So it should have felt like Groundhog Day again this morning but it actually didn’t. I set my alarm a smidge earlier – half marathon distance is not to be taken lightly and felt like it needed more preparation than a 10km. More Body Glide. More tape. More Clif Shots. Just more.
We left about 3.30pm and things were already different as we had to take a slightly different route due to road closures. Somehow, it all worked out and we found where we were going, ending up at the same runner drop off as yesterday. But everything from there was also different. The crowds were much, much larger, with approximately 25,000 people expected to participate. We could see them streaming from the buses into the event village and then joined them in the toilet queues (which we hadn’t had to queue for on the previous days). We then had to ask for directions to the corrals as they too were in a different place and were much further away – about a 1km walk.
Once we hit the corral, we found our spots and sat on our cardboard (a great idea one of our group had the day before). While we didn’t get to do that for long, it really helped to not be on our feet for as long as we were yesterday. All the usual bits happened – a video about the charity being supported, the American national anthem and Disney characters out to rev up the runners. We joined in by giving a rendition of the Australian national anthem for those around us. And then the shuffle to the start line started.
Today was different. The fireworks were better and as good for our wave as they were for the first. Before we knew it, we were off and running – Jill and I sticking together again. I didn’t really know what to expect of the day (as has been the case all the way along!) however we started off as normal, running 2 minutes per kilometre to keep us under pace. We started on the roads outside the park again, heading towards the Magic Kingdom. There were enough sights to keep us amused including a giant Mickey hot air balloon and a school band as well as various characters. And there’s something quite magical in itself about running on roads around Disney in the dark. Like we were the special people.
However our excitement really kicked up a notch as we approached the Magic Kingdom and ran through the entrance gates – I don’t remember what was said but I’m sure there were squeals of delight involved and ‘wow, we’re really here’ comments. Once through the gates, it still takes a fair bit of running to get into the park but the closer we got, the more people there were which was very encouraging. And then we were inside and the pixie dust was definitely in the air. As we ran up Main Street USA and towards the castle, I will happily admit to fighting back the tears. It was one of those moments that are just so overwhelmingly amazing that you can’t take it all in.
After that, we ran through another few areas of the park before exiting back on to the highway and back towards Epcot. We then came across another fantastic distraction – the pacer group. These wonderful runners, affiliated with Jeff Galloway’s running method, were the 3:30 group from our corral and were running at 15/30 pace. So we joined them. Neither of us have ever run intervals that short before so we weren’t sure how we would go but we actually really, really enjoyed it. It was just enough running to keep us under pace with enough walking not to strain anything. We stayed with them for quite a while and then ended up in front of them, however still following the run/walk bits when they shouted them. In fact, so efficient were we that we caught up with the 3:15 group (from a later corral) and tried to keep up with them for a while but found it hard to duck and weave through the crowd to keep their pace. So we did our own thing as we worked our way towards the finish.
Back into Epcot, we ran only a short loop this time, still including photo time with Spaceship Earth and then the finish line was there and we were smiling for the cameras again.
I didn’t think it was possible to have as much fun as we did yesterday but we really did. Probably my favourite thing ever was that I truly felt I belonged and was around my people. People surrounded us wherever we were and were running and walking at all sorts of paces, many of them doing intervals. All without judgement or comment. It was great. I didn’t complain at any of the bottlenecks on the course as I was actually so grateful to be somewhere towards the back and still be surrounded by people. All adding to the atmosphere.
So tomorrow. All I can do is get to the start line and do my best from there. Again, I have no idea what that will look like or result in but I shall try.