Dopey 2019 Day 4: Marathon

I didn’t manage to blog on Marathon day. It’s the end of the day after now but I’ll try and capture how I felt about it all immediately after and save reflections etc to a later post.

I woke up before the alarm again. Before I even moved I scanned my body wondering what would hurt from yesterday’s half marathon. Nothing. I didn’t quite trust that. I got up, made coffee, felt terrified. I was fairly sure that there was no way I could run a marathon. Both of us were anxious. I felt sick. I got ready. It crossed my mind that it would be easy to just crawl back into bed and just not do the marathon. After all, I already had 3 lovely medals and a fabulous half marathon personal best. But I didn’t come her for personal bests and I didn’t come here for three medals. I came to do what I don’t think I can. I came to do the impossible. I came to do Dopey. I know I completed it in 2016. I know I finished the London Marathon in 2016 but it doesn’t seem real, maybe it never will. I still don’t see how it is possible that I did that. Dopey always has and probably always will seem impossible. Yesterday we proved (again) that sometimes the impossible just needs to be done.

Anyway, we were both a bit of a mess but I think we both started feeling better once we got dressed and out the door. I’d not been too bad until runDisney had issued a weather advisory for warm and humid for the marathon day. That did not settle nerves and I was worrying about hydration and fuel and heat and and and. Still, we were doing this. in the lift we met a group of lads coming back from a night out and they were confused and impressed that we had been to bed and were heading to run. The little exchange with them lifted my spirits. We got on the monorail and to the Race Retreat tent. It was far too noisy. The music was really loud, there was nowhere quiet and it wasn’t really relaxing. We had our breakfast, went to the loo a couple of times, got organised and checked in our bags. Then we walked to the corral. F again for this one. I didn’t really feel any more settled.

We were both quiet, creating our own bubble and shutting out the world. I was trying to pretend that this was going to be fine, that 26.2 miles was no big deal but I wasn’t really kidding anyone. Finally the national anthem came (better version than any of the previous three) and things started moving. There seemed to be two waves per corral which made me worried as I tried to figure out how big my time buffer was exactly. It looked like I would be in F1 and so there would be another 5 waves behind me. I just hoped that that would be enough. I needed to pee. We set off. There is something completely bizarre about setting off to run 26.2 miles. It’s just so totally insane. I laughed at myself but as I started moving I also realised that I felt ok. I had no ill effects from the half marathon. I could feel the humidity and it was a little warmer than it had been but fundamentally I felt ok.

We stopped at the first toilet stop. We’d jogged to there, gently finding our pace with Kath reassuring me that we were being sensible and had slowed down from the previous day’s pace. It was all good. We ran on and dropped into run/walk about at mile 2. Ok, so far so good. Last Dopey I’d had enough at this point so I was already doing better. The first part of the route followed the same path as the half marathon so this was familiar. I was ok with this and 3 miles, then 4 came easily. The pace was consistently sensible. We ran past our hotel and the Magic Kingdom came into view, Mile 5 ticked by as we entered through the font gates. The castle looked spectacular and kept me moving forwards up Main Street USA. We made our way through Tomorrowland and back round through the castle and out of the park through Frontierland. 6 miles done. 20 to go. I felt ok. Not great but ok.

Kath had been encouraging me on, talking to me all the time, telling me the pace was sensible and good, giving me little reminders about form, telling me I was doing great. At times it felt like it was just me and her running. The sun was starting to come up and the humidity was beginning to really get to me. I was finding it more and more difficult to get enough air in and over the next 3 miles or so a couple extra walk breaks sneaked in. Still, we’d made good progress really. I was concerned about how hot I was feeling, how dehydrated I was getting in spite of drinking at each of the frequent drinks stations and how energy zapping I was finding the warmth. Kath kept talking to me, reassuring, urging us onwards. She had also grabbed a small bottle of water in the Race Retreat and was carrying it. She kept passing it to me for little sips in between drinks stations and she refilled it several times throughout the run. Without it I think I would have been in trouble.

I began having serious doubts about mile 10. I fought the battle in my head. I pushed on and made it to the animal kingdom park. Running through the park gave me a bit of a boost but things were starting to tighten up and hurt. My hips weren’t happy at all but mostly I was just too hot, too thirsty, too hot, just too hot. After the Animal Kingdom I mostly walked. Kath kept us moving by making sure we were striding out and marching not just ambling along and by putting landmark to landmark runs in, short ones, but effective ones. Running 2 minutes was now out of the question but running from street sign to street sign seemed possible. Somewhere around 15 and a half miles or so we found ourselves with a run/walk pacing group who we’re running 30 seconds and walking 30 seconds so we briefly thought we’d try and fall in with them but their runs were too fast and their walks too slow, it just didn’t work for us so we went back to doing our own thing.

Then suddenly we were approaching ESPN Wide World of Sports. I hated this last time. It was just endless. I was determined to enjoy ESPN this time. As we entered it the DJ was playing Bon Jovi’s Living on a Prayer. It gave me a boost. I picked up the walking pace. I managed some more lamppost to lamppost running and we had a giggle through the ESPN complex. I even ran some on the track and in the stadium. I also got gravel in my shoe. I wondered if I should stop and empty it out but I was scared to stop, I did t want to risk losing momentum. It’s easy to keep moving if you’re moving! We exited ESPN and hit the 21 mile marker. Just after that we saw the balloon ladies and sweepers heading towards ESPN. We were a little over 4 miles ahead of them and according to Kath still ticking off each mile within Disney pace. I dared to hope.

Kath kept a little protective bubble around me. She got me water at drinks stations, she carried a cooling towel with her and re-wet it along the way so she could wipe down my shoulders and arms and the back of my neck, she grabbed cooling sponges for us and poured water down the back of my neck. She always let me have the shade and she kept talking to me, telling my head to shut up, telling me to stride out, nudging me to jog little sections. Without her the heat would have been too much. I would almost certainly have been poorly.

The last 5 miles are a bit of a blur. I remember seeing Hollywood studios. I remember running a bit through the park, the cheers of the crowd lifting me. I remember exiting and hitting the walkway between Studios and Epcot. I remember people encouraging us and telling us we were so close. I remember willing every muscle in my body to keep working. I remember the Boardwalk and I remember a slope onto a bridge that we did during the half too that had seemed like nothing. Now it seemed soooo hard. I heard Kath telling me to power up it. And then we jogged down. There were people with signs, signs that were making me cry. Everything was making me cry. I was in danger of being completely overwhelmed with about 2 miles to go.

I got a grip as we left the Boardwalk and entered the Epcot backlot I’d seen twice before. We entered Epcot proper through the UK but then turned right towards France and went the opposite way round the World Showcase than we had in the 5 and 10k. It seemed to go on forever. I managed a few more little jogs. Kath was urging me on and reminding me to look around and take it in. Before the start of the Dopey Challenge I’d thought crossing the finish line with a beer or margarita would be fun but there was no way I was going to stop or that I could even contemplate drinking anything other than gallons and gallons of water. I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I used the energy from the crowd to jog a little more. I walked the short backlot stretch as we left Epcot and then we could hear the cheers, started jogging, turned the corner and saw the finish line. I could feel the tears coming, we were going to cross that finish line. We’d done it. Kath had got us round. Together we were doing the impossible. We crossed the line holding hands.

Then I stopped my watch and as I did I saw the time. Then the tears came. We had just smashed our marathon personal best by about five minutes. As I now know, Kath kept us within Disney pace for every single mile of the marathon. Her protective bubble kept me safe and her encouragement kept me within pace. It was not pretty, it wasn’t a good marathon, it was messy and it was a very fine line between doing it healthily and risking heat stroke or something. I got away with slight sunburn on my shoulders and heat rash. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t actually have a melt down. I probably went mentally before I started struggling physically but although the doubts were there, they were not the only voices to be heard. There was also a quiet determination, just something refusing to give up and also refusing to be controlled by fear and doubt. I remember saying to Kath that I wasn’t sure how much I could run but that I thought I could walk with some jogs and that that way I could take it in, maybe even enjoy some of it and stay healthy.

Anyway, reflections on it all over the next few days. For now I just feel incredibly proud to have run half marathon and marathon personal bests on back to back days but I am in awe of a Kath who really did all the hard work. All I did was put one foot in front of the other as best as I physically could. Kath did the mental and emotional work to get us both round and the mental and emotional work required for a marathon is, well impossible to explain but we got there, somehow, together and that’s bloody awesome really.

Dopey 2019 Day 3: Half Marathon

Quick ish post about the half today: I am really tired so excuse typos etc and lack of real detail. Things step up a gear on half marathon day at the Walt Disney World marathon weekend. The number of participants about doubles to roughly 20000 people. Everything is just bigger. Anxiety was kicking my butt this morning. I didn’t sleep as well as I had previous nights.

Once sorted we got ourselves downstairs and onto the monorail to Epcot. This time we had a bag packed for after and we were heading to the Race Retreat – a large tent with somewhere to sit, food, loos and changing areas. I was not a happy bunny. Anxiety levels were through the roof and I was struggling to stem the rising panic. I did not want to be there and I didn’t feel like I belonged there. I was also really not looking forward to the crowds. The monorail was quiet though and because our bags we security checked as we got on it, we didn’t have to go through the main security check when we got to the race village. In fact we came into right next to the Race Retreat.

I settled eventually but not completely. We had a multi grain croissant, water and then a banana in the tent, multiple toilet visits and more toilet stops as we walked the half mile or so to the starting corrals. We were in F for this one. We got in there about 5.10am and watched as people were still streaming into the area, the crowds seemed endless. Eventually, after an even screechier version of the national anthem than yesterday, the first wave was off, people were still streaming in. Volunteers started turning people around and directing them to the last corral, including an elite runner who was less than happy. The instruction actually clearly say you must be in your corral by 5am so there’s no excuse.

Then we were off. We ran the first mile or so and then dropped into 2 minutes run and 30 second walk intervals. I didn’t feel too great. Ok but not as confident or strong as I had for the 5 or 10k. Still, mile one came and went as did mile 2. At just after mile two I realised I had settled and was beginning to feel fine. We kept to the intervals throughout except through water stations where we jogged until we had water and then walked to drink it. There were a few section where the course narrowed and the easiest thing to do was just to fall in step with those around so we skipped the walk breaks. Before I really knew it we passed 3 miles and then 4 and went past our hotel and turned left to enter the Magic Kingdom at just after 5 miles. We jogged through the park mostly. Running up towards the castle all lit up is quite stunning.

We had a toilet stop in the park – the toilets are much nicer than the porta potties along the way and the queues move faster. I felt more comfortable after that but the problem with sweaty running pants is that they don’t really pull up again very well and I couldn’t get them to sit right – chafing is a thing people! The rest of the park is a bit of a blur but I remember humming along to the songs being played and smiling lots. We left the park around half way.

The next stretch is quite narrow because they close just one lane of traffic (the other lane is open but I think only for official and emergency vehicles) and I felt like I was losing my rhythm completely. Instead of taking walk breaks I just slowed a little and kept running. A look at Kath confirmed that this was ok. she was responsible for pacing and keeping us sensible and getting us round. She was awesome, constantly talking to me, reassuring and encouraging. Between miles seven and eight there was a sudden call for a medic which and we saw a woman on the ground. she was being helped by others and it looked like a trip and fall rather than her collapsing so we kept going. I freaked out a little bit but managed to settle quickly.I was surprised to still be going as strong as I was at 8miles, and then 9 and then suddenly we only had a parkrun left. The last couple of miles were a little hard but I knew it would get hard at some point so I kept telling myself that this was going to happen and that it was awesome that it was only now happening. With a mile and a half to go I felt strong.

We entered the park and ran the Epcot loop and to the finish last little bit was tough. I was getting tired. I wasn’t pushing the pace or anything like that, I was being sensible but I was at the end of 13.1 miles, I was tired. I crossed the finish line and was a bit overwhelmed. My Garmin suggested we’d actually covered 13.38 miles in 2 hours 46 minutes and 27 seconds. Faster than almost the same distance at Toronto by a smidge over 2 minute sand my Garmin also informed me that I did in fact run 13.1 miles in under 2 hours 45. 2 minutes under apparently. That’s quite a huge personal best there. I’m excited about that. I knew I could go under 2 hours 45!

I was expecting to feel happy and proud to have done the half. I was expecting to not really massively enjoy the actual doing it. I have said before that I like half marathon distance because it is a proper challenge but it doesn’t break me. Well that’s absolutely still true but now I can honestly say that I can also enjoy running the distance. I had fun out there. I enjoyed seeing the characters out on course (again no photo stops, that’s just not me), soaking up the atmosphere and hearing the music. I should also say thank you to all the really enthusiastic staff and volunteers cheering us on and particularly to whoever was driving monorail red this morning – turns out the monorail horn makes a very encouraging noise!

The rest of the day has been about eating and sleeping. Tomorrow is simply Mind over matter. The is a weather advisory in place for warm and humid but we’re prepared, we can do this!

Dopey 2019 Day 2: 10K

Oh my goodness this morning’s run was just beyond brilliant. It was just perfect but I am getting ahead of myself. After 5k day we were tired and I turned my light out and fell straight asleep at about 8.30pm. I slept well until 1am ish. Then I dozed and eventually got up and made coffee at about 2.20. I felt a bit crappy. I felt like maybe I had a cold starting and my tummy was a bit off. I also felt incredibly nervous. I don’t know why but the idea of 10k day was really freaking me out. I was terrified and my body was physically reacting to that.

I suppose the anxiety is partly why we get everything sorted the evening before, I didn’t have to think, all my things were laid out for me so I just went through the motions and got dressed, had my banana, went to the loo about fifty million times, put my trainers on, pinned my race bib on, went to the loo again and then set off for the bus from our hotel to the start line. Again we were on one of the first buses leaving at half past three. Being on the bus didn’t much settle nerves.

We were better prepared for the cold this time and had bin liners to keep the wind off and space blankets we got yesterday after the run to wrap round us too – the reflection seems to have created a rather spooky selfie effect!. Once in the start area we found somewhere to sit and then took turns going to the loo again. We wrapped up and huddled up and stayed much warmer than yesterday. It probably helped that it was a good few degrees warmer anyway. Once the corrals opened we walked to ours -D this time- and found a spot to sit. It was lovely and warm out of the breeze and being sheltered by 100s of legs belonging to other participants around us. The hosts did their thing on stage, we got a rather screechy version of the National Anthem and then we soon started moving.

Somewhere I had found calm. I’m not quite sure when. Before moving to the corrals I had had the urge to lock myself in a toilet and not come out again. My tummy was still all fluttery and I felt a bit panicked by the idea of putting one foot in front of the other. By the time we started moving slowly towards the start line I was calm and just focused on getting it done, not looking forward to it exactly but wanting to get it done. I ditched the bin bag and then the space blanket and then we were off.

As I started running something happened. I’m not sure what exactly but with every one of those first few steps my mood lifted, I felt better, stronger, more settled and calmer than I had all morning. It took me a while to be conscious of how I felt but when it clicked it hit me: I belong here, I can do this and I’m happy. I started smiling.

The 10k route is really all about pretty standard and potentially dull road running for the first half. You leave the Epcot parking lot and loop around the road. Mary Poppins was providing encouraging snippets from high up on a bridge – it’s nice to be told you’re practically perfect in every way as you run along so I blew her a kiss. We saw Chip and Dale, the evil queen from Snow White in witch form, and Wreck it Ralph. We didn’t stop but seeing them as we went past broke up the road stretch. Before I could really register that I’d been running a while we got to the mile 3 marker. I asked Kath if that could be right. I still felt incredibly strong and this was all feeling a bit easy.

Shortly after we entered an Epcot backlot to the end of Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and the the park itself just at the side of ‘Mexico’. As we approached something really odd happened. Kath told me to slow down. She was reigning me in. I’d got excited and had sped up. We still have a half and a full marathon to go so we needed to take this one easy. I hadn’t even planned on running it all, I’d planned on some walk intervals. Running felt amazing though, I didn’t want to walk. The World Showcase was again spectacular. The light was a little different today because we were that little bit later. I really tried to soak it all up. We turned left after ‘France’ again to leave Epcot but this time kept going and did a loop around the Boardwalk area which is an area we have not really explored at all but it looks really pretty all lit up. The best cheering definitely came from ‘Canada’ although ‘Norway’ had a lovely encouraging rhythmic clap and chant going.

We came back into Epcot through the same backlot as yesterday and into ‘the UK’ and from there we made our way into Future World, alongside the ‘golf ball’ and out into the car park and to the finish line. I’d got faster and Kath kept telling me to not push but that if I wasn’t pushing and if I was still running easy I was fine to go on. I wasn’t pushing, I was just running. I have never felt this strong or happy at the end of a 10k. I usually have a moment somewhere where it gets hard or I wonder about a walk break or whether to just slow down and those are the good runs! I didn’t think about running at all really. I didn’t look at my watch so I had no idea about pace. I knew I felt good and I knew I wasn’t pushing. I was just running, happily running. It came as a bit of a surprise that this is possible for me. I always enjoy having run and I occasionally enjoy running a short distance or little bits of longer distances. Today I genuinely enjoyed every step of the 6.3 miles I actually covered. When we were done I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. I hadn’t expected this.

I really like the medal, the red is really vibrant. We picked up our water, space blanket, banana, snack box and headed for the bus stop where we got on a bus immediately. On he journey back to the hotel I tried to let it all sink in but my brain couldn’t quite grasp what just happened. I was really happy and a bit confused all in one. Back at the room we had a Tailwind Rebuild recovery drink, got changed and then headed into the Magic Kingdom for our breakfast date with Winnie the Pooh and friends. After breakfast we had a little walk in the park and then we came back to the hotel and had a nap. I’m coming up on 25000 steps including the 10k and we’re heading back into the park for dinner in a little while. Again that’s still a pretty low step count for Disney and I feel ok so I think we’re getting our half marathon prep right. I’m excited about tomorrow. A little anxious because I know this is going to be a lot harder but mostly excited.

2 down, 2 to go; or in distance a fifth of the way there!

Dopey 2019: 5k day

Today is 5k day. The first of 4 running days making up the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend and the Dopey Challenge. That thing we’ve been training for, that thing I really wanted to do again for some unknown reason, well that thing starts here.

Before we fell into bed after Expo day we got sorted. I woke up at 1am again but dozed off for the alarm to wake me at 2.30. We are still pretty much on UK time so it really didn’t feel that bad. We had a drink in bed and a bagel we’d picked up yesterday. They were dry though so not that nice. Normally I wouldn’t eat anything before a 5k but as we had to be there such a long time before actually running I didn’t want to be really hungry by the time I set off. We got on the first coach at 3.30 and tried to find our inner zen. It was cold! I had planned on long sleeves anyway but I was so glad I decided to wear the official 5k t-shirt over the top. I was still cold.

From the coach parking area we walked a short distance to the security, we didn’t have bags so walked pretty much straight in. I remember last time we did Dopey I was completely overwhelmed on half marathon day because I’d presumed the crowds would be the same as for the 5 and 10k races so I must remember that things will step up significantly on Saturday. Anyway, in the waiting area they had characters for pictures but the lines were really long and we didn’t want to stand in a queue for half an hour minimum. We went to the loo. Event organisers take note – no queues! There were sooooo many loos. We found a bench and huddled together trying to keep warm and watched people and listened to the DJ until it was time to move on to the corrals. There were only 3 for this race and we were in B. It was actually nice to be in a crowd, it made it quite a lot warmer.

We went through about 4.30am and waited and waited some more. The hosts, presenters, whatever you call them did a pretty good job of entertaining us. Just before 5.30 there was the usual National Anthem and then we were off. Once we started moving from the corral it seemed to just move along ok. It probably took us just over 20 minutes to cross the line. They released little mini waves from within each corral at two minute intervals. So, I thought as I came to the line, this is it, Dopey her we go.

The run was amazing. The first couple of hundred metres were a bit stop/start and very slow because people were still clustered together and many were walking but it soon thinned out and people found their pace. I settled in. I had no idea how fast I was running at all. I didn’t care. I felt good and the pace felt comfortable. We made our way out of the Epcot parking lot and into the backlot entrance and then into the park. There is something truly magical about seeing Epcot in the pre-dawn darkness. I was in danger of being overwhelmed again but instead I realised I was grinning like the Cheshire Cat. We ran a chunk of the world Showcase and turned left after France and round a little backlot and came out in the UK. I don’t even remember now what the music was but I was humming along as I ran.

There were quite a few characters on the route but I didn’t want to stop, I was having too much fun running and soaking it all up. We turned towards Future World and the ‘golf ball’ looked spectacular as we did a loop away from it before returning and exiting the park into the parking lot and across the finish line. I know I loved the 5k last time too but this was even better. It was easy running, I was just having fun, running confidently and comfortably, not worrying about pace or anything. It was the perfect start.

We picked up our medals. I love the Oswald medal. Obviously I haven’t seen the others properly yet but I think this one might actually be my favourite. Again, race organisers take note, there was lots of space, there were lots of volunteer to first give you the medal, then water and Powerade, then space blankets, then snack boxes and bananas. Once we’d got all that we headed for the buses and encountered a rare Disney logistics fail. The buses could not depart until all runner’s had started and cleared the parking lot section of the race. This seemed idiotic. We waited longer for a bus than it had taken us to run. We had thought about going straight to the animal kingdom which opened at 8am this morning but there was no way of doing that. Given that we had to go to a Resort first we thought we might as well dump our stuff and get changed.

We had a lovely morning in the Animal Kingdom and then came back to the hotel. We’re both really tired and are trying to stay off our feet. Today’s a 21000 step day, that’s very light for a Disney theme park day. Apart from being cold pretty much all day, today has been a great day with lots of fun and smiles. Anxiety levels crept up a little as I got more tired later in the day and I had a few really self-conscious moments today too but overall another really good day. I’m about ready for sleep (it’s about 8pm) and ready for another 2.30am alarm. 10k tomorrow. We are all set. I’m excited about it and a little nervous but really only a little.

Dopey 2019: Arrival and Expo Day

Well Dopey 2019 is underway. It’s 5k day. I meant to blog last night to tell you about travel and expo etc but I was too tired! So today you’ll get two posts. Let’s start with getting here. We actually set off on Monday afternoon and drove to Manchester airport. We’d booked an airport hotel just in case the weather was going to be bad. As it turned out we didn’t really need it but it was still nice to get our Disney World adventure started. We had an early dinner in the hotel, watched TV for a while and then got an early night.

In the morning we had a cuppa in bed and an apple, showered and wandered down to check out of the hotel and into our flight. Everything went smoothly and even security was pretty fast- unusual for Manchester. Then we sat in the lounge and had breakfast. Eventually it was time to board and we got settled in. Then we sat on the tarmac for ages because there was in issue with one of the luggage containers. We finally took off an hour later than we were scheduled to. Otherwise the flight was fine. We watched Deadpool 2 and a little while later we watched Christopher Robin. Then I listened to music for a bit but eventually got bored and we watched Solo. Then there was just an hour to go. Just after we landed we saw a heron as we were taxiing to the terminal building. Herons are my good omen birds, they are majestic. This trip is going to be fabulous! Immigration was fast but luggage took ages to come and then there was a little wait for the Magic Express to take us to the Contemporary Resort. We were also the last drop off. So by the time we got here it was 6.30pm or 11.30 pm at home- way past our bed time.

Tired as we were, we still had a little walk over to the Magic Kingdom. How could we not. I was excited to see the Christmas decorations still up. I had expected them to be gone. We walked up Main Street USA to the castle and back through the shops. It’s funny how a place can be so so far from home and yet so utterly familiar. I always find it overwhelming. I don’t understand why I like it, I shouldn’t. This icon of corporate America should not work on me. But it does. It makes me happy in a way that is impossible to describe. It makes the Magic of life tangible, it makes dreams come true and it makes me cry happy tears every time. This time was no different.

Then I unpacked, we had a bit of food and then we crashed into bed and I was out like a light. I woke at 1am and didn’t think I’d get back to sleep but then it was suddenly 3.30 and after dozing a little while we decided there was not point pretending that we weren’t wide awake. I made coffee and we sat in bed talking, reading and catching up on social media etc. I suddenly felt a bit anxious about the Expo, a bit daunted by what was to come but also excited. I finished unpacking and we began to sort what we would need for the day. At 6am we went downstairs to the Contempo Cafe where Kath got a snack of 2 boiled eggs (I took a porridge bar with me) and we filled our Resort mugs with hot drinks and had a mini breakfast watching the world go by. After that we walked the Contemporary Resort running track, saw another heron and got ready for a proper breakfast at Chef Mickey’s shortly before 8am. After filling our tummies and saying hi to Mickey and friends (again, why do I have fun here? It’s utterly ridiculous) we headed for the bus to take us to the Expo at ESPN Wide World of sports.

There are always horror stories about long queues and merchandise being sold out etc but that is just not our experience. If you want to learn how to do a huge event, ask these guys. As we got off the coach we could already hear an announcer giving out info about where to find various aspects of the Expo. Signs were everywhere and clear so we quickly found the arena in which to pick up our bib pick up area and didn’t need to queue to get ours. Kath nearly ended up with the wrong half and full marathon one though, luckily she checked just as we were walking away. You have to have your picture taken with one bib to avoid cheating so they can check that you really are running all 4 races I suppose. Then we picked up our shirts, all 6 of them. Again it was clear where we needed to go and it wasn’t far for us Dopeys. In fact ours was in the same area, I think all others had to go to a different building. Somehow though even these simple directions appear to be rocket science for some. We kept tripping over lost looking people who needed to be pointed in the right direction by volunteers. We tried our shirts on while we waited in line for a Dopey picture. The sizing is odd. None of the shirts are the same size and the 5k t-shirt is way bigger than the long sleeved Tees for the others but of course they only swap them in batches. I was happy to keep mine but the men’s small was too big on Kath and there was no extra small available so she swapped for a woman’s cut.

Once sorted we headed to the exhibitors bit, walked through, looked at a couple of things but didn’t see any good gloves, no soft bottles at all and race number magnets that were really expensive. So we didn’t spend anything there but I was impressed with the space again. It was busy but the booths had all been given space and the paths between exhibitor stands were wide enough to accommodate people. Impressive!

Next we left the second arena and entered another – this one to pick up our pre-order commemorative things, check in for race retreat and look at runDisney merchandise. This was a bit frustrating because nobody could tell us where we could check in for race retreat but once checked in we would get priority access to the merchandise area. Eventually someone let us in and pointed us vaguely in the right direction. This was the closest we came to a sense of humour failure but we were soon back laughing at people getting all stressed about getting absolutely all merchandise for their race distance. We looked at the runDinsey stuff. In the end we each bought a vest and I bought a jacket. There were some nice t-shirts too and mugs and wine glasses and all sorts of stuff but I really do not need more stuff. We found the pre-order pick up, got our things – silly things that will hopefully make us laugh as well as remember our achievements in the future- and then finally found someone who could point us to the race retreat check in. We got that sorted and then headed back to the bus.

I had honestly expected it to be much more frustrating and for it to take longer. On the bus back I reflected on the task ahead. I’m not sure my brain has registered exactly what it is we are doing this week. I was getting excited but I was also not really allowing myself to think about the marathon. We will see how this mental game plays out. Once we dumped our things we decided to have lunch at the Wave in our hotel, one of my favourite Disney restaurants and one of the few you can get a table without booking in advance. We didn’t want to risk getting grumpy because we were hungry. After amazing crab cakes and a beef and onion roll we were ready for some theme park adventures and headed to Epcot. We stayed in Future World leaving the World Showcase for another day. Some of my favourite rides/attractions are here, Figment, Soarin’ and the manatees in the big aquarium. Then we had dinner in the Coral Reef restaurant and had an amazing table right by the fish tank. We weren’t far off falling asleep in our non alcoholic cocktails though!

We were in bed by 8pm ready for Dopey Day 1. 20000 steps for a Disney Day was taking it very easy indeed and it was lovely to do some of our favourite things without any pressure to do everything because we have a full week after Dopey to enjoy the parks. I even got to sit in the warm sun for bit while Kath did Mission Space. It was a really good day and even with the crowds my anxiety levels stayed low. I was excited to get Dopey started!