Race Recap: 2011 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon

by Stephanie on February 7, 2012 · 0 comments

in Races & Recaps

Note: This race recap has been 3 months in the making.  I wrote it the week after, thought the pictures had been lost, and forgot about it.  The pictures were recently found though, so here it is!


Walt Disney World is an awesome place.  Two years ago I thought I was too cool for Disney.  Or too old to really appreciate it.  I was WRONG.  A trip in January 2010 proved this to me.  Disney is awesome and I become a giddy little child every time I go there.  Look at how excited I was to meet Tigger!

So when the opportunity to combine my love of Disney and my love/hate relationship with running, how could I resist?  Way back in February four of us signed up to run and some of us planned to stay several days after the race to make it a full vacation.  Clearly I like my half marathons to be destination race vacations!

 Now, let me start by saying 2 things about this race before I give you the details of how it went down…
  1. It was hard on me, mentally and physically.
  2. It was, hands down, the coolest course I’ve ever run on!
The race started on Saturday night (October 1st) at 10 PM.  I usually work out in the evenings so I wasn’t too worried about this though my weekend long runs are done in the morning (and by morning I mean before I do anything else, which could still mean noon!).  My friends and I slept in on Saturday and then headed to Downtown Disney.  We didn’t want to do a theme park that day because we thought it would be too tiring.  We ate at Earl of Sandwich (very tasty!) and walked around some of the stores.  Mid-afternoon we headed back to the room to get all of our stuff laid out and take a nap.  Once we were well rested we hit up Olivia’s restaurant in the Old Key West Resort for an early dinner.

By 7:15 PM we were on a charter bus to the start line.  The bus transportation only ran from 7 – 8 which meant a lot of downtime before the 10 PM start.  Good thing we came prepared with a deck of cards!

Before I get into the actual race and the lessons I learned from it, I want to touch on this: the race was fantastic.  It was fun.  It was run well.  The expo and the post-party were awesome.  I would highly recommend a Disney race to anyone!

Okay, moving on…

We were lined up by 9:30 and our wave started at 10:20.  I was excited.  I was talking to people about how I was going to own this race.  My goal was sub 2:30.  It was a big stretch, but possible based on my training and my time for the 5.6 mile leg of the marathon relay I’d run the weekend before.  I was feeling (maybe a little over?) confident and good.

I started the race with a plan.  My friend, Steve, is faster than I am and he would break 2:30 for sure.  We had talked about his race strategy which was to keep the pace between 11:30 and 12:00 for the first few miles and then drop it to between 11:00 and 11:30 (a 2:30 half is about an 11:29 min/mile avg pace).  My race strategy was to hang with Steve as long as I could.  This was a mistake.

Lesson #1: Run your own race.

Everyone gets caught up in the excitement and speed of a start line and Steve (and I) was no different.  The race strategy pretty much went out the window as the first two miles were run at about a 10:00 min/mile pace.  I knew it was too fast for me but I was full of hope and determination and I wanted desperately to stick to my race plan.

Turns out trying to stay with someone when they are clearly too fast for you is not a good idea.  I lost him at mile 4 and died a slow and painful death after that.  If my race strategy had included pacing myself in a way I that would be challenging but maintainable for me (like Steve’s original pacing plan), the race may have turned out very differently.  Instead I ran 4 miles all out and then slowed to a crawl because I had nothing left in the tank.

Lesson #2: Sometimes you need to let it go and just have fun.

When I knew I wasn’t going to make my goal time and knew I was hurting, I should have switched my mindset and enjoyed the crap out of the rest of the race.  That’s not quite how it went.

I did enjoy the race.  It was awesome to get to run through the parks at night.  They were empty (except for runners).  They were lit up.  We got to run through areas usually not open to the public.  There were characters on the course cheering you on.  Some of the Christmas lights were up in Hollywood Studios.  I loved seeing that!

Looking back now, I wish I had taken advantage of it all a little more.  I could have snapped a picture with Darth Vader or at a mile sign.  I could have chatted with a few of the costumed runners.  I could have made it more fun for myself instead of getting down on myself for not having the race I wanted.

Lesson #3: Support at a race, especially a tough one, is SO important.

When I reached the finish line I had 5 friends and my parents waiting for me.  Despite being upset about my performance and absolutely freezing my butt off at the post party, it was wonderful to have them there.  It meant the world to me that my parents drove the 5 hours down to Orlando and stayed up until nearly 4 AM (that’s so late for them!) watching me finish and hanging out.  You can’t beat the support of people who love you!

(Running partners in crime, pre-race)

Lesson #4: Learn from every race

I learned a lot from this race.  This is good because I have a lot to learn still when it comes to running!  The most important thing I learned is that I need to let go a little.  It won’t be easy.  I get so upset when I can’t reach a goal (time goal, most often) and it makes me doubt myself.  It can ruin a race and a whole weekend if I let it.  I have high expectations but I need to make sure that I’m still enjoying myself.  The goals will still be important but they can’t be the only thing.  They aren’t the reason I started running and they won’t keep me running if I make myself miserable doing it.

Despite all of the struggles, I did beat my time in the Seattle half marathon by about 2 minutes.  It’s not the PR time I wanted, but I guess I’ll take it!


Needless to say, this will NOT be my last Disney run.  There is already talking among my friends about doing the Disney World Donald Duck half marathon in January 2013.  You can bet I’ll be getting at least one character photo next time! :)

What lessons have you learned from past races?

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