If you haven’t already, be sure to read our travel day, and our expo review posts before reading this one. They are chronological and will give you a little background information.
Continuing from where I left off…
We woke up the next morning (Saturday, October 5th) around 8 o’clock. I did not get much sleep, despite how tired I was. My dad’s snoring was unbearable, and Andrew and I both woke my dad up several times throughout the night-hoping he would be able to stop (love ya, Dad!). I also tossed and turned all night because I could not stop thinking about the race. I didn’t have bad thoughts – I just couldn’t stop picturing myself running at Disney. I would try to think about other things and I just couldn’t. I might have slept 4 hours total.
Anyway, the alarm went off, and we got Connor dressed and ready for the day. My dad was taking him to Hollywood Studios for the day, and then they would go back to the resort around 6 to see us off, go to the pool and have dinner at the food court. After they left, Andrew and I couldn’t sleep , so we decided to grab some breakfast. We have a “Disney Bucket List” that includes huge things (like participating in a runDisney event) and small things (like trying Tonga Toast). We decided to cross Tonga Toast off of our list, so we got dressed and were on our way to try the breakfast that all Disney fans rave about.
Tonga Toast is served at the Polynesian resort at Kona Café (table service, around $13) and Captain Cook’s (quick service, around $6). We decided to go to Captain Cook’s. To get there we took a bus from our resort to Magic Kingdom. This was difficult for Andrew, who was anxious to get into a park. Being so close was a huge tease to him. I actually like spending a few days outside of the park. I think it helps guest see just how huge Disney World really is and it provides an opportunity to try new things that the parks don’t offer. From Magic Kingdom, we took the monorail to the Polynesian.
We walked around the resort for a little bit. It is one of our favorites. We have eaten at Ohana twice, and staying there for a night is on our Disney Bucket List. Until we can afford it, we visit the restaurants. 😉 We will have a full review of Captain Cook’s soon, be on the lookout.
After breakfast, we took the monorail to the Grand Floridian. This is the only monorail resort we haven’t visited, and I wanted to see it. It is absolutely gorgeous, and I loved all of the tiny details that made it a Disney property. We walked around for a little bit, and took some pictures.
We then took the monorail to the Magic Kingdom, then caught a bus to Caribbean Beach Resort. When we got back to our room I set out all of our race gear and took a shower.
Andrew watched the Clemson/Syracuse football game while I dried my hair and I clipped my toe nails as short as I could get them (I didn’t want bloody toes during the race!). I was exhausted and tried to nap but again, I was tossing and turning with thoughts of the race consuming me. We went to the food court around 2 and ordered pasta with meatballs and marinara sauce to share. It was ok but overall we weren’t overly impressed with the food court food, or any Disney food court food for that matter.
We went back to the room and I tried to nap while Andrew finished watching the game. At 6 we started getting ready for the race. Having everything laid out hours before really helped us when getting ready. We didn’t have to look for anything or scramble to get everything together. Once we were ready we met my dad and Connor at the food court to tell them both goodnight and so dad could take our picture.
*Side Note-From here on out all of the photos in this post were taken with my iPhone, most of which were taken while I was running. The quality may vary from picture to picture.
We got several compliments on our outfits from people in the food court and at the bus stop-we saw many good ones ourselves. I made both mine and Andy’s costumes. If you are interested in purchasing one of my tutus, send me an email at email@example.com. You can also check out pictures of some that I have made on our Facebook page.
We took the bus to the corrals. Andrew and I stared out of the window in amazement at the energy that we saw. The traffic was thick and neon lights were flashing as far as our eyes could see. I couldn’t help but cry as I tried to take it all in. I was at the beginning of living out a dream of mine and I tried to soak it up and remember everything I saw.
The place was packed (we heard there were 11,300 runners-but I haven’t seen the official number yet) but it wasn’t overwhelming at all. We checked in our bag that had our change of clothes in it and then we walked around taking in the sights. There were several food trucks set up with beer, bbq, cupcakes, etc. I don’t know how anyone could eat those types of things and then run 10 miles, maybe it was for the runner’s families? There were also several tables full of water cups and a huge line of porta-potties. We got there early enough that the porta-potties were still clean when we used them, which was nice for me because I feel really funny about germs, and things like porta-potties gross me out.
We met Heather from my favorite blog. She was wearing the Cruella tutu that I made her, along with my paw print non-slip headband.
We moved to our corral around 9, and did some stretching and spoke with some of our fellow runners. Around 9:30 the corrals were let out one at a time, and runners walked to the start line. It was located right inside the entrance of Hollywood Studios. It was a little bit of a walk, but I really enjoyed being able to get adjusted to the humidity (it was super thick) and the magnitude of the crowd.
I was nervous, but incredibly excited. Andrew was so calm. I admire his strength and confidence as an athlete. I hope to one day possess half of the athletic qualities he has. We watched as corral A was sent off with fireworks. This continued for every corral until our corral (F) was under the start line. Andrew leaned into me and said a quick prayer for us, we watched the fireworks, and then we were off.
We started out under the Hollywood Studios entrance sign, and then went onto Osceola Parkway. A huge fireball was shot off every couple of minutes on the left side of the road as we made our way toward the overpass-that thing was HOT! I already had beads of sweat forming thanks to the humidity but as soon as we got close to that thing the sweat was pouring down my face.
I loved being surrounded by so many people. It made for slower miles, but I didn’t have dreams of a PR – my dream was to finish. Usually when I race at home, I’m toward the back of the pack and I only see a few runners here and there. With this race, I was surrounded on both sides and in front and behind me. I never experienced an issue with rude behavior. Every runner I encountered had proper running etiquette. Sometimes we ran 10 or more acros,s and it was never an issue. It made me love runDisney so much already!
Right before the first Mile Marker there was a line of porta-potties and Andrew went to use one. I ran ahead to the Mile Marker and took a photo. I believe there was a Powerade/Water stop around here as well. I dumped a cup of water on my head at each water stop.
*Side Note-Keep in mind that our times are about 13 minutes off from the time on the Mile Markers. We started about 13 minutes after the first runners crossed the start mat in corral A.
To be completely honest with you, as much as I tried to take in each moment, some parts of the race (especially miles 2-4) were and still are a blur. I had plans of taking a picture at each Mile Marker, but sometimes they were on the opposite side of the road from me and I didn’t want to take time off of the clock to switch sides or wait in line to take the picture.
I remember at Mile Marker 2 telling Andrew that I was absolutely starving and sharing the pasta at lunch was not enough for my stomach. I could feel myself crashing only 25 or less minutes into the race, and that was not good. I took a GU Chomp once we crossed the 2nd Mile Marker and Andrew took one too. We slowed down to a walk so we wouldn’t choke, then kept on with a run/jog/walk routine. Andrew stayed in front of me and I kept him in my sight, always moving one foot in front of the other. I told myself that no matter how challenging this might be, I absolutely could not stop moving my feet.
At some point (I’m not sure what the Mile Markers were) we saw a few characters and props out. Again, I cannot recall the order. I’ve heard several runDisney runners say that they forgot what they saw while running because they were in a dream-like state. I’m one of them now. I was in a bubble throughout the course and every now and then I’d step out of it only to have the bubble wrap around me again.
I remember seeing stilt walkers as we approached the entrance to Animal Kingdom. I was walking at that point and told myself to run because I wanted to be able to say “I ran through the entrance of Animal Kingdom” and really mean it. At the turnaround I saw people from the last corral running behind us…followed by the dreaded sweeper vans. I panicked. I mentally lost it at that point. The vans were 3 miles behind me but actually seeing them terrified me.
I told Andrew right then and there that I wanted to quit – I knew that I was going to get swept, and that I wanted him to run and finish this without me, that I was holding him back. I was crying, I was achy all over, I was starving…I was a wreck. I’m tearing up as I type this because looking back that was such a defining moment for me, I just didn’t see it at that time.
Andrew looked at me and told me that my attitude sucked. He told me that I was on pace to finish and that I needed to snap out of it. He said, “You can either be miserable for 6 more miles and finish this thing or you can quit right now and still be miserable.”
He later apologized because he was afraid that he came across as a jerk. His apology was unnecessary, because he wasn’t being a jerk, and I actually really needed his tough love. I still saw myself as the incredibly overweight new mom working 3rd shift and reading Princess Half Marathon reviews, dreaming of one day doing it too, but knowing in my gut that I would never be capable of something like that. Here I was living out my dream and I was doubting myself the whole time. I’m trying to work on the confidence thing, but I’m afraid of coming across as arrogant, and I’m anything but that. Eventually I might find a good balance! I sent my sister a text message at this point telling her I was miserable, and she kept sending me messages of love and encouragement throughout the rest of the race. She and Andrew both really helped lift my spirits and kept me motivated.
Mile 4 was the toughest one for me because of my mental break down, but finally we saw Miler Marker 5 and we were halfway done.
We started to approach ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. We saw a medical tent on the right side of the road with huge bottles of Biofreeze. Thankfully, we didn’t need any. We were actually injury-free the entire race, which was a first for me. I wore KT Tape on my shins, and had no trouble out of them. I had a bad side stitch at some poin,t but it eventually worked its way out. I was just exhausted, hot and hungry, but I’ll take that any race over being hurt.
Anyway, we made a sharp right turn that took us onto a gravel road. I love trail running, so this was a fun part of the course. I read complaints that it was too dark last year and this year they put up huge, blinding lights that put off a lot of heat. The parts that weren’t lit up were pitch black though so it was a little difficult. It was very narrow to and everyone walked which really hurt our time.
We came out of the trail and entered the sports complex, and soon saw Mile Marker 6.
This was the farthest we had ever run before, just a 10K. Andrew was sweet and said, “We’ve never run anything past this. Remember we are doing that together. This is special.” If only I could think like that! Instead I was thinking that I HAD to get to mile 8. I read a review from last year where a woman got swept at Mile 8. I kept thinking that if I could make it to mile 8 and not get swept, then I would really believe that I could finish this thing.
We ran the padded track (my feet did not like the difference of running on asphalt, gravel, then track) and it took a little bit to adjust. We ran around the baseball diamond and Andrew was like a kid in a candy store. He had a huge smile on his face and seemed to have an extra bounce in his step. Being a former baseball player and Braves fan, he very much enjoyed this part of the race. I just kept thinking “get to mile 8, get to mile 8.”
I think I was getting delirious at this point because I have no recollection of seeing the Mile Marker or taking the above picture. I remember leaving Wide World of Sports and running on the highway again. In the distance I could see the red glow of a Mile Marker. I got Andy’s attention and told him I wanted to run to Mile Marker 7 and then take a walk break. He looked at me with a silly grin and said, “Lesley you are on mile 7, that’s Mile Marker 8!”
We crossed Mile Marker 8 and I looked behind me and there were runners as far as my eyes could see and not a single sweeper van. I knew at that moment that I would finish. On one hand I wish I could say that I took off and gave the last 2 miles all I had. On the other hand I’m happy with the way I tackled the last 2. I jogged/walked. I was spent, and I wanted to savor every moment that I had left in this race. I was exhausted, and I knew that I would be miserable if I ran. Instead, I kept at a very slow pace and made sure the last miles were not a blur. Andrew showed incredible patience with me during the whole race, particularly in this area. He is not a walker at all, and our miles were taking double or more the time it usually takes him. But, he let me do it my way.
We passed the fireball again. This time the heat from it was glorious. I was on the other side of it and it served as a reminder of how far I had come. We passed under the Hollywood Studios sign (the same sign we started under hours before) and the atmosphere turned into a whole new kind of excitement. There was an energy that is difficult to put into words. Everyone around us knew that they were about to finish, and they had no worries of being swept. Running in a park and seeing things “behind the scenes” was a very cool element. Everything was bright, loud and exciting.
We ran by Lights, Motors, Action! and saw ourselves on the screen, and I got Andrew to stop and take a photo with me.
As we ran around the park spectators lined the course, along with other runners wearing their finisher medals. We ran by some of our favorite places, places where we have special memories. We ran by the window where Connor met Woody and Buzz when he was 2, we ran by the restaurant where I had a cupcake for breakfast last year and nearly threw up, we ran by the classic car we always get a picture of every year “proving” we were the last ones out of the park those nights. I paid attention to all of it, and I hope it is forever saved in my memory.
We have been to this park so many times and we know it like we know our own house. We knew we were approaching the Tower of Terror and that the finish line was coming up. Andy told me to run it. We crossed the finish line, hand in hand. The boy who nearly died 3 months ago, and the girl who weighed 216 pounds a year ago to the day.
Still to come: Our Final Thoughts on the race, our After Party Review, our Magic Kingdom day and Restaurant Reviews.