You guys… I don’t even know where to start this report. So much happened this weekend and every single bit of it was awesome. I guess I’ll just start at the beginning – you might want to get some refreshments because this is likely to be a long post.
All races start at the expo right? I was so excited that as soon as we were on Disney property I hopped on the bus to pick up my packet. Everything was quick, easy and friendly. I love the shirt too. It’s dark green, long sleeved, and, while I like a women’s cut shirt, this one is a men’s cut which is nice for layering underneath. My favorite part of the shirt: the logos for each of the parks we ran through run down the sleeve. The expo itself had plenty of vendors. There were no lines. And I ran into Bari and got to wish her luck in person.
After I had my packet I headed straight to the Wine & Dine Festival at Epcot where I proceeded to spend six hours eating & drinking my way around the world. We made it about 75% of the way that night. I was rarely disappointed with any food or drinks. I even managed to be a good runner and drink plenty of water in between my adult beverages and I cut myself off from all alcohol at 9pm. We watched the fireworks show (which was amazing) and closed the park out. Headed to Downtown Disney to meet up with my official Disney race partner and then crawled into bed somewhere around midnight… or maybe 1am… I really don’t remember.
The race didn’t start until 10pm so I had an entire day to fill. I didn’t want too much time on my feet since I was already worried about how my body would feel running that late at night. I wasn’t sure how to rest or how to eat. But I think my plan was perfect and if I ever do a night race again I will follow this plan:
1. No morning alarm. I woke up when I felt like it and ate a big breakfast.
2. I spent the afternoon relaxing. Since I was in lovely Florida this meant taking a book down to the pool and snoozing/reading the day away. I made sure I sipped on water all day long too. I wanted to be hydrated (especially after Friday night’s fun) but I didn’t want to over do it.
3. Five hours before race time I ate dinner. Pasta in a light cream sauce with chicken & vegetables. This is my favorite pre-race meal so I thought I’d give it a shot.
When race time finally rolled around, I felt great. I didn’t have a full stomach but I didn’t feel “empty” either. I was well-hydrated and (as I suspected) race adrenaline, the crowd and fun music (Run Disney plays great music pre-race) had me ready to run.
The temps were in the low 60s and while it felt a little muggy compared to the dry, cool air I’ve been running in – the weather really was perfect for a long run. I wore a tank, shorts & sleeves. I took the sleeves off somewhere in miles 3-4 and felt great the whole time.
Fireworks set each corral off and I thought it was so fun that they did that for each group instead of just for the start. We were off… and not going very fast. There were lots of run/walkers in our group. And while I’m fine with the run/walk strategy – they’re out there working just as hard as the rest of us – I don’t like it when the watch alarm goes off and they come to a screeching halt right in front of me… three abreast even. If you’re planning to walk a race please PLEASE move to the side of the course. Our first mile was an 11:41 and no amount of weaving could get us out of the crowd. I wasn’t planning to run this for time but it was a little frustrating to be so far off my normal run pace.
Luckily we picked it up in miles 2-3 and hung out around a 10:30-10:40 pace. Then we entered Animal Kingdom.
As planned, we stopped to take some fun pictures. Even if we hadn’t, our pace would have slowed down because the course narrowed to the park path and when you cram thousands of runners into a path that fits 5-6 across – with lots of twists & turns – we’re all going to slow down. That’s okay though because it was so very fun.
Out of the park for 6-9 and these miles included plenty of long, slow climbs for overpasses and a couple of banked, steeper climbs on off ramps. It wasn’t my favorite part of the course and it wasn’t easy but I hung with a strong pace because I knew my reward was up ahead.
At mile 9 we entered Hollywood Studios and this is where the race started to fly by. Lots of fun characters here and plenty of distractions as we ran through the park, backlots and streets filled with more Christmas lights than I’ve ever seen. So much to see and, admittedly, so many turns to slow us down, but I didn’t care because we were having a blast.
Then I hit my dreaded 10th mile. I always struggle in miles 10-11. Indeed, I felt heavy here but not discouraged because I knew how to handle it. I focused on looking for fun characters and appreciating what I was doing. Instead of taking a walk break, I picked up my pace to try and push past the pain. I ignored my legs because I knew they had more in them. And it worked 🙂 By the final water stop just past 11 miles I was feeling good again. Took my last bit of fuel and took off down the Boardwalk for Epcot.
When we were coming into Epcot we hit a large group of supporters cheering, making noise and holding up signs. Prior to this we had a few friends & family on the course and plenty of Disney staff cheering us on but seeing a big group was a huge boost. We came around the corner and took off. My fastest mile was my last 1.5.
Let me repeat that. My fastest miles of the half marathon were my final 1.5. I was feeling great during this race.
As we wound our way under Spaceship Earth I saw my husband (the first time he’s seen me do a half marathon) and my mother-in-law and our friends. It was an awesome boost – I picked up my speed even more and somehow found myself running sub-10 minute miles. Before I knew it I had crossed the finish line. My official time wasn’t a PR (2:31 which is a respectable time, especially considering how many pictures I took) but my watch time was 2:27 which is a PR by nearly 30 seconds – the difference is because I had set my watch to pause when I stopped for pictures. I can’t believe I hit that with the crowds and course dictating so much of my pace. I was ecstatic with the way I ran and the way I felt.
I grabbed my beer, my beautiful medals and headed out to party the night away. I didn’t leave the park until 4am. And I would have stayed longer if they would have let me. I did not want the night to end.
I got to bed sometime after 5am and was up at 10:30 ready to hit the parks again. I closed them out again on Sunday and filled my day with exciting rides and more fun. The whole trip felt like a three day party – yes, even the 13.1 miles. I’m telling you, when you run a half marathon with Disney they make even the miles feel magical.
When I decided to try this challenge of a half marathon each season I wasn’t sure how it would feel. I certainly have more to say about that and I’ll write a reflection on the four half marathons of 2012 soon. This final race was my strongest of the four in many ways. It was the perfect celebration and culmination of a year’s worth of work. I couldn’t ask for a better race experience.
Breaking Down The Numbers
I was well in the top half for this race which just makes my smile bigger.
Official time: 2:31:56
Overall place: 4,955/11,599
Place among women runners: 2,739/7,666
Age group: 364/1,075