A Battle of the Body and the Mind

Well when last I left you I was preparing for my first half marathon at Walt Disney World on January 7, 2012.  I had arrived from Denver and enjoyed one awesome day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  The busses for the race took off around 3 A.M. Saturday, and so I had forced myself reluctantly to crawl into bed at 9 P.M. on Friday.  My mind would struggle the entire evening to let me sleep.  I had been preparing for months to run this race and could hardly believe the moment was upon me.  I also knew that running 13.1 miles would require energy and so I slowly drifted off to sleep.  Before I knew it my phone alarm was telling me it was time to get up at 2 A.M. and not long after Donald called me (wake up call) to tell me to get up and get ready.  I am not a morning person but today I was going to have to be and my body thankfully responded.  After a quick shower, I got into my running gear (laid out night before, upon advice) and had a nice carb laden breakfast.  The food court at All Star Sports was open but I had bought a meal box the night before at the food court and ate my bagel with peanut butter, granola bar, orange, banana and water.

I quietly left my room at 2:45 A.M. and much to my surprise I was joined by a crowd of people heading off to the lobby and busses.  I was thankful to have the advice to get there early because the busses to the start line would be full starting around 3:30 A.M.  I thankfully got on the first bus and headed off to Epcot Center to get ready to run. When we arrived at Epcot the waiting game started.  The risk of waiting and then arriving late was too great for me so I wanted to be early.  I also had a running group meet at 3:30 A.M. and was anxious to meet some people that would encourage me along my route.  The group meet was awesome and made the time pass quickly and I also had the wonderful privilege of meeting some new friends.  At the expo they had given everyone a large clear bag to carry what little treasures you might find but it was also the bag you would use to store items that you did not want to run with.  So I dropped off my long sleeve shirt (It gets chilly even in Florida at 3:30 in the morning) and room key.  At around 4:30 they began to ask the runners to get ready to move into position.  Each runner was assigned a starting gate letter based on the finish time they estimated.  I had given them 3 hours since I had never run a race and so I was put in starting group F (the letters went up to H).  The mass of 20,000 people began to slowly work their way over half a mile to the starting line.  We walked backstage at Epcot and along the route were literally hundreds of potty stops.  It got very crowded at times but the crowd was friendly and you could feel the anticipation of each runner for the race.  We slowly made our to a road that runs along the backside of Epcot and finally you could see the brightly lit starting line.  I then had to wait another 48 minutes til my group finally made its way to the starting gate.  There you found the Fab 5 in their running gear and two huge screens showing us waiting to go and other runners already on the route.  Donald {the Conducktor of Ceremonies) gave us our final count down and the fireworks burst as we began our journey.

I had made a friend named Mike and we had decided that since it was our first half marathon we would try to get this done together.  It was interesting that even though Mike and I really didn’t really know each other that well our race would quickly build a bond.  The race begins and I can honestly say that I didn’t even feel the first 5 miles.  You leave behind Epcot and make your way along the roads to the Magic Kingdom.  All along the way you find local high school marching bands and rarely seen Disney characters.  I saw all the Duck Tales characters, Jungle Book, Princesses and the list goes on and on.  You are more than welcome to stop your race and quickly run over and get a pic and the get on your way, but since I was worried about my time I chose to plug on each time.  At mile 5 we reached the Magic Kingdom area and ran under the auto entrance.  We took a right and ran in front of the Contemporary Resort with Bay Lake off to our left.  We were allowed several times to run backstage at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, and we ran in through a parking lot just off of mainstreet.  The crowds were large and loud as we ran down Main Street USA and took a right into Adventureland.  We then ran past Fantasyland and the new construction off to our right, but the highlight is certainly running right through Cinderella Castle.  It was an exhilarating experience and one that I will never forget.  We took another right and ran through Liberty Square and around the Rivers of America.  We again got to go backstage as we crossed the railroad tracks and passed through many sights I had never seen.  We then exited the Magic Kingdom backstage and enter a road to run around the Monorail resorts.  This is where the mind took over as the road would not seem so fun or friendly.

So as my journey continued from miles 6 to 12 it was a long stretch of asphalt.  Every mile there would more characters and music but this is also were you would need to rely on the training you put in to this race.  My buddy Mike and I constantly encourage one another that each step brought us closer to our goal.  Thankfully just after mile 12 Epcot came into view.  What adrenaline was left in my body kicked in as we passed under the monorail and around the last half mile.  As the finish line came into view I made sure that I enjoyed every last step and as I crossed the finish line I raised my hands in sweet accomplishment.  I had wanted to run the race in under three hours and I had accomplished my goal with a time of 2:55.  No land speed record for sure but the fact that I finished with time to spare was an incredible feeling.  Mike and I gave each other a hug and then looked for the medal that we had both so craved.  I could not stop smiling while waiting in line for my finisher’s photo.  After receiving some snacks and picking up my bag I got in line for my bus and reflected on my running journey I had just finished.  This is something that is difficult but not impossible.  Seeing the  variety of people and skills levels during the race convinced me that this type of event is for just about anyone and any age.  I will share the remainder of trip in my next post.

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