When my alarm went off at 3 AM on Saturday morning, I had a horrible feeling of déjà vu. My body was screaming at me to stay in bed and my mind was trying to process what I had to do to get ready for today’s race. It took me a little longer to get ready but thankfully I had laid out my Snow White running costume the night before. Despite my sluggishness, I still made it out the door by 3:45 AM and heading towards the monorail.
When I got on the monorail, it was packed! For the first two races, there were only 10,000 total runners. Today, I was one of 26,000 runners doing the Walt Disney World Half Marathon. I arrived at Epcot and immediately started heading towards my corral. There were only five corrals for the 5k and 10k (A through E). For the half and full, there were 16 corrals (A through P). Based on my expected marathon finishing time and being a Dopey Challenger, I was placed in Corral K.
I made it to my corral with plenty of time to relax and stretch before the race started. It wasn’t too long before the race announcers were getting Corral A ready to the start the race. At 5:30 AM, the first runners were sent on their 13.1 mile journey through Walt Disney World. Almost forty minutes later, I crossed the starting line and headed off on my journey.
- Mile 1 – 13:15 min/mile pace
- Mile 2 – 14:19 min/mile pace
- Mile 3 – 14:08 min/mile pace
Shortly after I crossed the starting line, I spotted my friend Tricia, who was also running the Dopey Challenge. We started chatting and decided to run together. I told her that my plan was to run 1/1 intervals for as long as possible and she said that would be fine with her. Our only goal for the race was to finish before the 3:30:00 cut off time (and to take it as easy as possible). We also discussed how disappointed we were that our corral didn’t get any fireworks to send us off!
The first few miles of the course are on the highway going from Epcot to the Magic Kingdom. Since we were starting in Corral K, we had a LOT of runners in front of us. The course was a little congested along this stretch but we managed to keep a fairly decent and steady pace. As we turned onto World Drive, the road opened up and the crowd thinned out a bit. Shortly after we paced the Mile 2 Marker, we were headed through the Magic Kingdom parking entrance.
We headed through the entrance and off towards to the Speedway. We turned the corner and spotted the Mile 3 Marker. Tricia and I were both feeling alright and decided to keep going with the 1/1 intervals.
- Mile 4 – 14:07 min/mile pace
- Mile 5 – 14:35 min/mile pace
- Mile 6 – 13:55 min/mile pace
As we continued making our way through the Magic Kingdom parking lots, we spotted Jack Skellington and Sally from The Nightmare Before Christmas. The line was super long so we didn’t stop for a picture. Plus, we wanted to have a little bit of a time buffer in case we needed some extra walk breaks later on.
We ran through the Transportation and Ticket Center (saw the Mile 4 Marker) and then back out onto World Drive. The course narrowed and became really congested as we made our way towards the Contemporary Resort. Thankfully, my timer buzzed as we started heading under the water bridge. That downhill is absolutely brutal! Oh and it worked out that we got to walk the uphill too. After we passed the Contemporary, we started getting excited about running through the Magic Kingdom. That is one of my favorites parts of this course. We saw the Mile 5 Marker just before we entered the backstage area of the Magic Kingdom.
As we turned onto Main Street USA, the familiar excitement and anticipation kept me moving forward. We saw Cinderella’s Castle and then headed off into Tomorrowland and Fantasyland. As we ran through the Castle, I talked Tricia into stopping for a photo in front of it (one of my favorite things to do.
I was expecting to see Pete on our way into Liberty Square but he wasn’t in his usual spot. (Apparently, he was actually stuck on Main Street USA and didn’t make it there in time to see me run through.) We continued running through Magic Kingdom and found the Mile 6 Marker in Frontierland.
- Mile 7 – 15:13 min/mile pace
- Mile 8 – 14:30 min/mile pace
- Mile 9 – 16:52 min/mile pace
As we left the Magic Kingdom started heading towards the Grand Floridian Resort, I knew that we had a little more than half the race left to go. For the most part, I was still feeling pretty good. We spotted quite a few characters along the road near the Grand Floridian, the Polynesian and the golf course, including reindeer(?).
The course was pretty congested in this area but managed to keep moving forward. When we reached the Mile 8 Marker near the Magic Kingdom parking lots, Tricia suggested that we start walking. We had run a lot more than either of us expected to so we decided to walk most of the rest of the race. My legs were pretty happy with me for that decision.
We reached the Mile 9 Marker and started the long stretch of highway back to Epcot. Thankfully, the course really opened up so we didn’t have to worry about too much congestion.
- Mile 10 – 17:51 min/mile pace
- Mile 11 – 17:57 min/mile pace
- Mile 12 – 17:46 min/mile pace
- Mile 13 – 15:43 min/mile pace
The stretch of highway going back to Epcot felt longer than it normally is. That probably had something to do with the fact that Tricia and I were walking and not doing any running. Oddly enough, I was really ok with that. The weather was certainly not ideal and the humidity was starting to bother me. I also really wanted to have something left in the tank for the full marathon.
After the Mile 10 Marker, we conquered the dreaded loop ramp. At the top, we realized just how many people were still out on the course. We continued walking along Epcot Center Drive and passed the Mile 11 Marker. The course started to get congested again as we made the final turn towards the Epcot parking lots. Just before we entered the park, I spotted Pete waiting for me near the entrance to the backstage area. I smiled and waved before we headed into Epcot.
Since we were a little too close to our goal time (and because there are a TON of race photographers in the park), we decided to start running again. This is the moment when I realized that my feet and my knee really hurt. I tried to put the pain in the back of my mind so that I could finish the race. We looped around the center aisle of the park before heading to the finish line. We heard the Gospel choir, spotted the Mile 13 Marker and pushed ourselves across the finish line,.
We had done it! We were through 3 of the 4 legs of the Dopey Challenge. Of course, we weren’t thinking about the fact that we hadn’t quite reached the halfway point of mileage yet. We collected our medals, wristbands and snack boxes before saying good bye to each other. We talked about trying to find each other in the morning.
Then I went in search of Pete. He was waiting for me with some real food. He noticed that I wasn’t moving very well so he grabbed me a bag of ice for my knee. We had planned to go into one of the parks later but I told him that I really needed to stay off of my feet and get some rest. I was also really disappointed with myself after running my slowest half marathon ever. Once I was finished with my food, we stopped by the medal engraver’s tent and then headed back to the hotel.
Walt Disney World Half Marathon by the numbers
- Official Finish Time – 3:26:23 minutes
- Average Pace – 15:45 min/mile pace
- 5k Split Time – 44:32 (14:20 pace)
- 10k Split Time – 1:30:48 (14:37 pace)
- 15k Split Time – 2:21:12 (15:09 pace)
- Total Weekend Miles – 22.43 miles
- Total Time Running – 6:02:31
- Division Place – 1336 out of 1590
- Gender Place – 9157 out of 11216
- Overall Place – 17406 out of 20277
Check out my other Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend posts: