Running Men

By Scott Bowman So in November my partner Luis declared that we would be running our first half marathon in January 2012. It would be a great New Year’s resolution he said.

There was just one tiny problem … neither of us had EVER run more than three miles and most recently the only running that we were doing was toward our favorite cold beverage or Five Guys Burgers.

Never one to back down from a challenge, I agreed to run the Walt Disney World Half Marathon which was to take place on Saturday, January 7, 2012. This gave us a little less than two months to prepare for the big day.

My first mistake was reading the blogs from the people who ran the half marathon the year prior. Stories of colder than usual weather, waking up at 3 a.m. to catch the buses to the starting line, pulled hamstrings, the difficulty of miles 11 and 12 along the course, people wearing costumes of their favorite characters, and much more, certainly weren’t that motivating to me. And on top of all of that, I was actually going to have to pay money to experience this wonderful torture.

So we started training by running three miles every other day. And I can tell you now, the first run was one of the toughest things I have done in a long time. By the time we were finished I was gasping for air like a goldfish that had jumped out of its bowl and landed on the counter. I wanted to hurl. It wasn’t pretty at all. And to make matters worse, a couple of weeks into the training, we discovered that what we thought was a three-mile training course was really only two and a half miles. That wasn’t deflating at all. Oh, and we were getting up at 5 a.m. to run, which of course meant that we were going to bed a lot earlier, and that wasn’t appealing to this night owl. I was so off my schedule.

And then a funny thing started to happen … dare I say it … I kind of started to like the training. We kept up our every-other-day training of three miles and then started to run longer distances on the weekends. Our first long distance was six miles and then we actually ran 10 miles twice before the race. Here’s the thing. It actually wasn’t the distance that bothered me anymore. It was the fact that my body just felt like it was falling apart after those long runs. You’ve heard that children’s song, “Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes?” Let’s just say my shoulders, knees and toes/feet felt like they were ready to fall off. We told everyone that we did the long runs on the weekend because we had more time to do it, but the truth is we needed the rest of the day to recuperate and didn’t do a damn thing after we ran.

And then there was the carb loading. I think that we took this just a little too seriously. I don’t think any trainers had in mind daily root beer floats, pizzas, Cracker Barrel, Boston Market and frequent trips to Publix. We were so out of control. Someone needed to call Overeaters Anonymous. We were like that show Hoarders, just with carbs. I kept telling anyone who would listen that I was 6’4 and fueling my body.

Along for the run was the one and only Sara Brady and her niece Shana, which was so great because this way I had constant dialogue and support at home AND at work. Sara was the experienced half-marathoner and we asked her so many questions. She had run the Disney Half Marathon two times prior to this one. Sara and I strategized about the most important things like what to wear and the music selections on our i-Pod Nanos. Sara rocked her Hello Kitty mittens the day of the race! All joking aside, for me the music selections were huge. I played a lot of Pink because her songs were energizing to me. Sara kept warning me to calm my excitement a bit at the start of the race because she didn’t want me to blow a tire right out of the gate. I actually asked her to run behind me to pick up my body parts as they fell off during the race. “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” Everyone sing along.

We ended up getting rooms at the Swan and Dolphin so we could go out on Friday to enjoy the Marathon Expo and not have to worry about getting up so early on Saturday. And okay, that Expo was for real. Not only were there thousands and thousands of people there, but you could purchase anything that you needed that was related to running. I have to once again give kudos to Disney. They are the experts at handling these large events. Everything was so well thought out and executed.

We continued to carb load on Friday after the Expo. I think that Luis and I frightened Sara and Shana with our eating habits. We tried to get to bed early the night before, but we were like kids on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa. The excitement was just too much. We were up every hour.

The day of the half marathon arrived we set our clocks for 2:45 a.m., had a quick bagel and peanut butter and took the legal allotment allowed of Advil. We had laid out all of our gear the night before so we wouldn’t forget a thing. We were so prepared. We got on our bus and Luis’ boss Stephanie joined us a well.

We approach everything with a sense of humor, and Luis named our little group the Salmon Floppers. He even came up with a dance that we should put on YouTube someday. The adrenaline was definitely kicking in too. I kept remembering Sara’s advice, don’t start out too fast and don’t blow out your tires at the gate. I just had to finish this race because I had spent the entire week bragging on all of my social media vehicles like Facebook and Twitter and demanding that everyone refer to us as “The Half Marathoners.”

We were in the fourth group to go – the “D” group. Our time was up, the big moment was here, the fireworks went off and we were off. Not even a mile into it Luis and I made a pit stop in the bushes on the side of the road, along with about 100 other men AND women. Chalk that up to the adrenaline. No arrests were made, so that was a good thing.

The first six or seven miles seriously breezed by like everyone said they would. One quick funny memory though … I can’t remember which mile it was but it seemed early on and we remember looking over on the other road and the man who ended up winning the half marathon was actually already making his way back to the finish line. Seriously… really… would you like some “Chariots of Fire” music with that quick finish sir? Okay, bye-bye bitterness and back to us.

Disney did a great job with lots and lots of visuals to keep you inspired and entertained along the way. Characters, marching bands, antique cars, and hot air balloons to name a few. Running up Main Street was the highlight for me. Seeing all of those people cheering us on and running through Cinderella’s Castle was very cool. All went well for us until we hit mile 11. Mentally for me I knew that I had accomplished 10 miles previously, so after mile 10 I kept thinking, “Can I do this?” To make matters worse, they actually had us running up a hill or two. Okay, I know you’re thinking that there are no hills in Orlando, but these were hills. Just go with it. Open the theater of your mind.

By now Luis and I had eaten most of our “Magical Beans” as we called them. Again, all kidding aside, for us those beans are magical. They gave us energy when we needed them. We got to mile 13 and all I wanted to see was the damn finish line. Luis had told me that the Spaceship Earth was the finish so when we went by it and I didn’t see the finish line, I literally almost lost it. It seemed like that last .3 miles took FORVEVER.  I can remember thinking that if I didn’t see that finish line soon it’s not going to be the happiest place on Earth for anyone near me.

And then, there it was – it felt so great to cross that finish line and to know that we had accomplished our first goal of 2012 and we beat our goal time.

After we were finished they gave each of the runners a silver warming blanket. We joked that we either looked like super heroes with capes or wrapped burritos. I kept calling myself the super burrito.

It was quite the experience and I am so glad that I did it and with a group of fun people too. We are definitely hooked and will do more of them this year. Be on the lookout for us half marathoners.