This race completely exceeded my expectations not only on a personal level but also as whole. My goals for this race were quite simple, (1) finish the race without being swept and (2) finish the race in less than 3 hours.
Two minutes to 10 PM while waiting in the corrals, the DJ announced the start of the wheelchair division. Then at 10 PM, the first set of fireworks went off and Corral A was released. For each corral start, a new set of fireworks went off, which I thought was awesome. Finally, at 10:15, it was time for my corral, Corral D to start.
Mile 1: During the first mile of the race, I spent a lot of my time trying to get around people. I wasn’t trying to set a new world record but I was trying to get into a comfortable pace that I would be able to maintain for 13.1 miles. After running through the starting line, the course headed north on Victory Way before making a left onto Osceola Parkway. Once on Osceola Parkway, the crowd started to thin out and I was able to find my groove. Shortly after the left turn, I saw the first mile marker. According to the stop clock, I finished the first mile in just over 12 minutes. Right on pace.
Mile 2: We continued on the Osceola Parkway making our way to Animal Kingdom and crossed over World Drive. The first water stop was about halfway through the second mile. I felt really good so I ran right through this one. When I saw the stop watch at the Mile 2 marker, I realized that I was going much faster than I wanted to. I literally ran the second mile in less than 10 minutes.
Mile 3: After getting past the Mile 2 Marker, I could see the leaders of the race making there way to Hollywood Studios. It was daunting to see them flying by on the other side of the road. I stay focused on my race and slowing down my pace so that I didn’t burn out quickly. We passed by some stilt walkers and I high-fived them as I ran past. The course veered to the right and headed into the Animal Kingdom parking lot area through the exit. Soon the Mile 3 marker was visible and the stop watch showed that I was back on pace!
Miles 4 and 5: After passing the Mile 3 marker, we headed through the parking lot and into Animal Kingdom. There was another water stop in the parking lot, which I walked through so that I could actually drink the water. I ate my first serving of fuel after I finished my water. Running through Animal Kingdom at night was really neat. The park was much darker than I expected but there were light up bubbles (?) lining the pathway. Cast members and volunteers were spaced throughout the park cheering.
We entered through the front of the park and headed towards the Tree of Life, which looked amazing lit up at night. As we past by Expedition Everest, I heard the Yeti’s call coming from the ride. We exited the park through one of the cast member only areas and started hearing instructions for the relay transition area. “Relay runners stay to the right. Half marathon runners stay to left.”
Mile 6: I stayed to the left and continued around the outside of the park back towards the parking lot. At this point, I realized that I needed to start my run/walk intervals. I made the decision to wait until passing the 10K timing strip before I would start adding walk breaks. My legs were starting to feel fatigued and I wanted to be able to finish strong. After passing the relay transition area and getting back on Osceola Parkway, I saw the Mile 6 marker and shortly I crossed over the timing strip.
Miles 7 and 8: My legs were very grateful when I added the walk breaks. After crossing the timing strip, I pressed the start button on my interval timer, which I had pre-programmed with a 3/1 interval (3 min. running and 1 min. walking). As expected my overall pace started dropping but I was still moving forward and that is what matters. As the course continued on Osceola Parkway, I saw the stilt walkers again, a band in the median and a few spectators.
Mile 9: Just after the World Drive overpass was the turn around location. There was also an illuminated peacock, which had what appeared like a number 11 on its breast. One guy near me actually asked if it was the mile 11 marker. “No way! We just past mile 8!” was my response. He looked a little distraught. Next to the peacock was a speaker blaring what I can only imagine is the mating call of a peacock. After the turn around, the course headed down a ramp and onto World Drive. It is a good thing that one of the Green Army guys from Toy Story was there to yell encourage us to keep going because that was a gnarly hill! After we made to World Drive, there was a water station and a food station. I had already eaten another serving of fuel so I only grabbed water. The Mile 9 marker was located on Buena Vista Drive just before we entered Hollywood Studios.
Miles 10 and 11: We entered Hollywood Studios through another cast member only area that was right by the Rockin’ Roller Coaster. We ran past the Tower of Terror, which had another pretty bad hill. Then we headed down Sunset Boulevard towards the Sorcerer’s Hat. It seemed like we spent a TON of time in Hollywood Studios. We ran past the animation area, through the costume tunnel, past Darth Vader hanging out in front of Star Tours, and through the back lot area with Carl from UP.
As I headed into the backstage area at Hollywood Studios, the outside of my left leg started to cramp up so much that my foot stopped flexing properly. My stride started to feel really lop-sided. I continued with my run/walk intervals though and eventually it worked itself out. On the way out of Hollywood Studios, we ran through the Lights, Camera, Action show, along New York Street with the Osborne Lights on, and then we exited through the front of the park.
Mile 12: As soon as I left Hollywood Studios, I actually could feel the end coming near. The course took us along the walkway connecting Hollywood Studios and EPCOT, which passes through the hotels in between them. It was really awesome to see of the guests along the course cheering us on. One guy was holding up an iPad with the words “FREE BEER AHEAD” on it. I chuckled and smiled knowing that I was in the home stretch. When I saw the Mile 12 marker, the thought actually did cross my mind that my bed was to the right and all I needed to do was turn. I didn’t though. When I saw the stop clock, I realized that I was going to finish in less than 3 hours.
Mile 13: The last 1.1 miles of this race felt like the longest of the entire thing. The course passed the Board Walk and headed towards the Yacht and Beach Club. I could see Spaceship Earth but no matter what I did it only seemed to get further away from me. We passed by the International Gateway entrance to EPCOT and ran around the outside of the park. I saw what looked like the finish line but alas it was just a bunch of volunteers with signs saying I still had another 400 yards to go! Finally, I saw the Mile 13 marker and I tried to turn on the steam and sprint to the finish line. I had nothing left to give so I just kept running at the same pace.
As I crossed the timing strip, I heard my name being called over the speaker. I saw the stop clock read 2:57 and knew that I had done it. Tears started forming in eyes and I just tried to catch my breath! I was smiling as I realized that I am a Half Marathoner!
My medal was placed around my neck. I grabbed a water bottle and had my finisher’s picture taken. I grabbed a bag of food and a bottle of Powerade. As I made my through the crazy lines to get into EPCOT to find my boyfriend, I grabbed my free finish line beer (Michelob Ultra) and it really tasted delicious. I found my boyfriend at near the medal engraving station where I had my medal engraved with my official time (2:41:27!).
After inhaling eating the food from the bag, we wandered around the Food and Wine Festival. I needed to keep moving so my legs didn’t lock up. None of the fried food or fish dishes smelled any good to me. The other lines were a little long so we didn’t get to try everything we wanted to. That’s okay though because I had a delicious Pumpkin Mousse from the Hops and Barley kiosk while my boyfriend had the lobster.
We headed back to the room around 3:15. After I took a shower, we both crashed. It was such a fabulous race and I am glad that I chose this race to be my first half marathon!