The M.C.’s voice booms across the parking lot: “Runners get se-e-e-et…. GO-O-O-O-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o!” Then a burst of fireworks over the arch, and we’re off.
It’s the start of Disney’s Wine & Dine Half-Marathon… and the culmination of 10 months of training. It’s nearly 10:30 pm, and most of the folks in my corral won’t see the finish line until about 2:00 am. I don’t plan to be with them.
My strategy is to run three miles and walk one. Three times. Then it’s run the final 1.1 miles to the finish line. HB’s strategy is less ambitious. She’s running less and walking more. But it should still get her across the finish line well ahead of her previous time.
And so we jog off into the night.
In the early miles, I pass hundreds of walkers. At mile 3, I switch to my brisk walk. But I’m still passing folks. Amazingly, my brisk walk is faster than many people’s jog.
We enter Animal Kingdom – the first of three parks we’ll visit. It’s a little eerie this late at night. But Disney cast members line the route here, cheering us on.
Then we’re back on the road, heading for Hollywood Studios. Mile 5 comes and goes… mile 6… and then we hit the halfway point. “It’s all downhill from here,” I tell myself.
My cold isn’t bothering me so far. I’m still on track as we head into Hollywood Studios.
Here’s where we hit one of the high points of the run: the annual holiday lights. Practically everyone stops to take pictures with their cell phones. I pass a bunch more runners.
The distraction helps. The 10-mile marker arrives as a surprise. 3.1 miles left, and I’m still feeling pretty good.
At 11 miles, I walk again. The boardwalk along the Yacht Club resort is packed with cheering spectators… in spite of the lateness of the hour. Then we hit mile 12 and turn into Epcot.
I’m tired now, but force myself through the last mile. On the far side of Epcot, we turn, and the finish line comes into view. I hit the line exhausted, but feeling pretty good about my pace.
I find an open spot along the end of the course and flop onto the pavement to watch for HB. Finally, she comes into view. “Woo hoo!” I shout. “I love you!” She turns her head and manages a grin.
HB finishes with a sore hip and knee, but she’s cut 20 minutes off her time from January. So she’s happy. Then she asks about my time.
I’ve run almost 45 minutes faster than I did in January. And finished close to the top third of more than 14,000 runners. Less than two years ago, I could barely jog a block without stopping to catch my breath.
We decide to skip the post-race party. Even a wild celebration in the World Showcase couldn’t make us feel any better than we already do.