Have a read of Paul’s fantastic article about his Run Disney experience. He took part in the Wine & Dine half marathon in November 2014 during our family holiday in Florida 🙂
So I am finally getting round to do some trip reports. This one is very specific to an experience I had during the trip.
I will start out by telling you I had no previous experience before I started to train and found it particularly difficult to even do that.
What I am talking about is my first experience on a Run Disney event, not just that but my first experience of a 1/2 marathon!!!
As I said previously, I had no experience of long distance running, when I was teenager I was a fairly good short distance runner, and by that I mean 100/200m sprinter. I always found doing longer distance very difficult, probably caused by being quite well built.
I made the decision nearly two years ago, that being involved in a Run Disney event, while on holiday was something I wanted to do. It was partly started due to my son being born and me being two stone overweight and wanting to get fit so that once he was up and running around, that I would be in the sort of shape to chase him around.
Once I decided that was what I had to do, I thought to myself “well why not have something to aim for?”. That was when it came to me, how about running at Disney, with a nice shiny medal at the end.
It was always going to be a toss up between The Tower of Terror 10 miler or The Wine and Dine Half Marathon. We are a family that loves to visit the USA during the Autumn (the Fall for our US readers). There are a few reasons why we like this time of the year, the weather has started to turn here in the U.K., where as it is still fairly warm in the States and also that we like the seasonal celebrations at that time of the year.
So we had to make the decision between seeing the Halloween celebrations or the Christmas events. The last time we visited America, it was on the West Coast and was Halloween time, so we thought let’s do Christmas instead. Therefore the decision was made for me and it would be The Wine and Dine.
Once that was sorted now was the time to begin the training and work out whether I could actually do it. I began with trying a Jeff Galloway beginner’s training schedule.
Pleasantly surprised this actually felt quite comfortable for the most part and I got through that unscathed. I know Jeff recommended doing these in the lead up to a race but due to the nature of that fact I had no running under my belt at all, I did this as soon as I started training.
Once I got through this, I knew I wasn’t particularly quick and would only just scrape though the time limit that Disney set. From this point I was just doing what I could and started to push myself. But this is where my first problems started to set in.
Luckily I survived without any injuries, but in October/November 2013 I suffered from a severe chest infection, that left me on steroids for a while as well as antibiotics. I was laid up without any running for a good 6 weeks.
On top of that I then had to rely on public transport for getting to and from work, leaving me little time in the morning to run. I had reverted to running on the treadmill in the gym by this time,due to the illness, my chest didn’t appreciate the cold and wet weather here in the U.K.
I was trying to get in runs most weekends, but midweek running became very hit and miss.
This cycle would continue all the way up to the race, but I did improve my times and would get me to the finish quite comfortably within the cut off point.
I knew at some point I would need to get a 10k time to submit to Disney, so that I wouldn’t be stuck in the final corral with people that were slower than me.
I chose a local one in June 2014, not considering that the course would be quite difficult. It ended up being more like a cross country race and quite hilly to boot. I ended up being slightly slower than I was hoping for, but not by much, ending at 1 hour 8 minutes and 26 seconds.
I continued to run on a weekly basis, still struggling to do any more than that. I eventually got to a distance of 10 miles and was happy that I would finish the 1/2 marathon with no problems and just for the last month or so did shorter runs to prevent any injuries etc
I was informed that I would be in Corral H, which I was surprised to see was about half way through the field.They estimated that I would finish in 2 and a half hours.
And so to Orlando and the race it’s self. The Health & Fitness Expo would be held on the Friday and Saturday. I chose to attend on the Saturday, as Friday would be a park day and didn’t want to waste any time. Saturday has been declared a rest day for the family and some of my wife’s relatives who live in America would be visiting. So the plan was for a quick early morning trip to the Expo to pick up my race pack, including my bib, timing tag and free t-shirt, and also pick up any merchandise I wanted. But here is where the run (excuse the pun) of bad luck began.
Friday night I went to bed as I normally do, only to be awoken in the early hours of the morning with stomach cramps, which turned out to be either a stomach bug or food poisoning. Suffice to say, I won’t go into any more detail.
When it came round to actually getting up that morning, my participation in the race was in doubt. I still had stomach cramps, was so tired from being up on and off through out the night and was so drained of energy, I couldn’t contemplate 13.1 miles that would start in about 12 hours.
I had a couple more hours before the Expo started and over that time I decided that I would still go and get my pack, even if I didn’t do the race.
Staying at one of the competition hotels, the Caribbean Beach Resort, meant I could just go to the normal bus stop that I had been using during the trip. The only issue was the drivers for this event weren’t Disney drivers and weren’t quite sure what they were doing.
The first bus that came along was for the finishers of that morning’s shorter run, The Jingle Jungle 5k. So that left, I waited around another 10 minutes before the bus I needed arrived. Now it clearly said it was for the Expo, yet I got on and the driver didn’t know where he was going and other passengers had to tell me I was on the right bus.
Once at the Expo, everything was pretty straight forward, picking up my race pack from one building and my t-shirt from another, where I also bought a Run Disney track jacket.
I had originally planned on getting a pair of the Run Disney New Balance running shoes, but the registration system seemed complicated, so left it this time.
Again, on leaving, the buses were all over the place and I think I waited around 1/2 an hour before a bus to take me back to the resort appeared. This time it seemed like the bus organisers didn’t actually know where their buses were and were scrambling to find spare buses.
By this point I was already leaning towards actually at least giving the race a go. Even if I didn’t finish at least I attempted it.
So after a relaxing afternoon spent at the resort, I was ready to go. No way after all that training was I giving in.
The buses back to the ESPN World of Sports began at 7 o’clock, but decided that due to being half way down the field, I didn’t need to get there really early. I wandered out around 7.30 and stood for about 10 minutes when again a bus was coming down the road, this time the bus just drove straight past. After this about 4 more people who were running the race appeared at the bus stop, we had a chat about the race and where we were all from. This calmed the nerves a little.
A bus finally turned up and we were on our way, picking up more people around the resort. The start line was only about 10 minutes away from the resort so didn’t take long.
There was lots of entertainment and exercise classes going on, but I felt with this being my first race, I didn’t need any distractions, so went and found the entry to my corral and took a seat on the grace, where I set up my app for the race, did some stretching and had a doze.
By 9.30 it was time to head to our corral, which was pretty straight forward. We waited around half an hour before the first corral was due to go and this is where it starts to go down hill again.
While we were waiting for the first set to get on their way, it started to spit of rain, nothing much but noticeable. As more corrals set off, it became a little bit more. By the time we set off it was quite steady and enough to cause people to be wearing ponchos and even improvise and convert bin bags in to jackets.
Our first target after the start was Animal Kingdom, but before that our first characters on the route were spotted, The Country Bears. I didn’t stop as I’m not a huge fan and carried on my way.
By the time we got to the gates of Animal Kingdom the weather was atrocious, rivers of water running along the path, but there was something so exciting about running into our first park it didn’t matter.
To have the feeling you were just yards away from the rides that I had been on just days before and would be going on again, and that animals were sleeping around us.
It was also the first real sight of cast members supporting you around the course which was greatly appreciated in this weather.
The weather was having a negative effect on the running though and wasn’t helped by the narrow paths in Animal Kingdom due to the construction work going on.
Also at this stage I was being hampered by another problem that was a result of the weather, my phone has started to switch between apps after it had got drenched in the early stages and was still taking a battering, but more on this later.
More characters were spotted both in the park and in the backstage area, including Timon, cast members from the Festival of The Lion King and Captain Jack Sparrow and Captain Hector Barbosa as well as a couple of floats from The Main Street Electrical Parade, but due to the weather, I knew time was of the essence and didn’t stop for photos.
Before we knew it we were back on the roads and on our way towards Hollywood Studios , heading towards the half way point.
When we hit the back of Hollywood Studios, my phone problems escalated, it now decided it was going to continue turning itself on and off for the rest of the race.
I wasn’t going let it deter me though, as this was the bit I was most looking forward to. The Studios was the first park I ever went to and couldn’t wait to run through some of those attractions.
First of all we ran round the back of Tower of Terror and to the top of the park and into the backstage area, through the costume department and through some of the now defunct Backlot Tour, even seeing some of the stripped down trams.
Now was it was onto the most exciting part, The Osbourne Christmas Lights, wow what a sight, with the rain, the lights were shining off the puddles and there was room for movement along the Streets of America that you don’t normally get.
Then it was on towards Hollywood Boulevard, but first passing The Muppets, Star Tours and round the backside of The Indiana Jones Stunt Show.
It was then to have a view of Sorcerers Hat, a sight that won’t be seen again on this run as it will,either be dismantled or moved by the time the next time Wine Dine is held
And now it was on to the final leg, heading to towards the Boardwalk and our last stop at Epcot.
The rain had stopped by this point (yes with a couple of miles left!!), but my phone was dead in the water (excuse the pun again) so I was just giving it my all , trying to work out my splits.
So it came, First the Swan and Dolphin hotels, then came a sight for sore eyes, Spaceship Earth loomed over the Boardwalk.
We entered Epcot through the International Gateway, and was home. I ran from the minute I entered the park and just kept going. I knew I had done it and it didn’t matter how long it had taken me.
I crossed the line with a high five with Chef Mickey and I was done. I collected my medal, wind sheet and food pack.
I headed off towards Epcot, but felt so tired from not just the run, but being battered by the wind and rain, that I decided i would forgo the after race party and head towards getting the bus back to the resort.
It was gone 1 o’clock in the morning by the time I arrived back at the resort, exhausted but happy.
My wife had set her alarm so she was awake when I arrived home. She had my times there waiting for me. I had finished in 2 hours 52 minutes 57 seconds. Around 20-25 minutes slower than I had hoped for, but circumstances had gone against me, first being ill and not getting any sleep and then the weather not just hitting hard but breaking my phone in the process.
My last 5k split was the killer, being a good 10 minutes slower than my other 3. My other 3 were slower than what I normally do in training but I didn’t want to over do it on my first half marathon.
Overall I was happy and satisfied to have finished and oh what an experience it was. When I woke up the next morning, hurting like I had never done before and with a full day in Epcot planned for the that day, I didn’t know whether I could ever face doing it again.
Come the time I returned to England the following Saturday, that had changed, I had set the goal of doing another one. I don’t know when that will be,as I can’t see being able the plan another holiday around this or another race, but maybe I will just make a quick trip across the pond, either to Florida or California. Or I may get lucky and this rumoured event in Paris actually comes to something.
Either way I will be ready for another round.