Knowing that runDisney events quickly reach capacity, I marked the registration date for this year’s Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend on my calendar. We were also able to book a room at Pop Century at a rate made available for race participants, which saved us some money.
We arrived at Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports around noon and found ourselves in bumper-to-bumper traffic as we approached the parking lot. The Cast Members directed us park on the grass which was a significant distance from the entrance to the complex. Thankfully, Disney was running a shuttle from the parking lot to the entrance, as even though it was November, the temperature was in the mid to high 80s. In fact, Disney had signs posted around property cautioning runners that the weekend was not the best time to try and top their personal best due to the heat.
The shuttle dropped us off and we worked our way through the crowds to the Jostens Center. I waited a short time to pick up my bib and packet as my wife and daughter looked at merchandise. We wanted to purchase a pin and magnet; however, the line for the registers wrapped around the complex several times. We put back the merchandise and went across the way to the HP Field House to get my event T-shirt.
We also took time to browse the vendors’ booths and I even caught a glimpse of Jeff Galloway, an accomplished professional runner and Founder of the Galloway Marathon Training Program that many runDisney participants use.
After a brief shuttle ride back to our car, we drove across the Osceola Parkway and down Victory Way to Pop Century. We had completed our check-in online and already received a text message with our room number, so we were able to bypass the lobby and go directly to our room. We ate lunch in the Everything Pop food court; and, since it was already after 2:00, decided to move our plans to attend the Food and Wine Festival to another day.
It was after 11 PM when I finally fell asleep, and I awoke six hours later to wash up and make my way to the bus loop. I spoke with several runners who were also planning to take part in the Half Marathon that night. Little did they know that the weather had other plans for them, and Disney had to scale the race down to half of the original length to ensure the runners’ safety.
Thankfully the weather was pleasant when the bus dropped us off in the Animal Kingdom parking lot. I followed my fellow runners to the corrals, deciding to pass on the extensive line to meet Mickey and Minnie for a picture. I made my way to Corral D, which coincided with my selected pace, and warmed up to the music being played by the DJ. The volunteers and Cast Members soon directed us to line-up to approach the starting line; and, about thirty minutes later, the race began.
My excitement grew as I approached the starting line. Disney staggered the starting time of each group for safety reasons, and most of the runners from Corrals A-C were well into the race by the time I reached the front. I did one final stretch, turned on my pace tracking app and music, and started to run as soon as I heard the words, “Runners Ready…Set… Go!” Bystanders, volunteers, and Cast Members cheered us on as we started down the path that wound through the rest of the parking lot.
Christmas music was piped in through speakers that lined that lined parts of the track. I jogged the first ½ mile and then decided to switch to a brisk power walk as the path narrowed. Most of my fellow runners did the same for the majority of the race. There was a water stop close to the end of the first mile which was just outside the gates to the park. I made it a point to enjoy each step and take in the sights and sounds of early morning in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. It was very serene, as they hadn’t yet started playing the ambient music that is present while the park is open.
The second, and most of the third, mile of the race took us backstage. We crossed over the railroad tracks that led to Rafiki’s Planet Watch; passed by the Expedition Everest show building; and, unfortunately, also made our way through the part of the park where they store garbage. The path remained narrow for most of the race; although I didn’t mind because it helped me maintain a comfortable pace.
I heard the DJ as I neared the finish line in the parking lot. My fellow runners and I were again greeted by the cheers of bystanders and I made a final sprint as I crossed the finish line with a smile. Volunteers were waiting for us with water, Powerade, and snacks. I stopped to pose for a picture with my medal, and then made my way towards the entrance to meet my family. Before going into the park, I looked back at the finish line once final time and smiled with a sense of accomplishment, joy, and excitement for my next adventure.Tweet
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