I signed up for this race on the day registration opened last year on June 11th. 2 days later it was sold out. Over 25,000 people showed up this weekend to run this race – AMAZING!!
I am certainly no race circuit veteran, but this was the biggest event I have ever participated in by a factor of 10!!
After I registered, I talked my step-daughter, Nicki, into registering too, so it was kind of a family affair!
About 6 weeks from the event, I started looking into logistics and it became clear that we needed to spend Saturday night before the race on Disney property so we could make use of Disney transportation, rather than driving from home and HOPING to get where we needed to be when we needed to be there. Staying at one of the host resorts (we stayed at All-Star Movies) took a lot of stress out of the equation – and I’m all for that!!
Then I started reading blog posts from previous years races and found a lot of mixed reviews. Many ladies were just excited to be able to dress up and run and stop along the course and get their pictures taken with Disney characters. But there were some that griped and grumbled and panned the race from start to finish – I’m not quite sure what they were wanting…
Nearly EVERYONE mentioned that this was NOT the race to seek a PR in, because there were just so many people and you couldn’t really RUN.
So, I really didn’t know WHAT to expect going in.
What I DID know was that, regardless of the the outcome, as long as I finished it WOULD be a PR for me, because I had never run a half marathon before.
Disney is considered a MASTER MARKETING company for a reason – they have this shit DOWN! You pick up your race bib in one building – very smooth, not much in the way of lines, I was able to pick up Nicki’s bib without hassle – and then you have to go to another building (where the actual Expo is being held) to get your t-shirt (and let’s face it – the PR is cool and all, but we all race for the freaking t-shirt and the finisher’s medal, right? 🙂 ) and you have to walk all the way through the expo to get to the t-shirt distribution place, and then that area dumps you right into the runDisney merchandise booth so you can then BUY t-shirts, pins, jackets, magnets, bumper stickers, and all manner of other stuff.
We walked around the expo and Deb bought me the one thing I wanted as a souvenir of this race – a medal rack. And the one I found was PERFECT for me – it exemplifies everything I think about fitness goals. You just have to BELIEVE!!!
As we were leaving the Expo area we passed a large pink and purple wall that lots of people were taking pictures of. As I looked closed, I realized that the name of each person who was registered for the race was listed on that wall – how cool. So in an ego-filled moment, I had to snap a picture of my name.
One of the highlights was walking past an area where a guy was talking about race strategy and nutrition and realizing that it was JEFF GALLOWAY!! So yes, I had to get my picture taken “with” Jeff Galloway! 🙂
Race day started WAY before 0-dark-thirty! I woke up at 2:28 a.m. (2 minutes before my alarm was to sound), had my Spark, imagineered, downed a shake, and generally just got pumped up for the morning.
Nicki and I walked down to the bus loading area at 3:10 and walked right onto a bus. We were at Epcot by 3:45.
There is quite a bit of walking involved once you are dropped off by the buses. We walked from the parking lot, through bag check (which was incredibly fast and efficient) to the Family Reunion/gEAR check/Party Zone area, and each ate a peanut butter and banana sandwich. Then we went through the check point to a holding area where we just hung out until about 5am. It was super humid and foggy, but warm. I had brought an old sweatshirt to wear while we were waiting that I could just throw away when it was time to run, but I really didn’t need it. At 4:45-ish, we were herded – yes, I think “herded” is an appropriate term – through another parking lot and down another road to the starting corrals (HA! Another cattle reference).
There were 16 start corrals, I was in Corral E (I submitted my pitifully slow 10K time from the Beat the Heat Triathlon back in November) and Nicki was in Corral M. The start was staggered by corral in 3 minute waves. It was timed like clockwork – so well done. There was a stage and big screens that were projecting the announcers, there was great music, and a really energized atmosphere! And princesses EVERYWHERE!!! There were also lots of PRINCES! I felt mightily under-dressed in my purple Under Armour running shirt and running shorts, but just couldn’t stomach the idea of running in a tutu and a tiara – maybe next year…
My goal for the run was to finish in under 2 hours. I knew if I just RAN I would likely run out of gas somewhere along the way. So my plan was to run 3:30 and then walk 30 seconds, and to do that over and over and over again until I crossed the finish line. I figured if I did that, I could maintain close to a 9:00/mile pace. So, that’s what I did.
The route was mostly in the dark. And maybe it was because I had the good fortune to be in one of the early start corrals, but there were only a handful of times when I couldn’t run as fast as I wanted to go. There were 5 times that I can remember in the first half where the course narrowed so much that we were all pressed together pretty tightly and we all slowed to more of a trot for a bit, but those were short lived.
Nicki said the crowding was a lot worse further back and she had to walk more than she wanted to because there was such a mass of people at times!
Just as we were entering the Magic Kingdom I saw a familiar face – a man – and quickly realized it was JEFF GALLOWAY!!! So I shouted, “Hey Jeff Galloway! You’re my hero!!” And he stopped, smiled, said “Hey! Thank you very much!!”, gave me a hug and I was on my way – PASSING Jeff Galloway! 😉 That was so cool!!!
Running through Cinderella’s Castle was really cool. I’m posting this picture, and I realize it’s not mine to share yet, but I will replace it with when the photographer finishes uploading all the pics and I can buy the downloads. I really was still running with a smile at this point!
Before I knew it, I was turning back onto Epcot property. I had 10 minutes to go to run 1.4 miles – it was just barely doable on fresh legs for me. My legs and feet were aching, but I decided to go for it. As I rounded Spaceship Earth I was running faster and faster, but I was running out of gas fast!
Where was the damned Finish Line! Then I realized that there was a turnaround and I had to run back to Spaceship Earth and THEN to the Finish Line! OH MAN!!!
The 2 hour mark passed as I hit the turn, but I wasn’t all that disappointed – I was still going to finish my first half marathon with a decent time.
As I crossed the finish line, I heard the announcer call my name, which was cool!
I got my medal – which is really nice and HEAVY!
I made my way to the Family Reunion area to the place where Deb and I had planned to meet and found her and Josh right away. I was soooo relieved to be finished.
An hour or so later, Nicki crossed the finish line. Considering she really procrastinated training until about 3 weeks ago, I am damned proud of how she did!!
We have decided to come back next year and run the Glass Slipper Challenge (10K on Saturday/Half Marathon on Sunday).
- If you want to register for this race, find out when registration opens and register that day! Don’t wait or it will sell out. This is an Aim-Fire-Ready thing. You’ll get ready along the way, I promise!!
- If you have a previous 10K or half marathon time, do yourself a favor and submit it to runDisney so you can get in one of the earlier corrals. My race and Nicki’s race were entirely different experiences because of our corral placements.
- Dress up and have FUN! I will dress up to some degree next year. I mean seriously, why not?
- Disney was awesome and prepared well for everything. There were ample port-o-potties (although finding one to use after the race that didn’t look like a someone EXPLODED inside it was a trick – sorry TMI), so the call of nature is not a big concern.
- There were water/Powerade stops every mile or so and a Clif product stop between miles 8 and 9. I stuck with what I had been eating/drinking in training, but there was plenty there for those who weren’t carrying their own nutrition.
- The volunteers were AMAZING!!! THANK YOU to any of them who happen to read this! 😉
Either Disney has learned a lot in the past few years or some of the harsher race reports I read were written by divas or folks with incredibly inflated expectations, but I really have nothing negative to say about the event – AT ALL!
All-in-all, I am very pleased with my results in this event. I stuck to my plan and feel like I did my best, although I probably did go out a bit too fast.
Here are the numbers: