It was an unusually cold morning in February, 2000. We were asked to gather at a pre assigned spot in order to receive our numbered tags. I arrived earlier to register and get my tag so I can be up front. My body was shivering from head to toe from the unexpected cold; more likely from excitement and some nerves. However, it was cold at 5 am in Orlando, Florida. I had a light sweater on over my workout pants and tank top which one would wear for a marathon in Florida.
Five months earlier I received a letter from the Leukemia-Lymphoma society advertising an opportunity to train to walk or run in either a full or half marathon. It caught my attention. My mom suffered the affects of treatment for leukemia and passed away in 1986. The letter offered four different cities we can choose from, including Dublin, Ireland. I chose Walt Disney World for two reasons, one, I only needed to raise 2,300.00 and two, they offered a walking half marathon. Since I was 50 years old and never participated in a marathon before, this was the best choice.
The training sessions were every weekend for four months either at the Valley Forge Historical Park and the Art Museum venues, alternating the venue each weekend. We were asked to walk 1-2 miles at first and increase our miles as we got closer to our race date. I loved the training. I would place my earbuds in my ears and listen to a carefully selected playlist to inspire me to walk fast. Unfortunately, as much as I tried, I was unable to walk faster than a 20 minute mile.
At our last meeting before the race. we were asked to hand in our money we raised. Raising the money from co-workers, friends and family who knew and loved my mother, was heartwarming and knowing these people believed in my cause in my mom’s memory. I left the meeting with one concern. If I fell behind the crowd and wasn’t close to the finish line at a scheduled time, the park will pick up the stragglers with an open trailer. My goal was to reach the finish line. Knowing I am a slow walker, this was on my mind and I didn’t want to be humiliated.
The race began and I started walking with hundreds of other people who began to pass me. Okay, I will not worry, just listen to my inspirational music and walk.
I entered Animal Kingdom and enjoyed the scenery as I walked past. I reached the 5 mile marker and still felt strong. In the distance I could see the globe at the entrance to Epcot and knew if I focused on it, I will keep on walking. I passed the 10 mile marker when I entered the Magical Kingdom and was greeted by Donald Duck and Mickey. I was very tired at this point, my feet were sore, hands numb but I thought about my mom; she was with me giving me the strength I needed to complete the course. I was not going to disappoint her now.
I can see the end up above and was startled when I heard “YOU GO MOM.” It was my son giving me the encouragement I needed to walk to and pass the finish line. The Donald Duck metal was placed around my neck along with a special wrap to protect my body. I found my son and husband who hugged me with excitement. I looked behind me and there were still many more walkers. I didn’t need the flat truck after all!!!
I now understand the pain my mom endured and I was in peace with her death. I will always cherish this memory.