In January 2011 my 12-year-old daughter and I voluntEARed at the Walt Disney World Marathon. The first day…or should I say night…revolved around us tearing mylar blankets off big rolls from 2am to around 7am…right about the time when all of the the elite athletes had crossed the finish line for the WDW Half Marathon. As non-runners, we both watched in awe as the first place winner arrived and was barely out of breath giving an interview at the finish line. The real inspiration was to come the next morning.
On Sunday morning we headed back to the Finish Line, but this time had a different role. We were going to be handing out medals for the Walt Disney World Full Marathon Finishers. You know those moments that you can look back on that change your life? This would be one of those defining moments.
As runners crossed the finish line, we hung medals and offered words of congratulations to each. It was a bag of mixed emotions for every athlete. Some laughed and threw their hands in the air. Some cried and hugged us. Some hobbled over to Medical immediately. Some looked stunned that they had finished and some looked like they ran marathons as their jobs. With each medal hung, I thought in my head “This is the most amazing thing EVER! I think I might be able to do this!” Six hours later the real inspiration arrived in the form of runners who didn’t look like runners. The “back-of-the-packers”. All had been pounding it out for over 6 hours…and they were FINISHING! That was it! A new runner had been born. Right there in the Epcot parking lot. I signed up for the 2011 Wine & Dine Half Marathon shortly thereafter and the rest they say was history.
Fast forward to 2013. January 5th, 2013 my daughter Alexus finally turns 14, the minimum age to runDisney Half Marathons. We had participated in almost every runDisney 5K from the time we handed out medals until this very moment. I had watched her complete a 10K , a 15K and a the Tower of Terror 10 Miler so I knew she had it in her to finish her first half!
My family and I were staying at the Yacht Club Resort. We set our alarm for 3AM and we headed down to the lobby to board a van and head out to the starting line. Banana in hand…doesn’t she look excited? My child is NOT a morning person. She was about to really perk up.
Fireworks! And we were off! I can not tell you how much I love running with this kid! We keep the exact same pace for the most part (slow and steady). We made our way from the start and took the turn onto World Drive. Actually, she decided she was going to “go for it” and had run ahead of me and then had a change of heart and waited for her ole mom. Mile 2 and we were keeping a 15-minute-mile pace.
Excited to be passed by our good friend Kevin!
Just before the 5K point heading under the Magic Kingdom Toll Plaza! “Caution Runners…Speed Bumps Ahead!” and there’s that smile!
Best spectator sign at the Transportation and Ticket Center…
If you asked her, she would probably tell you this was her favorite spot on the course. Running under the water bridge right before passing the Contemporary Resort. What my camera failed to capture was the fella with the humongo Mickey Mouse gloves clapping at the top of the overpass.
Excited! Mile 5! About to head into the Magic Kingdom for our run down Main Street USA! At this point we have been texting our friend Marc who is apparently right behind us. Will we hook up in time to run through Cinderella Castle together?
She did it! She made it to the Magic Kingdom! First time running thru the park! Such a treat to share this special moment with my kiddo.
Loads of runners heading into Tomorrowland…
And we found Marc!
The next mile Marc stuck with us. We got to run thru Cinderella Castle together as a trio. Something we had never done before. It’s so much fun to be able to run with friends during these events and the runDisney community is so amazing that we never feel like we are running alone.
After exiting the Magic Kingdom and heading past the Grand Floridian we heard a familiar voice coming up from behind. Our good friend Carrie! Her and her hubby Kevin (pictured in one of the photos above) have become great friends of ours because of our runDisney connection.
Miles 7-11 are pretty uneventful. Just a straight shot back down World Drive and then the turn back into Epcot. We knew we were going to have to get a shot of her in front of the Mile 11 sign. This was a new record of ‘farthest distance run’. Up until this point, the Tower of Terror 10 Miler had been the longest distance run. #ProudMama
Right after Mile 11 we were passed by another good friend to us…Katherine!
Mile 13…Time for her photo finish!
AND SHE DID IT!!! Officially a half marathoner at 14 years of age!
runDisney…you changed our lives! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
To find out more about any of the runDisney endurance events please visit runDisney.com
For more on our 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend experience check out My Story of Struggle and Enlightment in the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon
If you liked this story, consider giving DisneyEveryDay a follow over on Facebook!
A big thanks to Disney for hosting our stay at the Yacht Club Resort and providing us with meals. I was not required to write this post and all opinions are my own.