It felt so good to run the half marathon this past weekend. I think I almost forgot how good. It’s been so long since I’ve summonsed the willpower to move across that many miles. It’s been so long since I’ve felt carried by the collective energy of the crowd and participants.
The most difficult part of races at Disney is the start time. Ryan was sidelined with an injury, so my brother James and I made our way to the start around 3:45 while Ryan got a few extra hours of sleep. We munched on bagels and granola bars and complained about how early it was as we rode the bus from the hotel to the start. We arrived at the staging area and even though we knew it would make for a hot second half of the race, we were grateful that it was 66° — much warmer and much less shivering than last year.
We walked the mile from the staging area to the corral, arriving just in time to hear the national anthem. James and I hugged, wished each other good luck and off we went. It was special to spend those few moments with my little brother – to watch him take off after a goal, to watch him excel, to watch the beauty of the try. Sometimes these things are seen so much more easily as we cheer for those we love. I continued to think of him throughout the race – what milemarker he was at, if he was on pace for a PR, whether his ankle would bother him. And, as the pain inevitably set in for me, my mind reflexively went to him and his race. I think this is one of the most powerful aspects of running – the ability for our own pain to remind us of the pain of others.
The first half of the race is dark. The darkness eases you into the run; it’s less harsh than being met by full sun in the grogginess of the early morning.
First light came around mile 5, just as I entered the Magic Kingdom. This is a real turning point in the race – the crowds become more consistent, the miles become more scenic. The course leads you into a side entrance of Magic Kingdom, you turn a corner and run down “Main Street” right towards the castle, then curve around behind it and run right through it.
Once you come out of Magic Kingdom, you’re halfway done. A few miles until Epcot and then the finish line is just on the other side of the park.
I saw Ryan cheering a few hundred feet before the finish line and then met up with my parents and James just after I finished. James and I plopped down and traded stories and race highlights, as we sipped Powerade and took pictures.
It took several years to convince James to run a half marathon, but I’m so glad he finally caved and registered for one. While we didn’t run the race together, it was so neat to know he was out on the course covering the same miles and that on the other side of the finish we would see each other, hug and celebrate. And, in so doing, acknowledge that the 3:30am wake up call was oh so worth it.