Am I Goofy or What? Race Recap Part 1: Walt Disney World Half Marathon

We arrived in Orlando, Florida last Thursday to sunshine, blue skies and 71 degrees. Hello, Florida. Goodbye, Ohio. This time I think I might break up with you for good. We checked into Disney’s Beach Club and dropped a few things off at our rooms. Here is the view from our balcony on Thursday afternoon:

We headed over to Beaches and Cream (a resort soda shop) and ordered lunch before we did anything else. Here we are, sunshine really does wonders for your mood in a short amount of time:

Me & Michael


Dad & my sister Mollie

Then we headed over to my favorite theme park – Epcot. It was perfectly pretty once the sun set:

And we visited some of the countries, including Norway where we rode the boat, narrowly escaping the trolls, so they say:

Yes, that is his happy face. Picture Number 11 of 5,497.

“It’s for my blog,” pretty much became the reason for every picture I needed. Thank goodness I have a husband who understands (or just ignores me when other people are staring at me taking pictures of everything).

Friday morning we woke up early and headed over to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for packet pick-up. It was only about 10:00 in the morning, but the bus was jam-packed and the lines were already getting long. I didn’t have to wait very long to get my bib, but I did take my time browsing the RunDisney shop and the Expo.

That’s me!


Mollie & Me at packet pick-up.
Dad & Me after the Expo.

I was nervous and my stomach was upset most of Friday, which I gather is just going to be typical for me the day before a big race the biggest race of my life. I kept my diet pretty close to normal and tried to eliminate fried foods on Friday. Destination racing always proves to be a challenge in terms of food and hydrating. Thankfully, Disney allows water bottles in the park so I started drinking water early on and didn’t stop most of the day. It probably would have been smart to stay off my feet on Friday and hang around the pool, but….it was DISNEY! Mollie, Michael and I went to Hollywood Studios and rode Aerosmith’s Rockin’ Roller Coaster and the Tower of Terror. Neither had a long wait and it was totally worth it. I’m guessing all of the other runners were resting, hence, no line for me. Score?!

Michael & Me at Hollywood Studios.

 And we walked along the pier at our resort. Again, why was I walking? I don’t know now?!

 And I convinced my husband that I needed more pictures, of course. This time it was an ordeal:

I don’t remember when I went to bed on Friday night, but I do know that the wake-up call to get up and get ready came at 2:45 a.m. Yes, it was that early. We wanted to be down on the bus by 3:30 a.m. I don’t think I got more than a couple hours of sleep. Mollie and I left the hotel and waited for about 15 minutes for the bus to pick us up. We chatted with other runners in front of us, each of whom were eagerly checking their watches to see how late it was getting. We had to be on a bus no later than 4:00 a.m. and in the corrals no later than 5:00 a.m. I kept hearing it was at least a 20 minute walk (!?!) from the gear check to the corrals. It was, they weren’t kidding. Now I was nervous too and checking my Garmin. At least I had it, I watched a couple of people sprint back to the hotel to get a forgotten item.

Finally the bus arrived and we boarded, only to get stuck in a gigantic traffic jam for over half an hour. It was nearly 4:30 a.m. when we unloaded and headed for the gear check, dropped off our bags and started the long walk march to the corrals. It was crowded and I could barely see or hear anything but my sister. She stopped to use the bathroom and I stopped to use the bathroom. It felt like we were getting nowhere fast, but we finally made it to our corral – H for last! – in time for the 5:30 a.m. wheelchair start. 

Me & Mollie in the starting corral.

So, it was now 5:35 a.m. and Donald started Wave 1. It was 6:17 a.m. before Wave 8 started – that was us. I think I was tired before the race even started! But, in typical Disney style, fireworks went off for each wave and Donald, Mickey and Goofy were there to cheer on all the runners. I felt like Disney made sure the last runners knew they were just as important as the first runners.

We were off and headed out toward the Magic Kingdom at the start of the race. Mollie and I separated fairly early in the race. I was feeling pretty good at first. It felt great to run and work out the kinks and stiffness from flying, walking around, riding and sleeping in a strange bed. After the first couple of miles, I reminded myself to slow down (more) and take it easy. This was a short run compared to the marathon in the morning. I wanted to save what I had. My plan was to relax, have fun, go slow and enjoy what was most likely a once in a lifetime race for me! I started run-walking intervals as we neared the Magic Kingdom:


I was still having pain in my right foot. And around Mile 4 or 5 when I was warmed up and the adrenaline wore off, I started to feel it. I know I started compensating for the pain by putting more of my weight on my left foot and I could feel a blister forming underneath my left pinky toe. I rarely got blisters (this would be the time, of course), but I figured it was no big deal and kept running – and compensating. I saw my MIT friend, Kim on the sidelines cheering around this time and she asked if I was okay. I said my foot was really hurting. She told me to take it slow and see how I was feeling, that no race was worth an injury. Kim was sidelined from running the Goofy with us due to a stress fracture that was diagnosed in December. I knew how badly she wanted to be out there running that day. I’m thankful she was there to cheer us on because I know that couldn’t have been easy at all. To see someone I knew at that time, though – especially a training friend – was more than I ever could have asked for.

It was completely awesome running down Main Street U.S.A and in front of the castle. To run through it was even more spectacular. Definitely something I will never forget:

Running through Cinderella’s Castle was emotional for me. I was thinking of my Mom because it was her favorite thing at Disney. She loved Disney, especially the castle when it was decorated and lit up. I am smiling in this picture because I like to think a small piece of her was there with me:

As we left the Magic Kingdom, nearing Miles 8-9, I started looking for my Dad and husband who would have more Gu for me. I saw them! And, my sister! I thought for sure I wouldn’t see her until the end of the race. She said she was struggling and had slowed down. You wouldn’t know either of us was hurting from this photo, right?!? 

The last four miles were pretty tough. We kept ahead of the 16-minute pace per mile, but just barely. I did my best to smile as we entered Epcot and neared the Finish Line:

And, we finished! For me, it was my eighth half marathon. My official time was 03:35:29 (Remember, I have 26.2 to run the following day!)

And, I hurt. I think more than I was willing to admit at that time. I immediately wanted to sit down and get off my foot. My blister was a lot bigger than I had originally thought and appeared to be taking over the bottom of my left foot already.

Once I was able to move, it wasn’t pretty. I hobbled back to the hotel with the help of my husband and immediately took an ice bath. My first and only, I will say. THAT was horrible! By this time, my blister had developed a pulse of it’s own (for the first time, that is) and my husband did his best to patch it up with mole skin. It was pretty big already. 

Ice baths are NOT fun!

And, of course, I still didn’t stay off it. Again, was I thinking?! No, it was DISNEY! We went to Chef Mickey’s to celebrate:

Another 13.1 done!

My salad.
If you’ve never tried the Napkin Dance, you’re missing out!

 And, we had a visit from Goofy himself – LOVE this picture!

And then, my husband and I hobbled around the Magic Kingdom and visited Snow White’s Scary Adventure (my favorite!), the Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain and a few others. It made for a long, but completely happy evening. 

I went to bed (far too late, I might add) with a smile on my face, a throbbing toe and foot and truly believing that I would start and finish 26.2 more miles come sunrise!

Until the next [magical] mile marker, 


  1. Runnermaybe says

    Awesome job, but bummer about the blister.

  2. la la la la LOVING all your pictures!!!! What an INTENSE and simply amazing event to be part of — congrats on your 1/2!! I am so looking forward to hearing about your 26.2 — you have SO MUCH to be proud of — all I can say is WOW! =)

  3. Thanks for sharing your run. Congrats on finishing this run. This really looked like a fun event.

  4. Sara, between my own memories and your awesome pictures and emotional story, I have tears in my eyes… I have been wanting to read your post about this experience all week!

    Michael looks wonderful in that stetson, BTW, and you look so beautiful, even in the ice bath! 🙂

  5. RunningMandy says

    Sounds like you had fun!!!! I soooo NEED to do a Disney race! I KNOW all about blisters my friend, sucks that you got one on the first day!

  6. runningperseverance says

    You are such an inspiration to me sara! so much heart goes into every single run that you do! i loved reading this and seeing all the fun pictures. i LOVE how close you and your sis are! such a wonderful experience!

  7. wow you rock! 🙂

  8. AMAZING – I loved this recap – and I fricken love the picture in from to of Cinderella’s castle. Got a little choked up thinking about how much this all meant.

  9. Love, love, LOVE the picture of you in front of Cinderella’s castle and your finish shot with Mollie. This race was so much more than a race for you…I know it was an emotional journey and I’m so glad you took it 🙂

    BTW, you are totally bringing sexy back in that ice bath!!! Love it!

  10. Stephanie Grigely says

    First of all, awesome job!
    I wore the same t-shirt friday to bib pickup, but in grey.
    Where is Chef Mickey’s because your food looked amazing.
    Loved your pics from the race!
    I also took my first “real” ice bath after the marathon. My brother forced me & I screamed and yelled, but my legs felt great later that day & from then on. I guess maybe I’m a believer.
    Im heading off to read about your marathon day now!

  11. So, umm, why are you taking a bath with your clothes on? Am I the only one that takes my ice baths naked? I think I’m doing something wrong. Ugh, I definitely don’t miss those.

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