SUNDAY - JAN. 14 (RACE DAY)
We got up and got out the door in reasonable time - you decide if 3:15a is reasonable to you. All the check lists were checked. We knew approximately where we needed to be, but there would be some discovery as we got closer. The general rule of race day is follow the crowd. My sister dropped us off and we began to roll toward the start line. It was a solid mile to get there. We found our starting corral - all the way in the back of the 14000 runners. I didn’t like the idea of having to manage that crowd while pushing the running chair. It was 4:30a. The race was starting at 5a. Of course, my nervous belly started crying out. Did I really need a port-a-potty or was this just nerves? I couldn’t risk it - we got in one of the long cues awaiting the port-a-potty lineup. Another man who was pushing his son in a running chair came by and told me he was moving to the front, encouraging me to do the same. It wasn’t official, but as the Disney folks didn’t seem to be sure of too much either, it seemed confidence would be the best play. The clock was ticking and the line for the port-a-potties was slllllllloooooooooowwwwww. At 4:55a, I got my break. One good thing about port-a-potties: nobody wants to spend any more time in them than have to.
We went up front and found more of our people - people with wheels. We talked to one who said we could tuck in with them. This meant we’d leave after the third corral (“C”) as opposed to way in the back (“G”). Much better! We were settled. It was 45 degrees - cool, but not anywhere freezing. There was a beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner and then we were off. The race started cleanly. I had my first friend I had met online call out to us on the course: Cindy Cropley, dressed in her adorable Dumbo outfit, limped our way. She was running the half-marathon on a broken foot! This is what it’s like on the course: everyone is doing their best. Many people are facing difficult circumstances. People are running for all kinds of causes and loved ones. There are serious athletes weaving in and out pursuing personal bests and trying to qualify for some other race. And then there are those who are there to smell the roses. We were definitely in the latter camp. While we were running, I was also committed to stopping for Disney pictures whenever we could as those course photos can be awesome - and the marks of having done the race.
We entered California Adventure at about mile one. We were in California Adventure and Disneyland for the next four miles and it was phenomenal. We saw Dumbo, Goofy, and Sadness (Inside Out). We got a picture with Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater and stood in front of the epic Millenium Falcon. We ran into foot traffic just as congested as that on highway 5 when race officials inexplicably placed a water station in a narrow park throughway. While there were general complaints, everyone in our area was good to one another and we made it through. The chants of “Go, Dan Go!” echoed throughout. My dad clapped along.
Just after mile five, they turned us loose into Anaheim. It was a bummer to leave Disney magic, but it did make the running a lot easier. The most difficult part of the Hoyt Running Chair for me is making steering adjustments. The wheels don’t turn, so you have to lean on the aero bars, lifting the front tire slightly and adjust the direction that way. People stop and start all over the course at random times. Without a running chair, weaving in and out of the crowd is a challenge - but fairly manageable in my experience. With the running chair - safety and patience are the names of the game. Starting and stopping is a regular part of the effort. This disrupts any idea of flow or a traditional runner’s high, but by tapping into the larger experience - remembering and being grateful for the months of training, preparation and everything it took to get to this moment - the flow begins. Gratitude is the key.
Around mile seven, dad needed a bathroom. The full bathrooms were a few miles back in disney - that meant we’d have to roll the dice on a port-a-potty for dad whenever we could find one. We rolled up on a short bank of them right next to a high school band that was cranking out a spirited version of “Don’t Stop Believing”. There happened to be an ADA port-a-potty, too, which includes the strong rails and more space to manage. Dad was able to go in and take care of business. And we were able to keep on believing and running.
One year ago, the full marathon at Disney World got really challenging for me around mile 20. Even though I had trained well, I had some physical issues because of having to constantly adjust the running chair (it was tailing to the right for some reason I could never resolve). It forced me to lean heavily on my right leg and my knee eventually let me know it didn’t appreciate this extra pounding. This year, we, including the running chair, ran smoothly. After completing a marathon, a half-marathon really does feel, relatively, like a breeze. It’s amazing what pushing past your boundaries does for your perception of the distance you’ve traveled. When 13.1 was my limit - it seemed like a long way. By making 26.2 the new limit, 13.1 felt smaller in my mind. Make no mistake - it was still work. It was sweat, sore muscles and the whole nine. And it was also a reminder of how we can do more when we break through barriers.
We crossed the finish line with great happiness. The jump for joy is real. We were immediately greeted by a Disney representative named Tim who knew exactly what he was doing and helped us through the finish area. He made sure we got medals, bananas, PowerAde and our food boxes. He also helped clear traffic for us to help us land in a place where my sister and Julie found us. Mom did not make it out of bed to join us.