Awful and wonderful, my absolute worst race ever … and yet in some ways, one of my favorites, that’s the best way to describe my 2016 Wine & Dine Half Marathon and Day 2 of the Lumiere Two-Course Challenge experience! It was awful thanks to a foot injury which made me hobble 13.1 miles wearing a walking boot. But it was wonderful thanks to the support and encouragement I had received from others – the spectators, the Disney Cast Members, and especially the runners, which is why I love being a part of the running community!
So let me back up a minute and talk about costumes. Jackey took the lead with both our 10k and half marathon costumes since Megan and I kept procrastinating. Thank God she did, because it was a blast dressing as Monsters University cheerleaders and Strip “The King” Weathers from Cars! (Now I need to do another favorite costumes post since they both top the list.)
Anyway, this was super easy to put together, thanks to the many colors Fila shirts come in, a new Sparkle Athletic skirt and visor, and the glories of felt and glue. I also printed out some sponsor ads onto labels for the full effect … surprisingly, all but one made it to the finish line!
Another addition to my costume was the walking boot. I decided not to wear it for the 10k, using an insert from My Foot Shop and a metatarsal pad instead. They worked for 6.2 miles, but I needed more protection for 13.1 plus I worried about how the 1/4″ thick pad would feel for that long of a distance.
So I booted up. It was a very good decision!
As usual, we left our room early and to my extreme joy, the food court at All Stars Sports was open so I could get some coffee! Praise the Lord. We then got on the first bus and headed to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Center to have some fun with others in our running group during the pre-race festivities. This included a very long wait for Chef Mickey…
An even longer wait for Chef Donald and Goofy…
Plus some hanging out, chatting, and of course … dancing!
Megan then took my gEar bag to the bag check area, with me forgetting to take out my phone charger and ear buds first. Argh. You’d think I’d be smarter after doing … what, twelve runDisney race weekends but nope. Still make mistakes.
We then parted ways and headed to our corrals. Thank goodness I was in C for this race since it gave me more time to finish. I did NOT want another encounter with the balloon ladies, which we covered in great detail in my Wine & Dine 10k video recap! I had to go to the bathroom, but the thought of hobbling back to the port-o’s and waiting in line had no appeal. Instead, I sat on a curb in the back, worrying about whether or not I’d have enough phone charge for the race … and whether I’d have enough physical charge to finish!
Seriously, I was freaking out. Don’t let that smile fool you.
But I had decided to have a good attitude about this race and enjoy it for what it was – an opportunity to experience a race in a different way … one I hope and pray I’ll never have to do again!
Pretty soon, the wheelchair division and corrals A and B were on their way!
Now, I must admit that usually, I’m a total front-of-the-corral kind of gal, since I like being in the thick of the action. But lingering in the back does have its advantages, like a great view of the fireworks.
And I got a lovely shout-out of encouragement from Carissa, after she noticed my boot.
Someone had teased me earlier about wearing it for attention. Seriously, I wished I didn’t need it. Being injured SUCKS and I miss running so much that it makes me cry just thinking about it. I had also cried minutes before the race even began, out of my deep-rooted fear that I’ll never be able to run again. So yeah. Getting the shout-outs from Carissa was amazing.
And it was only beginning.
After the starting line, there’s a long row of spectators on the right full of family members and friends cheering everyone on. Those in my corral took off, leaving just me on the road, hobbling along. So I looked at the spectators and let out a loud woo-HOO!
In turn, then went crazy for me, cheering, clapping, sending me on my way with tons of encouragement.
So I cried. Again.
But then the loneliness kicked in, making me wish I had my ear buds so I could listen to some motivation music. Instead, I kicked it in gear, with the intention of maintaining a 15 to 16-minute pace to keep me well ahead of the balloon ladies. The last thing I wanted was to have to push it at the end with them on my tail again!
I also knew character photos were out of the question, so it pained me seeing the Country Bears right before the first mile marker, since they hold a special place in my heart after running the 2016 Disneyland Country Bears 5k with Jackey! Instead, I settled for a walk-by instead.
The time on the Mile 1 marker was 22:21, so considering my corral start, I did about a fifteen-minute mile. No bad. I was tracking the Balloon Ladies, but those notifications never came! More on that later.
Now, about the course.
Because of construction at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, there was a LOT of highway time. Like, a lot. runDisney had promised plenty of entertainment which included this pimped out vehicle and DJ:
And a couple of gals swinging rope lights who … hate being negative … looked as though they belonged more at a nightclub instead of a Disney race.
Moving on. But it was fantastic seeing this Mile 3 sign because it meant we were entering Animal Kingdom soon!
We entered Animal Kingdom’s parking lot and after I stopped to take some video, I saw a couple of familiar faces – Jackey and James, who both started in corral F! Then some more members of our running group came along, leading to a small reunion.
Jackey and James stayed with me long enough to grab a few pictures while entering Animal Kingdom.
And, of course, we had to get a picture at the Tree of Life, with a very appropriately dressed Cast Member!
Afterwards, I was in desperate need of a bathroom by the mile 4 mark, so we parted ways. As usual, running … err, no, walking through Animal Kingdom was amazing, the highlight of the course. It continued to be painful, though, passing the many characters they had out. Rafiki was near the entrance, Balloo was near the first bathrooms on the left, Timon hung out near Kilimanjaro Safari, and Terk from Jungle Book was … well, I don’t know where he was since he was on break when I hobbled by.
And thank goodness for the Photopass folks. They took tons of photos in that area! I particularly like this one, since I look so happy. Which I was, thanks to the many, many runners who gave me encouragement throughout the race! And injured or not, Disney is an awesome place to be.
Since the bathroom was on the left, though, and the steady stream of runners made crossing to the other side difficult, I hung on the left, clinging as close to the edge as I could get, leaving room for the runners in the middle. Besides, someone had already snipped at me while trying to cross to the bathroom side, and I really didn’t want to be snipped at again.
On the highway, where there was more room to stretch out, I did hang mostly on the far left since the road’s decline made it easier walking on a left foot boot that’s raised higher. There was a tight cone alley … can’t remember where … and I tried to stick to the right as much as possible, avoiding the dips and spots where the road broke off. This was the one time I felt like I was in people’s way, although for the most part, everyone was cool and supportive. I was glad to get through that, though!
But back to Animal Kingdom. I did break my no-characters rule since there was a short line for these guys from the Festival of the Lion King show:
Soon my time in Animal Kingdom came to an end, with more long stretches of highway to go before we finally got to Epcot. By this time, my foot was feeling good … but everything else hurt! My calves, my rear, and especially my quads. I was determined to keep up with my 15-16 minute pace, though, since I hadn’t received any notifications of the Balloon Ladies crossing the 3k mark and I had no clue where they were.
By the Mile 5 marker, the race … like this recap, already felt super long. My time was 01:36, and once I took into account my bathroom break, chatting with friends, waiting for the stilt guys, and my lollygag pace through Animal Kingdom, I was averaging at around 16:00 per mile. Not bad, but still enough to make me worry.
The course was beginning to dull again, with runners taking every opportunity for some kind of fun, like posing with the topiaries! No stopping for me, though. And I had to bypass the even-longer line for Chip & Dale!
I like to think Dale is waving at me here:
Or is it Chip? I can never keep them straight.
Speaking of creating your own character stops, this police officer was a good sport! And doesn’t he look like Ponch from the TV show, Chips?
Then before Mile 7, I saw two more lovely characters, Shannon and Leslie!! They joined me for about a mile, raising my spirits and letting me know that the Balloon Ladies were about 1.4 miles behind us … a little too close for my comfort!
So I upped my pace, doing around 14.3 to 15 despite my aching quads and growing exhausting. But still, I had to make time for a quick over-the-shoulder with Sully and Mike!
I also had to stop for a selfie with these folks, the characters from Hollywood Studios Streetmosphere … which kind of happens to be my dream Disney job.
Up next was a highly motivating message from Carissa, John Pelkey, and footage from many of Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival employees cheering us on and reminding us of the fun yet to come that evening! Must admit. Got a little teary from this. Nice touch, runDisney!
Now, the line for Darkwing Duck? Wow, SERIOUSLY long and entirely out of the question for me. So it was yet another over-the-shoulder walk-by shot. Darn, I really wanted that photo!!
Jackey ended up scoring one, though. Lucky duck.
Shannon and Leslie had moved on with promises to forward the next Balloon Ladies update and tons of encouragement. Jackey and Shannon kept checking on me throughout the rest of the race and I also had a FaceTime chat with Rob after he texted to see how I was doing. Seriously? I love my friends.
I remembered that encouragement each time I saw the “Parade Buses,” aka, the ones who gather injured or swept runners who fall behind the Balloon Ladies. Here’s a confession: after I had posted Kelly’s awesome and very honest story about her own Parade Bus experience, I worried that it was a foreshadow of what would happen to me.
Thank God it didn’t!
And look at these awesome gals. They were fantastic!
So were these kids who cheered us on before the Mile 9 mark:
By this time, however, I was really starting to worry about being swept, even though some walkers who had more accurate Garmins assured me it was not possible. I just didn’t want to get this far and be forced to quit. It wouldn’t have been the end of the world … but I’d be devastated.
I did relax after seeing a familiar face at the next water stop, Kimberly Estabrook, a fellow YouTuber! She was walking with her mom, which is so amazing. It’d be fantastic doing a race with a family member!
Plus their outfits were super cute. We chatted for while until my fear of being swept nagged kicked in again. So I carried on. It really would have been great getting a lift from this balloon!
Now, normally I don’t refer to the overpass ramps as hill. Where I live in Maryland? We got hills so to me, a ramp is an incline. But on that day? It felt like a mountain! I had done my best pre-race to keep my conditioning up by using the stationary bike, but my endurance was wearing thin. Plus my quads continued to ache, thanks to me not stopping at the medical tent for Bio-Freeze due to my sweep fear.
I did try to keep my energy up with Gu gel packs, plenty of water and PowerAde at each stop, but it didn’t seem to help. Plus I was seriously regretting not having my portable charger on me, since my phone’s battery was about to die. Serge must have sensed my distress, since he took it easy on me.
Finally! I made it to the top of the overpass and offered some encouragement to those behind me. (It also gave me the chance to scout out those Balloon Ladies!)
They were nowhere in site, so my Mile 11, I decided I had enough bumper room for me to cool my jets, slow my pace, and really soak in the rest of the race. Besides, the mental stress was just as exhausting as the walking!
I finally passed Mile 12, only ONE MORE MILE to go!! And look at these ladies, BEST SIGNS OF THE RACE! And they’re dressed as Christmas lights. Loved them!
And up ahead? EPCOT!!! Just imagining finishing this race put me in tears again. So did all the cheers and encouragement from the spectators. This lady yelled out, “You crazy woman, you’re doing a half marathon with a boot on, WOOOO!!”
By this time, my Parade Bus fears disappeared since–to the best of my knowledge–I was beyond the sweep point. I was going to finish a half marathon wearing a boot, WOOOO is right!!! So I decided to reward myself by stopping for a picture of Clarabelle and Horace, since I’ve never seen him before. Thank goodness it turned out nice!
I even allowed myself to take another bathroom break because quite frankly, I was busting and did not want to pee in a port-a-pot after finishing!
Entering Epcot and hearing the announcers at the finish line was beyond amazing. Any guesses what I did? Yep. I cried. Again. The line for Phineas and Ferb wasn’t long, but by that time, I just wanted to finish. Jackey and James were able to get a cute photo earlier, though!
I was also going to bypass Genie until I noticed a gal from my running group, Kelly, at the front of the line! She waved me over to join her. And look at her Figment outfit. Isn’t it adorable?
This was her first half marathon, so even though I assured her it was okay to run ahead … I was not gonna rush any more, y’all … she stayed with me for the rest of the race. Be sure to check out my video recap for her emotional response to getting the medal! It’s so sweet!
So Kelly stuck with me pass these awesome gospel singers…
… when I got to meet one of our Joyful Miles YouTube viewers, an awesome moment!!
…past these fantastic chEarleaders…
… and finally, Kelly was with me when this amazing site came into view, THE FINISH LINE!
I cried. Oh, and any guesses what I did when Carissa and Rudy gave me an AMAZING shout-out for finishing in a boot?
Yep, I cried. And the tears kept coming when I finally crossed the finish line!
It was a tremendous moment … one I hope I’ll never have to repeat by healing and being able to run again.
As for my friends, I assured them it was okay to go back to the resort without me, since I knew it my time would be very long and I don’t like being a burden. But what did I see after collecting my stuff from bag check?
Jackey, Shannon, Leslie, and James, cheering like crazy on the other side. You already know what I did, right?
Afterwards, I was seriously craving a beer, but the line was super long. So instead, we went back to the resort and James enjoyed a cold one with me at All Stars while the gals showered. (I think he really knew I needed some decompress time.)
Next up was a very long shower followed by an even longer nap since I wouldn’t survive the After Party without one!
That will be the topic of my next post. Until then, thank you for making it to the end of this lengthy post! Be sure to also check out our recap videos.
What about you? QOTD: Did you participate in Disney’s 2016 Wine and Dine Half Marathon? If so, what was your favorite part and will you do it again?
And finally, if you were one of the many spectators, cast members, runners and walkers who cheered me on during the race, THANK YOU!! It absolutely meant the world to me!
Happy running and have a joyful day!