Monday, January 25, 2016

Half Marathons, Star Wars, and the Post Race Zombie Shuffle

Did I mention it started at 5:30 & I'm not a morning person?
It's been a few days since I ran my first half marathon, and I still can't quite believe I did it. I actually went thirteen point one miles. When I signed up for it months ago, it seemed like a perfectly reasonable goal. But as the race drew closer and the long runs grew, well, longer, it started to seem like the craziest idea I'd ever had.

I did a pretty good job of making a training plan and sticking to it. When I really started on the long runs, though, I came down with strep throat and a sinus infection, and that threw me off. But fortunately, I had considered the fact that something like that might happen and accounted for it in my training plan, so it wasn't a big deal in the end. My longest run before the race ended up being ten miles. I figured if I could get to ten miles, I could surely do another three and change after that. Besides, I'm pretty slow, so I didn't want to take up a lot of time running on my weekends leading up to the race. And I'm lazy. Did I mention that? I'm probably the laziest person to ever run a half marathon.

Follow that Rebel pilot!
I used my love of Star Wars as a motivating factor for this race and signed up for the Disney Star Wars half along with a friend of mine. I spent a lot of time figuring out what to wear. Seriously, I probably spent more time on this outfit than I did on any other, with the exception of my wedding. I even pulled my hair back in a Rey-inspired fashion, with three little ponytails (my hair is too short to make the loops like hers). But I wasn't the only one obsessed with finding the perfect Star Wars/running outfit. Popular outfits included R2D2, Princess Leia, Rey, Chewie and Han, and BB8.

The run started just outside the park and then made its way inside. Initially we ran 'behind the scenes' where the service vehicles and park employees go. It was dark, and in some places bumpy, but doable. There was one grumpy guy who shouted a reminder about walkers to the right, runners to the left, before invoking Jesus, and not in prayer. That guy needed the endorphins to kick in, stat.

Stop for photos you must. Excuse to rest, it is.
Star Wars music played the whole time we ran through the park. It was great! And of course there were photo opportunities with some of the characters, also known as good excuses to stop and rest for a minute while waiting in line. Once we left the back roads of Disney for the main parts, it became downright magical. We ran through the castle, past Toon Town, and out of Disneyland and into California Adventures. We ran through Radiator Springs and the boardwalk area. I kept thinking, "Ooh, we've got to come back here!"

I ran without headphones, which I've done before, but not for such a long distance. Still, I didn't miss them at all in the park because there was so much to see and hear.

And then we ran out of the park.

These are tired legs.
The Star Wars music died away, and there was only the sound of feet shuffling on pavement, tired breathing, and conversation drifting around us as the sun came up. We ended up on Harbor Blvd, and we were on that road for a long time. A long, long time. Did I mention we were on that road for a long time? I panicked for a bit there, wondering how I was going to make it with roughly nine more miles without headphones, no more Disney park, no more characters.

But wait! There was more. Bands lined up a couple of miles down the road. They played for us and cheered us on along with some cheerleaders. They held up signs like "Worst Parade Ever!" Ha! They were enthusiastic and great. And then there were other people cheering us on, and a guy randomly handing out Red Vines. Thanks for the Red Vine, random guy.

But one of the best parts was one area of the course where a bunch of people dressed as Star Wars characters had gathered. There were characters from all of the movies out there with props and their cars painted to look like droids, and there was steampunk Star Wars, and just so many people dressed up and having a great time. It was like running past an SF convention. I loved it. Geeks and runners coming together, sharing their love of Star Wars!

With about a mile and a quarter to go, we passed our hotel. Our families were out there, cheering us on. By then, I was pretty sure I was actually going to make it to the finish line. It was so close! We left Harbor Blvd behind (thank goodness, I had seen enough of that street) for the side streets leading to Disney. The crowds grew thicker, and at one point, one person shouted, "You're only 400 yards from the finish! Only 400 yards from Starbucks!" It was like he knew exactly how to motivate me. My friend took my hand when the finish line came into view, and we crossed together. It was done! Over! That race was in the books!

Tired? Check. Proud of myself? Check!
And let me tell you, if you ever want to see a great example of what shambling zombies might look like, watch the people who have just finished a half marathon. I don't think any of us could walk straight, or very fast, or move a whole lot. We sort of shuffled past the ice and Biofreeze tent, grabbed our bananas and snack packs and water, paused for pictures, and then shuffled to the parking lot where we found an empty piece of asphalt and parked it. And getting to my feet after sitting? It wasn't pretty. There was a lot of moaning, just like zombies. And later when I took a shower, I was extremely grateful that grab bars exist.

Right after the race, my friend congratulated me and told me I had just done what only 2% of the population had done. I said, "Yeah, I can see why. It's hard!" I was glad to have it behind me. I swore I would never do another race that long ever again.

Today, I looked at signing up for a half marathon in October. Running a half is apparently like childbirth. Afterwards, you forget how painful it was and want another one.


  1. It was my favorite 1/2 marathon of all time! I love you BFF!!!! You are the best! Great read. You rock it!

    1. I was thinking about how you said other half marathons wouldn't live up to this one because of how they go all out. That's partially true. But others won't be like this one mostly because my Tiffany probably won't be there. You pulled me through! And that's one of the things I should have included in the post, was how having the right person with you can make all the difference.