After months of training, crossing the start line is pretty climactic. In a surge of adrenaline you realize that it’s finally happening and every step you take is one closer to your goal. But (particularly for slower runners), you might not be taking those steps as quickly as you would like to. I say that because slower runners are placed in the final starting corrals, to keep the elite and competitive runners out of the log jam I am about to describe.
It can be difficult to get yourself into a good pace at the start of the race. There are thousands of other excited runners there to share the experience with you, and you could be slowed to a walk unexpectedly in the first few miles of the race. Eventually more space will open up, but it could take a few miles before the pack thins out.
In the shorter races like the 5K, you’re likely to see a few “runners” wearing jeans and holding hands strolling with their sweetest – effectively blocking your path. Do your best not to be annoyed that they didn’t even bother with a cute costume for you to admire while plotting your path around them.
Did someone say costumes? They’re the BEST at runDisney races. They’re not required, of course, but they are a huge part of the show, and they range from basic to elaborate – bringing up everyone’s spirits. There are some restrictions on costumes for safety purposes, particularly around the use of full-face masks and long robes. Be sure to check the runDisney website for current guidelines.
So what’s so great about Disney races? Well first, you’re running through the Disney parks, sometimes before they’re open for the day. Disney’s known for lots of on-course support, surprises, and of course the character stops! Lines for photos with the characters can get pretty long. If you’re a faster runner go for it! If you’re a back-of-the-pack runner, you might want to reconsider using up the clock waiting for that photo, even with your favorite character.
Pacing is strictly enforced on the longer races, and if you can’t keep pace, you’ll be “swept” from the course, put on a bus, and forced to live the rest of your life with the shame. I get nightmares about this, which is enough to keep me out of the photo lines, at least for now.
You will get a little warning if you’re in danger of being swept. A dedicated group of pace runners – the “Balloon Ladies” start at the very back of the last corral and run at the slowest possible pace to finish the race. If you get passed by the Balloon Ladies, you’re likely to end up on that bus, so do your best to keep them in your rearview mirror!
Of course there are plenty of water and fuel stops, but you may want to bring your own fuel – it might be many miles before you find something substantial like a banana. Better safe than sorry. Medical stops are available, and you can find Vaseline, Band-aids, and Biofreeze along the entire course.
Other on-course medicinals include beer, margaritas, and other sundry cocktails! As the parks open up, the drinking establishments are available to runners, so bringing some cash or a credit card is a good idea. You may want to pace yourself though, or you could end up buying the Balloon Ladies a drink.
The courses in Florida are generally flat, except when you are running up highway overpasses. What seems like tiny inclines in a car feel like the lift hill for Everest on foot, when you’re 20 miles into your marathon.
With luck and training on your side, eventually you reach that most magical last mile and the adrenaline that got you over the start line has transformed to the grit and determination that usher you across the finish line. You’ve earned your medal or medals, you box of snacks, a warm Power Ade and your photo shoot!
The finish line is a chaotic party, and finding your entourage might be difficult. It’s so loud that your cell phone conversation might be impossible, so make sure you decide with your family ahead of time if you’re meeting up at the family reunion area with the letter that starts your first name or the letter that starts your last name. That could be important.
From here, you’ll take a long, insulting walk to your resort bus, or a long, insulting walk to your car. But wherever your next stop may be, you’ll be showing off your medal with the glow that comes from making your dreams into reality.
Cool! Makes me want to run Diz!
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Maybe I’ll see you there sometime!