Saturday dawned far too early - 2am and I groaned my way out of bed. And to think I had thought 2:45am the day before was early.
I got up and pulled on my half marathon outfit. This day, I was running to honour the memory of the parents my dear friends have lost to blood cancers. JS lost her mother, Sheila, to Leukemia in early 2010. J lost her father, Arnie, to Lymphoma in late 2008. I really hope the money I raise can help find a cure so no one else will need to lose their parents far too soon!
We met up with the team at 3:30 for group pictures (I'll need to add those in later since Anna is still on vacation and she has them on her camera) - then we caught the 4am bus to the start.
As soon as we were in the Epcot parking lot, it was obvious that this day would be MUCH different than the previous day's 5k. It was a steady stream of people into the park. We passed under a mickey mouse ear archway (on a red carpet no less) and the crowd slowed to a halt. The bag check and meeting area was one crowded place. I was meeting Nikki at one of the meeting places so I bid farewell to Team Goofy and headed off to find her. It took a few mins, but soon we were on our way to the start line.
What a walk - the start line was a good half hour walk away!
I had a close call at one point where I moved slightly to allow someone to pass and my foot hit the edge of the pavement and I stumbled to the ground. Within a second, another runner had scooped his arm under mine and pulled me to my feet and ensured I was ok. My hand stung from where it had hit the ground, but I was otherwise good to go. I've never had anyone dive in to pick me up before (and I take spills like that often).
I ate my breakfast as we walked. We passed row upon row of porta potties - each more lined up than than the last and many people were darting into the bush instead (I later found out my roomie had done that and ended up with burrs in her shorts - eep!) I contemplated stopping, but figured there would be more at the corrals. Unfortunately, they ended without notice and there were none at the start! That being said - we arrived at our corral just in time for the race to start! It would still be a half hour before our corral went, but it still felt like we were cutting it close.
And then with a flash of fireworks (and what a show it was - I'll share videos soon) the first of the corrals were on their way!
It wasn't long before it was our turn.
And we were off!
The half marathon course took in both Epcot and the Magic Kingdom. And a whole lotta expressway!
The first stop was the Magic Kingdom. Believe it or not - it took me around 10 tries to actually get a clear picture of the entrance in the dark.
There was a big speedbump as we entered the gates and tons of volunteers and audio warnings to make sure we didn't faceplant in the dark.
The excitement ramped up as soon as we could see Cinderella's castle in the distance. The holiday lights were still lit up so we could see it from quite some distance. If you look at the picture below - under the monorail track and to the left of the trees - the turrets are visible in the distance.
The ChEAR squad and TNT Spectators were out in full force! There was plenty to see and lots of character lineups to stand in. One of my favourites was the DJ with the GIANT mickey hands dancing on the overpass. I couldn't get a clear shot of him (though I did attempt a video during the full that I will try to post)
Soon, we were coming up on Main Street USA and Cinderella's castle. Spectators lined the streets and cheered as we ran!
Then we ran through the castle just before the 10k point. With all of the marketing images showing runners at this point, I half expected it to be really spread out and to really be able to enjoy the moment as a highlight in the race. Not so. IT WAS CROWDED!!! The road narrowed and we were crammed in that hallway so tightly that when I later saw the Run Disney photos of the hall - I didn't recognize it! I hadn't seen murals at all!
As we came out of the castle - there were some photographers crammed in place to snap us and then rows of photogs at the bottom to take pics of us with the castle. Nikki and I opted to skip the photos for this day and we carried on.
It was very hot out - despite the early start. 30C in high humidity was certainly different from the -25C and zero humidity I had trained in. I was taking in as much fluid as I could. Luckily, water stops were never far away!
As we left the Magic Kingdom, there were many, many character photo ops. I loved the view of the pylons down the centre of the road to keep us separated from the traffic into the park. There were so many and so close together. Unfortunately, this is where the road became REALLY narrow. It was hard to run without bumping into others in the crowd. I apologize to anyone who encountered my sharp, 3-pronger elbows! It was unavoidable (and I took a few hits from others myself).
It wasn't long after that we saw Coach Ramona running with Alex! Ramona did a check to see if I was doing ok and then stayed with Alex as we carried on. Soon, we were back on the expressway.
As we were coming to the exit to Epcot, we came across an overpass and it was amazing to see all of the people from the later corrals still just heading out! Really puts into perspective how many people were there. This race had something like 27,000 runners and walkers! It is unlikely that many of the people in this picture even finished - it was a 3.5 hour cut off before they would be swept from the course.
Photo op with a little oasis
and then we saw Alex again! She would be the only Team Alberta member I saw on course that day!
Mile 12 and coming in for a landing.
All through Epcot, people kept yelling "You're almost there! It's just around the corner!" but we wove back and forth and around corner after corner
As we were running through Epcot, I finally found a character who a) I REALLY wanted a pic with (hubby LOVES stitch) and b) had next to no line up...
Besides - we knew we weren't near the end until we saw the gospel choir!
I danced my way down the finish chute - super excited to be done the first race in the challenge! We crossed the finish line and collected our Donald Duck medals!
Our finish time was 2:52
Then it was off to the TNT tent to check in and collect my 13.1 pin...and meet up with my cheering squad - Em!!!!
It was so great to see her! She had even made a sign!
It was great to sit and stretch and chat and eat my Run Disney food box. But I was definitely feeling tight. Not a great sign with the big race falling the next day! Recovery would be key.
So - after visiting with Em for a little while - I caught the last bus back to the hotel and attempted an ice bath...unfortunately this is all the ice I could get in the whole hotel
I was going shopping with Nikki after the race so I popped on my compression socks and runners and headed to the bus stop to put my feet up while I waited.
After conquering Target, we went to the Olive Garden for dinner and to discuss plans for the next day. Our original plan was to run solo, but given the heat and the unknown and our nerves - we decided to start the marathon together. Likely our best call of the weekend - as you'll see in my marathon recap...
When I got back to the hotel - I had an epsom bath and went to bed early. The big day was still to come and, with a 2am wakeup call, I needed sleep!
The Garmin Geekery:
Next up: The 20th Anniversary Mickey Mouse Marathon! Stay tuned!