Ugh. So that’s what 3:15 am on the East Coast feels like. I knew I was going to be tired, between the time difference and a “late” night in Epcot (I’m old – anything after 8 is “late”). At least I’ve got my morning person tendencies going for me; I was able to get dressed and get out the door without waking Tara up (although how she slept through my “Party Rock Anthem” alarm is a mystery) and steer myself onto the shuttle to the starting line. Where I took a brief nap next to a total stranger. I hope I didn’t drool.
I wish I could have napped at the corrals; thanks to runDisney’s conservative estimates about when everyone needs to be on the bus, I arrived at my corral almost an hour before the start. With nothing to do, I sat on the ground and played games on my phone. No lie. I was bored out of my mind, and I’m not one to join crowds of strangers and dance to “What Does the Fox Say?” at 4 in the morning. But eventually, I made my way to my corral, and I picked my way past people to get to the “back,” which most people didn’t realize would end up being the front based on where they were sitting and the direction they were facing. The entrance to the corral is at one end, but then the other end becomes the front for being led to the start. I wedged myself right up there so I could be one of the first out.
It took a good ten minutes to empty Corral A. And there were stragglers bringing up the rear who I immediately judged as in the “wrong” spot. I don’t know if they bought their bibs or what, but there were some obvious “non-runners” emptying the back of the first corral – a corral you have to qualify with a pretty good time to get into. I’m not fast by any stretch, but Corral A started roughly 20 minutes before Corral C and I passed people from the back of Corral A before I hit the second mile marker. Corral jumping, buying bibs, etc. is a bigger problem for the half, especially when you get to bottlenecks, but there were plenty of problems created by misplaced athletes in the 10k.
Thanks to my position, I got to be right on the runDisney tape at the front of the corral as they led us to the start. It felt pretty cool; more celebrity status! And when I got to the start, I couldn’t even get a decent picture of the starting line because I was so close:
The announcers chatted with us, we danced to music, and most of the corral even belted out “Livin’ on a Prayer” while we waited. I hope there’s video of that somewhere; I was displaying some awesome moves. But before long, we were off and I had the surreal experience of starting fireworks going off behind me as I ran instead of in front of me.
As you can see we started and finished from the same spot as the 5k (and the finish will be the same for the half, too). But they had to get double the miles in somehow, for the first half of the race we were running out on the “streets” of Disney World. And by streets, I mean what essentially amounts to freeways. Here’s a typical race view during this stretch:
One of my personal race highlights came just a half mile in – Elsa! They had her on an overpass talking to us, and as you passed under the bridge there was foam “snow” falling. It was pretty cool. They also lined the course with speakers up to the first mile marker and were playing “Let It Go” on repeat.
Our first character stop came right after the first mile marker – the white rabbit! My strategy has been trying to get early character stops in before the crowds catch up to me, vs. later character stops when I’ve slowed some and faster runners in back who haven’t stopped pass me by. But the white rabbit already had a little bit of a line, which was surprising. At the first mile (20 minutes behind the clock start, remember), I was slower than my “usual” pace but not painfully so.
The second and third mile were just a boring slog down the highway in the dark. Nothing to see but other runners (including the occasional one who just couldn’t wait until the port-a-potties up the road and dashed into the woods to relieve themselves) until we finally turned back onto the Epcot roads and headed toward the back of the park.
At one point, they had a big TV playing classic Disney cartoons with the scenes edited to match contemporary songs, as if the cartoons were singing. It was fun, and a nice change of scenery.
At last, the terrain started looking familiar. We passed through the same employee entrance to Epcot that we’d run through during the 5k, and I managed to snap an awful shot of the toy soldiers stationed nearby.
This time we entered the World Showcase between Norway and China, but since there’s not a whole lot of options for where to run, the course was pretty much the same as the 5k through all the countries. I grabbed Snow White’s dwarves so they wouldn’t feel left out after the previous day’s selfie.
The four-mile marker was right in front of the American section of the World Showcase, as was Tiana from “The Princess and The Frog.”
I also stopped at France again to visit with Marie, the cutest kitten around, and to take a selfie in front of the French restaurant whose lobster bisque haunts my dreams.
We made the similar turn out of the World Showcase to the area behind the UK as we had yesterday, but instead of turning back into Epcot, we headed out the back of the park toward Disney’s Boardwalk.
Just after entering the Boardwalk area, I detoured for a photo with Goofy. He had a long line, but like the ladies I was chatting with in line and I agreed – you don’t typically run Disney to set a personal record. You run for the fun, and part of that is visiting with characters along the course.
The five-mile mark was on the back side of the Boardwalk, and around the time I passed it I started to feel a familiar soreness in my ankles and tightness in my hip flexors. Undertraining and park frolicking had come to stay for a little visit. I had run everything but the character and water stops up to this point (well, and the places where I’d taken photos), but I started taking periodic walking breaks trying to stretch things out. But walking almost hurt more than running, so I soldiered on. Between the Goofy stop and the soreness, mile 5 was my slowest by far.
The course looped back to Epcot around mile 5.5, and I high-fived all the runners just entering the Boardwalk well behind me. Once again, we were behind Canada and the UK, but at least we had a couple of character “floats” from one of the Disney parades to snap photos with.
Instead of turning back into the World Showcase, we stayed in the Epcot backlot for a bit longer before crossing into Future World (what all the rest of Epcot that isn’t the World Showcase is called) and heading under Spaceship Earth. Donald was waiting for us at the base of the ball, and I jumped in the short line for a quick photo.
To pad out the miles, we made a quick loop past the Epcot gates before heading to the finish parking lot. There was a line for the six-mile marker thanks to Anna and Elsa artwork – you guys know it’s not really them, right?
The course was crowded at our Epcot exit, one of the narrower spots, but I managed to blaze a trail and get to the finish chute in a run – I was a little sore, but felt relatively good overall. Yay, race #2! I picked up my pretty inaugural medal at the finish, and also snagged a wristband for the Glass Slipper Challenge; after the half tomorrow, the wristband will show I get an extra medal (and a third one for the Coast to Coast challenge – woo!).
The wristbands were a nice complement to the “bling” I’d picked up in our resort gift shop for my Magic Band. They conveniently had a princess-themed set of goodies (there’s a third little plug, a carriage, that looks a lot like the one on the 10k medal)!
Since she hadn’t run the 10k, Tara had slept in and done her own thing – in this case, that meant breakfast in the Magic Kingdom before making a return trip to the Expo for more shopping. I headed back to the resort to clean up, and then we met at the Animal Kingdom for the day’s park festivities. I really need to get a more attractive pair of shorts (they’re a size or two too big, and they’re the only pair of shorts that even remotely fit since I was 30 pounds heavier last summer).
The weather took a turn and got rainy in the afternoon, but we were prepared with ponchos in our bags (at one point, we even ate our lunch in a downpour – it was pretty good hummus and falafel). We didn’t see too much of the Animal Kingdom, but we managed to get in some shows and rides before dinner at the Yak & Yeti. In fact, we rode Expedition Everest twice – once in the single-rider line, and once via FastPass+. Both times I made it into the front car, which Tara says is the best (it was pretty cool, I’ll admit). We also went on a safari and saw some pretty amazing animals up close. Lions?!? Oh my! And since it wasn’t the Magic Kingdom, there was booze to be had (although in limited quantities since we were hydrating for tomorrow’s race).
The weather was significantly cooler after dinner, so we decided to pack it in and head back to the resort for the night. We’ve got an early morning tomorrow!