“Running is great for your body. It will increase your energy levels and helps you to clear your mind”.
FYI—I selected the 2023 Town of Celebration Half Marathon because I did not want to do the double bridge crossing which is part of the Melbourne Publix Half Marathon again. I used the term diabolical to describe that race and did not want to go through that pain again.
The Town of Celebration race is the week prior, and I scouted this race for over 8 months to see how other runners felt about running in this small little town just south of Walt Disney World.
Well, let me tell you, this is my new favorite half marathon, and I will be running this one again for many years to come.
I had never visited Celebration, Florida and barely heard the town’s name in the past. I think most people just assume anything close to Disney World is part of Orlando. Celebration is in Osceola County, and it has a small town feel because it is a small town: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Celebration,_Florida
Made my way over to Celebration the day prior to the race. I wanted to explore a bit and get a better feel for the town, the race course and the parking situation. There were several emails that identified parking would be limited and for runners to arrive early on race day. Did not know what all that meant but I learned a valuable lesson at the 2022 OUC Half Marathon and wanted to make sure I had time to stretch and warm up.
Packet pickup was conducted at Celebration Lakeside Park and was straightforward. Arrive, get your race packet, gifts, take a few photos and then move on. There was not an EXPO for this event as they wanted runners to get in and out to maximize the limited parking downtown. I was able to explore a bit and get some nice pictures around town. I wanted to continue my carb loading process and Googled Italian restaurants. Did not need Google as Reggiano’s of Celebration was directly across the street from packet pickup. There were other options close by but wanted to experience something unique to Celebration. There were a lot of runners and family walking around town, but Reggiano’s did not have a large crowd yet. Made my way to the bar and posted up to get some great food and atmosphere.
Reggiano’s has a large menu, and they specialize in pizza—multiple varieties available on the menu. Decided to stay with my tried-and-true selection, chicken parmesan with pasta. The portions are huge so take that into account if you visit Reggiano’s. Got my traditional bud light draft, water and extra bed and dug into my meal. Several runners were in the restaurant enjoying the carbs and great food.
Left Reggiano’s and did some window shopping to look for a refrigerator magnet to add to my collection. Had to visit a few stores to get the one I wanted and made my way back to my car to head to the hotel to get off my feet.
Picked a hotel that was less than two miles from the race start line so felt comfortable with getting back downtown prior to the race with plenty of time to warm up. Laid out my race outfit, hydrated a bit more and watch some TV before going to bed early to tackle the 13.1 miles coming the next morning.
My friend, Lauren texted me and asked what my projected time would be the next morning. I felt good with my race preparation and mentally approach so I replied I planned to run 2:08 (two hours and eight minutes). Remember, I had just run 2:15:03 in Vero Beach the weekend prior so I came into the race looking to knock off 7 minutes. The weather in Celebration was a lot cooler than Vero Beach and there were no bridges—the course is completely flat with a few boardwalks to navigate so felt good with my projected time.
Made my way back downtown the next morning and found parking a few blocks away from the starting line. The citizens of Celebration embrace the event and didn’t seem to have problems with a bunch of visitors parking in front of their houses.
I had plenty of time to stretch and warmup and took advantage of it for this race. The temperature was in the low 50s and made for a great way to start the race. I made my way into the start corral and got set in the 9-minute per mile block and waited for the fun to start.
I was able to speak with and catch up with a few runners I knew from the Orlando area and a couple that came over from Fort Pierce as well—it was great seeing some hometown runners over in Celebration.
I felt relaxed, comfortable, and ready to go.
Fast forward and the winding course hit every major point of interest in Celebration. There were not a bunch of spectators out but the ones who came out were great and provided a lot of support to runners. I settled into my pace during the early portions of the race and did not worry about other runners or how fast they started the race. I had the number 2:08 in my head and wanted to see if I could hit it. Fun fact, the race time was not my driving force, but this was the most enjoyable half marathon I have ever run. 2:05 is my best half marathon time set at the OUC Half Marathon back in 2019 so I have been faster and will be again.
My mile splits were:
Mile 1: 9:20/ Mile 2: 9:29 / Mile 3: 9:31 / Mile 4: 9:28 / Mile 5: 9:44 / Mile 6: 9:38 / Mile 7: 9:52 / Mile 8: 10:19 / Mile 9: 10:03 / Mile 10: 9:47 / Mile 11: 10:20 / Mile 12: 10:06 / Mile 13: 10:10 / Mile .1 / 1:32
I slowed a bit at the 8-mile markers as we had to navigate a narrow portion of the boardwalk. It was not conducive to passing other runners and there were multiple twists and turns during this portion. I didn’t fall off a cliff but believe I could have kept running at the 9-minute clips but I’m extremely happy with my pacing and times throughout the race.
I finished the race in 2:09:18 so I was only 18 seconds off the time I shared with Lauren. Not bad, huh? 😊
I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face and felt great with my effort during this race. I was able to call my time, put in the work and see the training pay off with a really good time.
The BEST part of the race is the after party!
Most races provide beer and donuts to runners, but the Town of Celebration throws a party. Every restaurant in town has a booth and each runner gets a food passport to eat their way around town (figuratively). I hit most of the booths with some being a repeat for me—the beer and mimosa stations at 9 am in the morning were very popular. I was not in a rush to leave so soaked in all the town of Celebration had to offer. I decided during the afterparty this would be a race I run every year. I’m ready to sign up for the 2024 race but registration is not open yet. LOL.
I’ve got a few races lined up for the 2023 racing season but I’m sure this will be the highlight race for me. This little town has set the bar extremely high for others.
“Run often. Run long. But never outrun your joy of running”.