Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Walt Disney World Marathon 2015

Prepare yourself this is going to be very long with a lot of pictures.

The race entry for The Walt Disney World Marathon was $180 (the half was the same price). I signed up in April as soon as the registration opened as the races generally fill up within a couple of days. I've always wanted to run a Disney race. Since I'm within driving distance I decided to go for it. I think somehow I thought since the half and the full entry were the same price I was somehow getting better value by signing up for the full, ha ha. 

Myself, Martina and two of our friends (one a non-runner) were all traveling to the race. Our friends were leaving later but Martina and I left early at 8am on Friday after dropping Boomer at his vets for boarding. We'd packed loads of stuff. Mostly running gear but also lots of food to minimize costs for our trip. The drive down flew by even though it took about 6.5 hours. I drove a lot of the way, a sure sign my shoulders have been behaving themselves over the last week. 

The expo was on in Disney at the ESPN Wide World of Sports area. Since the half was on Saturday, we went straight to the expo to get Martinas' bib, giving us lots of time to do that and walk around. We were directed to one building to pick up our bibs, and after a whole production of checking IDs etc we got them. 

The next building we got our t-shirts. I really liked that they offered a t-shirt exchange as I tried on my usual medium and even though it wasn't huge on me, the arms were a bit long.
Then we went into the area with all of the extra runDisney merchandise. Martina got a really nice running jacket. Unlike the half gear most of the full marathon merchandise was casual sportswear not really designed for fleece lined jackets. I didn't buy any extra clothes but I did pick up a mug.
The expo had the usual vendors, a fact I relied on to replace my belt water bottles after the old ones got a bit too gross. Overall a decent expo, if you are lucky and get the timing right it isn't too crazy either.

Accommodation and Race Transportation
We stayed in Westgate Towers, in a really nice suite with a full kitchen. This isn't a Disney Resort but it is only a mile from an entrance to Disney and has the advantage of being a lot less expensive.

 It has shuttles to the parks during normal hours and I was really hoping they had a special shuttle for the race but they didn't. That ended up being a non-issue. On Saturday we all got up at 3am to drop Martina to the start area for her half marathon. I was terrified driving and parking would be a nightmare but it was a very smooth operation with no delays.
We dropped her off and then everyone went back to bed for a few hours before heading back out to meet her at the finish. Note on the way in later on we sat in traffic for at least 30 minutes so if you want to see your runner finish give yourself a good cushion.
The next morning for the marathon it was a tiny bit busier but we were also later as I ended up driving in circles to get to the exit Disney recommended to get into the park. This was only one exit from were we were staying but the exit lanes were so long I could never get to it lol.
Eventually I got so sick of driving in circles I disregarded the race day instructions and just followed the signs for Epcot (start area). I think this was ok because we were might not be such a good strategy if arriving later. People staying in the Disney Resorts got shuttled to the start but I'm not sure how much of a wait it was for those. 
I know getting up at 3am seems crazy but the race starts at 5.30am and its a good 20 minute walk to the corrals. Driving or busing it, I would rather lose the extra hour of sleep and avoid lines for parking or buses.

The Start Area
After parking its a five minute or so, depending on your parking spot, walk to a waiting area which you will return to post race. At the start it was nicely set up with tons of port-a-potties and an area giving out water. Then its a 15-20 minutes walk to the corrals. The walk down was fun, everyone was buzzing, and some cheerleaders were there to make us all feel pepped up. 
How far your walk ends up being depends on your corral. I submitted my first marathon time and was placed in J but I was able to drop back to M to start with my friend, as we were in it together for better or worst. A good thing I did too as there was a decent delay between each corral. The first one started at the time all of us in M started it was around 6.20am. 

I knew it was going to be in the high 70s-80s when we were finishing so I wore a vest top. Waiting around in that it was cold (57F). Not nearly as cold as for the half the previous morning but we were still shivering with a big fleece blanket wrapped around us. Giant screens kept us occupied and then as each corral started fireworks were set off. So in all the wait wasn't so bad. 

Miles 1-8
As expected when 10s of thousands of people are running together its a crush. The first mile ticked by fairly quickly and wasn't too crowded. At that point we then caught up with the people who had been in the corral ahead of us. Then it was wall to wall runners and walkers. 
Neither of us knew how far we'd get running. My friend is pretty injury prone and I'm a month out of running a previous marathon with injuries. Even though I feel I recovered well from the Kiawah Island Marathon I wasn't sure how far I'd run either. 
Our plan was to bank time at the start while we could run and it was still cool. Neither of us cared about finishing fast. We wanted to have fun, take pictures and enjoy the experience. However, that meant avoiding the dreaded ballon ladies....fall behind them and you were swept off the course. 16 minute miles seem ridiculously easy but when you want to wait 5-10 minutes to take a picture with a character (multiply by many characters) and might have to walk part of the course dropping below that pace becomes a real possibility.
The first few miles were on generic roads in the dark. We powered though those, mostly running on the grass at the side of the road to avoid people. That suited me perfectly as the grass was flat but the roads were sloped for a lot of this part of the course...something thats sure to set off my ITBs. 

Within these few miles I knew I was good to go. Everything felt great nothing was tight or sore. The pace was slower than my usual race pace so I was happy to run along chatting, I felt like I could have ran all day...and I almost did lol. The first character was Jack Sparrow but since the line was long and I knew my pictures wouldn't be great in the dark we skipped him.

**We did stop a lot for pictures and the lines for the full were shorter than the half, they moved pretty fast as volunteers were there to take your picture with your phone**

Unlike me, my friend knew then it was not a good day for her as her knee started to hurt badly within a few miles. After that I think we stopped at almost every medical tent where they had giant tubs of Biofreeze that was put to good use. I used that time to stretch and drink a little extra water.

At mile 5.5 we entered our first and best park of the day, Magic Kingdom. We got to run down Main Street Disney and through Cinderella's castle.
The crowds in this section of the race were crazy big and loud. We also got hit with blasts of music every so often. I loved every second of this, I was practically skipping along.

We left the park about a mile later and were out on the roads again. 

Around mile 6.5 I took some Shot Bloks, up until that point I took a mix of the course Powerade and water. A little later we did a little over a mile on the Walt Disney World Speedway, taking me back to some of my half marathons earlier this year.
 The whole time that we were running I was on the look out for port-a-potties. There were plenty, at good intervals but with lines. Eventually at mile 8 there were a bank of them, all occupied, but with no line.
 That coincided with a medical station where my friend took some tylenol. I came back to her. She wanted to quit, she was quite upset that things were hurting so much especially so early in the race.  I'm not underestimating her pain but she was psyching herself out of the race. I know exactly how that feels. I also felt quite mean but I basically told her she couldn't quit. I know her and she would be so mad if she DNF. I told her to take it one mile at a time and that we could walk as much or as little as she wanted. 

Miles 8-17 
We walked about a 1/4 of a mile and she started to run without encouragement. I was worried that that we would be walking for the rest of the race, so I was very proud when she turned it around mentally. From then on we were run-walking but mostly running.
We got hit with a light shower of rain and I had a gross salty face....literally two seconds after I'd commented about how I'd love to clean my face, a station was handing out wet cloths...sooo good.

Around this time the arch of my left foot had been hurting for a couple of miles so  I tightened up my shoes, which I'd left too loose. The next aid station after that I threw a bit of Biofreeze into that sock and the pain went away and didn't come back.
Somewhere after 12 miles we entered the Animal Kingdom Park. I've never been to it but I know we skirted around the edges. I've heard a number of people saying it would have been nice to run around it a bit more. Here they had some puppet masters and some animals out on course. Where else can you pet a pig and get a picture taken with an owl!!! 
In Animal Kingdom they opened the Everest Expedition Ride, so mid-race runners could use their bib as a pass and ride the rollercoaster before continuing on with their run.
We met the big star here...the one who I said I wait any amount of time to meet, the mouse on the medal, Mickey Mouse. He was all dressed up in Safari gear. As were Minnie and Daisy a little earlier. 
Crossing the half way point was great and I knew knocking out the next few miles would make a big difference. I told my friend that we should keep moving fastish (when not stopped for pictures or medical tents), but that we'd take a long walk at 17 for her to call her family for a bit of a lift. She called them and we walked the next mile as our long break.

Miles 18-24
Right here is really were we could have used the Magic Kingdom boost. Instead we'd just run a few miles of highway, seeing all the runners around 4 miles ahead of us and entered into ESPN Wide World of Sports. This was my least favorite part of the course. Probably because we were coming to a park I was expecting the same kind of rush of energy but really it was pretty boring.
We ran around a baseball stadium and looped around the tracks within the parks but the crowds weren't that big and the few characters that were there I didn't know. Basically I kind of just wanted to get out of there and to have the satisfaction of hitting the 20 mile mark. Hit it we did and I felt like that was a huge milestone. We were back on highway until mile 24.
At some stage around mile 21 we started to walk more than run. I noticed I wasn't talking or being encouraging as much and thats when I realised that I was entering that mental fog that marks the start of hitting the wall. 
That was not going to happen, so I downed a double dose of Shot Bloks and lots of water. I basically hadn't fuelled enough...especially taking into account how long we were out there at that stage. Within a mile they kicked in and my head was starting to clear. We continued to walk-run but more walking, I didn't really feel like pushing it. At this stage I knew we weren't going to be sag wagoned.

Close to mile 23 we entered Hollywood Studios where we were handed chocolate. Those two little squares of heaven finished what the Shot Bloks had started and I was feeling on top of the world again. I could have happily run those last few miles but my friend was now hurting so bad that we stopped running altogether. I didn't mind, overall I was having a great time. That can be had running or walking. A huge lift for both of us was coming across Sully from Monsters Inc. 

 After this we got a heavier shower of rain but by now it was pretty warm and I was grateful for the chance to cool off a little.

Overall Hollywood Studios was really cool but also quiet as I think most supporters were a few miles away in Epcot waiting at the finish.

Miles 24-26.2
We left Hollywood Studios and entered a path along a river that brought us to the beautiful Boardwalk area. It was a lot busier here as people were spectating and hanging out by their villas...tres fancy.

From the boardwalk we made our way to Epcot and the finish. There were a few characters in Epcot but we didn't stop. What I did feel like stopping for was a beer or coffee and apparently quite a few people crossed the line carrying them....I knew I should have got a beer and finished in style, ha ha!

Right at the last quarter of a mile mark there was a huge choir (hallelujah we made it). Then you turn a corner for the home stretch and the massive grandstand crowds. I think somewhere at this point we started running again and casually ran the last bit as if we'd run the whole thing...cheeky!

6 hours and 20 minutes later we finished!! A new record, my longest marathon but my favorite.

Crossing the line
We were presented with our lovely medals, water, powerade, a wet towel. We went to the medical tent for some ice. The back of my right knee had tightened in the last couple of miles so I held some ice to that while my friend got ice strapped to her knee. Finishing the sorest part of me was my feet because a.) I forgot to cut my toenails which had gotten long and b.) it rained a bit so my feet got wet but I don't think the medical personnel could do too much for me lol.
We went on to get bananas and a little box of chips etc. before meeting up with our wonderful supporters. 
It was no small thing for Martina to stand for 4 hours after running a half the day before..thank you! I also cannot say enough about how good the volunteers for this race were. They were so organized, professional and fun the whole time; again another big thank you.

Post race
After much confusion about where I parked we found the car and went back to the hotel. I had a shower and then soaked in the bath for a while. Then it was time to reload with lots of food. I lay down for the afternoon and I slept for an hour before we headed to downtown Disney for a walk about. We had dinner in Planet Hollywood, where our medals got us 20% off and then we did a little shopping.
Other than a slightly stiff right knee I felt fine.  Overall, I felt about the same after a hard long training run, which I guess is what it amounted to. My knee is fine now so I feel like the stops and walking got me through my third marathon injury free.

I really loved this race. Its definitely not one to do for time but it really would make a great first marathon. Lots to see, fun characters, music, really good course support and a generous time limit. 

Coming soon..the low down on Universal Studios Harry Potter Attractions.


  1. It looks like you have such a FUN time out there!!! I love the picture of you with Sulley!!! This would be the perfect marathon to do for fun, not time. And what a great way to experience Disney!

    1. Yeah It was great fun and I got to see so much of Disney! Onto the next adventure......

  2. Yay! Congrats! I am so happy you loved the race and felt good (how is your knee now)! And that your friend was able to run as much as she was. And how amazing your shoulder held up!

    Love your cute outfit! Did the tutu bug ya at all? Did you take the ride in the animal kingdom? hee hee.

    I never thought about the sag wagon worry with stopping to take pics. Yikes! That is a good tip! I would totally take pics (why go and not? lol).

    1. My knee is good now, and I'm taking a break from running until next week so I think it'll be fine :)
      No I didn't take the ride, I'm not really a giant rollercoaster fan, so it would have been wasted on me!!
      The tutu didn't bug me except for stopping for the bathroom...tutu everywhere, it could have been a disaster he he!