half marathon start-frank

{Editor’s Note:  Today we have the distinct pleasure to welcome my co-worker Frank, a Disney Fanatic, DVC owner, and running enthusiast!  Read along as he talks about his and his wife’s experience running the Walt Disney World Half Marathon on January 11, 2013!}

As folks across the country slowly become convinced that spring is actually here,  (how many warm days have been followed by snow the next) I thought I would write something to inspire folks to get outside, get exercise, and possibly think about experiencing Disney magic in a new way.

Run Disney.

That’s right, run through the parks.  You can walk, visit the attractions, and grab a bite to eat later.  But I suggest at some point, do something totally out-of-the-box and sign up for one of the Run Disney events.

My story:

My wife and I began running a few years ago with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Team in Training Program.  We decided to get in shape and raise money for cancer research.  We completed the Nashville Half-Marathon with them and then finished a couple other half-marathons on our own.  Oh yes, we practice what is called the run/walk system. That means running for about one minute, walk for 30 seconds, and then run again. We don’t break any world records, but we finish the race and are not last.

Looking for a new goal, we decided to sign up for the 20th Anniversary edition of the Disney World Marathon/Half-Marathon.  We did not attempt the Goofy Challenge, which means running both races the same weekend.  We did, however, sign our two children up for the Family 5K.

Needless to say, in typical Disney style, the event is organized beyond belief and is a lot of fun.

Race day found us getting on a bus outside the Contemporary Resort at 4am.  There were dozens of other runners in line, some in costume, some like us in standard running gear.  We all were thankful it was not raining and was a comfortable temperature.

The real surprise came when we arrived at the parking lots near Epcot.  There, we joined with 20,000 runners to line up in our corrals along a roadway leading into the park.  (Corrals are roped off areas from which you will start the race.  Your corral assignment is based on how fast you think you will finish. The fastest runners start first.  We were Corral “H”.  The letters continued up to “K”)

Runner were laughing, cheering, singing and talking.  Music was blaring, DJ’s were cheering and highlighting people in costume.  It was a party, despite it still being dark and everyone was standing along a road, trying to burn off nervous energy until the 5:30am start time.   Finally, Mickey, Donald and Goofy took the stage to say, “GO!” The fireworks lit up the sky, and the race began.  Corral 1 ran off, corral 2 started five minutes later, and so on.

half marathon boat-frank

The Half-Marathon course runs from the Epcot parking lot, around the Disney World Speedway, to the Magic Kingdom, through the Magic Kingdom (you run through the castle) past the Grand Floridian resort, around Spaceship Earth at Epcot, and back to the parking lot.

What makes the race so special, and so fun, is the great spirit of the runners, the attractions that are set up along the course (characters, marching bands, choirs, floats) the kindness of the Disney cast members, and the fact you are RUNNING through Disney World.  I’ve attached a few pictures of some of the sites along the course.

half marathon parking-frank

It is not an easy adventure.  My wife and I were doing fine until about mile 11 and then we started hurting.  But we finished the race and we weren’t last.  And having a cast member slip the gold Donald Duck Half-Marathon medal around our necks was truly magical!

{Editor’s Note: Enjoy the rest of these pictures that showcase some of the best moments of Frank and Gail’s race, and the reward they felt in finishing!  Congratulations, you two, and everyone else that also stepped up for the challenge!}

half marathon main street-frank

half marathon stitch-frank

half marathon epcot-frank

half marathon finish-frank