The alarm went off way too early on the morning of January 9, 2011. Luckily, I had gone to bed early the night before and had managed to wake up a few minutes before the alarm went off. Though, it was still a struggle to get out of bed.
Once I managed to get myself out of bed, I quickly freshened up and put on all my clothes and gear that I had laid out the night before. I made sure that I had my iPhone, water, and snacks. I pulled on the extra sweatshirt that my mother had picked up for me the day before. I asked her to pick up the ugliest sweatshirt she could find so that I wouldn’t be tempted to keep it.
When I was ready, I quietly left my room since my roommate was still asleep and I met up with my teammates before heading to El Centro. The coaches had declared a 2:45 am meet up time. We didn’t actually leave our rooms until then, but we weren’t worried because the buses didn’t start running until 3 am. Of course, El Centro was packed with runners. Coronado Springs was a popular resort for the runners, but I imagine that the lobby of every resort looked as busy as this one.
Once all of my teammate arrived, we gathered for a team picture, some encouraging words from our coordinators, and then we headed out to the buses to get to Epcot.
The holding area was packed, but we managed to find our usual waiting place and hung out there for about 20 minutes. Shortly before it was time to head to the corrals I dropped my bag off at bag check. Unlike last year there was no line for the “A” group for bag check. It was nice to get through the area quickly before we had to make the long, slow trudge with the masses. The corrals and the start line are easily a 20 minute walk from the holding area. And of course once you’re in your corral you have a good 20-30 minute wait before the race starts and anywhere from 5-45 minutes before you actually cross the start line.
During the pre-race festivities, I got a little bit nervous. Okay, a lot bit nervous. And emotional. I started tearing up. I always do during the national anthem, but this time, in addition to hearing the national anthem, I started thinking about how far I had come. All the training and the years of dreaming had led me to that moment. I glanced over at one of my teammates and she was tearing up too! We both laughed at ourselves.
I checked my phone one more time and saw that I had a text from my friend Mel cheering me on. She was working with in the medical tent at the finish line so I planned on seeing her later. I responded with “OMG OMG OMG!” Then just after the fireworks went off for my corral Mel gave me a call and gave me some encouraging words. Before I knew it, I had crossed the start line and I was on my way! And I had to go to the bathroom. Ugh!
I tried to maintain my run/walk intervals during the first few miles, but I really had to go. I didn’t want to wait in line at any of the porta-potties that I was passing, and I definitely want to run over to the side of the road. Being a part veteran, I thankfully knew where the restrooms were once I got into Epcot. Of course the ones across from Spaceship Earth had a line out the door and the ones at the Odyssey were too far off course, but the ones in Norway were perfect. Once I took care of business I was back on the course feeling like a new woman and making my way out of Epcot. The course brought us under Test Track and back out onto Epcot Center drive, but this time on the other side of the road.
We then made our way up World Drive, past the Speedway and through the Magic Kingdom parking lot. The crowds cheering us on at the Ticket and Transportation Center were amazing! It was still pretty early in the morning but they were all there and full of energy. The two staff members from my Team in Training office who traveled with us were there waiting for me. When they saw me they started shouting my name and cheering loudly for me. I was never more happy to see them! I started to tear up for a second, but I cheered them on for waiting for me and made my way towards the Contemporary.
The road by the Contemporary was nice and familiar to me. I was mentally prepared for the hill at the water bridge and it didn’t bother me this time! Before I knew it I was entering the Magic Kingdom and turning up Main Street.
I saw the WDW Radio signs and was about to run up to say hi to Lou, when some of the runners from the WDW Radio team ran passed me and went straight to him. Oh well, I guess I wasn’t going to be seeing him during this race. I started to move on when I suddenly heard her someone shouting my name. I looked over and there was JL and Todd right there on Main Street! Todd managed to get this picture of me. I was still smiling at mile 10 ½. I can’t even say that I have been smiling at that mile for every half marathon I’ve done. There have been half marathons that I felt like crying by this point in time. I was feeling remarkably good and I was certain that, if nothing else, I would be able to reach the half way point.
I love the course through the Magic Kingdom. I love going up Main Street and seeing the castle before the park is even open to the public. I love how all the Cast Members are cheering you on while you run up Main Street and when you make the turn into Tomorrowland, they are the only other people you see on the course. Despite the early hour, they are there with a smile on their face. Of course, after the few minutes in Tomorrowland and Fantasyland, you suddenly find yourself being greeted by trumpeters as you make your way through the castle to look down Main Street one last time. It’s then time to weave your way through Liberty Square and Frontierland before you head back stage and make your way out of the Magic Kingdom area.
To be continued…