[Note: I tried writing this recap as a single post. It was nearly 3000 words. To spare your eyes, I’m breaking it up into two parts.]
It was after last year’s Disney Social Media Moms Conference, where I ran a two mile fun run through Disneyland, that I decided I wanted to run in a runDisney race event. I loved running through the parks, and wanted to do it as part of an official race, with a medal. I really hadn’t run anything more than a 5k, and the idea of traveling across several states just to run another 5k was not going to work. If I was going to do it, I had to challenge myself to something bigger.
I registered for the Enchanted 10k, part of the Princess Half Marathon weekend at Walt Disney World, back in July, so I was committed to this race months ahead of time. It’s a good thing, too, because I needed the extra time to get ready for it. An injury in mid-October led me to missing out on weeks of running as I rested my foot, tried to run again, injured it again, and then spent six weeks in a boot. When I was released to run again in mid-January, my orthopedic doctor recommended I take it slow and drop out of the 10k, because I wouldn’t have enough time to get ready for it. While I appreciated his opinion, I wasn’t letting this race slip past me. I got back into running, despite the cold weather, and did my best to increase my mileage again at a reasonable, but quick, rate.
A few weeks before the race, I had completed five miles. That was as far as I’d get before the race, due to needing time to rest and recover after losing my pregnancy. That moment left me emotionally raw. I lost one of the things I was looking forward to this year, and so when looking at this chance to run through a Disney park, I refused to lose this experience, too. I knew I could make it five miles, so another 1.2 was possible, even if it was just walking.
The Day Before the Race
We arrived in Walt Disney World on February 20, the morning of the Frozen 5k. On one hand, I wish I had done that race just because the medal was so cute. On the other, the 5k lived up to its name by setting a record low temperature that day – below freezing. It was – literally – the Frozen 5k. Perhaps it was a good thing that I missed it.
We skipped going right to our resort and instead went to the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex to pick up our race bibs at the Princess Half Marathon Expo. This was the second day of the expo, so there wasn’t as much of a crowd.
We received our bibs with practically no waiting, and the official merchandise lines weren’t that long, either. (Sadly, the Dooney & Bourke PHM purses sold out on the first day, so I missed my chance of getting one.)
The second area of the expo was a little more crowded, with lots of vendors to see, including my favorite SparkleSkirts. It was a run-nerd’s paradise of gear. I bought a new SparkleSkirt, and picked up the RawThreads hoodie that I had pre-ordered, while Aaron bought a new pair of sunglasses.
The kids were less thrilled to look at running gear all day, so we cut our time in the expo short, but not before spotting Jeff Galloway and stopping for a photo and an autograph.
Jeff Galloway is the trainer for runDisney, and his run-walk-run method has helped many new runners cross the finish line. After I tried different couch-to-5k programs with little success (I almost always failed when I reached the 8 or 10 minute long running segments), I decided to give his method of interval running a try. It’s because of his method that I was confident that I could do this race, and I recommend him to all new runners I meet.
After the expo, we checked in to our resort, Port Orleans Riverside. We stayed at Port Orleans Riverside two years ago in one of the Princess rooms. This time we stayed on the other side of Riverside – Alligator Bayou. These rooms are decorated to have a more rustic look, but the bonus is that they also have a fold down bed.
We knew Mira was an active sleeper, but didn’t realize just how active until our stop on the drive down the night before, when sharing a bed with Cordy proved almost impossible. Mira woke Cordy up several times with her constant shifting around in bed. Having the fold-down bed in our resort room was perfect – now each kid could have her own bed!
My race was the next morning, and I was focused on drinking as much water as I could, stretching, and preparing myself. But I didn’t want to stay in the room all day, so we went to Magic Kingdom for a few hours, with the knowledge that I wanted to be in bed by 9pm and not do too much walking. That was still plenty of time to meet a couple of princesses, ride Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, and eat dinner before going back to the room.
The Morning of the Race
My alarm went off just before 3am. Wait, 3am, you say? Yes, runDisney events start very early in the morning, and to be on the bus in time, it’s best to be out at the bus stop at 3:30am. I quickly got my running costume on (details on my costume will be another post), tried to do something with my hair and makeup, made sure I had everything I needed, and left the room to catch the bus.
OMG it was cold outside. Not as cold as the people who ran the Frozen 5k endured, but it was still unusually cold for Florida at 39 degrees. I had leggings and a long sleeve shirt under my costume, but it still felt cold walking through the resort to the bus stop.
A bus was waiting and I enjoyed the short ride to sit and eat my bagel for breakfast. Once we arrived in the Epcot parking lot, I followed the thousands of people streaming into the race area. There were large clusters of people gathered around outdoor heaters. It was at this point that I pulled out my mylar blanket to help me stay warm.
It wasn’t long before we were sent to our corrals. I was disappointed to be in the last corral, worried that I’d have very little cushion to finish under the time limit, but I was still determined to finish. The corral was packed, and I worked my way up as close to the front of the corral as I could.
Once we were in our corrals, we waited. I’m not sure how long we waited in the corrals. It was probably not as long as it felt to me. I refused to release my death grip on my mylar blanket and risk letting cold air in long enough to check my watch.
And then? Finally, it was go time. [To be continued in Part 2, which can be found here.]