Guest Blogger: Margaret Chapman
My friend Margaret Chapman joins us today to share her experience of running her first 26.2 this past January! And not only did she do it while running through the magical world of Disney, but she ran as part of a fundraising team to benefit cancer research. I hope you enjoy her journey and that it inspires you to reach for something bigger than yourself.
My first marathon – and most likely my only marathon – was honestly one of those moments in life where you are “more than you thought you could be” to quote Whitney Houston.
That was January 2013 – let’s back up to September 2011. I had originally decided that my first marathon would be the 2012 Disney World Marathon. For the last few years, I’ve done half marathons back-to-back with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training (TNT). They had taken me from someone who could barely survive a 5K to one of those people who gleefully starts a Saturday saying “woohoo, it’s only an 8-miler today!” My teammates are practically family – we know each other so well. I mean, after your first 3-mile run you’ve exhausted all traditional sources of conversation and by week two are moving on to the land where everyone else would exclaim TMI!
After almost a dozen halfs in the bank, I wanted to take on the full enchilada. Several of my teammates decided to do the same and we started the winter 2012 season with a bang. I was on my way…until November and a really rough 16-miler. By the end I was hobbling back to my car and sped away to my sports medicine guy who quickly proclaimed no 26.2 for me. So, yet again, I ran the 13.1 and cheered my friends through the other 13 miles.
Jump to September 2012 and the dream of a full marathon lives on. We kick off another season and I’ve been training now almost non-stop since that last Disney race. Nothing will stop me this time. Four months later and I’m ready. We’ve done our 20-miler training and I felt great! My parents went down, too, to watch and be a part of their first TNT experience which was a huge thrill for me. Friday night of race weekend is the Inspiration Dinner. If you’ve ever watched a charity telethon or seen a fundraising video, you may understand a fraction of the power of the Disney Inspiration Dinner—a room filled with over 1,500 people eating pasta, showing pictures of loved ones and discussing fantastic advances in cancer care and treatment. It gets me every time.
Saturday is always the half-marathon day so that morning my fellow marathoners and I went to cheer on our teammates, many of whom were doing the “Goofy” where they run the half on Saturday and the full on Sunday. After some rest and a late lunch with my running buddies, it was early to bed – our team photo call was 2:30 am the next day.
It’s Sunday and before me lay 26.2 miles of pavement. The anxiety, jitters, excitement, fear and thrill of standing at that start line is indescribable. The fireworks go off and we’re on our way. My running buddies for the day are Kate Blattner, Jen Moshier, Elisa McClelland and Nick Miller. Without these people, and my TNT coaches, I would never have crossed that finish line. The first few miles are fine, easy, even gleeful. We’re happy and get off to an awesome start running into the Magic Kingdom. I find myself at one point behind Kate and Jen and for about half a mile am reading the backs of their race shirts “In Memory of John Blattner.” That’s right – Kate’s husband. There were several more times over the next few hours where I would find myself staring at their shirts and reminding myself why I started this race in the first place.
We’ve gone through Magic Kingdom – stopped for the requisite photos at the Castle and are making our way into Animal Kingdom. Unfortunately, there’s a large span of open road between the two—plenty of time for thinking, talking and getting sunburned. The main difference between this race day and many others before was the weather. By the time it was over, Orlando had reached over 80 degrees. Sure, those first few miles were great—it was dark, no sun, no humidity, and only about 55. By Animal Kingdom, it was HOT and sticky and we were getting tired. It’s about halfway through and I’m beginning to realize that this is going to be very different from training, which took place in December in DC. I drank as much water and Powerade as I could keep down; I ate salty snacks and took every piece of food they gave me. Even people who have run many races before were having issues – so at least I knew it wasn’t just me and my inexperience. By miles 18-20, you need inspiration and it’s times like this where I find my teammates and my team’s struggles and stories to be the only thing that pushes me to that next step. Every time it feels hard to keep going, or I’m tired and cranky and hot, I think about the people we run for—marathons are not easy but they are little cupcakes on a sunny day compared to going through treatment and living with cancer. Kate’s husband, John, died at the ripe old age of 28. That’s inexcusable, so we run to make sure others don’t have to leave before they’ve even started.
Mile 20 has us leaving the ESPN Wide World of Sports and in the home stretch to Hollywood Studios and finally Epcot. Running through the parks definitely makes these miles easier. It’s less “6 more miles” and more “just from Tower of Terror to the Boardwalk.” That being said, these are still 6 of the longest, hardest miles of my life. You come out of ESPN, down a long stretch of highway and through the back door of Hollywood Studios, around Pixar land, the Sci-Fi Drive-in (always one of my favorites), in front of the giant sorcerer’s hat and down the main street of the park. Finally, you’re by the parking lot and winding your way alongside the man-made lake that connects Epcot to other lands. You know you’re almost there, but it’s so hard to keep going. By this point it’s almost noon so all along the sidewalk are people enjoying their day about Disney World, cheering you on as they make their way through the turnstiles to an afternoon of fun. You’ve passed the Boardwalk area and enter through the International Gateway of Epcot – right between France and England. You can practically see the finish line, but before you get there, you have to literally traverse the “world.” It’s soo close now…you’re running right in front of the giant golf ball that is the icon of Epcot and you see it – the mile 26 sign. Rounding the corner, you can almost taste it and then, what? A gospel choir, what else? Just in case you weren’t emotional enough – you’re exhausted, dehydrated, hungry – you have lost all ability to think rationally and are practically a basket case already. Then you hear them singing. I turned the corner, heard the singing, saw Jen’s shirt staring at me and lost it. Tears erupted – I couldn’t believe I had made it this far and was actually going to complete my FIRST MARATHON! .2 miles to go—the three of us who had been running together for so long and had metaphorically held each others’ hands through this process, physically joined hands to have that photo finish. My parents were there – signs, cameras, the whole bit. It was a truly magical day!
Running 26.2 miles takes its toll on your body and in that heat, especially. It wasn’t an easy recovery. I sat in a med tent for almost an hour before I could keep food down again. But, I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world. It really is one of those moments in life you never forget, you can never duplicate and proves to you that no matter how hard something may seem or how many times you fail on the way, you can finish your race—whatever race literal or metaphorical that may be. And, if you think this is something you may be interested in accomplishing for yourself, we’re building our Disney full and half marathon team for January 2014. There’s always room for more family and we promise to get you to that finish line of your own!
Margaret’s at it again – Help her cross the finish line of her next race, and the race to cure cancer! http://pages.teamintraining.org/nca/nikewhlf13/mchapmactw