I met the Balloon Ladies!!! Yup! Those phantoms of runDisney, who you pray you’ll never meet up with for fear of being swept.
I met them.
And swept I was.
But let’s start this story from the beginning.
Once Upon a Time…
I flew down to Orlando to meet up with some of my favorite girls (Including Jess from Magic, Memories, Mayhem who was kind enough to share some of the photos below!) with grand plans of running not only the Frozen 5k but also the Enchanted 10k. Why? Because, MEDALS!
We met up on Wednesday, ran around the parks all day, then did the same the next day, then got up long before the sun on Friday where we stood outside in what felt like sub-zero temps (It was actually 30*, which is still frigid when you’re in running tights and a light jacket and standing there for hours)
And then we RAN LIKE THE WIND! or….we walked, and ran whenever course photographers were in view.
It was so much fun, truly the best race I’ve ever participated in. Filled with selfies and photo opps with characters, and overflowing with laughs!
It was great and I started to get excited about the 10k that I had previously been dreading. Out of our group of 8, only 2 of us were
crazy enough planning to participate in the 10k, so of course, we, again, spent the rest of the day in the parks and had a nice dinner and went to bed far too late for someone planning to run a race at 4 in the morning.
So with my roommates and most of the rest of the world asleep, I got up an hour earlier than the day before (2am) and headed for the starting line.
Here are a few of my mistakes.
1. Signing up for a 10k
2. Thinking it would be a good idea to run this 10k the day after running a 5k
3. Thinking it would be a good idea to run this 10k after spending 3 full days walking around Walt Disney World
4. Thinking it would be totally fine to run a 10K on 3 hours of sleep
5. Thinking I could do this without any sort of training other than the 5k the day before
Let me be very clear. I DID NOT TRAIN FOR THIS RACE. At all. I had great plans to do so, and well, I just never had the motivation. I knew I’d be fine in the 5k, and thought I’d be fine in the 10k as well, and probably would have had I done the 10k first, but there are so many “what ifs” at play here.
The point is, I really wasn’t prepared.
So, I arrived at Epcot and got into my corral. I was in Corral E. The LAST corral. I also ended up being at the very back of the corral, which meant I STARTED the race WITH the Balloon Ladies.
(Had I started in an earlier corral, I WOULD have finished–barring any kind of serious injury. Corral A started over an hour before I crossed the start line, meaning they had a one hour lead on the Balloon Ladies. This is the one aspect of the race that did bother me. A whole lot, actually)
I knew I didn’t have a chance in hell. My heart sank. I wanted so badly to prove a few haters wrong, despite knowing that I was grossly under-prepared. I wanted to finish this race, even if I had to crawl across the finish line.
That thought made me go against my original plan of walk/jogging my pace, and just staying focused. Instead, I panicked and thought “Oh my god! I need to run! I need to get as far ahead of these balloon ladies as possible!! I need to run!!”
And I ran. I ran as fast and as hard as I could for that first mile.
It was a huge mistake because as soon as I saw that mile marker something went awry in my ankle. Then a cramp. Then I tried to “walk it out” because I couldn’t stop! The balloon ladies were on my heals.
For the next mile I did a lovely run-limp-walk-limp-run-limp thing. It wasn’t pretty, but I couldn’t let the balloon ladies pass me! I just couldn’t!
Just past mile two, they did. The passed me. And I knew it was probably over, but I kept pushing.
Let me pause here to tell you something about the Balloon Ladies:
They are really nice. They want you to succeed. They don’t want to pass you, they don’t want you to get swept. They aren’t the villains that social media has made them out to be. They try to motivate you to KEEP GOING!
The Balloon Ladies are lovely!
The course medics are also AWESOME and try to help motivate people on the course.
Mile 3, despite knowing it would be my last mile, was probably the best mile of my runDisney experience. It was the most motivational, and the most moving. There were shouts of “YOU’VE GOT THIS!!” and “YOU GO GIRL!!” Women ran to each other and held hands, and held each other up. Strangers became friends out on that course. It was awesome.
Then I saw it. THE BUS. Flanked by a few Florida Highway Patrol cruisers, it blocked off the course.
At Mile three, I was swept. Along with a whole bus load of other women and a few men.
On the bus there were some tears from those who had worked really hard to be there. There was laughter from some who were happy they didn’t have to run the rest of the race and could go back to bed. Then someone made a commented about this being the “loser bus” and it really, REALLY ticked me off. So I said something. I said “NO! This is NOT the loser bus! Every person on this bus is a winner. We all got up, and got out here and tried. There are a whole heck of a lot of people who are still in bed right now!”
The thing is, while I was disappointed, I still felt good about what I had done. I still got up, and got out there, and I tried. I pushed myself, and I didn’t quit. I was proud of that.
When we got off the bus we were handed our medals. (Which we deserved because we tried and we PAID for them!) I put mine in my pocket until I got on the bus back to the hotel. At first I was a bit embarrassed to wear it. I didn’t want some elite runner asking me my time. I wasn’t sure how to handle the inevitable shouts of “Congratulations!” That I’d heard the day before while wearing my 5k medal. But, on the bus, I decided I’d wear it. With pride. Sometimes I’d be open and honest about my sweep. Other times I’d just say “Thank You!” when I was congratulated. I decided not to wear my medal the rest of the trip, but I was still proud of what I had done.
I still ran.
I may not have run a 5k AND a 10k, but I did run 10k…I just split it up over two days.