Race report: Goofy 2011 Half Marathon

January 17, 2011 at 12:51PM     Running Florida USA Walt Disney World

A few months ago I was peer-pressured into doing something a little bit stupid. A little bit goofy, even. Yes, Goofy.

My friends Cecilia and Laura, normally upstanding members of society, peer-pressured me into signing up for a race at Walt Disney World in Florida. Every year in January, they have a marathon weekend, with a half marathon on Saturday and a marathon on Sunday. But for the extraordinarily athletic/stupid, you can sign up for both, and run the Goofy Race-and-a-half Challenge. This is what I was peer-pressured into doing.

And thus my training season began. I had two major races last year, the Gold Coast Half Marathon in July and a 10K in Brisbane in August, both of which went fairly well. The plan from there was to increase distance and eventually do a few "x, 2x" weekends, where I ran x km on Saturday and 2x km on Sunday. While training in September-December was expected to be complicated due to my busy travel schedule, it was completely thrown out by an iliotibial band (ITB) injury that developed in October. Tightness in my ITB was pulling things out of alignment, which would caused pain after just a couple of kilometres running. This resulted in me taking almost 8 weeks off of running from mid-October through mid-December. Not good when you need to run 63.3km in January. I was able to get in a little bit of running, pain-free, when I was in Windsor over Christmas; from November to the day of the first race, the longest run I had was 15km. While I was fairly optimistic that I would be able to run and complete the half marathon on Saturday, I had no clue whether the subsequent marathon on Sunday would be doable.

Donna, Cecilia, Laura, and I bundled up before the race
We arrived in Florida on Thursday and spent Thursday and Friday casually wandering around Epcot and Disney's Animal Kingdom. We turned in early on Friday evening as we had to be up at 2:45am Saturday morning to be in place for the 5:35am start.
Starting line Corral A
We were out the door by 3:20am and at the course by 4am, although it took us until past 5am to make it to the starting line. It was chilly, but not so cold that shorts were not in order. There were about 27,000 runners, broken up into 9 corrals of 3,000 runners each. Cecilia and I were both optimistic when we registered for the race, and our optimistic target time placed us in the first corral together.

Cecilia and I at the starting line of the Half Marathon
Cecilia and I planned to run together for a while. We planned for a fairly slow pace -- slower than what we listed during registration -- in part to save ourselves for the marathon the next day and in part due to us both having ITB injuries in the months before the races. At 5:35am, Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald counted down to start the race with fireworks and less then a minute after the start we were across the starting line and running!

Tunnel to enter the Magic Kingdom
The race started on a road outside Epcot and headed up to the Magic Kingdom on one of the -- I was to discover -- many, many highways in Walt Disney World. A few kilometres later, we ran through the tunnel from the parking lots to the Transportation Centre (at left), around the Seven Seas Lagoon, past the Contemporary Resort, and then came through a back entrance to enter the service areas of the Magic Kingdom. For me, getting to see the backstage areas of Walt Disney World was one of the best parts of the race course.

Running into Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom
After a little bit of running through the backstage area, we ran through a gate and suddenly were in the Magic Kingdom, right in Main Street USA, just inside the entry to the park.
Runners on Main Street USA
It was awesome -- beautifully lit -- with cast members and spectators cheering us on. We turned the corner and ran right down Main Street USA. It was dark when Cecilia and I ran through, but light the next day during the marathon, which is when these pictures were taken.

We continued up Main Street USA and turned right in to Tomorrowland. We ran through there -- at 6:45am, the park was not open yet so it was quiet -- then around into Fantasyland, straight through Cinderella's Castle as trumpets on the balcony announced our arrival, and out the front to adoring crowds. Cecilia and I stopped for a picture in front of the castle.

Me at Cinderella
We ran through Liberty Square and Frontierland, then exited the park through another out-of-the-way gate and into more backstage areas, this time the area where the floats from the Main Street Electrical Parade are stored. At this point, just about halfway through the race, I stopped at a water station to take a gel and some water, then Cecilia I split up as I ran ahead.

Although I knew rationally I should try to take it easy as a precaution for the marathon the next day, I also had a mental block about wanting to beat 2 hours. While my best half marathon time is 1:39:59, something just wouldn't let me run slower than 2 hours for this race, even though Cecilia and I were both planning "personal worsts" for the half marathon. I increased my pace substantially to make up time: the first half of the race had taken me 1:07:25 (average speed of 9.4km/hr), so I needed to run the second half in less than 53 minutes (average speed of at least 11.9km/hr).

Me with Eeyore and Tigger
The second half of the course took us past the Grand Floridian and Polynesian Resorts, then back along many of the same highways to get back to Epcot. To keep us entertained and motivated along the way, there were marching bands, groups of spectators, and Disney characters cheering us on every half mile or so. Since there was no line up, I stopped to get my picture taken with Eeyore and Tigger and then got back underway.

Half marathon race course
I've included a map of the race course so you can see where the race took us.

For the last half kilometre of the race, we ran into Epcot's Future World, up past Spaceship Earth, back down the other side, and out to the finish line in a nearby parking lot. I put on a small burst of speed at the finish, motivated especially by looking down at my watch and seeing just a few seconds left before it ticked over to 2:00:00. I rounded the corner, the crowds were cheering (for me, and not for the other thousands of people running the race, I'm sure) and I crossed the finish line at 1:59:59 on my watch. (When I checked the official results, my chip time was 1:59:29; I don't know where that extra 30 seconds came from, but I won't complain.)

Me after the Half Marathon
After collecting my medal and some refreshments, I headed to our agreed-upon meeting point, where Cecilia joined me some 25 minutes later. We were both in good spirits and feeling alright, although we both got ice for our knees to ward off any swelling around our ITBs. We hung out in the finishing area for quite a while, but our friends Laura and Donna, also running the half marathon, didn't show up; due to a mixup in communication, they went to a different meeting point, but we all rendezvoused back at the hotel a few hours later.

And thus concluded my exciting race weekend at Walt Disney World!

Wait a second... that's not right... I had a whole 'nother race to run, a whole marathon, less than 24 hours later. But to hear about that, you'll have to wait until I write that race report.