Sunday morning was another early wake up call. After the close call at the half marathon we got on the bus to head to the race slightly earlier. I still headed straight to gear check and to my corral. This time the lines at the bathrooms near the corrals were a lot longer. I didn't have time to wait and so followed some other runners into the woods behind the bathrooms to take care of business. I once again managed to get into the corral just as the national anthem was starting.
After some brief technical difficulties with the start we were sent off to the largest firework display yet. Considering each corral up to P got the same fireworks they might have launched more than Chicago saw on the 4th of July. It was a little unsettling the first time to be off and running and hearing all the booming behind you as the next corral starts. The race followed familiar territory as we wound down the same roads and towards the magic kingdom. I'm not going to sugar coat things, the first mile was uncomfortable. The 2nd mile was a little bit better and I slowly loosened up from there I settled into a steady pace slightly slower than I ran for the half.
After the Magic Kingdom we were sent into and around the motor speedway. A local car club had brought out their cars for a display around the track turning it into a moving car show. There was even a stock car revving its engine for the runners. I soon realized I has quite the groove going on and if I kept it up I would come close to running my best marathon yet. This wouldn't last long as I faded a bit between mile 10 and the halfway point while also stopping to use the bathroom. I was still only 30 seconds off pace at the half.
The course next took us through a segment of the Animal Kingdom which brought it some new scenery. We ran right past Expedition Everest which I heard that many runners will stop and ride, but I was going through before the park opened and before the ride was open for the day. I wouldn't ride anyways since me and roller coasters don't get along.
The next stop after the Animal Kingdom was the ESPN Sports complex full of all sorts of athletic fields that we wound our way through. Sometime shortly after the halfway point I found myself with the 3:45 pace group. This proved fortunate as I was able to re-establish a rhythm and settle back into pace. Mind you 3:45 is faster than my marathon PR so I'm not sure what I was thinking. I hung with them and ran 8:3x pace for the next 4.5 miles which including winding around a track and the baseball diamond that the Atlanta Braves use for their spring training games. With about 10K to go I could no longer keep up with the pace group.
I really wanted to grit things out but didn't have anything left. The temperature had risen to around 60 and with 90% humidity which was sweltering compared to the low 40s of the prior 3 days. I had hit the 20 mile mark in 2:55:32 which meant I could practically coast the rest of the way and still hit a respectable sub 4:00 time. The next stop was Hollywood Studios. There were volunteers handing out chocolate which was a welcome boost of energy. It wasn't enough though as I started taking extended walking breaks through the water stations and any incline.
After Hollywood Studios it wasn't long before we returned to the Boardwalk and back into Epcot. This time we ran the World Showcase in reverse. They had high energy music blaring from the loudspeakers. I pulled myself together to try and finish strong. The home stretch was both familiar and alien as this was my first time running through the park in daylight. I finally reach the end and did indeed cross in under 4 hours. My time was only about 30 seconds slower than my NYC Marathon time which is saying a lot given how beat up I was from 3 previous days of racing and non-stop walking.
Did I mention that this all happened on my birthday? I guess you could say I went all out celebrating.