A Run Through the Dark Side and Back

posted in: In the Mayhem, Run | 0

Do you ever find yourself needing something good to look forward too?

Last fall, that was me.

I spent last summer traveling and going on adventures with friends, then august came and it was back to work. As I was morning my adventurous summer being over I realized I needed something to work toward. I had no trips on the books and no adventures to dream about. So I did the most logical thing possible.

Sign up for a half marathon.

Is this not what you do when you need a short-term goal? Sign up to run 13.1 miles.

When Disney announced a new Star Wars The Dark Side-themed race, I figured, why not?

IMG_0290September rolled around and I signed up because, why not? I eventually convinced my friend Taylor to run with me because she’s just crazy enough to join me.

We trained and solved all the world’s problems on our long weekend runs until April rolled around. Then it was off to Disney World.

The race started like any other race. Fireworks and a single gunshot to start off the fast people. The rest of us waited our turn to take off.

And take off we did, straight into Epcot where the path is on average 15 feet wide.

This is a problem in the running world. With entering the park so quickly we didn’t have time to spread out and find our pace group. We were all clustered together. Runners, Run/walk people and mostly walk with a little run people. It was a mess. Don’t get me wrong, seeing the sun come up in Epcot is great, but I wanted to run.

I anticipated adding a few minutes to my start time because the first mile is always a little hectic. I didn’t anticipate it being the first 4. As we “ran” from Epcot though the Port Orleans resort and over to Hollywood studios my hopes of finishing a 2:30 half were dashed. My 5k time came in at 49 minutes. I was heartbroken.

As I navigated the crowd and parks I just wanted to give up. To just stop and wait on the stupid balloon ladies to catch me and hop on the van back to the start line. Why even try if it wasn’t going to turn out as IMG_0338planned? All my training and goal setting for nothing.

Finally, around mile 5, the pack spread out as we hit the highways between parks. We were on our way to cruise through the Animal Kingdom and then hit the last three miles to the finish line. While the course was lined with all things Star wars: The Dark Side, it lacked the wow factor of the Princess Race in my option.
Maybe it’s my lack of truly being a StarWars fan, but I just felt it lacked a few polishing touches Disney is known for.

Eventually, we hit Animal kingdom and by now the pack had thinned enough that we weren’t congested in the park and got to enjoy the run. While there, I learned there’s a BBQ restaurant in the park so we were teased with the smell of bacon as we navigated the park. When you’ve run a good 8 miles and you smell bacon, you REALLY, REALLY want bacon.

By this point, I’d gotten over myself and figured I’d keep going with my running plan and just finish when I finished. That’s all that really matters anyway. Just finish.

But as my 10k and 15k times came in I realized I could recover my lost minutes. I could still finish under three hours if I pushed myself.

Finally, we made the home stretch and final 5k to run. I managed to keep my pace as we ran toward the Wide World of Sports. As the people around me started to slow down, I kept going. Finally hitting that last mile marker and kicking it into high gear. I glanced and my watched and noticed I had 13 minutes till the 3-hour mark. I trained a 12-minute mile pace and wasn’t sure I would make it in 13. My legs and mind were tired. Then I remembered where the finish line was and like a horse to the barn, I was off. If I wasn’t using every ounce of energy to pick my legs up and actually move forward, I would have yelled at the slow people to move out of my way.

And then I finished.IMG_0346

2 hours and 58 minutes later, I was done. Once I got past the congested first 4 miles, I ran a little faster each mile. I never thought that was possible. I doubt I will ever run a race again where my fastest mile is my last mile.

Yeah, I finished and that was awesome. But I overcame challenges I couldn’t control. I like control and these challenges didn’t play well in my world. I had to adjusted my game plan and meet a new goal.

As I near in on 30 I think my 20’s look a lot like this crazy race. My 20’s started out crowded sea of college kids graduating during a recession and then life took a few unexpected hard turns. But the crowd thinned and I realized I was still moving forward. I have made adjustments as life rolls on and as I approach the finish line of my 20’s I can’t help but feel good about how it’s all working out.

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