Yeahhhhhh! I know, this is what we've all been waiting for. How the weekend went is great and all, but let's get to the good stuff...The actual race. Now, the race starts early. Really early. Seeing that you have to get up, get ready, get to the buses, take a bus over, check bags and walk to corrals to get to that really early race start, you have to get up really, really early. I was told that buses fill up very fast, and the later you are in getting on them, the longer it will take to get on a bus and to the race area. Buses started running at 3 am, and we wanted on one ASAP. So at 2:30 am, dark and early, the alarm went off. Normally I'd want nothing to do with getting out of bed, but race anticipation definitely helps with popping out of bed after less than 6 hours of broken sleep. We got ready. Running skirt and running tank top, check. Pigtails, clip in Minnie Mouse ears and headband, check. Compression socks and running shoes, check. Hydration belt, with water and gatorade, check. Gu and phone/camera, check. Most importantly, race bib, big check. I was ready. We left our room at 3 am and made the short walk to the bus stop. It was a good thing we left early. We were at the last bus stop, and buses were already nearly full by the time they got to us. The first bus came as we were arriving and it had room for 5 people. We didn't get on. The next bus had room for 7 people. Again, we didn't get on. A third bus came, with room for 10 people, and we were on, and on our way. It was a short 10 minute ride, a very quite 10 minute ride considering it was full. We got to our unloading area, and there is a quarter mile or so walk to the pre-race area. There are tents set up, merchandise tents, charity tents, large tents divided alphabetically to check your bags. In your race packet, you receive a large, clear plastic bag to put any post-race essentials you need in. I packed a change of socks, a comfortable pair of Nike flip flops and face wipes to clean my face off . We got to the pre-race area, where we'd be meeting a larger group of people, our Pacebook Running Club(known as PbRC from here on out). This is a great group of people on Facebook, from all over the country, who love the Disney races(and other races). I found tons of support and info from this group before the race. We were meeting up to grab a group photo and practice our mile 10 chicken dance(inside joke). We gathered and practiced our chicken dance. We got together for a group picture, and our group leader(and Run 3rd team leader) Tony told us he had someone special for us. Who? Sean Astin! He came over and gave us a great pep talk. After our photo, it was time to get into gear. We went through and checked our bags, and met up on the other side. We then got to enjoy the long lines waiting to use the port-o-potties. I consider myself to have a bladder of steel, especially seeing as I have carried and birthed 4 babies over the past 10 years. The last thing I wanted to be doing while running was to have to stop and go to the bathroom. Stopping really wasn't on my to-do list, for much of anything. There is reasoning behind this. I have been having issues with my IT band in my left leg. It tightens up like crazy, and my knee hurts pretty badly. I can run and run, but the moment I stop, my leg seizes up and I can only walk, it causes a lot of pain to run. So things like using the bathroom and stopping for pictures during the race was not something I was planning on. So bathrooms done, it was time to start our walk to the corrals. It was a slow group, thousands of princesses(and some princes too) on their journey to their respective corrals. It's about 5 am at this point. I would estimate the walk to corrals is about 3/4 of a mile. We made it to our corrals(party in Corral C!) and our wait was drawing to a close. Each corral is released 7 minutes apart. Disney has entertainment set up, large tv screens to watch and keep us occupied while we wait. The first corral to go are the wheelchair racers(my hats off to them, awesome hearing they are included!), followed by the elite corral(you know, the people who are faster than I could ever hope to be), and then the lettered corrals. Each corral is released with a countdown by the Fairy Godmother herself, and then fireworks at the starting line. It's so exciting to watch each group leave, knowing your time is getting closer and closer. Finally it's corral C's turn. I knew I'd be heading off alone. The friends in my corral were going to be going slower, and stopping for lots of pictures, so I planned to set off as soon as I could. That's exactly what I did. We got our countdown, our fireworks, then we speed up getting to the starting line(each corral has at least a few thousand runners, so you do have to wait a bit to start). I crossed the starting line, and I was off. Now this is where things start to get a bit fuzzy for me. I'm a bit sad to say that I don't remember tons about the race itself, little details aren't there. Normally when I run, I get very connected with my surroundings and music, but not this time. There was a very disconnected feeling. Maybe it was how early it was, maybe it was how focused I was, maybe it was the decent amounts of ibuprofen I took before the race(huge no-no from what I hear, but I knew I'd need it). I do remember that I started crying about a quarter of a mile after the start. Not because of any pain, but because I tend to hold all of my emotions in over time, and they catch up with me at once. All of the training, all of the excitement and nervousness that had been building up for months, the fact that my time was actually there and I was doing it, it hit me at once. I laughed at myself for crying less than a half a mile into the race, and kept going. The first couple of miles are a bit boring. They did have people lining the road, a marching bad at one point. We ran up the road, and through the Magic Kingdom parking entrance, through the MK parking lot. I was doing well by my first 5k, right about 37 minutes. Before hitting the Magic Kingdom, I finally remembered I had a camera with me, and that maybe it'd be nice to start taking pictures. I will note that it is pretty difficult to take decent pictures, while running, using an Iphone, while it's still dark outside. So I have very few course shots before the sun came up.
It's about this point that I see the Epcot ball. I was always told the ball meant "almost done" and I was actually looking for it, as a sign that my trek was almost finished. Now thinking about it, you have less than 2 miles to go when you see the ball. Less than 2 miles sounds like a piece of cake, but after over 11 miles, less than 2 miles take for-e-ver. This is when the major knee pain started. I tried to start running again and the pain was awful. I would walk for a bit, start running again, realize this was a bad choice, and walk. I made it into Epcot at mile 12.
Now I'm thinking a quick jaunt around the ball and I can bring it home. Not at all. I am still limping along at this point. This is seriously the longest mile of my life(and according to my Garmin, the distance was actually well over a mile). We go past the ball, past the fountain and then all the way down to where the path ends at the World Showcase Lagoon. When I saw how far past the ball we had to go and then come back from, I literally said out loud, "Are you kidding me?" I was starting to feel defeated, but I was so close. I tried running again. This lasted a few yards and I guess I yelped loud enough, before coming to a rather abrupt halt(and I stayed to the right, slower folks/walkers, always stay far to the right!), that it concerned some people around me. One girl ran by me, turned around and asked if I needed help. I told her I was fine and she kept on. I finally rounded the cones to start back towards the ball, with less than a mile to go. This is where I dug down deep, and I told myself and the guardian angel I brought with me(my first born son, Chris, who died as a baby) to "Come on buddy, let's finish this, let's keep going." I started running again. It hurt at first but I just kept going. I finally left Epcot and I hit the choir.