By David Thompson


Hey …. I said HEY…. get up ….. it’s time to get rolling here. It’s 2:38 a.m. and it’s time for the Disney Marathon. No, don’t give me that crap about you don’t want to run — the time for that was 8 months ago when you told me, “I want to run the Disney marathon with you Dave.” Come on and get your sorry butt out of bed. I am not about to run my 10th marathon alone while you keep your sorry self here in a warm bed. Get up and let’s go get a waffle at Waffle House. Yeah, yeah I know … there ARE strange people at Waffle House, but just think about what they will be saying when you and I walk in wearing running clothes at 3:00 a.m. Just WHO will be the crazy people there? Besides, a visit to the Waffle House is a cultural experience at any time of day, especially after midnight.

OK, OK, stop your complaining. The very best thing you could see here in Florida on marathon race day is ice all over the car. Yep, ice on the car. It’s so bad in fact that the wipers don’t do anything so let’s sit here a minute while the defroster does its job. “Am I crazy” you ask? Nope, if it’s 31 degrees like the Weather Channel said it will drop more before the race and those temperatures with no wind will make a perfect day for running 26.2 miles. That has a nice ring doesn’t it —- “running 26.2 miles.” You, me, and the remaining 11,000 fools … er … I mean dedicated athletes … out there pounding the pavement through the crisp air in four Disney theme parks, with a 6:00 a.m. start time. Man, it can’t get any better than this.

There, see .. it’s not that bad here at the Waffle House. In fact it’s kind of nice with just 4 kids over there in the corner. The cook even looks like he washed his hands this month so it can’t be that bad. Just eat your waffle, and I’ll spring for the $2.05 it costs, but don’t screw around, we’ve got a race to get to. As soon as you finish we have to go back to the hotel and grab a nice hot shower. Yeah, a shower at 3:15 a.m.

Come on, let’s got moving. We have to be in the park by 4:30 a.m. so we can line up at 5:00 a.m. Man, it’s 4:01 a.m. and we’re driving into EPCOT — can you believe there is actually a TRAFFIC JAM at this hour of the day. Man, this is some kind of cool, ain’t it? Just look at those huge floodlights and all the other folks walking around there. Let’s go on and park and mill about the crowd and see who we can talk to. Yeah, that’s the excitement, talking to folks just like us from all over the country?

What? You gotta go? You mean like, “mommy, I have to do a number 2?” Look, you went twice last night and once after the Waffle House — it’s just nerves. But if you REALLY have to go then just walk over to one of those Port-O-Lets; the announcer said there were almost 1000 of them out here today. What’s that? Oh, you think with 1000 of them there won’t be a line? Yeah, right. Go stand in line and do your thing, and by the way, don’t look down when you walk in. OK, better now? Good, let’s walk out to the start line since it’s only about a half mile or so away.

Yep, you’re right —- there ARE people as far ahead as you can see. We are WAY back in the line and there are about 8,000 people in front of us and maybe 3,000 behind us. And did you hear that guy from Iowa right there? He said this was “warm weather” to him and he has trained on ice for a month. There should be a law against people living in a place like Iowa. (That’s for you Ron.) Look, we’ve got about 4 minutes to the start so you better grease up those thighs with this Vasoline. Where did I get it? Oh, from right here in my butt pack. I’ve got Vasoline, some blister tape, a spare pair of socks, 6 packs of GU (it’s sort of like Jello pudding and has sugars in it), a small Power Bar, a $5 bill, and the car keys. If I dig down deep I may find a slice or two of pizza too! Grease up now and you’ll be happy later on because you won’t chafe between the legs …. and get ready for the gun.

OK, we’re off now. Plenty of fireworks to get us going so let’s settle in here. The next 4 miles are in and around EPCOT and it will be a good time for us to chill and find out rhythm. It IS wall-to-wall people but get used to it because it will be 7-8 miles before it thins out. About the time the sun comes up you’ll be able to move a bit so get used to tight space for a while. And remember the plan too — we stop at every water point and get some water and Gatorade and walk while we drink. You can’t skip a water point or you’ll never make it to the finish. So all you have to do is to look for those “Mickey Ears” that mark the miles and water and we get to stop for a drink.

We’re at mile 3 and you gotta go again? Look, even if “it’s just number one” this is getting old. We’ll pull off the road here and you can jump into the bushes. Yeah, the bushes along with the 100 other people there too. No, there is no “his and hers” there, just go do your thing. I assure you there is no such thing as modesty among runners and no one will care about this so just get it done with — you’ll feel better.

Now remember, mile 6 is just around this curve and it will be time to pop our first GU. The sugars will give you a boost but we’ve got to tear the top off about 100 yards before the water point so look for the Mickey ears. OK, here it comes so suck down the GU and get ready to grab some water. What? The water won’t come out of the cup? Let me see it —- oh man, look at that, there is a solid sheet of ice on the water. Those cups must have been sitting out several hours and it’s frozen solid. It’s a darn good thing we went to Goodwill and bought these $3.00 sweatshirts and $1.00 gloves. We can wear these a few more miles and then toss them.

All GU’ed now and ready to head to the Magic Kingdom? We’re at mile #7 and look at that will you? That gal is running into the median where that car is parked. There is a man in it and a little kid in the front seat too. I’ll bet that’s her husband and child and they have come out to meet her at 7:00 a.m. right here in front of hundreds of people. Look, she is opening the door and I’ll bet she gives her kid a kiss. OH MY GOSH, she dropped her shorts right there and just mooned 300 people. (That’s for you Lori) I guess she’s like you too — when you gotta go you gotta go. What? Yeah, right — you never noticed how nice her backside was. Look, I was born at night but not last night. I know you want to slow down and let her pass us in hopes she has to go again, but we’ve got a race to run so let’s get on with it. After all, there are miles and miles of road ahead, and miles and miles of people to approach from the backside, if you get my point. (That’s for you Adam.)

Mile 10 is past now, just past the Contemporary Resort and look who found us — it’s my buddy Mark from Vero Beach. We’ve swapped e-mail training notes the past few months and it’s good to see him. He asks, “So Dave, you taking notes for your marathon report?” Gee, it’s nice when people ask about this annual report. It’s good to see folks like this so you better talk to Mark since it passes the time.

We’re in the Magic Kingdom now and look up there — a lady has a “Coast Guard Marathon Team” shirt on so let’s talk with her. Go try it and see what you can find out. …. …. …. So, she is an Air Force colonel but she ran on the Coast Guard team last year huh? She’s stationed in California now and moving to Italy next summer to command a 500 person hospital? See how neat this is talking to folks? And the neatest thing is you covered a whole mile talking to her and never realized it. We’re out of the Magic Kingdom in fact, on the way to the half-way point — and the finish of the half-marathon. And, by the way we are NOT stopping at the half marathon finish point. We paid for 26.2 miles and we will get our money’s worth.

This is good, this is real good. We’re at the half-way point and neither of us is one bit tired. I know you’ve never run one of these before but this is #10 for me and I’ve never felt this good at 13.1. It’s got to be the GU and the low temperature. I couldn’t imagine stopping now and it’s good to see you are hanging tough too. By the way, we have another GU point up here so you might yank one out of the butt pack and put it in your hand there and warm it up a bit. WHAT? How in the heck did you get GU all over your left glove? You squeezed it too much and the plastic packing burst now you’ve got GU everywhere. You might as well toss the glove and the GU and get another GU out — that’s why I said to carry some extra because you never know what’s going to happen. And look, you can’t run with one glove on because I don’t want people to think Michael Jackson is out here so you might as well ditch the other glove. Yeah, I know your hands are cold so just get your spare pair of socks out of the butt pack. That’s one reason you pack then — they are not just for you feet you know. Good thing you’re running with a veteran like me!

We’ve got 4 long miles here, past the sewer plant (that’s for you Ted) towards the Animal Kingdom. What’s that you said? “Who is that crazy dude up there dressed like a lunatic?” Hot dog — hot dog — hot dog: IT’S THE COATMAN AND WE ARE GOING TO PASS THE COATMAN. (That’s for you Laura) See, this guy wears street shoes, knee-high yellow socks, a denim jacked with “The Coatman” stenciled on the back, orange streamers hanging off the jacket, carrying a pizza box with an empty 2-liter Coke bottle attached, long stringy hair, and sunglasses and he run marathons in that. As we pass him I ask him, “So Coatman, how many does this make for you?” He says, “79.” You say, “The man is a few bricks short of a full load.” I don’t disagree. Hot damn, our day has been made, we’ve passed the Coatman!

Man, we blew through Animal Kingdom and those Mickey Ears at 18 and we both still feel great. Is this something or what — but I hate to tell you we have a few long miles ahead. 18-21 are out and back along Osceola Parkway over three overpasses with not much scenery. Let’s just look for the ears and run it mile to mile. This is where we need to start talking to folks so I’m gonna leave it to you to strike up conversation. You can start by pulling up next to that gal and asking her just who in the heck she is talking to on a cell phone at mile 18? Oh, her husband? He was still in bed in Dayton Ohio? And how about that guy there — ask him about his shirt — just get him talking. Yeah, I heard it. He said he lived in Cleveland, Ohio and moved to Naples, Florida. When you said, “I’ve been there and it’s a nice town” he said, “Cleveland or Naples?” Like there is any way Cleveland is a nice town compared to Naples! I’ll bet the guy doesn’t eat grits so let’s move on – we don’t need his kind around us.

Look we’re near mile 21 and runners are going the other way so we can look and see how far back the Coatman is. Do you see him? I don’t either. HOT DAMN, we’re tearing up the Coatman. We’re cleaning his clock this time. We’re showing him who the boss is. Man, these next few miles will be a piece of cake knowing we’re kicking butt on the Coatman.

We just passed mile 23 and you said, “Oh man, what the hell just happened?” Well I’ll tell you dude, it’s called “the wall.” You just hit it. See, a marathon has two halves — the first six miles and the last 20 miles and you are starting to suck gas. I’ll tell you what, just because I like you, we will walk for 90 seconds here and you suck down a GU. Stop and stretch those legs a bit and we will make it fine. I ain’t gonna let you die on me here so keep at it. Trust me, you’ll get a 2nd wind here so let’s just plug along and look 100 yards ahead and run light pole to light pole. It might also help a bit to find something nice ahead and follow it a bit — you know, anything to take your mind off running.

We’re just shy of 25 and entering EPCOT and also near the camera crews so make sure to look good when you pass by. And please, by all means don’t have your hands down adjusting your shorts. I mean marathoners ARE strange people, but you don’t need a picture of yourself with your hands in your pants at the 25-mile mark. Trust me, it won’t look good on your wall in a frame!

Alright dude, we’re about to pass that huge “golf ball” at EPCOT and as soon as we do we round the corner and see the Mickey Ears at mile 26 and there will be 385 yards left. As soon as we round that corner there are people lined down both sides of the finish lanes and what we need to do is SLOW DOWN and enjoy the moment. This is why you ran it so enjoy every step of that last bit of pavement.

Look up — it says FINISH. Your watch shows 4:27:32 and we were shooting for under 4:30. You did it — you ran 26 miles, 385 yards all at one time. Let’s walk to the finish area, get our medal, and grab some food. This is what it’s all about too. Just stand here and look at all these people who ran the marathon —- and you’re part of them. Look around and listen, and you’ll see and hear amazing things. “I hit the wall at 21 and about died right there.” “I had to stop for diarrhea at 12, 16, and 22.” “I meant to GU at the 14 but missed it and I think it was all downhill from there.” “Did you see that fat guy at the 8 – there is no way he made it.” “This sucks so bad I’ll never run again.” “My legs are about to fall off and I’m gonna stay in the shower for two hours as soon as I get back.”

Well partner, we did it. I’m proud of you because you could have bagged it. People run marathons for many reasons, at times arcane and esoteric reasons, (that’s for you Meade) and you did it to see if you could do it. This was about as good as it gets too. Weather to die for, a flat course, tons of folks to run with and talk to, no blisters or bad cramps, we didn’t throw up, and a finish time below our goal. And to top it off, as if it could be any better, WE BEAT THE COATMAN! Smoked his butt for sure. He’s probably still out there trying to find the oven to put his pizza in. Yep, this is as good as it gets.

What’s that —– you have a question? Sure fire away. “When can I sign up for the 2002 marathon?”

Hot damn, you’re hooked.