Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sean Astin's WDW Marathon 2015 Report

Submitted by Sean Astin, @SeanAstin

I love this image. It's a classic case of how I felt not quite matching the way I looked. As far as I'm concerned, at this moment I was experiencing Nirvana.

Here, at mile 24, I'm running faster and with more energy, passion and fire than at any point in the previous 44 miles of road fun. I get that by the looks of it, I could be power walking, preparing to blow out candles, or just getting excited that I'm close to home and there may be a life altering letter from the sweepstakes people waiting for me. But your eyes are deceiving you. What's happening in this picture isn't what it seems, for 2 miles earlier I had experienced an earth shattering breakthrough.

Without getting too technical, I'd elected to do Jeff Galloway's run/walk/run method for this race, due to my previous day's calf strain. The green KT tape on my leg did its job well though and the injury was a total non-factor. Praise! Oh, due to a flap flap flapping piece, I pulled off the 3 stripes on my right leg around half way. Nothing like ripping the hair down the length of your leg to remind you what kind of pain you can endure on a journey like this. Anyhow, I got to the 13 mile marker comfortably, at roughly the same pace as the previous day's 1/2 Marathon.

As happens in most of my Marathon runs (9 total as of today), the dog day miles 15-20 were fine, legs and trunk feeling pretty laden. I was in uncharted territory with this walk/run strategy. Because I slowed my gate every three minutes, I had the opportunity to meet with dozens and dozens of fellow runners, taking selfies and swapping stories. Usually, I'm in a run flow that doesn't lend to easy patter. At this point though, I feel as though I'm doing a serious public service. Folks yell, "hey Rudy" or "SEAN ASTIN" or even the inspirational phrase I coined "run3rd" (if I'm being honest, they yell other stuff too, Encino Man & 50 First Dates are crowd pleasers; occasionally a spectator or runner will dig deeper into the catalogue), but hands down the most exuberant cry I hear along the route is "GOONIES NEVER SAY DIE!" So as not to break stride I have some classic replies, everyone is brother or man to me at that point: knock 'em dead, go get em, yeah baby, are a few of the standards. Finish strong is a welcome change of pace, I get to start using that after mile 18. Anyhow, the public service is that I can clearly perceive a thought in these folks. Generous, excited, happy and fun are they. After a few steps they realize, I'm about to destroy Rudy in this race. Take care man, good luck, stay strong—that's what I hear when they pull away, never to be seen again, until we meet in the parking lot three hours later and pose for more snaps.

Ok, so the breakthrough. At mile 20 I turned off the run/walk feature of my Garmin Connect. All that means is that the thing beeps and vibrates when you set it to. I had been running for 3 minutes and walking for 1 minute. I glanced at the clock and realized I wouldn't get in under 5 hours if I kept that pattern. Five of my eight previous Marathons had a "4" in front. So, I just shut the thing off and figured I'd try and gut it out straight. Three quarters of a mile and my body just slowed to a walk on its own. This was a much longer single stretch of running than the 3:1s had been for 4 hours, but the sense of disappointment and foreboding couldn't be helped.

Nothing much interesting happened for the next two miles, but then something did. I'd been hearing people talk about doing the whole enchilada in 30/30 intervals. Run fast for 30 seconds. Walk for 30 seconds. The tedium of this tactic seemed too much to consider for myself. Unless… I flipped back on the Run/Walk and set the dials to 30/30.

Unbelievable. I skyrocketed out of my shoes. I do have a natural fast twitch thing that has seemed impressive a couple of times in my life. Not to anyone else, but I think, hmm, I'm kinda quick, just only over short distances. Guess what, 30 seconds is not too long to hang on for in a dead sprint. My conditioning (970 Miles in 2014 with two Full Marathons within the last three Months) was sufficient to have me recovered before the next 30 second interval hit. I flew. I'm not kidding I felt like a jalopy just got turned into a Leer Jet. I was passing people so fast, it looked like they were racing in reverse. I could feel the topography of the Disney World bumps and turns like the spoilers on an Indy car. Then I'd walk for 30 seconds. The more I realized that I was going to be able to finish the race with this sexy, take a look at me now, phenomenon in place, the more giddy I became. Endorphins burst like fireworks, I felt on top of the world. At the start of each interval I'd think, can I do this? Can I possibly run any faster? It was like being chased by the police or trying to make a ferry when your mom is sick at home. It must have looked bizarre to the crowd. Once I thought, ooh, don't pull a hammy like you did in Chicago, but then the beast within me was like, dude, shut up, we are in the zone, go faster.

Everyone who's been at a finish line knows that even if they were crawling and puking for the last 20 miles, the last 100 yards most often looks like the starting line of the Olympic Hundred Yard Dash. Whatever energy people were conserving or didn't realize they had, releases, and with big painful smiles they sprint home.

But, my thing today was different. At least, it is different from anything I've ever experienced in over five thousand miles of long distance running. Four miles is no joke. I kept this light speed 30 second interval thing up for 4 whole miles. It sounds gross, but I was sweating differently. I'd been running for over 4 hours and had sweat a ton, but now it was pure athletic sweat, not bullish endurance sweat. For some medical or scientific reason that I'll eventually figure out, I had within my body, the strength, stamina, intensity and power to, to, to… I don't even know the right word, explode, dominate, I don't know…

It was euphoric. Not only didn't my legs hurt, they felt great. I've never crossed the finish line of a Marathon (have I mentioned that as of today it's 9) like this. I could have run another 10k without even thinking about it. My legs weren't tired, they were just getting warmed up.

My finish time 4:55:21.

During that Disney Magical 4.2 miles, I took off (I believe) almost 2 minutes per mile from the previous miles pace, or something close.

I'm forever changed as a runner. I don't know how, but I can never go back.

As for that picture. I think it was 1 second into the start of the next 30 second sprint. Total Spaz? Of course. But the picture tells me a different story. I see the bliss of a 43 year old man, who just realized, he has a whole lot more gas in the tank than he could ever have imagined. I see myself. And it's making me smile.


  1. Awesome story. I have been on the fence with Galloway's method. May have to give it another look. Somehow I sort of have felt like less of a runner, whatever that actually means. Way to go and thanks for the recap.