I am probably more excited talking about this week, than any other entry we plan to cover. When we talk about the pre-race experience at Disney there are so many different emotions that go into that morning. Whether you are or are not familiar with Disney the one thing I can tell you that Disney does better than anyone is to tell a story. When you go onto an attraction from the moment you walk through the entrance until the attraction is over, you experience Disney walking you through a story.
RunDisney does such an amazing job of starting early in the morning and building excitement all the way until the start of the race and through the finish line. But let us begin with the not so fun shall we…
The Wake-up Call
This is the not fun part of the day, but it is all a part of the experience. Are you an early person or do you prefer to run to the start line? This will impact your wake up no matter what will be early. I am an early person so my pattern might be different than yours. Here is what does not change. In the past, the transportation times are from 3AM-4AM. If you are staying at a Disney Resort you need to be on a bus by 4AM. Driving is also an option but the roads will get crazy, so just know that ahead of time. The wake-up call hurts when there is a 2 on the clock! When you get up that should never be the first number! So the wake-up call is not ideal.
Getting to the Start Area
As we talked about, Disney Transportation gets you to the start area. The first start times are at about 5:30 in the morning. You are initially all gathered in one central area until they open up a nice walk to the corrals. I actually like the walk because it gives me a chance to help wake those legs up early in the morning. I really enjoy watching all the buses arrive at Epcot. Everyone is sluggishly walking to the start area. They usually have a DJ, music or a band playing trying to help get everyone excited. There are a ton of porta-potties but of course we could always use more. Depending upon what time you get there, you could potentially spend a lot of time in this area. Check the weather and be prepared for anything. Some years have been very comfortable and others I have been almost frozen before the race. Orlando in January could be anything. As you are gathered in this central start area, the excitement builds but it is also pretty tame as everyone is still trying to wake up.
At some point and time, they begin encouraging runners to check bags and begin the walk to the start corrals area. I am not positive of the exact distance but I am guessing it could be as much as ¾ of a mile. This is always a unique time of the day. There is excitement, nervous energy and you begin understanding more than any other moment what you are about to do. As you take the walk you experience some backstage areas and you can usually see things you would not normally see, so enjoy the view. Don’t worry about the bathroom situation because once you get to the starting corrals you will find more porta-potties as well. As you get closer you will begin to hear the music, the announcers and you will feel the excitement building. There is plenty of directional signage to point you to your corral. Different corrals go in different directions so just follow the signs. You will find plenty of screens and speakers and you will be fully engaged. Ignore the countdown clock as more than likely it will seem like a long time to go, but the time goes quick. It is funny, but as I type this up I just smile as I remember the excitement of the years I have been at this start line. It is a start line like no other! Disney usually has the same announcers so I enjoy the consistency year after year and they do a really good job.
They are playing music, interviewing nervous and excited runners and running legends like Jeff Galloway and many others. I don’t want to give the whole morning away so I will leave plenty of the mystery to you. I personally recommend you get there early and enjoy the whole experience. You have put probably 4 months of training into this race and you should enjoy the whole experience. You have invested a lot of time getting ready for this race, don't miss out on this moment. The true description of the start of this race and race morning can’t be put into words. You have to be there to understand it. Enjoy the moment!
So back to the course…
Guess what! You are finished with one of the tougher sections of this course. You are getting ready to enter the Animal Kingdom Park! You pass mile marker #12 as you get to the backstage area and enter into the park around the Rafiki’s Planet Watch area. One of the nice things about running through the Animal Kingdom is getting the support of cast members throughout the park.
As you run into the Animal Kingdom you will eventually enter into familiar territory to come in between Asia and Africa and start to head towards Asia and Everest. I know some runners don’t enjoy running through the Animal Kingdom park because of the footing, but I have never had a problem personally. You will quickly encounter the Everest roller coast ride on your left. Some runners have actually hopped on and rode Everest. I am too concerned about what that would do to my legs so it is not a temptation.
After you pass Everest, you will pass the area that houses the Nemo show and goes straight through the heart of Dinoland, USA. As you begin to exit the park through a backstage area you will hit mile marker #13. There is typically a water stop right at this point.
Once you exit the Animal Kingdom park you will find yourself opening up into the parking lot of the Animal Kingdom. You will take a right onto the sidewalk and head toward the main entrance of the Animal Kingdom park. You will swing around the front of the entrance, around the bus loading area and back into the parking as you begin running toward the exit of the Animal Kingdom parking lot. You can usually spot some entertainment around this area. You will run under an overpass and soon hit mile marker #14 and have a chance to hit the water stop.
I am not going to tell you that you are over half way there. Mathematically, that is true but that is not the case when running a marathon. I mentioned earlier you had finished a tough stretch of the race before. Well, this is another tough little stretch of the race. If you have done a good job taking care of yourself and feel good, this is an opportunity for you to begin going after that marathon pace you can handle. There are 2 types of things happening right now. You have some runners who started too quick and are starting to fade and then you have another group who started conservative and are feeling good who can begin making it happen. I recommend knowing this now and start in training to exercise that discipline to finish strong. My best memories of marathons are those in which I was strong at the finish! There are different runs in training you can practice with, but start training your body to be strong at the finish. If you do this in training, your body won't be surprised on race day.