I’m sorry about the unintended week-long hiatus, but I unfortunately came down with the flu two days after I returned from Orlando. It put me out of commission for just about 5 full days, and it really sucked. Now that I’m feeling better, I can finally recap my trip. So here goes!
Nola and Nopsi dropped me, Dana, and Lynn off at the airport the morning of January 6 so we could catch our 8am flight. I was wearing a special shirt I ordered just for the occasion, which I got lots of compliments on all day long.
We arrived in Orlando after an easy flight and went downstairs to get on the Magical Express. We decided to stay at Art of Animation again since we liked it so much last time. Our room wasn’t ready since we got there so early, so we left our stuff with the resort’s luggage service and headed off to the runner’s expo.
I had never been to the ESPN World Wide of Sports Complex before, which was where packet pick-up and the expo were held. The complex was much more massive than I thought it would be, even with a few shops and restaurants. (Also please note the gorgeous blue sky.) Jeff came to meet us since he hadn’t gotten a chance to see the expo yet; the line to get in was way too long when he and Doug arrived on Wednesday. They’re both nuts and did the Dopey Challenge this year: 5K on Thursday, 10K on Friday, Half Marathon on Saturday, and Full Marathon on Sunday. Nuts.
We went downstairs in the Field House to get our race bibs and then we had to go across to the Josten’s Center to get our race shirts and our gEAR bag. All of that accomplished, we wandered around the expo for a little bit before going to grab some lunch.
After our much needed meal, we hopped back onto buses to our resorts (Jeff decided to stay at All-Star Sports this year) so we could check into our room and rest. We ventured back out to the resort’s food court for pasta dinners, and that’s when we got official word. The 2017 WDW Half Marathon had been cancelled.
I had been obsessively checking the weather for days, worried that their predictions would come to pass. It was forecasted to be an 80-100% chance of rain Friday night through Saturday. Not exactly the conditions one hopes for when running outside. But I hoped and prayed that somehow, some way, the race could continue. However, just after 7pm that hope was dashed.
Rain wasn’t really the concern; lightning was. And I get that the safety of the runners and the cast members working the race was of utmost importance. But I was completely devastated. I still kind of am when I think about it. I worked so hard to get there and then it was all taken away. I was crushed.
We went back to our room to wallow in our disappointment. I broke the news to Jeff, who hadn’t heard yet, and then called Kenny and Nola and Nopsi to tell them. Then someone tagged me in the official announcement on Facebook, so I posted this update:
The comments started pouring in. Everyone was upset; they all knew how much I wanted this. The support helped a little bit, but the whole thing was still hard to believe. Then I suddenly became determined to get the miles in anyway. I came to Disney to run my first half marathon, and that’s what I was going to do.
Jeff, Doug, and Dana were right there with me (Lynn wasn’t feeling the greatest and decided she needed to sleep). Weather was still a factor, so we had to figure out when the best time to go would be. Jeff woke up at 4am to check the radar and determined that an 8am start would be our best bet. We would run a loop around the Art of Animation and Pop Century resorts. Not our original intention, but technically still Disney!
Jeff caught an Uber over to Art at 7:30am, and Dana and I met him outside of the food court. Doug caught up with Jeff during mile 4 of his run a little later. None of us slept great at all, which definitely affected my pace and stamina. And the weather was pretty dreary, with dark skies, high humidity, and a misty rain. No lightning though…..
However, the amazing thing was the amount of people who had the same idea we did: to get their miles in and earn their medals. We saw people running around the lake in between the two resorts as soon as we rounded the corner of our building, and it was obvious people had been out there for a while. And there would continue to be people out there long after we finished. It was awesome.
Not only were there people out there running but there were also multiple cheering/refueling sections spread out around the loop. Even with the bad weather, people were out there ringing cowbells, yelling encouragement, and even passing out cups of water and Powerade and snacks if we needed it. It was unbelievable.
With not sleeping great the night before and with the humidity level and temperature where they were (too high, which was not great for my breathing), I didn’t do as well as I know I could have. I set my intervals at 4:1, thinking that I could run two high intervals in a row if I wanted to, but I never was able to. I struggled a lot in places and ended up having to walk through 6 or 7 of my high intervals. But I listened to myself as I knew I should and took it down a notch when I needed to.
I had decided to run the opposite way around the loop that Dana, Jeff, and Doug did, so we all nodded or gave each other thumbs up when we passed each other. Of course the boys were all smiles, chatting and cutting up on their silly little 13 mile run. (It was nothing for the two of them, who would go on to run the full marathon the next morning. Again, nuts.) But as my mileage grew higher and I grew more tired, I needed them shouting at me as we passed each other. “You got this, Courts!” “You can do it!” It was still hard but there was no question I would finish. The more I thought about it, though, the more emotional I started to get, which further affected my breathing, so I tried just to focus and get it done.
I ended up finishing right in the middle of the loop on the Pop Century side, near one of the main cheering sections. I slowed to a walk, pulled out my phone to make sure, and then yelled out, “I’m done!” Everyone cheered and congratulated me. That’s when I finally let myself lose it. I had done it: I ran 13.19 miles in 2 hours and 52 minutes.
I kept walking so I could cross the bridge and find Jeff, who had finished when I had about 2 miles left. There was a woman and her daughter on the bridge who saw me finish and whom I had noticed on many of my laps. The woman came over to me to say congrats and when she saw me crying she put her arms around me and gave me a big hug. I warned her I was pretty sweaty, but she didn’t care. Thank goodness; it was just what I needed at that moment. I’ll never forget those two women. (I found a picture of the daughter that someone posted on FB!)
I got back over to the Art side and immediately saw Jeff and Dana, who had finished just before me. I walked over to them and gave my little brother a great big hug and shed some tears on his shoulder. After all, it was because of him that I started this whole thing in the first place!
I took out my earbuds, put all of my stuff down on a bench, and sat down to stretch a bit. Then I lay down on the cold, wet ground next to Dana. That felt glorious.
We were approached by some concerned bystanders (whom we assured we were just fine, although very tired) and congratulated by runners still on the course (I bet they were jealous but they were totally sincere). Doug finished not long after that and joined our little party. Here are our official post-unofficial race pics!
After that, Jeff caught another Uber back to his resort, Doug went back to his suite, and all Dana and I could think about was finding food. Lynn, who had been sleeping the entire morning, met us in the food court for lunch. Then Dana and I took much needed showers and we all slept for three hours that afternoon.
We woke up around 4pm and made ourselves get up so we could go out and celebrate. We all put on warm clothes (the temperature had dropped drastically during our nap) and hopped on a bus to Disney Springs. We shopped a bit, had our first round of beer at Raglan Road, and scored a table in the bar at Wolfgang Puck for dinner and more beer. Life was good.
Much more to come soon!