Before the Race
I would say that the morning of the half dawned bright and early, but that would 100% a lie. I slept fitfully through the night, being woken up fairly often by big thunderstorms rolling in. My alarm didn’t go off until 8am, and that was like sleeping in until noon based on the previous nights. The weather looked a little questionable, but I knew that I was going to run the half.
I headed out the door to the room at 9am, mentally preparing myself for 10 laps around Hourglass Lake. I decided from the get-go that I would do 5 laps counterclockwise followed by 5 laps clockwise (mainly as most people were going counterclockwise when I started running). As I started, there were some people already finishing who had started earlier in the morning, while others wouldn’t be starting for a few hours.
During the Race
I began the half in my t-shirt and capris because I figured that the rain would make it chilly – that idea lasted about a lap. The best part of running the half at the hotel was that I could use the room as a permanent pit stop. So I headed back, chugged some water, and changed into my intended tank top and shorts. There was some off and on drizzle throughout the run, with a few points where the rain came down quite a bit harder (enough that it was difficult to see through my glasses).
To be honest, that half marathon run around Hourglass Lake was the most magical experience of the weekend. Yeah, there was plenty of magic to be had in the organized races, but nothing could compare to seeing all of the other dedicated runners out there on Saturday morning, lap after lap. Truthfully, it was incredible the way that the running community came out to support each other.
On the Pop Century half of the bridge across the lake, some people set up a water and snack stop. I utilized it a few times, for both the water and the snacks. There was a little kid dressed up in a Stitch costume who turned himself into an impromptu character stop (sorry that I missed you, Baby Stitch!). I got my picture taken at the Potato Head statues at Pop Century, which proved to be my big character stop for the day.
Honestly, for me, the best part was being able to have my mom be there for all of it. Since she was in her mobility scooter, it would have been nearly impossible for her to see me at the real half. Instead, she got to be my pit crew on Pop Century morning. She hung out by our hotel room for a while, clapping where one of the largest cheer sections was. Later in the race, I had her station herself on the Art of Animation side of the bridge with my water and Powerade. Even though it was overcast, it was still humid and I felt like I was losing tons of fluid. Besides, I wanted to stay well-hydrated for the full on Sunday morning.
As I got ready for my last partial lap, I let my mom know so that she could scoot back over by our room, where I planned to finish. When I came around the corner, I saw some other runners setting up a finish line tape of toilet paper for me to break – but I had misjudged my distance. “Another tenth of a mile!” I was screaming as I dodged out of their way. “I’ll be right back!!”
I probably ran the fastest of the whole day right past my personal finish line until I could make up half of the distance, so I turned around to break the tape.
And what a tape-breaking it was!
I wound up finishing my official-unofficial Pop Century Half in 2:56:34, and I was hella proud of that. For my own personal sanity, I kept my Dopey Challenge integrity intact and got to have one of the coolest running experiences of my life because of it.
Also yes, I was totally in the club of people on Saturday who used the half marathon luggage tag as a sort of unofficial medal. I carried that sucker around with pride.
After the Half
The rest of Saturday was pretty low-key for my mom and I. I didn’t take a nap, since I had gotten to sleep in – boy, was that a mistake. I still had run a half marathon that day, and the extra sleep wouldn’t take that away; I was mighty grumpy by dinnertime. We hung out in Epcot for most of the day, as it’s my favorite park. I rode single rider on Test Track, saw an awesome trio of bucket drummers, rode Ellen’s Universe of Energy for the first time, ate dinner at Via Napoli (and had a super-cute Italian waiter), rode Soarin’ for the first time since it was updated, and went on Livin’ with the Land for the first time ever. As a super-nerd, I wound up loving that ride!!
As per my own tradition, I had to get my picture taken in front of the Epcot Ball in my shirt from the half. I definitely earned my shirt that day!! But I had to take my hoodie off briefly for this picture, and I did not enjoy it one bit. The temperature had plunged throughout the afternoon, and I knew that the gun time for the full in the morning was not going to be an enjoyable weather phenomenon.
We got back to the hotel fairly early, and we completed our nighttime ritual. I showered then got into bed while my mom showered. I was still awake when she came back into the room, so she browsed Facebook for a while until I drifted off to sleep. The morning of the marathon was fast-approaching, though it would dawn colder than I would have liked…