It was a difficult, but amazing experience. I am officially a marathoner! This recap will be a long one.
The Disney Marathon came at the end of a wonderful nine day vacation at Disney. We spent seven days (starting on New Year’s Eve) touring the four Disney parks and Universal Studios, and then took one day of rest before the day of the marathon. It was a lot of fun, but seven long days of walking may not have been the best idea before a marathon 🙂 I also developed a cold on day two of our vacation, which had not gone away by marathon day.
After getting up at 3:00am, we were planning to take a cab to Epcot at 3:30, but the cab didn’t show up until 3:45. At that point, a few other people at our hotel were sharing a van that was only charging $5/person, so we went with them! We were staying at the Hilton in Downtown Disney. Although it came with Disney resort benefits such as extra magic hours and buses to Disney, they did not offer a shuttle to the parks on marathon morning.
Our van dropped us off right at the start line… where there were no other people. The starting corrals were a bit of a walk. It was also pretty cold that early in the morning. We had bought some warmer clothes at a thrift store (I even found a Disney sweatshirt!), which we planned to ditch right before the start of the race. After a quick breakfast (banana and peanut & butter jelly sandwich) and bathroom break, Maggie and I made our way to corral D. It was at this pont that I discovered that my Garmin would not turn on 😦 Worst timing possible. But Maggie’s was working, so I was still able to get our splits!
It took so long to walk to the corrals that we didn’t have to wait too long for the start of the race once we got there. I loved the fireworks that went off before each corral. It wasn’t long before we were off! The first few miles were pretty congested and a little boring. It was dark out, and we were running around Epcot. Running through Epcot was fun, but it was a quick run by Spaceship Earth and through a few countries of the World Showcase, and then we were on our way to more highway running. We stopped for a bathroom break during the 5th mile – I drank a whole liter of water right before the race!
- Mile 1: 11:34
- Mile 2: 10:57
- Mile 3: 11:02
- Mile 4: 11:45
- Mile 5: 14:54
As with the long training runs, we were sticking to a run 6/walk 4 minutes interval. It was hard to walk early in the race, but I knew that there were a lot of miles ahead. There were more boring highway miles until we entered the Magic Kingdom around mile 10. They had some music and characters along the way, but none that we felt like stopping for. Before entering the MK, we ran past the Grand Floridian hotel, where we had eaten bunch the day before. That really put the distance in perspective!
- Mile 6: 11:48
- Mile 7: 11:44
- Mile 8: 11:31
- Mile 9: 11:51
- Mile 10: 12:15
I think Magic Kingdom was my favorite park to run through. I loved all the crowds and the energy. It definitely helped me to pick up the pace! I didn’t want to stop much while we were running through the park. It was really exciting to be coming up on Cinderella’s Castle.
We made our first stop for a character picture in Magic Kingdom – with Jessie from Toy Story. They were very efficient with the picture taking, so the lines went pretty quickly. Most characters had several helpers who would take your camera as you waited in line, quickly snap a picture, and then off you went.
Even with our stop, our MK miles were a little bit quicker:
- Mile 11: 10:49
- Mile 12: 11:50
The stretch from Magic Kingdom to Animal Kingdom was another long one. After we hit the half-marathon point, I was finally starting to feel the distance. There seemed to be a good number of characters on this strip, though, so we stopped a few times. I think the Johnny Depp pirate was my favorite 🙂
Maggie wore a green skirt and top in honor of Tinkerbell, so we had to stop with the Peter Pan characters. Sad that Tinkerbell was missing though!
John Smith said something to me like, “So good to see you.” Some of the characters were playing their parts!
- Mile 13: 11:58
- Mile 14: 12:11
- Mile 15: 13:19
My biggest complaint about this stretch was when we went by the Disney compost and/or wastewater treatment plant. The smell was overwhelming and absolutely disgusting – about as bad as the port-o-potties. I thought I would be sick! I felt really bad for the volunteers who were handing out water as we went by. I could not have stood that smell for more than a few minutes, and we kept running to try to get past it. The animals at Animal Kingdom smelled better.
As we came up on Animal Kingdom, they had a few of the animals from the petting zoo out for us to pet and take pictures with. I thought that was cute! We had visited these animals at the petting zoo earlier in our trip, but it was fun to see them along the race course.
It felt like we were in Animal Kingdom for awhile, which was great! We waited for this park for our next bathroom break, since we knew we could pull off for an actual bathroom (with soap). When we passed Expedition Everest, a couple of women in front of us actually pulled off the course to go for a ride! I guess that’s the nice thing about such a relaxed race 🙂 I was tempted to follow them! We stopped for a few pictures at Animal Kingdom too.
- Mile 16: 12:04
- Mile 17: 15:58 (2nd bathroom break)
- Mile 18: 11:58
- Mile 19: 11:54
The distance between Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios went by in a blur. It felt like they had more frequent water and fuel stops, and there were more characters and things to look at.
I think the race really got tough for me around miles 18-19, but I probably didn’t hit the “wall” until miles 21-22. I was SO excited to see mile 20, since everything after that would represent a personal distance record. Someone told me before the race that the race wouldn’t start until the last 10k, and they were right. Somewhere between miles 19-20 I think we switched to running 3 minutes/walking 2 minutes. I was actually starting to feel a little out of breath.
Hollywood Studios was a really good distraction. There were more crowds of people, which always gives me a little more energy. I don’t remember where this was taken, but we stopped for our last character picture with the Beast.
After Hollywood Studios, we ran through a boardwalk area, and we were quickly back at Epcot, running through the World Showcase again! At this point I think I was just running as much as I possibly could, and taking walk breaks as needed (which means: up all and any hills). The last 1.2 miles were the worst. I kept trying to remind myself to run happy and keep smiling, but I was experiencing more pain than I ever expected to feel.
When we got to mile 26, we took a short walk break, hoping we could push it through the final stretch with all the crowds. But then a woman yelled out to us: “Don’t stop now. See that corner up there? You just need to get around that and you will see the finish line. Run!” So we did 🙂
- Mile 20: 11:51
- Mile 21: 12:52
- Mile 22: 12:38
- Mile 23: 13:57
- Mile 24: 12:55
- Mile 25: 12:00
- Mile 26: 12:53
- Mile 26 – 26.76: 11:11 (7:49 sprint at the end)
- Total: 5:29:02 (12:18 pace) – OFFICIAL TIME 5:28:36
And then, we were marathoners! We were quickly given our medals and water and pushed through to the food. I started to feel a little dizzy, but made our way to meet up with Pat at the family tents.
To be honest, I felt pretty awful at the end of the race. I was hurting all over and just felt exhausted. I was proud of the accomplishment, but I was thinking, never again. Well that feeling wore off pretty quickly! I’m not sure if I have another marathon in my future, but I wouldn’t rule it out. I ran this one with a knee injury, a cold, and after a week-long vacation. I also counted about 11 stops for photo opportunities, and 2 bathroom stops. There is a part of me that would like to see what I am capable of. But I still feel really great about finishing a marathon. Someone at work told me that running a marathon is like earning a degree – once you have it, no one can ever take it away from you.
We finally made it back to our hotel, and after a shower and two-hour nap, I was good to go. We walked to downtown Disney (just across the street from our hotel) for dinner at Earl of Sandwich and a special treat – a Ghiradelli cookie/ice cream sundae. A quick dip in the hot tub felt amazing. We left Orlando early the next morning (another 3:30am wake-up), and I wore my marathon shirt to the airport. It’s still hard to believe I completed my first marathon!