We were ready to run.
After a fabulous carb-loading dinner (gnocchi for me!) at Downtown Disney Friday evening, we slept for several hours before our 2 a.m. alarm sounded.
Now let me say, my running pals are Type A early birds who would much rather arrive at the race site early rather than rush to our corrals just before start time. I agree wholeheartedly.
I should introduce you to my race partners for the Goofy Challenge, Jen and Aaron. Jen is one of my closest friends and was my first “real” friend in college. I met Aaron a few years back here in Rochester and we run together regularly.
(left to right, Jen, me, Aaron at our pasta dinner!)
So to sum up the next few less-than-exciting hours, we prepped, headed out the door for a shuttle pickup and were on the first bus out of the Saratoga Springs resort, arriving at EPCOT shortly after 3 am. We sat on a bench for a while, then checked our bags, made our way to Corral A, where we waited some more.
Finally, the fireworks went off and we started running. Within a mile, my glasses fogged up from the humidity. Awwwesome.
We zipped into the first toilets we saw – no lines! Huzzah!! But otherwise, we ran and ran and ran some more. Around mile 3, came up to the toll gates for Magic Kingdom and started chanting; “Caution runners, road narrows, speed bumps ahead.”
We got a few other runners in on the action – Hey, we had to entertain ourselves SOMEHOW.
We ran through the parking lots, past cheering crowds at the kingdom’s transportation center, toward the contemporary resort. And there it was, our first glimpse of Cinderella’s Castle on the predawn horizon.
It always takes my breath away, just for a second. We’ll be there soon!
We passed by Space Mountain – and a rather dark stretch just outside the park – and then we passed through some back gates and entered Magic Kingdom! After a loop behind the scenes at the park, we entered Main Street USA. This is always my favorite stretch of any Disney race: it’s a bit like stepping onto a stage.
Crowds of cheering loved ones and many Disney cast members lined the street. We, of course, stopped for several photos on Main Street and in front of the castle, which was covered with stunning wintry lights.
Jen and me running along Main Street USA! (jazz hands!)
We hung a right and headed into Tomorrowland – and straight to a lovely restroom with flushing toilets. One member of our crew needed a rather lengthy pit stop here. (We didn’t time it, but it was well over 10 minutes.)
Soon enough, we were again on our way. We ran toward Fantasyland, stopping by the teacups, a favorite ride of mine and Jen’s dating back 15+ years.
We passed a few more characters before it was time to run through Cinderella’s Castle! Such a magical feeling to cross through to the other side!
Cinderella’s Castle still in its winter splendor.
We ran down the ramp and veered into Frontierland. We waved to Princess Tiana, saluted Woody and Jessie, cursed Splash Mountain (for being closed for repairs) and were spooked by the idling train on the tracks as we left the park just past mile 6.
The sun peeked over the horizon as we passed parade float storage, which now also housed all of Splash Mountain’s unused log boats.
Queue the Disney-induced mist and fog over the Magnolia golf course – breathtaking! (More on that in the full marathon post.) We ran past several more resorts and headed back to the highway.
Starting mile 7, we launched our run-walk-run plan to conserve energy, our legs and our sanity for Sunday’s marathon. We walked 1/4 mile and ran 3/4 mile for each remaining mile through the end of the race.
The miles clicked off and soon enough, we entered EPCOT. The last mile loops through future world, past Spaceship Earth to the finish line in the parking lot. Just before mile 13, we passed a gospel choir jiving and singing Hallelujah!
Jen and I joined hands in the last stretch as Aaron whipped out his camera. Together we crossed the finish, hands in air.
Medal number one!