When I was a kid, I had zero athletic ability. When I played baseball with my cousins, I caught it more often in the mouth or leg than the hand. When I tried gymnastics, I got as far as a cartwheel. And when I ran, everyone laughed at me and told me I looked like a chicken.
But after I had two babies and gained what felt like a gazillion pounds, I needed something athletic to help me get back in shape. I started working out in the gym, and when my friends suggested we run a half-marathon at Disney, I was excited about the challenge. I'd never ran a race at that time, not even a 5k, and knew it would be a lot of work but couldn't wait to get across the finish line.
So, I started running. I ran and ran and ran. One mile, two miles, five miles, ten miles - my long runs got longer and longer. I completed my first 5k, 8k, and 10k. My muscles started growing while my waistline started shrinking. I felt stronger and healthier than I ever had in my life.
Friday, the day before my first half marathon, I was super nervous. I refused to buy the "I Did It" shirt for fear I'd curse myself. Even though I had ran ten miles just a week earlier, I was still worried about completing the 13.1 in a decent time. I also had never woke up at 2:30 in the morning to do a race; what if I was exhausted? What if I overslept? Should I wear tights or not wear tights? What kind of story would I make up if I got swept?
Somehow, though, 2:30 didn't feel quite so early when I woke up Saturday morning. I dressed and caught the bus to Epcot. It was filled with other runners. As we munched down our granola bars and bananas, excitement filled the air. I couldn't believe I was really on the way to my first half-marathon.
I gotta say, Disney does a race right. There were fireworks and characters, marching bands and cheerleaders, even Al Roker. Thirteen miles seemed like forever, but I'd knew it'd be the best thirteen miles of my life.
When the fireworks went off for my corral, I hit the road running. I'd planned on walking some, but as the miles flew under my feet, I only slowed down to drink water and Powerade. I ran through a car show, past Buzz Lightyear and Captain Jack, and straight under the castle. When I saw Mary Poppins, Burt, and a penguin with no wait, I had to stop and take at least one picture, and all the Powerade meant a run in with one of the billions of port-a-potties.
With each mile marker I passed, I felt like I had really accomplished something. When I saw eleven and was still running, I had hit my personal record. That was the longest I'd ever ran. I promised myself I could stop and walk after that, but I didn't want to. I kept running.
As I passed twelve, the cheerleaders on the side started yelling. I was almost there, and there was no way I'd stop running now. I ran around the giant golf ball at Epcot, toward the World Show Case, and back out of the park. When I passed the thirteen sign, the finish line was in sight and so was the cheering crowd in the bleachers.
I stepped on the finish line with Mickey and Minnie clapping for me. All day the announcers had been calling us athletes, and for the first time in my life, I felt like one. I proudly grabbed my medal and hung it around my neck, taking a picture, showing it off.
For the rest of the day, I proudly wore my medal around my neck. Everywhere we went, people congratulated me. I just beamed and, usually, congratulated them back.
When I checked my official time, I had ran the race in 2:23. I was number 8436 out of 27,000. While I hoped to get my time down to 2:10, I was still super happy that I had run faster than almost 20,000 people!
I will likely never win a race this big. I might not even make into the top corral. But just finishing has proven that somewhere along the way I have gained some sort of athletic ability. I'm so proud of myself for finishing this race, and I'm already planning for my next one. I never thought I'd be able to do this, but I'm glad I did. I'm happy to say I'm actually a runner and to believe it. No one is telling me I run like a chicken now, and if they did, I'd tell them I never saw a chicken run 13.1 miles.