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I Can Do Anything—I Ran a Marathon


This is what you look like after a marathon, folks!


I thought long and hard about this post’s title. The last time I hit a major fitness milestone, I was proud but kind of flippant about what I had accomplished. Yes, it was hard and I was taxed, but I never had a “Come to Jesus” moment. Not like yesterday. Not like last week. Not like ever.

On Saturday, January 2, my grandfather passed away in his sleep. He had Alzheimer’s and was getting worse, so in some ways it’s a relief that we didn’t have to see him suffer longer, but it was still a shock. I wasn’t close to him, but we did have one thing in common—fitness. He was the first and only one in my immediate family to run a full marathon, and he did so after the age of 50. I wasn’t around when he ran the 26.2 miles, but I remember seeing pictures of him on race day with his bib number attached and a smile on his face. (I especially enjoyed the photos of him chugging a ginormous beer post-race.) I always believed that it would be cool to run a marathon…it looked, well, fun—for someone who was a runner that is.

The magical prize!

And then, in 2009, after a year of regular dedicated running and two successful halfs under my belt, I decided that, yes, I could run a full marathon! Like him, and so many others in the fitness blogging world that inspire the heck out of me. I was REALLY going to be a runner! The marathon is the Holy Grail of running after all, and one of the most coveted prizes in the sport is the Disney World Marathon medal, with its Mickey ears and shiny gold exterior. Plus the course is filled with cartoon characters and is pretty dang flat, which makes it a target for first-timers.

I trained my arse off (quite literally) from September 2009 to January 2010 and anxiously awaited THE day—Sunday, January 10. It was not only a time for me to be rewarded for all of the tough and time-consuming training, but I’d also get to spend time with my best friend Tish and have some extra support from her (she lives in L.A.) during the mourning of my grandfather.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature decided to throw a wrench in my warm-weather plans by throwing a blizzard at the Midwest and East Coast, making travel to and from the airport treacherous at best and entirely canceling my original flight. Thinking that I was going to miss most of my vacation and fly in just before the marathon without relaxation time, I lost it and had a complete pity party (table for one, please).

Thankfully, my parents were able to see through my tears and keep their wits about them. Soon after, I had another flight on a different airline and was on my way to Orlando. The entire weekend was a blur of fun, fear and nervous anticipation. We went to the Animal Kingdom (which was awesome—go early and ride the safari and Everest first!), met up with some awesome fit bloggers for lunch and spent the night before the marathon watching The Spirit of the Marathon, which simultaneously inspired us and freaked us the heck out.

Then we rose at 2:15 a.m. (Yes, you read that right) to be on a 3 a.m. bus to the race start at Epcot. We were in the Epcot parking lot by 3:30 a.m. and proceeded to eat peanut butter and honey sandwiches and freeze our fit bottoms off.  The temperature was in the 20s, but with gusting winds, it felt like it was in the teens. (So much for a warm vacation. And thank goodness for my Girls on the Run running tights!) After two hours in that weather, I couldn’t feel my toes or my hands, and the only thing saving me was Tish and a $9.99 cheapo blanket we bought at CVS the day before.

Race start excitement and lights!When the gun went off at 5:40 a.m. though, the adrenaline was pumping. I WAS RUNNING A MARATHON! HOLY CRAP! And I was uber happy to be moving and have the possibility of feeling my extremities again. About five miles in, Tish was cruising. But I was not. I had regained feeling in my fingers and toes, but my hip began to ache…then my entire leg…then my lower back. Uh-oh. I knew it was too early to be in pain. And I was disappointed that my earlier “easy” 20-mile training run wasn’t going to be repeated on race day. But I put my head down and pushed through.

During the race you run through four parks in this order: EPCOT, The Magic Kingdom, The Animal Kingdom and Disney Hollywood Studios. Between those you run on Florida highway, and at the end you finish at the same place you began, EPCOT. Running through every park was a surreal and exciting experience. Each park plays music, people are cheering you on, and you’re in Disney World! It just doesn’t get much better than that, even if you’re screaming uncle. It helped, too, that I was running for a fantastic cause, and a special shout out to lovable Monique, her super cute friend Monica (whose daughter is a true artist!), and new FBG fans Darrin and Steve for cheering us on with these homemade FBG signs! IT WAS SO AMAZING. AND NEEDED.

Tish was also a doll, taking walking breaks when I needed ’em and Twittering throughout the race. She also gave me words of encouragement when I was really hurting and kept me looking at the bright side, pointing out things on the course and other runners in funny costumes or outfits. I really, really love runners and how awesomely goofy they are. They’re also a great community of obviously energetic, loving and caring people. The entire race was like a big ol’ community where we were all working towards a common goal and dream, no matter our gender, race or the shape or size of our fit bottoms.

Flik and I kicking it around mile 14 (they tend to blur)!Although I was hurting a good part of the race, I enjoyed every second of it and soaked in as much as possible, taking photos and videos to document the trek. We posed with Disney characters, sang to music being played, cracked jokes, cheered others on (including the volunteers for being out on such a cold day) and, eventually cried when Tish and I rounded the final corner at Epcot, “sprinting” (that’s a relative term after 26 miles) and crossed the finish line together, arms high in the air. I was exhausted, elated, proud and hella thankful for my best friend. And the irony of me talking her into doing this marathon in the first place and then having her push me is something that was not lost on me at any point of the race, especially at the finish.

After you run 26.2 of the hardest miles of your life, you really feel like you can do anything. And I mean anything. With dedication, consistency and perseverance, darn near anyone can run a marathon. Including me, the girl who never considered herself a runner. The girl who loved the number 26 (my birthday number) but never really thought she’d run a marathon. The little girl who was amazed by a photo album of her grandparents. The girl who earlier in the week came close to mental breakdown. Yes, indeed, I can do anything.

And now, for five things I learned while running a marathon:

  1. Listen to your body. Pushing through some pain on race day is one thing, but pushing through pain while training is another. If you’re wiped or hurting, don’t be afraid to take a day off here or there or reduce your mileage. Staying healthy for the entire marathon training process and race is of the utmost importance!
  2. Have a buddy. I could not have finished the marathon if it wasn’t for Tish. Having someone there to keep you going and distract you is essential. With a time of 5:27:26, we didn’t win the race, but we definitely pushed ourselves.
  3. Use the Porta Potty. It was so freaking cold that the idea of standing in line and taking our eight layers off seemed like torture. But I’ll tell you what real torture is: Having to go No. 2 at mile 17 and hoping it passes. (Note: It rarely does.)
  4. Don’t plan on sleeping. The night before a race, you will be terrified, excited and wondering what the heck running a marathon will be like. With all that going on in your head and early start times, don’t worry about not sleeping. It really won’t matter. But be sure to sleep good the nights before!
  5. Have faith. Our motto was “just keep running” from Finding Nemo’s “just keep swimming.” Find your motto, repeat it and have faith that you can do it. Remember, you can do anything!!!

Stay tuned tomorrow for Tish’s post and view on the Disney 26.2 and the five things she learned! We made sure not to look at each other’s posts, so it would be a surprise for everyone. And if you’re dying to know more about our marathon experience, check out our goofy and shaky videos on YouTube! —Jenn

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  1. Congratulations on completing the marathon!

  2. Pete's mom says:

    So, so proud of you both. Congratulations girls. Great job.

  3. awesome, awesome, awesome!! There really is nothing like your first marathon! Congratulations to both of you!

  4. Melissa says:

    Wow!!! I have chills from reading that. Great job & thanks for all your inspiration every day!

  5. Tamara says:

    Congrats on finishing the marathon. It’s is an amazing experience! I’d like to add few things that I learned that may inspire others to take on the 26.2.

    Anyone can compete. I broke my foot and have a hard time running, but I can walk – FAST – so that’s what I did along with about 15 other people. We started training in July for a November marathon and followed the 3,5,7,10,12,7 pattern until we did 21 miles a month before the marathon. It worked perfectly.

    Our trainer told us that if we did the 21 miles, we could finish because the last 5 miles were all mental and so for the month before, we need to psych ourselves up. Having people cheering you on at that part of the race really helps.

    After the race, I ran a really hot bath with Epsom salts and soaked for what seemed like hours. I really helped with the soreness and made recovery easier than I thought it would be. On my 2nd marthon, I didn’t do this and it took days to recover. Don’t know why, but it did.

    And I will second your comment, that if you can finish, you can do anything. It’s a very empowering experience.

  6. Wonderful and inspiring. Congratulations! Hoping to read more fitness milestones this year 🙂

  7. Duana says:

    Great job!! What an awesome accomplishment! You should be extremely proud of yourself 🙂

  8. Kelly says:

    Congrats, Jenn! This is so inspiring! Enjoy some rest time this week. 🙂

  9. Yeah Jenn!!! Congratulations 🙂 Love the recap!!!

  10. BK says:

    CONGRATULATIONS!!!! This is a huge accomplishment and I can’t wait to finish my first marathon as well.

  11. Congratulations on you huge accomplishment – you never forget your first!

  12. Jen says:

    That is truly amazing! Congrats, it’s so inspiring to see that you’ve run this marathon (esp. at the happiest place on earth!) it makes me want to start training to run one!

  13. Carly says:

    You’re amazing! Way to go!!!

  14. ayako says:

    I teared up reading this post. congratulations, and thank you for an amazing inspiration!

  15. Sagan says:

    You are STRONG. Hells yes you can do anything! Congratulations.

    Thanks for sharing that about your grandfather, as well.

  16. FitSugar says:

    What a lovely way to honor you grandfather. I am truly inspired and loved following you on Twitter during race day. Congrats to you strong lady.

  17. Congratulations! Wonderful post – you are very inspiring to me!!

    You can do ANYTHING! 🙂

  18. Congrats Jenn!!! Andrea and I were cheering you on from KC. Now I need to get in gear and get my first one out of the way 😀

  19. girlxoxo says:

    Oh my gosh – yaya, yay, yay! congratulations – that is an awesome accomplishment.

  20. Melanie says:

    Congratulations! What a fantastic accomplishment and it sounds like you had a ton of fun. I notice you talk in third person a few times about “runners”…don’t forget, you are a runner now too, a part of our big wacky group of people who choose to get up off the couch and get our fit(-ish)bottoms out the door and down the road. Yay!

    All the best and I can’t wait to read tomorrow’s story!

  21. Dorie says:

    Congratulations, Jenn! I am so proud of you! Your journey has been so inspiring for a non-runner like me that I’m thinking about training for a half marathon and then…who knows! I definitely thing running at Disney World would be such a fun way to do it! Love your pics and videos!

  22. Congratulations Jennipher!!!!!! You ladies were absolutely amazing out there!!!! I am so proud of you!!! I’m so happy we were able to put a smile on your Beautiful faces!!! Such a wonderful post!! I felt like I was there with you!!! I’m so sorry for your loss!!! You have one more Angel now!!
    Love Ya Lots

  23. katrina m says:

    CONGRATULATIONS JENN!!!!! your post really brought tears to my eyes. i have always been the “fat girl” and used to laugh at people who RAN FOR FUN. seriously? running?? but after completing my first half marathon last fall, it makes me proud to say i am in a group not everyone can say the same about. and i cannot even imagine how amazing it must feel to run a FULL marathon!!! maybe someday i will be cool like you 🙂 great job girl!!!

  24. Margo Seyboldt says:

    Congrats to both of you! Great job. My sister and I had a similar experience in the Nationwide Better Health 1/2 marathon in Oct. I was the veteran runner, she the newbie. I hit a wall, and she helped me through the last half of the race. Thank God she was with me. Happy Running to both of you!!!

  25. christieo says:

    first time here, but i followed your marathon running on Twitter!! This post made me cry, real tears. The streaming ones. There is truly nothing like watching someone realize exactly what they can do, there is no better gift than realizing it for yourself. It’s truly truly amazing and I am so happy for you both that you are experiencing that! What a wonderful race recap, I felt like I was there mile after mile. And darn you for making me want to run it next year. I went off the run course to try a triathlon, but I really really do want to *cough* (can’t believe I’m saying this) do the marathon. Darn it. And thank you! At the same time. Congratulations!!

  26. Elaine says:

    What an achievement! Congrats!

  27. Christa says:

    How amazing and VERY inspiring!! Congratulations on your outstanding accomplishment!!

  28. ra says:

    congratulations. I climb Mt Fuji and wanted to kick my own butt for getting myself into it. Every single part of my body, hair strands, fingernails ached. But in the end it was quite a fete. I dunno about a marathon, the body is not as resilient. Maybe 1/2???

  29. Cecilia says:

    Way to go Jenn and Tish! I did my first half-marathon just last September and what you said about your Grandfather has inspired me to work toward a full marathon. I just turned 50 last year and if your Grandfather did it at this age I believe I can too. Thanks for sharing and CONGRATULATIONS!!!!

  30. Barb Duncan says:

    I just found this website by picking up an old copy of Oxygen magazine. I’m so glad I did! I’m 49, in fairly decent shape but have never been a runner…at all! However, in Oct. I received an email from World Vision, a charity I contribute to, asking “How would you like to get in shape and help people too?” Team World Vision runs in the Miami ING Marathon/Half Marathon Jan. 31st. So after some serious prayer I signed up for the half and so did two of my other non-running friends. We have 2 weeks to go and we’ve raised a little over $1000 which will all go to relief efforts in Haiti. Thus, making it all worth it.

    This has been a process of elimination…literally. One, I have to use the bathroom every single time I do a long run. I’ve been fortunate that there’s been a bathroom before, well, you know! It’s rediculous, so your comment about trying to hold it made me laugh. No matter what I try to eat or not eat the day before and of the run, I still have to go. (BTW: on any other given day I could go 2 days without going at all!) Two, with every long run something new hurts. First it was my IT band, then my butt; then my left knee, left arch, right shin! I’ve written “When does this get easier?” in my journal so many times it’s not funny. Thankfully, those pains came and went. I just did 12.5 miles yesterday for the first time and lived to talk about it. I’m doing the Galloway method which is walk/run. I’m still only walking/running 30 sec/30 sec so I’m not breaking any records but I’m setting some of my own!

    I had all but decided that my running days would end with my one and only half marathon before I damaged my body beyond repair. But your article has inspired me to at least think about continuing beyond the 31st. Thanks for the inspiration!

  31. LoriM says:

    So exciting. I would love to try this, too. Maybe I’ll walk one some day. You give me hope that I could do it, too.

  32. Teamarcia says:

    Congrats on an amazing accomplishment in very challenging conditions! Great tips too!

  33. Laurie R says:

    I am a newbie runner that now has the running addiction. I am a slow runner, but a very happy runner. My dream is to run a Disney Half marathon first and then my ultimate dream would be a Disney Marathon. I am 51 years old and daggumit…I WILL do it!!!!! Just watch me!!!!

  34. Hope says:

    I went through a lot of what you experienced when I ran my first in May. It made me feel invincible….although I pulled my IT band in the race!
    I don’t know you, but I am very proud of you! Keep on runnin!!! 😀

  35. Wendy says:

    Truly awesome!! Congrats on your amazing accomplishment!!

  36. PaulB says:

    Thanks for the inspiration. I will be running this marathon (my first full marathon) this Sunday, Jan 9, 2011. Your blog inspired me a year ago when I just started running again. So excited and thought I would share!!!

    I will be a MARATHONER!!!

    1. Jenn says:

      Congrats, Paul! You will LOVE it. Enjoy every second, especially when you have to dig deep. 🙂

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