On Sunday morning my alarm didn’t go off at 3 AM like the two previous days, but at 2:45 AM instead! I figured I needed an extra 15 minutes to apply all of the necessary sunscreen before catching the bus to the start line. Daylight saving time ended shortly before I woke up, rolling the clocks back one hour, so the sun would be rising earlier as far as the clock was concerned. I’d definitely be running part of the half marathon in the sunlight and I had to be prepared. The upside of DST ending was that I fell asleep at 8:30 PM the night before, which was equivalent to 7:30 PM, so I got 7 full hours of sleep! That’s hard for me to do when my schedule is so out of whack on vacation. I picked my Wonder Woman shirt and white sparkle skirt to wear for 13.1 miles. The last time I wore those items was for the Long Beach marathon a few weeks earlier and it was such a miserable experience that I wanted to have a more positive memory associated with that outfit. Spoiler alert – it worked! It was very humid on Sunday morning so I was sweating like a pig, but the temperature was as low as I could have hoped for central Florida in November. Similar to the 10K, the half marathon started in the Magic Kingdom parking lot and went south, so the first three plus miles were on boring access roads. But after that we ran through Animal Kingdom, and this time I got to see the new Pandora area in the daylight. It’s absolutely amazing! After leaving Animal Kingdom we had another few boring miles before getting to Hollywood Studios, but that was quickly followed by the Boardwalk resort hotel area and Epcot. I actually enjoyed the last 5K of this half marathon, which is usually the hardest part of the race for me, due to the clustered entertainment along those miles. It was a lot of fun. My time wasn’t amazing, but it was better than I initially expected after my slower than average summer and fall running so I was happy. I was even happier to pick up my half marathon and Two Course Challenge (10K + half marathon) medals after crossing the finish line. Afterwards I hopped on the bus back to my hotel so I could shower, scarf down some Mickey waffles for breakfast, and take a nap! I needed some rest before going to Animal Kingdom later that afternoon for an amazing dinner at Tiffins (pea fritters, venison tenderloin, and sorbet) – seriously, everyone needs to eat there – and the Rivers of Light evening show. I skipped the Wine & Dine post-race party at Epcot that night because it didn’t start until 10 PM and I was dead tired much earlier than that. Repacking my suitcase to fly home the next day and getting a good night’s sleep were more important. than staying up late for the party!
On Saturday night I was supposed to run the Wine & Dine Half Marathon at Disney World. I’ve been looking forward to this since I registered way back in March. A night race through three Disney parks was going to be amazing. So at 7 PM on Saturday night I hopped on a bus from the Polynesian Village Resort where I was staying to go to the start line at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex. I got there two hours before the race started and it was hot and muggy. Not the best running weather, but I was more worried about rain. I couldn’t imagine how uncomfortable 13.1 miles would be in the rain. I’ve run shorter distances in the rain before and it’s not pleasant. Once your clothes and shoes get saturated things go downhill fast. Based on the radar before I left my hotel I thought that we would stay dry that night, but when a cool breeze started blowing as I sat on the ground waiting for the race to start I knew trouble was brewing. At 9 PM the crowd of runners and spectators started moving in the general direction of the corrals, but instead we were herded inside the ESPN complex due to lightning in the area. It looked like a storm had developed out of nowhere and it was coming our way. At that point I thought the race would be called off completely. I found a place to sit inside and tried to get my phone to connect to Facebook for information, but the wifi and cell networks were both completely saturated with about fifteen thousand other runners trying to do the same thing. After about an hour of impatiently waiting we got the all clear to finally make our way to the corrals. We were informed that the course was being shortened due to the late start and some potential storms that might still affect us. We weren’t going to run through the Animal Kingdom Park after all, removing 6 miles from the race. The “half marathon” was going to be just 7.1 miles. But we were going to run, which is more than I expected, and we were going to get our medals at the end. I’m not sure I really earned that Wine & Dine Half Marathon medal that I was given at the finish line, but I took it anyway. I’m already considering running it again in 2016 for redemption!
P.S. Despite the anticlimactic nature of the whole experience, the highlight of the evening was seeing the Osborne Family Christmas lights in the Hollywood Studios park. I swear as soon as the runners turned the corner and saw the lights they all stopped and stared. Everything on that street was covered with lights. And I mean everything. It was incredible. I didn’t take any pictures with my phone because I knew they wouldn’t turn out very well, but I walked that entire street so I could spend as much time as possible admiring the lights. And it was a welcome respite from running in the oppressive humidity, even that late at night. Maybe I’ll get a professional photo to share when my race pictures are available. All the discomfort during the Wine & Dine Half Marathon was worth it just to see those lights!