Race Day - My Race:
The race itself was actually fairly uneventful for me. As we started moving from the corral towards the start line, I ditched the hoodie I'd been using to keep warm, and was officially "race ready." Since I was in Corral E, I didn't cross the start line until 6:08am. My training pace has been a 1:1 run/walk, which, depending on how fast I'm walking, results in a 13-13:30 pace. I knew that I only had to keep a less than 13:45 overall pace to meet my goal of a sub-3-hour finish. Running with people all generally going the same pace was a new experience for me (I'm almost always at the back getting passed by other runners). It felt odd that rather than spacing out quickly, we all stayed fairly clumped together for the first few miles. Of course there was still the ever-present weaving and jockeying for position (I ended up with an extra 0.23 miles according to my Garmin that I'm attributing to weaving).
I started out strong and logged the fastest miles of the whole race in the beginning (not unusual for me at all). The first 5K (3.1 mi) split (0:41:35) was at a 13:25 pace. Even though these first few miles are crowded, I find them some of the loneliest - crazy, right? Thing is, at this point, I've usually hit the "I've only gone X (2,3,4) miles and still have X (11, 10, 9) to go - there's no way I'm going to make it" phase. Not so this
time around! I was calm, confident, and feeling good - there was absolutely no way I wasn't finishing! As we went through the Magic Kingdom parking kiosks, passed the speedway, and headed towards the Ticket & Transportation Center, I couldn't wait to start seeing the crowds I knew would be there. As usual, the spectators at the TTC were amazing - loud, proud, and showing it!
After leaving the TTC (and Mile Marker 4) behind, my excitement kept building because I knew my Mom would be waiting just past Mile Marker 5 in front of the Contemporary - I couldn't wait to see her! On the side of the waterway overpass,
there was a guy with giant Mickey hands with a sign that said "You can go the Distance." It was like a flashback to that tough long run when the Hercules song really came through
for me - talk about inspiration! [On a side note- a mini-highlight of the race for me was making my way back up the underpass of the "underwater crossing" under the Seven Seas Lagoon - this was not the monster hill I remembered from previous years - I actually RAN up it and felt great - guess all those miles on the hilly trail in Austin paid off!] As I passed her, I waved at Mom with her "Go Jenny!" sign,
and turned the corner going to the Magic Kingdom feeling awesome! It was at this point that I realized that I'd forgotten to eat the gel I'd planned on at Mile 4 - so I quickly gobbled it in the backstage area before entering MK.
the line. As I came down the ramp, I was disappointed to see that there was quite a wait - nope, not doing it - after all, I already got that pic two years ago. To make up for it, I stopped at the Mile Marker 6 sign just past the bridge to Liberty Square and got a quick video of me with the castle in the background from a different angle than usual. I ran through Liberty Square and hit Frontierland, then exited the park into more backstage areas where the Pirates were out taking pics on their ship - again, no time to stop for pictures! The 10K (6.2 mi) split (1:25:00) showed an average pace of 13:43. Whoah - I had really slowed down and needed to keep an eye on the clock from here on out!
I honestly don't remember much about Miles 7, 8, and 9. I have a vague recollection of seeing the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian, as well as the Epcot-shaped hot air balloon, but I was mainly concentrating on keeping up with my run-walk intervals and watching my pace. My 15K (9.3 mi) split (2:07:45) showed an average pace of 13:44. As I passed the point where I had to stop for medical attention last year, I felt a huge swell of pride for how far I'd come in the last 12 months. At Mile Marker 10, someone shouted "Only a 5K left to go, people. We can DO this!" I, and everyone around me, laughed, clapped, hooted, and hollered - he was right, we could do this! I was still feeling great, but had slowed down a tiny bit. I was also starting to feel the right side of my left foot rubbing oddly against my shoe - oh well. I had no doubt that I could still make my sub-3-hour goal - I'd just have to stay on it.
Not a problem, right? And it wouldn't have been...until I saw what was waiting for me next. Eeyore and Tigger (but most importantly, Eeyore) were on-course, taking pictures with runners!!! This was truly hard decision time. With the size of that line, if I stopped for a picture, I knew I would not be able to make up the lost time and wouldn't finish in under three hours. But if I didn't stop for a picture, would I regret it? After all, I hadn't seen Eeyore on the course in previous years...so, I said the hell with it, and got in line to wait. And wait. In the end, I actually got some super cute video with both Eeyore and Tigger, so it was totally worth it!
[Side note: Dad told me later that when he saw them on the side of the road he knew I'd have to stop when I realized they were there - and how right he was!]
So, having blown my time goal, I plugged on, determined to still finish strong, but not to push myself all that hard anymore. I ended up taking a couple extra walking intervals, especially heading up the loooong banked cloverleaf overpass - although the green army man from Toy Story barking out "Come on civilians, get up this hill!" was an awesome twist to the standard comments you hear on-course. Mile Marker 11 was just before the parking lot entrance to Epcot, where I could see the cars and buses lining up to get in (lots of jokes here from fellow runners about hopping in one of them and getting
to the finish line the easy way). Then, finally, I caught my first glance of Spaceship Earth - what an incredibly welcome sight in the early morning sun - like the light at the end of the tunnel! The closer we got to Epcot, the more people there were on the sidelines cheering. The Mile Marker 12 sign was actually in the Epcot parking lot, and all the excitement and anticipation was back...I was so close I could taste it!
Mile 13 was through Epcot - wuhoo! This is the best part of the race for me - the park is open and there are people everywhere cheering us on - what a huge advantage to being one of the slower runners! I quickly did the out-and-back through Future World around the Epcot Christmas tree and headed towards the park exit. The gospel choir was singing "We Are the Champions" as I passed. I paused for a quick shot of the Mile Marker 13 sign and got ready to turn the corner toward the finish going full-speed ahead. Just as I was rounding the corner, I heard a small group of people yelling "Jenny! Jenny!" - I looked around, and there, just behind me, was my Mom! I turned and did a few awkward
half-sideways, half-backwards, jogging steps while yelling "HI!" and frantically waving, but there was no stopping this close to the end! As I got closer, I made my way to the right side of the course where the characters were, and actually managed to high-five Goofy just before crossing the finish line - what an incredible way to end the race!!!
There's no way to convey how incomparable the end of this race was to last year's. I felt amazing! What a difference a year makes - from stopping at a medical tent last year to finishing strong and feeling amazing this time around. I practically snatched my medal from the volunteer (he wasn't quite sure how to handle laying it over my "ears") and put it on, grabbed my mylar blanket, a bottle of water, and a banana, then set off on a mission to find my parents. I couldn't wait to share how happy I was, and to see how my dad had done!
The best news for the day? It turns out I beat my previous PR (Personal Record) for this race by exactly 15 minutes! That's more than a 1 min/mile improvement!!!
- 13.1 miles, 3:05:19, 14:08 min/mi
- 2011 WDW Half Marathon Garmin Results
**Whew - you made it through Part 2! If you're willing to keep reading, Part 3: Post-Race Recovery, Spectating Goofy & Marathon Monday is the last installment!**