As soon as I crossed the finish line of my first half-marathon, I knew that I wanted to do another.
Life got pretty crazy after my first half-marathon. I flew back to Virginia and started a new full-time job. I took a few months off from running, but I still signed up for the second The Dark Half-Marathon when registration opened in August. I started my training back at square one doing Couch to 10K to get me eased into the walk/run intervals. I did pretty well in Fall but definitely didn’t train as much as I wanted in the Winter. I thought it was hard to run with a baby in a jogger stroller, but it is even more difficult running with an active toddler who does not want to stay in the stroller.
My main running time would be on the weekends when my husband Darin and I would take turns watching Layla while the other ran. I would try to do lunch time or after work walks, but it didn’t always happen. I underestimated how hard it can be to make time for myself while working a full-time job and having a toddler.
I was pretty nervous on race day. We hadn’t done any races since the first The Dark Side Half-Marathon, and we were in the last corral. We were actually in the second to last corral during the first Half-Marathon, so the pressure was definitely on this time to stay ahead of the balloon ladies. I had only seen them from a far distance last time, but this time we started in a mini-wave only minutes in front of them. I looked at Darin and said, “I am one with the force, and the force is with me.”
The race started, and even though I had used the bathroom three times before going to the corrals, I drank a lot of water (later I would realize I actually drank too much water) and knew that I wouldn’t be able to comfortably run until I used the bathroom again. Thank goodness we at least had a mini-wave in front of us because that allowed me to take a much-needed bathroom break at mile 2. The balloon ladies caught up thanks to the long bathroom line, and I took off running as soon as I jumped out of that porter potty. I accidentally left my husband behind because he was being sweet and waiting for me. Oops. The balloon ladies passed him, and a couple people around him were already quitting. I called him to let him know I had started running right away out of fear of that Death Star balloon getting too close, and he easily got back to me.
The race went really well the next few miles. My muscles were warmed up, and I was fully completing my runs and walks at an excellent pace. Every mile, the pace keepers would announce how far ahead of the balloon ladies we were running. We were getting farther and farther ahead. Running through Animal Kingdom was an amazing experience, and Darin and I high-fived as we reached the half-way point several minutes ahead of the balloon ladies.
And then things quickly started going downhill for me. My hands were throbbing and becoming very swollen. My legs and body felt great, so I pushed through. Once the sun was fully out, the heat and humidity took its toll on me. At the water stations, I would pour water on myself. I started occasionally feeling dizzy and nauseous. Thankfully, Darin and I bought running pouches so I had a granola bar and energy chews to snack on. Those helped, but not enough. Eventually, I could no longer run and just maintained a power walk. Darin was fantastic and kept track of our pace and the looming balloon ladies.
Finally, we reached Hollywood Studios. I knew that if I could make it to Hollywood Studios, then the excitement and cheering should push me to the finish line. Seeing the 10-mile marker made me smile even though I was in pain and feeling incredibly ill. Our time in Hollywood Studios was brief, but the cast members on Hollywood Blvd were in costume and cheering us on. Running through The Boardwalk is kind of a blur, but I loved all the people out with signs and encouragement. I high-fived many costumed 501st Legion members. I wanted to cry when we reached Epcot because I was so close but yet so far away. I actually started doubting my ability to finish the race. Darin tried to make jokes and keep me motivated, but I couldn’t even talk. I did enjoy seeing all the cast members in front of the countries, waving flags, and cheering. When I finally reached Spaceship Earth, I breathed the slightest sigh of relief, and it wasn’t long before I had the finish line in my sights.
Darin and I held hands as we crossed the finish line. And after getting my medal, I went straight to the medical tent. I had heat exhaustion and salt depletion. My hands were so swollen that it hurt to move them at all. They gave me cool rags, ice packs, Gatorade, and chips. They had me lay down and told me to try not to drink water for a while because I needed to retain salt. Everyone was amazing, and now I know what to do and not do to prevent salt depletion in the future.
Overall, the race was harder for me than my first Half-Marathon because of the heat exhaustion and salt depletion that I endured. But, at least I didn’t fall down and hurt myself like last year. I am incredibly thankful that I completed the race. I don’t think I would have been able to finish without the love and support of my husband who practically dragged me through Epcot.
I still have two bruised purple toenails and some tightness in my shins, but I am eager to get back into running again once I am all healed up. Eventually, I will be able to complete a Half-Marathon without collapsing at the finish line. We plan on signing up for The Light Side Half-Marathon (January 2018) as soon as registration opens, as well as doing The Dark Side (April 2018) again so we can receive The Kessel Run medals. Darin even wants to do the challenge (where you complete the 10k on Saturday and the Half-Marathon on Sunday), but I will just stick to conquering the Half-Marathon for now. He wants to be able to actually RUN during his 10ks and then be the supportive husband doing slow walk/run intervals with me during the Half-Marathons.
Thank you, Nola Nerd Couple for letting me tell my story about this year’s The Dark Side Half-Marathon. Hopefully, I can report again from California and give my take on The Light Side. And maybe one of these days I will be able to complete a race without complications or Death Star balloons haunting looming behind me…