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Like many things in my life, as I’ve been working toward and training for the 2012 Walt Disney World Half Marathon, I decided that the only way for me to be successful at it was to make sure my training was fun and goal oriented. Goals meant setting milestones, and fun meant working alongside friends to achieve those goals. Looking back it’s so weird to consider that almost 2 years and many pounds ago I was only cheering my first race. It got me hooked.
A few months later, I started to use the Couch-to-5K Running Plan. It was hard going at first, but I’m stubborn and pushed through it moving past what I call the “week four hump”, and then beyond. Constantly Tweeting out my results brought me lots of encouragement and many new friends. And that drove me forward toward the first of my goals – my first official Disney race. The Disney Royal Family 5K, was a milestone to let me know that running a race was right for me. And I enjoyed it immensely. Not long after that was the Expedition Everest Challenge, which was a milestone to get a feel for what night time running at Disney World would be like.
This is because my next milestone would be a night time race, the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Relay. The Relay requires a team of two runners, and they split the distance of the standard 13.1 miles for a half marathon – however, the split isn’t 50/50. The first runner covers a distance of 4.8 miles and the second runner covers a distance of 8.3 miles. My goal was to be the second runner – it just fit my training. If by September I couldn’t run 8 miles in the allotted time, I felt that my prospects for completing the Half Marathon in January would be low. The trick was that I needed a partner to run.
The first person I asked was my Expedition Everest partner Shalon, but she wasn’t able to join me. My wife, Cheryl, suggested that I put out a request on Twitter. I did, and by the end of the day I had found myself a partner, my good friend and fellow TouringPlans.com blogger AJ from The Disney Food Blog. Together, at runDisney.com, we discovered that the total registration cost for a Relay team was $260 which broke down to $250 for the race and a $10 processing fee – or $130 per runner. Our team name was easy, we both came up with the same name as our first choice: “Will Run For Food”.
After talking with Lindsay and Jackie about what my next steps should be, I set out the rest of my road-map for working toward the Half. I switched from using the C25K app to RunKeeper, and programmed it for a 10 minute running / 3 minute walking alternating pace. I realized that running 13.1 miles non-stop was not a realistic goal for myself. Started at 3.5 miles, I slowly increased that distance by a mile at a time. Eventually I bought and started using a running belt with water bottles instead of my old tool belt so I could better control my hydration. And by the time the Relay came around I was already able to run 8.5 miles in about 1 hour and 40 minutes.
However, while I was ready to run, I wasn’t sure I was ready for the day ahead. The Wine & Dine Half Marathon & Relay was set to start at 10pm on the night of October 1st. The problem was this was to be an already incredibly full day for me. In addition to it being the opening weekend of the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, that weekend also kicked off what is knowin in the Disney Online Community as Epic October. Basically this means that that hundreds of friends were in town visiting. On top of that there was a special celebration in Magic Kingdom to commemorate its 40th Anniversary that morning. Taking all this into account, my race day plan looked something like this:
7 am: Cheer for friends running in the Disney Halloween 5K
10 am: Be at Magic Kingdom for the 40th Anniversary Event & Singalong
1:30 pm: Dine with friends at Liberty Tree Tavern – also my pre-race meal
4 pm: Sleep!!!
10 pm: Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon & Relay starts wait for AJ to tag me in
10:30 pm: Finish Line Party in Epcot after finishing
As you can see, my plan was to get up early, stand on my feet all morning, eat, sleep, run, and party. Basically spending 90% of my time doing everything that Mike Scopa says not to before a race. My underlying plan was to to sleep starve and exhaust myself a bit so that my afternoon nap would be easier to do. Which leads me to where we were staying – because I needed to nap somewhere.
Each of the race events held at Walt Disney World will have a list of designated Host Resorts. These are resorts that will provide bus transportation to the race Start Line and return transportation from the race Finish Line. For the Wine & Dine races, the host resorts were All Star Movies, Music & Sports, Beach Club, Boardwalk, Old Key West, and Port Orleans Riverside & French Quarter.
For 5K races or the January Half and Full Marathons, the Start Line and Finish Line for the races are at the same location (e.g., Epcot). So it’s perfectly reasonable to drive yourself to these races in the morning, even from an off site hotel as your car will then be waiting for you at the Finish Line. However, in the case of the Wine & Dine Half Marathon & Relay, while the Finish Line was in Epcot, runners were either starting at the Wide World of Sports Complex or at Animal Kingdom. This makes staying at a host resort, or at the very least near one so you could walk over to catch a bus, far more important.
Cheryl looked at the list and immediately declared that we would stay at the Boardwalk Villas. Her reasoning was that it was a good excuse to exercise some of our Disney Vacation Club points to stay there as it is one of our two home resorts (the other being Saratoga Springs). I really wasn’t complaining: it’s one of my favorite resorts on property, primarily due to its proximity to Epcot.
And thus my race preparation, training, and planning were complete. It was just a matter of executing according to plan. How’d it go? You’ll have to check back next week when I walk you through my race day.