The race through Walt Disney World, continued from last week…
The Sun has begun to rise, and the scene is gorgeous. I start to cry a bit as I realize where I am. I’m about to cross under the “Underwater Bridge” that connects Bay Lake with the Seven Seas Lagoon. The early sunshine is glinting off of Space Mountain and the Contemporary. For the past year I’ve joked with Cheryl about running right here on this very spot. I take a few pictures and then prepare to head underwater by holding my nose, something my father used to have me do at this spot. Moments later an arm comes around me, and I’m caught off guard. It’s Len and Laurel, we talk a bit and pass a few bad jokes back and forth before they run off ahead. I text everyone on Main Street, U.S.A. to let them know I’m coming.
From the backstage entrance to Magic Kingdom, I get my first glimpse of Cinderella’s Castle, and I get excited. There has been no part of this race I’ve enjoyed more in the past few years than cheering for the runners on Main Street. Now here I was, one of those runners. I know to stay to the left side and exactly where to look for my friends. Arriving, I see friends including Dana and Shalon. I’m shaking hands and hugging a lot of people, and then I find Cheryl and give her a big hug and a kiss. I remember saying hi to Beci, Lou (who was excited to see me wearing a WDW Radio hat), MoJo, and the “Box People”.
Heading through the Hub, they send us into Tomorrowland. Once there, I stop for pictures with Buzz Lightyear and then Stitch near the entrance to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin. Again, I make a quick call to the Be Our Guest Podcast live show. The connection is much better for me this time, we chatted briefly, told them I was having an awesome time, and said good-bye. Then I’m off again.
After a quick dash, I stopped in front of the Mad Tea Party to take a picture with the Queen of Hearts. Texting with Cliff, he pointed out I was going to want to stop again for Flynn Rider and Rapunzel who were just around the corner past The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. I started to run again, but just past Snow White’s Scary Adventures, and before going through Cinderella’s Castle, I stopped for a picture with the Castle itself and then again with Donald and Daisy.
Emerging from the Castle, I head around to the front to pose for the official race picture, only to bump into my friends Dee and Neil. Entering Liberty Square I passed by Mile Marker 6. Then its picture time once again, this time with Tiana, Prince Naveen, and Louis. I got to wait in line with Dee and Neil and talk with them some more. Entering, Frontierland I can’t resist a picture with the Country Bears. Heading out of Magic Kingdom I caught some pictures of the Pirate Ship parade float, the line was crazy-long and I wasn’t willing to wait for this one.
Just outside of Magic Kingdom I passed by Mile Marker 7, and saw Mary Poppins and Bert. Though I’d been warned this can be a fairly boring stretch of road, I decided that it was time for the trek back to Epcot, and I’d spent enough time with characters. I knew there were friends waiting for me up ahead. Once more I kept to the left along the orange cones, and not long after Mile 8, near the Polynesian Resort, I got to see, wave to, and blow kisses to my Disney Film Project Podcast co-host Ryan, his wife Sally, and the rest of Clan Kilpatrick.
Running along World Center Drive there was a table sponsored by the Clif Bar Company. They were handing out some of their new Clif Shot Gel flavors. Now the last time I had one of these it wasn’t something I enjoyed. However, at the Health & Fitness Expo table they had talked me into trying one, so I grabbed a mocha. Honestly, I’m sticking with the Bloks – it was like sticking raw brownie batter in my mouth. Not necessarily a bad thing, just not a taste I want in my mouth during a race.
It’s time for what Mike Scopa has referred to as the Heartbreak Hill Trinity. You start up the incline of one of the widest diameter butterfly exit ramps in perhaps all of Central Florida. At the top you get one of the neatest effects in the entire race. You can look down at the runners crossing underneath the World Drive overpass that you’re now standing on – I spent a few minutes cheering them on with some other guys.
Then you realize why he calls this a trinity. Sure you made it up the ramp, but now you see before you another hill. And beyond it you can see more runners heading up a third hill & second overpass that takes them over the entrance road for Epcot. Mile Marker 11 is at the top of the second hill. At this point my iPhone starts playing Life’s a Happy Song from The Muppets and it feels so perfect and right as I look and see Spaceship Earth. Another tearful moment for me.
On that third and final hill, my iPhone bids me farewell as it runs out of juice. That’s what I get for texting and taking pictures all race long. I wrap my earphones around the phone and tuck it into a belt pouch. Coming over the hill I see the bus stops and again know to stay to the left. Up ahead I again find Lou, and my wife Cheryl. I give her another big hug and kiss. And then I run off again.
Now I’m inside Epcot, passing by Spaceship Earth, heading past the Fountain of Nations, and down around the Christmas Tree at the entrance to World Showcase. This is it, the home stretch. Less than a mile to go until the finish line. They lead us backstage and past a gospel choir. Truthfully if all races don’t end with a gospel choir, they probably should (write your Congressman). Once again I stay to the left and get to see Shalon, Dana, and Kelly once more right there at Mile Marker 13.
At this point if you haven’t resigned yourself to being done, you will. One tenth of a mile from the finish line in the Epcot parking lot, and nowhere else to go, I bow to my friends and run off. Knowing I want a really good photo for my finish, I get a nice gap between myself and other runners. Giving a High-5 to Mickey Mouse, I cross the finish line and I’m done. Not far after that I get my Donald Duck medal, and I’m crying and laughing all over again.
The feeling of accomplishment and the emotion wrapped inside of it is incredible. I’m starting to plan more Disney races going into 2013, and I’m considering (but not yet comfortable with) doing the Full Marathon instead of the Half – a Mickey Medal does sound nice. I’d love to do the Expedition Everest Challenge again, and I’m planning to definitely do the Tower of Terror 10-Miler. Not to mention all the friends I’m planning to cheer for during the Princess Half Marathon, and helping to encourage others to also run. Running is an exciting part of who I am, and I intend to continue sharing it with you.
What about you? Did you run any races during Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend? The 5K? The Half? The Full? How did you do? Did you have fun? If not, are you interested in doing so in the future? Words can’t express what we’re all feeling at this very moment.