“Just keep going!”
“You’ve got this!”
Voices of strangers bombard my ears with cliche quote un-quote “ inspirational” statements. They are ringing cowbells and flashing signs. They are crowding the street, covering the stone, brick, and cement walkways, filling in the space between the shop fronts, which are lacking eager children rushing through their doors, and the fences directing our path and containing the crowd. They are cheering... cheering for me… me and the thousands of other people running on weak and weary legs, wondering how much further it really is to the ever approaching finish line. They say it’s not far. They say that I can do this, and I believe them.
This is what I had been training for. This is what it was all leading up too. The finish line was right there. I just had to keep running.
I saunter into my parents cold and breezy room, the ceiling fan is on, shaking back and forth with the effort of keeping the room cool. The bedside lamp is on and shining into my eyes. “What?” I ask, blinking away the effects of the drastic change in lighting I experienced on the short walk from my dark, lightless room to my parents nearly celestial one. “ Aubrey, how do you feel about doing a Disneyland 10k?” My cautious and clueless answer to that very question would lead me to accomplish one of the most difficult things I've ever done.
Only 2 and a half months of hard work and training that my dad thought I did later, I was throwing clothes about my room, grabbing running shoes, shorts, superhero shirts to coincide with the racing weekend theme, and all the other essentials for our trip to California. My dad's voice was muffled because my door was shut tight and the floor beneath me help to soften the sound of him yelling at me for not packing the night before. I shoved the rest of my clothes into the bag and ran down the stairs, snagging another jacket just in case. You can never pack too much in my opinion. We were only going to be gone 3 days, yet I managed to shove at least 10 days of outfits into my purple and orange, slightly smelly, duffle bag, along with many other things that I would never use on this trip.
The flight was not too long but with having an attention span of a small child, an eagerness to finally go to a Disney park after so many years, and no accessible wifi, I was bored out of my mind. I sat for approximately two hours fidgeting, tapping my foot, and eating overly salty peanuts that the flight attendant gave me, for what felt way longer than it really was. I was a bit nervous that this trip was finally here, but my excitement overpowered any negative thoughts I had. When we finally landed in the LAX airport after circling around and seeing the Hollywood sign, I was more excited than ever. It took my dad a while to pick up our rental car and I sat soaking up the sunlight that we are so deprived of up here in the Pacific Northwest for most of the year. I was already giddy with joy and nothing had even happened yet. Driving around Los Angeles, looking at the palm trees, seeing all the sights of so much nostalgia, was overwhelming. I couldn't wait to get to Disneyland and have even more fun that I had had just being in LA.
After being directed into a parking spot we walked down streets such as Magic Way, Disney Road and other appropriately named streets, really racking up the step count. We eventually were directed to a massive line where we would begin the seemingly never ending process of waiting that comes with the joy of Disneyland. We eventually snagged our racing packets, picked up our t-shirts, meandered through the racing merchandise booths, and could finally go to Disneyland.
It was fairly late in the afternoon and the entry to both California adventure and Disneyland were so overwhelmingly crowded that we decided to wander through Downtown Disney, checking out shops, looking for a fun place to eat, and maybe some activities to do that would start my sister, my dad, and I on our quest for Disney magic.
We grabbed our 3D movie glasses and entry tickets from the ticket counter and dropped them into our bags, while we walked back towards the unanimously decided on restaurant of choice, a New Orleans style Jazz cafe. I am so intrigued by the New Orleans culture, the food, the architecture, and the movie The Princess and the Frog was one of my favorite Disney princesses movies, so eating there was perfect. We were seated and served all while gazing at the menu and the venue, in awe. I ordered a colorful pasta dish, with a spicy jambalaya sauce, voluptuous sunset orange shrimp, and pastel green fettuccine, it was heavenly, just the right amount of spice, sauce, shrimp, and pasta. I was in love. I was so pleased with my meal in fact, that I fell asleep from pure content while watching the movie that we purchased tickets for. It wasn't exactly Disneyland, but I was filled to the brim with joy.
Falling asleep that night was hard. I was starting to get nervous. I had been skipping my training and I didn't feel mentally ready to run over 6 miles. Somehow I managed to drift off and some time later I was abruptly awoken to a blaring alarm clock reading 4 o’clock. This was race day. I had less than half an hour to get ready and eat before having to get to the starting line.
Music was blasting, people in costumes were chattering as they stretched, giant spotlights were sending blinding amounts of light into the dark early morning sky, ever so littered with twinkling stars, and I was praying that I could somehow make it through this race. Just then I remembered that I needed to use my inhaler but I didn't have it with me, and I really started to freak out. A very nice lady soon after started talking to me and really helped to calm my nerves. She looked like a runner, and talked about her husband who ran a 6 minute mile, which kind of freaked me out, but then she talked about her son and her dog and just simple everyday things, that kept me a bit distracted from the jitteriness that plagued my mind and body.
I watched the large screen above the starting line, as the first massive group of people was sent off on their way it was like watching a herd of cattle, with people so close together. The next group was the one my dad was in and I caught a glimpse of him running past the cameras, as he started the race, face lit up with a shining, yet sleepy smile. My group was next and we slowly filled in the space in front of the starting line where the first group had originally stood. It should have felt like I was waiting in line for the executioner to chop off my head, yet I felt a sense of peace and knew that I would finish. I watched the people in front of me slowly jog forward and followed, keeping pace with the sweet lady who help me so much, just by talking about her family and asking me questions. It was very hard to run at first, people were so close, running at the same pace and it was still dark. I was keeping an even pace but I had fallen behind the one person, besides my dad and sister, that I knew. My pace slowed and I will admit that I fast walked a lot of the race, being cautious not to have an asthma attack, since I was lacking my inhaler.
I saw a big sign that said mile one and had a timer next to it. People stopped to take pictures, but I didn't have my phone with me. I just kept running… or walking I guess…
Right after passing the mile two sign we got off the streets and entered California Adventure. We ran right into Cars land as the sun was coming up. The beautiful red rock setting was breathtaking with the glowing orange sky peeking out. It was like a dream. My brother was obsessed with the Cars movie and my whole family knows that movie backwards and forwards and can quote basically every line in order, so being able to see the real life Disney parks version was such an amazing experience. I ran through with a look of awe on my face, looking at the familiar scene, eyes gliding over every detail, taking in every piece of my surroundings, capturing the image in my mind as a little bit of happiness. After passing the red rock set of the race track, we ran through the town of Radiator Springs. All the little shops and specific details from the movie were all there and I wanted to just stop and take it all in, I was so very tempted to run off the path and go down the rest of the street, and really get to take in all of the familiar places I had grown to know like you would an old friend. Running through Radiator Springs had to be the most perfect way to start the part of the race where we ran through the Disney parks, it was definitely my favorite part of the whole run. We ran around the giant Ferris wheel, on the soft wooden dock, surrounded by water and the beautiful architecture, passing little kiosks where later in the day snacks would be sold to happy little children, and couples on a magical date. We ran through the Disneyland castle, over the drawbridge and really felt the magic of it all. We ran past the little shops of Main street, saw the merchandise in the windows, yet the shops were all empty of life, waiting to be open for another day of sales. We got to see behind the scenes of the park and go through an epic tunnel with lights and blaring superhero movie music, that connected the two parks. It was completely empty of anyone but the runners and a ton of staff members that were cheering us on, no lines, no costumed characters walking around. No one but us. It all went by so fast and I was in awe of everything. It was so fascinating to see the park like this.
All of the sudden I see it. It was a spectacular sight. Not the finish line, not even close. But it was one of the most wonderful things I had seen, that I wish I could have gotten a picture of. It was Captain America. I had seen a few of the other Marvel superheroes that I know and love, with lines of runners holding cameras in anticipation to get photos, but Captain America has my heart, and I stopped and cursed myself for not bringing my phone cause I would wait forever to get a picture with him. It wasn't the real Steve Rogers, or even the actor Chris Evans, but I wish I would have brought my phone just so I could have a picture of the happiest I have ever felt.
I was still in awe of everything I had seen when suddenly I heard people saying the finish line was close. The final stretch was through Downtown Disney where I had spent so much time just hours ago. People were yelling and cheering us on, it was very overwhelming. They told us we were almost there and that we could make it just a little bit further. I picked up the pace eager to be done. It seemed like I had just started but I was so happy it was almost over. When I saw the end I sprinted full out and didn't care about how tired I was or if my asthma would act up, I was glad my misery was finally over with. I was in a sort of shock that I had finished and was trying to remember where to meet my dad. I got my medal and felt the weight tug on my tired neck. I wandered through all the picture stations shocked that I, an unfit lazy non-athlete had ran a 10K.When I finally saw my dad, and gave him a big sweaty hug I was crying tears of joy and also tears of sadness as I said “Dad, I am never doing that again.”