Day Two of our Racecation started much like Day One – with the standard, “ungodly hour” wake-up. Greg and rubbed the sleep out of our eyes and dressed for fun. We decided against hydration belts, opting instead to use the many well appointed water stops which runDisney provides. This was the first time I’d ever done a half marathon without my hydration belt, but I felt pretty confident that I’d be ok. Besides, we both wanted good race photos, and (secretly) hoped to get a shot by runDisney!
I was looking forward to this half marathon since Greg and I would be running it on our own – our smart sisters were sleeping in. Kathryn’s race was already run, and Rachael was running the Marathon with us the next day, so this was our “couple’s run”. Greg and I hadn’t run a half together since the WDW Half last year, which we ran with Rachael, and which turned into an unmitigated fiasco.
We had a light breakfast (oatmeal, yogurt, banana, coffee) and went down for the bus for around 4AM figuring we didn’t need to get to the Race Retreat super early since we were in a later corral. I was going to drop back to Greg’s corral (from L to M – a corral placement I’ll never understand) so we could run together.
I tweeted once we were on our way:
— Tabetha Wells (@IRunOnWater) January 11, 2014
Imagine my delight when runDisney tweeted me back!
@IRunOnWater I think we spotted the “Tabetha” bagel here.
— runDisney (@runDisney) January 11, 2014
Our bus dropped us off, and we made our way through the security bag check and headed right for the Race Retreat. This was our first glimpse inside the big tent that would be our Home Base for both the Half and Full Marathons, and it seemed larger than I remembered from previous years. Either way, we were happy to see the food and drink laid out for us (although there wasn’t any Powerade that I saw. Could have been our late arrival, or maybe they just didn’t have it out this year). We quickly grabbed what we needed from the carb-o-licious offerings on hand (muffins, bagels, bananas), but not before we were spotted…
— Tabetha Wells (@IRunOnWater) January 11, 2014
Retweeted by @runDisney and shot by a runDisney photographer? Check and check! We were off to a good start!
We found our friends Deb and Kari for a quick visit before they made their way out to their earlier corral. Something new that I noticed this year was the hosts in the runner’s village announcing when it was time for each corral to make their way over to the starting area. I’m sure this alleviated some congestion rather than having everyone try to go over at the same time. It was still pretty crowded, but there wasn’t the insane gridlock that happened last year. At least not at the beginning of the walk over… As we got over to where the corrals split off (A – L one direction, M – P in the other) things got a lot more crowded and confused. Fortunately we had cut along the grass in the right direction, as it turned out, so we didn’t have to try to push our way through the people heading off to the right.
We got in our corral, hung towards the back and relaxed while things got underway. The race started at 5:30 with the Wheelchair start, and then the rest of the corrals started about 2 – 3 minutes apart. Things moved along very efficiently, and we hoped that the smaller, more frequent corrals would translate to a less crowded course this year.
Before we knew it, our corral was walked over to the start line and we were ready to go. In years past, we’ve scootched our way up to the front of the corral, but today we hung back. The plan was ‘no plan’. We didn’t set our Garmins for any run/walk intervals. We didn’t have a time goal in mind. We just wanted to take it easy, run when we felt like it, walk when we felt like it, and have a good time.
According to my Garmin data, we started at 6:21 – theoretically 50 minutes after the first runners headed off. Our fireworks blasted, and we were off (through some low hanging smoke, thanks to a muggy, humid morning). Almost immediately we were boxed in by walkers. I have no hate for walkers. We were planning on walking a lot ourselves, but this was more than we were expecting. We knew we’d be doing a lot of dodging and weaving today.
Mile one always comes along so quickly, and this time was no exception… We snapped our customary Mile Marker shot and kept moving along. The long wait in the corral had taken it’s toll on our bladders, but we decided to to see if we could wait until the Magic Kingdom for a bathroom break. There are real restrooms in the Ticket and Transportation Centre, as well as in the park, so we figured it was worth waiting. As we made our way along the exit ramp towards the Magic Kingdom, things got very congested and we slowed to a walk most of the time through the turn. That wasn’t so bad, considering the angle of the road on that turn.
Once we were running along World Drive towards the Magic Kingdom, the road opened up considerably. We ran a bit, walked a bit and suddenly out of the mist arose a mysterious pirate ship!
We left the pirates to the other runners, there’s always a long line for good old Captain Jack Sparrow and friends and we didn’t feel like waiting. Across the street from Captain Jack was this:
We chugged along towards the Magic Kingdom, and I couldn’t help but notice that the hot air balloon that has been there in years past was not there this year. Thinking back, there were no stilt walkers this year, either. Nothing had been added in their place either, so there were definitely some on course entertainment offerings missing this year over last.
Soon we were at one of my favourite spots on the race course. I don’t know why I enjoy this spot so much, but I do. Maybe because I am not paying for parking as we go through?
We were trying to take a selfie (I’m beginning to hate that word) and out of nowhere this shirtless man ZOOMED up to us, said “Do you want your photo taken”, we handed over our camera, he snapped the shot, and then ZOOMED away almost before we could thank him. He was so fast! I said it was a good thing that he didn’t still have our camera because we’d never catch him!
We passed through another water stop, grabbed a quick sip of water, and kept moving. We passed by a fancy car out by the Richard Petty Speedway walls and shuffled along through the crowds through the parking lots to the next mile marker. I thought we were feeling the crowds now. Little did I know…
This was initially where we thought we’d hit the restroom. These restrooms were no secret, and apparently everyone else seemed to think this was a good place for a pit-stop as well. Keep moving. There were some portopotties shortly after the Ticket and Transportation Centre which we used instead, almost no line. I was very impressed with the portopotty organization this year. Each stall was numbered, and there were 1 – 2 volunteers stationed at each spot shouting out numbers of each potty as it came available to the people in line. “Number 5, Number 8, Number 1”. So efficient, and no guessing. Great, great idea.
I am surprised that I do not have a shot of the roadway leading up to the Contemporary and under the water bridge. But in retrospect, I probably wanted to keep an eye on my footing here. Despite a lovely downhill slope, seemingly made for running down with reckless abandon, people did not abandon their recklessness. They did not run. They walked like a human wall. They might as well have linked arms and sung kumbaya together, there was no manoeuvring to be done. I know runDisney advocates a “stay to the right to walk”, but practically speaking, sometimes there’s no where BUT right, apparently. Or sometimes the ‘right’ that you want to get to is occupied – if that’s the case, please indulge in a few more seconds of run. Please find another way. Please do not take up the whole roadway. If the whole roadway is taken up, please do not get angry at runners trying to find openings where they can. Honestly, I think “walk on the right” is not a practical piece of advice, but that’s a whole other post.
We navigated the trickiest turn on the course at Mile 5 and kept moving on:
From here, it was a short jaunt through a backstage area, and then a right turn up Main Street, USA and everyone’s favourite view:
People like to savour this moment and tend to slow down. Watch your step, keep your eyes forward and have fun! It is a pretty sweet view after all. We pulled off onto the sidewalk for a quick shot:
Then back onto the course to round the corner to Tomorrowland:
As we made our way through Tomorrowland back towards Fantasyland, we really noticed the construction walls closing in the course. It was a tight fit, but it kept moving. Or at least it kept moving until we reached the other “best part of the race”. Greg and I pulled off the course again to get another fun shot:
They had a Cast Member standing by the Carousel, near the Sword in the Stone and he was saying as loudly as he could “Please step off the course for photos. Please do not stop on the course” over and over again. And the nice thing is, everyone was listening to him. No, wait, that’s wrong.
No one was listening to him.
We got back on the course and started running towards the castle and immediately a girl stopped right in front of me and turned around for her boyfriend to take her photo. I locked up my knees and stopped just short of hitting her, saying in frustration “step off the course“. I heard her boyfriend say “It’s Disney” as I ran off. Yup, and the Disney employee behind you has been yelling himself hoarse trying to keep runners safe, but whateves, bro. We all lived.
We walked through the castle because we had no other choice. Walked. So slowly. I pouted.
But then we were through and hustled over to the front of the castle for this fabulous photo (I have purchased my MarathonFoto Goofy package, so fear not, a real photo will replace this jacked one):
We kept moving along towards Frontierland and Mile 6:
We prepared ourselves for leaving the park, passing this awesome train along the way:
There was also a float with a long line and a bunch of princesses, but we bypassed those in favour of more sweet, sweet water at the backstage water stop.
Before we knew it we were leaving the Magic Kingdom – see ya real soon!
Another tight part of the course awaited us as we ran towards the Grand Floridian – some call it Cone Alley. I call it Race Course Gridlock:
We practised patience and grabbed opportunities where we could and finally got to:
Mile Seven means that the Halfway point isn’t far behind. runDisney always puts up a poll on their Facebook page asking what people want to hear at the start and at the halfway point of their races, and this time was no exception:
We came up to the Polynesian, and there was the lovely Peggy Sue and her entourage cheering and supporting all the runners (and especially the Disney PaceBook Running Club members). I thanked them all for coming out, grabbed a pretzel rod, and a little candy bar and we were on our way again. Thanks, gang!
We turned back on to World Drive, grabbed a Clif Shot from the nutrition stop (for Greg – I was fuelling with ENERGYbits alone) and got excited about the home stretch.
Between Miles Nine and Ten we ran through the Disney Cruise Line cheer station, and heard the ship’s horn tooting out “When You Wish Upon a Star” over the loudspeakers. That was pretty cute.
And we also saw this:
This very clever runner was dressed as Animal. So awesome!
We hoofed our way up one of the several ramps we’d have to navigate on our way back to Epcot, and Greg snapped another of my favourite shots of the race:
Last year when we ran this race, there weren’t many people behind us. We saw sweeper buses back there. It was not pleasant, but then that was a weird race for us. Greg is happy to be so far ahead of where we were last year:
We kept chugging along, happy in our “only 5K to go” internal monologues. We both felt pretty good, but we didn’t want to drag this out any longer than we had to, it was getting pretty hot.
We worked our way up another ramp, passed the switch-back, and I started offering encouragement to runners who appeared to be struggling, or doubting themselves, or who were just plain fabulous. And you know what? Sharing those words strengthened me, too. I told a woman she was looking strong and we shared a laugh about the balloon ladies being 20 minutes behind us at this point. I told her she was golden – that she could lay down, have a nap and still be ok. We celebrated, then Greg and I carried on ahead, buoyed by the exchange.
Let’s be honest, at this point, it’s just about getting into the freaking park. We finally rounded the corner to EPCOT where I saw some members of Disboards Wish Team cheering people on – I’ve been a fan of the Disboards for years. The community has helped me with everything from Disney vacation tips, to planning our wedding at Walt Disney World, to coaching help for runDisney events.
I ran over to the group shouting “Wish Team, Wish Team, Wish Team” like a crazy person. They cheered me on, (despite not knowing me) and gave me some liquorice to power us on as we entered the backstage area.
It had been hot and humid all day. I’d been ok with the heat up until we got to the backstage area. For whatever reason, when we were closed in by high privacy bushes, it was HOT. We pushed through and were finally in the home stretch!
I loved seeing the whole Starbucks team out front of their location, cheering on the runners. I wonder how many drink orders they had shouted to them that morning… I mean, my iced latte order was +1 at least.
We finally got our way to the top of the last turn around spot, and started hoofing it towards Mile 13.
With the Gospel Choir’s music ringing in our ears, we were lifted along as if by angels to the Thirteen Mile Mark:
From here, it was a short .1 to the finish. Time to RUN!
I avoided another almost collision just short of the finish line as someone suddenly cut me off to get over to Goofy (seriously, what is with people?), but I clung to Greg and stayed on my feet.
We crossed the finish line, arms in the air.
We collected our medals, made our way to the Race Retreat and I ate my weight in eggs, potatoes and pancakes. Heck, I even had a real Coke!
We caught up with Deb and Kari again and compared notes about how our races went. We all agreed that the course still seemed pretty crowded, especially the farther back in the corrals you got, but we all had a fun day. We even got to see the nice lady I’d talked with on the course just outside of Epcot. She’d made it!
Greg and I went to get a photo with Burt and Mary before heading back to the Wilderness Lodge for a relaxing morning.
Here are our splits for the Half Marathon:
It wasn’t our fastest Half Marathon, but it was certainly faster than last year’s fiasco. Official Time 3:11:26
And here is the Half Marathon through our eyes: