Thursday, January 26, 2012

Walt Disney World Marathon Recap

So over two weeks ago I ran a marathon and am just now getting around to writing about it.
Good thing I am not in journalism, timely reporting happening right here :)

Grab a drink or a snack, this is a long one... 
Sunday January 8th started with a super early wake up call... 2:15am, followed by the alarm set on my phone for 2:30am.  I am always afraid of over sleeping.
Luckily, I was pretty much wide awake and really excited to get the day started!  Even though I was worried about calf cramping, or something else bothering me during the race, I was excited.  To avoid too many nerves, I was really just focused on the fact that I would be running through the 4 Disney parks and wanted my experience to be FUN.
my new 'H' bag all packed and ready to go!
I met up with my cousin and uncle in the lobby of the hotel at 3:30am.  I am pretty sure I was a little too perky for my cousin :)
We were staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and they had set out a runner's buffet both mornings for half marathoners and marathoners. So nice.
Anytime I get something for free at Disney World I am very, very excited.
The bus to the race start was right out front, so we got on and off we went.  Easy as can be.

Start Area: We got to the start area by 4am... plenty of time.  The start area for the race was the parking lot outside of Epcot.  It is the exact same set-up as the Princess Half Marathon... music/DJ, character pictures, merchandise, they also had a snack bar and some Orlando food trucks there as well.  All very easy to get around and super organized.    
We had our breakfast, visited the porta potties and took a picture, before checking our bags and heading on the trek out to the corrals.  
The walkway to the corrals opened at 4:20am.  We headed out at 4:50 and it took 30 minutes to get out there.  The race started at 5:35, so I think we timed it perfectly!
Definitely get to Disney races in plenty of time.  Don't stress yourself out but cutting it too close.  Is waiting for a race to start super annoying?  Totally, but there is entertainment in the start area as well as at the corrals, it does help the time go by. 

Corrals:  There were 8 corrals in all, A-H.  Each corral was clearly marked with huge signs, loved it!   I was in E and Amanda and Uncle Ken were in C.  The corral area was nice and big, so you did not feel crowded in. 

Race Goal:  Finish. 

Race Start:  Mickey, Donald & Goofy were brought up on stage to give some encouraging words to the runners.  I am sorry but their voices are so funny/cute, I was totally laughing at them the whole time :)
from runDisney's Facebook page

Mickey counted down and the race started on time at 5:35am.  I was off at 5:51. 

The weather that morning was PERFECT!  It was a little chilly actually and I kept my fleece on instead of checking it.  I knew I would see my parents at mile 2.5 so I figured I could hand it off then.  There really could not have been better weather conditions.

Miles 1 to 5:  Plan for the day was to do the 2/1 run/walk ratio.  I started that right away and it worked out really well.  
The were a lot of runners, but I did not think the course was overly crowded.  We were running on the road outside of Epcot and there was a surprising amount of spectators cheering on the runners as we started.  There was also a school band within that first mile.  
I reached the Mile 1 marker and had to pull over to go to the bathroom... annoying, but since I knew I wouldn't win ;) (the leaders passed us on the right hand side of the highway, they were at mile 5 while I was at mile 1) the bathroom stop was fine.
As we were entering the Epcot parking lot around mile 1.5, I took off my fleece and held onto until I saw my parents who were at the monorail station with my friend Annette, aunt Renee and cousin Laura.  I am glad my mom had a sign I could easily spot (blue one... since I made it).
Annette was my personal photographer for the first half of the race and at the finish line.  It was awesome, she got some good shots.  
She was also the official Facebook updater.  I didn't realize she had done this until I was back at the hotel, but I loved it!  Thanks Annette!
I then left them and ran into Epcot and through Future World.  The course took a left into World Showcase.  After running past Mexico (one of the Caballero ducks was out) and Norway, the course headed out of the park between Norway and China (where Mushu was taking pictures).  We ran through the Epcot cast parking lot.  There they had another school band, and a picture op with Brer Fox and Brer Bear.
The course then took us on the same path as we walked out to the corrals on.  We ran past the start line (it was on the other side of the highway and was already being disassembled, no time wasted there!). By mile 5 we were running the overpass and making our way down to World Drive. 

Miles 6 to 13:  Mile 6 had the Three Little Pigs and I thought they were so cute!  At this point, I really liked running down the off ramp onto World Drive, as opposed to running up it for Princess :)
Miles 6 through 13 were my favorite part of the race.  There was a lot of entertainment and I felt great and it was just really easy.  Am I a jerk for thinking running 13 miles is easy? 
On World Drive, there was the hot air balloon and Scrouge McDuck (I think that is who it was).  As we approached the race track, there were race cars and drivers out front.  Running through the Magic Kingdom parking lot, there was a collection of classic cars and a DJ set up.  That was cool.
I love running through the Ticket & Transportation Center because it is always full of spectators and they are cheering loudly!  After passing through there, I saw my parents and Annette again.  This time I stopped and chatted.  They also had GU for me and some endurolyte pills.  It was really, really awesome to not have to carry everything with me. 
After I left them, the course headed up past the Contemporary Resort and into the Magic Kingdom!
Running down Main Street is just awesome.
We then turned right and headed into Tomorrowland.  Stitch was out for pictures, and then it was onto Fantasyland where they had Alice & the Mad Hatter, Tangled & Flynn Ryder and Cinderella, Prince Charming and her ugly stepsisters.
As you can probably tell by now, I didn't stop for character pictures.  I wanted to get pictures with the icons of each park (failed on that), and knew the Princess half marathon would be my "picture" race, but now I regret not at least having my camera with me and not stopping for a couple of pictures.  Oh well.
I did get a picture in front of the castle.
snagged this from the Brightroom website
I have no idea where I thought I was going to fly off too.  What a stupid pose.
After stopping at the castle, I headed into Liberty Square where Princess Tiana was.  Next up was Frontierland where we saw Woody from Toy Story, we ran past Splash Mountain and then out of the park through a backstage area.  There was an Aladdin parade float set up in the backstage area and I think Peter Pan was the character taking pictures in front of the float.
Heading down the road towards the Grand Floridian, there was a DJ, the Reedy Creek fireman, Mickey & Friends were playing golf and I think Winnie the Pooh & Tigger were somewhere along here as well.
I saw my parents and Annette one last time at mile 13.
Looks like I was really giving it my all in the third pic, eh? :)
This time I got another GU, more endurolyte pills and a banana. 
I did realize that thank you. 
I was half way done and having fun!  
 Miles 14 to 18:  I had read that miles 14 to 16 were boring miles on a service road to get over to Animal Kingdom, but I didn't think it was boring at.  These were hard miles for me mentally, but I was not bored.  My right thigh started to bother me, so I stopped at the medical tent for some BioFreeze around mile 15.
Along this part of the course, they had the Villians, they had these two super funny "tourists"/comedians, there was the Pirate ship with Jack Sparrow and one of his pirates.  Pocahontas and John Smith were also out and as we were going into the Animal Kingdom they had a bunch of animals out.  I had read they did this last year and I thought "who cares", but then when I saw the animals I thought they were so cute!
By the time I was at Animal Kingdom the park was already open so there were actual guests at the park and they were kind of just staring at the runners like we were freaks.  
We reached Mile 17 while in Animal Kingdom and as we passed the sign a lady behind me said "We are at a single digit countdown, 9 miles to go".  That made me feel really, really happy! :)
It was also here in AK that I was getting a second wind, so that felt great.
We headed out of the park and into the parking lot.  It was here that I knew I would see my sister and Lily!  
Amanda & Uncle Ken saw Sarah & Lily way before I did!
Sarah also had some supplies for me...  The Stick and Pringles.  I was really happy to have something salty to eat and using The Stick on my right hamstring never felt so good.  My niece even helped me out by massaging my thigh.
If that is not one of the cutest things you could ever hope to see during a marathon I really don't know what is.  I love that little girl so much.  
Sarah, just ignore the fact that her hair is not brushed... my sister HATES when Lily's hair is anything but perfect :)
Lily even helped my sister make me a sign (she put all the stickers on!)
Miles 19 to 23:  The part of the course along Osceola Parkway was rather bland.  There was a band setup and there were also sports announcers near Mile 21, but other than that I can't remember any other entertainment.  I made another stop at a med tent for more BioFreeze and Tylenol, and continued on my way to Hollywood Studios.
Along World Drive they had "Sweet Caroline" playing over and over. 
Once in Hollywood Studios they had the candy table set up, I think it was about Mile 22.  At first I grabbed a mini chocolate bar, but then the thought of actually putting it in my mouth repulsed me, so I gave it back and took some gummy bears.  Those were good.
I don't really remember much else about the studios... I think the Incredibles were there, as was the old man from 'Up'.
Once outside of the Studios I saw my friends, Derek & Celeste.  I had a couple more Pringles if for no other reason than to get rid of the sweet taste I had in mouth from the gummies.  I told them I was ready to get this thing over with.  I mean, I guess after 23 miles it's ok to think that! 

Miles 24 to 26.2:  Mile 24 was just before the Boardwalk/Beach Club area.  I knew there would be a lot of spectators in this area and I was glad there was!  The last couple of miles I was just thinking "Keep moving, don't stop, you're almost there".  
Once in Epcot the course took us around World Showcase one last time.  I was ticking of the countries one by one in my head.  Running back through Future World, we exited out of the park across from Spaceship Earth.  
Mile Marker 26 had the Gospel choir to sing us into the Finish Line.

I waved to my family off to the left hand side and got this thing done!  
Minnie pic is from runDisney's Facebook page

also snagged from Brightroom, but I am actually going to buy this one.
Finish Line Area: I got my Mickey medal!
also snagged this from the Brightroom website

I also got a mylar blanket!  My very first one!  I totally didn't need it, at that point the temps were in the 70s, but I still took it.  I felt cool.
Everything else about the finish line area was easy and organized, so very Disney :)
They had all your typical post race food and drinks.  I wasn't in the mood for food at that point, so I just took a little cliff bar.  They did have diet coke and I popped that bad boy open.  I was totally craving diet coke after my 16 mile training run and was craving it after the marathon.  That does not usually happen, weird.
Collected my bag from the bag check tent, took off my shoes and socks and changed my shirt before meeting up with Annette & my family!
the marathoners!
thanks Annette for coming to watch and taking all those pictures!

Volunteers:  Awesome, plentiful, helpful.  Water and Powerade was always available.
I swear it seemed like medical tents were set up every mile.  They were well staffed and helpful.  They had plenty of Biofreeze, vaseline and tylenol on hand.  They also have water and Powerade at the med tents... just an FYI for future Disney races if you miss a water stop.  The volunteers on the bikes were awesome.  They were visible, vocal, plentiful and definitely looking after the runners.  
Can't say enough good things about all these people.  THANK YOU! 

Spectator Tips: Here is what my family & friends did to see us along the course, in case you ever need spectator tips.
Annette, my parents, aunt and cousin all saw the marathon from 4 different spots.  They started out at the monorail station outside of Epcot (mile 2.5).  Then they took the monorail to the Ticket & Transportation Center and saw us there (mile 9).  They then walked down the road in front of the Polynesian Resort to the corner where the golf course is (mile 13).  I am not 100% sure of the names of the roads, but since I don't want to look it up, I would guess it was the intersection of Floridian Drive and Seven Seas Drive.  After we passed the half way mark, they took the monorail back to Epcot to see us at the finish (mile 26.2!).
Sarah & Lily took the bus from the Animal Kingdom Lodge to the Animal Kingdom park.  The course goes right in front of the main entrance and that is where they were standing.
Derek & Celeste walked from the Boardwalk to the entrance of Hollywood Studios and watched there.  They then took the boat back to the Boardwalk Resort area.

Overall thoughts:   
-Amazing.  Loved it and will likely run this again in the future.  I would also not be opposed to going for Goofy (half marathon on Saturday and marathon on Sunday)... I mean, why not, right?
-Obviously I would recommend this race to anyone.  Runners, walkers, runner/walkers, they are all there. 
-I can tell you that I will not run a marathon again until I know I can train for it right.  I was definitely under prepared for this because of a crazy busy fall, but when I have to choose between living life and training rigorously for a race, I will always pick living life. 
I didn't put forth my hardest effort, and I would like to run a marathon where I do.  My main focus here was to have fun and not get hurt and I accomplished both so I am very happy with that.
-I did not have any calf cramping at all!  I was so very happy about this!  Before the race started I was just hoping to make it to mile 20 with little to no pain, but they never came.  I don't know if it was because of the endurolyte pills I took, but something went my way.
-I took GU at miles 4.5, 9, 13, 19.  I planned on taking a 5th, but just couldn't stomach the sweetness anymore.  The gummies at mile 22 was just fine.
-I ran the 26.2 miles with no music and was fine with it.  I had given my sister my ipod, so if I needed it I knew I could grab it from her at mile17/18.
-The Galloway run/walk/run method definitely has some good points (quick recovery from long runs), but I think I will go back to my usual running with walk breaks through the water stops.  
I think I used the walk breaks too much as a crutch and really didn't push myself at all.
-What all did I give to my friends and family to keep for me along the course?  They all had GU, endurolyte pills, vaseline, BenGay and moleskin.  I also gave my mom a banana and I gave Sarah and Derek & Celeste swedish fish and Pringles.  Sarah also had The Stick and my ipod.  All of these things were definitely above and beyond what I even needed but it was nice to know it was there.
It was also really nice to not have to carry these things with me and to have course support the entire time!  Thanks so much everyone, you definitely made the miles fly by!
I had never had anyone cheering me on before because usually everyone is running the race.  It was really fun to have "fans"!

Once we got back to the hotel, I took a quick soak in a cold tub, before showering and heading to lunch with everyone.  My sister had got us a cake and we all had a champagne toast! Good times!
Thanks Sarah for the cake!
Thanks to everyone else for your well wishes, everything was so motivating!

Only about 450,000 Americans finish marathons in a year.  That is a pretty small number and I am definitely proud of myself for being one of them :)


  1. I love love love this do much. I'm doing Goofy next year, cannot wait!!!

  2. Thanks, auto-correct. Obviously I love this So much.

  3. Congrats on your first marathon and what a fun one to start with looks like you had a blast!! That cake is soooo cute!

  4. My goose bumps won't go away!! That report was so awesome. I always love your reports, and this one is Great! Congratulations to you. That is such a huge achievement. And I vote for you to do Goofy next year - all the cool kids are doing it! ;)

    Like you I was worried about that stretch on Bear Island Road before getting into DAK. Ha - that went by so fast and I really liked it! I only did the 2nd half of the relay, but I really loved the part of the course I ran! Disney knows what they are doing!

  5. Congratulations! I loved reading your recap. I felt like I was with you the whole time!

  6. Congrats again Heather! You rocked your first marathon. I wish I had been in as good a shape as you were after my first! Looking forward to a possible 2nd at some point in the future. :) Oh, and you know I'm in for Goofy.

    PS - I got a good laugh out of how you though you were too cheerful for me at 3:30am. :)

  7. Im so excited for my first disney world marathon...2013