January 12, 2013 started early for me with a 2:30am alarm.  I had already prepared all of my race day gear so I got up, took a quick shower – yes, I fully acknowledge the insanity of showering right before running a half marathon – and got dressed for race day.  My roommate got up to wish me luck and see me off.  One huge advantage of staying at the Polynesian is that it’s a very pleasant walk to the Ticket and Transportation Center where I was able to take a quick monorail over to Epcot.  The monorail was fairly empty and the trip to the start line was uneventful.  It is a LONG walk from the monorail to the general starting area.  I had signed up for the runner’s retreat since I was running both days.  This was quite an expensive proposition but definitely enhanced my Goofy experience.  Runner’s retreat is a large, climate-controlled tent with a private bag check area, private port-a-potties, stretching areas, character meet and greets, and food and beverage.

I was pleased to find a few of my fellow Team Studios Central members at race retreat.  I ate half a bagel with peanut butter and drank a bit of Powerade.  I took advantage of the private port-a-potties (there was no line like there always is in the general area but, trust me, a port-a-potty is still a port-a-potty!) and had plenty of time to relax.  My teammates and I did get some pictures taken with the Fairies.  Unfortunately my group picture is too blurry to share.

At about 4:30am I suggested to my teammates that perhaps we should start wandering over to the starting corrals since Disney said it would be a 20 minute walk and we were supposed to be in the corrals by 5am.  The 20 minute walk ended up being a nightmare of crowding and bottle-necking! Our “20 minute walk” took 75 minutes.  One of my teammates and I were supposed to start in Corral C but unfortunately missed our start due to incredible crowds.  We ended up starting at the very front of Corral D instead.

The announcers with Donald, Mickey, and Goofy getting ready to call our start!

My race strategy for the half was SLOW and STEADY.  I figured I’d start with a run 5 sec/walk 1:55 sec to make sure my foot and my overall health were ok with the idea that I could pick up the pace as the race continued.  My goal pace for this race was about 14 min/mile which is a slow long run pace for me (before my foot injury I was doing my long runs at 13:30 pace).  I was a little worried before the start that using a slow training pace in the front corrals would cause me to be a road block for faster runners but I was happy to learn that the front of Corral D was really about the right place for me.

The course goes from the Epcot parking lot over to the Magic Kingdom and then through the Magic Kingdom before coming back to Epcot.  Aside from running through Magic Kingdom and part of Epcot, the course itself doesn’t offer much – except, of course, for the Disney-provided entertainment.  Our first water stop was right before mile 1 and I was moving along at my desired pace.

The course was crowded, as you might expect with 27,000 runners, but I actually found that by starting in an earlier corral than I have before, the crowding didn’t affect me as much I had feared.

I don’t think Johnny Depp was actually available for this particular pirate meet and greet but the ship was pretty spectacular! There had also been a few High School marching bands up to this point.

There’s something special about running through the toll booths to the Magic Kingdom!!! I always get a little emotional here.

There was a mat for the 5k split and I actually saw a runner go around the mat (I’m assuming due to inexperience and not for any nefarious purposes). My 5k split was 43:09 which is hardly impression but I was trying to keep my weekend goals in mind.