobbing cry… that happened later. I made the decision to stop and take pictures so long as I could do it quickly because I really wanted to focus on the race so I took a few along the way. The first 4-ish miles were all through Disneyland and California Adventures and I was so speechless the whole time. I think that helped distract me though because before I knew it, I was at mile #6! Right before though, there was a hill and at that moment, the sun was starting to peak through the clouds. It was so beautiful and brought me a lot of peace. I was running so well and not remotely out of breath (thank you, California weather for being so perfect).

No, 1:36:17 was not my time for 6 miles! Remember, the clock started at 5:30am and my corral started about 30 minutes later. I was at just over an hour which was made me pretty proud!

I took a QUICK walking break up a small hill and texted Kelsey and John some encouragement before taking off again. I ran nonstop until mile #8, took a short break again around the Honda Center, and then continued to mile #9. I didn’t have music on during the race so in the few areas of just runners, it was pretty quiet. I kept telling myself to push on, to keep running, to focus on big strides and not baby steps (very important!). There were plenty of areas though where bands, dance companies, cheerleaders, and car clubs were cheering us on. Volunteers passed out water and Powerade at every mile, helping us stay hydrated both physically and mentally. There were also hundreds of people sitting outside their shops and houses with their homemade posters, shouting words of encouragement. It was in those moments of people supporting us, strangers, along the way that made me teary-eyed and emotional again! They’ll never know how much it meant to me. Me, the girl who just a year ago couldn’t run a single mile without wanting to pass out. I didn’t know it but I needed their support. My heart swells each time I think about it and I’m so thankful to every stranger for being there. For every poster. For every high five. For every cup of water.

Our course took us through Angels stadium between miles #9 and #10. I didn’t expect to see so many MORE people in the stadium cheering! They had a mini party going on in there for the runners and it was so encouraging. Mile #9 was also where my right knee (actually, IT band) really started to act up. I spent a lot of time doing physical therapy on my LEFT IT band last winter but never thought my right one would betray me! Not today, of all days!

Things took a turn for the worse in mile #10. I was at a little less than 2 hours and I knew I could run 3 miles in the 40 minutes I had left to reach my 2.5 hour goal. However, my knee was finished. I was having to walk more and more but walking hurt just as bad as running did, if not more. I was limping. So, I’d try running again until the pain became too much. Switch to walking. Repeat. Mile #10 was my personal hell. I didn’t want to quit though. I wanted that 2.5 hour time. I pushed on.

At mile #11, I still had 28 minutes left. I kept telling myself to go. Run. I couldn’t run fast but it was faster than walking. Plus, there wasn’t much left. I’d run 2 miles a hundred times by then! These last 2 could not defeat me.

At 12.2 miles, John caught up to and passed me. I know this because as he soared by, he said “Come on, we’re at 12.2! Keep going!” I tried. I tried so hard. The course returned to Disneyland for the last half mile or so. Just then, there were crowds of people cheering for us for that last bit. I immediately started holding back tears. My knee hurt. The pain was unbearable. The people could see me struggling and were singling me out with their encouragements. I had to cross the finish line running. I was so close.

Finally, I saw the line. I couldn’t hold the tears back anymore. But now, I was smiling too. I did it. I was there. I ran a half marathon. If it hadn’t been for my knee, I could have kept going. My stamina was there. My energy was there. My heart was there. My knee wasn’t.

I crossed the finish line at 2 hours and 33 minutes and immediately broke down in tears. I hunched over and sobbed. I cried tears of pain, happiness, and pride all at once. I wiped my face and snapped a selfie. #doitfortheblog

My finish line pictures do a good job at showing how much pain I was in, too.

 

Disney being Disney, they had an organized path of stops until the main gathering area so I had to keep going. The first one was to receive my medal and again, I cried as she put it on. She was the 3rd person to ask me if I was okay or needed help! Next was water and after that was medical. I skipped the medical but quickly saw John so caught up with him. His knees were iced and he suggested I do the same so I went back to medical and iced up. Both sides, baby.

John and I continued down the path to the food station where we got a box of snacks and a banana. After that was the photo station where a professional took our pictures and then finally, the main area again. It was packed. Everyone was either sprawled out on the concrete, up walking around, stretching, taking pictures, or visiting a tent (the massage tent was the most busy). We didn’t want to sit yet so we walked around, stopped by another [free] photo area, stretched, and finally parked our bottoms on the pavement. Note the baby arm muscles!

After inhaling our snacks, we slowly and painfully got up. I got my sweater from the bag check and we texted Kelsey a meeting point. She joined us just a few minutes later and we all rested a little more. If you recall, the walk from the shuttle stop to the area in the morning was about a mile so we knew we had a mile back to the shuttle. We took some pictures and started the trek back. I limped the entire time, my knee hurting more and more.

We finally made it back to the shuttle and to the hotel, a little after 10:30am… happy to be finished but all in so much pain.

John and Kelsey immediately hit the floor but I had to go straight to the shower to get ready for my afternoon outing with my cousin! No rest for this girl.

My second cousin, Michael, picked me up just after 11am and we drove to Newport Beach to get electric bicycles. He had a bike trip planned for us down Huntington Beach so we rode over to the waterside, took a ferry to the other side, and enjoyed a 4ish hour bike ride around the area. I was so glad that I didn’t have to pedal and the bikes were so much fun to ride! We enjoyed a great lunch and saw some amazing houses. He’s lived quite the life and was able to tell me all about the area (million dollar homes, you guys) and the people he has worked with  and houses he’s worked on (Kobe, Lauren Condrad’s parents house, Heather from the Real Housewives, and more). He took me to some gorgeous scenic areas too, including a place called “The Wedge” where there are 30+foot waves on one side and completely still and calm waters on the other. After we returned our bikes, we quickly drove through Laguna Beach before heading back to the hotel to drop me off. It was an awesome visit. Michael and I had only met once before back at a family reunion in 2008 but we talked like we had known each other forever. I remember connecting with him really well at the reunion so I wasn’t worried about us not having anything to talk about here. We got along so well and have so much in common. We’re very similar people and it was very easy to see how we’re related. I loved hearing more about that side of the family too. I got incredibly sunburned but had a great time visiting with him!

When I finally got to the hotel around 6pm, I was exhausted. We all were. None of us wanted to move so we ordered room service for dinner and watched the last of the UT vs. Notre Dame football game before calling it a night.

The race results also came through. There were just over 13,000 participants, 1,400 in my division (women, ages 25-27). Here’s where I landed:

I was disappointed in my knee and my time being 3 minutes slower than I wanted but there are so many other things to be thankful for: my blisters from the day before not hurting, the extra soft marathon socks Kelsey let me use, the weather, the venue, the people, my best friends, for finishing. The list goes on. I’m so proud of myself for this accomplishment. I know so many people run half marathons regularly or as warm ups to full marathons but I cannot compare my achievements to theirs. This was big for me, for all of us, and I’m so unbelievably proud.

Y’all, a half marathon is difficult. I can’t say I’d run another one but never say never because it turned out that I did belong on the bus this morning with all of those runners. I was one of them.

We have a full day planned at Disneyland and California Adventures tomorrow and even though 2 of us can barely walk (Kelsey came out unharmed), we’re going to have an awesome day!

Until tomorrow,

Jillian

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