Alrighty – up at 7am – should have been over half done the Disney World half marathon by now but the weather cancellation that came through the night meant I got to sleep in.
I lay in bed trying to figure out what I wanted to do and when I wanted to run my unofficial half marathon to get the miles in to make the Goofy Challenge legitimate. I looked at the weather radar and it looked like the worst of everything was going well north of where I was and would be for a while. Ok – let’s go.
There was a light rain when I started out but at least it was warm out and the rain was fairly warm as well. So that was nice.
I decided to wear the 2017 Disney World Half marathon shirt out for the run as a bit of a shout out to the cancelled race. I also put on my Nike Pegasus Shield runners to help with their waterproofing.
My plan was to run around Saratoga Springs, find the nature path to the Old Key West Resort, run around that resort, run back to Saratoga Springs and then loop it again to make the necessary 13.1 miles.
As soon as I headed out, I immediately started to run into other runners out doing the same thing – not many yet but by the time I was done the run there were runners everywhere!
I started by doing a bit of a run around the resort in a random pattern – Saratoga Springs does have a designated running path but there are sidewalks all over the place so I didn’t follow the path, I just wandered with no set goals.
After a half mile or so, I decided to try to find the path over to Old Key West to get away from any vehicle traffic. Disney really does not advertise the path, it wasn’t on any of the guide maps around the resort or on the Disney site that I could find. To find it I eventually resorted to an internet search and Google Maps. That added some time to my run.
The path itself was nice running along beside a golf course on one side and a river/canal on the other. I met another runner or two out on that path and then even more in Old Key West.
Old Key West is similar to Saratoga Springs in that there are side walks all over, so more wandering. At one point I realized that the path I was on looked familiar, yep, I had gotten lost and circled back. I turned around and ended up back on the path back to Saratoga Springs.
After a few minutes the skies opened up and it got wet, very wet. Sheets of rain and no easy cover. I also heard some thunder at this point but saw no lightning. At this point I had to keep going since the only cover was trees (not a good idea in a lightning) or under a bridge. Troll jokes aside I’m not sure hiding under a bridge in Florida is the safest thing either considering the gator / snake warning signs along the canal. I eventually did see a shed I could have sheltered under but by that point the thunder had passed.
I continued on and shared a few jokes with other runners going for a quick drowning and eventually the rain started to let up a bit.
As the rain died off, more and more runners came out, several wearing their race bibs…wish I had thought of that!
Every runner out there seemed to be in a great mood and everyone was cheering each other on. A super atmosphere!
I kept running and decided to go off plan and run through Disney Springs as well – that was fun – only a few runners there but very little foot traffic since the shops weren’t open. But there were Disney cast members standing out at the doorways of several of the shops cheering on the runners. Definitely a cool vibe – it made up a bit for missing running through the parks.
I then discovered that if you continue out to the parking lot on the west side of Disney Springs you end up at the natural trail out to Old Key West – alrighty – back out to Old Key West then.
I was about half done my mileage at this point so I stopped to tweet that I was half done and probably needed to jump in the pool after the run in order to dry off. Still quite wet but the rain had definitely slacked off at this point.
However my headphone internal volume controls had apparently taken on some water – volume all the way up, all the way down, skip song, all over the place. At one point the music had muted and had been for some time, I hadn’t noticed since I was enjoying the run in the rain…but then the volume came back full blast, during a DragonForce song. I literally jumped and my heart rate spiked! Holy crap…I took my headphones out at this point.
The number of runners out kept increasing through the last half of the run. It was so cool to see runners of so many different levels out getting their miles in and cheering each other on.
After another loop of Old Key West, I came back to Saratoga Springs and did another loop there before doing an out and back through Disney Springs. I got back to my hotel room at about 12.8 miles…damn…gotta keep going. So I did a few back and forth runs on the sideway by the hotel and ended up with a total of 13.18 miles. Cool – unofficial Walt Disney World Half Marathon done.
After I got back to the room and had a long warm shower, I started to check twitter and saw that the unofficial half movement wasn’t isolated to Saratoga Springs. Other resorts were doing the same things and places like the Pop Century and Port Orleans Riverside resort even had cheering and water aid stations set up. Just bloody amazing.
Resorts like the Pop and Riverside have very defined loops for running trails that helps set up designated spots for aid stations and the like and the runners don’t then get spread out as much. I was impressed with the atmosphere where I was but I can only imagine that that feeling was amplified at these resorts due to that concentration of runners.
I am so impressed with the runDisney community. I said it in a tweet but I will say it again here – runDisney can give us venue but the community is what makes the runDisney events so special. The race cancellation was turned into something truly magical.
At this point I should have gone to rest for a bit but I was starving since I hadn’t eaten before I ran. So I walked to Disney Springs (cheering runners along the way) and grabbed a sandwich at Earl of Sandwich. I then headed back to the room for a rest and now there was a cheer squad out cheering on runners at Saratoga Springs – super cool.
Once back at the room and ended up sitting down to read some email…and lost an hour and a half.
After my nap I was anxious to hit a park. Still so many runners out as I walked to the bus stop and caught the ride to Hollywood Studios. After a bit of wandering there and a ride on Star Tours and a late lunch I decided to do the walk from Hollywood Studios to Epcot. I would be doing that path on the marathon the next day but I wanted to do it once at a relaxing walk before the race.
The path had so many runners out – even a few teams running together – just bloody awesome. They were near the Boardwalk Resort, near the Yacht and Beach Club resorts, running into Epcot.
I tweeted about this as I wandered toward Epcot and got a response from Christina from @RunDisneyBelle that she was actually running in Epcot. I fired back that I was basically walking into Epcot at that point.
As I wandered into the park and started crossing the bridge between England and France in World Showcase I recognized her running with @KnightBuilder65 and introduced myself to say hi. We had a quick chat about how cool it was that the so many people were getting their miles in. I didn’t want to take away from her run so we just had a short chat and I continued my wander as she continued her run.
Super cool to meet yet another awesome runner this weekend! Christina also has an awesome recap from this cool day up on her site: The Glass Slipper Chronicles https://glassslipperchronicles.wordpress.com/2017/01/13/2017-diy-wdw-half-marathon/ After that I continued a wander through World Showcase (yay beer) and then had an early supper before heading out to the buses back to the hotel for an early night.
Just a bloody cool day all around. That day made the trip worthwhile.
Edit – Jan 14 – Just wanted to put in a quick other bit here. On the Friday night I was chatting with some folks on twitter who had a tough decision to make. They were Goofy Challenge runners who could probably PR the full marathon if they took it easy on Saturday. But they would still get in their half on the Monday. The conundrum they had was that Monday was their travel day out of Disney World and would they have enough time? Plus running a half the day after you beat yourself up with a full is probably harder mentally than doing the half the day before. Seeing everyone running around on the Saturday would have been tough too – it would have been hard to resist the atmosphere! I know there are probably a few runners who did this though – and I wanted to say congrats to those folks too!
Next up – Day 4 – the Walt Disney World Marathon – and I meet a cool Disney Cast Member in person.