To those running their first marathon at Disney this weekend

By the time you read this, your feet will be propped up, you will be eating some dinner, your gear will be laid out.  You’ll have a few butterflies. You may even be thinking: “GAAH! WHAT AM I DOING HERE?!”

Take a breath.  You are on the verge of something amazing. Your life is about to change in a way you can’t imagine. Sure, you’re gonna get a medal.  Your gonna see the castle.  your gonna get a “eat all the food pass” for the next day or so. The dividends for that you are about to accomplish will not stop paying out to you over the next few weeks, months and years.

More on that in a minute.  First, tomorrow.  The pre-race morning is a blur: really early to rise, meet the bus, get to the staging area. Wait. Get nervous. Meet others. Smile.  Pee and pee again.  Then walk to the start line.  I remember it from 2009.  There was a sense of excitement and and more than a little dread.  I was nervous.  I felt ready, but who knows before their first marathon.  (Geez.  I never feel ready for marathons.  I’ve run 10 and I’m always questioning whether I did enough.)

In those last few minutes before the start, look around. Soak it in and think about the next few hours. Savor these moments.  Tell yourself “I am ready.”  You are.  If you made it to this point, then nothing will stop you now.  This is YOUR day.

The first 13 miles are a blur. Emotion and excitement will carry you that far. Stay within yourself and run YOUR race. In 2009 I let emotion get the best of me and I ran too fast and paid later.

There will come a moment where you will fatigue and tire.  You will hurt a little.  And your mind will question whether you can finish. YOU CAN. Walk, crawl, limp, hop.  You will cross the line.  You’ve come too far to stop now.  Fight through the dark moments.  Every marathoner has them. EVERY marathoner.  Even the elites.  The marathon humbles all who run it. You are not the only one.  Everyone else will have the dark time.

When you emerge from the darkness, a moment of clarity will come. You realize that you will finish.  I can’t describe the feeling when you realize you are going to finish this race.  I’m almost in tears now remembering my moment of realization and self-awareness on the Disney course.  It hits and you feel like you could fly.  And you will.  Savor that moment. You will never forget the feeling during your first marathon. It is like no other feeling I’ve ever known. The realization that I alone did this. No one carried me, no one helped me along.  I had to move the entire 26.2 miles. I did it.  You will do it.

And as you turn the corner and see the finish and the people, let it out.  Scream, bellow, jump in the air. Don’t hold back on the  shout of triumph or the tears of happiness.  this is YOUR moment. YOUR time. YOU are a marathoner.

Run happy. Run strong. This is your day.

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