WOW! I've been working on this for weeks. I'm sorry that it has taken so long for me to post it. Life has just been crazy with the kids the last few weeks between sickness, surgery, Andy's birthday, Valentine's Day, etc. In the midst of this I've discovered a stress fracture in my left leg and come down with a sinus infection...both of which should make my half marathon this Sunday very interesting! My goal is to have fun and just finish due to all that has happened. I can't believe it's time to go back and do it all over again. I'm beyond excited to run with my sisters and some dear friends from Berry. It will be quite a memorable weekend. I plan to savor every moment.
Finally! A recap on our first half marathon. Due to Andy's job he couldn't be gone for very long and as it is he had to work while we were there because tax season was about to start. We flew out Thursday night and used Disney's Magical Express to pick us up and transport us to our resort. For this trip I wanted to try one of Disney's Vacation Club resorts and so we rented points. We ended up at Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa and it was AMAZING! Absolutely beautiful and quite peaceful...a nice change of pace from the hustle and bustle of the parks. Friday morning we had breakfast down at the Artist's Pallet and then Andy had to work. I relaxed out on our balcony and read some before heading to the parks. I had to take some photos for my dad at one of the resorts and then hopped the monorail back to the Magic Kingdom. Andy met me for lunch at Tony's and then we headed to the race expo to pick up our gear.
Wow! The Race Expo was HUGE, MASSIVE, and CRAZY! I knew it would be big but I don't think I really understood how big it would be. Then again I didn't realize how many people I would be running with either. 25,000 runners for the half marathon and they had another 25,000 for the full marathon the next day. 9,000 runners ran BOTH races for the Goofy Challenge. Quite a difference from the 5,000 runners we ran with for the Expedition Everest Challenge. Anyways, it was crazy. We got our bibs in one building before heading next door to the actual expo to pick up our shirts/goody bags. Due to how chaotic it was we didn't buy much but we did buy The Stick to use before/after the race. Oh my goodness! Why we didn't have one of these things till now is beyond me but it makes a HUGE difference on your muscles. (Especially after long runs.) With our loot in tow we headed back to the resort so Andy could do some more work. I worked on laying out our race gear for the morning and making sure everything was good to go. Due to unseasonable temps they had posted at the Expo for people to plan accordingly, make sure they were properly hydrated, and to not try for a crazy fast time. With that in mind I opted to run in a tank and shorts...I was very pleased with this decision the next day as I was racing. Later, we headed back to the Magic Kingdom for a lite dinner and to ride a few rides before calling it a night. We went to bed early and were up at 3AM to get ready. Shuttles start running at 3 with the last shuttle running at 4. We were in line and ready to go by 3:30. The shuttle takes you from your resort to Epcot at the drop off point. From there you have bag drop off, porta potties, First Aid, etc. and once you are ready you follow the crowd to the corrals. It actually takes about 15 minutes from this point to get to the actual corrals. You just go with the flow and follow the masses. By the time we made it to the corrals we had just a few minutes to stretch before the start of the race. The first wave went at 5:30ish and then every few minutes they sent the next wave of runners. One of the things I love about Disney races is that with each wave of runners they shoot off fireworks. Having fireworks to start off each wave makes everyone excited and keeps the energy up. When my wave went I turned on my playlist, secured my iPod Nano on my Spi Belt and off I went in to the wild, blue yonder. Well, off I went in to the dark with thousands of my closest friends beside me. ;)
I settled in to an even pace and the first mile passed quickly. Disney marks every mile with special Disney themed mile marker signs and they also mark off 5K, 10K, and 15K while you are running. You can stop and take pictures or just keep going. Disney races are known for their entertainment on their courses and they didn't disappoint! Cheerleading squads, high school bands, and THOUSANDS of people out to encourage people along the way plus all sorts of character meet and greets. It was AH-MAZING. They end up having 9 water stations along the course plus four medic tents. Due to the heat, and being paranoid about getting dehydrated, I ended up drinking at every water/powerade station. The first half of the course moves really quickly because there are so many recognizable points on the course. Once you leave Epcot and head towards the Magic Kingdom you quickly come upon the Parking Toll Booths, which you pass thru, you then pass the Richard Petty Driving Experience and work your way across the Magic Kingdom parking lots headed towards the TTC (Ticket and Transportation Center), once you pass the TTC you head towards the Magic Kingdom by way of the Contemporary, and you end up coming in to the Magic Kingdom from a side/back entrance that puts you on Main Street U.S.A. And can I just say WOW! I teared up when I got to that point in the course because I was overwhelmed by how many people had packed the streets to cheer everyone on. It was insane. I've now run through 3 of the 4 parks in races and Magic Kingdom is hands down the best to run through. (The only park I've not raced through is Hollywood Studios.)
The first half went really, really fast like I said and I found myself on Main Street in no time. Due to the heat, humidity, and how many fluids I was consuming I decided to stop in the parks to use the bathroom. I ran in and ran out and was quickly back on the course running towards the castle. Running out of the castle was unreal. Looking again down Main Street at the crowds of people cheering was amazing. You then set off trekking across Liberty Square towards Frontierland. Once there you exit near Splash Mountain and begin the trek back to Epcot. At this point you are completely backstage and get to see all sorts of floats/behind the scenes operations before you come around the back of the Grand Floridian. By the time I got to this point in the course the sun was up and the temps were rising, however, the temp dropped around the Grand Floridian briefly and once we got on the open road it jumped again. It was weird. The next several miles were hard just because you are in between parks so there isn't a lot of excitement/anticipation like there is as you pass certain things making your way to MK. At this point I saw a woman running in a full blown Cinderella costume with a hoop skirt and I was quite grateful I was not running in a costume! (She looked really, really hot.) I imagine I'll see a ton of full costumes for the Princess Half. I continued on at my pace and drinking/eating Shot Bloks along the way. The bulk of the course is flat, it's Florida after all, and nothing like running around my neighborhood which is all hills. However, the last bit of the course is the most 'hilly' section but I would not call it 'hilly' because it's nothing like running around here. Not sure if that makes sense. Anyways, at mile 11 it hit me that I had a whopping two miles left and Epcot was within sight! Hallelujah! Everything about running in Epcot is just narrow. Super, super narrow. You enter from the side by the Seas with Nemo and Friends. You then run towards the World Showcase and back out towards Spaceship Earth. At this point there are people cheering and going crazy telling you that you are almost finished. You exit the park knowing the finish line is literally just around the bend. I came around the bend and teared up again...there was a massive grandstand at the finish line with people going crazy cheering for the finishers. I crossed the finish line with my arms raised over my head in jubilation. I had done it. I had run 13.1 miles and finished. Unreal. When I began running a year ago my goal was to accomplish something I never thought I could do. I was overwhelmed that I had done it. I was overwhelmed by God's faithfulness. This last year had been high and low in so many, many points and the entire time I was running I kept coming back to the thought that in all of that God had been faithful. Faithful to provide. Faithful to carry my burdens. Faithful in sickness. Extremely faithful in all things. At this point I made my way picking up water and powerade, which I quickly downed a bottle easily, and snagged my shiny new piece of hardware. I then picked up my runners box that had all sorts of food items in it and made my way to bag check. By now Andy and I are calling each other trying to locate one another and we quickly start chattering away about the whole experience. After locating Andy I called my Dad to tell him that we had made it and crossed the finish line. We ate, drank, stretched, and picked up some race gear for Andy. And then we made our way to the buses for our resort. We had to wait a bit because there was quite a line but all things considered it moved. We finally got on a bus and were on our way back to the resort.
In all that we had read leading up to the race we had read not to nap afterwards. That your body actually does better if you stay up and going all day. So, that's what we did. We got back, ate some more, Andy showered while I stretched some more, and once I was showered we set out with our medals in hand towards Epcot for the afternoon. Walking in that afternoon we were able to demo the new entry system and it's going to be really neat when Disney gets it all finished. We were curious to talk to the Cast Members about how they plan to link the new system with Annual Passes and they said that they are working hard on it. I hope that it is jut as great for people that hold annual passes. Time will tell. Anyways, we spent the day roaming around Epcot and leisurely strolling around. We rode the re-vamped Test Track and it was awesome. We also found a real Peter Pan hat for AG in the United Kingdom of the World Showcase. (He was beside himself when we gave it to him.) Later that evening we took the monorail across to the Magic Kingdom for dinner. I was able to snag a reservation at the highly coveted, brand new restaurant, Be Our Guest. It was simply amazing! I'm so excited that I get to eat there again for the Princess Half Marathon. You feel like you've literally walked right in to the movie, Beauty and the Beast. And can I just say how amazing it was to have on our race shirts and medals and have people congratulate us on race. Strangers, cast members, fellow runners, etc. It was awesome. After dinner we rode some rides and did some shopping for the kids before heading out for the night. It was an unbelievably short trip but simply amazing! The next morning we relaxed before checking out and catching the Magical Express back to the airport. We went early so that Andy could watch half of the Falcons playoff game before we took off.
It was a memorable weekend in so many ways. I am grateful that Andy and I got to do it together. It most definitely will not be our last half marathon together. We can both see this as something we'll do often in the years to come.
Morning at our resort...I enjoyed sitting out here and reading each day.
The splash pad...I took this picture because it reminded me of the kids. I know we'll have to come back to this resort because they would love all of the amenities.
Construction work at the front of the Magic Kingdom.
I took this the day before the race...it was finally starting to sink in that I was actually going to be running down Main Street in less than 24 hours.
Lunch at Tony's.
Race Expo...Packet Pick-up...the real chaos was next door in the actual exhibition. Crazy and insane.
Evening on the Seven Seas Lagoon.
A ride on Dumbo before heading to bed and hoping we make it across the finish line.
We did it! Post race walk around Epcot.
Trying out the newly redesigned Test Track.
Who doesn't love boating on the high seas in Norway?!?
I love the United Kingdom area.
Off to Magic Kingdom and checking on the progress of the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Can't wait to ride this when they finish it.
Exploring around New Fantasyland before dinner with the Beast at Be Our Guest.
Caught a few minutes of our favorite part of The Main Street Electrical Parade.
WISHES! Over New Fantasyland.
A perfect way to end the night and the trip.