So I have arrived home from our big adventure at Walt Disney World for the RunDisney Wine and Dine Half Marathon. As I sit here drinking my coffee I’m trying to decide where I should begin.

I could tell you all about our first day at Epcot. I could tell you all about the Health and Fitness Expo. But I can do that later in another blog. For today let’s begin at an obvious place, the start line.

My alarm went off at 6:30pm so I could be ready for the race before we had to catch the bus to the corrals at 7:15 pm. The start time was 10:00 pm but we had to be in our corral early. It wasn’t the only time my alarm had gone off that day. It went off at some horrific hour earlier that morning when several of us had gotten up to do the Mickey Jingle Jungle 5k.

I should have been tired but adrenalin will take you a long way. Amy her friend Stacie and I stood in the K corral as the fireworks went off to send the first corral off. A mixture of emotions ran through me; in fact, I could probably go through the alphabet and find a different emotion for each letter in it.

Amy and I both had faced a lot of challenges leading into this experience. We’d both had injuries or illnesses that threw us off our training schedule. But we’d gotten back on track, we had a plan to deal with Amy’s knee injury, and we were ready. But every Disney story has a Villain and ours was no different. Mother Nature had decided we needed one more obstacle to really test our determination to complete our goal. She sent us the rain and while it wasn’t a torrential downpour it was steady enough that we knew we were going to be soaking wet for 13.1 miles.

Standing in the corral eating the pre-race high protein snacks that our sponsors Kay’s Naturals and Celebrate Vitamins had supplied Amy and I decided that running in a poncho wasn’t going to be ideal and so as our 10:36 start time hit and our corral was sent off, we threw the ponchos to the side.

Pandora Lesson #1 – When running an event in the winter make sure the team shirts are made of a water wicking material and not cotton.

As we rounded the first corner past the ESPN World of Sports sign we began with Amy’s chosen one minute on one minute off intervals. In a sea of 14,000 runners I realized quickly that three of us running side by side wasn’t going to be easy so instead I figured I could save Amy a little time by making sure that when she was ready for her running intervals I was just far enough ahead that I could clear a space for her to run between those that were walking or jogging slower than she was.

At the mile one I started running just a little bit ahead to grab a picture of the mile marker and wait for Amy so I could grab a shot of her. This was an awesome plan until mile three hit and my phone had already gotten so wet that it started acting up and needed a restart.

Determined to get pictures of those mile makers I spent a little too much time meddling with my phone and lost track of where Amy and Stacie were. Thinking they must have not passed me just yet I stood there watching the crowd go by and after a few minutes unsure of whether they were in front of me or behind me I took off. I tried to call Amy to see where she was but her phone had already suffered from the weather conditions and though she could accept the call, she couldn’t talk or hear what I was saying.

When I hit the mile 4 marker and still couldn’t find Amy I cursed myself for those pictures and made a mental note that one should always stay with their running partner even if it means missing one of the mile marker pictures. I stood there for a few minutes watching the crowed roll by and trying to find Amy and finally decided it was time to move on.

I finally ran into Amy and Stacie just before mile marker 5 and when I got there, the look on Amy’s face told me how much she was struggling already. The clock had just struck midnight and we were a little past mile 5 averaging and according to my Nike+ Sports watch we were averaging a 15:04.

Pandora Lesson #2 – Never trust what someone without a stop watch tells you.

Doing the math really quick and knowing there was a corral after us and that they were spaced about 5 minutes apart I figured we were roughly 10 minutes ahead of the pace keepers but I ran off to the side to ask one of the cast members at the event how far back the pacers were and was told we were doing fine and were about twenty minutes in front of the balloons.

I figured they must have started the corral behind us a little bit later because they were larger corrals and ran back to relayed that information to Amy. It seemed to calm her down a bit and allowed her to take a breath and try to get her head back into a good emotional head-space despite the pain she was running through.

We had slowed down a little as we hit the mile 6 marker and grabbed a quick selfie. But we were pretty confident that we were ahead of the game. I got concerned when I heard someone else say that they had seen the balloon folks just a few minutes back and ran ahead to once again ask one of the cast members how we were doing. Suddenly I was informed that we were about six or seven minutes in front of the pacers.

I’m not sure if it was the fear of getting swept, the sense of accomplishment at knowing we were half way there or Amy’s first second wind that kicked in, but we hit the mile 7 marker at about 12:35 pm and I realized that we had gained some time and were averaging about a 14:30 mile.

That should have placed us, as I first thought about 10 minutes ahead of the pacers. But speeding up was taking a toll on Amy’s knee fast and I started to get concerned as I saw her hit what I call the “runners wall” from mile 7 to mile 8.

When Amy let me know that she couldn’t keep up the pace we were going at and that she was going to need to walk more I got a little worried. When we hit the mile 8 maker eighteen minutes later I looked back and saw the balloons behind us and ran off to the side to check in with a cast member again. The balloons were about a minute behind us.

Checking in with Amy and Stacie we trudged along discussing the plan.  We agreed that it was very likely Amy was going to get swept and it was very important to Amy that we didn’t get swept with her. So at mile 8.5 with the balloons at our back we agreed that Stacie and I should run ahead and that Amy would try to get to mile 10 so that those 10 miles combined with the 3.1 she ran in the 5K earlier that morning would have her completing the distance  she had set out to do.


Pandora Lesson #3 – Buy a water proof cell phone case for running in wet weather conditions!

Stacie and I ran ahead and once we got to the point that we were running through Walt Disney World Hollywood Studios together things started to get a little bit easier. Our Villain; Mother Nature, had stolen a lot of the evenings sideline entertainment from us with the rain and honestly those runs through the streets of Orlando with long stretches of nothing to see but other runners putting their feet to pavement was hard.

My phone was now so water-logged that all of my pictures were coming out blurry and with crazy kaleidoscope water marks all over them. Then my blue tooth headphones ran out of battery power and I had to take a couple of minutes rummaging through my utility belt to find my corded headphones because this Slender Seeker just can’t run without music

When Stacie and I hit that 15K split about thirteen minutes after the 8 mile marker I knew we were going to be safe and that we had gained a bit of time. But two of us navigating our way through the back-end traffic was a battle and Stacie suggested I break off. Confident she would make it to the finish line I took off to try to get far enough ahead that I could see all of my team cross the finish line.

I was running as fast as I could, but trying to run from the back of the line through the walkers was a struggle and the irritation they had with runners trying to pass them was a bit deflating. I felt like I had suddenly become the villain in their story as I called out “On your left,” more times than I could count.

I hit the mile 10 marker about thirteen minutes after we had passed the mile 9 one and about twelve minutes later I was grabbing a shot of the mile 11 marker.

Usually mile 11 to 12 is where I struggle. That runner wall kicks in and I have to keep telling myself I’m almost there. But there was no mile 11 wall for me. All I wanted was to get to the finish line and meet the rest of #TeamSlenderSeekers. Then my phone stopped responding to touch. I could take a picture with the button on the side but nothing else was working.

I was shockingly able to maintain that twelve-minute per mile pace right through until the very end and came across the finish line with an overall time of 03:21:49 and an overall pace time of 15:24.

Surprisingly crossing the finish line was anticlimactic. I heard them call my name out as I came through which was new, they hadn’t done that at the Tinker Bell half marathon back in January. I was quickly handed a medal, a RunDisney snack box and the cool Run Disney astronaut blanket. When I asked about the Coast to Coast medal I was ushered into a small undecorated tent where they handed me my  medal and stopped me to take a picture with no special back drop or anything. I was disappointed.

I guess I expected more out of an eleven month-long journey. Soaking wet, freezing in the cold at nearly 2:00 am and with my feet squishing in my socks and shoes I posed for a picture at the finisher line area and tried to find Heather who was waiting for us all at the finish line as part of our cheer team.

Pandora Lesson #4 – Have a planned meeting point for after the event in case of communication errors.

My waterlogged phone gave out on me and wouldn’t let me do anything. The screen was flashing and blinking and I had to ask a fellow runner to text Heather for me and tell her I was standing just outside where you took the finishers photo.

Tammy who I had seen and passed somewhere between mile 10 – 11 crossed the finish line just about 10 minutes later with an overall time of 3:42:04 and found Heather and I.  We stood there watching for Stacie and wondering where they had dropped off Amy. Stacie crossed the finish line about 7 minutes after Tammy with an overall time of 3:39:05 and much to our surprise Amy had gathered a little bit of extra wind and she was able to finish the event and cross the finish line with an overall time of 3:51:59.

Unfortunately with all of our water-logged phones it was hard to communicate after the race and the one text that we managed to get through to Stacie telling her the name of the food truck we were standing next to in the finishers area lead her and Amy to think that we had left and headed over to the after party at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival and left us a little handicapped in getting photos and congratulatory hugs at the finish line.

Every member of Team Slender Seekers crossed the finish line despite some amazing obstacles that were put in our way. But overcoming obstacles is an integral part of a weight loss journey and we’ve all learned that, after all we were there celebrating an amazing overall combined total of 499 pounds of weight loss together.

Now it was time for us to all get some sleep so that we could spend the next day letting all our run gear dry out while we celebrated our successful Walt Disney World Wine and Dine Half Marathon Adventure.


Pandora Williams author of Desperately Seeking Slender is a  Cooper Approved Wellness Coach Trained in Weight Management Strategies and Motivational Speaker studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer.

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