Adventures In Running: My First Half

As promised, another tale of my past running adventures. I had to share the story of my first half marathon because it will forever stand out in my mind.

Disclaimer: I do not condone "rogue running" or whatever it's called when you race without a number. But these were extreme circumstances. So I do not apologize for what happened in the following story. And neither do my heroes: Alyssa and Jenni.

In 2008, I was signed up to run the Disney Half Marathon. I had run a 15K before, so I felt confident that I could make it, especially because my dear cousin, Alyssa, would be running with me. Alone meant possible failure. With her, I could do anything.

My dad drove us to the race, and Alyssa's best friend, Jenni, joined us. This is the same Alyssa and Jenni who ran the Miami Marathon, and I ran the half and blogged about that crazy adventure earlier this year. In fact, Alyssa and Jenni just moved into a house together. Hubby and I went to help them with some projects last weekend. Love these two!


At five-thirty in the morning, we arrived at Epcot to a circus--so many people, floodlights everywhere, music. The race started at six on a trail near the parking lot. Neither Alyssa nor Jenni had signed up for the race, but they had both raced lots already. They knew how it worked. People popped into races that didn't have numbers all the time. They had never seen anyone make a big deal out of it.

Well, they had never met the Disney Gestapo, either. Now I'm debating how much to share. I don't think any of us actually intend to run a Disney race again. We put our time in. I've done about eight Disney races myself, including the marathon, and I think A/J (Alyssa/Jenni) have as well. I don't want to pick on Disney because I absolutely love the parks and movies and lots of other Disney things. As for racing at Disney World, not my favorite thing. Way too expensive, way too little time actually in the parks, way too much time on super boring back roads, and way too many people race there now to make it worth while. But I had to learn that the hard way. And now I've learned and I can probably just tell all. So I will.


As we headed toward the gate where a really long sidewalk would lead us to the start--seriously, you have to walk a mile just to get to the starting line--there were two guys with flashlights. I hugged my dad, he filmed us, and we talked about how he'd try to catch us on video near Magic Kingdom. I didn't really notice these guys in security uniforms. I walked past them thinking A/J were right behind me. Nope. They got stopped. They had no race numbers. They couldn't come through.

When I heard this, my heart dropped to the ground. A/J were trying to talk the guy into letting them come with me. It was my first half, they needed to be with me! But no. He was Disney Gestapo and he would not be moved. Okay, so that was my name for them.

Along the trail leading to the start, I noticed how every ten feet, there were people with flashlights. I realized they were there to keep anyone from sneaking onto the trail. I realized how serious Disney Gestapo was and I was on my own. I picked my heart up and dusted it off. A/J and my dad were trying to work it all out. Alyssa looked at me. She had a very serious expression on her face. She said, "We will get in. We will find you." I believed her.

I walked on alone in a crowd of 10,000. Most runners are friendly, but I wasn't in the mood. I was so bummed that I had to start alone. But I was sure Alyssa meant what she said. She'd find a way. They would drive up to some random spot near mile two where no one would stop them from popping in with me. They could definitely jump in near Magic Kingdom, if needed. There would be lots of opportunities. Although, how could I be sure they would find me?

When my corral was called, I walked the mile toward the start trying to spot weaknesses in the Disney Gestapo members lining the trail. They were all scanning the place like hawks, looking at numbers, glancing over their shoulders. I didn't see much hope. I was sure my dad would have to drive A/J to a more opportune spot.

I remember the fireworks at the start were cool. So many people. I couldn't go fast for the first mile if I wanted to, and I went pretty slow while scanning the sidelines. Lots of people cheered. No A/J, but I didn't expect them yet.

For four miles, I watched the sidelines. I began to lose hope. I saw my dad, and my hope resurfaced. He was standing outside Magic Kingdom filming me. Later, I saw the video. From the camera's perspective, I came running and waving and said, "Are they up there?" I pointed ahead. This had made the most sense to me. They were in the crowd ahead ready to jump in with me. Dad replied, "No, they are back there." On video, my face dropped. I turned back as if hoping to see them. But no, I had missed them! Then I ran on. It was funny to watch knowing what happened.

In the race, I passed dad and the camera feeling defeated. I neared mile five, and I was losing my motivation. I worried that I wouldn't finish.

I ascended an incline and thought about what I could do. I could give up. But I didn't want to, I wanted to finish. It was going to be really hard. Eight miles still to go, and I was absolutely alone now.

Then I heard a voice on my left. "You're a tough girl to catch up to." I knew that voice. Two people came up on either side of me. Left, Alyssa! Right, Jenni! They made it! I was singing inside. Energy flooded my body, and not only did I know I could make it, I would get to have fun now.

I don't remember all the details from there on, but I do remember we had a blast. They told me how they caught me, which was a great story to hear as we ran the rest of my first half together.

Alyssa was determined to get to the starting line. She saw the Gestapo lining the trail, and she and Jenni walked along the outside looking for a weakness like I had. They found it. The port-a-potties. No one was at that portion of the trail, and there were lots of bushes. It was still dark. They snuck through and acted as if they had just come from the bathroom. They walked onto the trail with crowds of people, hiding from the rest of the Gestapo with flashlights.

At one point, there was a bottleneck forcing people into a gated corral before the start. The Gestapo were there. Jenni knew what to do. She tripped into a guy so that her back was to the Gestapo scanning for race numbers at the bottleneck. The runner guy, enamored I'm sure with the lovely laides, helped Jenni up and got her and Alyssa through ahead of him. Nobody the wiser. They made it to the starting line.

I was in a corral way ahead. They knew to catch me, they had to run fast. In the crowd, it was really difficult. But they did it. They are both so much faster than me. By the time they reached me, though, they were about to give up. They had been sprinting for five miles, and they were exhausted.

Luckily, they saw my dad. The camera caught A/J running toward him. "She's up there! She's up there!" my dad shouted at them. They got all excited on the video. They had hope. They sprinted to me. And they could handle my much slower pace. We chatted, laughed, and had a great time. Dad documented us crossing the finish on video, and Alyssa's parents came to cheer at the end.

I am forever grateful that Alyssa and Jenni used their kick-butt running skills, cunning determination, and feminine wiles to help me get through my first half.

Here are some pictures from after the adventure:

Before all the craziness. Photos by Dave Bowers

We are so proud of ourselves

And we think we're Charlie's Angels

Dad was so good to get up at 4am to get us there!

Alyssa's dad, my Uncle Dave, came to cheer us on too

Alyssa's mom, my Aunt Elena, came as well. She's wearing a Hood 2 Coast shirt.

My dad was proud of me for finishing my first half marathon

We were so happy we got to have such a great adventure together

Next time: I think I'll talk about Hood 2 Coast. That may have to be a 2-parter. Or a 10-parter. There is so much I could say. Stay tuned.