I can’t believe my first half marathon is OVER! Training seemed to fly by and the past week has just flown. We woke up at 2am to drink coffee (lots and lots of coffee!), eat something (half a bagel with PB2) and get dressed and ready to catch our shuttle.
We got on the one from our hotel (a perk of staying at a Disney property!) at 3:50 and headed toward the parking lot of Epcot where the start/finish line was. It took about 30-40 minutes to drive the short distance. The roads were packed with half marathoners. We were urged to take Disney’s own transportation, but for people staying off-property or who live in the area there wasn’t a way to take it. When we finally got to the area, we got off the bus and walked close to 10 minutes to find the port-o-lets. Too much coffee! Each port-o-let had a huge line, so we got in one and made our way up. Mom came with us for this part. Originally we were thinking we would need sweaters in the morning from the chilly air, but not this morning!
When it was closer to 5, mom left and headed to the spectator spot at Cinderella’s Castle. She got a ChEAR squad package that let her have special access to front-row viewing. I think she’s glad she did that, and got a t-shirt and blanket to wear as well! There was a spot for bag drop-off. We didn’t need to do this since mom would be at the finish, so we passed on by and headed into the cluster of people ahead. There were more port-o-lets on this side with even longer lines, and somehow we funneled through them in the crowd to start getting into the corrals. This walk was super long! Along the way we got on an off ramp with more port-o-lets and decided to take the opportunity to go again before waiting to run.
We finally got to my corral (I was C, Kinley was B but decided to hang back to run together). At 5:30 the wheelchairs went and then were followed every 7 minutes or so by another wave. We took this time to take a few pictures, obviously :). They had large screens up so we could watch Donald and the gang count down for each corral. Each corral got a countdown, and each corral got a fireworks show. Of course the first fireworks were the best and biggest, and scaled back from there. In no time, it was corral C’s turn and we were off! We were stuck in a hoard of people, not able to keep anything better than a 12:30 average, below what we were wanting. Some were dodging left and right, weaving in between runners, but that was difficult then we were running together and didn’t want to sprint to pass by others. We thought it was going to thin out, but it never did…
The first part of the race went pretty well except for incredibly slow. Probably why it felt okay! It was all on roads/highways so there was no scenery until we reached mile 5 – 5 1/2 and got to Magic Kingdom. We had to go through a few tiny doorways to navigate around to actually get in the park, that caused even more traffic back-up. I loved running through Tomorrowland. It was still really dark out and it was nicely lit up with a ton of music blasting – just what I needed to give me motivation! (Side note: I decided to run without music for this race and I never missed having it! I still had my iPod on to track my time and splits but only looked a few times since it was clipped on my bra.)
Right before getting to the 6 mile mark, it was time to run through Cinderella’s castle! This was a really neat experience and definitely the highlight of the run. Right after we got through, we managed to spot mom yelling at us from her ChEAR squad station and decided to go over by her to get a picture of us. We were stopped for a couple of minutes and I also handed her my back bib because I had already sweated through it – whoops!
After the short diversion, we went on our way again through Frontierland and then out of the park. Again. The next 6 miles were on a highway and/or a backlot of Magic Kingdom. It was tough. After the 10k point I realized no race I had ever done is further than that, so I was headed somewhere I had never been. The miles between 8 and 11 are the dimmest for me, I think I was partly zoning out, largely freaking out, and tired from navigating through all the people. At one point along this stretch Kinley asked if we wanted a picture with Chip and Dale. Even though it would have been nice to stand and wait in line and rest a bit, the line was also 10+ people deep so it would have meant making it to the finish even later. I tried to not be concerned with time during my training runs, but I still had some expectations. Within the first mile of the race I dropped all expectations and just wanted to cross the finish and get my medal, but I thought stopping at Chip and Dale would have made the last stretch harder than it already was going to be.
Lovely Disney decided that at the 10 1/2 mile point they would send us up three hills, that would last for a good mile and a half to the finish. I remember Kinley and I were headed up the exit ramp and she looked over and said if we picked up our pace we could finish in 2 1/2 hours. That was tempting and even though I had nothing left in me, I prepared to run up the hills at a faster pace than the rest of the race. It was tough, and I was mentally and physically drained. I knew I could cross the finish, but I didn’t think I could make it in 2:30. I stopped and walked to catch by breath a few times, but I managed to keep my legs moving. The last half mile was in Epcot and I barely remember running this at all. I got really cold and shaky and felt lightheaded and the finish line was not getting any closer. There were so many twists and turns I kept thinking “at the next one, I’ll see the finish!”, but it never happened. There was no long straightway to the finish, only one filled with twists and turns. Right before the finish line came up, Kinley grabbed my arm and practically pulled me across the finish line. We somehow managed to get the exact same time. 2:30:54. With 6 seconds to spare in the 2:30’s.
Once through the finish line, I was real lightheaded and tried to keep my legs moving to go forward to get some nutrition and one of the blanket things to help me warm up and get rid of my chills. We stopped by the medical tent to see if they had Powerade, but they only had water and no salt packets or any electrolyte recovery anything. We kept on our way and I had to stop along the side for a bit, being yelled at to “keep moving” from one of the volunteers. Sorry guy, but if I move I might pass out so just give me a second. I got my race medal, and yelled at Kinley to get her own when she was about to walk away without one. Dork.
We then encountered multiple huge lines of people waiting for food. We passed these by, but I grabbed an orange while walking – sorry to bud in front of you person, but all I wanted was something fruity and to get out to sit down. We saw mom in the distance and were yelling at her, and she was looking in every direction that was not us, so we had to get out quickly so we wouldn’t lose her. We got there, and I promptly sat down and ate a couple slices of my orange. I was feeling weird, and not really like I wanted to be eating so I just sat there for a bit, looking at my medal :).
We took a few finisher pictures here too since we went around the Disney photographers to avoid yet another line. I still can’t believe I have finished a half marathon. It seems surreal and if I wasn’t in a huge amount of pain today I wouldn’t believe it :). Once we got back to the hotel, mom went and checked at our cafe to see what they could make gluten free. Turns out they could make special Mickey waffles with Bob’s Red Mill mix! They also used applesauce and apple juice (probably for kids with dairy allergies too). Disney is awesome with allergen-friendly cuisine and we will definitely have to go back for these waffles again!
With the race starting around 5:45 for us, finishing by 8:20 and getting back to the hotel by 9, we still had most of the day ahead of us!