Yeahhhhhh! I know, this is what we’ve all been waiting for. How the weekend went is great and all, but let’s get to the good stuff…The actual race.
Now, the race starts early. Really early. Seeing that you have to get up, get ready, get to the buses, take a bus over, check bags and walk to corrals to get to that really early race start, you have to get up really, really early. I was told that buses fill up very fast, and the later you are in getting on them, the longer it will take to get on a bus and to the race area. Buses started running at 3 am, and we wanted on one ASAP.
So at 2:30 am, dark and early, the alarm went off. Normally I’d want nothing to do with getting out of bed, but race anticipation definitely helps with popping out of bed after less than 6 hours of broken sleep. We got ready. Running skirt and running tank top, check. Pigtails, clip in Minnie Mouse ears and headband, check. Compression socks and running shoes, check. Hydration belt, with water and gatorade, check. Gu and phone/camera, check. Most importantly, race bib, big check. I was ready. We left our room at 3 am and made the short walk to the bus stop. It was a good thing we left early. We were at the last bus stop, and buses were already nearly full by the time they got to us. The first bus came as we were arriving and it had room for 5 people. We didn’t get on. The next bus had room for 7 people. Again, we didn’t get on. A third bus came, with room for 10 people, and we were on, and on our way. It was a short 10 minute ride, a very quite 10 minute ride considering it was full. We got to our unloading area, and there is a quarter mile or so walk to the pre-race area. There are tents set up, merchandise tents, charity tents, large tents divided alphabetically to check your bags. In your race packet, you receive a large, clear plastic bag to put any post-race essentials you need in. I packed a change of socks, a comfortable pair of Nike flip flops and face wipes to clean my face off .
We got to the pre-race area, where we’d be meeting a larger group of people, our Pacebook Running Club(known as PbRC from here on out). This is a great group of people on Facebook, from all over the country, who love the Disney races(and other races). I found tons of support and info from this group before the race. We were meeting up to grab a group photo and practice our mile 10 chicken dance(inside joke). We gathered and practiced our chicken dance. We got together for a group picture, and our group leader(and Run 3rd team leader) Tony told us he had someone special for us. Who? Sean Astin! He came over and gave us a great pep talk.
Then he hopped into our group photo with us.
After our photo, it was time to get into gear. We went through and checked our bags, and met up on the other side. We then got to enjoy the long lines waiting to use the port-o-potties. I consider myself to have a bladder of steel, especially seeing as I have carried and birthed 4 babies over the past 10 years. The last thing I wanted to be doing while running was to have to stop and go to the bathroom. Stopping really wasn’t on my to-do list, for much of anything. There is reasoning behind this. I have been having issues with my IT band in my left leg. It tightens up like crazy, and my knee hurts pretty badly. I can run and run, but the moment I stop, my leg seizes up and I can only walk, it causes a lot of pain to run. So things like using the bathroom and stopping for pictures during the race was not something I was planning on. So bathrooms done, it was time to start our walk to the corrals. It was a slow group, thousands of princesses(and some princes too) on their journey to their respective corrals. It’s about 5 am at this point. I would estimate the walk to corrals is about 3/4 of a mile.
We made it to our corrals(party in Corral C!) and our wait was drawing to a close. Each corral is released 7 minutes apart. Disney has entertainment set up, large tv screens to watch and keep us occupied while we wait. The first corral to go are the wheelchair racers(my hats off to them, awesome hearing they are included!), followed by the elite corral(you know, the people who are faster than I could ever hope to be), and then the lettered corrals. Each corral is released with a countdown by the Fairy Godmother herself, and then fireworks at the starting line. It’s so exciting to watch each group leave, knowing your time is getting closer and closer. Finally it’s corral C’s turn. I knew I’d be heading off alone. The friends in my corral were going to be going slower, and stopping for lots of pictures, so I planned to set off as soon as I could. That’s exactly what I did. We got our countdown, our fireworks, then we speed up getting to the starting line(each corral has at least a few thousand runners, so you do have to wait a bit to start). I crossed the starting line, and I was off.
Now this is where things start to get a bit fuzzy for me. I’m a bit sad to say that I don’t remember tons about the race itself, little details aren’t there. Normally when I run, I get very connected with my surroundings and music, but not this time. There was a very disconnected feeling. Maybe it was how early it was, maybe it was how focused I was, maybe it was the decent amounts of ibuprofen I took before the race(huge no-no from what I hear, but I knew I’d need it). I do remember that I started crying about a quarter of a mile after the start. Not because of any pain, but because I tend to hold all of my emotions in over time, and they catch up with me at once. All of the training, all of the excitement and nervousness that had been building up for months, the fact that my time was actually there and I was doing it, it hit me at once. I laughed at myself for crying less than a half a mile into the race, and kept going. The first couple of miles are a bit boring. They did have people lining the road, a marching bad at one point. We ran up the road, and through the Magic Kingdom parking entrance, through the MK parking lot. I was doing well by my first 5k, right about 37 minutes.
Before hitting the Magic Kingdom, I finally remembered I had a camera with me, and that maybe it’d be nice to start taking pictures. I will note that it is pretty difficult to take decent pictures, while running, using an Iphone, while it’s still dark outside. So I have very few course shots before the sun came up.
By this point, I was already drenched in sweat. I believe it was about 70 degrees at start time. Sounds lovely, especially in the winter, but throw in the 94% humidity, and it was kind of ugly. We run down next to the Contemporary resort, and through the back side of the Magic Kingdom, and finally hit Main Street USA. Now I’ve mentioned before that it’s pure magic every time I hit Main Street and see the castle. Well hitting that point, 5 miles in, with the street lined with families and supporters, it blows the regular old magic out of the water.
Again, sorry for the blurry photos, but it was so hard to get a decent picture. We run down Main Street, then turn to run through tomorrow land. More of a blur for me, until we come through the castle and back down. They had photographers in front of the castle for pictures, but not even being 6 miles into the race, I didn’t want to risk stopping to wait for those pictures. I took a quick one myself, and kept on.
The castle was lit up pink for us princesses. After this, we run down towards Frontier Land to head back out of the park.
From here on out, things get a tad boring again. We run past the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian and back around the back of the race track we passed going towards MK. They did have more entertainment along the side, picture opportunities, but I knew I wasn’t stopping so I didn’t pay much attention, aside from noting the extremely long lines. At the halfway point, they had the music blaring, the 7 mile song as I’ve heard it called. This year, Girl On Fire by Alicia Keys was the song that got voted in. I. Hate. This. Song. I really think it’s a drab song as it is, and trying to dig deep and run while it’s blaring in your ear, just not cool. It slowed down my pace and put me into a funk. I know it was selected because it received the most votes, but it was really a poor song choice. I’m hoping next year’s pick will be better.
We get through the next few miles, I don’t remember much of it except the Gu station. I was still running, not hurting badly, but starting to wear down. I had hit one of the famous walls where I was just begging for it to be over. I approached mile 10, and this was a turning point for me. I was hitting double digits. I stopped at the mile 10 marker, did a very quick chicken dance(yes, I did the chicken dance on the side of the road after 10 miles, an official PbRC member). I was still doing okay in terms of my knee, and I started my trek up the first of our Florida hills.
A Florida hill is just a cute way of saying an on ramp to an overpass. Halfway up there is a picture opportunity. He is an Army man from Toy Story. He has a microphone and is shouting words of encouragement, and telling us this is our last hill(he is a liar, I’m just saying). I made the choice to stop for a picture for the first time, as there were only 3-4 people in line and I knew it would go quickly.
This was the beginning of my descent down into the pits of agony. I was sweaty. I was starting to chafe, which is something I’d never dealt with before. I had always scoffed at the notion of Body Glide, had never needed it. I regretted this decision, although I was chaffing in places I wouldn’t have thought I would, under my arm and on my back around the armhole of my tank top. I wasn’t out of breath or huffing and puffing, but I was starting to wear down, both mentally and physically. My knee was starting to hurt a bit more. My stride was horrid, I seemed to barely be picking up my feet at this point. But I kept going. I hit another minor “hill” at mile 11(I told you the Army guy was a liar), but I was still running.
At this point, I kind of went into “screw it” mode. I decided to stop for pictures, and let what was going to happen with my knee happen. I needed a break. Between miles 11 and 12, I stopped for two more pictures. While I may have been sweaty, tired and hurting, at least I still managed to look really good in my pictures.
It’s about this point that I see the Epcot ball. I was always told the ball meant “almost done” and I was actually looking for it, as a sign that my trek was almost finished. Now thinking about it, you have less than 2 miles to go when you see the ball. Less than 2 miles sounds like a piece of cake, but after over 11 miles, less than 2 miles take for-e-ver. This is when the major knee pain started. I tried to start running again and the pain was awful. I would walk for a bit, start running again, realize this was a bad choice, and walk. I made it into Epcot at mile 12.
Now I’m thinking a quick jaunt around the ball and I can bring it home. Not at all. I am still limping along at this point. This is seriously the longest mile of my life(and according to my Garmin, the distance was actually well over a mile). We go past the ball, past the fountain and then all the way down to where the path ends at the World Showcase Lagoon. When I saw how far past the ball we had to go and then come back from, I literally said outloud, “Are you kidding me?” I was starting to feel defeated, but I was so close. I tried running again. This lasted a few yards and I guess I yelped loud enough, before coming to a rather abrupt halt(and I stayed to the right, slower folks/walkers, always stay far to the right!), that it concerned some people around me. One girl ran by me, turned around and asked if I needed help. I told her I was fine and she kept on. I finally rounded the cones to start back towards the ball, with less than a mile to go. This is where I dug down deep, and I told myself and the guardian angel I brought with me(my first born son, Chris, who died as a baby) to “Come on buddy, let’s finish this, let’s keep going.” I started running again. It hurt at first but I just kept going. I finally left Epcot and I hit the choir.
They sing while we run/walk/limp and they mean almost done. No clue what they were singing about, but what they signified meant they were a choir of angels from heaven. I was coming up on mile 13, and still jogging.
I was almost done! One more turn and I would see what I had been waiting for. The finish line. Normally during a race, when I see the finish line, I find a bit of extra energy and pick up my pace towards it. Not this time. I was spent, I was hot, I was hurting. But I was almost there.
Donald and Goofy were waiting right before the finish line. I know some people stop and take pictures with them, but something seemed to odd to me about stopping less than ten feet in front of the finish line for a picture, so I gave Donald Duck a high 5 as I cruised by, and I crossed the finish line. 2 hours, 48 minutes and 28 seconds. I did it. Considering the weather conditions, me being semi-injured, and stopping a few times, I was very happy with my time. I got my medal and hobbled over to the med tent, to slather myself in BioFreeze and ice my knee. I was done, I finished my half marathon(well, 13.45 miles according to my Garmin watch), and I was left to bask in my glory. Well maybe I was basking in sweat and BioFreeze, but I’m going to call that glory.