2017 Star Wars Half Marathon: The Light Side

20170115_045512_HDRLast December I decided to run my first ever race at Disneyland.  You see my boyfriend, Chris, had gotten a contract job in Irvine, California so I made plans to go visit him in January.  It just so happens that The Light Side Half was still available, so I signed up.

I have to say that Disneyland races are a very different experience from Disney World0114171044d races.  There were some things that I liked, but also some that I was disappointed with.  The Expo was very confusing.  We parked in the only lot that we found and then walked around trying to find the entrance to the expo.  We didn’t see any signs pointing in the right direction, but eventually found a line of people and assumed we were in the right spot.  That line was for the main expo floor so we followed a crowd underground to packet pickup where we were directed to stand in another line in what looked like the first floor of a very old parking deck.  I arrived on the third day, so I didn’t expect to have to stand in line and I have no idea why they were only letting a few in at a time, because when we got in there I saw that there was quite a bit of room to allow for a lot more people.

20170114_103648_HDR(1)Once I got to the front of my packet line I was given a bib, but it was not mine.  The volunteer had mistakenly given me the wrong bib.  I told her and it was promptly fixed.  I had to ask about the “X” next to my name which signified that I would be receiving a Coast to Coast wristband.  After I was banded we headed back upstairs to the main expo floor.

The expo itself was very open and exceeded my expectations after experiencing packet pickup.  It was not crowded at all and I was able to receive my Half Marathon shirt right away.  The merchandise area was on the other side of the building.  When we got over there we were told to stand in a line in another room which led to another line in the expo room until we were finally in the merchandise area.  Since I couldn’t get a pass holder discount I only bought a magnet and then we left.

The next morning we woke up early, but I didn’t feel as tired because I was still on east coast time.  I decided to wear my Princess Leia costume from the 2016 Enchanted 10k in honor of Carrie Fisher, who passed away the month before.  After I was dressed and ready to go we took the short drive to Disneyland.  One thing that I knew about before hand, but still didn’t like was the charge for parking.  Parking is always free for races at Disney World and I don’t understand why they charge almost twenty dollars at Disneyland that early in the morning especially since there aren’t as many hotels and most people probably have to drive in.

After leaving the parking garage a security booth was set up and it was the only one we had to go through before the race.  The walk to the staging area wasn’t too far and I passed the entrance to the corrals on the way so I knew where to go later.  Like always we stood around people watching and taking everything in before my final restroom visit and then the walk to the corrals.

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At the corral entrance, Chris took some pictures and then we said our goodbyes then I 0115170451was on my way.  I really liked how they had the corrals set up for the earlier ones.  I had to walk through a couple bib checkpoints before I made it into “B,” which made it extremely hard for someone trying to move up a corral.

Once in the corral it was the same wait as always.  I was a bit nervous because I hadn’t raced in a while since the half the week before was canceled.  I just told myself what I always do, all I can do is my best.  The same Disney World announcers were there, but the entertainment just didn’t feel as big, which was fine until the race started and there were no fireworks.  I understand that Disneyland is in a more residential area, but it just felt weird starting a race with a giant pulsating “GO!” on the screen above.

I felt pretty good at the start of the race.  It was so cold out, which made me run faster as I tried to warm up.  In less than a mile I was already in California Adventures.  I had never been to that park before so I tried to take everything in as I ran through it.  The park was gorgeous and a real thrill to run through.  The only problem that I had was the ground was wet so I had to try my hardest to not slip and fall.

RUNDISNEY_DLRMARAACTION9_20170115_396313432172_cropAfter we left California Adventures we ran around Disneyland park on the outside and entered through the back at about mile three.  It’s a Small World was beautiful all lit up.  I had only been to Disneyland once before and I was about ten years old at the time.  I knew that the run through the castle was coming up so I tried to position myself to get a great photo.  At one point a guy did run in front of my right before the castle and I later saw my displeasure in my race photos as you can see on the left.

I did get a great castle photo, but this was the part of RUNDISNEY_DLRMARAACTION15_20170115_396313432183the race that didn’t come close to a Disney World race through Magic Kingdom.  My favorite race moment ever was running down Main Street towards the castle during the 2016 Princess Half Marathon.  First of all, spectators aren’t allowed in Disneyland during the races so there was no crowd cheering us on, just a few Cast members.  Second of all we were running away from the castle.  I had to keep looking behind me as I ran to see the castle.  The whole thing seemed very lackluster compared to running through the Magic Kingdom.  After we ran through the gates we were done with the parks; the rest of the race took place on the streets of Anaheim and through Garden Grove.

Even though there weren’t Disney Parks or Characters to look at, there was plenty to keep my attention.  There were spectators everywhere! Whole bands and cheerleaders came out to play and cheer.  It seemed like one big party! I just wished that the parts through the parks were that entertaining and lively.  And since we weren’t on Disney property anymore there were no more pictures until the finish-line.

After leaving Disneyland the course headed south and at about mile six started a huge loop through neighborhoods and then meeting back up with the same road heading north back towards the parks.  Almost the whole time I just kept thinking about the turn north and to the finish-line.  I knew I would know when that point was because we would be passing the later corrals in the opposite direction.  I also knew that it would give me a push at the end of the race as I looked at my fellow runners and we encouraged each other.  I also liked looking at everyone’s costumes!

RUNDISNEY_DLRMARAACTION3_20170115_396313432188My splits were actually not bad and I kind of maintained a steady pace almost the entire race, though I didn’t know that at the time.  At mile ten I just wanted to be done and rest, though I kept pushing onward.  For a while I ran near this guy who kept counting down the miles as we approached each mile marker.  For some reason that helped me and pushed me forward.  I knew I was almost there and as I passed mile marker twelve I gave it my all.  That was probably my hardest mile.  As I rounded the corner right after mile marker thirteen I could see the finish-line.  I had made it!  Crossing the finish-line always brings me joy and makes me feel incredibly accomplished.  I ended up finishing in 1:54:30 with an average pace of 8:44, which is my second best half time.

The finishing chute for some reason felt twice as long as the Disney World ones. I grabbed my drinks and snack box and then found the challenge tent.  All they did was cut off my wristband and then let me proceed to collect my Coast to Coast medal.  It was so beautiful!  The main reason I wanted to do a Disneyland race was to get a medal with “Partners” on it.  I just lucked out that I completed the challenge in an anniversary year. I got my finisher photos taken then stopped by medical for some ice.  I had never stopped in medical before, but my foot started hurting as I crossed the finish-line.  I thought I must have landed on it wrong.  A medical volunteer gave me a bag of ice and I chatted with them as a sat for a bit and iced my food.

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Chris was waiting for me as I entered the family reunion area.  Another thing I was disappointed about was the lack of photo opportunities after the race.  There was one set up, but no photopass photographer, so we decided just to leave.  Chris also told me that he couldn’t find anywhere to spectate beside near the finish and every person he asked couldn’t give him an answer so he just waited back at the car until I was almost finished.

Overall I had a great time and really enjoyed the course.  I felt it was missing that extra magic from Disney World races, so I will probably stick to those from now on.  Coming soon:  my Dark Side recap.  It was a crazy one!

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2017 Walt Disney World Half Marathon

On the evening of January 6th I was finishing up getting my racing gear ready for the next morning.  My mom helped me attach my new bib magnets to my running shirt and I piled everything together so I wouldn’t forget anything in the early morning.  The forecast for the morning was supposed to be rain and I was a bit worried because I had never raced in the rain before.

I sat down to check Facebook to see if there were any updates about the race maybe being delayed and that’s when I saw it:  all races scheduled for Saturday, the 7th had been cancelled.  I was heartbroken and suddenly couldn’t stop crying.  All that training and preparation for nothing?  I had been really sick since Christmas and only took off three days in a row at the most because I had a race coming up.  Disney had never cancelled a race before, so I was mostly in shock.

As it turned out Track Shack and runDisney made the right call.  Those would have been dangerous conditions to set up the race in and horrible weather to run in.  They also came up with a lot of different options to receive a refund.  Runners could decide to run the marathon the next day, defer to another race within two years, receive the amount of the race in a Disney gift card, or receive two one day park hopper tickets.  I chose the deferment option and am hoping to get in the Dark Side half so I can truly run the Coast to Coast and earn my medal.

Saturday morning after the worst of the storm had passed a wonderful thing happened; runners came together and ran the half on their own all over Disney property.  We went to breakfast like planned at Old Key West and passed multiple groups of runners completing the half marathon distance in the rain.  At Downtown Disney there was even a water stop provided by Fit 2 Run employees out front of their store.  It really showed the perseverance of the running community.

Sunday morning I got up at 1:45 am and drove to Epcot to work my shift at the marathon.  It was the coldest day of the season and I couldn’t wait for it to be over.  I was working in the corrals and after a while I couldn’t feel my feet and my whole body was in pain.  At 6:15 I was finally able to move my corral forward and by 7:30 I was leaving Epcot in my car with the heater on and not without my half medal.  It took me a while to thaw out and then I headed to Animal Kingdom with my parents.  It wasn’t until we were about to leave the park that it finally started to warm up a bit.

On the following Tuesday I decided to run my half to earn my medal.  I ran around my neighborhood and through my favorite park twice to make up the 13.1 miles.  I stopped quite a bit for water stops, but maintained a competitive pace while running.  I ended up finishing in 1:55:48 and felt sore later in the day.  I was proud of myself for getting out there and completing the miles and  hope I am able to have a great race on Sunday for my first race at Disneyland!

Star Wars Dark Side Registration

WDWRUNDISNEY_WDWMARAFINISHLINE3_7661062415-cropToday was the early registration for the Star Wars Dark Side Half Marathon Weekend.  As a Walt Disney World passholder I was able to register for the 10k at noon.  I ran the half this year, but since I wasn’t too happy with the course I decided to just do the 10k next year.  It turns out that the 10k and half courses are changing for next year!  The exact courses won’t be released until closer to the race, but according to the runDisney website both races will start on Floridian Way and end in Epcot.  This is very exciting for me because I love ending the races in Epcot.  Ending in the Wide World of Sports complex didn’t feel as magical as it would have if the finish line was right after passing Spaceship Earth and running through a park.  Floridian Way is a new starting area which is right near the Transportation and Ticket Center.  I am hoping that we can just take the monorail to the starting line and avoid the buses all together.

I am happy to say that my parents will be joining me this time at their first 10k!  They usually do the 5ks with me, but the 5ks are getting less and less practical.  The price has gone from $65 when I started running them to $80!  $80 for a 5k?!  That’s a little insane.  I suspect that the price increase is related to the fact that they are giving out medals now instead of the rubber medallions as before.  The 5ks also give out cotton unisex t-shirts instead of tech training shirts like the higher distance races, but my main reason for not doing the 5ks anymore is that they are not timed.  The reason I justify paying the high Disney prices is for the best possible scenario for me to set a PR.  If it is not timed, then it is just not worth it.  I told my parents these points and they agreed.  My Dad said that he is really going to train for this 10k.  They were both nervous about double the distance then they are used to, but I know that they will do great!

2016 Star Wars Half Marathon The Dark Side: RACE REPORT

I awoke to the sound of my alarm going off at two in the morning.  That could only mean one thing: time for another runDisney race!  My plan worked.  Since I got up super early the day before, I was able to fall asleep that night and I woke up kind of rested.  It was the morning of the Inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon The Dark Side!  I jumped out of bed, brushed my teeth and then started to put on all the pieces for my costume.  I was going as a Sith Lord with a light up skirt.  The lights were Chris’ idea and they turned out great!  My Mum had to sew my skirt without me this time because I was working in Canada until right before the races.  We had to come up with the measurements via a Hangouts video chat.  It paid off because the skirt fit perfectly!  I had found a black tank on clearance at TJ Max and the headband was made by ChickyBands on Etsy.  I thought the red imperial symbol matched perfectly with my skirt!  I wore a running belt so I could stuff my battery pack inside.  It worked out great and was very comfortable.

WDWRUNDISNEY_WDWMARACORRALCANDID7_7661064538As soon as I had all my things together we left for Epcot.  This was a different race course than had ever been run before.  It started in Epcot, but ended at the Wide World of Sports Complex.  That wasn’t the most convenient, but more on that later.  When I arrived to Epcot it was just like any other runDisney race; tons of people waiting around for the announcer to say we were allowed to go to the starting line.  I had a Photopass photographer take our picture and then we waited around until it was time for me to go.

When it was time, I told Chris bye and followed the mass of people heading to the start line.  It was slow progress until we got to the split of the beginning corrals and back corrals.  I headed towards the beginning corrals and made my way to the porta-potties.  When I was done I walked nervously to corral B.  I didn’t see any pacers there, so it looked like I was on my own.

I couldn’t really see the stage because my eye sight was so bad and I never run in my glasses.  I was too nervous to pay attention anyway, but the announcers did their usual spiel and Disney did some Star Wars advertising.  I remember thinking that I just have to try my best and not worry about a PR.  The fireworks sounded to start the push-rim contestants and bring me out of my thoughts.  A couple of minutes later corral A started and we began to move to the start line.  The 1 minute warning was said over the loud speaker, then 30 seconds….3……2…..1….and we were off!

WDWRUNDISNEY_WDWMARACOURSEACTION9_7663070574-cropI started running at a conservative pace because I knew I would need my strength later on since my training didn’t go as well as I would have liked.  The first park we entered was Epcot at about mile one.  Running through the World Showcase is one of my favorite parts of Disney races and it was as breathtaking as ever.

Next was Hollywood Studios which was a nice change from previous courses.  We entered the park at about mile three and ran right down Hollywood Boulevard toward the Chinese Theater and past a bunch of Storm Troopers.  At this point in the race I was still feeling great at about an 8:30 pace per mile.

WDWRUNDISNEY_WDWMARACOURSEACTION19_7661321818On the way to Animal Kingdom I started feeling the fatigue.  Osceola Parkway was long and it felt like I was going uphill the whole time.  There wasn’t much around which was making it tough to go on, but the excitement of running through Animal Kingdom kept me looking forward.  I have to say that the Animal Kingdom parking lot is HUGE!  It felt like forever running around it before we entered the park.  Animal Kingdom was pretty difficult for me and because of that, most of it was a blur.  I do remember running past Primeval Whirl as we entered and then as we exited we ran to the park entrance where there is an incline that I always dread after a long day at the park.

After Animal Kingdom and a high five with one of the 501st legion members, it was back to Osceola Parkway and on to The Wide World of Sports Complex.  This was really difficult because my legs started hurting in Animal Kingdom and my pace showed it.  I slowed down to about a nine minute mile.  As bad as my legs were hurting, I knew that I had to keep going.  I gave it my all and ran as best as I could back down Osceola Parkway, which ironically still felt like I was going uphill.

WDWRUNDISNEY_WDWMARAFINISHLINE3_7661062415-cropWe entered The Wide World of Sports through a dirt path on the side of the complex.  I didn’t even know about that path and was very surprised that I was all of a sudden running on dirt and rocks.  It was tricky, but I did not trip!  We then ran around some fields and turned going towards the front and the finish line.  When we made it to a shorter dirt path I heard a girl behind me yell, “Is this over yet?!  I want to lay down!”  I felt that sentiment as well.  At that point I could hear the finish line announcer and a crowd of cheers.  I finally turned a corner and saw the finish line itself.  I was so exhausted and couldn’t wait to cross.  I finished with the time of 1:56:06.  Even though that was my worst half marathon time I was extremely proud of what I accomplished.

WDWRUNDISNEY_WDWMARACOURSECHARACTER2_7661444511After I received my medal, towel, and snack box I met up with my family and we headed to the Star Wars character backdrop area for pictures.  There were about ten different ones, each with a different Star Wars character.  I took pictures with Darth Maul, some storm troopers, Jabba the Hutt, and a tentacle monster.  When I was done with those lines we went straight to the buses that would take us back to Epcot.  I wanted to beat the rush of people so we didn’t have to wait too long for a bus.  As it turns out there wasn’t a line at all!  We got right on a bus which was a relief because I was really sore and needed to sit down.  As soon as it filled up we were taken back to our cars at Epcot.  Apparently to get to the finish line my family had to stand in a long line and wait about half an hour for a bus to take them there.  The buses were also quite a walk from where I left them to go to the start line.  They were less than happy about the experience because in addition to the long walk and wait, the bus was falling apart and the driver got lost on the way to the finish line.

The walk back to the car felt extremely long from the area where the bus dropped us off and I didn’t think I was going to make it to the car.  I did make it and we drove home where I was finally able to rest after a very tiring weekend.

I enjoyed the race, but I have to say I wasn’t a fan of the course.  It seemed a lot more difficult than Princess in regard to the elevation.  I also missed the mid race excitement that running down Main Street and through Cinderella’s Castle brought to the other races. I did like running through three parks this time, but ending in The Wide World of Sports Complex felt less climactic than I was used to.  With the constant raising of prices for Disney races, I’m not sure that I will be inclined to sign up for this half anytime soon in the future.  I am glad that I got to participate in the inaugural race, but legacy just doesn’t seem worth it for a race where I wasn’t fond of the course.

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Working at the Star Wars Dark Side 10k and Expo Fun!

 

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I took a week off from Canada to fly home for the Star Wars Dark Side weekend. I was worried about how I would do during the half that Sunday because my training wasn’t one of my best. I don’t think that there was one week where I ran every day that I was supposed to. Work had been taking up most of my time up here, so when my alarm would go off early each morning, I would sometimes hit the snooze and lay my head back down. Another problem was the weather: I had been training in freezing conditions and Florida was anything but freezing during April.

I flew back to Florida late Friday night. I already knew that it was unlikely that I would get anything from the Expo because the merchandise usually sells out the first day. I tried to sleep some on the plane, but that is really hard when there is a screaming kid a couple rows back. I went to bed shortly after I arrived home (after I spent some time with the kittens!) because I had the brilliant idea of signing up to work the 10k with Track Shack the next morning.  At least it prepared me for getting up early for the half!

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Early Morning Selfie!

The Star Wars 10k was the first Disney 10k that I had worked.  The good thing was that it was a shorter shift than working the half.  I had to get to the Wide World of Sports complex at 3:30 in the morning because I was working the finish line.  When I got there we were shown around so we knew the layout in case runners had any questions about where things were.   Once the race had started we moved to the finish line.  It was exciting because I got to see the first finisher break the tape!  This was my view:

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After quite a few first finishers crossed we were moved to our posts that we would stay at for the remainder of the race.  My job was to make sure no one went back the wrong way up the finishing chute. Most people listened, some argued. I’m not sure why people feel the need to wait for people in the chute itself. That’s what the family reunion area is for. Also finishing photos are not group photos. It is supposed to be you with your medal. Coming back up the chute with friends to take a group photo is not allowed and really makes no sense. There were about six backdrops with characters in the family reunion area where group photos could be taken. It was our job to clear the chute as soon as possible to get the runners on their way. Since I was very lacking in sleep I couldn’t wait until my shift was over so I could rest up for the half.

After everyone had been cleared out of the finishing chute and the two missing kids had been found, I was allowed to leave. I headed home to get ready to head right back there for the expo since I still had to pick up my packet.

20160416_115819I was really disappointed with the expo. I usually am able to go the first day and get what I want. We first went up to the pre-order area after I got my bib and the official merchandise area that was up there was closed and completely empty. I went to the pre-order pick up area to ask if they had extra jackets. I saw the design when someone posted it online and really wanted one. After I got my Princess one I really regretted not ordering the inaugural Dark Side one. I was told that extras would be sold at the merchandise tent after the race. I hoped that my family would be able check for one before I finished the race.

We left that building and made our way to the main expo building. As expected when we entered the official merchandise area almost everything was gone. There wasn’t anything that I needed, I just would have liked the a tank if they had one. They didn’t, so I ended up getting a yellow performance shirt with Vader and storm troopers on it.

After I paid for the shirt we were able to relax and walk around the expo. I had a list of a couple booths that I wanted to check out. I talked to photo pass to inquire about a single day memory maker since I was only doing one race. I was told it was $69. A little more than I wanted, but still cheaper than Marathonfoto!  I looked for the Luna Bar booth and the Cliff Bar pacers, but couldn’t find either one. I didn’t even see pacers at the half. I was really bummed by the Luna bars not being there because it was one of my favorite booths at the expos and I was getting hungry.

The last thing I wanted to check out was the Sparkle Skirts booth. I had been hearing for a while how great they were, but I couldn’t justify the high price tag and high shipping price. I wanted to see one in person to figure out why they were loved so much.  When we got to the booth there was a sale rack right up front.  I looked though a bit and found a very pretty and sparkly one for only $55!  They are usually all about $70.  There were some curtains to the side where people were trying on their skirts.  Chris convinced me to try it on, so off I went.  As soon as I put it on I couldn’t believe how comfortable it was!  I jogged in place for a bit in the dressing room and it felt great!  I stepped out to talk to the owner and she made sure that I had picked the right size.  It was a perfect match so I bought it!  I had finally fallen to the power of the Sparkle Skirt.

There wasn’t really much more to look at and I was exhausted, so we left to get lunch.  After I ate I just rested and then went to bed really early.  I wanted to be the best I could for the half the next day.  I was really nervous, but all I could do was my best and trust in my training.

Disney World Marathon Weekend Registration

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After Star Wars Half Marathon:The Dark Side last weekend I contemplated which runDisney half I should run during 2017.  I had thought that it would be Star Wars because I wanted to try to get legacy, but after running it I am having second thoughts.  I will elaborate more on why that is during my Dark Side race recap.

It just so happened that the Tuesday after the Half was early registration for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.  I plan on running the marathon as my first marathon in 2018 for its 25th anniversary, but the half seemed very tempting.   I have never run a race during marathon weekend and I thought it might be good to run the half the year before I take on the full.  Also it is the half’s 20th anniversary and those always make for great medals!

After considering all of that I signed up for the half.  The process was very quick and easy and I was finally able to use my new proof of time from this year’s Princess Enchanted 10k.  I know I won’t be in as high of a corral as at Princess during this race, but I think my proof of time will give me a decent, competitive corral that I can try to set a PR in. I can’t wait and I know it will be a lot of fun!

2016 Princess Half Marathon: RACE REPORT

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This year’s Princess Half Marathon was an incredible, amazing experience. I had never run a Disney half marathon before and it left me wanting more. Disney really knows how to put on an event and I am so thrilled that I got to be a part of it.

I woke up at about two in the morning because I was really nervous about getting to my corral on time. I knew it was about a twenty minute walk from the finish area in the Epcot parking lot. I also thought that there would be more traffic getting there because of how many more people were running the half than the 10k. Thankfully traffic wasn’t bad and we were able to park and walk to the staging area just fine.

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Waiting to walk to the corrals

I was really nervous before the race. I just kept thinking about my first half, OUC, and how I lost it at about mile nine. I was determined to not let that happen this time. Chris waited there with me until it was time for me to go to my corral. I saw Marathonfoto employees all around so I took the opportunity to get our picture taken together. I knew that I would be buying the photo package, so I had to get my money’s worth! When they called for us to go to the corrals I told Chris bye and followed the sea of thousands headed in the same direction. Chris left to meet my parents and sister, who had just arrived in the parking lot. They were going to head to the Magic Kingdom and wait for me to pass on Main Street.

Everyone was packed onto the road, moving at the same

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Walking to the Corrals

speed as one solid mass. I saw another Marathonfoto person on the side, so I stopped for a “before” picture. After a while there was a fork in the road. A huge construction sign pointed corrals A through H to the left and I through P to the right. This thinned out the crowd and I was able to quickly make my way to the porta-potty, which there were tons of with no lines! I had gone before we headed over there, but I had to make sure I wouldn’t have to go during the race because I wouldn’t be stopping.

I had an energy gel before the start that my sister had bought me. She said it was good to have more than one during a half, which might have been my problem at OUC: not enough fuel. I finished the gel and then headed to corral B. Once in the corral I made my way to the front on the right. That was where Diane, my pacer, told me she would be at the expo and sure enough she was there! I re-introduced myself and talked to her a bit. She told me a little bit about her strategy and that she loved my costume. Then it was time for announcements on the stage and the National Anthem.

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I remember feeling sick and texting my family that I felt like I had to puke. This felt like the biggest thing I had done in my life and I was feeling the nerves. They assured me everything would be fine, but I wasn’t so sure.

At 5:30 the wheelchair division started and then corral A followed shortly after. Next was our turn. I was right at the starting line again and as soon as those fireworks went off it seemed the nerves had left my body. I took off and it felt incredible! I was running to the Magic Kingdom!

My strategy at first was simple; stay right behind Diane. For the most part I was successful. The first couple miles I was right behind her despite other people drifting in front of me and getting in my way. It was a bit crowded at the beginning and there was a huge group that like me, were trying to stay with Diane. She made it entertaining. She started quizzing us on Disney Princess Trivia and tried to have us remember which Princess was on every mile marker that we passed. She also gave us running tips and made sure that we checked our posture. The only problem was that she started off ahead of pace. She was supposed to stay at an 8:20 pace but the first mile was an 8:12 pace and the second was 8:07. I was able to maintain an 8:22 pace for the third mile, but by the forth she was pulling away and I never saw her again.

The fourth mile ended up at 8:26 and I was starting to feel worse as the run went on. I knew that during mile five I would be running down Main Street and I was hoping that would be the boost I needed to get me going again. Right before mile four we ran through the Transportation and Ticket Center. There were people lining the course in the parking lot and on the bridge the trams usually go under. I loved the excitement of the spectators cheering on the runners. The entirety of mile four was run parallel with Bay Lake. I wasn’t even noticing my surroundings at this point. I was so nervous about what was yet to come. As we neared the Magic Kingdom gates my heart was quickly pounding in my chest which probably caused me to slow done. I wasn’t sure that I would be able to handle the excitement that was waiting for me on the other side of the gates.

I entered Magic Kingdom and as I rounded the corner onto Main Street I couldn’t believe what I heard and saw. There were people screaming and cheering everywhere! It was incredible! I kept my pace best I could as I scanned the crowd for my family. About halfway down I saw them and they were screaming my name. I waved and pointed at them as I passed. It was the greatest feeling in the world to run down Main Street and see my family there cheering for me. I am really grateful to have such an amazing support system. That was the boost I needed. I continued to Tomorrowland, then Fantasyland and through the castle! When I exited the castle there were more people cheering; it was amazing! The course then went through Adventureland and passed right by Splash Mountain before it headed back out of the park and back to Epcot.

Mile five inside the park was done at a 8:29 pace, but it started falling from there. I tried to go more by feel than looking at my watch the whole run, which made the run more enjoyable. At the halfway point there was a DJ and he notified us that the female lead runner was twenty minutes ahead of us. Mile six took me towards the Grand Floridian at an 8:33 pace.

There were more and more photo stops on the way back to Epcot and more to see once the sun started rising. I passed a bunch of men in tuxes (princes?) and a women in what looked like a wedding dress, yelling, “Pocahontas, Pocahontas, over here!” I waved as I ran by, but I was not about to stop for a picture. I had a PR to set!

I had heard that the stretch back to Epcot was boring and monotonous, but I quite enjoyed it! It was flat and straight, though I don’t think I went as fast as I could. Miles seven and eight were still climbing down at 8:45 and 8:48. Across the median were Princesses going in the opposite direction heading to Magic Kingdom. There were so many! I couldn’t believe when I saw some people from the other side further up run across the median and across my lane to use the porta-potties that were on my right. If they were to run right in front of me they were going to be plowed over. Luckily it didn’t have to come to that.

I was grateful when I came to the fuel station half way through mile eight. There were different flavored Cliff gels that I had never tried before. I grabbed a citrus flavored one with caffeine and kept on running. It was good, but I was needing water to wash it down by the time I finished it. Luckily I came to a water station not long after. I had been getting better at the water stations. I passed by the first couple, but really started using them right after the Magic Kingdom. After the sun started coming up it felt really good just to splash some on my face. Each time it gave me a second wind to keep going.

Miles nine and ten were my slowest at 8:50 and 8:53.  Mile ten was the dreaded overpass that I had been hearing so much about.  There were actually three and I didn’t think they were so bad.  I credit that with all of the hill training that I did beforehand.  It’s true, most of the hard work is completed during training.  When the race starts, you are truly almost finished!  One thing that helped me up those overpasses was knowing that I would get to run down them as soon as I made it to the top.

My Nike training plan that I have been following for every race (some more closely than others) always said to run at a competitive pace the first ten miles and then race the last three.  I could not accomplish that during OUC on account that I felt like I was dying, so I tried to do it here.  I sped up during miles eleven and twelve. At the end of one of the overpasses right outside of Epcot was a school marching band and cheerleaders.  That really pumped me up;  it was as though they were cheering just for me!  I finished mile eleven in 8:36 and twelve at 8:35.

790645_1015_0015Now came the hardest part of the entire run: the last mile.  Mile thirteen entered the park, ran to the beginning of the World Showcase, turned around, and then headed out to the parking lot, past Spaceship Earth.  I gave everything I had during that mile.  I was still feeling good, but I pushed my pace for a strong finish.  That mile took me only 8:15, which was great considering I had already run twelve miles!  As I rounded the corner out of the park I passed a gospel choir.  They were signaling that I was almost finished!  I pushed the pace some more and saw the finish line in the distance.  I ran my heart out and crossed feeling strong and accomplished!  I didn’t make my goal of 1:50, but I made a new PR by about two and a half minutes!  And I accomplished that with PRing the day before in the 10k and running hard during the 5k!  My final time was 1:52:39.  It was the perfect ending to the race series for me and a great first Disney Half Marathon!

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I made my way though the finishing chute to receive my gorgeous half marathon medal and my snacks and refreshments.  Then of course more photo opportunities.  I took a finisher’s photo with my half medal then I was directed to the challenge tent.  It took no time at all for them to look me up and see that I earned the Glass Slipper Challenge medal.  I moved forward to where a volunteer awarded me with the medal around my neck.  It was such a great feeling and accomplishment.  I worked so hard during my training and I was extremely proud of myself.

My family met me after I got all of my finishing things.  They had made it back to Epcot in time to see me cross the finish line.  They told me how great I did and that they were proud of me.  I was so grateful to have them all there.  We headed to the character area where I got my picture taken with Cinderella and since I missed her last time:  Rapunzel!  On the way to the car there was a picture stop where I held a speech bubble above my head.  The photographer there was taking those photos for promotional items.  My family also took my picture there.  One last photo in front of the Princess Half sign and then it was time to leave to get ready to go back to Epcot for the day!

When we got back to Epcot after I was showered and relaxed I got my picture taken in front of Spaceship Earth with all of my medals on.  We also went to the Visa cardholders photo spot for more photos.  Here’s a tip I didn’t know before:  there are exclusive photo opportunities for Disney Visa card holders with the characters where you get the digital downloads of the photos for free!  It was a nice little surprise during the day.  After my parents left, Chris and I ended the day with a wonderful, delicious dinner in China.  I will definitely be heading back there in the future.

I never thought completing a challenge would mean that much to me.  I always just saw it as just another medal.  I honestly couldn’t believe that I raced back to back days so well.  I am proud of that Glass Slipper medal and I wore it all day around the park to show it off.  I may try another challenge in the future, but for now I have to start training for the Star Wars: The Dark Side Half, so I can get another PR.  But since the race is in April in Florida, I highly doubt that.

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