Well, gang, I did it. I ran my first half marathon and shocker of all shockers, I liked it. I really liked it.
But let me back up a bit. As you can see, I decided to channel my inner Princess Leia for the race. Hey, if I’m going to run in a race called the Princess Half Marathon, I’m going to go with a princess with a lot of spunk and guts.
I didn’t want to go overboard in the costume department though seeing as how it was my first ever half marathon. While shopping for a winter coat for E for our recent trip to Syracuse (that I of course haven’t blogged about), I came across this white tech shirt at the Columbia outlet — on the clearance rack! It was perfect. I paired it with a white Sparkle Athletic skirt, visor and wristbands (the compression sleeves were too much for a hot weekend, I decided) and I just pinned the Leia belt from E’s Halloween costume to my shirt. Easy peasy.
I struggled with the hair. My hair is pretty long right now and I did a test run in some mini side buns the other day and had no problem. But I really wanted big fat Leia buns, so the night before I tried one other version.
How great do they look? I went for a quick run around the block, and sadly, they started falling out almost immediately. So it was time for Plan B: purging my cat’s wardrobe. So, who wore them better?
I cut the buns off the cat’s headband, then pinned them to my visor. They were a little hard to see but at least they weren’t something that was going to annoy me as I was running. And I don’t need any other reasons to be annoyed when I’m running.
It was annoying enough being up that early. My alarm went off at 3:10 a.m., and of course, I woke up before it even went off. I actually slept great and soundly so when it was time to get up, it wasn’t so bad. I quickly got dressed in the stuff I’d set out the night before, made a cup of coffee and toasted my usual pre-long run breakfast: an Ezekial cinnamon raisin muffin with peanut butter.
I was out the door by 3:55 and pulling into the Epcot lot by 4:20. I hit no traffic and it was super easy.
My high school friends, who’d traveled from San Francisco, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Philadelphia for the weekend, were staying at the Swan hotel and were already there. But those speedsters were in corral G and I was corral I, so I knew it was unlikely we’d meet up beforehand anyway. They’d headed toward their corrals, so I decided to use the porta potties just past the bag check area and before the long trek to the corrals. It was more a pre-emptive strike at that point, but by the time I got through the 30 minute line, not only did I have to pee, I experienced a race morning miracle: I was able to poop BEFORE my run, not 2 miles in, which is usually what happens. I know it’s TMI but that moment right there set the mood for me and I suddenly felt GREAT and excited to get running.
Just before I made the turn-off my corrals (they split in different directions right at I, of course), I called my friend Jeannie to see if she was there yet. She was almost to the split, so I decided to wait for her a few minutes so she could give me one final pep talk. She’s my runDisney guru. I did my very first race — not just first Disney race but first race, period — the Royal Family 5K, with her way back in 2010. And I’m pretty sure she’s done every Disney race since then, including the marathon twice and the Dopey Challenge (the 5K, 10K, half and full marathons!) this year.
After that, there wasn’t much for me to do but wait. The first corral took off at 5:35, and then the rest of the corrals were sent off with fireworks about every 4 to 5 minutes. Since I was in the I corral, that meant we had a lot of time to wait. I’m not complaining though. The corrals went all the way through P.
You can’t see them, but she had some rockin’ buns. She said she cut them off a wig, then attached them to a headband. Smart lady.
Finally, at about 6 a.m., it was our turn to head to the starting line.
When people say Disney races are crowded, they’re not exaggerating. I’d say for the first 1/4 mile, at least, there was zero chance of running. It was just a throng of people. I finally was able to work my way to the median and start running. It actually turned out to be a great strategy for me. It meant I was running on the packed down grass, which is much better for my problematic shins. Even though it was damp, it was packed down enough that it was easy to keep going on it. By the end of the race, I estimate I ran at least 50 percent, if not more, of the race in the grass and I think it really helped to keep my shins relatively pain-free — another race day miracle!
The day was very humid and foggy, and it was nearly 70 degrees at the start. If you follow me on Twitter, you know I love to complain about the weather. I was prepared to hate every second of running in that thick soup, but, another miracle, it never bothered me. Sure, I was hot but it was never unbearable. Go figure.
By the time we got to the first mile marker, I started hearing a big cheer in the crowd and looked to my left. It was the winner Kim Smith, speeding toward the finish. She smashed the course record, finishing it in 1:11:49. Oh yeah, and she’s a three-time Olympian, so there’s that. But man.
The first three miles take you down World Drive, from Epcot toward Magic Kingdom. Before the race, I expected this to be a boring stretch but I was surprised by how entertained I was. There were a couple character lines, including the “heroes” — Aladdin, Flynn Ryder, Hercules and Prince Eric. Their line was huge. I kept going. Then I came upon Captain Jack Sparrow in front of a pirate ship. Another long line. I quickly realized I probably wouldn’t be stopping for pictures. Oh well.
I felt pretty good during those first few miles, averaging about 10:50/mile. Somewhere in those first couple miles, though, I made a horrible mistake — I accidentally paused my Garmin. I have no idea how long it was paused for, but from what I was able to estimate using the course mile markers and clocks, it was stopped for about three or four minutes and .3 of a mile. Blerg. It led to me spending a lot of the race — a lot — trying to crunch some numbers and see how close I was to my loose goal of finishing in under 2:30.
There was nothing to do but keep moving forward and do my best to try and stick as close to my normal running pace — between 9:45 and 10:15, with some occasional walk breaks — and hope for the best.
They were waiting right before the tunnel at the TTC. I said a quick hello (and probably sweat all over them, but at least, based upon that picture, I appear to sweat sparkles), then took off because all I was thinking of was one thing — real bathrooms. But then when I got to them, the line was out the door. As I was debating waiting in the line, I ran up behind a familiar face.
Well, at least I got one of us in the running selfie picture. That’s Stephanie of the blog Goobermonkey and she was doing great on her Glass Slipper Challenge (she’d also run the 10K the day before). She’s another runDisney expert and when I lamented the long TTC bathroom line, she told me to hold out for the Pinocchio or Frontierland bathrooms in Magic Kingdom.
When I started to pee myself 30 steps later (what? I’ve already described my poop. We’re amongst friends here) I realized that just wasn’t going to be possible, so I got into the next porta pottie line I saw since it was only a couple people deep. It ended up taking me about 4 minutes. There goes that 2:30, but I felt so much better and it was what I needed to power me to the next big excitement: running down Main Street USA.
It was so much better than I ever even imagined. The street was PACKED with spectators cheering their hearts out. I even turned my iPod off to fully soak in the experience, which allowed me to hear a few Go Leia Go cheers. I got a little misty eyed as I approached the castle, which looked like a castle in the clouds.
It was a pretty magical moment. We ran through Tomorrowland, new Fantasyland (and I sadly saw the ENORMOUS line for Royal Mickey and Minnie and kept going) and approached the back of the castle. On the balcony to welcome us was a pair of trumpeters. Pretty awesome.
See them up there?
At least you can see me in that shot. I got cock blocked in front of the castle.
From the castle, we headed through the American section of Frontierland (and I came THISCLOSE to getting into the short-ish Princess Tiana line), then exited the park through the back of Frontierland.
Since that was around mile 6, I decided to take my Cliff shots at the water stop I knew was waiting back there. That meant I walked past the massive line that FINALLY featured the princesses. Snow White was there and Sleeping Beauty was approaching. I couldn’t believe that other than Tiana, that was the first time we were seeing princesses on the course.
I kept walking though and instead dorked out a bit to see the holding area for the Main Street Electrical Parade floats.
The next few miles were what I expected to be the hard part. It was the boring trip down roads back to Epcot and I’d already realized I wasn’t going to stop for any character pictures given the lines. I think, though, I was so distracted by math to ever get too focused on what I was doing — running a lot of miles.
I also discovered the distracting power of jazz hands.
Just before I’d stopped for my bathroom break, I’d spotted a pacer with balloons about 1/4 mile ahead. Once we got out of Magic Kingdom and back onto longer stretches of straight paths, I finally spotted the pacer again. I made it my mission to chase her down and hope that it was the 2:30 pacer.
During my pursuit I finally stopped for my one and only character picture since there was no line.
Beggers can’t be choosers.
Finally, just before we made it to one of the obnoxious exit ramp hills, I caught up to the pacer. I was pretty proud of myself and excited to finally get to that pacer … until I saw the sign. It was the 2:45 pacer, not 2:30. I asked what corral she started in and she said G. That was two corrals ahead of me and probably meant I wasn’t that far off from a 2:30 pace, but it was still a major bummer and took some of the wind out of my sails.
And then I started hitting the hills. The Army man was having none of our whining.
He was hilarious, yelling things like “This is a RUNNING race, not a walking race. MOVE! MOVE! MOVE! You need to take this hill!” I wanted him to follow me for the rest of the way.
Around this time, DadJovi texted me to tell me they were at the mile 12 marker. I was so close. And then I hit the dream crusher at about mile 11.8 — a steep overpass hill. That thing sucked. Hard. I gave up running it like I had on the previous hills and just walked it.
I love how happy the Cinderella runner behind me is for me. Since I figured I was going to finish well past my 2:30 goal, I lingered a bit, letting E tell me about all the Star Wars costumes she’d seen. Finally, DadJovi told me to get out of there and GO.
This was it. The final stretch. There was only Epcot to go. As soon as we entered Epcot, I really wanted to walk but I forced myself to keep going, thinking of all the encouraging things I’d heard from people in the days leading up to the race. The day before, Katy had posted on our company’s Facebook page about the race, urging people to send their words of encouragement. One person’s comment, more than anything else, kept echoing in my head throughout the entire race: “Run for those of us who can’t.”
It’s a mantra I’ve used before but no time more than that moment. I thought of my cousin Rachel, who died of cancer last year. I thought of Meg, my friend Jeannie’s runner friend who was struck and killed by a car recently. I thought of those who battle disease, depression and challenges I can’t fathom every single day. Running is easy. One foot in front of the other.
A moment later, I happily crossed the finish line. It didn’t matter how long it took me. It didn’t matter how much my poor humidity sodden feet were killing me. I’d done it.
The woman all the way to the right is my friend Sarah’s mom. She kicks major ass. This was probably her bazillionth half and right after the race, she was heading to the hotel’s pool because she’s in training for her first Half Ironman. She’s a beast.
The other four of us graduated high school together 19 years ago this spring. 19 years. How is that possible? And for three of us, this was our first half marathon. I’m so stinking proud of us.
That elusive runner’s high, you know, the one I thought I was immune to, was in full effect.
I always roll my eyes a bit when I hear people say, “Oh, I did this so my kids will be proud of me.” I don’t think my 6-year-old is proud of anyone but herself. She’s a kid. That’s her job. But I DO think her watching this has a deep effect on not only how she thinks of her mom but how she sees herself. She really wanted to be out there running with me and it’s just one more goal for her to achieve and to see is possible with hard work. I’m so grateful to her and my husband for getting up at an obnoxious hour to come out and cheer me one. It made a HUGE difference.
After the race, we went to their room at the Swan to take showers. As we were relaxing, the text came through with my official finish time: 2:31:47. Are you kidding me??? So close. Oh well. No matter what it was, it was an automatic PR and PDR, since I never made it past 12 during training. So, I win.
Eventually we headed over to Hollywood Studios, and I rewarded myself with my favorite kind of carbo loading.
For my non-running friends (including Elyse, our photographer and official cheerleader for the day), Jeff is the creator of the Galloway run-walk method. He’s responsible for thousands, if not millions, of people completing distance races. He’s also the official runDisney run coach. And he couldn’t be nicer. He wanted to hear all about our races and I think he’s about talked me into signing up for the inaugural Galloway half marathon in Atlanta later this year. Almost.
What a weekend. So many new memories with old friends.
And I’m spent. I’m too tired to even come up with a fun question at this point, so say what you like below. Pick a topic, any topic whether it’s running related or not. We can always talk about poop.