2016 Walt Disney World Half Marathon Race Recap

As promised in yesterday’s 10K race recap, today is all about my second stab at the Walt Disney World Half Marathon. I ran this race last year as my second half marathon ever, and my first distance race after coming back from a hip injury that kept me from running for three months during the prior summer. I was nervous and excited as I approached the starting line of this race in 2015. While I experienced both of those emotions this year in some measure, my general feeling was far away from where it had been. What a difference a year can make.


Cinderella Castle




I woke up at 3:24am on Saturday morning, six minutes before my alarm was supposed to go off. This year I was with both of my parents, who were on a 4am bus and then waiting in a tent at the staging area for an hour alongside me, keeping me alert in the corrals as we chatted as much as you can so early in the morning. I didn’t realize how tired I was from the previous day’s early wake-up call and run until midway through the race, but at the start the music and people all around kept me going. I started in Corral E this year (last year I was in Corral D) but it’s so efficient at the beginning, I think we started running at 5:42am – almost the exact same time as last year.





Miles 1-4 along the highway flew by, as I kept a fairly steady pace right around 9:55/mile. I actually felt like I was going a bit too fast for the starting miles, but unlike the California half marathon course at the Dumbo Double Dare, the first miles aren’t the place for photos, so off I went. Just after Mile 5, we headed into the Magic Kingdom and went running up Main Street, U.S.A., where I stopped for a photo op and to check on the location of the nearest restrooms. I actually ended up stopping at the same one in Tomorrowland as last year. Perks of racing through theme parks!



Cinderella Castle photo at half marathon



I was separated from my parents during Mile 1, not a big deal since we usually run separately even if we are all running the same race. They both ran when they were my age, and when I started running a few years ago it was a matter of months before they started up again. Anyway, my dad and I actually ran the 10K together, and on Saturday he spotted me at Mile 5 when I was coming back onto the course, so he stuck with me for the rest of the race even when my knee and hip started to hurt a bit and I slowed down. He was also a good sport at being castle photographer, even though we couldn’t get the flash on my camera phone to work and dallied for several minutes in our attempt. Forgive the grainy images and focus on the smile 🙂



Cinderella Castle photo at half marathon



As we made our way out of the Magic Kingdom, I realized I needed to slow the pace a bit. My knee and hip weren’t pulsing in pain, I was just starting to feel the effects of running two days in a row on so little sleep and without properly resting and stretching. We were walking around the parks all day before both races, and staying to watch the fireworks and parades, but when you’re there, it’s hard not to take advantage. In any event, Mile 6 in the Magic Kingdom was about 14 minutes (including the ladies’ room break and the photo stops) and from Miles 7 through 12, our pace fell somewhere in the 10:45-11:25/mile range.



Photo with Donald Duck at half marathon




There was a stop in Epcot for a photo with the duck who conducts this race. Then we got it in gear for a Mile 13 around 10:30/mile, and an official finish of 2:25:44. I wore my new Garmin watch this year, and found that this time was for a distance of about 13.6 miles. Lots of tangents and darting off the race course for photos. I didn’t even check my time until I was drafting this post though. I didn’t care. What made it special was being able to run with my dad, see the castle all lit up, and enjoy the weekend with my family indulging our running habit at Disney. I even got permission to post a rare photo of me with my parents here on the blog!



With my parents at the Disney World Half Marathon



I wasn’t running this race for time last year, either, although I finished about 10 minutes faster because the stops were shorter and I only got water once. In 2015, it was 45 degrees and I was freezing in my tank top and shorts and never threw away my “donation” fleece. This year, it was in the 60s and pretty humid, and I didn’t bring the fleece to begin with! I stopped for water at most of the stations after Mile 6 and walked through them while sipping. I slowed down when I needed to, knowing that my main goal for the weekend’s races was to have fun and maybe test my endurance a little bit, with the Fred Lebow Half Marathon coming up just two weeks after, to see where I’m at as I think about starting my marathon training. This was my slowest half marathon time since I started running, but I was just as proud to wear that medal as I was after running my fastest.



At the Animal Kingdom after the half marathon



I was also really excited for another repeat from last year, brunch at the Captain’s Grille at the Yacht Club. My dad suggested that we try taking a ride on the Rockin’ Roller Coaster between showering off and heading over from the Boardwalk to brunch, since we weren’t waiting in an hour-long line on Thursday when we were at Hollywood Studios. We walked over to shake out our legs, hopped on a roller coaster I’d never ridden before (California Screamin’ this summer was my first ever upside down coaster), and went off to eat with my head thoroughly spinning. It took some of my favorite allergy free Mickey waffles, scrambled eggs and fruit to settle it down again.



Allergy free mickey waffles



A year ago, I might have been disappointed with my time, regretted the extra minutes wasted on fussing with a camera that didn’t work how I wanted it to in the end, or felt like I hadn’t done anything to further my running goals. This time around, I was totally fine. Just the way I approached the entire weekend, treasuring time with my family and the opportunity to run some more Disney races (which was completely unexpected when it came along) showed me how my attitude towards life has snapped back into focus after being blurred a little by law school and growing up in general.



Animal Kingdom Harambe Wildlife Reserve Animal Kingdom safari Giraffe at Animal Kingdom



I always appreciated the ability to run a half marathon and go on a safari later in the day. But this time around, the range of things I was thankful for as I crossed the finish line was much broader. I was thinking of family and friends, of my accomplishment in the moment and of my progress towards greater goals, and if we’re being totally honest, about the waffles I was going to get to eat just a few hours later. Last year, just a few weeks after I started my blog, a post on my experience ended with a little paragraph on why I love Disney despite it being so antithetical to most other things I enjoy. The magic does “reel me in” as I so elegantly wrote one year ago, but a few days ago I finally put my finger on why. Growing up, I never felt like a kid. Even my mom says I was always an old soul, and I often joke that I was born a hundred years old, burdened by the wisdom of the ages. I literally once told her that doing some activity made me feel “almost like a real kid” which is probably typical for INFJ personalities.



Disney World Tigger - 1997



For whatever reason, Disney was one of the few places I ever truly felt like a child. And now that I’m an adult (well, a young adult, who’s still getting the hang of “adulting”) it’s somewhere I feel like I can be a kid for just a little while. Maybe I have a graduate degree and a real job in New York City and my relationships with family, and friends are transforming every day, but I’m still so young and want to feel that way, to forget the world for a little while and believe that all my dreams are within reach. I’m not saying that I figured this all out in the amount of time it takes to run a half marathon, just that it sort of crystallized for me during the weekend, making me want to take advantage of all the little moments that make us feel that way as they happen. Here’s hoping there are many more to come in 2016 and beyond.









Have you run the same race two years in a row (or more)?


How has your approach to running races changed over time?


Do you find that running is your “thinking time”?









© 2016 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.


19 thoughts on “2016 Walt Disney World Half Marathon Race Recap

  1. What a great recap, and very insightful about “being a child.” I never saw Disney World as a child, but we have taken our three kids there numerous times….and I totally feel like a 6-year old when I see all the magic and happiness there! The Disney races are all on my bucket list…..maybe after we get the final kid through college LOL


  2. Awww! This post made me really want to skip out of this 5 degree weather and head straight for Florida for a day at Disney! I wouldn’t run it, though. If I’m at Disney I’ll probably skip the race, sleep in, and just hang 🙂

    So glad you had a great time and made happy memories with your family, and what a way to start your year!


  3. Congrats on a strong race and soaking in the surroundings. How great your parents ran too! I didn’t go to Disneyworld until I was in college, my friends and I did a spring break Disney cruise/park combo thing so I never saw it as a kid but I’ve been there a few times with my own kids. Seeing all these recaps make me wanna run there! Thanks for linking up!


  4. I’ve always wanted to do a Disney Race but they start so darn early. I’m glad you had great race and race experience. I run races with my dad and there is nothing like it!


  5. Congratulations on your race! I love Disney races and it was fun to see my instagram and twitter feed blow up with fun pictures this weekend. I’m glad you had a great time!


  6. I would love to run a Disney race one day, because I totally know what you mean about Disney having a special place in your heart. I saw it a few times as a kid, and I was worried that I wouldn’t love it as much when I went there as an adult, but nope! Same warm and fuzzy feeling inside 😀 Love that place.


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  12. This looks like one of the most fun half marathons! I just ran my first one about four months ago, and this Disney race is definitely being added to my running ‘bucket list.’ haha. Also, It’s so cool to hear from another gluten free runner! haha. When the doctor recommended I go gluten-free, I was actually really scared, because I thought I wouldn’t have the carbs I needed for energy. Thinking back to that day, I laugh at myself. Obviously it’s possible, and there are so many other great alternatives. Keep up the great work, girls! 🙂


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