After various travel debacles, on my way down to Orlando, it felt almost surreal when I finally made it to the Beach Club Villas, my resort for Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. Still, no matter my level of suspended disbelief, the truth remained: in just 6 and a half hours, I’d be waking up to head to the start line of my sixth full marathon!
GET READY! MANY PICS AHEAD!
Fortunately for me, my awesome race-roomie Rachel and her fiance Tavis had oh-so-meticulously set out all my race items from the expo: the bib, bag and even the fantastic Dooney purse we’d both pre-ordered (so worth it, BTW). So after some chatting (it was Rachel’s FIRST full!) we all attempted to get a few winks before the 2:30 AM alarm!
Since I had read all about the heat advisories, I made the decisions early on that this would not be a race for TIME – it would be a race for GOOD TIMES 😉 So, I threw my expectations out the window and prepared for a morning of FUN.
We met up with a few of our teammates from some of our Facebook running groups (Team #runDisney and Pacebook) which was really fun! It was great matching names and faces and really getting stoked for the race ahead!
Before long, it was time to head to the corrals and I marched along, bidding Rachel a great race and I made my way toward Corral A, where Ben recognized me and we got a pic 😀 Wish my eyes were open! Hahah!
It was great having someone to chat with until it got closer to race time! We talked about different races, time goals (he got really close to his PR that day, BTW, spoiler alert) and Disney, of course! But once it was game time – 5:35 AM, we parted ways and got down to running 😀
Okay, so I skipped a little, but really, the beginning of the race is kind of a dark blur anyway – well, except seeing Christine, chEAR squad extraordinaire around the TTC, that was a highlight! 😉 Oh, alright, I’ll back up and be more logical…we reached Magic Kingdom quite early (Mile 5-6ish) so it was still dark, but it was still really cool, of course! I love running through Tomorrowland all lit up 🙂
I am getting ahead of myself again! Whoops! Soooo, the course winds through in a counterclockwise pattern…down Main Street (where I was SOOO excited to get an energy boost from the WDW Running Team chEAR squad), then up to the HUB, to the right into Tomorrowland, past the Speedway, into Fantasyland, back through the Castle, across and in to Liberty Square, Frontierland and then offstage to the Parade Float area. WHEW!
At this point in the race, it was VERY HUMID – as if you could not tell from the pictures, hah! Oddly, it was feeling colder as well so without sun, it was a strange feeling of being soaked with sweat but almost chilly.
I was feeling really lucky at this point that the lines to take photos with the characters were very short – often 2-3 people only (with the exception of Mickey and Minnie, that was about 8-10).
Leaving the Magic Kingdom, it was time to head out onto the roads past the Grand Floridian (more cheers, yay) and onto the speedway. This was a new addition for the 20th anniversary and it was kind of long, but neat.
I think the best part about the speedway was the fact that there were lots of neat things to look at – classic cars and spectators! Fun times….now, it was time to head on the long road to Animal Kingdom!
Wow, I look extra short next to all those evil doers, no?
This is the part of the course that many find unappealing (could be hot and boring, depending on when you arrive here) but it actually wasn’t too bad – aside from the SMELL! You run right by a water / waste treatment center. Ick! BREATHE OUT! THINK HAPPY THOUGHTS!
Quite literally before I knew it, it was time to head backstage into Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I was really looking forward to this part of the race ever since the Wine and Dine half – I don’t know what it is, but running though this park just seems so…adventurous?! YES! We ran down backstage roads and encountered animal handlers and cool birds, goats and even some of these pals…
So at this point, you might be wondering….was any running actually going on? Well, yes…running from character to character! 😉 See???
Back on the roads, it was getting warmer as the sun rose higher into the sky….KILLER.
Haha I was so excited to get that pic…but moving on…with a little help from my friends…
It did get a LITTLE DANGEROUS…
…oh and about that 20th mile spectacular?
It was interesting, but I really had no idea what to expect! I was just glad I didn’t hit the wall (it’s happened to me once, at the Shamrock Marathon, and it AIN’T PRETTY).
The miles were clicking away!
It was scary how close I was to finishing…I started to get a little teary that it was almost over!
I was dance running through this park and was pretty stoked about this fabulous picture running down Hollywood Blvd…
Then it was out of that park, onto the walkway over to Epcot, the final park in the marathon! But not before hitting the Mile 24 spot for the Run Disney so I can Eat Disney Three Little Pigs BACON Challenge – you had to eat three pieces of bacon at the VIP tent to earn the medal! I haven’t found the pic of me actually eating the bacon, but here’s a pic of the medal (taken later).
Yup, at Mile 24 of the marathon I had bacon. And Diet Coke…and then, I was off to conquer the last leg of the race!
As we came into Epcot, I had a thought as I looked down at my watch…even with the picture spots, slower pace and well, BACON, I was still under 5 hours! I decided that I’d run the rest of the race without stopping…well, until I saw Jasmine.
…okay….gonna run, keep running and nothing will distract me…oh look!
Okay, now I am really serious! It is the home stretch! LET’S GO! Past Future World, Guest Relations, the Gospel Choir…
This was the first marathon I ever reached the end of with lots of’ gas left in the tank’ – I suppose there is something to be said about drastically slowing down your pace. And as soon as I retrieved my phone, I was pleasantly surprised to STILL see a sub-5 result (official: 4:59:49) – 1 hour and 16 minutes slower than my current Baltimore PR, but I was just as proud!
If you can possibly believe it, I didn’t even share ALL the pics that were captured of me…there were 63 total! That’s gotta be some kind of record! Haha 😀 I bought them all and cannot wait to start on my racecation scrapbook (it’ll include this, the time spent at WDW, then Disneyland, then the Tinkerbell Half – recap coming soon).
Just thinking about that day makes me smile SO big. I never would have imagined when I started running in 2010 that I’d have such incredible running accomplishments under my belt but I am SO thankful that I have had these opportunities – from staying healthy and injury free, to the incredible friendships I’ve made, I want to thank EVERY SINGLE PERSON who has ever offered words of encouragement, support, read or commented on this blog, emailed me a question – EVERYTHING! I love the running community and January 13, 2013, it all came together in a day I will not soon forget.