As a runner who runs road races you are always chasing your next PR. That’s Personal Record for my non running friends. PR = Your personal best. The fastest time you have completed a certain distance. That’s the beauty of running for most of us. We’re not running to try and WIN the race but rather running to try and beat ourselves…to improve on our previous personal best. The 2014 Inaugural Celebration Half Marathon is where I set my all-time personal best. Two hours and forty nine minutes.
The bling. Also a motivational factor for a lot of runners.
As the first photo in this post indicates, you DO NOT have to get up in the middle of the night to get to the start of the Celebration Half. The race organizers keep the field light for that specific reason. Another reason that I heart this race. I live about 45 minutes away. I left my house around 5:45 am and got a parking spot right near the start/finish line easy-peasy.
This race marked my 5th road race for the month of January. When you live in the Sunshine State race season is really short so you gotta pack em in. This race was also the first race that I had run solo in a year so I knew that I was going to be able to run my own race and go for it…leave everything on the table so that I could get a good finish time for future runDisney race corral placement.
The Celebration Half started promptly at 7 am. Just as the sun was rising and it was a beautiful 45 degrees. Perfect conditions to get 13.1 miles in.
The majority of Celebration Half is run on pavement. This photo was taken on a long, straight stretch of road around mile 5. You are also running through the winding residential streets in several of Celebration’s various neighborhoods. The town was built in 1994 and has been meticulously maintained since then.
This long straightaway was peppered with some of the best spectator signs I’ve seen. It was good for a laugh and helped pull runners along. Each sign leaving you wondering what the next one, just out of sight, would read.
Being a HUGE Sean Astin fan, I had to pause for a moment to get a shot of this guy…who showed up later in another spot along the course…I think it was mile 10 or 11.
This stretch of road was also where runners got a little taste of the town being in such close proximity to Walt Disney World Resort. It’s literally right on the other side of I4. Here’s Disney Vacation Club headquarters.
Because this area of town is more of a business district, the race directors placed signs on the course and had a little bit of entertainment including a few DJs blasting music from custom tricked out cars and such. Once we entered the residential areas residents were perched out on their porches ringing cowbells and cheering us on.
I knew that my girlfriend Barb a.k.a. @ThemeParkWriter would be out cheering for me right around Mile 6. She just recently moved into the Town of Celebration and had signs posted on her fence for the runners that she knew. Here’s mine. Trying to spot my sign was something that I had been looking forward to since the start. Spectators MAKE a race. They are invaluable! Thank you Tony and Barb!
I’m totally back lit but the sign says “Amanda Tinney. Run Like It’s Magic Kingdom Rope Drop!” My Disneyphile family will totally get this.
Right after this photo opp the race entered into a hardwood hammock. For the next few miles we would be running on a narrow wooden walkway.
Here’s the thing. The wetland preserve is stunning. The shade from the trees is welcome when you’re warm from the run. What’s not so inviting is the slick build-up on the wood. The timbers that rarely see the light of day. They never get a chance to dry so the path was slick. I was running 30/30 intervals. That’s a 30 second run, followed by a 30 second walk. On the walk portion, my feet were literally slipping out from underneath me. Yikes. I started taking my run portions much slower. Also, the trees are Cypress. They’re tall with not a lot of foliage. I had my sunglasses on by this point so seeing the ground in front of me became a task as the light was peeking in and out between the trees and there was a lot of twisting and turning. Kind of like running with a disco ball bouncing light in and out of your eyes.
It was also at this point that I saw a runner running in the opposite direction back towards the start. I thought to myself how weird this was but I was soon to find out why he was headed in the wrong direction.
After we had cleared the first area of boardwalk we were met with a sidewalk which led to a second area of shaded boardwalk. It was here that I saw something so terrifying that I had to pull myself together just to continue on my run. As I approached the second boardwalk I saw a runner lying down on the concrete in the middle of the race course with two other runners huddled over her directing us to go around. As I got closer I could see her hand tucked underneath her cheek and a pool of blood radiating all the way around her head. She wasn’t moving. Everyone was asking if they could do anything for her. The runner who was running in the opposite direction was headed back to the last volunteer to signal for a medic. Because it was a head wound, she couldn’t be moved. At the finish line I asked an EMT about the injured runner and he said she has gone down and landed on her face. She was going to be OK but she was taken to the hospital. Thank god Celebration Health (the hospital) was right on the race course so she didn’t have very far to travel. I have run a ton of races and I have seen a ton of injured runners off to the side but nothing as gruesome as what this poor runner had endured.
After I pulled myself together I gingerly made my way through the last slick boardwalk area and back onto the street.
As I passed Mile 12 I looked down at my GPS watch and noticed that my total elapsed time was 2 hours and 44 minutes. I had been averaging a thirteen and a half minute mile pace. I knew if I could keep consistent through that final mile that I could sub a three hour half marathon. Last year I finished the race in 2:49. I knew I wouldn’t be able to beat that time this year but I sure as heck wanted to come in under three hours.
I needed to hear something motivational in my ear buds so I flipped through my music until I found One Republic’s “I Lived”.
The only way you can know. Is give it all you have. And I hope that you don’t suffer, but take the pain. Hope when the moment comes, You’ll say…
I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second that this world could give. I saw so many places, the things that I did. Yeah, with every broken bone…I swear I lived
Oh my…not the proper choice for Mile 12.5 of a half marathon. Tears as I read the lyrics on this screen right now. I was so pumped I started singing out loud and then crying. Crying! I was an emotional wreck! I could see the finish line. I could feel the blood pumping. The energy was palpable. I got all choked up…literally. I was choking and almost hyperventilating. It was joy mixed with pain and excitement. As the lyrics say, I was giving it all I had. I wasn’t suffering but with each step my body was taking the pain. I was owning every second of that race. Pride…I was welling up with it. I was living. In the truest sense. I hope that one day you will run a race. A long grueling endurance race. There’s no feeling like it. When you cross that finish line you feel like you can do ANYTHING!
As I rounded the corner I saw the timing mat and the clock next to it. I pushed as hard as I could to make it under that three hour mark and you know what…I DID IT!
Thank you Town of Celebration! I will most certainly be back next year!
For more information on the Town of Celebration Half Marathon visit CelebrationMarathon.com.