Disney, thy name is clusterfuck.
I was a Disney virgin. Never went as a kid. Never took my young children. It was not until my Disney enthusiast friend dangled a weekend of races in front of my when my daughter was old enough to enjoy the trip that I relented.
The entire experience was, in a word, intense. The way Vegas is an exhausting bombardment of the senses but for children. Which may, in the end, be more draining and overstimulating.
But the races. Again, I say clusterfuck.
First, it was the 5K. Florida was tragically unseasonably frigid and windy, and we had to line up in our corrals in the dark in the wee hours. We boarded the bus around 4 am and stood in the freezing dark for over an hour. I was cold; I was tired, and I was cranky. I was also nagged by the worry that my children were back at the hotel being awful for my friend’s mother (they were not; they were angels).
Once our corral finally lined up and the starting gun finally went off, I started to enjoy the 5K though. I was running. The sun was rising. I was warm and actually doing something besides waiting impatiently.
Our route looped us through a long parking lot before bringing us around the world showcase in Epcot. I was able to find my usual race euphoria, where I jogged along enjoying the scenery. I appreciated the menagerie of princess and Frozen costumes that looked like Pinterest exploded on the race course. I listened to “Let it Go” playing over and over in language after language.
The race was packed, and there could be no real running through the crowd even if I wanted to, but it suited a leisurely jog that was more about the location and characters alongside the race than a PR. The race was not even timed.
We finished the 5K; then our real race began.
We hurried back to the resort, dressed my daughter, and sprinted back to Epcot for her kid race.
My daughter’s little dash was potentially the highlight of my running that weekend and maybe the cutest thing I have ever seen. It was also, ironically, the most organized of all the races we participated in that weekend. Only for her would I dress as Anna to her Elsa. Only for her would I wear that same sweaty costume all day so we could get her to the Magic Kingdom for her princess makeover on time.
But she ran her 100 meters holding my hand tight, and she loved it. And she proudly wore her race shirt to school to tell everyone about it. I think I may have started to impart my love for running on her, and I cannot wait to nurture that.
The next day, it was the 10K.
For this race, we had to be up and on the bus even earlier. So my alarm, of course, malfunctioned, and I, of course, overslept. I began my running day sprinting to the bus in the cold, dark night. But we made it and were back waiting in the cold corrals once again. Me barely awake, my friend hurting a lot from the race the previous day then how much we walked afterwards.
The 10K, I did not enjoy. The route was stupid. We left Epcot to run on a highway. Then, while we retraced the 5K’s round of the world showcase and saw some of the boardwalk, the majority was the service road/backstage portion of Epcot. Very boring and VERY congested.
My friend was also hurting. A lot. Her feet (with plantar fasciitis) and calves were killing her. She had been limping when we walked to the corrals, so jogging and attempting to speed walk was pretty brutal. Unfortunately, the 10K required a 16 minute pace, complete with three women with balloons yelling and “encouraging” you before they sweep you off the course.
We spent the majority of the race, at least the last half, trying to outrun these damn women. As if we could, the course was so packed I could not have run or even walked faster if I wanted. It was pretty much infuriating.
The best part of the 10K for me was my friend. She pushed herself completely, farther than she wanted to, through all kinds of pain. I was so completely proud of her.
All in all, I am glad I did the trip and the races. It was definitely a bucket list experience worth checking off. Would I do it again? I’m not quite sure.
The greatest lesson I learned was to not pair two back-to-back races with days in the Disney parks. It is all walking and carrying kids, neverending. It just is too much when included with miles of running in an unfathomable crowd before dawn. I was more exhausted than I knew what to do with as I was wearing an infant and escorting a tiny princess through castles and to meet other princesses.