A Magical Half with RunDisney
The Humidity was high, but so were the spirits of everyone I met this last weekend as I competed in my first ever Disney Half Marathon event. This race was especially magical not just because we were at the happiest place on earth, but because both my wife and my father in-law were with me, supporting me through the race. However, before I go in to all the details of why this race is a must do for every runner, let me express a few negatives about the race that should be considered especially for anyone from out of state wanting to participate.
1. While this race weekend does take place in January, it is still hot and incredibly humid. The weather can be unpredictable meaning it could be freezing one day and 85 with 90 percent humidity the next. I had the not so fortunate pleasure of running in one of the most humid January days Florida has had in the last few years. This made for more water stops and a slower pace, not just for me, but for everyone at the race.
2. The hours required for this race are not fun. I stayed on a Disney resort (recommended), and had to be up by 2am on race day to catch my 3am shuttle from my resort to the start of the race. This does make it hard to plan your nutrition out for race morning properly
3. Once at the race, it is still a little over a mile walk from where the shuttle drops you off to where you actually start the race. If you are going for a decent time, you want to get to your starting corral as soon as possible as there are over 21,000 people that will be at this start and you want to position yourself as best as possible.
4. This walk will essentially be your warm up as once at the corral, there is no real space to warm up or even stretch for that matter. I found myself standing in my corral shoulder to shoulder with everyone for roughly 45 minutes once I actually got to the corral. This did not make for the best start to my race.
5. The start of the race is crowded. VERY CROWDED. While I was in the front of Corral A, not everyone was as fortunate as me and once the starting gun goes off, depending on where you are, it can be an additional 15 minutes until you actually cross the starting line.
With all this said, please do not let this discourage you in any way from doing this race because the pros far outweigh the cons.
Keep in mind that this race weekend is actually a series of 4 different races. A 5k on Thursday, A 10k on Friday, The half marathon on Saturday and the Full marathon on Sunday. many people Opt to actually run ALL FOUR RACES! This is known as the "Dopey Challenge". I however did not drink the crazy juice this weekend and opted to do strictly the Half Marathon. With that said, it was really fun getting to meet all of the runners that were on the third day of there challenge and hear many of there stories.
One of these Great stories came from a young lady I met on the bus who had already done the Disney Fully Marathon in Paris and was now doing the Dopey Challenge in Orlando. When I met her, she could barely make it up the steps to the bus and when she sat down I noticed she had a bag of Ice taped to each of her knees. But aside from her obvious physical pain, she was smiling! She sat down next to me and introduced herself as if she hadn't just completed her third race in three days. I would run in to her again 3 days later as we both were on the bus back to the airport and she informed me that she had fun at the marathon as well. She accomplished her goal and ran all four races, getting at total of 6 metals, while traveling from Paris to a state she had never been before. It was actually quite inspiring.
This was perhaps the greatest thing about this race, the people that I got to meet. Everyone from all walks of life were there from all abilities. There were the serious runners and the casual runners and everything in between. But no one was judged. I got on the bus at my resort being the only person not wearing any disney gear. But no one gave me the funny look that I was half expecting to get. And even though it was 3am, and many were getting up early for the third morning in a row, Every single person was in amazing spirits.
Let me also just say that RunDisney knows how to organize a race! With over 21,000 runners running the half alone, There was so much that could have gone wrong that didn't because of the amazing crew at RunDisney. There was no shortage of water stations, and even more importantly, no shortage of crowd support. The fact that the parks aloud guests in early just so they can cheer us runners on was amazing. Nothing could beat the feeling of running in front of the castle with hundreds of people cheering for you. I still smile just thinking about that moment. I will admit that it gave me an energy boost, allowing me to pass another runner.
And as you pass your way through the parks you can't help but admire the scenery around you. From the castle, to the rides, to the Epcot Ball, There was definitely no shortage of beautiful features to admire. What makes the scenery stand out even more was the fact that the race was ran so early that it was still dark out, allowing the lights within the parks to pop even more and catch every passing runners eye in some way or manner. Part of me wanted to stop and take pictures on several occasions. However, the competitor in me couldn't bring myself to do so. So I pushed on, letting the cheers of everyone around me give me strength to fight through the heat and the tiredness.
Part of the course is technically an "out and back" meaning that toward the last 4 miles of the race, I got to see just how massive the race was as I was witness to thousands and thousands of runners still on the "out" portion of the course. But they all cheered for us up front and this in turn inspired even more strength.
All of a sudden I was just 3 miles away from finishing. Then 2 miles...1 mile, and before I knew it, I could see the Finish line. It was within my grasp. The music was playing, the crowds in the bleachers were cheering, and my wife and father in law were there taking pictures and screaming my name. I crossed with a high five from Goofy and Donald Duck as the Sun was just starting to make it's first appearance for the day.
I had just finished my first every Disney Race. I was tired, I was hot, I was sticky and I was hungry. But I was Happy! Not happy to be finished with the race, but happy to have experienced it in the first place. No, you don't get enough sleep. No, you don't get to fuel yourself properly. No, you don't get to warm up or stretch properly. But I would do this race again in a heartbeat. The memories will forever be planted in my head and I will advocate for this race or any RunDisney race.
In the end, I got to meet no friends. Spend time with current friends. But more importantly, I got to share this moment with my wonderful and supportive wife and her father. It is moments like this that can never be forgotten. It is moments like this that can make a person smile on even the darkest days:-)