“You don’t have to get up,” Mark said as we relaxed, trying to fall asleep to a particularly sad and disturbing double episode of House. “You can sleep in.”
I appreciated the offer, but there was no way I would miss the start of the race. Mark had endured early hours to spectate and serve as sherpa for my summer triathlons. Granted, I don’t think any of those required 2:30 a.m. wake-up calls on two successive days. But I wanted to be there to support him, support his friends, Greg and John, who were also running and take in part of the Disney Marathon experience as a spectator.
Upon waking up at 2:30, however, I kinda wished I had decided to stay at the hotel and take a later shuttle over to the start. I had unusual dreams thanks to the House episode (I don’t recommend watching a drama where a character dies a slow and painful death the night before a race) and my quads were quite sore from my half marathon experience the day before.
But I was up. I was fed. And I knew I could purchase coffee at a concession stand near the start line. Let’s go.
Mark continued to curse his friend, John. See, John was the one who dragged them all into the Goofy Challenge, which involves running the half marathon on Saturday and the marathon on Sunday. John went and registered for it. And the boys, well, they couldn’t let that pass without joining him. But on race weekend, the thought of running 39.3 miles, well, it no longer sounded like as much fun to them. “I hate John” became the pre-race mantra.
True confession time: I was a bit jealous. Yes, there was no way I could physically have done the marathon with my foot issues (and now developed chaffing issues) but I was envious of Mark and his friends going out there to try this ridiculous challenge. I wished I could be part of the race, challenging and pushing myself.
We made our way to the start line. The weather was a bit chilly — temperatures in the high 40s. I was bundled up in layers and holding on to hand warmers for dear life. A send-off to the three silly boys and it was time to find a spot to stand and wait for the start. My morning would be spent hanging out with members of Greg’s family — his wife (Mary), 3-year-old daughter (Cassie) and father (Dad).
The worst part of spectating is waiting for the start of the race. It was cold. It was dark. It was boring. I’d look down at my watch convinced 15 minutes had passed. Nope. Only three. I have always respected those who come to watch me (or their loved ones) at a race. This starting experience allowed me to be even a little more grateful.
They started the race on time and we cheered as the runners streamed by in indistinguishable packs.
After that, it was off to the monorail and a spot between mile 12-13 outside the Polynesian Resort. Once there we had to make a decision — cross the median in order to be right next to the runners or stay on the far side which was a bit of a distance away from the actual race. The caveat was that crossing the median for a better view meant we would have to wait a significant amount of time to recross the street and continue back to the finish line. We took the risk and crossed the median.
The elite runners were just passing through by the time we arrived and the special treat at the halfway-ish point of the marathon was the presence of Donald Duck and Goofy. Before the rest of the runners came through, Mary and I took our pictures with the characters. Crossing the street? Already worth it.
Mary had brought along a cowbell. I brought along my big mouth. We cheered runners heartily. This is my favorite part of spectating — cheering wildly. I saw a woman wearing a University of Massachusetts shirt and (being the good Atlantic 10 family member that I am) yelled “GO UMASS!” A smile crossed her face. That? Was worth it.
The best part of our location was that we stood a few yards ahead of the Disney characters. To see these serious-looking, tough, strong male runners get the biggest, most genuine grin on their faces at the sight of Donald and Goofy (and later Mickey and Minnie) was truly priceless.
Eventually we started to see our crew. Mark passed through first and I got a high-five. Greg passed through next, giving a wave to his daughter.
Then, I spotted my friend Walker. I knew she was running the Gooffy Challenge with her younger sister but didn’t expect to see her. I called out to her. She spotted me and came over to stop and talk to me.
“Have you seen Michele?” she asked.
“No,” I replied, a bit baffled she had stopped in the middle of the race to talk to me. “She might have come by but I didn’t see her.”
“This is not good,” Walker said in a deadpan tone which, frankly, was a bit amusing. “We were supposed to run together and I went to the porta potty and forgot to tell her where to wait to for me. I ran back half a mile to try to find her but couldn’t.”
She started to jog off. “If you see her, tell her I’ll wait for her at Mile 2o!”
I started looking for Michele. I never found her. I hope Walker eventually did.
Next up was John, who spotted us before we spotted him, and we gave him a hearty cheer.
Now, time to try and find our way back to the start. We calculated pace (OK, MARY calculated pace. I attempted no math) and we figured it would be close to getting to see them at the finish. We ended up making friends with an older woman and her husband in line for the monorail and became their family for the five-minute ride, which bumped us up to get on the Disney transportation system sooner rather than later.
Mary, Cassie and Dad sprinted from the monorail to the Mile 20 mark. I took one running step and felt major discomfort in my right foot. No running for me. But I did a quick hobble and got to the fencing just in time to see Greg run past.
I searched for Mark, who needs to pick out a different favorite running shirt. He runs often in red. Everyone wears red. It made scanning the runners for him somewhat exhausting. But there he came, around the bend. I shouted: “GO MARK!!” I was joined by Mary. I waved my arms furiously. He was looking around but listening to his tunes, he missed us.
“I guess Mark didn’t need your help,” one of the other spectators offered. We laughed. It’s funny because it’s true.
Somehow we missed John passing through, but he finished just fine. All three of the guys did. And after the race, they no longer hated John.
Later that evening, Mark and I wandered around Downtown Disney both wearing our finisher’s medals. We soaked in the congratulations, though I thought Mark’s accomplishment was so much more worthy of praise than mine. I tried to sweep aside those thoughts of worthiness and as I did, I became inspired by the Goofy Challenge finish of Best Boyfriend and his pals.
Somewhere, sometime soon, I’ll have my own goofy challenge. Not one that revolves around performance, but one that exists solely to see if I can do it.