It's hard to even know where to begin!
We had to get on a bus by 4AM, and since I didn't want to be late, I wanted to get to the bus stop around 3:30. My plan was to wake up at 3, but I hadn't slept well the entire trip, and I was up long before then. I decided to get out of bed at 2:50 and start getting ready. The alarms went off at 3 AM and Jan got up, too. Once we were all dressed, we took some pictures, and put on our warm layers and headed out! It was really cold, but not as bad as I had feared. The line for the bus, however, was much longer than I had anticipated! I was nervous, but Disney kept the buses coming quickly!
The ride to Epcot was exciting, and the bus was nice and warm, which proved to be problem. Once we got off the bus, I was SO much colder than I had been before. We followed the crowds to the family reunion area and looked around for the folks from the Running of the Ears board, but it was dark and cold, and I couldn't find anyone. We decided to go ahead and check our bags and head to the runner's area.
Around 5 AM, after having stood outside in the cold for 45 minutes, we started the long walk to the corrals. I personally think they should have included that distance in our 13.1 mile total! LOL I'm not sure how far it was, but it took a good 15-20 minutes. We hit the porta-potties one last time, and made our way to Corral B. There was lots of entertainment going on around us... music being played and we were encouraged to dance along. There was the Electric Slide, Macarena, Cupid Shuffle, and a couple of other songs that I wasn't familiar with (but may have to download!).
I was really surprised with how quickly the time seemed to pass. Before long, the fairy godmother came out to get us started! The first Corral started at 6:00 and we were scheduled to start at 6:07. I wasn't as nervous as I was expecting to be. I usually get very, very nervous before the start of a race! But this time I was excited, but not terribly nervous. I'm not sure why! Maybe I was too cold to be nervous?!
Right on time, our Corral began the race (and we got fireworks at our start, too, just like corral A! If I had known that, I would have had my camera ready!). My body was so cold and tight - it was really hard to move. I had stretched in the corral, but I guess either I stretched too early, or the cold was just too much. It took me a good mile before I could move better. I had never raced in such a large group of people, but it wasn't as bad as I was afraid it would be. Maybe the wave start makes a big difference? There were only a couple of places where I felt a little bit crowded. I did lose Jan fairly early, and didn't see her again until after the race was over, so I was on my own.
I had planned to divide the race into 3 segments: 5 miles-5 miles-5K. That worked well for me. It made the long distance much more manageable. The first 5 mile segment was the trip to Magic Kingdom, and it literally flew by! I couldn't believe how fast it seemed to go. I had intended to go 11:30 pace, and overall I did, considering how slowly I started. The closer I got to MK the faster I was going. It also didn't help that it was flat in Florida and I'm used to training on hills.
I dumped my hoodie and mittens as I ran into MK, so that the pictures would look cuter! It was a little chilly still, but really not too bad. The run through MK was nothing short of magical! The crowd on Main Street USA was overwhelming, and running through the castle is something I will never ever forget (especially since I videoed it! LOL). As we were coming out of MK, I saw Peter Pan and Wendy and stopped for my first character picture. There had been a few other characters before that, but none that I was too interested in. I had stopped to take a couple of pictures before then, of the Speedway for Austin, and of the sign entering MK, but this was my first character stop! :)
Now I was in the second 5 mile segment, and heading back to Epcot. My feet had begun to hurt which was very unusual. They never hurt during my training. I wonder if it had anything to do with the amount of walking I had done on Thursday evening-Saturday evening going to all the parks and Downtown Disney. I also noticed that I was still off pace. I had planned an 11:00 pace for the second five miles, but too often I would look down at my watch and find myself going much faster. My calves were also starting to hurt, and I started noticing lots of people stopping to stretch. I took that as my cue to really guard my pace, because I knew I had the overpass and on-ramp still ahead of me. This was a really, really boring part of the race. We had been through MK, and there wasn't as much to look at on the way back, except for the golf course. There seemed to be fewer characters.
I did run into a lady with a R.O.T.E. shirt on, and said hi to her. She told me her name but I totally forgot it. I do remember that she told me she is the owner of R.O.T.E. and then she saw a character she needed a picture with and she was off! :) A little while later I came up on a lady who was wearing the same outfit as me, except she was braver and had not worn anything under her singlet!!
We got back to the place where the pirate ship was, but this time the pirates were in the road! I stopped to take my picture with my mateys. I am definitely much more of a pirate girl than a pricess girl, I'm afraid! :) I had just left the pirates when I noticed Captain Jack standing in the middle of the road, all by his onesey. I stopped to take a picture of him and he posed quite nicely for me. Late on when Jan passed him he had someone there taking pictures for you, so she got her picture WITH him. Totally unfair! LOL After I took his picture I said, "Jack! Where you been all my life?" He replied, not missing a beat, "Right 'ere, love!" I think my heart skipped a beat! Boy did that help me with the rest of the race! ;)
It was time for the last 5K... 3.1 miles to go, and the point where I had never run that far before in my life. It was also time for the dreaded on-ramps and overpass. Truly, the on-ramps were harder because of the banking. It felt strange and uncomfortable to run like that. The overpass was totally fine for me - it was about the same incline as the big hill in the back of my neighborhood and only slightly longer. I could see how it would pose a great challenge to those not used to training on hills, though, especially at that point in the race!
My plan for the last 5K was to let go and just run however fast I could! My calves weren't as tight by that point, and I just kept myself pushing forward. I stopped for one more character picture with Princess Tiana and Prince Naveen (from The Princess and the Frog). After that, I didn't want to stop again for fear I wouldn't be able to start again! LOL But they were right before mile 12. Once I saw that mile 12 marker, I KNEW I'd be able to finish!
Heading back toward the finish line was absolutely amazing. I knew there were people around me and people in the stands cheering, but all I was really aware of was me at that point. I had done it! I had run a half-marathon, just like I set out to do! 16 months before that day, such a thought would never have crossed my mind! I raised my arms above my head in victory as I crossed the finish line, and then I started to cry. When the volunteer lady put the medal around my neck I started to cry again! I got out my phone and texted, "I did it!" to my family and friends. I knew that if I had tried to talk at that moment, it would have been a garbled mess. I just needed to be alone with my thoughts right then, to reflect on the moment and the accomplishment. Even now I find it hard to put into words how I felt crossing the finish line, and how I feel now a few days later. It's a very deep feeling, and very personal - nearly impossible to describe!
I'll just have to leave it at this: I'm a half-marathon finisher! :)