Running Far From Home

I wanted to run a marathon.

When we last left the story, I had finally done just that. 

In November 2022, I had just finished my first marathon–the 2022 Seattle Marathon–but had little time to celebrate, as the 2023 Walt Disney World Marathon was just around the corner in January. Not only did I have another marathon coming up, but I also had to keep up with wrestling. So, the next Saturday after the Seattle Marathon, I drove down to DOA Pro Wrestling in Portland, OR for another evening of bodyslams and book-reading. 

The full force of The Academy (me, Thom Alman, Dr. Kliever…and Brian) faced off against “Team JAIDEN” (JAIDEN, Max Burnside, and Jack and Sledge–The Hammer Bros) in an 8-person tag-team match, which The Academy won. It was great! 

After returning from Portland, I continued going about my truncated pre-race preparation by doing some shorter 2-5 mile runs, hoping to “stay ready” for the next marathon. Everything was going just peachy…until it wasn’t.

*Cue foreboding music and inverted colors*

I regularly try to test for Covid after major wrestling shows to stay safe, especially if I feel a little icky. I had tested negative for days until Thursday, the day before The Academy’s next appearance at SOS Pro Wrestling, the positive test came through. It was my first positive test after successfully dodging the virus for over two years. I was devastated. And a little panicked about what this meant for my marathon plans.

I spent the following week sitting at home, sleeping, watching TV, and eating whatever I was craving (I earned it, okay). Once I was finally testing negative and feeling well enough to run again, I was back on the road–but it was a struggle. My runs were slower and shorter, but I did what I could to get my wind back, and before I knew it, it was Christmas, then my birthday, then New Year’s, and I was finally on the plane to Walt Disney World for marathon weekend.

We arrived at Disney late Friday night–the race was on Sunday–so I had Saturday to pick up my race packet, spend a little time at the parks, and then try to sleep as early as possible. That’s the thing about this east coats race coming from the west coast: they’re three hours ahead, and the race starts at 6:00 AM local time, so I was set up to get up at midnight PST, which I was still running on. In fact, while I was getting ready for the race I was texting Thom, who was filling me in on how the January DOA show went because he was on his way home from it. So tried to stay sleepy–no caffeine for old Nick Radford that day–and turned in for some sleep around 6:00 PM (9:00 PST). I got some decent sleep for the first couple of hours, but once I woke up, I was back up. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t fall back asleep…until about an hour before I needed to be up. That’s when my body finally drifted back into dreamland, just in time for my alarm to start blaring. 

Pre-Marathon Selfie

I did my best to follow my regular pre-run routine–jelly donuts, coffee, etc.–as I got dressed for the race. That was the next challenge. It was a cold night in Florida, but I knew it would warm up quickly once the sun came up. I went back and forth about how much to layer up but eventually decided on a short sleeve shirt with a long sleeve that I intended to remove at some point. I would later learn from fellow runners that some people go to Goodwill to buy cheap layers that they can just drop along the course as it warms up. Apparently, any garments left along the course are collected and then donated once again, so that may be worth looking into because I try to be as minimalistic as possible when I run long races.

Buses ran from the resorts to the starting area near EPCOT from 4-6 AM but the running discord server I’m a part of encouraged me to be on the bus by 4:30, so there I was walking around EPCOT in the dark amongst a very large crowd of other people until we reached a big open area. But this area was not the starting line. Oh no, it was actually where the finishing area would be a few hours later. But at the time I was there, they had numerous–like, so many–Port-O-Potties and even food trucks! The race didn’t start until 6, and it was about 5-ish, so I decided to grab a coffee because I was TIRED.

After I’d had most of my coffee and taken too many trips to the Port-O-Potty (just in case), I decided it was time to head over to the corrals near the starting line. The corrals were labeled by letter–A through F–and I was in corral D. I think your corral position was based on the estimated time you entered when you registered. Within your corral, you could move freely to be as close to the front as you wanted. I was in the middle of my corral. Once the obligatory national anthem had been sung, they let small sections of each corral start. I think it was about three or four groups from each, so A, A, A, A, B, B, and so on. I think I ended up starting around 6:45 AM, but the adrenaline was real once I got going, no matter how tired I was.

Part of the gimmick of the Disney races is that they will have different characters around the course for you to stop and take pictures with. I personally did not partake, but it was fun to see Pain and Panic, Cruella de Vil, Darkwing Duck, and others while I made my progress running from park to park. That’s the other gimmick of these races: you get to run through the parks. With the marathon specifically, you run through all four parks that make up Disney World–Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios–and you get to see some cool behind-the-scenes stuff like parade floats in their garage, and such. Also, while you’re running through the parks, there are lots of people to cheer you on–cast members and eventually, random people in the parks are all along the path showing support. Running through the parks was great! It’s the in-between stuff that was hard.

So far, my experiences with marathons have been pretty similar. Do decent for a good stretch, feel like I can keep it up the whole time, hit a wicked wall thinking “why am I doing this to myself? I will never do this again,” and then limp (figuratively) through to the end. It just happened much earlier and more drastically during the Disney marathon. Between all the parks is a lot of freeways. Magic Kingdom is surprisingly far from the other three parks that make up Disney World, so there are long stretches of open freeway that we were running on. Around the time I hit the long, straight stretch back to the other parks from Magic Kingdom was also the time of day when it finally started to warm up, and that humidity that Florida is known for started to get to me. That wall came hard and fast and really slowed me down. I think I even did a full mile just walking. It was rough. Luckily, they took really good care of us during the race, and there were snack and drink stations every two and a half miles, plus some extras occasionally–something the Seattle Marathon was sorely missing. I took every opportunity to refuel with water, Powerade, bananas, little chocolates, and packs of these “Jelly Belly Sports Beans” to get me through. 

And I did. I made it through to the finish. 

Crossing the finish line

It wasn’t pretty, but after a long five hours and fifty minutes, I finally crossed the finish line and was awarded the medal for my second marathon. I also got a delicious little snack box (in retrospect, it was pretty mediocre, but anything is delicious after a marathon), and a relieving wet towel that I got to keep. Then my family and I boarded the bus back to our resort, where I took some pictures with my new hardware before returning to the hotel room and napping for a solid five hours. 

Upon waking from my exhausted stupor, I quickly devoured all the food in sight and ventured out to the resort for a very large, rewarding dinner with my family. I even found it in me to return to Magic Kingdom–albeit on a bus this time–to hobble around to a couple of rides before closing.

The rest of the vacation was pretty standard Disney fare. Lots of delicious food was consumed, many rides ridden, fun pictures taken, and lots of merch purchased. It was a very successful holiday.

Now, you’re probably wondering what’s next. Am I disheartened by my ever-increasing time? Sure, a little at first. Are your thoughts questioning why you do such things to your body an indication that you won’t be doing any more marathons? Probably not. Those doubts I experience in the middle of the race are always (both times) outweighed by the feeling of accomplishment I get when I cross the finish line and are honestly part of the reason I like doing marathons–they’re really hard! According to RunRepeat, approximately 0.05% of the United States population has completed a marathon. Throughout the world, about 1.1 million runners finish a marathon each year. That equates to approximately 0.01% of the global population. That makes me feel really cool. That’s something that I can have forever. And now I’ve established a baseline of where I’ve started (between five and six hours) and learned some lessons (don’t sign up for two marathons within two months). Much like wrestling, I started this journey hungry and have realized over time that doing more isn’t always better. Ha! Training for a marathon is actually a lot like a marathon–you’ve gotta pace yourself. I went hard and ran as many races–virtual and in-person–as I could in 2022. In 2023, I’m changing tactics. I’ve got my eye on several in-person races I would like to do, but I’m going to hold off on virtual races unless there is a medal I really like or a challenge my friends want to do together (I’ve already started another Lord of the Rings challenge), and I would like to do one more marathon this year, hopefully in the summer.

Regardless, I’m sure this isn’t the last blog I will write about running, so stay tuned! Also, thanks for joining me on this journey!



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