In the middle of 2014, I started looking into the possibility of heading to Florida for the Disney World Marathon. I am originally from Florida and my parents still both live there. I remember growing up and going to Disney all the time and even to this day I am a huge Disney fan! My mother is a season pass holder for Disney World and told me that she can be a part of a “pre-sale” for any of the events they hold throughout the year. So that helped make my decision, I was going to be running around Disney World!
Race: Disney World Marathon
Location: Kississmee, FL
Finishing Time: 4:52:25
I originally was going to try and get into the Dopey Challenge where you run 4 straight days doing 5k, 10k, Half Marathon, and Full Marathon. However, that sold out before I was even able to get in, so I ended up registering for the Goofy Challenge. Which meant I was going to be doing 39.3 miles over the weekend.
This was the first marathon that I traveled to that Kaela was not able to join me. I decided to bring my GoPro and try to capture my entire trip since my camera (wo)man would not be there. From the expo and spending day at Magic Kingdom, to running both the half and full marathons, I carried my GoPro along and compiled it all into a video (link is at bottom of post).
I flew into Orlando the Thursday before the race. My mom had booked us to stay at Disney Port Orleans resort. It was the first time that I had actually stayed at a Disney resort property and it was fantastic. Friday morning I woke up and went on an easy 3 mile run just to keep legs loose from all the travel the day before. We headed off to the expo which was at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. It was a nice set up, spread across three different buildings. One for packet pickup, another for race merchandise, and larger sponsors, and a third for the typical “running sales” stores have at the expo. After I picked up everything we headed over to Magic Kingdom for me to enjoy some of my favorite rides, Thunder Railroad, Haunted Mansion, and It’s a Small World. My legs started to feel a little bit of fatigue, so we decided to head back to the hotel and relax before grabbing dinner and calling it a night.
Now since this blog is about all the marathons or longer, I’m not going to go into much about the half marathon on Saturday. On thing I will say is that a 5:30am start is no joke! My goal for the half was to keep it under 2:30 as I didn’t want to set a speedy goal knowing that I had a full marathon the very next day. I cruised in comfortably with tons of energy with 2:19:11. I felt that I ran it perfectly in order to make sure I didn’t drain myself for Sundays run. We headed out to get lunch after the race and spend the rest of the day relaxing around the hotel keeping legs fresh. I learned my lesson with the early start and made sure dinner was much earlier and that I got to bed at a decent time. Now with 13.1 miles behind me, this is where the real challenge started!
At 2:30am the alarm went off. I did not feel like I got great sleep like the night before. I roll over and grab the PBJ sandwiches and banana that I had placed on desk to save some time in the morning. I grabbed my laptop and listened to music and browsed through social media as I ate. By 3:30 I was making my way out the door heading to the bus that would take me to starting area. As a special surprise, my mom had purchased the Race Retreat package that provided me warmth and shelter in private tent near the starting line. It also had food, stretching areas, bean bags to nap, pictures with characters, but most importantly bathrooms and changing area. I grabbed some juice and changed clothes before just relaxing for about 45 minutes before making the trek to the corrals.
It was at least a mile walk down a service road to get to the corrals. It wasn’t near as cold as the day before but it was still a little cooler than I was hoping it’d be while running in Florida. The corrals are let out in a “shotgun” start style with a countdown for each. As each countdown hit 0, they would set off loads of fireworks making 5:30am look like noon. Being a few corrals back, I started to tear up just being in the moment. But no time for that, my corral was up. The first few miles rolled by quickly for me as it was nothing new from the day before. The first 7 miles of the marathon are the exact same as the half marathon, so I was able to keep my focus on my stride and how my body was feeling. There were however, a few key highlights that I didn’t mind seeing again. Running through the gates at Magic Kingdom brought back so many memories growing up seeing that giant sign and knowing how amazing that day was going to be.
Around mile 5,we headed on to Main Street in Magic Kingdom. The street was lined with spectators cheering us on, when I know darn well it would have felt a lot better to be asleep. One good thing about being at the parks a lot is knowing where all the park restrooms are located. I started to have some stomach pains and decided that at mile 6 is was a better idea to try to relieve them now rather than pay the price later. Lets just say it was much nice to be in the park bathrooms rather than porta-johns. AND CONTINUING ON (haha)…we went through Tomorrow Land into Fantasy Land before making our way through the castle. Side note from a Disney fan, they had Elsa and Ana from Frozen standing out of Cinderella’s castle. That’s just not cool! We then made our way through Frontier Land before heading out to a back service road.
Spent some time on road passing by resorts, seeing more Disney characters (of course I stopped for pictures) and of course lots of spectators. At just over 8 miles we headed into the Richard Petty speedway to a loop on the track. There were a ton of cars ranging from vintage, to expensive sports cars and everything in between set up on the track. It was cool running on the banked turns but then I quickly thought about it and decided it was better not to run on the killer angle and ended up running towards the bottom to more even ground. I ended up chatting with some first time marathoners for the next 13 miles. Their company came at a great time because this was the part of the race that was the least scenic and had the fewest spectators.
After making our way through a few miles of service roads we arrived an Animal Kingdom. Unlike Magic Kingdom, this park was not yet open so the only people in the park were employees and man were they going crazy. It was short lived though as before I knew it, we were back on main road heading to ESPN Wide World of Sports. On the way, the sun decided to come from behind the clouds and the temperatures started to heat up. It was only around mile 14 so I started to get a little worried that the temps would play a role in the remaining miles.
There wasn’t much on the course between 14-17 as since was a main road there was no where for spectators to stop and park to cheer us on. This was probably my lowest point in the race from the heat and the lack of crowd support. Around mile 17 that changed with lots of energy and excitement heading into Wide World of Sports. Entering the area they were handing out cold towels and it couldn’t come at a better time. Used one to wipe my face and the other to leave on my neck for the next few miles. We went around some of the practice fields, took a lap around the track and then entered the baseball stadium that is used for the Atlanta Braves spring training. We got to take a lap around the entire field with people lining the stands cheering us on.
Leaving the baseball field, we headed back around to the entrance retracing our steps. Around the 22 mile marker I had this thought in my head of how I felt absolutely amazing at this point in the race as I was passing people that looked the way I usually did at that distance in a marathon. And no sooner than I thought this, it started to rain. Luckily it wasn’t a down pour, yet. We made our way up and down another exit ramp and took the back service road to Hollywood Studios. This is where the rain started coming down. At this point all I could do was hit record on my GoPro and just laugh about it because I was 23 miles in and mostly delirious. We hit a tunnel heading into the park and on the other side it was hot and muggy. Apparently the rain came from that direction and left some nasty feeling weather behind it.
I made my way through the park and out the front gates. We then took the boardwalk trail to go the back way into Epcot. I had never been to this area of the Disney resorts but I will be checking it out the next trip I plan. The only downside with it was that the trail tightened a bit. Spectators were on the running path, that was already too small for runners in some areas, causing a little bit a slow down when trying to pass people that were walking. We maneuvered our way through a couple of the resort areas before entering Epcot.
Now before this part of the race, Epcot was one of my favorite parks. I loved visiting all the different countries and trying different food or activities. But that all changed once I entered Epcot that day. Event though it was just the last 1.5 miles, it felt like I was actually running between these countries. Country by country my legs seemed to get heavier, while the sun seemed to shine brighter. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other, keeping my eye on Spaceship Earth (the Epcot ball) knowing that it was the start of the final stretch.
I stopped just only to take a picture of the “Mile 26” sign before putting a huge smile on my face as a I approached the end. I high fived Pluto, Donald, and finally Mikey, before crossing the finish in 4:52:25. Exhausted but so happy that I had completed 39.3 miles in two days. I hobbled to grab my Marathon medal and also my Goofy challenge medal. I made my way back to the race retreat area that I was at that morning to catch back up with my mom and to get some much needed calories back in my body.
I went into that weekend really just wanting to enjoy some time with my mom and enjoy all that is Disney. As far as races were concerned, I wanted to put up sub 2:30 and sub 5:00 for the races. All of those things were accomplished and there was nothing that could take the smile off of my face.
Thanks for taking time to read this super long post (there was a lot and didn’t want to skimp out). I could not have asked for better weather, better company, better accommodations, or really better anything. It was a weekend that I know I will never be able to forget.
I recommend that you check out my GoPro video on YouTube from the entire weekend, it will definitely help put some of the things I talked about into context.
Next stop, the Kentucky Derby!