Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend: The Half

Okay, so I’m back with a recap of my first leg of the Goofy Challenge: the Walt Disney World Half Marathon!

After spending Thursday at Universal Studios (Todd insisted…BOO) and Friday at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, that 3:30am wake-up call on Saturday wasn’t easy. But I was dressed as everyone’s favorite snowman and out the door by 4:15 (another perk of the rental car…no waiting in lines for buses to transport you to the starting line).

Of course, my stupid ass took a wrong turn somewhere and ended up at Animal Kingdom, so by the time I successfully made my way to Epcot, parked the car, and completed my death march to the starting corrals, the race was just about to start!

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This turned out to be a very good thing. See, for some strange reason, it decided to be 40 degrees in Florida that morning. And, no, in case you were wondering, I did NOT have the foresight to pack any throwaway clothes, garbage bags, etc. And, no, I did NOT opt to wear the arm warmers I packed with my costume, because they typically make me want to rip my arms off by the third mile.

Was I a little chilly? Sure. But at the same time, I watched my fellow runners jump up and down and huddle together in their vain attempts to stay warm, as I sipped my coffee and pranced around in my short-sleeved tech shirt like it was no big thing. To me, it didn’t feel all THAT cold. We left New Jersey on an average winter morning, with temperatures below 20 degrees and wind chills making it feel like it was sub-zero…and I’m used to running in little more than a light long-sleeved tech shirt even on the coldest of winter days.

Honestly, I found it almost pleasant. And I was downright THRILLED to have the opportunity to run a race in Disney without being soaked with sweat and wanting to drop dead from heat exhaustion. In case you haven’t guessed by now, I tend to be one of the sweatiest runners ever — and I HATE running in the heat/feeling hot — so if temperatures are anywhere above 45 degrees, it’s pretty rare to catch me running in anything heavier than a short-sleeved tech shirt and capris.

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Mickey seems pretty happy about it, too…

So, all in all, I was very, VERY excited to run Disney in THE COLD! :)

Before I knew it, corral G was called, our fireworks went off, and I was on my way!

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I was BEYOND EXCITED that in those early, boring miles on the highway, I never once felt hot. In fact, I wasn’t even really sweating at all (SAYWHAT?!)

I was keeping a super-comfy pace (somewhere in the realm of an 11ish per-minute mile), jamming out to my awesome runDisney playlist, and having a grand old time.

It was fantastic.

I made one of my first character stops in those early miles — when I saw Wreck-it-Ralph and Vanellope together, I HAD to stop. I LOOOOVE that movie (and I totally plan to make ask Todd to dress up as the Ralph to my Vanellope one of these days).

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I did opt to skip a character or two early on, like that skeleton-looking guy from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Never got into it. And I’m not entirely keen on the pirates either, and they’re always out right before you enter the Magic Kingdom gates.

Even though I’ve now run this exact course a number of times already, the excitement of seeing those Magic Kingdom gates never gets old.

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And the screaming fans as you run into the main entrance of the TTC (which is even more exciting to me, since that’s where I always plan my first potty break, haha)? Never gets old.

And the excitement that builds as you run by the Contemporary Resort and behind Space Mountain, and through the “backstage” area of Magic Kingdom? Never gets old.

And the pure elation you feel when you turn that corner onto Main Street and see nothing but that sparkling, gorgeous castle and the rows of spectators cheering you on like you are the world’s biggest rockstar?

Priceless.

235224_181242032_XLargeIt’s a big part of the reason why I will continue to give runDisney my money over, and over, and over again. I don’t care whether you’re an insane Disney freak like me or just a normal person. There is NOTHING like it.IMG_0844

As I made my way down Main Street and into Tomorrowland, I expected to find another character — and stopped for a quick photo with Buzz. The line was a bit longer than I had hoped for a character I’ve seen in just about every Disney race I’ve ever done, which gave me a clue as to the kinds of lines I’d be seeing along the rest of the course.

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But, honestly, when I’m in Magic Kingdom, I take my sweet old time. I KNOW that this is the highlight of the half marathon, and I have every intention to savor it. So I always plan to make as many character stops here as I’d like.

Unfortunately, I was unpleasantly surprised to find that there were hardly any characters out — and the ones that were, well, let’s just say they weren’t my favorites. As I ran through Fantasyland and towards the back of the castle, I was VERY disappointed to find that Mickey and Minnie were not there. Really?! No Mickey and Minnie, but we do get a freakin’ Country Bear and that stupid alligator from The Princess and the Frog? Oh, and the Queen of Hearts/White Rabbit?

Dislike! :(

Okay, so there WAS one highlight — instead of my favorite mice posing for pictures behind the castle, Anna, Elsa, and Kristoff were chillin’ on the castle balcony to greet runners as they ran through. And everyone was stopping to take picture of them.

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Or, in my case, in front of them.

This was rather exciting, but not nearly as exciting as running through the castle…which is something that ALSO never gets old!

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And, of course, I took some time to take a few pictures in front of the castle. 235224_180935073_XLarge

Don’t care about your time and want to increase your chances of getting a good picture (i.e. not too dark, blurry, etc.) Stand in all four lines of Marathonfoto photographers. They don’t mind. LOL.

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One of these days I’m GOING to get a castle jumping picture where I don’t look like a complete idiot.

We then made our way through Frontierland and I knew my time in Magic Kingdom was coming to an end. But not without one more princess-y picture “backstage.” I was hoping to get a photo with Cinderella, who, of course, went on her “break” before it was my turn…so I just got Aurora (again, lol).

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The next few miles of the course are not only a snoozefest, but also tend to be very, very crowded. I don’t especially care for them. It’s tough to manuever your way around so many of your fellow runners, and though we do get to run by the Grand Floridian and the golf course, the scenery pales in comparison to being in the parks, IMHO.

I saw a few other characters I wasn’t interested in (such as the likes of Mary Poppins), but I HAD to stop when I saw Genie and Abu together. Aladdin is my favorite! (After Little Mermaid, of course.)

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I was still feeling good, physically, except for a teensy, weensy little problem. I’ve been struggling with pain in my left knee ever since NYCM training, and it has only continued to get worse. It’s something that comes and goes, and it’s not debilitating or anything like that, but it definitely hurts…a lot…and makes it very difficult to maintain anything that even closely resembles proper running form.

I assumed it was just from the stress of training for two marathons back-to-back, so I’ve pretty much been ignoring it (I’m real smart like that). Unfortunately, I started to feel the familiar twinges somewhere in the second half of the race. It was still nice and cool, so I was loving that, but I was really nervous about how my knee would behave while running a marathon the next day (spoiler alert: it didn’t).

It was right after seeing Genie and Abu that I ran into Kellie from Will Run for Ears, who would be running her first marathon as part of Goofy! Even after all this time blogging, I still get so excited to meet fellow bloggers “in real life.” I felt kind of bad, though, because I don’t think I was being especially chatty…my knee was bugging me and I was feeling like a bit of a Mr. Grumpy Pants at that moment. :(

Anyway, I tried to ignore my knee as best I could and continued plugging away. I saw hardly any (good) characters, which made me kind of annoyed (no Lilo and Stitch?!), and I succumbed to my usual state of boredom as you run mainly along highways towards Epcot. I still kept things slow and easy so as to save as much energy as I could for the next day’s marathon.

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Because when you’re doing the Dopey or the Goofy, that’s really what it’s all about — making sure you still have enough oomph (and stay injury-free!) to take on that final 26.2.

Finally, I was making my way back toward Epcot, and I knew the end was in sight. But, of course, not before having to climb the dreaded overpass, which is really the only big hill of the course…so I guess I can’t complain too much. Good thing this guy is always there to help motivate you to MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!

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The sun was peeking out and it was warming up a little bit, but it was still my most comfortable (and, let’s be honest, driest) Disney half to date!

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The Epcot portion of this race is over just a bit too fast. It’s pretty awesome running in Future World, especially since there are tons of spectators, but it really only covers that final mile of the race or so.

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One thing that was different this time around was that there were photographers set up right in front of the ball (kind of like they are in front of the castle). So, of course, I had to stop for that picture, too. :)

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In case you weren’t quite sure…this is my “snowman” pose, LOL

And, in the blink of an eye, we were backstage and headed out, past the choir (which I always enjoy), and back into the parking lot.

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 As I approached the finish line, I scanned the crowds for Todd, but I didn’t actually know if he was there. See, last year, he spectated the marathon from the ChEAR Squad zone — but this year we determined that it really wasn’t worth the money. And since I fully intended to drive him crazy with my commando park touring during our trip, I made him a special deal: if he would willingly deal with my nonsense (“we have to get to the park the second it opens!” etc.) for the duration of our trip, then he didn’t have to wake up at the asscrack of dawn and sit in the cold and fight the crowds to watch the half marathon.

Which brings me to my next Disney PROTIP. If you have a spectator planning to catch you at the finish line, and that person will be relying on Disney transportation, leave a TON of extra time. Todd did NOT see me at the finish line, because he was still waiting for an Epcot bus at our resort…which never came! They finally let him jump on a runner shuttle back to the finish line, but by then, I was finished. LOL.235224_181546208_XLarge

 Anyway, I crossed with a final time of 3:15 — which was a bit faster my usual “Disney time.” As a rule, I almost NEVER finish a Disney race under 3:30, with all the standing in line that I do for those character photos.

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But, as I alluded, I was a little disappointed in the characters for this race. It’s kind of a big deal for me, so when the usual suspects are mysteriously missing — Mickey/Minnie, Woody, Lilo & Stitch, etc. — I get real mad, lol.

I run Disney for the pictures, as I’m sure you can tell.

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Also, anyone who frequents runDisney groups on Facebook has already heard about this…but there were no mylar blankets at the finish line. That’s right. On a day when temperatures were only expected to go up to 60 — and the ONE time I actually could have actually used one of those damn things — there were no blankets to be found.

Fortunately, the sun was out, so it wasn’t TOO cold…but I shuddered to think (literally!) how the 5K and 10K runners fared if they also didn’t receive blankets.

After I was given my beautiful Donald medal, and made my way out into the Family Reunion area, my texts indicated that Todd still wasn’t there. 235224_181208012_XLarge

My feet were a little sore, and my knee was stiff, but I figured I might as well go stand in line for a picture with this guy (and scarf down my snack box like there was no tomorrow). I loved that Goofy and Dopey were posing for pictures in the finisher’s area this year!

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Todd finally met up with me and we put plans in the motion for the rest of the day. My first priority? Finding a Photopass photographer who could make this happen. LOL.

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We spent the rest of the day in Epcot. Since I didn’t make my Fastpasses until later in the day, we had plenty of time to wander around the World Showcase and fat it up enjoy the sights.

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Whooooo loves quiche?!

After we hit some of our Fastpass reservations — and mingled with some woodland creatures — that night’s dinner reservation was a feast at The Garden Grill.

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It was actually my first time there! If you like Liberty Tree Tavern in Magic Kingdom, I’d recommend it. Good food, all-you-can-eat, what’s not to love? Plus, this one has characters. :)

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I usually prefer dining in one of the countries, but Todd put the kibosh on that idea…no “foreign” food the night before a marathon, haha.

We finished the day with Soarin’ before making a beeline for the exit. I wanted to try to get plenty of sleep…we both had a freakin’ marathon to run the next day!

And, for me, I was ready to be Goofy! :)

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Up next…my (long overdue) recap of the Walt Disney World Marathon!

What did you think of this year’s half marathon?

Do you/would you stop during a race to stand in line for character photos?

 

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