Since this was Steph’s first half marathon, she (understandably) had an awful night of sleep. Not that either of us got much anyway, considering we had to be up in time to catch a 3AM shuttle.
RunDisney events do not favor those who enjoy sleep.
It’s a good thing we did leave the hotel room early: our bus driver actually got a little bit turned around and it took us much longer than planned to reach the staging area. Once again, we met up with Glorea, and waited in lines to see some of the princesses.
For the 10K, the corrals were located right in the staging area, but for the half, runners had to cross through gear check, and then walk about a mile to their appointed spots. Steph and I were in G, and we felt pretty confident about that. We stopped at the portapotties on our way to our spot (which was terrifying, because they were situated on a bit of an incline, and every time someone let a door bang, every unit seemed to shudder and tip. Needless to say, I got it done quickly and got out), and then hunkered down to wait.
Waves released every three to five minutes, so it was about 25 minutes after the elites set out before we even got up to the start line and our set of personal fireworks.
No matter how many times I race at Disney, I still get chills when those fireworks shoot off.
My hip was feeling weak and Steph’s nerves were jangling, so we decided to just sit back and enjoy the experience. We WERE going to stop for character and we WERE going to take it all in. No questions.
Of course, that mindset is so much easier said than done, so let’s see how it went.
In the cover of dark, we exited the Epcot staging area, and at Mile 2, turned right on to World Drive. For me, this point of the race is a settling in period – finding my pace, dodging other runners and walkers and quieting the early onset adrenaline. It was probably more crowded than any event I’ve ever run, and it was hard to get any kind of momentum going. There was no point in getting frustrated. We just went with it, and tried to get swept up in the music and atmosphere.
It was still pretty dark when we hit the entry way to Magic Kingdom.
Outside of Magic Kingdom, we saw a line stretching on the side of the road: it was Aladdin. Since Steph was dressed as Jasmine, we absolutely had to stop. We pulled off and took our place, and then proceeded to go back and forth about leaving the line. Finally, I just turned my back on the runners passing us. I couldn’t watch them. We chatted with a few other people around us and finally, we were ready for our closeup!
We said thanks and took off.
I was edgy. Really, really edgy. I wanted to sit back and enjoy but I couldn’t settle. We passed a few characters, and I did not want to stop. Logically, I knew we were fine and would be able to finish, but I just couldn’t shake the anxious feelings. I told Steph that I didn’t want to stop again until we got through the castle. I didn’t care about our time, but I wanted to be comfortable and didn’t want to feel like we were cutting it close. (It meant that we skipped out on Jack and Sally, Lady Tremain and the wicked stepsisters, the White Rabbit and a couple other people, but I was ok with that).
The way to Main Street is a bit treacherous. The roadways are narrow, and there is a really steep dip under the roadway, with a high curb and slippery pavement. We picked our way carefully and then we were turning into the Magic Kingdom!
There is really nothing else like it. And seeing that castle in front of you? Well, it never gets old.
We passed the cheering crowds, turned into Tomorrowland, and then looped around into Fantasyland. It was time!
We burst through the castle and we were just under halfway there!
It was definitely congested, but there was still plenty of room to run. Photo lines were pretty short, too, and we had no problem snapping one and moving on.
From the castle, the course wound through Frontierland and out one of the back entrances. We passed a line for Belle and the Beast, but it was about 60 people deep and there was no way we wanted to wait for that.
There was a medical stop directly after that, and I wanted to grab some Tylenol to help ease my aching hip. I double-checked that I was getting acetaminophen instead of ibuprofen (this would be a bad time to have an allergic reaction), and the volunteer marked the back of my hand with a black Sharpie X, to indicate I had accepted meds.
We turned on to Floridian Way for what would be the longest stretch of unshaded roadway of the day.
But we also saw these guys with their glass slipper!
And Tourist Genie!
And Mrs. Incredible!
Oh, we were having fun, now. The characters help take away from the fact that there was really nothing else of interest going on, and the beating sun was sapping our energy quickly. We continued to stop at every water table for hydration, to the point that I had to make a pit stop.
I’m glad I did, because it meant that we got to see the Princess Men!
Seriously. These guys were the best. They were having fun and mugging for everyone’s cameras and cracking jokes. We loved it!
And then we were heading up the big cloverleaf that would turn us down the road back to Epcot. Those cloverleafs are always hard because the road banks just enough on the curves to make it uncomfortable on the legs. The best advice is to stick to the grassy sides on either the top or bottom of the curves, and while it’s not perfect, it’s much better than the middle of the road. When we reached the top of the overpass, I looked down.
All you could see for miles was a road packed full of runners. From where we stood, as far as the eye could see, people sporting bibs were running and walking where we had been just a little while before. It was wonderful knowing all of that was behind us and we were almost in the home stretch! With a little extra pep in our step, we tried to pick up the pace and get moving.
Once we turned into Epcot, it was like a weight had lifted. There were spectators and music and interesting things to see, and we started joking and laughing again. I grabbed a lollipop from a person in the crowd, and the sugar was just what I needed.
We got some last minute good wishes from the Fairy Godmother
and snapped photos with Epcot’s iconic Spaceship Earth.
We were so excited to be at the end!
On the way to the finish line, we were treated to one last performance by the Gospel Choir, and then we were done done done!
Two races. Two days. Nineteen point three miles.
We were spent. Starving. Thirsty. And, oh, how I wanted a shower.
We stopped for a quick flute of champagne and then got on the shuttle.
We planned to meet Glorea and her daughter at Beaches and Cream to finish catching up and to enjoy a Kitchen Sink. I have never been there, but ice cream is my jam, so I was excited.
It was everything I had dreamed of and more.
Between four of us, we barely made a dent in it. I had no regrets.
After our goodbyes, Steph and I headed to Magic Kingdom for some last-minute fun.
We wandered. Mostly aimlessly. We were at the point of exhaustion that we couldn’t even make decisions. We went on a couple of rides, and saw a couple of characters.
We opted for dinner in the park (gourmet macaroni and cheese was just what the doctor ordered), and after a few more medal photos,
we picked up dessert and went back to the hotel.
We toasted to our Glass Slipper Challenge weekend.
And then settled in to watch Disney movies and enjoy our treats.
I think we were both dead asleep by 9:00.
It was an amazing weekend. I love racecations, but doing a challenge at Walt Disney World was something completely exceptional. I don’t know that I would do this particular race weekend again (it is rumored to be the most crowded and congested, and it was indeed far busier than Marathon Weekend), but there are plenty of other offerings, both here and at Disneyland, that I would certainly enjoy. You know my eye is fixed on a Star Wars challenge in the future.
Of course, Disney pulled out all the stops: great volunteers, plenty of fuel, hydration and medical support along the courses, characters and entertainment galore, gorgeous bling and all the magic one expects from Mickey and his pals.
Do you like racecations or do you prefer to run local?
What’s one race you would love to run in the future, Disney or otherwise?