That 3:00 am alarm came far too soon but it wasn’t long until I was up and on my way to run my 6th half marathon and my 12th RunDisney race.
Kristin and I tried to leave a little earlier for the buses since the lines were crazy the day before for the 10k. I think we only ended up waiting about 12 min or so and we were on the bus. Set up was the same as the day before with staging in the Wonder parking lot at Epcot. Like the 10k, they had princesses out for pictures but the lines were pretty long by the time we got there. If you’re not planning on stopping for photos during the race and you want to take advantage of the photo ops in the morning try and get on the earliest bus you can – closer to 3:00 am.
We ran into Kirk from the #Firsties group again and he was going to be spectating with Kristin. Their plan was to catch me (and some other #Firsties) at the Grand Floridian and then again at the finish line. I said a quick hello, got my good luck hug, and was on my way to the corrals. If you’ve run Princess before you know that the walk to the corrals can be L-O-N-G. Make sure to give yourself lots of time to get from the staging area to your corrals. It is a little over 1/2 mile to the start depending on which corral your in.
Luckily I was placed into the right corral – I thought for sure getting a bib last minute meant starting all the way back in P but was actually placed in H! I realized after the race though that I submitted the wrong POT and could have been in G …oh well.
At 5:30 am the first fireworks went off and the race had begun. Each corral was starting a few minutes after the last and I finally crossed the start at 5:54 am.I had no plans for this race other than just to run. No plans for a PR. No plans for what intervals to run and no plans for pacing. In theory it sounded like a great idea – and it was for the first half of the race. I was flying. I was channeling all my frustrations into the run and focused on nothing but my feet pounding the pavement.
It wasn’t long until I hit the 3 mile mark and was entering the Magic Kingdom toll plaza. “Caution Runners: Speed Bump Ahead”. Shortly after that I was running through the Ticket and Transportation Centre then past the Contemporary Resort. It was then I knew I was running too fast and I was pushing too hard. I was running high 10 min/miles which I knew I couldn’t sustain for a full 13.1 miles especially with no training. But I didn’t care. I decided to push hard for as long as it felt good and back off in the second half if I needed to.
It wasn’t long until I rounded the corner and was out on Main Street USA with Cinderella’s Castle out in front of me. It makes me tear up every time. Last time I saw this castle I was running down Main Street for my first Marathon. It was a pretty emotional moment with lots of memories from my last race.
The course took us back through Tomorrowland and entered the back of Fantasyland by Journey of the Little Mermaid and Ariel’s Grotto.
As usual the stretch through the castle was pretty slow going. I have yet to run this course (for Princess or the WDW 1/2) and not walk through the castle instead of run. There were lots of characters out throughout Magic Kingdom including a bunch of Princesses back stage as you exit Frontierland. I didn’t really take many photos at all this race let alone stop for character photos.
I had been texting Kristin and told her that it wasn’t long until I would be at the Grand. At least with all my bright colors I wouldn’t be hard for her to spot! The stretch from backstage leading up the Grand can be pretty tough. Its a narrow stretch of road with active traffic on the other side of the traffic cones and you mostly have to resort to running on the grass to get around people.
The frustration was short lived and I could finally spot Kirk and Kristin in the distance. I ran past them with a huge smile on my face and a big wave. It was so nice to have some familiar faces on the course. I also ‘ran into’ a bunch of runners from Instagram and the #Firsties group during the race. It seemed like every time I looked around there was a familiar face.
It was around mile 8 that I started to pay the consequences for pushing myself so hard during the first half of the race. I completely ran out of steam. I was tired but I think it was more mental than anything. I started to think about all the events of the past few weeks and it really got to me. I started to doubt my abilities to finish and was just too tired to run. I tried downing some extra GU gels to help get my energy level up but mental I was beat. It didn’t help that the sun was starting to come up and it was getting really hot out on the highway. I don’t usually ‘hit the wall’ in a Half so this was new to me.
I decided to just slow right down for a mile or two and get myself mentally back in the game taking a short break for a picture at the mile 9 marker.
It was shortly after that when I checked my Garmin and realized that if I picked it up I could still PR. I put my headphones in, cranked up the tunes, and attacked those dreaded mile 10/11 overpasses with all I had.
I could see Spaceship Earth in the distance and sent a text to Kristin to let her know I was almost at mile 12 and about to enter Epcot. The crowd support here is always fantastic – so many people cheering. It is always a great push to get you to the finish.
As I entered Epcot I got text back from Kristin saying that her and Kirk were going to likely miss me finish since they were still waiting for a monorail from the TTC. Maybe it was the exhaustion from the race or the emotions of the previous week but I started to get really upset. I didn’t want to cross that finish line alone. The more I thought about it the harder it was to run and breathe so I tried my hardest to settle myself down and correct my breathing. I took a quick walk break during the out and back to World Showcase Lagoon and tried to focus on all that I had accomplished.
Regardless of who or what was waiting for me at the finish line I was going to finish. I was going to finish with a PR. I was going to finish without training.
I thought back to the days when I could barely run a mile let alone 26.2. I’ve overcome a lot in the last 2 1/2 years of running and have been lucky enough to run 12 different RunDisney events and have met some amazing people in the process. I owed it to myself to cross that finish line grateful, with a happy heart and a smile on my face. Nothing else matters.
I crossed the finish line in 2:42:11. I set a PR of almost 5 minutes – not bad for no training! I got sprinkled with pixie dust at the finish, was given my medal, and headed off to wait for Kristin and Kirk. I felt like a new person. Like everything was left behind on the course. I felt fantastic. Now it was time to celebrate…
Stayed tuned for Part III where I give some final thoughts about the Princess Half, a quick recap of the post race celebrations, and what races are on the schedule for the next year.