I was so incredibly pumped to start the race. I had decided that I wanted to live in the moment and take in all the sights and sounds of the race. I had my digital camera in hand and, although I wore an iPod on my arm, I never once put my iPod speakers in my ears. The start was crowded but I stuck to my run 5 minutes, walk 2 minute plan and just found my way through the traffic. I tried to take pictures of each mile marker but most were blurry or had other people’s heads in them!

(Note random guy standing in front of Mile Marker One.  Also note that it didn’t take me 43 minutes to run the 1st mile.  That’s the time from the first runner crossing the start line!)

They say you shouldn’t have a time goal for your 1st race at a particular distance. I tried to remind myself that my goal was to finish within the time limit of the race (16 minutes per mile which is about 3 hours 30 minutes). In reality my goal was to try to break 3 hours. My biggest fear was starting too fast and burning out by the end. I don’t have a fancy Garmin, just a $25 sports watch (in an attractive and feminine shade of light pink!) which I used to keep track of my run/walk. I also kept track of my pacing.
I was averaging about 12:30 per mile which was faster than my training. I lost a few minutes for a port-a-potty break around mile 3. The line was quite long but there was no denying mother nature! I did meet a nice father-daughter pair in the bathroom line (she was probably middle school age?). My family was worried about my “fast” pace because apparently they texted me to slow down! (I got the text after crossing the finish line so it didn’t help much!)

Disney knows how to do entertainment. it’s hard to describe all the stuff going on during the race – high school marching bands complete with cheerleaders, character meet and greets, random guys on stilts, etc. It seemed that every few minutes there was something else to see.

(Example of the aforementioned random stilt guys.)

It was dark at the start. So dark that for the first few miles I needed to use the backlight on my watch to see my race time. But we approached the Magic Kingdom, the sun started to rise and it started getting lighter.
The race was packed. I was constantly dodging people and having people dodge me. There’s were some particularly narrow spots entering and within Magic Kingdom.

(Running through the toll plaza to Magic Kingdom.  A few comments:  1. Lots of people! 2. It’s pretty dark still!)

Entering Main Street USA was definitely a highlight for me. Both sides of the street were packed with Cast Members cheering us on. I even saw the Mayor shaking hands on Main Street! We turned right and headed to Tomorrowland and then swung around to Fantasyland. As we entered Cinderella’s Castle there were troubadours announcing our arrival. Exiting the Castle was one of the most crowded points of the race. Cool though it was, I would have enjoyed it more with fewer people!

(I love Main Street USA.  And it was awesome to run it during the race!)

We finally exited Magic Kingdom and start the run back towards Epcot. This road took us past the 3 monorail resorts: The Contemporary, the Grand Floridian, and the Polynesian. One major advantage of staying at a monorail resort is that your family can just walk from the resort out to the road and watch you run by. Which leads me to another memorable highlight of the race – seeing my family as I ran by. At this point in the race I was starting to tire a bit and it was so inspirational to see my parents, my husband, and my 3 children cheering for me. Definitely worth the price of the Polynesian!!!

(My kids looking bored!)

(Me running by.  I’m trying to get the kids’ attention!)

Much of this stretch of road is a blur in retrospect. We reached a cloverleaf that took us up over the roadway. Not fun to have the one major uphill at this point in the race. To mitigate the pain, Disney stationed a green army man (think plastic green toy soldier) at the bend of the curve. He had a megaphone and was yelling at us. I definitely walked that hill but was laughing my butt off the whole time! As we approached Epcot one of the World Showcase bands was playing for us. Entering Epcot was awesome. It’s a short run in Epcot. From Future World past Club Cool (as though you’re heading towards World Showcase) and then a quick 180 degree turn back toward the front of the park. Epcot was lined with Cast Members and even a surprise visit by Phineas and Ferb (a favorite in my house).

(For the uninitiated, here are Phineas and Ferb)

The finish line was just outside Epcot. Many people had already finished and stood with their medals to cheer us on. That was very nice. The finish is a bit of a blur. I remember high-fiving Minnie at the finish. I then got my medal and the post-race Mylar. I picked up my stuff from bag check and grabbed some post-race snacks. I definitely felt like puking for a few minutes but then tried to re-fuel. My DH was waiting at the family reunion area (he was smart to leave the kids with my parents as it was a zoo!). My official time was 2:44:15. I definitely met all of my goals.
A few thoughts on the race. I honestly think I was smiling from start to finish. My name was on my race bib and many, many strangers cheered for me by name. It was great! I gave high-fives to any and all spectators who were there. I took water or sports drink when it was offered and took snacks or goo as available. I figured it couldn’t hurt, might help. I honestly think my smile and positive attitude allowed me to enjoy every minute of the race. Sure I felt crappy at the end. My legs hurt for days. But it was awesome!!! I really believe that this is an experience everyone should have at least once…