I ran my second half marathon in a running skirt & wings and still managed to accomplish a personal best!
Here is my Disney half marathon experience. But first, a bit of a back story. I didn’t really have this race on my radar until I saw friends from a run group in Toronto tackle the Dopey Challenge which means that they ran a 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon in 4 days in 2014. Run Disney has created a great challenge to attract runners down to Florida to tackle this event. Not only do they get a medal for each individual race but on Sunday they get a medal for the Goofy Challenge which is to run the half & marathon in 2 days and then the full Dopey Challenge medal is for all 4 days. I loved seeing my friends pictures in fun costumes so I put it out on social media that I’d love to do just the half marathon race and another girl from the run club volunteered to head down with me the following year.
I registered for the race in 2015 but after being diagnosed a month before with MS in Dec of 2014 and undergoing steroid treatment that rocked my body I had to defer the race registration until 2016. So I had known about the race all of last year but never really knew what I was getting myself into. I reached out to a friend who had run Disney before and hired their travel agent who helped me book a hotel (I stayed at the Port Orleans Riverside Resort), airport transportation, a ticket to see Cirque & a spa appointment. I didn’t read any blog posts other than to get a costume idea and where to purchase it and just headed down last Thursday for the race.
My friend Patrick who hooked me up with his concierge travel agent agreed to dress like Peter Pan and a former co-worker from Kobo, Erin agreed to be our Wendy so I could rock out Tinkerbell! We met up pre-race for a photo but were in separate corrals so we hadn’t really confirmed we were all running together and it just worked out that we never had that conversation and just did a pre-race photo and went on our merry ways.
I put together my costumer literally the week & day before the race. I purchased the sparkle skirt & wings from Sparkle Athletics over the holidays and picked it up at the expo the day before. I purchased the tank top at the expo from Raw Threads & CEP lime green compression socks at the expo. The only things that came with me from home was a sparkly green Bic Band the company had sent me during 2015, my new Spi-Belt that I got for Christmas, my Polar M400 and my Mizuno Canada Wave Rider 18s.
Pretty amazed that you can actually put together a full costume the day before at the expo if you’re willing to brace the crowds!
So here’s how the race went for me. My alarm clock was set for 3am Saturday morning. We had to be on shuttle buses by 4am to get through bag check and into our corrals. The wait for bag check took about 30 mins, then the long walk to the corrals occurred. I was in corral O. I have no idea how they assigned corrals but it seemed very hap hazard. I believe the last corral was P so I was in the second last one. We were blessed with fairly good weather. It was a tad chilly at 5am in the morning but I had brought a Mizuno Canada Katara Shell with me in case it rained so I was able to stay warm in it. I removed it when we started running and folded it up and tucked it in my Spi Belt but definitely lost it within the first km of running and didn’t notice it had fallen out until 5kms. I shed some tears because I definitely loved it. I have yet to learn to wear the throw away sweater thing that people do.
The day before the race I was being told by several individuals that the amount of walkers on course is quite high and that the main point of contention is that there is no run etiquette present. Walkers don’t actually move over to the right but only throw up a hand and then proceed to walk where they are. I was a bit upset learning about this and was told I was never going to be able to flat out run or even try for a personal best at this race. The only thing I knew about this race was that their are disney characters along the route and people stop for pictures. That’s cool because it’s off the course and should be out of the way. I didn’t go into this race with a goal other than stay healthy and avoid injury so I was there to have fun, run in costume but I was also there to run a half marathon. Key word run and I was going to attempt to do that to the best of my ability despite the warnings of walkers. My corral got to the start line they shot off the amazing fireworks that I had witnessed for every other corral and off we went.
Here are the positives of my race:
1. I felt amazing. I felt strong and had a great pace going.
2. I politely used the phrase “on your left” many many times on the course as there really were a lot of walkers spread out all over the race course. Other racers usually moved over to the phrase which was nice but many times they’d respond back rudely “Where would you like me to go?” I totally get that the course is crowded but you’re walking along the edge of the road on the very left side.
3. I stopped to take a picture at the castle & even snapchatted a video of us running towards it. It was beautiful and amazing and I soaked it all in. So I was able to get my social media on even while racing. It’s not the greatest picture because I literally stopped for 2 seconds and kept going but there you have it my race selfie.
5. From the bus shuttles to the corrals to the water stations to the medals and food at the end or the race everything is ridiculously well organized so Run Disney deserves amazing kudos.
Here are parts of the race that could be improved:
- I spent the majority of the race either running on the grass on the left side to get past people or zig zagging around people. WIth so much lateral movement my left hip took a beating and was in screaming pain by 18km. I went into this race injured. I had been having MS like symptoms the week before which included heat, numbness and tingling in my left hip and quad which turns out is from horrible muscle tension and spasms in my lower back and left hip that are constricting the nerve and hence why it seemed like MS. I received treatment Thursday morning from my Chiropractor Dr. Vomvas, but the way I ran this race did not help my body.
- The walkers on course were many and scattered. Let me first say I have nothing against walkers. NOTHING. All I ask is that they follow racing etiquette and move over to the right. If you have walkers on the right and on the left and in the middle where are the runners supposed to run. Please tell me!? Because I’m at a loss. I would really love for Run Disney to do some racing etiquette education pre-race and remind everyone during the start. It’s really an easy problem to solve.
I booked a sport’s massage at Saratoga Senses Spa the afternoon after the race. I highly recommend doing this it’s definitely a reason why I wasn’t waddling like a Penguin on Sunday!
So I give this race 3 out of 5 Tinkerbell Fairy Dust Sprinklings. If you want to travel to Disney World, run through the parks in costume, take pictures with characters, socialize on course then you do you! It’s a great venue and experience. If you want to run a half marathon for any sort of time don’t do this race unless the organization gets better with corral placement and run etiquette training. I’m super proud that I was able to run this race with only 2 months of training. I really only started at the end of October after the OCR World Championships since my ankle injury healed around then and could get back to run training. I’m so thankful I hired a run coach to get me ready. Phaedra thank you for the workouts! I even spent time in the fall learning new running form while training and came into the race in pain so I’m very pleased with how my run went despite the circumstances. I’m happy I went. I’m happy I got the medal. It’s crossed off the bucket list. My smile in the above picture is definitely because of my 1 min PB. However, I’m excited to get back to Toronto and get back to training for OCRs and SeaWheeze in August where I know I’ll have a better running experience.