Jan 11, 2014

WDW Half Marathon Recap

I have completed my goal! I have run my first half marathon! It feels so good and I am so happy. It wasn't easy, it wasn't perfect, but at the end of the day I finished the race, and that's what matters most.

Smiling early.
Looking good early.
The day started early again. Well, earlier. A 2:00 am wake up call, leaving by 3:00 am is nothing easy. This got us there earlier than we needed, but was worth it rather than run the risk of not making the EPCOT parking lot and being diverted to Magic Kingdom. Derek and I met up right away, getting there about the same time. This time Steph waited with us in the staging area. She had the Platinum Cheer Squad, which gave her access and a tent area to relax during the race, as needed. The spot we picked was where there were some standing tables, fairly near a stage with music to get you ready. Right behind us, the beer cart. Then, something happened. Someone purchased beer. They were serving at 3:30 am. Luckily, Derek was the voice of reason (who knew he had it in him?) and we passed at that time.

Soon came time to load to the corrals. Unlike the 5K, the corrals were down around the way and required a non-trivial walk from the staging area. I was set for corral K and Derek for P, as he did not submit his 10K time. Well, we were having none of that and were determined to run together. The plan was to try and squeeze by those checking bibs at the gate, but that was a no-go. We were informed what we already knew, I could drop back but he could not pull forward. I continued to walk into the corral, walked up about half way up and stopped on the railing to see what Derek wanted to do. In the last corral, we watched someone gracefully hop the fence unnoticed. I'm not saying I'd condone this, not saying we did anything, but Derek and I were soon safely together in the corral awaiting the start.

Waiting in the corrals.
Let's go!
Then the waiting game came and the excitement built. As they started the corrals, talking Donald would count down and fireworks would fire off. Or, on most corrals this would happen. As our corral reached the starting line it was 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO! Then.... nothing. No fireworks. As we started down the road, a couple minutes later we heard fireworks. Every person around me utter something similar to the fashion of "Oh, come on!" Our race started rough. Derek and I looked to run a 30/30, 30 seconds run followed by 30 seconds walk. We did this the best we could, given the crowd. Neither Derek or I trained as hard as we should have leading in to the race. Early, Derek's calves got tight. We worked through that only to have it move to his shins. We stopped as we needed on the side to stretch it out and work through it. Then, as we worked through that, Derek got a stone in his shoe. We just couldn't win. We powered through it and kept moving forward.

Magic Kingdom gate.
The course ran starting outside EPCOT to the Ticket and Transportation Center, past the Contemporary and into the Magic Kingdom. Along the way, we saw a full on pirate ship, some glowing balloons, ran under the Magic Kingdom gate, past Jack Skellington and Sally and plenty of bands, cheerleaders and cheering friends and family. I even spouted off some Disney knowledge to Derek about dining plans and the monorails to pass some of the time.

Castle Time!
Oh Derek...
Magic Kingdom was one of the obvious highlights. We entered in the side and ran right down the middle of Main Street U.S.A. We turned in front of the castle into Tomorrowland, looped back through Fantasyland and out through the castle. There was a large crowd out front, which included my wife smack dab in the middle. She knows how to find the prime spot. After popping out through Frontierland, we were running back stage again. This is where I hit a wall. I struggled around miles 7 and 8. This is where Derek helped pick me up, let me take some extra walk breaks, but then urged me back into 30 second runs. I would have suffered much more there without his help. I hit an energy low and an upset stomach, because it was hungry after the early call and only had liquid from on the course.  Added on top of that, I seemed to be tensing up as after ever run segment my shoulders would be tight all the way across. With Derek's help, I pushed through it. One thing that helped me from here on to the end was grabbing the Powerade to drink at the water stops then getting a cup of the cold water to dump down my head and back to give me a nice chill boost.

My one character photo stop.
Backstage, we passed several characters, including princes, princesses, a rusted version of Fillmore (the VW bus from Cars), a firetruck and a train. From MK we headed out along the loop, past the Grand Floridian and golf course to head back to EPCOT. Here I passed one of my favorites, Goofy, in a golf wardrobe for pictures. I snapped a shot as I ran. I didn't feel like I had the time to wait in any lines, and waiting would only make it harder to start running again. The same went for Lilo and Stitch. Then, came some of the hardest parts. The dreaded on ramps. I've heard everyone talk about these being the hardest part of the WDW Half, as they're the only hill like part. The one thing I never heard mentioned, but plays a part in them being hard is the banking. It's a cloverleaf on ramp and is slightly banked into the turn, as you would expect for a car. This however makes it extra hard to run or even walk. I hadn't heard that called out explicitly, but I found that harder than the hill of the on ramp. There was one last fly over to go up and down to reach us back to EPCOT. The downhill of that really gives a boost mentally.

Running into EPCOT
I see it!
We circled into EPCOT for the final push. This time, we didn't circle the countries, just Future World. At this point the excitement built even more. To add to it, cast members lined the course cheering. It was really great of them to cheer, not just those with family in the races. As we ran past the cast from the new Starbucks cheering for us, I asked where the coffee was. A little espresso boost wouldn't be so bad. We circled the fountain, and headed towards the front and the finish. Just before exiting was a gospel choir singing us through. Derek offered to drop back to help ensure I got my finish line pictures. I accepted this proposition and parted with a fist bump. Later, I also realized this meant no tied time with Derek ;-) I crossed the finish with arms held high and proud. I had finished my first half marathon!

I turned to watch Derek cross the line, shared a high five, a hug and proceeded to receive our medals. As I noticed the first person just handing medals, and proceeded further down the line to someone placing them over peoples head. I know something small and silly, but that's what I really wanted. I looked down at the medal, my medal, and picked it up and gave it a kiss.

It. Felt. Good.

Official time: 3:34:02.
Unofficial tracking: Nike+.

After some ice for Derek, some bio freeze for my shoulders we found our way out to Steph. Along the way we grabbed some grub, some Powerade and water. She gave us both hugs and told me how proud she was. That felt good as well. I had come a long way and had finished the race.

WDW 1/2 Marathon bib and medal
Bib and bling.

Sorry for the length. I know it's a little more than a "recap" but I wanted to share. They'll likely be several more posts about the run weekend and the experience, but I wanted to try and give a large whole picture here. Hope you enjoyed. In case you can't tell, I did.


  1. Congrats, John! Love your recap of the Half! I didn't know they sold beer that early (or late I guess depending on perspective, lol). Good for you that you passed it up. Hope you celebrated with one after :) I'm excited to run through Magic Kingdom too!

    1. Thanks. I was surprised as well. We celebrated a day later drinking our way around the countries in EPCOT, so made up for it.

      Running through the Magic Kingdom is great. Enjoy it and take it all in.