Away we went across the start line. There were lots of people, so it started off a bit slow. I hit the start button on my interval timer (set to 2 min run, 1 min walk intervals) and began my race. Less than a minute in, Aaron told me he was going to go for it, so I was on my own! I was happy to see him run off because I knew I was much slower than him, but also because I knew that I needed to run and finish this race on my own terms and at my own pace.
Before I knew it, we were 1 mile in! It was hot and muggy. I was already so sweaty. But I didn't care! I was running a half marathon in Disney World and I felt awesome! I was maybe 1.5 miles in and the elite runners appeared on the other side of the highway to head back to Epcot! Those ladies would have been around mile 10 at that point. Wow - that was both awesome to see and slightly disheartening since we just started - and there was still a long way to go!
Mile 1 Marker
I passed the pirate ship and princes/heroes, but the lines were already so long that I didn't stop. I was keeping steady with my 2/1 min intervals and before I knew it, we were coming up on the Magic Kingdom! Thanks to the single runner I met at this point who took a pic for me! Note how sweaty I am - and we haven't quite made it to Mile 3 yet!
Magic Kingdom Entrance
The thing about this entrance is that it is a bit deceiving. We had a ways to go before actually getting into the Magic Kingdom. I kept on going and soon passed the 5k marker. Shortly after, I came up to the villains! Now, if you know anything about me, you know I love the villains - particularly Maleficent (just look at my race outfit haha). And she was here! I've only ever seen her in a parade (once), so obviously I had to stop - long line or not! I figured I would make the most of my wait in the line and ate one of my Clif Gels while I was stopped.
Chillin' like a villain (sorry, I had to!) - taken by Marathonfoto
I lost over 10 minutes at the villains but I didn't care! After I left the villains, I decided to run more and ignore my interval timer for a bit. I knew it would be slow going through Magic Kingdom, so I tried to make up some time. I didn't realize that we would be funnelled through a few underpasses on the way to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC). I did still run as best I could through this area, but there was a lot on congestion with so many people trying to get through.
Heading towards the Transportation and Ticket Center
I kept on running and it was great to see so many people cheering us on as we ran through the TTC. We passed some of the big puppets that were out during the 20th Marathon Weekend. I rounded the bend just past the puppets and got my first glance at Space Mountain in the distance. I passed the Mile 5 marker and then glimpsed Cinderella's Castle for the first time!
First Glimpse of Cinderella's Castle
We ran in a side entrance onto Main Street and it was packed! There were people everywhere - cheering, clapping, shouting, some with noisemakers, some with signs! It was amazing. But the part that really makes your heart jump is that first moment of seeing Cinderella's Castle at the end of Main Street. What a great feeling!
Running down Main Street
In front of Cinderella's Castle
From here, we veered right into Tomorrowland and ran through Fantasyland. I was about to run through the castle! How exciting, or so I thought. It was cool that they had trumpeters above playing Rocky music as we went through. But it was so packed in the passageway that you could really only shuffle your way through. It was also super smelly and sweaty in there, so I have to say, it was all in all not the magical experience one imagines when running through the castle. I suppose had I been in an earlier, faster corral, I would have made it to the castle before it got so busy on the course. I'll have to get faster for my next race haha!
About to run through the castle
Sweaty but feeling good! - taken by Marathonfoto
We ran through to Liberty Square, where I stopped for a bathroom break. I wanted a real toilet, not a port-a-potty. The line in the women's bathroom was out the door (not surprising), but I ran into the mens washroom instead and there were lots of empty stalls! I wasn't the only girl in there either, so I didn't feel bad. Just past the bathrooms, I saw Jesse from Toy Story and she had only a few people in line! Score! After that photo, I passed the 6 mile marker and kept running past Splash Mountain and out the other side of Magic Kingdom where Cinderella and Prince Charming were taking pictures. There were tons of characters in the park, but there were so many lines and I had already lost so much time with my picture taking that I decided to keep going. I ran past the 10k marker and back onto the main road.
Soon after leaving the Magic Kingdom, I hit the halfway mark! Halfway already, and I was still feeling great. No aches or pains! There were firefighters and the song "Girl on Fire" by Alicia Keys was playing. Great song, but a little slow. I would have liked a faster song to get me going.
Then we were on the highway for the long road back to Epcot. It was pretty frustrating at this point, since the course was limited to one lane. People were running in the ditch and some even running outside of the pylons, against the calls of the cast members urging us to stay on the course. I heard one girl even got hit by a cab by running outside the pylons! (She wasn't hurt from what I read and did get up and keep running.) But for safety, you really should stay in the pylons! I saw Mary Poppins and some of the chimney sweeps around Mile 7, so I stopped for another picture because the line was again very short.
This is where the mental game really begins. The stretch of highway between miles 7 and 10 is long and pretty boring. There were a few character/entertainment spots, which was nice, and areas with cast members and volunteers cheering us along. But that is where you start to get tired. I walked more during this stretch and as I was approaching the food station, I started to get really hungry. We got Clif gels at Mile 8.6, which was much appreciated. The only downside was that the next water station was probably almost a mile ahead, so a bunch of us scarfed down our gels thinking the water station was going to be coming up right away. Needless to say, the sticky gel residue isn't all that awesome to have in your mouth without water for another mile.
I stopped for a pic with Princess Atta (A Bug's Life) because she didn't have much of a line either! After the Mile 10 marker, we began to loop around on the overpass that leads back into Epcot! We passed a Green Army Man from Toy Story who was cheering us up the hill. He told us at the top of the hill we will hit Mile 11 (true) and then it was all downhill from there (not so true)! Now, maybe he meant downhill as in the homestretch with only 2 miles to go, but there were still two more overpass hills that we had to get over before we were officially "downhill".
On the overpass just before Mile 11
Before I knew it, I was over the last hill and running by the Mile 12 marker - one mile to go! I was running through the pathway to get back into Epcot and heard my dad shout my name! I stopped for a moment to talk to them (of course, my dad almost made me cry with his "We're so proud of you!" haha) and I said something like "I'm so tired!" But with less than a mile to go, I was so close! So off I ran!
Under Spaceship Earth in Epcot!
Running through Epcot - taken by Marathonfoto
I ran the hairpin turn at the front of Showcase Lagoon to turn back towards Spaceship Earth. A cast member cheering us on shouted "Only 0.3 miles to go!" I couldn't believe I was so close! I kept running - at this point my thighs were getting super tight and sore so I ran most of the way through Epcot (I think stopping to walk would have slowed me down completely!). I ran past the Gospel Choir at Mile 13 and there it was! The finish line!
The Finish Line
I did it! Crossing the finish line! - taken by Marathonfoto
My official time was 3:20:15, which I have to say, I am super proud of, given how many stops I made! I really enjoyed my experience with runDisney and would definitely run another runDisney event. While there were certainly some moments where there were just too many people on the course (i.e. one lane of traffic is not enough space for that many runners!), I think the purpose of these races (particularly the female-focused ones) is to have fun and just get out there and run! It just gives me incentive to get faster and qualify for an earlier corral so I can start sooner.
My official finisher photo! - taken by Marathonfoto
I loved the bling (who doesn't want an awesome tiara medal?!) and proudly wore it around Epcot with my "I Did It!" shirt later that day. Of course, I had a nice cold bath and shower first followed by pizza! Yum!
So what's next for me? I have a 5k race on April 21 and a few more races lined up for the summer! But I'll tell you about that a little later :)