Previously I have written about my first race experiences here. Since then, I have gotten another three Disney 5Ks under my belt. I would like to talk about the most recent of these experiences, the Champion® 5K at Dick’s Sporting Goods Presents ESPN The Weekend (ESPN 5K for short). The race was held the first Saturday in March, only a week after my previous race, during the Princess Half Marathon Weekend. Read about our own NDH #19 Todd Perlmutter’s recap of that race on the Touring Plans blog here.
I have enjoyed the past races pretty well. The first was Mickey’s Halloween 5K back in October, which ran through the Magic Kingdom with amazing music and costumed characters. Following that were two races that went through Epcot in January and February. These two were identical race courses and had about the same amount of characters as the first but didn’t seem to be as much fun without the music and DJ that accompanied the MK race.
Then we come to this race. I guess I should preface this with the fact that I started to feel a bit sick the night before the race in February. Had I been smart, I wouldn’t have run that race or the subsequent one. But I digress. The ESPN 5K was the next in the series of Disney races, and the course ran through the parking lot of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, progressed towards the “main” entrance, backstage, then finally into the park before ending back in the parking lot where it started.
As I was reading my final race instructions before I left my house, I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. D tags, chrono tags, chips, whatever you want to call them, they are timing devices you affix to your shoe to track your time in the race from when you cross the start line to when you cross the finish (net time not clock time). Honestly, this scared the pixie dust out of me. I immediately took to Twitter to ask my more experienced running friends if they had encountered this in a 5K at Disney before; none had.
Packet pickup, held for each race at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex, was also different. For the other races, it had been done in either the HP Field House or the Josten’s Center, depending on the race and how big the Expo (shopping – yippee!) was. Not so much for this race (insert wah wah wah music here). The reason, I’m assuming, is that this race a) was not being held the same weekend as another longer race, and b) (so I later learned) it was the first of a Friday night fight (boxing) series being held in the Josten’s Center. Due to these, and possibly other contributing factors, packet pickup was held outside on the lawn. I was already sick, but throw in having to wait in a long line (for an hour plus, compared to the normal less than 5 minutes for the other races), and then sprinkle, no, pour some rain on top of that. Not a fun experience at all.
So, full disclosure, I really wasn’t loving this race before it even started. Sick, tired, cranky, and worried about timing, I still chose to proceed. I figured I had come this far and had already paid for the darn thing, so the show must go on. Arriving at the race at least 45 minutes ahead of time allowed me enough time to walk around and to attempt to wake up, warm up, and stretch. I ran into a few friends who were also running, and we went inside the tent to find out what it held. Music was pumping with a DJ, and folks were lined up to have their pictures taken with Mickey and Minnie before the race. There was also a contest being held to see who had the most team pride. Since I really wasn’t feeling well, I chose to go outside and listen to my iPod to try to get my head in the game, er, race.
I crossed the starting line about two minutes after the race started and began my watch so I could keep track of my time since I heard that they would actually be sweeping people during this race. Most of the races I run, I try to run the first 15 – 20 minutes before switching to an alternating run/walk pattern. This was not to be so. I found myself unable to run more than three minutes at a time without being completely winded. This is where that whole sickness thing comes into play (come to find out it was bronchitis – not something I recommend ever attempting to run a race with).
By some miracle, I managed to finish the first mile of the race in 14: 27. This is actually one of my better splits on a Disney race, and despite my illness, here’s why: no entertainment. Well, that’s not quite fair. At about the 1/4 and 3/4 mile points there was a speaker set up with some music. However, no characters, very few cast members, and little encouragement for a runner on her journey.
This is where I have to say God Bless the internet and smartphones. Had I not had my phone with me, I truly question whether or not I would have been able to finish this race. Usually I just use my phone to take pictures and refrain from tweeting, but due to the increased amount of walking I was doing, I decided to send out a tweet asking for prayers and pixie dust. I have to say I have some of the greatest friends who were so supportive, at 7 on a Saturday morning no less. If it weren’t for the Disney online community, Twitter, Facebook, and the support I received from there, I don’t know that I would have had the strength and determination to carry on.
Aside from the encouragement and well wishes of my friends, the greatest motivator was the golf cart coming up behind me and sweeping people. Yes, you heard me right. They were picking people up off of the course in golf carts if they were not keeping pace, and this started well before mile 1. Not even the sight of my beloved Mulch, Sweat and Shears could give me joy or prevent me from looking back over my shoulder for the carts I knew were not far off my heels. Proceed I did, and finish I did, but barely. I was only about 30 people from the back of the pack and from being swept. My second mile split was much slower, and my third was somewhere between the first two. I finished a minute and 29 seconds over the 16 minute per mile cut off, but that was close enough to get my medal. This was not one of those rubbery plastic medals that I got at my previous races, no this was real heavy metal. And boy did I earn it.
Here are some things I learned from this race:
– When you put mind over matter it is amazing what you are able to accomplish.
– Not all Disney races are created equally.
– Don’t run a race on a day where they have Extra Magic Hours and a special event at that park, therefore forcing them to sweep runners.
– If you need some help and support from your friends, ask for it.
Overall, this was an enlightening experience. I think this is the race I was most proud of finishing, even more so than my first 5K. I worked harder (albeit due to bronchitis) but also had a better time than two of the previous races. I don’t enjoy the race without the entertainment of the characters. It just isn’t the same atmosphere. I like the runs to be fun, and this was not. Even if I weren’t sick, I don’t think that I would do this particular race again.
Now I find myself having difficulty making a decision about the next step on my journey as a runner. I have contemplated moving up to the next level and doing a half marathon, but I fear I’m not quite ready. I have another 5K in May, the Expedition Everest Challenge through the Animal Kingdom, which also includes a scavenger hunt and after party. This will be my first race through that park and also my first team race (my mom is running with me). I look forward to this experience and will use it to gauge where to go from here. My plan was to run all of the 5Ks this year, but I am disappointed to learn the October race moves from MK to DAK. This has lead me to consider doing the half relay instead. I am still undecided but weighing my options.
What have your race experiences been? When do you move from one length to the next? Do you wait and master the shorter length by working on your time or do you increase distance? I look forward to hearing from you and getting some feedback.