Boy does 2am really creep up on a person!!
Even when you DO go to bed at 7:15pm the night before.
But that first 2am alarm went off and I SHOT out of bed.
Maybe it was excitement ... maybe it was adrenaline ... maybe it was that I was scared shitless I would miss the bus thus missing the start of the race thus missing the race itself.
Yes I was freaked out by past participants' blog posts about crowds that I made sure our butts would be on the first bus out of our hotel come hell or high water!
So I was out of bed and prepping quickly. I was looking forward to this day for so long.
I rarely dress up for races (more than just the fun knee socks I wear) so this was out of my usual realm, but I was excited for it. I was loving how the Jessie from Toy Story costume had turned out and couldn't wait to see what spectators thought too!
I was ready! Needless to say the wife wasn't moving quite as quickly or as happily as I was ... she was none too pleased with the start time. :P
We headed out of the hotel room by 2:45am and as we turned the corner to the bus stop saw 7 completely empty busses sitting there with 0 people waiting to get on them.
Well at least we guaranteed we would get to the Start area on time and we would get a seat. :)
As we sat on the bus, I was posting pictures, tweeting, etc and all of a sudden my phone rang - it was Suzi Storm. She didn't believe I was actually up and en route to a race so she needed actual proof ... my voice. :) It was nice to chat with her and maybe that chat played in to my awesome race - maybe it now needs to be a pre-race tradition. Suzi, thoughts? ;)
We idled for awhile while more runners loaded on to the bus. Yet as runner after runner got on the bus not that many were dressed up and for some reason this worried me. Like I would end up being the only person dressed up, which in the deep part of my head I knew was incorrect. It still had me freaked for a minute until a couple Tinkerbells got on the bus and I felt more at ease.
The busses rolled out and we were off to the Start area, which was set up in the Epcot parking lot. The busses dropped us off and we all made the trek over to the party area with the usual bathrooms, bag check, port-o-potties, etc.
It was amazing standing around and checking out the costumes people put together for the race. Talk about great people watching!
We hit up the port-o-potties and headed over to get a pic in front of the official 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon logo.
There was a DJ on hand as well as a camera catching some runners' sweet dance moves on the big screen. Oh watching some people try to Gangnam style never gets old. :P
As we did some laps around the Start area (since we were there so early :P ) checking out merchandise and just people watching, we spotted Sarge from Toy Story!!
He said: "It's my old friend Jessie. How are things around the toy chest?"
After snapping a pic with Sarge, we ran into Kat. Yes 23,000 runners and Kat finds us. Good work Lady!
Isn't she the cutest Piglet?
The organizers started asking everyone to get on the other side of Bag Check, which was the holding area before the walk to the Start Line. So we headed over there thinking we would then immediately head to the Start Line, but nope. We just all kind of stood around looking at each other for what felt like forever.
But, finally we got the go ahead to start the 20-something minute walk to the Start Line. Of course we hit the port-o-potties one final time before we did. :)
Thank you Disney for having PLENTY of port-o-potties that I barely had to wait in line even with 23,000 runners!
The walk was lengthy but the time passed by chatting with the wife and Kat and listening to the DJs along the way.
It was pitch black along the walk so I spent most of the time looking down at my feet since the last thing I wanted to do trip mere minutes before the race!
Then I saw it...
Blurriness means action shot :)
At this point, the three of us turned left towards Corrals A-E, while some kept straight for Corrals F-H.
Kat actually ended up being in my Corral so we bid the wife farewell at Corral C and headed to Corral A (yes still in shock at being in that location).
But it ended up being the best place for us to be!
Such a cool experience being up with the elite runners. They are amazing to be around.
And look how close we were to the Start Line!
I was finally able to meet Kelly from (@According2kelly), who I've been following for ages. She was running the Goofy with a friend dressed as Goofy. Great costumes by both (you can actually see her in right corner of pic above). She pointed out that Drew Carey was on the sidelines so Kat and I saddled over to snap a pic.
He was supposed to run, but got injured unfortunately.
We then tried to photobomb the interviews that were happening next to us in order to get on the jumbo screens set up near the corrals. Hoping that maybe the wife or a friend would notice us. :P But I don't think they did.
We then saw Carissa and her cohosts take the stage!
Sorry for the glare but Carissa is second from the right!
Kat actually knows Carissa so it was nice to finally meet her in person - even briefly - after following her online.
She rocked her interview with Joey Fatone ... again I tried to get my Jessie hat on the screen in the background as much as possible.
Thankfully having Kat with me really helped pass the time. :)
Because before we knew it it was time to send off the wheelchair runners, which meant we were up in 5 minutes!
Goofy, Donald and Mickey came out to count us down!
As the characters counted us down, I reminded myself I was there to have fun. I didn't care about the time or the pace or the finish. I just wanted to soak up the sights and sounds of Disney.
Then ... the fireworks went off and so was I!
It was 5:35am and freakin' dark!! Thankfully they brought in lights to help along the highway, but I still made sure to keep an eye on the ground since I had no desire to fall.
I was really impressed with the number of spectators that were lined up along the left side of the highway at that time of day.
I started out at my 5k pace and quickly had to slow myself down and remind myself that we were running 13.1 miles NOT 3.1. I was getting swept up with the other - faster - runners and I had to bring it on in.
There were marching bands and spectators all along the 5 mile stretch of highway AND the first character stop - Pirates Of The Caribbean!
It was at this moment that I decided I would stop at as many characters as I could. If there was a lengthy line then I would reconsider depending on the character.
But do you know what I found out? Most elite runners weren't there for pics with the characters so there was barely a line while I ran.
Yes I know this was EXTREMELY lucky compared to many of the runners in the later corrals who had much longer lines.
But I took advantage of my location and posed. Instead of fumbling with my iPhone, I just went with the professional photos and prayed they all came out afterwards.
All of this happened as we headed toward the opening of Magic Kingdom.
Not too shabby for an action shot
We were going to run right through the Magic Kingdom - how cool is that?
As we went through the parking lot near the test track, we got to see our first character stops!! YAY!
Chip And Dale
Nightmare Before Christmas
I had to stop and snap a pic of this awesome sign hanging above one of the overpasses as it read: "Quackin' Up Your Pace" But of course you can't see that part in my iPhone pic. Harumph!
Then we entered the park itself.
Spectators were amazing!! People lining the streets calling out "Hey It's Jessie" ... "Go Jessie Go" ... "Awesome costume Jessie" ...
It was amazing. I honestly felt like a Rock Star! I wanted to high-five every one of those people for how early they had to get up to be there.
All of a sudden there it was Main Street USA. I was running down Main Street USA towards THE CASTLE!!
I even saw Robin waiting to cheer on her husband while I was running!!
We were only in the Magic Kingdom itself for maybe a couple miles but it was amazing.
Best part? Besides all of the character photos of course.
Running THROUGH yes THROUGH the Castle was out of this world!
Can you still believe how dark it was?
After we left the Magic Kingdom it was a lot of highway time as we headed back towards Epcot for the Finish. I wasn't prepared for so much highway time so I was a little disappointed on that, but of course it is to be expected with how far the parks are from each other.
But Disney did a great job of loading the course with characters!!
Check out the rest of my in-race photos here:
As we approached Mile 10, I started to realize that my time and pace was faster than I had anticipated. The whole race I felt as if I was just sprinting to the next character rather than running a Half. We can maybe call it lengthy interval training?
There was a little loop/turnaround to point us towards the Epcot parking lot/entrance just before Mile 11 and there were some announcers there yelling out where people were from so I proudly shouted "Boston" before someone behind me yelled "Mars." Okay not taking it seriously. :P
But as I hit the Mile 11 marker, I realized I could PR. I had to do some calculations in my head, which always help to pass the time, and figured that I might just do it. It would be close, but if I put the pedal to the metal I could do it.
So I just let loose. I skipped the final 2 character spots, which was okay because it was Stitch (I had already gotten one with Lilo) and Phineas and Ferb (who I got the day before).
I gave it all I had in that home stretch. I think you can easily figure that out in the pictures below:
All that was going through my head was keep moving forward! People had started to slow. It had started to get warmer. There were people walking. I just had to keep running.
Then it was there ... the Finish Line!
I had never been so happy to see because I KNEW I did it ... a PR! Which was great, but the real excitement was how much stinkin' FUN I had during that race.
You think I liked it?
Could you tell I was on my way to clicking of my Garmin Forerunner 110? ;)
Unofficial PR via my Garmin. Previous PR had been 1:48:16. I then awaited official results...
Catching my breath was #1 on the priority list after finishing.
#2 - grabbing this sweet medal of course!
#3 was heading to the medical tent to try and find out if they had cough drops since I couldn't get the darn cough to stop. Interesting fact - they had none. I just started downing water to see if that would help.
(Lesson it turned into bronchitis by the time I got home)
I was able to spot my parents at the Finish Line before heading to grab my professional Finish Photo and much needed FOOD!!
Yeah this is why I don't normally run in cotton shirts - ew!
I made my way back to my parents to hang with them while we waited to cheer on the wife to finish.
Before settling in with them to wait, I quickly headed over to have my medal engraved as a keepsake and on my way I ran into Robin (again!) :)
Thanks for snapping this pic Robin
We got the text that the wife finished in just over 3 hours (brutal brutal heat) so we headed towards the Finish Area to meet her. While waiting, I had to snap one last pic with the ears.
After meeting up with the wife, we headed over to the busses to head back to the hotel to shower, grab some breakfast and prepare for a day at the Magic Kingdom.
I made sure to include some low-fat chocolate milk as part of #myafter! It is one of the best ways I have found to Refuel after a grueling long run or race!
Thankfully my parents had the tracking so we had my information pretty quickly for the official time and I had gotten the PR by 7 seconds. HEY, a PR is a PR, right? :) I was pleasantly surprised since I was just hoping to finish sub 2 with all the stopping I had planned (and did) do!
The official official stats still shock me. I mean these numbers are really mine. Wow!
I wonder what the time would've been without the character stops!
OVERALL, this was one of the funnest races I have done.
Were there things I would change? Sure. I wish there was more time in the park itself. Maybe weaving through the different lands, etc. But I know logistically that would be tough.
So I think Disney knows what they are doing and pump up the time on the highway with marching bands, characters, DJs and FANS!!
Would I recommend this race to a friend? In a heartbeat because magic happened that morning and I want everyone to experience it!
See ya for the Goofy Challenge in 2015! :)