We did it! We are now half-marathon finishers in what is probably one of the most fun half-marathon races ever! Of course, this was my first big race so I don’t have much experience yet, but I can’t imagine a half-marathon being more fun than this one.

My last post was about fear. I definitely went into this race with trepidation. The ankle tendon was bugging me, making it hard to put weight on it for stairs and even just walking. I even had a few people tell me I should drop out of the race. I refused to accept that kind of negativity — after having worked 8 months toward a difficult (for me) goal and having invested hundreds in training, race fees, hotel, and Disneyland tickets, I was not about to give up. I had to have the courage to at least try.

Race morning came, and we walked out to the race start – close to the back in “Corral F”. For those non-racers, when you sign up for a race, you estimate what your pace will be and they will assign you to a corral with others running that pace. We had to be in our corrals at 5:15am, making for a nervewracking hour until we actually got to start running (near 6:15am).

The lead-up to the start of the race was exciting. There were big jumbotrons with Mickey and Minnie in tracksuits, a gorgeous national anthem complete with fireworks booming on the lyrics “and the rocket’s red glare”, and an announcer revving up the runners. Nerves built as we watched Corral A (aka the Type A elite runners) started. Then B, C, D, E, and finally, F. I started my GPS and heart rate monitor and off we ran.

My heart rate was sky high in the first few minutes, topping 185bpm — nerves, adrenaline, and yes, fear, all running through me as we started on our pace. I was so pumped up for this race that we didn’t even do any walk intervals until well after the 5K (3.1miles) distance. The first three miles were a run through Disneyland’s backlot, California Adventure theme park and then Disneyland.

It was just sheer heaven. Imagine a mass of people, all running in the same direction, and running through the place of my childhood dreams — Disneyland. Disney cast members all lined up along Main Street, Tomorrowland and Fantasyland eagerly applauding and cheering us on. We even ran right through Sleeping Beauty’s castle – and then back out of the park.

Now it was time to buckle down — the race was REALLY starting. Chuck turned on the interval timer so we could settle into our run/walk pace (2:30 minute run, 1 minute walk). He did a great job at keeping my spirits up, telling funny jokes, making me smile and laugh, and letting me know when my pace was getting too slow. That’s what a real partner does — supports and encourages you to achieve your best.

Things felt pretty good — much to my amazement even the ankle didn’t hurt a single bit. We settled into our intervals and reeled runners in one-by-one, passing them slowly as we ran by. Now that we’ve done a half-marathon, we realized that Corral F was a bit conservative — I felt like I was zeroed in on passing people left and right (not a bad feeling for a turtle-slow runner like myself). Next race, we need to move up to Corral C or D.

Every single mile had a gorgeous Disneyland mile marker sign with the current time/pace and distance completed. Every mile also had some kind of band, cheerleaders, dancers, a little bit of something to see and look forward to. Things started flagging around mile 8, my pace slowing down a bit. But then came the Angels Stadium where we were on the Jumbotron and the announcer was announcing what state (or country) you were from. There were cheerleaders, boy scouts, bands, and crowds in the stands all cheering us on. It made me feel like a rock star, getting to high-five kids as I ran by — it made the leg pain and tightness a little bit more tolerable.

Once out of the stadium around mile 9, things quieted down a bit and I continued to get a little slower. Chuck asked me, “Shari — do you want to finish under three hours, or just finish?” I wasn’t feeling great by then, but I wanted it bad — to finish sub three hours. For you elite runners, you can probably do a half-marathon in less than half that time, but for me, having never run any kind of distance in my entire life, it was a big goal.

I gritted my teeth and picked up the pace a little bit. Around mile 10, we saw Kim who met us at one of the intersections. Kim and Dean are both Ironman triathletes and fantastic runners so they came out to support us on our first half-marathon race. She met us knowing that it gets hard around mile 10 for new runners, and was there to help pace us into the finish line. She was such a welcome sight. Chuck was wonderful, but he was running out of entertaining material by now, and we were both happy to see her smiling face.

We worked a bit harder now, picking up the pace to keep up with Kim. My quads and calves were burning and exhausted. Dean ended up catching up to us around mile 11.5 or so, and ran with us up until close to the end of the race (where he was escorted politely off the course since he didn’t have a race bib). :)

Finally I could see Disneyland again, and knew we were weaving our way toward the finish line near the Disneyland hotel. I was REALLY ready to be done with the race by now. We got close to the finish line, Kim wished us good luck, and we ran together toward the big F-I-N-I-S-H. Chuck and I held hands together as we crossed the finish line, and I found myself choking up a little with tears of joy (and relief, and accomplishment).

We got our medals a little further down past the finish line — HUGE gold Disneyland race medals, and our first half-marathon was now in the books. Our official time (including a little bathroom break in the first 5K part) was about 2:53.

After cleaning up at the hotel and icing our legs down, we headed off to Disneyland and California Adventure to enjoy the rest of our day, albeit a little bit gimpy. You could tell the half-marathon runners — we were the ones wincing stepping off high curbs or hobbling down stairs.

It was worth the months of pain, sweat, summer heat training, injuries, self-doubt and tears. We’re now signed up for the PF Chang’s Las Vegas Rock & Roll Half Marathon in December followed by PF Chang’s Arizona Rock & Roll Half in January. Go big or go home!