Race morning started really early. I can't even say bright and early because at 2:15am, there is not a lot bright going on. I woke right up to my first alarm and I was surprisingly refreshed. I am actually kind of shocked I slept but I am so glad.
I quickly got dressed because my goal was to be down at the bus stop by 2:45am. I really wanted to get on the first bus to the race start so I would not be stressed but also so I could take advantage of the Race Retreat.
As I was leaving the building I met another Princess so we walked over together. We were not the first to arrive though (I did get there at 2:47am so I was on track). We all talked and compared who was experienced with race and Disney race specifically We had some runDisney veterans with us so they kind of gave some more ideas of how long it takes to walk to the start and that kind of stuff.
A few minutes before 3am, a lady from Mears arrived and told us the buses had been dispatched and ours would be here soon. We kept watching and finally about 3:05am our bus pulled up. We all got on and off we went. We arrived at Epcot super fast (well it felt super fast). We got off the bus and I realized just how far we still had to go to even get to the staging area. It is hard to really get an idea of how far it was but the white tent in the background was HUGE. We could hear the music playing already and the lights were easy to spot. It was a nice walk and everyone was really friendly. MarathonFoto was the official photographers and they had people as we got off the bus.
Once I got to the staging area my plan was to go right into the Race Retreat to meet up with the 2013 Disney Princess Half Marathon group from Facebook but I saw the Official Merchandise tent and there was almost no one in there so I went in. It was huge and almost seemed bigger than the stop at the Expo. The first thing I noticed was that they still had 3 of the vinyl banners from the Expo. They had two of Tiana and 1 of Jasmine left. I immediately grabbed Jasmine since Abby loves her. It was a complete impulse buy but for $30 I had something that very few people had a chance to buy (don't ask me what I am going to do with it because I have NO IDEA).
I got a text from Jennifer who was already in the Race Retreat and had snagged a prime table. I went and put my stuff down and grabbed some good. I realized then that they had Aurora's fairies out taking pictures. I went to get in line but at that point they were switching out so I decided it was not worth the time. Back at the table a few more girls had joined us and we were handing out the Team Ted stickers. The green flower in my hair and the stickers were in memory of the husband of one of the Princesses from the group. Lily had lost her husband Ted the week before the race in a tragic heart attack. Since she could not be here with us to run, we wanted her to know we were running for her and for Ted.
Now the Race Retreat---This is a perk you can purchase from runDisney for an addition fee. The Race Retreat is a HUGE tent and before the race there is a private bag check and also breakfast. There are also stretching areas and tables. Without this, you are kind of standing around or sitting on the ground. While I did not eat a lot, it was a nice perk to have and I think it was totally worth it.
I had some Powerade, a part of a bagel and a banana. I knew that I could not eat a lot before the race and I did not want to over hydrate because while I had access to private Porta Potties in the Race Retreat, I knew the lines by the start would be HUGE.
There were different areas and tons of TVs around the outside. Some of the areas included a stretching/massage area with mats out, a kids areas piles of crayons and cartoons on the TV and also a changing area and the bag check! There were high topped tables with stools and also normal tables and some areas had bean bag chairs. They had The food was all race friendly: Bagels, peanut butter, fruit, muffins and coffee, tea, water and Powerade.
Before I left Abby had made me a sign to cheer me on since this was the first race she had not been at. I brought it with me to the race to let her know how much it meant to me!
Here is the group before the race start. Surprisingly this is only a fraction of the group because many got stuck in the horrible traffic heading to Epcot (again I am so glad I was on the first bus). Over the 8 months of training our group had grown to over 400 members and while not everyone was always active, it was the most supportive group a new Disney runner could have asked for. One of the wonderful husband's who ran took the pictures for us.
I also had a picture and chicken dance lesson at 4:15am with the Pacebook Running Club that I had joined a few months before (they are lovers of all runDisney events, not just Princess and also support runners in many races). Pacebook's founders also work really closely with Run3rd which is Sean Astin's (from Rudy, the Lord of the Rings, the Goonies) group. As we were taking the PbRC picture we got word that Sean was on his way over to the group!! He came over and gave us an amazing pep talk (he had just run Disney's Tinkerbell Half Marathon the month before) and is a dedicated runner. It was such an awesome way to start the day.
I got to the A Corral before 5am and I still had almost 45 minutes until the start. I have to admit, this was the most boring part. I didn't know anyone around me and I was nervous. About 5:15am they started the fun stories and getting things ready with the crowd.
The National Anthem was sang and the Fairy Godmother prepared to send off the wheelchair racers. One thing Disney does for the races is that each corral gets the same send off of a countdown and fireworks. I was able to tape the wheelchair start but I was too ready to start to record the start of my group.