As expected, the morning came quickly and I shuffled my way outside into the frigid Florida air and onto the bus headed, once again to the Epcot parking lot. There, I caught up with my good friend, Seth, who was undertaking his first Goofy Challenge. This being his first race of the weekend, his legs were fresh and I resented him for it. Truth be told, my legs were feeling pretty good and I was ready to run. This year’s corral placement had put me farther than I had ever been back in a Disney race, corral D. I know I shouldn’t let it bother me, but dropping corrals bothers me. I guess it’s in my competitive nature to strive to start with the front of the pack, but I guess as the years go on, I should get used to watching a few more sets of fireworks go off before I start.
The half marathon is the third race of the challenge, but the first that really covers any significant mileage, and I never know how to run this sucker. Theoretically, if there’s any chance to ace the full marathon, I should back off this one. Problem is, I don’t know how much. Moving back to corral E with Seth, I imagined would help. As we crossed the line, Seth and I made a deal we’d hang out together as long as possible, but either of us were free to speed up or slow down. Respectfully, every man for himself. The plan managed to work for about two miles when Seth sped up and was quickly lost among the hundreds of runners around us. This really made me want to kick it into high gear. Adding to my angst were the runners who were speeding past me in droves. However, I remained disciplined and putt putted my way along the racecourse. As I turned on to World Drive towards the Magic Kingdom, I could see runners by the thousands that disappeared off into the horizon, clearly cementing my position of middle of the pack. I passed marching bands, balloons, and even gained some ground on runners who had stopped to get a picture with some Disney characters (not my thing).
The Ticket and Transportation Center is, no doubt, one of the Disney runner’s favorite locations as it’s really the first spot where the spectators outnumber the runners, and it’s always a good feeling to see them. I caught the eyes of some friends as I leisurely entered and exited the area and headed down the road towards the Magic Kingdom. If the TTC gives you the “runner’s high,” then running down Main Street USA is a shot of adrenaline straight into the heart. The feeling is truly indescribable. I knew my family would be there and I caught them relatively easily. Without any real reason to finish in a good time, I stood there for a few moments and we talked a little about the morning and how I was feeling. I gave my wife a kiss goodbye and headed on my running tour of the rest of the park, stopping in the Tomorrowland restroom. I never stop at a rest stop during a race, but again I was in no hurry. In the men’s room, there were a handful of other Dopey runners who had the same idea I did. A few of us talked a little bit as we checked our hair in the mirrors (gotta look sharp) and then trickled out.
After the Magic Kingdom, the course takes runners behind the Grand Floridian, where the course is adorned with traffic cones to separate the runners from the cars that traverse that area. Repeating from last year, I tried to count the cones to keep my mind occupied. I can’t remember the number, but I think it was around 1,267. At this time, the sun was starting to peak over the horizon and gave a warm, orange glow over the adjacent golf course where some wild deer were up and about.
From there, the course gets pretty boring, as it essentially follows World Drive back to Epcot. As I approached, Mile 11, I noticed something strange. In front of me was a runner that was clearly out of her element and struggling to maintain a walk. As I passed, I noticed on her bib her corral placement was one of the last to start. I originally chalked it up to her jumping corrals, as scumbag runners do frequently. But, then I thought there was no way she was in front of me the whole race. So, I wondered where she may have cut the course and the only real place that could have happened was on the entrance to World Drive at Mile 3. That meant she would have only run (walked) five miles while the rest of us were slugging it out. Things like this seem to happen more frequently as Disney races, and I thought I was the only one who noticed. However, Seth told me he noticed it too when we found each other after the race. I’m all for everyone getting out there and hustling, but cutting corners is absolutely reprehensible. Maybe that runner should stick to shorter distances until she feels ready to run an honest half marathon. End soapbox rant.
Coming up on the finish, I caught up with Sean Astin of Goonies fame. Sean has been to a lot of the same races I enter so I see him enough for this not to be a big deal. With a slap on the back, I congratulated Sean on his race and watched him head towards the finish while I stopped to say hi to my family. My wife, mom, and my wife’s parents were all there, so after seeing Sean, I sauntered over to the bike rack barrier they were standing behind. “Finish the race!” my wife passionately exclaimed. “ Nah,” I said. “I’ve got time,” eliciting laugh and applause from the surrounding spectators. I hung out for a few minutes and then endzone danced across the finish line.