1st moral of the story: know which entrance will be open on race morning and use that one if you are driving.
He dropped me at the runner drop off site, which happened to be the regular bus area at the entrance to Epcot. The race staging area was a good 15 minute walk away at the outer parking lot. I could hear then announcing that runners should be moving toward the starting line (because warning "it was some distance away" from the staging area). I did take advantage of a totally underutilized line of potties that I had also frequented the day before for the 5K. Once again on my way I made it to the staging area. Think bigs tents, loud speakers, masses of people, and potty lines that went on and on. I took the advice of the voice on the loud speaker and headed for the start line. I walked for what seemed to be 20 minutes. Needless to say there were more potties along the way and I used them as well.
2nd moral of the story: never feel the need to get in the longest potty line possible, look for more.
I checked my pedometer once I had arrived at the start line and I had already taken 4000 or so steps. That's insane! I was assigned to coral B based on my qualifying time. Not bad. I got to see how it worked with coral A, but only had to wait a few minutes before my start. I was close enough to have a great view of the Fairy Godmother and the opening events.
Before I knew it my coral was under the banner and we were off. I was prepped with my camera in my right hand. The Beauty & the Beast family 5K had taught me well.
I passed on the first photo op of the run. We were out on the state route that leads to Epcot and there were characters every so often in the center of the road. More on who was first later. As I came to the second group I literally U-turned I knew my friend Ritzy was going to need to see this! All these men, out here on the interstate, just waiting to take a picture with me...I could not pass the moment up!
There were some characters along the route that were just there to cheer us on! They deserved to have their photos taken too, after all they had gotten up just as early to be there for us.
Theres were motivational signs all along the course. "You can go the distance!" Along with music and cometary were a big help as we ran down under this overpass and then had to run up the other side. Some of the runners were stopping to take photos with each of the mile markers. I heard plenty of people saying that they were not going to start that at the first mile marker. Others fully embraced that part of the run and stopped over and over again every mile.
Right before we went through the transportation center I made what I though was a brilliant move. I stopped to use the potty. I figured that I did not want to need to go potty as I was meeting and greeting all the characters I expected to see in MK. Other ladies were complaining about their tutus and the porta-potties. Still others were thinking they could use real restrooms in MK. There was no line where I stopped and I thought it was a great move. That being taken care of I was off to MK.
So I don't know quite why I always seemed to have my arms up in so many of these photos, but I do remember thinking "look at all of this, can you believe that I am running through all of this!". I was literally handing my camera off to whoever would take my picture. There were plenty of Disney staff of all sorts out that morning that were more than willing to take your picture.
Coming into Tomorrowland I asked a gentleman sweeping the street if he would take my picture. He was thrilled that I had asked him. He seemed genuinely happy that I had asked him to participate in my race.
Around every corner there seemed to be more characters. I did not miss any of them!
As I approached the castle I was trilled to see that I would meet Cinderella and the Princess. I got in line and was ready when...
...character change. I got to meet Minnie and Mickey instead. Not a bad trade-off. I don't know if the line would have been any shorter or longer for one pair or the other, but I did break my 5 people waiting rule to meet them.
Photo rule 1: if the line is less than 5 people long stop, if it is longer pass the character by. Let me just say I only passed one group of characters. More on that later.
So here I am with my two favorite mice. Aren't they splendidly attired!
I was almost in a daze after meeting Mickey and Minnie. Then came my run through the castle. There was a character in front of the castle, but thinking back on it now I don't remember who it was and I didn't stop. The line was very long. So enacted my photo rule twice. The characters continued to come fast a furiously as we ran through Frontierland.
Even the attractions deserved photos. I really just could not believe I was so lucky! Running through MK was a dream come true!
Right before we exited the park we went through the back-lot area where they store the floats. The characters did not disappoint as they greeted us with their parade-mobiles!
Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket seemed just my size!
The Genie not so much.
Once out of MK we were back on the resort roads headed to Epcot. The ladies on the right sure look like they are walking. There was a lot of that as the high of MK wore off and the miles back to Epcot were ahead. I was still just thrilled with my experience and really in my own little world.
I was out there doing character sprints. Meet a character, run, meet a character, run, and on and on.
Looking back on the photos it kind of looks like they were all just lined up in a row, but they weren't. They were all rather pleasant. You wanted to say you were so sorry you were so sweaty, but they all said it was quite all right. I am sure their wardrobe cleaners had it all under control.
And then I saw him...My favorite character of all! Donald Duck! He was all ready for his golf outing! And wouldn't you know it...it was the only fuzzy photo of the lot. I guess that isn't that bad. All but one of the Disney staff took great pictures.
Photo rule 2: If you are posing with your all time favorite character beg the photographer to take two photos. This is very much against the norm. I only got 1 photo from each stop. That is how the keep the lines moving. A staff member pairs up with you and moves up the line with you getting to know your camera and what not, the snap and you are off again.
At this point in the run the run was really starting to shine on us!
Guess what? The leading men were still out on the road so I opted for a daylight photo as well. Notice the cars on the right? The road is once again open heading to MK. All of the runners are on the left still heading to Epcot.
OK you know that first photo that I passed up? Well here they are ship and all. And the line? Almost nothing. They were very apologetic. The sun would surly render my photo useless. It really came with a full disclaimer. I was not to be put off. Don't we all look great? Especially them since their vessel is high and dry in the middle of a Florida roadway. I mean really, I could crop the photo if I really had to.
As we went through the cloverleaf leading to Epcot there he was a "Green Army Man." Yes I am a military brat and his motivational rhetoric got me around that cloverleaf and headed into the final 2 miles. I called my father at that point to let him know I was on the homestretch!
This is another one of my favorite shots of the day. Mrs. Incredible was at the final mile mark. She just exuded that yes you are all incredible kind of feeling. Emotional high level 20 here I come.
Followed closely my Mulan "the most gracious character in the parks!"
"Looks like I made it..." You know the song. Sing it Barry!
And there I was...at the finish line. Taking pictures of Mickey and Minnie while the race photographers were taking pictures of me!
Oh and all those medals. Can I tell you how all of those racks of medals looked in the morning sun. They were spectacular! And each of them represented other ladies and a few men who were still to cross the finish line. And many of the them would be around the necks of park goers over the next week as their accomplished owners proudly displayed their bling.
And for me, there was yet another photo that a wonderful volunteer would shot. This is one I will treasure forever. It represents all of us who ran in this race. We did it together!
Another contestant took this shot for me. How could you not be proud of such a beautiful medal and a race well run...one character photo at a time!
I continued to float for about another 10 minutes. Then boy did my feet hurt! Oh well it was great while it lasted. I can not even explain all that this race meant to me, but this a glimpse into how much fun I had running it. My sister was concerned that my splits were slowing down as she checked my times from her house in the mid-Atlantic. Of course she did not know at the time that I was stopping every-so-often to chat with my pals along the course. I wager I added at least 30 minutes to my time, but who cares. I runDisney for the fun of it! I race other races to get the best qualifying time (and coral) I can for Disney events.
See you in February 2012!