Well, a late recap is slightly better than never, right? Things are finally slowing down enough in life for me to write up the amazing weekend I had at Walt Disney World back in February.
A year before this, I ran my first 10k at the 2015 Princess weekend, and Aaron’s anniversary gift to me while on that trip was the promise that in 2016 I’d complete the Glass Slipper Challenge at Princess weekend. The Glass Slipper Challenge involves running the 10k on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday – sounds a little crazy, and it really kinda is.
I was also traveling to this race by myself, since three of us are coming back in less than two weeks for the Star Wars Dark Side Challenge. I booked a room at Disney’s Pop Century resort, found a roommate in a race group to help cover the expenses, and was ready to run these two races. Well…mostly. I’ll admit I was under-trained due to winter, and other commitments, and mostly being lazy. But I was still determined to finish both races.
Before the race, though, is the expo. I didn’t arrive until Friday morning, so I missed some of the craziness I’d heard reports of the day before, which mostly involved long lines and people fighting over official race merchandise. Friday’s version of the expo was still crowded, but more relaxed. I picked up my race bib and shirts, browsed the expo for any good deals, and then dropped everything off at my room before spending the late afternoon at Magic Kingdom.
The primary reason I was going to Magic Kingdom that evening was to carb load at my favorite WDW pasta spot: Tony’s Town Square Restaurant. I met up with an Ohio friend for dinner and stuffed myself with shrimp scampi before going back to my room to get a few hours of sleep before the 10k the next morning.
3am is never an easy time to wake up. Nothing about 3am feels natural or comfortable. And yet 3am is when I had to be awake to get dressed for the race, get out to the bus stop, and take the bus over to the race corrals for the 5:30am start time. Thankfully, race day adrenaline kept me upright, but I was also more excited to be meeting up with friends Jana, Megan, and Megan’s husband Al in corral D. This was Megan’s first 10k, and she looked awesome in her Ursula running costume, with her husband dressed as King Neptune.
As for me, I never miss a chance at a running costume for a runDisney race. My outfit was Vanellope from Wreck-it Ralph. My only regret on my costume was that I wore my visor so it wasn’t easy to see the candy charms in my hair.
The weather was much warmer than 2015, but still cool and comfortable for the start. Just like the 10k a year before, it was a great countdown and race start.
I stuck with Megan for the first two miles, trying my best to provide motivation and support. She was probably sick of my thumbs up and motivational pep talks before the first mile. I’m not sure when I became “that cheery runner” but I can promise that I am not that cheery by mile four or so.
At her urging, I went ahead of her after mile two, and as I ran solo I quickly found myself remembering the route from the previous year and felt a surge of joy to be doing this race again. The skies were just beginning to brighten as we turned off the freeway and onto the off-ramp towards the back of Epcot.
One of the most awesome parts of running the Enchanted 10k is being able to run through the World Showcase section of Epcot. I’m slow enough that the sun is just coming up when I reach this area, and there’s a hazy glow to everything. It’s beautiful, and provides for more ideal selfie locations than you can imagine. Runners were pulling off to the side all along this area to get photos, and yes, I was one of them.
As we crossed the bridge from the France pavilion to the United Kingdom pavilion, we turned towards the exit to the Boardwalk. There’s a short area just outside of Epcot where a rope divides the path in two, with those exiting Epcot starting their loop around the Boardwalk area on one side, and those returning from that loop on the other side. This is such a high energy area as runners going in opposite directions high five each other across the rope and cheer on their fellow runners. It’s a great mental boost for mile four, when legs and lungs are starting to complain.
The second most awesome part of running the Enchanted 10k is the crowd that gathers around the Boardwalk resort. Lots of spectators are here, some with funny signs, some offering pretzels or Twizzlers (THANK YOU!), and all providing a lot of cheering and positive energy. Also? More beautiful views.
Unlike the previous year, I’ve run more than a 10k, so the distance wasn’t as challenging for me this time. But even still, that last mile does start to feel rough. Thankfully, much of that mile is spent back inside Epcot, winding past The Land and The Seas with Nemo and Friends, around Spaceship Earth, and then making the final turn for the finish line.
The gospel choir was positioned right before the final turn, and I remember they were singing something with the lyrics, “Thank God, thank God, thank God…” as I was approaching them. As I passed, I chimed in, “Thank God I’m almost done!” with my hands up in the air, then reached out to high-five one of the choir members.
And then there it was – the finish. Before I knew it, I was across the line, had my medal, my Powerade, my mylar blanket, and my snackbox. I spread out the blanket to sit down and guzzled my Powerade, all while gazing at the pretty medal I had just earned.
The Enchanted 10k is packed full of fun things to see in only 6.2 miles that go by very quickly. I didn’t even mention the character stops along the way. I’m a slow runner, so I usually don’t stop to get photos with the characters because I worry I’ll fall behind. But it’s still fun to see the characters as I run by.
Of course, this was only race #1. I still had to do more than double that distance the next morning, but not before getting some photos with my medal.
Part two coming soon!