During my last post, I was just leaving that great party for runners, otherwise known as the Health and Fitness Expo at Disney’s ESPN Complex. It was the evening before the big 5K (ok, maybe not big to you runner-athlete sorts, but for me, all the strangeness of this new running world was BIG!)
Back at Pop, we made our way through the crowds at the resort food court and found a table on which I parked my kid-portion of mac and cheese. Though my nerves about the race had calmed a bit, my usual Disney appetite was MIA. My mind had fast-forwarded to 3 AM and I was eager to get back and get myself settled for the night.
Back at the room, I emptied my gym bag onto the floor and put everything I’d need in the morning in a pile. Better to do this while my brain was still operating in daytime-mode, considering I can be pretty foggy-headed at 7 AM, let alone 3 AM. My sneakers were a given, but I had given myself some choices about a shirt…long-sleeved or short? With a sweat jacket or without? What would the temperature be like at 3 AM? At 7 AM when we started running? And if I got hot, what would I do with a jacket? Hmmm…A water bottle? Should I carry one or just rely on the water stations during the run? Oh, yeah, my gEar bag. I could put my stuff in the clear plastic bag we had been given just for such a purpose. I could drop it at the bag station before the run.
After arranging and rearranging my stuff multiple times and checking and re-checking my alarm, I went to bed with a Tylenol PM at 7:30. I slept pretty well until 1 AM, and then woke up about every 20 minutes checking the clock.
3 AM and I was ready…No alarm needed.
I showered, put on my running apparel, grabbed my gEar bag, and headed for the door. But then I changed my mind and decided to leave the water bottle. I grabbed an extra granola bar (though there was no logical reason for either of those actions).
Out the door I went.
Little groups of runners were funneling down the Pop Century pathways toward the waiting buses. But I saw people with no gEar bags and thought that was probably a good idea. Leave it in the room and don’t be bothered with it, I decided. One more quick trip back to the room. I grabbed the bib and pins, thought again about the water bottle and picked it up. Out I went—again.
I could hear the buses and as they came into view I realized they were filling quickly.
Yikes! I felt behind and the day hadn’t even started. Other runners had their bibs already pinned in place looking like they were all ready to take their position on the starting line.
I boarded the bus, greeted by a cheery bus driver and deafening rock music. I have to say that music was my LEAST favorite part of the Disney 5K but then I am more of a bluegrass fan—a genre I don’t think would have done much to wake up and energize this crowd. But then it was becoming pretty apparent this crowd didn’t need energizing. Disney magic was in the air!
A bald, 50-ish looking man plopped down beside me. Sporting his mouse ears he looked more like one of the crowd than I did in my plain sweats and purple shirt. Some looked like real runners. I assumed they were the ones for whom this 5K was the proverbial walk in the park, a mere prelude to the more serious races they would enter throughout the weekend, leading to the coveted “Glass Slipper” award. Moms and kids sported matching tutus, princesses appeared with their princes, and a Mary Poppins brought her Bert (my personal favorite). I wasn’t sure how some of them would run. (But at that point I had not yet grasped that this 5K was equal parts “party” and “run”. The official tone of the registration website with the suggested training times and the possibility of getting swept off the track can be a tad intimidating to the uninitiated.)
After a ride of about 20 minutes, we disembarked at the Epcot parking lot. With the help of smiling cast members (at 4 AM, I give them credit for that, even if they are CMs), and the beams of their flashlights to guide us, we runners made our way, en masse, toward the corrals. I could see the purple glow of Spaceship Earth through the trees to my right. That magical glimpse in itself was worth getting up at 3 AM for.
Able to bypass the bag check, I continued on, turning to the left, past the stage with more wake-up dance party music. I passed a row of porta-potties on my left which I decided to make use of. However, there was no need. The longest row of porta-potties I had ever seen was just around the corner! Being caught up in the strangeness of it all, I may be overestimating here, but I believe “Potty Row” would have stretched the length of Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. Corrals A-F were aligned on the opposite side.
I caught up with the herd again and searched for Corral F, my waiting spot until called to the starting line. I wondered if my fellow F corral-mates and I were the slow pokes of the crowd? But then I noticed that letters A-F were pretty much equally represented by the bib-wearers in the nearby crowd. Someone “official” clarified for us that we didn’t actually have to stay in our assigned corral. (Who knew?!)
I’m sure the emcees on the stage near the starting line were recognizable to some, but I’m not sure who they were. Kind of like a Disney version of Good Morning America, it seemed. Participants were interviewed and got to talk about the causes they were running for, as well as show off some pretty elaborate costumes. Lots of music, lights, and excitement as we waited (and waited and waited) under a still-dark sky for the first corral to be called.
Finally! Barriers were removed from Corral A and costumed runners paraded toward the starting line. Ten, 9, 8,…and they were off!
Corral B, then C, D, E and finally F! The crack of the starting gun and we were off, amid the cheers of the crowd!
When I realized that we were off and running, I felt a little perplexed…because very few were.
Running, that is. I started to jog a little, just slowly. I heard a mom tell her daughter to come to the side so the real runners could pass. She meant me. (Too funny for words!)
Well, I did run, doing my usual just-about-a walk-pace. With the crowd I headed in through the back side of Epcot, near Mexico. I bypassed the first character meet and greet and passed Mile #1 with cheering cast members. At China, I gladly took a cup of water as it was held out for us to grab and go. On to Africa, and I rounded the corner toward Germany. As I rounded the “world” lines formed near characters. Moms and kids made use of the rest rooms along the way. Some found seats on benches. In fact, I began to gather that lots of “runners” appeared to be in no apparent hurry. My fears about being swept off the track for being pokey and unfit lessened.
Around the world I ran. Soaking up every bit of this new Disney magic along the way.
Finally…the finish line was in sight! I spotted my cheering section (my husband…good sport that he was to get up at the crack of dawn), and I waved with both hands as the Photo Pass photographer snapped a few pics.
I grabbed a bottle of water and followed the crowd toward the photo tents.
Then I realized everyone had their Chip medals the size of jumbo Mickey cookies dangling from their neck.
How had I missed the medals?! I started swimming upstream when a friendly CM offered to go get it for me.
He draped it around my neck.
Victory…with a little extra Disney magic.