Sunday, January 26, 2014

2014 Walt Disney World Half Marathon - Dopey Challenge Race Three

Again I woke up before my alarm, and was out the door at 3am. The logistics for the Half and Full marathon were very different from the 5k and 10k. For one thing, instead of 10,000 runners, there were closer to 25,000 in each race. It was a lengthy walk between the bag check area and the starting corrals. Everything just seemed “bigger.”

Like all four races, the starting line was in the Epcot parking lot. We would run up World Drive, through Magic Kingdom, then back down to Epcot. Quite a few highway miles, but with the joy and excitement of Cinderella's Castle and a fair amount of entertainment along way it would be a ton of fun.

I lingered around the bag check area to meet up with a few people and saw Michelle Scribner Mac-Lean, Mike Scopa and Deb Wills giving final instructions and encouragement to Team All Ears.

By 4:15am, the crowds were already building, and I made my way to Corral I. Even knowing it would be a long walk, I was surprised at how long it took to get there. There was a mixup on the signs which sent Corral I runners in the wrong direction and we ended up having to bust through Corral M and around a barricade to get to where we were supposed to be.

I spent as much time as possible sitting on my trusty garbage bag in Corral I. The temperature was already warm and it was quite humid. Every once in a while a volunteer would ask us all to move forward and eventually I had to stand up so we could fit everyone into the corral.

Race chairman Donald was on hand to start us off. With many more corrals for the Half and Full (A-P) compared to the 5k and 10k (A-E), there was only about 3-5 minutes between the early corrals, so we were shuffling forward pretty much the whole time.

I can never understand a word he says.

Corral I started about 20 minutes after the official start and we made our way to World Drive and on toward the Magic Kingdom. After my discussion with a number of runners the day before, I had re-programmed by Nike+ GPS Sportswatch to use 30 sec run/30 sec walk intervals and ran on that schedule for the first time during the Half Marathon, using it throughout.

There was a huge line of people waiting for a picture of Captain Jack Sparrow and Barbosa in front of the Black Pearl. I got my picture with them at Wine & Dine so I kept going.

In the parking lot of the Ticket & Transportation Station, near the Walt Disney World Speedway, the Richard Petty Driving Experience had some race cars set up.

…and right next to the race cars were a couple of rare characters, Darkwing Duck and Launchpad McQuack.

A little further on were Jack and Sally from “A Nightmare Before Christmas,” which I have to confess, I have never seen.

I think I did this wrong. I don't know...

It was great to have so many high school marching bands performing on the course. It was hard enough for us runners to get up so early for the race - I can’t imagine doing it as a teenager!

Running past the Contemporary Resort

My primary motivation for running at all came from the idea of running up Main Street USA. The experience did not disappoint. Entering from backstage near the flagpole, turning the corner at the Confectionary, seeing the huge crowds cheering and soaking in the atmosphere... it was incredible. I shot some video as I ran.

I'm totally winning!

Tigger is so silly

We exited Magic Kingdom through the gate in Frontierland that the parade uses to go backstage, crossing over the Walt Disney World Railroad tracks, where the engineer was posing for pictures.

I was going to wait in line for Cinderella but after a few minutes Rich Gairing, Eddie McCoy and the Team All Ears group passed by, with Rich offering words of encouragement. I waited a few more minutes and decided to get out of line to see if I could catch up to that group. I don’t know how I missed them, but Rich told me later he saw me go running past them.

Mile 7 and 8 take us through "Cone Alley," where all race traffic is squeezed on to a single lane of the road, bordered by seemingly endless cones on one side, and grass on the other. It's a pretty boring stretch, and with people often walking 3-4 abreast it's frustrating too.

You can see some of the cones on the right.

There may have been a water stop near here.

On the way back down World Drive, there was hardly anyone in line for the pirates, who had moved over to the other side of the road, so I had to stop.

Along the way I found a couple of fellow Team Studios Central runners, Megan and Dave. In reading a TON of other runDisney race reports, I was always amazed at how people running a race with 25,000 people would run into people they knew along the way. But even not knowing that many people, I found came across a lot of people along the way in each race, whether they were people I knew personally or just people I follow on Twitter. Maybe it’s because runDisney races seem to be more of a social event than a local race. People who have travelled from disparate parts of the country probably make more of an effort to look out for people they know.

This is my exit!

As I mentioned before, there was NO chance of going for a Personal Record. Even accounting for the 20 minute delay for our corral start, this is SLOW! But using the 30/30 intervals, stopping for character experiences and really soaking up the runDisney atmosphere made the miles fly by. 

Outta my way!

Running back toward Spaceship Earth
Smile you idiot!

Gospel Choir encouraging us to the finish line.

I didn’t see her on the course, but after the race another Team Studios Central runner, Kristin, came up to me and was very happy with her run which was great to hear. Even though it was much warmer and very humid, my legs felt great throughout and I felt like I was in great shape for the marathon the next day.

After the race I drove back to the hotel just in time to catch breakfast before they closed it up. I showered, took a nap and headed over to Magic Kingdom to soak up the atmosphere a little. It was the least recommended park over at and I should have heeded the advice. I scheduled a FastPass+ for Big Thunder Mountain, and after riding it headed back to the hotel for dinner. 

I wasn’t really very nervous about the marathon the next day, although I probably should have been. Mostly I was tired from all of the early mornings. I watched a little of the NFL Playoffs and fell asleep around 8pm.