3am. The time the alarm went off for the Walt Disney World Half Marathon on Saturday, January 11th. Now by this time in the Dopey Challenge - Race 3 - you think I would've been used to the early morning wake-up... NOT!! It still hurt, but nerves/excitement kept propelling me out of bed like I won the lottery!
I was ready.
I had actually run the Disney Half in 2013 (my first Run Disney event) so I actually knew what the expect course-wise. For once. ;) I was even repeating a costume. My Jessie costume in January 2013 was such a hit and I had spent good money on the red cowboy hat that I was perfectly okay with reusing. This time however we used a different white shirt. Actually it was a tech golf shirt, which we thought would breathe in the humidity a little better than the cotton shirt I used the previous year.
Since I had signed up for the Race Retreat (which was $200 extra to attend before the Half Marathon and Marathon), which includes:
- Pre-race bagels and fruit, plus coffee, water and PowerAde
- Temperature-controlled tent with lounges
- Private restrooms and bag check
- Padded stretching area
- Internet access to check live results
- Brunch with hot and cold beverages
- Changing tents
- Self-treatment and First Aid station
- 10-minute massage for only $10 (based on availability)
- Designated location to meet friends and family to celebrate your accomplishment!*
(Taken from RunDisney.com)
I headed out of the room at 3:30 and off to the busses. The bus was actually pretty packed and I enjoyed talking to a woman who was running her first half marathon. It was great to tell her about my experience on this course and share in her excitement.
I arrived to the Race Retreat and it was in full swing. I grabbed a bagel and took a seat near the "Kids Korner," which was showing Mary Poppins. As I drank water and ate my bagel, the announcements started. They asked runners in corrals A-C to head to the Start Line.
Gah, already? I just got there. At that moment, I told myself I had to get to race retreat earlier the next day to get my money's worth. It was nice to hang out inside a heated tent as it was chilly outside. Before I headed to the Start Line, I got a picture with the crew from Mary Poppins.
Yay penguins. I usually never see those guys around the parks.
The line at the Race Retreat port-o-potties was wrapping around the tent so I headed outside to use the other port-o-potties. In retrospect, I should've just waited inside, but I was worried about getting to the Start.
I actually ran into a couple of folks that were related to an Instagram follower of mine (did you follow that?) on my way to the Start Line so it was nice to chat with them.
Just like 2013, Jessie was a hit already and a few people asked to take a photo of me. Kind of odd to just pose by myself, but I was happy to spread the Jessie love. :0)
I made another pit stop at the port-o-potties after the trek to the Start (which is a dimly lit walk that is about a 1/4-1/2 mile). I headed to Corral C and started stretching.
In 2013, I was in Corral A so this was an adjustment not being the first folks off after the wheelchairs. But it was great to experience the Start a few times.
Finally it was our turn!! :)
I started out a little too fast and made sure to real it back in. I knew I needed to run my own race and not get swept up in the crowd around me. I was placed based on my 1:44 Half PR and knew I was going to run a slower race than that so I didn't want to speedy folks around me to get in my headspace.
Since I had taken part in the race previously, I knew what to expect ... a lot of highway time. But Disney does a great job of distracting you during those long patches. Enter characters tops and DJs.
Our first character stop was the same, hello Pirates of the Caribbean.
Being two corrals back from the previous year I was worried about longer lines at characters. Right off the bat I noticed a slight increase, but not as bad as I expected.
As we cruised down the highway and I jammed out to some great pop and Disney tunes, the entrance to Magic Kingdom caught me off guard. It was a happy sight though.
The entrance to Magic Kingdom hits you around Mile 3. That doesn't mean you are in the actual park yet, but the parking lot and Speedway.
There is where I spotted Launchpad McQuack. I have NEVER seen him in a park or on a course so it was a treat I had to stop for.
And the lovely Nightmare Before Christmas folks.
We continued on streets/high way areas until just past the 5 mile marker. At that point, we started taking the back entrance into Magic Kingdom. Taking part in a Run Disney race does give you a behind the scenes look at parts of the parks.
Just after you make it through the back roads of Magic Kingdom you take the entrance into the actual park and you take the right onto Main Street. That moment is absolutely breathtaking. The crowds are massive and the energy level is unparalleled. It is an experience that is tough to put into words.
What a sight, right?
After passing the Castle you take a right into Tomorrowland and work your way through the different sections of the Magic Kingdom. I easily get distracted by looking at the surroundings, thanking the volunteers and trying to spy who the next character stop will be.
Buzz & Jessie reunited
I actually really enjoyed stopping for the character stops since 1) it gave my legs a chance to rest and 2) I had a fun time meeting other runners and talking Dopey Challenge/costumes/etc.
I had to get another pic with Donald and Daisy before running through Cinderella's Castle, which is my favorite part!
Can you tell I was trying to hide my phone from the photograph?
It is cool to come out from Cinderella's Castle and look out on to Main Street and the massive crowds, as well as the other runners!!
We took the right turn into Fronteirland and that is where it happened ... Jessie and Woody!
It was just after this photo that we hit the Mile 6 marker.
You are really only in Magic Kingdom for a couple of miles before you head back on to the highway/streets to make your way back to EPCOT. This is a stretch that could be dreaded, but the crowds keep you pumped up and Disney makes sure there are characters spread out along the stretch. Including...
You can see it was still dark out. The sun finally starting breaking through as I was heading towards Mile 9. Yay! Finally the pictures stopped looking like I was running at night. :P
Once you hit Mile 9, you are on the opposite side of the highway we started out on. It was interesting to see some of the runners/walkers, as well as the Disney clean-up crew. They were right behind the last walker ready to clean up the course so roads could reopen as quickly as possible.
This stretch allowed me some time to take an in-race selfie! Pretty right? I hit send on this puppy as we hit Mile 10.
It was at that time that "Go The Distance" from Hercules came on my iPod shuffle and great motivating text messages flowed in.
It was also when I texted my Dad to let him know I was at Mile 10. His response? "Slow down. Stuck on the bus."
Ummm... okay dad. :P There was no changing my pace. Ha. I was ready to be back into EPCOT and heading towards the Finish Line.
Just after Mile 10 you hit a little incline as you do a turnaround to get off the current highway and up to the road that leads you straight into EPCOT. More highway. More DJ. Etc.
At Mile 12, I had to take a picture with the mile marker - it was the Frozen one, which had also been used during the 5k and 10k.
Yes you can see that the humidity was NOT working with the red marker/tech golf shirt combo. Oops! It was looking like Jessie had seen better days.
Right after this pic you head into the park. Running through EPCOT never gets old. Now that we were getting close to the Finish folks weren't stopping for pictures, but I was ready to keep my "stop at every character" streak alive.
With 1/2 a mile to go, it was time to check in with my body. I felt great. My legs felt fresh. The right foot didn't feel any worse than before.
So I decided to kick it in to a faster gear heading to the Finish Line. Why not right? So off I went.
But you know I had time to yuck it up for the photographer.
Then it was over. The third race of the Dopey Challenge - the Half Marathon - was done: 2:22:31.
What a thrill. 22.4 were done. But upon further review, we still weren't half way through the Dopey Challenge.
I even spotted my Dad and wife at the Finish Line. Yay! They had made it in time to see me Finish.
I waved and headed to grab my medal.
I headed to the Race Retreat to grab a quick post-race meal: bacon, bacon, bacon. You know how it is! I tried to eat quickly since neither my wife nor dad could go into the tent because we didn't buy them the access. So I ate quickly and headed back out so we could go back to the hotel.
I got back to the room and crashed - still in costume. Yes the lack of sleep was catching up to me. After the nap it was time for a quick shower, change and chocolate milk time!!
We decided to spend the afternoon in Animal Kingdom including lunch at Flame Tree Barbecue, which has some kick ass pulled pork.
After Animal Kingdom, we met my parents in Hollywood Studios for dinner at the Sci Fi Dine-In Theatre Restaurant before calling it a night. Thankfully I was in bed just after 8:30pm to rest up for the BIG SHOW ... the WDW Marathon!