FATHER TIME: A magical story of my very first marathon
by Matt Ryerson
Jan 29, 2014 | 430 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I am a runner, or at least I pretend to be one. Most runners have a goal of someday running a marathon. I am no different.

Recently, I fulfilled that goal. In accomplishing this epic task, many have asked me to describe the experience, so for you sick individuals who like hearing tales of pain, here is my marathon story.

My 26.2-mile journey started outside the gates of the most magical place on earth ... Disney. The race started shortly after 5 a.m., which in itself is demanding, so I should have known this would be a difficult day. Nonetheless, the race started with a terrific fireworks show while a slew of Disney characters waved goodbye to 25,000 runners who were starting the multi-hour trek.

Some runs start with an amazing first mile. You feel like your feet have wings, like you are running on clouds and you have a bounce in your step that tells you that your day is going to be bright ... that wasn’t my first mile. I had a pain in an ankle, my calf was tight, my back was sore, I had a hitch in my hip and a mysterious pain in my side. Overall I felt awful, but as every runner knows, you never judge a run by the first mile. So I kept plowing away.

Mile 5 took us through the Magic Kingdom, running through the castle and high-fiving huge crowds of people cheering us on. I was waving and smiling and enjoying the run, despite my continued aches and pains, which had not left me after the first mile. Every mile was full of Disney characters, my favorite being the green army guy from Toy Story that was pushing us forward like any good drill sergeant.

By Mile 16, it became apparent this was going to be a rough trip. My first mile had actually been an accurate preview for the entire run. At this point, my stomach joined the rebellious chorus, and my water and calorie intake ceased. I was still enjoying running the Disney parks (we ran in all of them), but the wings on my feet had long ago flown away.

By Mile 21, my stomach declared war and I started getting sick. At one point, a race volunteer, who probably thought I was dying, asked me, “Do you want me to call you a vehicle to transport you to the finish line?”

I was pretty emotionally raw at this point and all I could think to say was, “That is a stupid question. Of course I want a ride to the finish line!” But I had to do it on my own. My finishing time was no longer an issue. I just had to finish.

I started walking and that felt OK, so I started running. Mile 24 and 25 were in Epcot and I wasn’t enjoying the run as much (understatement), but the cheering crowds still managed to inspire one foot in front of the other. The last mile I was able to lock into a reasonable pace and felt my strength returning. As I heard the crowds at the finish line, my wings — which had left me so early in the race — returned and I was able to come down the finishing chute with pride as huge crowds cheered us on.

Now I am not typically an emotional person at these races, but this was different. It might have been the effort, the distance, overcoming the challenges along the way or the fact that it really is a magical place. But when I found my wife in the crowd, tears started flowing down my cheeks. I waved and blew a kiss and turned to cross the finish line, only to come face to face with Donald Duck. He startled me and I almost bowled him over. But I was so emotional I just gave him a high five, pointed to the sky to thank the One who made it all possible and crossed the line. I collected my finisher’s medal and squeezed it tight, knowing that I had earned it.

After the race a good friend of mine sent me a quote. It said, “Everything you need to know about yourself you can learn in 26.2 miles.” For me, on that day, it was true and my tears exposed the fact that I was happy with what I learned.

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(Editor’s Note: Matt has a beautiful family: his wife, who is a strong runner and recently finished her first 5K; son, two daughters, Tucker the family dog and seven chickens. Matt’s next marathon is Boston in April.)