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.
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!
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 🙂
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”?
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