“Best Run Ever”
That’s how I described the Walt Disney World half-marathon in the moments after finishing the race on Saturday morning. I had been so worried about running it without my running buddy but I actually ended up having an even better time I thought I would.
After dropping Boomer off in boarding facilities and driving for approx. 7 hours we arrived at the race expo in ESPN world of Sports. I collected my race bib and T-shirt, some free goodies and bought myself a really nice black running jacket and a running belt with a water bottle. Can you tell I’m making quite the commitment to continue running after this half?
After a short time at the expo we checked into our hotel – an awesome 2 bedroom suite with a full kitchen that we shared with our friends who came with us for the weekend. I ate a baked potato for dinner, then laid out all my running gear (and my tutu) and tried to go to sleep at 9pm.
All too soon the 3am alarm blared and it was time to get up and go to the race. Yes you read that right 3am! My hotel didn’t have race day shuttles to Disney world (we were staying about 1 mile away) so Kathy and my lovely friends actually voluntarily got up and drove me to the race start. I was beyond grateful that I didn’t have to worry about finding my way there, parking the car and I could focus all of my freaking out anxiety on the actual race. They were back in bed in the hotel within 10 minutes.
I wandered into the race area, snagged a porta potty before any of the lines started and waited about 10 minutes before they opened up the gates to the corrals. I then walked a fair distance up the corrals (my fitbit says I did about 5,500 steps before the start of the race!). I was one of the first into the corral – corral N and got a spot right up at the front and sat down to wait. And wait….it was a really really long time to wait before the race start and I was freezing cold. So cold I brought one of my old cheap (but still very loved) hoodies to wear at the start. Heck it was that or shiver for hours but I still felt a pang when I tossed it away at mile 2 (don't worry all the discarded clothes at the race were collected and donated to charity).
Eventually at 5.30 the first corrals started – we began moving up towards the start area around 6am and our corral finally started the race at 6.20 am. And with a huge burst of fireworks I was off!
I had a rough plan for actually running the race – I knew that my phone sucks for taking low light photos so I planned to just run the first few miles without stopping for any character photos until it got a bit brighter and that way I would be a good bit ahead of the 16 minute/per mile sweepers even if the character lines were crazy long.
Within the first couple of miles we passed a brass band, troops of volunteers cheering, high-fiving and clapping, and came upon the first character stop – Captain Jack from the Pirates of the Caribbean. I choose not to stop for the photo with him (the line was about 30-40 people long) but I snapped a quick of the ship and did my first of many “I’ll take one of you if you take one of me” exchanges with a randomer. I was probably only stopped for about a minute.
[a blurry low-light photo of me in front of the Pirates of the Caribbean ship courtesy of a randomer...you can just about see Jack Sparrow in the background]
I tried to settle into a running pace but it was kinda impossible – the crowds of runners and walkers (and run/walkers) were so thick that I spent a lot of time running around people on the grass and weaving in and out. It was tricky but I didn’t find it frustrating or anything, it actually gave me something to focus on the whole time I was running - finding a path through the crowd.
I did a fairly decent time up as far as mile 5 and then we entered the Magic Kingdom. This is the bit that I was saving my time for. I stopped to take some bad selfies with the castle...during which time my phone freaked out and stopped working and I was on the point of saying “feck it just leave it and run on”. But then I calmed down, stopped myself from freaking out and gave the phone long enough to turn off and on again and fix itself and got my photos. That was one of the hardest parts of the race for me – watching hundreds of runners run past while I stood there waiting to get a photo and trying to not get frustrated. I knew if I didn’t get any castle photos though I would have been really annoyed.
I ran on a little and saw Buzz Lightyear and stopped to queue up for my first character pic. I was delighted when I saw that they had cast members there to take your photo for you aswell as the offical photographers so I was able to just hand the guy my photo, he snapped a pic and then I was off again. It's a but blurry but what can you do!
Then spotted the Queen of Hearts with a very short line and grabbed that pic too, which turned out to be one of my favourite character photos of the race.
I ran on towards the back of the castle, where the cast of Frozen waved and cheered from the balcony (I can't even imagine how long the lines for photos with them would have been!). Then quickly through the castle out to the other side. I stopped for a moment got a pic and ran on.
There were a few other characters that I didn’t stop at because I wasn’t that interested in them and by the time I got to mile 6 my time was 1 hour 21. The fiddling with my phone and queueing had only added 20 mins to my time – not too bad. Plenty of time left for other stops along the rest of the route.
I ran along happily enough. Some miles were a little boring like when we ran on the highways between Magic Kingdom and Epcot but honestly I really didn’t even notice the miles going by. There were too many things to look at.... water stops, mile markers that were belting out different Disney songs, and we even ran under the monorail a few times. Later on that day I was flicking through some of the photos that Kathy took and spotted this one she took from the monorail on her way to cheer me on at the finish…..and can you believe that in that random shot of runners I’m right there in the middle!
I stopped for a few more character stops along the rest of the course. I waited about 15 mins for a photo with Goofy at mile 8 then 2-3 minutes for Genie and Abu at mile 9, about 5-6 minutes for the toy soldier at mile 11 (I think) and then I just ran for the finish enjoying the view around Epcot.
I turned the corner onto the finish straight and spotted Kathy and the others gave a massive wave and ran across the finish line.
After collecting my medal and my drinks and snacks I met up with the others, gushing about how great the race was and how good I’d felt running it. My legs hurt a bit but not too bad. We headed back to the hotel where I had a huge feed and a hot shower and then headed out to the Disney Boardwalk for a bit of shopping (and a massive icecream sundae) before we started the prep procedures all over again because the girls were running the marathon the following day. I have to admit that getting into bed at 8pm that evening felt great!
Obviously this was never going to be the fastest race in the world but overall I was still really pleased with my time. I finished the race in 2 hours 58 minutes – My watch breaks down the times like this:
Mile 1 – 9.44
Mile 2 – 10.44
Mile 3 – 11.44 (Photos of Disney World sign)
Mile 4 – 10.32
Mile 5 – 11.08
Mile 6 – 17.29 (Magic Kingdom photos)
Mile 7 – 10.59
Mile 8 – 17.42 (Goofy and Genie photos)
Mile 9 – 10.54
Mile 10 – 10.35
Mile 11 – 14.49 (Toy Soldier photo)
Mile 12 – 11.01
Mile 13 – 11.06
which I think is pretty good considering all the stops, waiting and people weaving I did. My fitbit says I did a whopping 38,323 steps and almost 19 miles that day!
So yep what can I say other than best run ever – it was the most fun I’ve ever had while running. I loved every bit of it, I think if you like Disney and want to complete a half-marathon and don’t care about times then this is the race for you!
I also have a ton of photos to share from our trip to Universal Studies and Harry Potter but this post is already miles too long!