I need to backtrack first. I really did not have any intention of running another Disney race. I had done two at Disneyland (the Disneyland Half Marathon in 2010 and the Tinker Bell Half Marathon in 2013). While I enjoyed both, I had vowed to never run another Disney race. For me, they are WAY overpriced, and getting up so early (usually at 2:30, since their races start before it gets light in order to have the course clear by the time the parks open) is dreadful. I mean, I am used to getting up early for races, but 2:30 is ridiculous. Plus, while it's fun to run in the parks, for the most part the course is NOT in the parks. For example, most of the races at Disneyland (in California) spend about 3 miles in the parks, while the other 10 miles are along the not-so-exciting streets of Anaheim. So my attitude has been "been there; run that" and I decided Disney was off my list for future races.
Except....except for the fact that my family had booked a vacation to Walt Disney World, in Florida, during our ski week holiday in February. (I need to write a whole post on our fabulous Disney World experience). And, as it turned out, the Princess Half Marathon was to be run on the last day of our week there. Since I have a goal to run a half marathon in every state, and hadn't run in Florida yet, I signed up. I mean, I would already be there, right? I hear this race sells out pretty instantaneously, and was actually on the road traveling back from my Vineman 70.3 Half Ironman when registration opened, so we had to make sure I had access to a computer while on the trip. Luckily, I was able to register (I didn't even want to try for the adjunctive 10k the day before; I didn't care about their Glass Slipper Challenge) and was all set. (For irony, I will also be running in the Tinker Bell Half Marathon again in a few week; I decided that since I was doing a race at WDW I might as well earn my Coast to Coast medal as well [the Coast to Coast medal is awarded if you do a race at both Disneyland AND Disney World in the same calendar year]. And because my two races are Princess and Tinker Bell, I get the special pink medal. In for a penny, out for a pound).
I also need to give some foreshadowing. On January 17th, I ran a full marathon. The end was very painful, with shooting pain in my quads and inner/outer thighs. After the race, I didn't run for a few days. I then did a slow 3 mile run, and felt great. A few days later, I ran other 3 miles, and was fine. The next weekend, I decided I wanted to run 6 miles (in preparation for Princess) and things fell apart. The first four miles were great; then at mile 4, I had the same shooting pain, in both legs, in both inner and outer thighs. I felt like I was at mile 23 of the marathon! I hobbled the 2 miles home, and decided not to run for the next 3 weeks (at that point it was 3 weeks until Princess). I swam, I biked, and I walked, but I didn't run for 3 weeks. I wanted to rest my legs and heal.
On February 13 my family left for a whirlwind trip to Orlando. I will write about this in another post, but suffice to say we went to all four Disney Parks, plus Universal Studios. We did tons of walking (easily 10 miles or more each day) but I wasn't in any pain. We stayed at the Port Orleans Riverside Resort, a gorgeous Disney property. I needed to get to packet pickup, which was inconveniently located at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (I am used to Disneyland, with everything from packet pick up to both parks within close walking distance). We decided to hit packet pickup the day before the race, and timed it so that I would arrive close to opening. I'm glad I chose this route, as I heard that the lines for packet pickup on previous days were horrendous. By going Saturday, I missed all the people who had to come early to pick up their packets for the 5k and/or 10k. A runDisney bus picked my family up from my hotel and dropped us off at ESPN. The complex was HUGE, and I told my family to wait by the bus while I went in. I'm glad I did----it was FAR---probably about half a mile from the bus dropoff point---and even when I got there I was directed all over the place. Seriously, I had bib pickup in one location, then had to go to another building for my shirt. It was a LONG walk and I don't think either of my children would have fared well, especially since we were off to the Magic Kingdom after with a long day of walking ahead. I was able to bypass all the vendors, and just escape with my bib and shirt. After running back to my family, who was waiting patiently by the bus stop, we were able to continue our day.
|ESPN Wide World of Sports|
After a long day at the Magic Kingdom, I was able to head back to the hotel to get ready and go to sleep. I was going to dress like Mr. Smee (from Peter Pan), a costume I borrowed from a woman in a local running group. I pinned my bib to the shirt, filled my Gatorade bottles, put Gu in my fuel belt, and went to bed by 9:30. I had a 2:30 wake-up call coming. RunDisey provides bus transportation from all of it's hotels (a perk of staying on the property) and the first bus was coming to my hotel at 3:00 a.m. I wanted to be on the first bus, especially since my hotel was so huge that it had 4 different bus stops. I got up and dressed (quietly, as my family was sleeping) and headed out to the nearest bus stop by 2:50. Right at 3:00 a bus arrived, and I was able to get on. I heard later from other runners that buses got very full and they had to wait for other buses; I'm glad I got on the first one.
|shivering and waiting|
A long drive later, and we were dropped off in the waiting area. I'm pretty sure this was by EPCOT. It was rather chilly, and I was glad I had worn a throw-away jacket. We had to go through security, which I don't think we need to do at Disneyland, unless they've changed things in the few years since I've run. As it was still very early, there was no line for the many port-a-potties, and I was able to get in and out. Then I sat alone and waited, and waited and waited. A DJ blasted music, and I watched the potty line get longer and longer, and I amused myself by looking at all the wonderful costumes. Truly, this is the best part of a Disney race----most runners dress up like some sort of Disney character, and I love seeing people's creativity.
Finally, a LONG time later, it was time to walk to the starting corrals. I had been trying to meet up with a long-time online friend from a mom's group I'm in---she was there to cheer on her husband---and right as I was about to walk to the start I was able to say hi. I was sad it was such a short meeting, but at least we got a quick hug in! I'll see her next week at Tinker Bell, hopefully. Anyhow, the walk to the starting line was long. LONG! I didn't measure it, but I would guess about 3/4 mile. At least 20 minutes, and along a very dark road. Crazy long walk. I was in Corral F (corrals were based on proof of finishing time; they went from A-P). I ducked into a port-o-potty before I got into the corral, and was there in time for the National Anthem and the Corral A send-off. Disney is great in that each corral gets its own sendoff, complete with fireworks. Eventually it was my corral's turn to cross the start line and we were off!
I started with a conservative run/walk ratio. I can't recall if it was 2:1 run/walk, or 1:1 run/walk, but whatever it was, I was fine. No pain. It was still pitch dark, and I just concentrated on the road ahead, which was decently well-lit but not super well. I don't know Disney geography, and since I was shuttled around on the Disney buses all week I didn't need to learn, so I really have no clue where we were running. I"m pretty sure the course runs from EPCOT to the Magic Kingdom and back, but I'm not positive. Regardless, I started off great. About mile in there was a character stop, with a long line of runners waiting to take their picture. I have never stopped to take character pictures during a Disney race, and told myself that I would only stop if there were Peter Pan characters. After all, I WAS dressed like Mr. Smee!
Things were going great, and I was having fun, until mile 4. When I hit mile 4 I got the same pains in my legs as I did during that training run 3 weeks ago. The exact same pain. Both legs, running down both my inner and outer thighs, along with my quads. What the heck? I had no idea what was going on. I tried to run, but the pain literally stopped me in my tracks. I decided to try to lower my run/walk ratio, but I couldn't even run for 30 seconds. Actually, I couldn't even run a step. This was not a pain I could run through; it was a debilitating pain. The three weeks of rest had done no good at all.
|the closest I came to a Peter Pan character stop|
At this point, I had a choice to make: continue and walk the last 9 miles, or drop out. And dropping out was NOT an option to me. If it was a local race in San Diego, I have no doubt I would have stopped and called my husband to pick me up. But this was my Florida half marathon. I wanted to cross Florida off my list of states. Not only that, but if I didn't finish Princess, then doing Tink would make no sense. It didn't hurt to walk (and if it did, I would have had no choice but to quit) so walk it was. I have never walked a half marathon before (heck, I've never walked a 5k before, except the one I did last year with my daughter) but I had no choice. I had to walk from mile 4 to mile 13.1.
|lots and lots of character stops. I stopped at none.|
|adorable Mary Poppins and Bert costumes|
|Elsa and Anna|
All too soon we left the Magic Kingdom and were back to streets. This is what I don't like about Disney races; they advertise that you're running through the parks, and you are, but not for very long. I walked and walked and walked, entertaining myself with my iPod and looking at people's costumes. More character stops were along the way, but I didn't stop---until I got to a green Army guy from Toy Story who was by himself, shouting at people, so I quickly grabbed a selfie with him.
I started to get concerned about my time. The cutoff for the race is 3:30 (a 16 minute mile pace), which I believe is technically 3 hours and 30 minutes from the time the last runner in the last corral crosses the start line (or something like that). There are the famous "Balloon Ladies", who walk behind the runners and will sweep any runner that falls over the pace. I certainly didn't want to get swept, yet my walk pace was awful. There was one point where we were on an overpass (I think this was as hilly as it got on this pancake-flat course) and I looked down and saw THOUSANDS of runners behind me. Then I was able to relax. I guess because I started in Corral F, and ran most of the first 4 miles, I was totally fine on time.
|overpass---thousands behind me|
|loved this Mary Poppins and her chimney sweeps!|
|guy in an awesome Ariel costume|
|the best signs I saw|
Finally, we entered EPCOT. By this point I was dying to be done. I was hot, tired, and sick of walking! I had figured that we'd run in the entrance and run through the park and around the lake through the World Showcase. That was not the case; we ran (or, in my case, walked) through a side entrance, up to the edge of Future World, and then made a U-turn. Whew! We really were barely in EPCOT at all, but by that point I was glad. We exited, and not long after that was the finish line. I crossed it, got my medal, a mylar blanket, box of food, and headed straight for the bus. My family was waiting for me back at the hotel, and we had to check out soon. I had planned on being back hours earlier. I had hoped to be done in 2:45, and finished in 3:50. My slowest half marathon EVER, by almost an hour.
While I'm disappointed by my performance in this race, I'm also proud of myself. I finished. I was in extreme pain running, and when running wasn't an option I chose to still walk, to move forward, to finish what I started.