Monday, January 21, 2013

Walt Disney World Half Marathon Race Recap

Walt Disney World is the Most Magical Place on Earth!  However, the WDW Half Marathon was (for me) less than magical.  For this reason, I've been struggling to write this recap. It has taken me over a week to sit down and write this post because I didn't want to be whiny and negative.  Ultimately I decided to take some advice from the amazing Mrs. Miller and just being honest with my race experience.  Let me just say I did have a great time, especially running with my dad...but the race just didn't go as I had anticipated.  Be prepared for a lengthy and photo-filled post!

When I arrived in Orlando at 9pm Thursday night, I could already feel the humidity in the air and knew we would be in for a hot, sticky race weekend.  First thing Friday morning, my Goofy Dad and I headed to the Race Expo to pick up our bibs.  

After getting our bibs (and some fun new running gear at the expo), we spent a few hours at Disney's Hollywood Studios before retiring to the resort and getting ready for our 2am wake-up call.  I laid out my race day outfit before going to sleep- Moving Comfort Fiona Bra, Raw Threads Evil Queen shirt, RRS compression shorts, Asics and Sparkly Soul charcoal headband.

A very annoying 2am wake-up call startled me out of bed Saturday morning and it was time to get pumped!  Goofy and I went through our pre-race morning routines and were ready to get on the bus at 3:30am.  

It's 3am, we're ready to run 13.1 miles, and we're smiling!
I have nothing but good things to say about the race day transportation.  The buses arrived on time and the since we left early, we hit no traffic getting to the drop-off point.  We got off the bus and found ourselves in a sea of runners headed toward the corrals.  There was a ridiculous amount of congestion and we basically crawled for the ~1 mile walk to our corral.   

Our trouble came with our corral assignments.  The 23,000 runners were organized into eight corrals (A-H).  I was in Corral C, but Dad was assigned to G.  Admittedly, he should have submitted a recent race time to have his Corral switched, but since we planned to run this race just for fun we didn't bother.  I thought maybe he could sneak into my corral, but that plan fell through as soon as we saw they were checking bibs at the corral entrances.  So we headed back to Corral G.  We chatted with runners around us and learned that there were SO many first time half-marathoners!  It's not surprising that people would pick Disney as a beginner race, as it has a long cut-off time (3:30 for the half, 7:00 for the full).

Our plan for the race was to just run and have fun.  I didn't care about pace or finish time and was hoping to stop for a few pictures along the way.  The heat and humidity combined with the fact that Dad still had to run 26.2 miles on Sunday meant we were definitely taking it slow.

Disney doesn't mess around when it comes to entertainment, so right from the start they had DJ music, celebrities and fireworks.  Not to mention Donald Duck!  Just shortly after 6am, Corral G was off and running!

Or so we thought we'd be running.  We didn't even get to the first mile marker before people were walking.  And walking three or four people abreast.  Note--this is the whiny, frustrated part of my recap.  It was a serious struggle to settle into any kind of pace due to the insane number of people around us.  And not just for the first few miles.  We were bobbing and weaving through mile 8 or 9!!! Now I understand that for many people (especially in our corral) this was their first race (maybe ever) and they were excited and only concerned with what THEY were doing.  I have absolutely nothing against walkers or run-walkers.  I also know that I'm not the fastest runner ever and I certainly wasn't winning the race.  But I would have liked to be able to run at a comfortable pace and not worry about people stopping dead in their tracks right in front of me.  Or about someone dodging sideways in front of me at the water stops.  I believe there are a few solutions to these issues and I fully intend on sending my feedback to RunDisney for future races.  First, I think there should be an entire corral devoted to walkers.  I also think Disney should provide some basic running etiquette information.  RunDisney provided training plans, sent out e-mail/twitter updates on proper hydration and nutrition in hot temperatures and even played videos with running tips on the buses to the start line.  I'm hoping in the future one of the topics covered will be proper race etiquette.  I'm talking basics here...Look behind/around you before slowing down or stopping, don't form a human roadblock for people trying to pass, etc.  Unfortunately, because of these two "small" issues, I did not have the magical race experience I was hoping for.  But enough with the complaining!  Let's get the recap going and see some pictures from my 13.1 miles through Disney World!

The race was too crazy for me to remember to catch any of my split times on my watch, but I at least have the official splits from RunDisney.  The first 5K (39:11, 12:37 pace) led us away from Epcot and past the Disney Speedway.  The lines for photos were long and we were still trying to settle into a steady pace so we didn't stop, but we passed Jack Sparrow and a pirate ship and Chip & Dale with some cars at the speedway.  Mile 4 and 5 led us into the Magic Kingdom and it was so cool to run through the entrance!

Before I knew it we were turning a corner onto Main Street USA and headed toward Cinderella's Castle.  The street was jam packed with people cheering which was awesome motivation.  

The course took a right at the end of Main Street into Tomorrowland, through part of Fantasyland and then back through Cinderella's Castle, one of the highlights of the race.  I had been really looking forward to this amazing snapshot of me running through the castle, flashing my best princess smile.  This did not happen.  If you can believe it, by the time we got to the castle entrance, it was a bit of a bottleneck and everyone was walking.  WALKING. THROUGH THE CASTLE.  I was super disappointed, but I knew there would be a photographer, so I smiled.  Dad decided to show his true emotions...

Moving on, it was over to Liberty Square and Frontierland.  We screwed up here with poor communication during a bathroom stop.  I thought Dad had taken off without me, so I left hoping to catch up.  We had no way to communicate with each other, but I realized very quickly that I would get an alert when both he & I crossed the mat at the 10K point.  So I crossed, got my alert and did not get his.  Oops.  He hadn't left without me and was still waiting back at the bathroom.  He waited for awhile until he realized I DID leave without him.  Thankfully I saw him at the 10K marker.  I would've been really upset if I screwed it up and had to finish the race separately.  So after that debacle, our 10K split was 1:25:17 (13:43 pace).

Miles 7-11 were just along World Drive back toward Epcot.  There was fantastic entertainment along the course with bands, characters, DJs and more!  Since the sun was now out and we were running on open roads, it was getting HOT.  Dad and I decided not to stop and wait for character photos and just finish the race.  I was ready for post-race pictures with the characters and Dad didn't need to be spending any excess time on his feet.  Despite the fact that we were taking 45-60 minutes longer than we normally would to run a half marathon, the race never felt long.  I felt like it flew by, especially after we left Magic Kingdom and things spread out (a little).  

I called our cheerleader at Mile 11 to give her a heads up we were coming into Epcot.  We ran through the bus stop area, into a "Cast Member only" entrance and right by Spaceship Earth.  It was a quick little run around Epcot (excluding World Showcase) and back out to the finish line.  As expected, there were a lot of people cheering at the finish.  It was awesome!  With about 200 yards to go, we saw (and heard) my aunt!  I really appreciate her coming out because spectating is not an easy task! Thanks, Auntie M! :)

Think I'll still be doing this in 30 years too?

Dad and I crossed the finish line with an official time of 2:56:20 (13:27 pace).  Although that time didn't even include any photo stops, I'm not disappointed with it.  I clearly had some frustrations, but I still felt fantastic and ran a great race.  With my dad.  In Disney World.  All amazing things.

Donald bling!

We grabbed our post-race snacks and took pictures with Scrooge McDuck before heading back to the resort.  Then it was off to Epcot for the day, where we got many more character photos!

On Sunday morning my aunt and I cheered on Dad as he completed the WDW Marathon (his 8th marathon) and his third Goofy Challenge!  This time he snuck into Corral C and said it was so much less congested than the previous day.  We had a blast cheering and "high-fouring" runners with our giant Mickey hands.  Dad ran an amazing race and got his own high-four from the Mick himself at the finish!  Congrats, Dad! 

While it wasn't the magical race as I was hoping for, I'm so glad I ran the WDW Half.  And I will definitely be back for more RunDisney events!  Perhaps I'll be joining Dad for the marathon in 2014?  And getting Goofy in a few years?!  Stay tuned! :)


  1. Congrats, Kim! You made the best of a tough situation, and finishing a half-marathon is ALWAYS an accomplishment. Hopefully we'll have better luck at the 10 miler in April :)

    1. Thanks, Jen! I can't wait to get together to plan & run Cherry Blossom! :)

  2. Very truthful recap. You're so positive despite having some legitimate frustrations. Way to plow through and move beyond being annoyed!!! Great pictures and again congratulations to both you and your dad...I think you're crazy enough to "Goofy" in your future ;-)