On July 27th, 2021, I signed up to run my first marathon. While sitting in a pirate themed restaurant in Legoland Florida, I obsessively debated with myself about whether or not this was an awful idea. Finally, the fear that the decision could be made for me if it sold out before I had the chance to book, pushed me over the edge, and I submitted the registration for Derek and I to run the Walt Disney World Marathon on January 9th, 2022. 26.2 miles of running (and walking) through all 4 parks at Disney World. The farthest I've run before this? 13.1 miles. 3 half marathons of the last 5 years, 1 of them great, 2 of them very not-great.
Instead of putting all of the information in one blog post, I'm going to split it up into a series. I have a lot to say about this entire process. So many things I wish I saw people talking about beforehand. Although, once we get into the down-and-dirty, you might wish you didn't know these things ahead of time. We're going to talk about training, clothes, shoes, food, other exercise, mental anguish, anxiety, race day and recovery in detail. This endeavor took a huge toll on my body, had an unexpected impact on my mental health, and changed me in some wild ways. I felt strong, weak, powerful, small and dumb. I wanted to quit at least once a week. I had days I wanted to kiss my shoes and the beautiful ground I had the opportunity to run on. And I had other days, where I wanted to burn those feet torture devices and get into some other fitness activity, never to run again.
So this serves as the introduction! A brief guide of what I'll cover and a little background about me. If you've read the two paragraphs above, you can probably tell this will be an emotional and brutally honest report. I think we can all handle that.
Here's a little bit about me. I'm 36 years old, a quilter, a bag maker, and a software engineer. I also proudly wear the titles of wife and mother. I don't cook and rarely drive. Most of my time is spent working at a machine. A laptop, a sewing machine, embroidery machine... no cooking machines. Since moving to Saint Augustine, Florida, I've had absolutely no time to make friends locally, so I don't get out a whole lot. Every second of my day is quite literally packed. Breaks and any sort of down-time are scheduled. Not a bad thing. But can be stressful. This was the biggest factor in why I started running.
My First Big Run - Vowing To Never Run Again
Like I said, I've participated in 3 half marathons previously. My first was the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon in 2018. I did not train for that, which was a bad decision. My husband, Derek, was running his first marathon. Thankfully, he trained for months leading up to that with a local running store. Since the half and full marathons were on the same day at the same time, I thought it would be a fun activity we could do together. Side note: when it comes to natural athleticism, Derek is an athlete. I am not. At all. So I encouraged him to take off at his pace, while I figured out my own in the half. Of course, since I didn't train, I started way too fast and winded myself quickly. By mile 10 I was in in so much pain, I was certain I was either going to pass out and fall to the ground, or poop my pants. Literally. My stomach was punishing me for taking this decision so lightly. Somehow, I finished that half without doing either. Derek finished the full, although he also pushed himself a little too hard, and ended up with some pretty rotten knee pains after that. But we did it. Hated it. Vowed to never do it again.
Why I Tried Again
Then we moved to Florida. I don't know if you've heard this, but the weather in Florida can be GLORIOUS. I mean, bottle it up and keep it with you always, such a treasure. It makes you want to be outside, even though you've always been an indoor creature. Moving across the country is hard. Work was overwhelming. Starting a YouTube Channel and small business was overly ambitious. Families are complicated and can take so much from you emotionally. All of this brought me to lacing up some poorly fit running shoes, and making time every few days to go for a jog. Just to clear my head. Find a moment of peace to either think about absolutely nothing, or process all of the thousands of to-dos and ideas. Running fast and hard when life was doing the same to me. Taking it easy at a slow piece, mostly walking, when I needed that extra time out there. What. A. Gift. From that moment to now, I still always feel grateful that I have the ability to move my body that way, and I feel like a better version of myself after.
So I figured, what the heck.... let's do another half marathon! We signed up for the Star Wars Half Marathon at Disney World in 2019. This time, I trained. RunDisney offers a great mileage training break down using the Galloway method (more on that another day) and I printed that sucker out, taped it to the fridge, and made sure if it said run... I ran. Even when I didn't have the energy to run 8 miles, I got them in. Recovering from a cold? I took it slow, but I still got out and got in the miles. I actually took it serious.
And I had the most amazing race EVER. That Star Wars run was beyond magical. And after I crossed that finish line, I felt like I could easily keep going. Easily.
You Have To Take Care Of More Than Just Your Feet
So we quickly signed up for the 2019 Wine and Dine Half Marathon. Which didn't go well. No fault to the training, but thanks to some questionable food choices I made the day before. I developed food poising before the race, so the majority of my scenery was inside porta potties along the race route. Not fun, do not recommend. After the race, I felt truly awful. To the point where I was actually worried about my overall well-being. But, being the type of person that doesn't want to burden to anyone else, I sucked it up and went into Epcot, hoping the sick feeling would subside. You know those bathrooms on the left side of Epcot, right after you enter, if you're facing Spaceship Earth? I do. I know them really well. I know the floors, the toilets, the back of the doors, the doors that squeak too loud and the stall that has better air flow than the others. I wish I didn't know this. But life decided my Epcot Disney day would be spent entirely in that bathroom. Yay.
Obviously, I made it out of there, back to my room, hydrated, fueled and slept, and recovered. I vowed to never run again, obviously. And when I think back to that race now, I realize I learned one of the most important marathon training prep lessons. You have to care just as much about the food you're putting in your body as the number of miles you're putting under your feet. You just have to think about that, more so than you ever had before.
Why Keep Doing This?
Let's speed this up a bit. I didn't let that race deter me, decided if I was going to quit running forever, that wasn't going to be my final bow. So we signed up for the 2021 Disney World Full Marathon. To be honest, I was not in the right headspace for that. I started my training way too late, my heart wasn't in it. And oh... COVID made its first appearance that year. Luckily for me, that race was cancelled.
So all of this was going through my head when I swung back and forth like a pendulum, deciding on the 2022 Full Marathon. I knew I wouldn't have any other races before that, so all long runs had to be done on my time in my neighborhood. I had to make that commitment and uphold it. From that moment, sitting at the Pirate table, I knew my "why". Why run a marathon? What's the point? Honestly, because I didn't think I could. I'm very well aware there will come days when I can physically no longer do certain activities. And I just wanted to see if I had already reached that day. There is a big difference between thinking you can't do something, and actually being unable to do it.
And that's where we'll stop. Up next: Training - Actually Running Every Week... And Is That Enough?!
Sue H mellette | 17th Feb 22
I am so impressed with your motivation and dedication to make it to and through a marathon. Thank you for sharing your journey. You are an inspiration to those of us who need an extra push. I am not a runner nor do I have any aspirations to be one! But your story is so compelling and quite incredible! I look forward to reading the next chapter! You go girl!!🤗
Necia | 26th Mar 22
Oh Jess. I know you from your bags, but you have resonated with me as a runner. I dont know what bought me to your blog, or if I even realized you had a blog, but I’m sure glad I found it. I remember my races fondly as I commiserate with you leading up the your full marathon. I only started running to prove to myself that I could. Maybe I should truly get back into it. I love the galloway method.
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