Yes, I know this is overdue. Buckle in…this is going to be a long one.
After the amazing start, I was off and running at a nice 12-minute mile pace. I was feeling good, surprisingly good. Awesome! Let’s do this!
During the 1st mile is when the shedding of the clothes began. I had heard about this and was even wearing my own throw away shirt to get rid of. Because there is a lot of standing around before the race and it was a chilly morning, most people had an additional layer of clothing on. Once you warm up it’s time to get rid of that layer and you simply just throw it to the side of the road. Along the way VoluntEars were picking up the clothes, which are then donated to charity. It was crazy – clothes were flying everywhere! I loved it. So I tossed my shirt and kept on running.
Tiffany and I parted ways after about a mile as she hit the first group of porta potties on the course and knowing that we would meet up later, I kept going. I guess the line at the porta potties was too long for some because just soon after I saw a bunch of women running off into the bushes and pulling their tutus down. It was quite the site.
All of a sudden, I was on World Drive and could see the Magic Kingdom toll plaza in the far of distance. That was fast! Here is where the real Disney entertainment began and why doing a Disney race is like no other. Right in the middle of World Drive was a giant pirate ship – it was incredible! Music from Pirates of the Caribbean was playing, mist was in the air, and Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Barbossa were posing for photos. The line for pictures was very long, so I just stopped to take a picture of the ship. As I turned around a very nice woman offered to take my picture in front of the ship and I happily returned the favor. This was just the beginning of all the generosity and kindness I experienced throughout the day.
Before I knew it, I was at the toll plaza. Wow, I couldn’t believe it! Amanda had told me about the speed bump warnings here, which were both comical and annoying. “Caution, Speed Bump Ahead” was playing over and over and over. And if that isn’t enough, there are cast members in every lane pointing them out to you.
After the toll plaza, the course goes to the left into the Magic Kingdom parking lot. This is where one of the coolest photo ops was set up. Many of the female villains were there, including Cruella De Ville, the Queen of Hearts, the Evil Queen, Lady Tremaine, and the evil stepsisters. As I ran past, two runners dressed as Anastasia and Drizella had their picture taken with the stepsisters. All of the characters were cheering when they came up – it was great!
As we entered the Transportation and Ticket Center, we were greeted by a huge crowd of spectators. The cheering and all the support of these strangers overwhelmed me, and this was just the beginning. The course continued on past the Contemporary Resort with a great DJ and the tumble monkeys from Festival of the Lion King along the way. This is where I could sense everyone’s excitement beginning to really build – we were about to enter the Magic Kingdom!
You enter through a backstage service entrance located between Space Mountain and the main entrance. Runners are then led onto Main Street USA through the gates next to The Chapeau and Tony’s Town Square Restaurant. If I thought the crowd at the TTC was overwhelming, this was completely mind blowing. There were more people on Main Street then during the parades! Right before making the turn up to the castle, I saw a sign off to the left with the Be Our Guest Podcast logo on it that said We <;3 Our Runners –I knew it was my friend Jay. I made a beeline for him and I was so surprised to see a ton of people I knew! Kayla, Melissa, Kristen, Todd, and Lou were all screaming my name as I ran past. As I turned the corner and saw Cinderella’s Castle, I was overcome with emotion. I couldn’t believe I was actually here doing this!
I still had my eye out for the Sparkle Check Point that was set up by my friends Nicole and Suzannah. I finally found them at the hub and took off towards them screaming “Check Me Off!!” Suzannah put together this great photo of many of us checking in.
As I entered Tomorrowland, I lost it. Seeing everyone cheering me on was just too much and I began to cry. I had to walk for a while just to catch my breath. I got up ridiculously early to run this race, but all of these people got up voluntarily to cheer me and all of the other runners on…mind-blowing. This was the first time I began to cry during the race. Note that I say first time…first of many after this point.
We ran through Tomorrowland and into Fantasyland. One of the best things about running this race was the excitement of running through the castle. I don’t know how I ended up being so lucky, but a pair of trumpeters welcomed me into the castle. Simply amazing.
After running through the castle, we went through Liberty Square and Frontierland, which is where I stopped for my one and only bathroom break. I figured there would be less people in the men’s room since the race was mainly women, so I went straight for that. I walked in, said “hello gentleman” and proceeded to do my business. No one seemed to mind – fabulous. If you can hold out and use the bathrooms in the park, do it. No porta potties for me!
As we exited the Magic Kingdom next to Splash Mountain, there was a great photo op set up with all of the Fairy Godmothers from Sleeping Beauty. Again the line was very long and I was much more interested in the medical tent just beyond. Seriously, when someone offers you free BioFreeze, take it! My calves and ankles were really starting to bother me at this point, so I rubbed some on and felt much better.
Once I left the Magic Kingdom, I knew this was where the mental challenge was about to kick in. It was a long road back to Epcot to finish this thing and I was only half way through. I was texting with Tiffany and Amanda throughout the race so we could keep each other aware of where we were. Amanda was only about a quarter mile behind me, so I decided to slow down a bit so she could catch up. I wanted to finish with her since she was the one who really motivated me to go on this journey. So what’s the best way to slow down during a Disney race? Take pictures with the characters of course!
I was so glad to finally catch up with Tiffany around mile 9. It was great to have someone to talk to on this long stretch of World Drive. It seems much longer on the way back. Plus, this was the farthest either one of us had ever gone before since our longest training runs were 8 miles, so we needed to pull each other along. We stopped for a photo with Atta from A Bug’s Life and kept going to the dreaded overpass back to Epcot. I had heard stories from other runners about this horrible, never-ending hill during mile 10 and I was really not looking forward to this. But once again, Disney knows how to get you through it. Stationed right in the middle of the hill is one of the toy soldiers from Toy Story yelling at everyone like a drill sergeant to keep moving and get up that hill.
Amanda was right behind me, so I decided to stop on the overpass to take in the sights and stretch for a few minutes while she caught up. I was so glad to see her. We could see Epcot in the distance and knew we were almost there. Her husband and daughter were waiting to cheer her on in the Epcot parking lot. It was so perfect that a band was playing “We Are Family” right as we got close to them. We both started tearing up – it was a really special moment.
Right near the bus stops I was surprised to see the WDW Radio group there cheering us on! They had taken the monorail over from the Magic Kingdom and had set up camp here to keep cheering. It was so great to see all of those familiar faces once again. Then a little farther up was my BOGP family again! Jay, Kayla and Melissa were screaming my name and surprise, surprise, I began to cry. Who knew a half marathon could be so emotional?! Melissa got this picture of me as I came by.
We entered Epcot and a cast member said we had less than a mile to go. I wanted to hug him. We ran around Future World, still managing to have a good time.
You exit out past the old dog kennels, and there they were, an amazing gospel choir. Totally blew me away. Take a listen…[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bPjbiGvtflY&w=560&h=315]
As we rounded the corner, we could see the finish line in the distance. This was it. I was going to finish! All of a sudden I seemed to forget about that pain in my legs and the blister on my toe. I just wanted my medal!
I grabbed Amanda’s hand and we took off to the finish line. I am so glad we finished together; it was one of the most special experiences of my life.
We immediately burst into tears and just hugged each other. We did it. We found our friend Aurora who was giving out medals and both got giant hugs (hugs with jugs) to go with our new Disney bling. This made me cry even more – I was officially a mess. But I didn’t care, I was now a half marathoner.