A Different Perspective (Walt Disney World Inaugural 10K)

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to participate in the Walt Disney World inaugural 10K two weeks ago.  This is the story of my experience. 

One of the saddest moments when thinking about the ramifications of my foot surgery came when I realized that I would not be able to participate in the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend this year.  My husband and I have done this race the past three years. I may have even asked my foot doctor if I could wait until after I ran the half marathon to have my surgery (The answer was obviously a big no).  Thankfully, I found out about surgery a few days before the deadline to officially defer my race registration to 2015.  I decided that depending how my recovery was progressing, I would still try to walk the inaugural 10K.  One of my good friends was walking this as her first 10K and this scenario presented a very rare opportunity for us to participate in a race together.

At the runDisney expo when picking up my packet, I had my photo taken with a sign reading “If it rains on your parade, splash in the puddles.” This became my mantra for the weekend.  I couldn’t do what I wanted to do, but would try to have fun doing what I could do.

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I woke up 2:30 a.m. on race morning (sadly, I woke before my alarm was set for 2:45 a.m.) and started to get ready.  This race posed a unique challenge to me of not knowing how to dress for a walk.  I am pretty good at gauging what to wear for just about every temperature of running, but didn’t know how quickly I would warm up while keeping my pace slow. It ended up not being a problem since it was warm and humid, but I never did feel hot while I know the runners out there got hot in a hurry with the balmy, humid conditions. My friend, Laura, picked me up at 4:00 a.m. and it was off to Epcot.  It is always a strange feeling to see things so crowded and everyone so awake pre-dawn before a Disney race!

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After arriving at Epcot, we quickly met up with some other friends and headed to corral D.  Word of advice to any first-time Disney runners: Pick a meeting point.  Disney races are crowded.  It is highly unlikely you will ever find someone without a set meeting point! Getting to our corral was a rush just to wait. And wait. And wait some more. (Patience is a theme that keeps coming back to me the last eight weeks.)  At the start of the race, we had to wait over thirty minutes before our corral was released.  I have never started a Disney race towards the “back of the pack,” and had no idea how nerve-wrecking it is to stand there and watch thousands of runners take off before you while waiting your turn.  At least I was in good company and the time passed fairly quickly.

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Ready to begin our adventure! 

The course started out by looping around the parking areas and then heading out to the Epcot Center Drive ramp. This mile offered very little entertainment, but went quickly as everyone was in over-drive from adrenaline at this point. Shortly after mile one there is a gradual climb up a ramp.  It was here I caught my first glimpse of the “balloon ladies” behind us. Thankfully, they were still probably close to a mile back!

I had heard stories of the “balloon ladies” at the rear of big races and the “sag wagon” that picks people up if you can’t hold pace.  For the first time in my “career,” I had to give these people some thought.  What if I couldn’t finish? What if my foot didn’t hold up or I couldn’t hold the required pace at a walk? It really gave me a different perspective to the fears that some people face every single time they register for an event. However, everyone that knows me (especially those that workout with me!) knew that I would never have started this race if I weren’t confident I could finish.  I was determined I would not be picked up!

The race continues to be a somewhat boring route through mile 3.  It is still dark at this point, so no big deal.  We continued to move forward with me closely eyeing my watch to make sure we were staying under the time allowance. Shortly after mile 3, the course enters the World Showcase at Epcot.  This is one of my favorite places at Disney to spend time, so it was exciting to have this as part of the course.  After exiting the World Showcase, the course takes you to the Boardwalk area.  We were starting to have a little daylight by this time, so this provided some great views of the gorgeous Epcot area resorts and beaches.  The course continues by reentering Epcot and passing Spaceship Earth before leaving the park again just prior to the finish line. 

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Both photos taken around the Boardwalk area. 

One of my biggest observations at this race did not come from the course or the race itself.  It was something I noticed about the people. The atmosphere was different towards back of the crowd.  It was a combination of nerves (first-timers, injured people or those that for one reason or another just cannot move “quickly.”) and excitement, but these people were having FUN!! People were singing, joking, and generally just a very happy bunch.  In talking to several people along the course of this race, I met people from all walks of life that were battling all sorts of “issues” – cancer survivors, just beginning a weight loss journey, working to come back from an injury or simply just starting out.  There was very little complaining going on with this very determined crowd of people.  I am far from what I would call a “fast” runner, but I typically finish in the top ten to fifteen percent of my age group at Disney events.  I have met some nice people while waiting around in my “own” corrals over the years, it is a very different mentality with the “faster” runners. 

What is my point to this?  If you want to participate in a race, do it.  Do not wait until you are faster or you are in better shape.  (But do make your best effort to train once you sign up/commit!)  You will have lots of people out there encouraging you every step of the way and the sense of accomplishment from finishing a race is amazing! The lesson I am hoping to take from my “back of the pack” experience is to be happy even if I am not satisfied.  I tend to beat myself up if I have a “bad” race or don’t accomplish a running goal.  Having time goals pushes me and is still something I will continue to do (at some races) for myself, but I want to work on having a positive attitude even on the days things don’t work out for me.  If the sixty-eight year old women who survived cancer or the young woman who recently lost over 100 pounds can be happy with her 90+ minute 10K, who I am to complain?  I am hopeful this is the only occasion that my 10K time is only a few minutes less than my half marathon PR, but this race will always be memorable in other ways.

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Having fun after the 10K!

 It was fun to participate in an inaugural runDisney event. This race marked my eleventh runDisney race. If you haven’t had the chance to run at Disney yet, I highly recommend it.  It is a great experience for first-timers and veterans alike!  The on-course support & entertainment is second-to-none at runDisney events.  I hope that my experience will help me to be patient with myself in the coming months as I continue to rehab my foot and (hopefully!) start to run again in the coming weeks. I am already looking forward to my “comeback” at marathon weekend next year!

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