I left off having just done the 5K portion of the Neptune’s Challenge. According to my training plan, I was actually supposed to do 7 miles that day, but since I ran the race faster than planned, I opted not to and to “save” it for my half marathon/16 miler the next day. Although Between the trip back and forth to the the start/finish line and hotel and my adventure to the outlets (the Disney store was fortunately for my wallet, closed) I definitely easily got in another 4 miles on my legs, albeit not running. The plan for Sunday was to do the half at a “training” pace so that I could continue and do another 3 miles for a total of 16.
Sunday morning was much cooler than Saturday. My dad walked with me to the start line, and hung out with me until the race started. He was going to walk the boardwalk while I ran and then we would meet up again when the race course came back to the boardwalk.
It was a little different this morning. It was a LOT more crowded (with the AC marathon being a BQ qualifier and 18 miles of it flat and “easy” on the boardwalk, it was definitely popular) and again there were no corrals. There were however pacers. I saw pacers that were obviously for the marathon but not really any for the half marathon (both races start at the same place and like the day before would just have a different turn around). Then I spotted a 2:45 guy. This could still be a marathon pacer, until I saw the back of his sign which read 12:22…that was definitely not a minute mile pace for a 2:45 marathon.
After my DNF (can you tell I’m still obsessed with that?) I was not going to make the same mistakes and run too fast. I decided that the 2:45 pacer would be the way to go. Keep me nice and slow and steady and would keep me motivated to keep going. Before I knew it, I was saying goodbye to my dad and we were off!
We started down the boardwalk and would turn off into the city about .1 mile in. I started conversing with some other people in my pace group and they were awesome! My pacer was as well, but we’ll get to that.
About a mile in, I notice that our pace is 11:28. Again, that’s not fast but it’s a minute faster than the pace we’re supposed to try for. Oh no. Not again. But then, we started walking. Our pacer was going to use the Galloway method! He was using 2:1 intervals. We just ran the first mile so that we would be out of the crowd. Honestly, the Galloway method would work perfectly for making sure I hit my 16 miles!
It turns out my pacer was not only doing NYCM, but he had done Goofy last year and his daughter had done Dopey! I had a Disney pacer! But wait! My running buddy was a Disney person too! We were discussing Disney races, this was going to be great! As we ran further into the city back towards the Borgata, the scenery left something to be desired. There were a lot of highway ramp/hills and it seemed like our walking intervals never coordinated with going up these hills…also this would be when the wind would blow directly into our faces. The first few miles unfortunately went on this way…RUN the big hill, wind in face, and cold. But the conversation was good and honestly we were moving “too fast”. Apparently the pacer will get in trouble if he finished too soon before his pace time so throughout the race he was constantly saying if we wanted to go on we could.
We kept trying to “slow” down, but it wasn’t really working. Around mile 6 we picked up some more people for our group…more DISNEY people to be specific! One girl had done the college work program in WDW and then stayed there another 6 months. An older woman joined and she was a DVC member.
Also around mile 6 is when we got some nicer scenery. We were a couple of blocks from the boarwalk and running through a nice neighborhood that is typical of what you think a neighborhood of beach houses would look like. Also, by this point, with the exception of the ramp to get us back on to the boardwalk, the course was flat.
We get back onto the boardwalk around mile 8 which kinda made me sad since we’d only be running on if for 4 miles (yes, half marathon math is always 4+8 = 13 don’t ask me why). But just like the day before, running on the boardwalk was nice. Again, it wasn’t closed off so there was some tourist dodging but not too bad. And we had to run around the finish line and cross people heading towards it, but again, not too bad.
We were still going “too fast” so the pacer offered to throw in a quick walk break and the water stop. But despite this too fast pace I we were all feeling pretty good and didn’t need to slow down.
*photo from of Ken Shelton Photography
Around mile 10 I saw my dad on the side holding the “Go Kellie” sign my mom had made. Because of the openness of the course, my dad started running with us! He ran with us until the next water stop and then would pick us up on the way back.
Mile 10 is typically where I have my “collapse.” I only have 5K to go therefore I am done running. But that didn’t happen this time. Because I was with these people and I wasn’t going to the rest of this on my own, I kept going. I definitely was starting to feel a lack of energy. My legs weren’t tired. but I was. Does that make sense?
Around mile 11 is when we saw the marathon finisher pass us. It was very comforting to see him dripping in sweat! (They often make it look so easy!)
*photo from of Ken Shelton Photography
By mile 12 our group was splitting up. A couple had sped up. Some had fallen behind. But this guy had gotten me through this race, I wasn’t doing this for time, so dammit, I wasn’t going to leave him! The few of us that were left felt the same.
We were still coming in “too fast” but it was too late to do anything at that point. With the finish line in site and my dad joining us again (still carrying the sign), we ran to the finish!
Me pointing to the sign my dad was carrying. *photo from of Ken Shelton Photography
But wait! I’m not done! I still had 3 more miles to go! I ate my banana and my half of the bagel, gave my Gatorade and my medals to my parents to hold. They would walk back to the hotel while I would keep running. I ran toward the opposite end of the boardwalk and changed my intervals to 4:1. It was hard to get my legs to get moving again for those extra miles. And my pace was SLOW, but 3 miles later, I had done it! 16 miles total and my longest run to date!
I definitely enjoyed my experience with this race! The weather was perfect. I loved running on the boardwalk. They give out full bottle of Gatorade after the race (in EVERY flavor) as well as a variety of foods. Plus they had a little “finishers village” just after the finish line. You got a beer voucher on your bib. I, sadly, didn’t really do anything in the finishers village because I knew if I did I would never do those 3 extra miles.
While the price tag isn’t cheap, my challenge cost was still significantly less than the cost of 1 Disney half. My only complaints are the shirt and medal designs. I understand how much easier it is to be able to give everyone the medal once they crossed the finish line, but the same way they were able to look at our bibs and see those who participated in the challenge and those who didn’t, is the same way they can give a different medal to a marathon finisher and a half marathon finisher. And, similar to the shirts, the only difference there was no difference in design, but the 5K/10K finisher was slightly smaller than the half/full marathoner. It’s not a big deal, but I felt guilt wearing a medal that read marathon finisher on it (it also says half).
Regardless I would definitely recommend this race weekend and if the timing (and free room) works out, count me in for next year!