Our third full day at Disney was monumental for so many reasons: it was my first runDisney race, it was Preston’s second race of the Dopey Challenge, and my parents arrived at Disney World that day!
Our Friday started off much the same as our Thursday had. Our alarm went off at 2:30am, and our plan was to make the first bus leaving from our hotel en route to the staging area at Epcot. The big difference this morning was that instead of just Preston getting ready to participate in the race, both of us did this time.
We arrived at Epcot with a couple of minutes to spare before the Team #runDisney meetup. At the meetup, we met Sarah from Sparkly Runner and her boyfriend Matthew. Sarah recognized me from our interactions on social media, and immediately confirmed who I was by asking if I was running my first half marathon the next morning. Meeting Sarah as well as a few others (sorry I don’t remember all of your names!) set me off on a major high as I set out to start my first runDisney race.
The 10k started at 5:30am, and we were told to be in our corrals by 5:15. There were just as many 10k participants as there had been the day before for the Family Fun Run 5k – 10,000 people (7,000 of which were Dopey Challenge runners), and we were split into five corrals of about 2,000 people each. Unlike for the half and full marathons the 10k corrals weren’t released in advance, so I didn’t find out that I was in Corral B until I picked up my bib at the expo on Thursday. Preston was in Corral A, but since we had planned to walk the 10k together he started with me in Corral B. We had planned to walk from the moment we registered back in April in order to conserve as much energy as possible for the half marathon the next morning, and for Preston to run the full marathon on Sunday.
At 5:30am the wheelchair division kicked off the race, followed shortly afterwards by Corral A. We weren’t told in advance how much time there would be in between corrals, so it was just a guessing and waiting game. Luckily, Corral B didn’t have to wait too long and at 5:42am (that’s when I started tracking our race on RunKeeper) we were off!
Since we were walking and wanted to be respectful of those that were running, we started in the back of our corral. We also made a point at the beginning of the race to stay to the right side of the course as much as possible in order to be respectful of those that were running. Between the timing of the corrals (they were started about every ten minutes) and walking, we never felt crowded on the course at all. Since the roads were wet and slippery from the rain the afternoon before (it down poured while we were at Epcot), we were very thankful to be walking instead of running!
Since we were walking, we knew we wanted to aim for a sub 15 min/mile pace in order to stay within runDisney’s published 16 min/mile requirement. Fortunately, our powerwalks during our training well prepared us for maintaining a sub 14 min/mile pace, which allowed some wiggle room for some photo opportunities during the race. However, we knew we’d risk being swept if we stopped at every character stop. Fortunately, the entertainment from the DJ atop of an overpass in the first mile of the race and seeing the mile markers, along with the sheer excitement of this being my first runDisney race, was enough to get us energized and moving, despite the lack of other entertainment during the first half of the race.
The course started off in the parking lot at Epcot and led us out onto Epcot Center Drive. The only character stop we passed in the first 3.5 miles was Captain Hook and Smee just before the second mile marker. Between the fairly long line to see Captain Hook and Smee and our indifference about having our picture taken with them, we decided to pass and wait for another character stop.
Just before the third mile marker as we were powerwalking on Epcot Center Drive, Preston thought he had seen a familiar face pass us on the left. He asked me if I thought it had been Heather from Through Heather’s Looking Glass, and it turned out it was her and husband Bobby. They had started walking, and we quickly caught up to them and introduced ourselves to them. Nothing like meeting one of your blogging idols in the middle of your first runDisney race! We chatted for a few minutes before they started running again.
Finally after about the first 3.5 miles of the 10k we entered the backstage area of Epcot. We saw the Green Army Man, and then passed under part of the track for Test Track. We entered World Showcase in China and stopped to see the Genie from Aladdin in Morocco.
We exited World Showcase at the International Gateway and made our way towards the Boardwallk. This area of the course was especially slippery! We passed Football Goofy outside of ESPN Zone, but another long line propelled us forward passing up another character opportunity. By this point, the sun was starting to come up, which made for a gorgeous scene as we made our way through the Boardwalk and around towards Yacht and Beach Club. I loved that the Boardwalk/Yacht and Beach Club loop was included in the 10k since it isn’t a part of the half marathon course and I wouldn’t get to experience this part of the resort the next morning.
After the Boardwalk/Yacht and Beach Club loop we entered the backstage area of Future World West and eventually made our way into the Imagination Pavilion. In the distance we saw Chip and Dale and a fairly short line, and thought that this might be our last opportunity for a character photo during the race. Just after we got in line, I turned around to survey the line lengthening behind us, to find myself standing face to face with the remarkable Kimberly from Maker Mother Marathoner. If you haven’t had the opportunity to meet Kim or read her story, you must! She is currently battling breast cancer, but won’t let her battle slow her down. She finished chemotherapy six days prior to the start of the Dopey Challenge, and is an inspiration to so many in the Team #runDisney community.
After posing for a quick photo just before crossing the finish line, I took Preston’s hand and we crossed the finish line of my first runDisney race!
Despite being utterly exhausted (we were on a streak of only getting a couple of hours of sleep a night), I was beyond excited to receive my first runDisney medal. According to runDisney we completed 6.2 miles in 1:43:37 (16:41 pace), but according to my own tracking using RunKeeper, we completed 6.32 miles in 1:34:17 (14:56 pace). Of course, RunKeeper also automatically paused each time we stopped to take a picture. Walking a 10k and stopping for pictures, all while maintaining a sub 17 minute race pace, was still a success in my book!
After we received our medals, Preston made his way to the left side of the finisher’s chute to get his Dopey Challenger 10k finisher wristband. After the chaotic scene at the end of the 5k, runDisney seemed to have worked the kinks out of its system since Preston walked right up to a volunteer to get his new wristband. He asked, and double checked to make sure, that he could take his 5k wristband off when we got back to the hotel. Each volunteer he asked told him that he could, but we decided that he should have his 5k wristband with him the next morning for the half marathon just to be certain. Unlike many other Dopey Challengers, Preston wasn’t interested in having up to four wristbands on his wrist by the end of Saturday’s half marathon. (He also had his Runner’s World Challenge wristband, which gave him access to the 5k and 10k post race breakfasts as well as Race Retreat for the half and full marathons). Once we cut off the 5k wristband, it immediately went into the waistback that he wore for each race.
Despite the lack of entertainment provided by runDisney during the first half of the race, overall I enjoyed my first runDisney race experience. The entertainment and spectator support during the second half of the race made up for the lack thereof during the first half. With Hollywood Studios and Epcot being so close in proximity to one another, I wish that we could have started at one park and finished at the other and spent less time on the roads, but that would have meant having to set up a second staging area (all four Marathon weekend races started and ended in the Epcot parking lot), so I can understand why Hollywood Studios wasn’t included in the 10k. However, runDisney did a great job ensuring that there was enough water along the course (there were three well stocked water stops for this race).
After the 10k we went back to the hotel, showered, and made our way to Hollywood Studios. Upon arrival, we were disappointed to find out that Toy Story Mania was shut down due to unexpected mechanical problems. Although we had a Fast Pass+ reservation for the ride, it was instead replaced with a Fast Pass for any ride at anytime we were at the park, which allowed us to ride several of our favorite rides in the couple of hours that we were at Hollywood Studios, including Tower of Terror twice, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, and Great Movie Ride. We also had time to see my favorite show at any Disney park, Beauty and the Beast.
We ate lunch on Friday at Pizza Planet. Since the weather was gorgeous that day, we ate outside. As we were wrapping up lunch, we noticed that Heather and Bobby were eating only a couple of tables away from us, and a few minutes later they walked over and we chatted for awhile.
Mid afternoon we decided to park hop to Magic Kingdom to spend an hour or so there before dinner. Our timing of switching parks worked out perfectly with Mom and Dad’s arrival at Disney World. They were supposed to have gotten in late morning, but a ground hold due to fog in Chicago caused their flight to Chicago to be significantly delayed (they even unboarded the plane and had to reboard!). Although they missed their original connection to Orlando, they lucked out and were rebooked onto the next flight. We gave them directions about taking the bus from Coronado Springs where we all stayed to Magic Kingdom, and met up with them for a few minutes before we entered the park and they went to the Polynesian Resort to grab a drink before dinner. We later met up with them at the Polynesian for a delicious pre half marathon meal at ‘Ohana.
After dinner we rode the monorail back to the Transportation Ticket Center and drove back to our hotel. Just like the night before, we laid out or race clothes and bibs for the next morning and set our alarm for our 2:15am wake up call. My first half marathon was the next morning!
QOTD: What inaugural events have you participated in?