Day Two was nicknamed: "Am I seriously up this early in the damn morning to run a half marathon?"
The half marathon day was VERY exciting, as all four of us were participating: my mom, my sister, my best friend, and myself. It was to e my sister's first half marathon at fourteen, which was something to look forward to. She seemed pretty anxious about it, but didn't really feel too forthcoming about her feelings. She is fourteen after all.
I do have to say that three in the morning is overwhelmingly early to get ready to go run a half marathon. Gracious. I've run eight half marathons now, and Disney definitely does it early. It's pretty clear why, but still, it was tough getting up. Anyways, we all got ready and I called my grandma to say good morning/good night. She's the only person I know who can be counted on to be awake at that time regularly. We had breakfast (peanut butter sandwiches! yum!). Then we went off to the bus stop. Again, like Friday, it was cold in the morning. Fortunately, the bus was sitting there when we got there and we got right on. Last year, I remember taking a nap on the bus ride to EPCOT, but this year I was anticipating the race and I wasn't quite AS tired. I was mostly excited.
We got to EPCOT and all got off of the bus and walked part of the way to the corrals, then had a spontaneous dance party! And by "we all", I mean that the spontaneous dance party included everyone but my sister, who was pretending that she wasn't ecstatic to be racing soon! One awesome thing about runDisney is the incredible entertainment. From the minute you get off of the bus until after the last person crosses the finish line, each race is like a gigantic party. The DJ was playing lots of fun music that we could dance to, which was super fun. Then we started the long walk to our corrals.
I was a little bit disappointed in my starting corral this year. Last year Goofy Challengers got two separate bibs, so I was in a much faster corral for the half marathon and a slower for the full. This year, it was one bib and I was in one of the slower corrals. I didn't like starting after most of the other people and I felt like I was playing catch up for a lot of the race. It was a little bit distracting. I really need to work on my time, I guess, so that I can get into a corral that I'd rather be in and feel more comfortable in my run. I didn't like constantly going in the grass around people who were walking. Not that I'm super fast, but I'm just saying.....
So, the first corral started at 5:30 or so, if I remember correctly. The goal for this race was to take it fairly easy, to have fun, but to pace myself decently. I ended up running with Katherine and she slowed down her pace to run with me. We ran the first three and a half(ish) miles before we slowed down to a walk for a little bit. I normally do a run/walk combination and she generally prefers to just flat out run straight through. I was feeling pretty awesome for the majority of the beginning and then it started getting a little rough at mile four and a half or five. I was having some major intestine issues, so I had to take a bathroom break, and then there was a giant hill in front of the Contemporary, right before the Magic Kingdom. My mom ended up passing us when I was in the port-a-potty, but we caught up backstage Magic Kingdom, right before we went down Main Street. That was kind of fun, because we got to take a picture together in front of the castle. I was super worried about being behind on my pace and getting picked up by the sweepers, so I didn't stop for many pictures before that point.
(The main reason I was so worried about the sweeper was that last year at Disney's Princess Half Marathon, I had a freshly sprained ankle and was EXTREMELY close to getting picked up by the bus. There were probably less than 100 people behind me at the end. I think I was traumatized.)
The Magic Kingdom really made me feel a lot more positive and helped me gain more energy to get through the rest of the race. There's something magical about running through the parks. A lot of people talk about how exciting it is to run through the castle. That's not even it for me. It's most of the crowds and the excitement of running down Main Street and through the parade route that gets me. It's fun to hear the cheering and everyone so excited for you. I also really enjoy stopping for character pictures and seeing all of the entertainment.
When we left Magic Kingdom, we had to run in the grass for a while to get around some of the ridiculous crowding on the path. That's one problem with races that have such a high volume of participants, especially people who haven't raced before. They don't seem to understand to walk on one side and let other people run on the other side of the road. Frustrating.
At mile 8, we noticed that Mickey and Goofy were meeting with runners for pictures. I didn't want to stop because the line was really long, BUT my baby sister was in line! She started in a corral ahead of us, so we hadn't seen her in a few hours. Of course, we got in line with her and waited to meet Mickey and Goofy. Then my mom joined us! It was awesome to get a picture of all four of us with the characters and super neat that we all got there at about the same time.
Towards the end, we went up an exit ramp and ended up on an overpass looking over runners who were still going. It was incredible to see all of those thousands of people behind who were still going. We also saw my little sister still trucking along down there. I almost cried. That's one thing about endurance events. They are so emotional and such a mental game. There have been many near-tears moments in my two year and three month long career in road races. There still will be more, I'm almost certain of it. There was also a lady in front of us with a shirt that said "I'm 80. I'm hot. I'm ahead of you." What an awesome woman. (I actually think that I met her later in the day, but she wasn't still wearing that shirt and I didn't ask. lol)
Hands down, the most inspiring thing I saw on Saturday was a group of about 10 people who were all walking together. One man in the group had a prosthetic leg. We passed them at mile 10 or 11, if I remember correctly, and I noticed that it seemed like he was really having a hard time keeping it going. Later, after we had finished and were waiting in line for some character meet and greets, we noticed that Mickey and Donald were still waiting on the last finisher at the finish line. They had a giant television display of the finish line near the character meet and greets so we continued to watch, waiting for the last place person to come across. That group of people, still all together, came walking toward the finish line, all following behind the young man with the prosthetic leg. It was inspiring to watch him finish the race, the confetti everywhere. What a great thing to see. Last place finishers deserve as much attention as first place finishers. These people show dedication and mental strength that is impossible to describe.
The finish took us through EPCOT again, a loop around Spaceship Earth, a quick run through backstage EPCOT and into the parking lot. Finishing Disney races are amazing. The fanfare is incredible. Characters greet runners at the finish line. The announcers are so awesome. (although finishing 2011's Fort4Fitness was pretty awesome too, finishing at the Tincaps baseball field and hearing them personally welcome "Alicia visiting from Orlando".)
Overall, the race was super fun. I'm so glad that I got to participate. Maybe next time I won't be so freaking anxious about finishing the race.