Running for a Charity at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Half Race Recap

Way back in January 2017, after I finished my first marathon, my friend Brittany said she was going to sign up for her first marathon at Walt Disney World in 2018.  I promised then and there that I would be there to cheer her on because I knew I would want to be there for her first full marathon.  Not a single thought floated across my mind that I would run the half marathon that weekend.  Race registration came and went, Brittany signed up and I booked my hotel.  Fast forward to September when Amy and I are planning our training calendar for Princess half in February.  Chance upon chance, a 12 mile training run was going to fall on the exact same day I was going to be in Walt Disney World and it was the exact same day as the half marathon.

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First, let me say there was so much stress around registering for this event.  Self-induced stress because I didn’t want to steal any of Brittany’s thunder.  I 100% wanted this race weekend to be about her (and her husband Patrick, I found out later he was running too how awesome was that!) and the accomplishment of running a full marathon.  I texted her to make sure she didn’t mind, of course said she no.  I told her that in no way should she feel obligated to come watch any part of the half, their job was to rest up and be ready for the full the next day.  Of course Brittany didn’t mind, but in the back of my mind I knew I was going to keep my running the half as chill as possible because I wanted her to have her amazing moment!

Now that I had the green light to sign up, I had to figure out how!  By this time the race had sold out through runDisney and I was not going through a travel agency…obviously (our agency does not sell race packages otherwise I would have done that).  I had to find a charity.  I had 2 requirements for the charity, #1 that the fundraising limit had to be relatively low since I had limited time to raise money (and I suck at it) and #2 it had to be a charity that I had some kind of personal connection with.  Enter C.A.L, or Catch a Lift charity that raises money for wounded veterans and supports them through fitness.  I thought that was a pretty cool initiative and I personally know quite a few vets so this was the perfect fit.  I made my charity page, wonderful friends and family helped me reach my goal and I was set to run the half marathon!

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**Let’s talk about fundraising for a second**

I really hate fundraising.  I don’t like asking people for money, its not my gift in life.  I strongly believe it does so much good for charities, but I feel often times lost in what charities to support, which ones are doing the most good and which ones you are being lead astray by.  I think charity bibs at races are a great way to raise money for the cause, but sometimes I think wearing a shirt really isn’t doing anything to bring awareness to your plight.  For this particular race, I was in a situation where I wanted to race an event and the only way to really do that (legally) was to raise money for a charity so I did.  In the future I most likely wont go that route only because I personally hate asking people for money.  Others, this is a great way to support a cause and run a race you love.  If that’s you, you are awesome and I am jealous of your skills!

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Logistics for running with a charity are very simple.  You register through the charity link and pay the initial fees.  They then send you an active.com link to complete the official runDisney information and you are good to go.  There is additional administrative set-up for the charity fundraising page which in my case was pretty simple.  Once I set it up it was very easy to link it to my facebook, instagram and twitter accounts to get the word out.  I don’t know if all charities use the same fundraising set ups, but I would imagine they make it very easy to share on social media to raise awareness and funds.  I did have issues with the initial set-up of my page but that was on CAL’s side which they addressed relatively quickly.  The whole process is pretty straight-forward, the hard part is finding a charity that you like that still has bib’s available, because by the time I registered more than half of the charities had already sold out of bibs.

**Back to the race**

I was able to change my flight so I could get to Orlando a day earlier and make it in time for the Expo to get my bib and gear.  I also had to stay 1 night at the All-Star Movies because the DVC resorts were all sold out for points 😦  It wasn’t bad though, the room was close to a bus stop and the rate wasn’t terrible so it all worked out!  Since I arrived to the expo on Friday most of the race weekend participants had already been to the expo.  There were no lines for race merchandise or bib pick-up which was really nice.  I walked through the expo show floor and did really well with only purchasing what I “needed” and that was a Minnie Mouse visor.  Post expo I went to Magic Kingdom for a little bit, met up with Brittany to ride a few rides, have dinner then head back to the room for that 3:30am wake-up call.  Joe was on a later flight since he had to work that day and because of delays didn’t get to the hotel until about 12:30am.  Needless to say I didn’t sleep well at all that night but was able to wake up and make it to the start line by 5am.

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Before I get to the actual race…y’all it was unseasonably cold in Florida this weekend.  Not as cold as marathon weekend 2017 but almost.  This year, I was much smarter than 2017 and bought throw away sweatpants and sweatshirt from Wal-Mart and I had Joe bring a really thick outdoor garbage bag for me to wear as well.  These things saved my life and I’m so glad I brought them.  *FUN FACT* Disney collects all throw away clothes, launders them, and donates them to shelters and charities, pretty awesome right!  The morning of the race, the temp was about 35 degrees!!!  I love running in cold weather like this though so I knew I was in for a great race.  Bundled up, I started taking some of the layer off once 5am came around.  First I took off the sweatpants to get my legs acclimated to the cold.  Once our corral started moving I took off the trash bag.  When my corral wave was next to start I took off the sweatshirt.  Yeah, I know, silly but it kept me relatively warm so I think my plan was pretty smart!

New for 2018 runDisney events were larger corrals but mini-waves inside those corrals.  To be honest, I usually get to the front of my corral anyway so I didn’t notice much of a different.  I did see a bunch on starts, but I think it made the race start go much smoother than in years past.  They did this for Princess as well and I really liked it.  I didnt feel like I was going to get trampled at the start.

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Since the course for the Walt Disney World half marathon is the exact same as the Princess half marathon I was going to 100% treat this as a training run, no racing here.  This was also the longest distance I had run since literally a year ago so I knew better than to push my body too much.  Before this the longest distance was 10 miles, adding 3 miles isn’t a great idea, but if I took it slow my body could handle it.  Since the weather was cooler my plan was to stay in the 10:30 average pace range and to stop for whatever characters I wanted as often as I wanted!  Training runs are all about fun after all!!

Once the race started I was going at a really solid 10:00 pace and feeling great, running for 9:15 and walking for 0:45.  I made it all the way into Magic Kingdom and before sunrise just like I wanted.  Since this is the only race where the castle has the ice lights I always want to get to the castle before the lights are turned off.  Up until this point I had not seen any characters that were worth stopping for, until I saw Sebastian!  I have never seen him anywhere and his line was pretty short so I stopped.  He was adorable and after his meet it was castle time!  Of course I stopped for a pic and got the ice lights.  I have no idea why one patch is out, I’m just happy the photo came out!

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Back on the course and at the exit of Magic Kingdom, who do I see but Cinderella and Prince Charming.  The line again wasn’t terrible and I rarely see Prince Charming so I stopped.  Then who do I see waltzing out, but Sleeping Beauty and Prince Philip.  Now I’m STOKED to be waiting in the line and my face says as much.  It was a great stop and I was totally happy I did.  After that I didn’t stop for anyone else, because they are always the same once you leave Magic Kingdom.  It was disappointing I didn’t see Darkwing Duck like I was hoping I would but such is life.  I made my way through the boring highway and Epcot and finished with a time of 2:29 (and that includes the character stops)!!!

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Since it was cold I didn’t need to pour water on my head during the race but I did take water at every aid station.  I didn’t take powerade because water was doing the trick.  I was really disappointed at mile 8 because they switched the on-course fuel to jelly beans rather than cliff gel like they have had for years (and what I was used to taking).  I did take the jelly beans and they were ok but I made a mental note to bring my cliff gel’s for princess so I wouldn’t have the same problem.  Around mile 11 is when my body started getting really tired.  Not surprising because 10 miles was the longest distance I had done up to this point.  Luckily it was cold and I can will my body to do a lot more when its not overheated.  I finished strong and knew I would be so sore in just a few hours.  My foot and calf were hurting by the end but I finished in the upright position and like I mentioned, with a really great time.  My best Disney time in fact!

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Since I was treating this run like a training run I told Joe he could sleep in and not come to the finish line.  I was a little sad he didn’t just get up and come anyway, but hey I cant be mad he did exactly what I told him to do.  Brittany and Patrick were there because Patrick’s mom was also running the half!  I got some post race pictures and it was back to the room to shower then meet Brittany and Patrick at Epcot.  They ended up deciding to take a low-key day at their parent’s house to save their legs which was a good idea, but Joe and I headed to Epcot anyway!  We met Donald, which was EPIC (he loved my hat, then saw the leggings and almost died, #bestdayever doesn’t even begin to cover it).  After Epcot we headed to Hollywood Studios for dinner with Brittany, Patrick and their parents to #carbload pre-marathon.  During dinner we planned out where we would meet them on the course and made sure we didn’t need to hold any supplies for them that we could pass off during the race.  After dinner we didn’t stay at the park too long so Brittany and Patrick could get back home and go to sleep for that early wake-up call.  It was still a little early so Joe and I headed to Magic Kingdom to take some Christmas Card photos, because, look the Christmas decorations were still up so why the heck not!  We only stayed for about an hour because I was freezing, my foot hurt, I was tired and we had to wake up early to see Brittany and Patrick!!!

Marathon morning!!  Joe and I get up bright and early and, through runner tracking head down to the Contemporary parking lot (we were staying there for the rest of the trip) to see Brittany and Patrick go into the Magic Kingdom.  Because spectators were so far from the actual runners we didn’t get to see them at this spot so we speed over to the Polynesian to make sure we saw them there.  I had made 8 different signs for them and I wanted them to see them all!  We made it to the Polynesian (about 2 1/2 miles from the other point we were at) with about 5 minutes to spare!  Brittany saw me first and I was so excited to see her and Patrick run by!  I will admit it was a little emotional to see my friends running their first marathon.  Brittany and I ran our first half marathon during Princess 2011, while we weren’t running together…had the same race as our first half.  At the time be both said we didn’t see how it would ever be possible to run a full marathon.  I was there for Patrick’s first half marathon when he said he would never run another half let alone a full, yet here they are.  Full circle people, I was the proudest running friend you ever did see.

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Once they passed us, we had a few hours before our next spot in Hollywood Studios (about 14 miles for them) so Joe and I headed to breakfast at the Boardwalk.  It was delicious and amazing, but then we had to figure out how to get over the Hollywood Studios.  Luckily the Boardwalk had a bus to use since the boats weren’t running due to the race.  We got to Studios with about 20 minutes to spare so I met Daisy Duck and had her sign my medal and it was super cute.  After that, Joe and I found a spot where we could easily see runners coming up the street entering Hollywood Studios.  I wanted to be in a very specific spot to recreate the picture Patrick took of Brittany and I when I ran my first full.  Yes I know its silly, but hey #fullcircle remember.  I saw them coming and COULD NOT contain the excitement.  Joe took a video and I am jumping up and down with excitement!  Brittany and Patrick stopped for just a minute to give a final “you can do it” hug, I took her head wrap since she was warming up and they were on their way to the finish line.

Joe and I had planned to see them at the finish line but traffic got the better of that plan and we missed them finishing by 10 minutes.  I was pretty bummed about it, but they had so much family at the finish line I knew they got the awesome cheers they deserved.  Post race we took some pictures together then they went back to shower and we headed over to the Contemporary so Joe could pack.  He was leaving Sunday, I was leaving Monday.  Brittany and Patrick met up with us at the Contemporary, said goodbye to Joe and we headed to Magic Kingdom to take the post-race castle pics and I was lucky enough to score us a dinner reservation at Be Our Guest.  They had never been here for dinner before and I am happy to say dinner did not disappoint like lunch had a few months earlier.  After dinner we took a few more castle medal pics.  I did bring my marathon medal with me from last year so we could all take a marathon medal pic together.  Don’t worry though, I didn’t wear it at all except to take a picture, I’m not a terrible person I swear!!!

All in all it was a fantastic race weekend.  My training run was a blast, the best I had felt on a race in a very long time.  The highlight though, was watching my two friends complete something very few people ever do, a full marathon.  I’m so incredibly proud of them!  Brittany plans on doing the Dopey Challenge next year, and while I probably wont be able to cheer her on in person you know I will be cheering from home like she was a freaking Olympian.  You guys are rock stars for completing the full, when can we do this again?!

CHIME IN!!!  Do you like spectating or running races?  Would you do the dopey challenge?  Half or full which do you prefer?

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