Please welcome my Guest Blogger, Michelle. She is a legacy Tinkerbell Half Marathon runner and her story was incredible this year. Get ready to feel inspired!
I haven’t always been a runner. I started playing soccer since I was six years old and continued throughout middle and high school. It wasn’t until later in college where I joined a fitness for running class where I truly learned to love running.
Since I began my journey running I signed up for my first race in 2009 with the Disneyland Half Marathon. Fast forward to Four years ago when I signed up for the Tinkerbell Half Marathon because it was a new race added to Disneyland. At that time the west coast only The Disneyland Half Marathon. So I thought it would be cool to sign up for the Inaugural Tinkerbell Half Marathon. I’m not necessarily a big fan of Tinkerbell herself, I just wanted to be a part of something new and exciting. No way did I ever think that 5 years later I would be participating in the race as a legacy runner for that same race.
This year’s half marathon was the 17th race I participated in since I began my running journey and was by far the hardest one I have ever done! This happened to be my first race participating in after becoming a first time mom. To me it was perfect because the Tinkerbell Half Marathon falls on Mother’s Day.
I was only 4 weeks postpartum from having my baby boy, Liam when participating in the Tinkerbell Half Marathon. When speaking to my doctor, she advised me not to run this half marathon as I ended up having a caesarian section to deliver Liam. She did not say anything about walking it so that’s what I decided to do instead. Keep in mind I’ve done no training whatsoever and the most I’ve walked since having my baby was 1 mile. I thought it would be no problem walking just a little more than that. I have so much respect for people who walk any marathon. Walking is so much harder than running!! It takes so much longer and you put so much more pressure on your legs and joints. You use different muscles and it was altogether different. This was my first time walking the entirety of any race and I’ve learned that it was definitely a mental thing. I honestly did not think I was going to finish this race because I slowly saw each corral creep up on me. I started off in Corral C, then I saw the people from D, E.. then the next thing you know I’m in the back with everyone from corral F! I was ready to quit at mile 4. I was feeling fine physically, I just got it in my head that there was no way I could walk 13.1 miles.
I started off the race walking the first 3 miles with another walker, a man in a red shirt. I didn’t catch his name but he gave me hope because he let me know that he’s walked a half marathon in Walt Disney World in 3 hours and 45 minutes, he let me know that it’s achievable. I later saw photos that were taken during the race and found out his name was John. I couldn’t keep up with his pace so I lost him somewhere passed the 5k mark but I do appreciate his encouragement.
Between miles 4 and 5 is when I was really beating myself up. I kept telling myself that I couldn’t do this. I signed up for to track the dreaded “balloon person” so I know how much cushion I had between myself and the last person to start the race. When his alert went off there was only 30 minutes cushion between him and I. I swore up and down that I couldn’t do this because I wanted to slow my walk desperately. I talked with my husband ahead of time to meet up with my husband and baby at the 10k mark (6.2 miles) to breast feed the baby. I fed him and pumped before the race started so I’d feel somewhat comfortable. By the time I met up with them, I was tired and beat at this time so seeing my husband and baby was just the thing I needed to keep me going. Again, I was worried about not being able to make it and being swept so instead of stopping to sit down to nurse the baby, I held him in my arms, covered myself with my nursing cover and nursed him while walking on the course. I had so many women encouraging me and saying how awesome I was a mom to be able to do that in the middle of a race. To me it was not big deal. I honestly was just relieving myself for selfish reasons and feeding my hungry baby. By hearing other women tell me all these comments gave me encouragement to keep going and feel like I could do it.
After feeding Liam, I met up with a woman named Korin. We talked about how I was nursing but I ended up walking with her all the way up to sometime after mile 11. She was my inspiration… She kept me going and if it weren’t for her, I think I would’ve quit or dropped out a while back. Towards mile 9-11 we were only 10 minutes ahead of the pacers, then it got to 5 minutes and then 1 minute! I looked back to see the man with the balloon and oh my gosh, I’ve never hustled so much in my life.
I made it that far and would hate to be swept when I accomplished so much already!! The balloon people passed us up right before we entered back into the park. But once we made it, I couldn’t have felt more relieved in my life!! I was in so much pain at this time with my hips and groin area so I slowed down massively. I just cheered knowing I was going to finish and get my hard earned Legacy medal and on mother’s day at that!
Korin went ahead before we hit the 12 miles mark while I finished the rest of the race by myself. I was walking at a snail’s pace but there were so many encouraging comments and people who cheered me on. I had medical personal, coaches and Run Disney staff just making sure I was good to walk the last mile. And yes, I was doing fine just taking one slow step at a time.
By the time I got to the finish line, I felt a sense of relief, joy, and overcome with emotion of being able to push myself for doing something so crazy. My husband texted me saying how unbelievably proud his was of me, which made me cry. I did it. I told myself for some reason that I could do it, and I did.
This year’s medal probably means the most to me and it was good to see my husband and baby at the end of the race. I found out later that I came in second to last place, but it really doesn’t matter what place I came in because all that matters is that I crossed the finish line when I doubted myself like crazy during the race itself. I finished in 4 hours and 15 minutes. My slowest time ever out of all 17 races but I did it!!! (And yes, I went to the baby care center in the family reunion area to nurse Liam again!)
If you ask me, what really inspired me was everyone around me! I didn’t think it was a big deal to nurse my baby during the middle of the race. Since I usually run I don’t get the chance to see people around me, especially so far back in the last corral. But just seeing the strength and courage of people overcoming whatever it is they are going through whether it be a physical pain or emotional pain, seeing them do this to finish a race is amazing! I think those are the people who are truly inspirational!