So, marathons are hard.
I mean, that’s a given, right? But for some reason or another, since 2011, they’ve become a major part of my life.
I am not really sure how this happened.
I mean, I started running in 2010, and after running my first half marathon, I somehow decided that running that distance twice would be a good idea. And for the most part, it has been…17 marathons down, with ups and downs, PRs, PWs, PRs in fun, race challenges, and new quests, it’s been quite the journey…or, as you might say, a marathon of a journey.
Anyway, I had to get that all out before admitting that I had no business running the 2019 Walt Disney World Marathon. Life has been hectic, to say the least, which unfortunately meant training was on the back, back, back burner. Like, way back. Sure, I have been running here and there, but mostly short to medium, distances, and during the course of my “official” 18-weeks of training, I did two long runs, one 10-miler, and one 16-miler, definitely not the best lead-in to running 26.2 miles.
Still, it was the Walt Disney World Marathon, and if I’ve learned anything over running the previous 16 marathons, it’s this: I KNOW that I can do it. Like, physically, I KNOW it’s possible. Might not be pretty, but it will happen.
So, in the days leading up to the race, I was happy to see cool temperatures and possible rain. My PR (Celebration, 2017) was a cold, wet one, and I know that I do well in those conditions (AKA, I don’t overheat, and am more careful about maintaining footing/monitoring pace). Of course, checking in that early was a foolhardy idea, as the temperatures just keep creeping up, and by race-eve, there was a warm-weather advisory. Wheeeee!
Despite that, I was still cautiously optimistic, and with the fact that I knew this was not going to be an “A” race, I had very low stress, which was helpful. Aiding in the general “low key” feeling, I was happy that we were staying at Bay Lake Tower at Disney’s Contemporary Resort, which meant two monorails in to the start, rather than a gamble on the motorcoaches, which meant a 2:50 AM alarm (in case I needed to nurse Ellie before leaving for the race).
Since Ellie was fast asleep (and had woken sometime before midnight the night before), I was able to leave right around 3:20 AM, after having two slices of Trader Joe’s Pancake Bread, and swigs from a water bottle I toted along with me for the ride over. Transportation was seamless, and I even had a nice chat with a Canadian runner who was a PERFECT Dopey (she’s run every challenge since the inaugural). At the start area, I took pictures with both Minnie and Mickey, and had time for a port-a-potty stop before leisurely making my way to Corral A (thank you, Celebration Marathon Proof of Time!)
In the corral, I chatted with my speedy friend Heather (another Dopey runner!) which definitely passed the time…soon it was our time to go! The temperature was still nice and low, but I could already feel a bit weighed down by humidity, so I made the game-time decision to just go with whatever pace my legs had in them and stay hydrated until the half-way point in Disney’s Animal Kingdom (DAK), in which point I could reassess strategy.
Much to my surprise, that first half was pretty successful! My effort was easy, but I was actually enjoying the miles as they ticked off. I took water at each aid station, and about 45 minutes in, I downed a few Sport Beans (since I checked that those would be the fuel later on).
As always, running up to and through the Magic Kingdom was completely magical. I had not run this race since 2015, so there were a few changes, one which I really liked: running through the front entrance area of the park, instead of through the backstage area.
Running down Main Street U.S.A. was definitely a highlight of the race, since I was looking out into the crowd for my sister. I was waving and scanning the spectator groups, and lucky for me, I actually saw her! Wahoo! Later, I found out that she had just arrived in that spot moments beforehand, so it really was perfect timing.
I noticed that there were not nearly as many character stops in the park than I had remembered in the past. Since I wanted to beat the heat, I decided to stop just for characters I had never met during a race before, but there just seemed to be less out in general.
Running out of the park, and backstage, I stopped for a photo stop with the villains, and then it was out past the Grand Floridian, and onto the back service roads.
First half splits: 8:34, 8:03, 8:09, 8:34, 8:26, 8:20, 8:56, 8:26, 8:24, 8:51, 8:37, 9:04, 8:23, 8:51
At the halfway point (DAK), I made a pitstop in a real bathroom (definitely one of my favorite things about Disney races).
My legs were feeling pretty good, but I was completely drenched in sweat at this point, and wiping my face, it was scratchy and raw with salt! Bleh! I realized I would need to start getting some electrolytes in me.
Also, for the first time in the race, I was really noticing my music (I had it playing since the beginning, but with low volume through my Aftershokz headset).
Miles 14- 16 was when I realized that this was going to be a harder day than I had planned. Appropriately, that’s when I saw the Haunted Mansion gravediggers. I had to forgo my traditional “dead” pose, in fear that I would not be able to get back up, but ironically, “HELL” by Squirrel Nut Zippers came on, and I had to laugh.
Second half slog: 10:29, 9:50, 10:14, 10:29, 10:46, 13:41, 13:17, 13:01, 14:03, 14:16, 13:25, 10:12, 11:28, last .7 – 8:56
Any ideas that I might have been entertaining about RUNNING this entire marathon was out the window at Mile 19, at Disney’s Wide World of Sports.
Now, in general, this is not my favorite part of the race, as it seems to go on forever, plus, around Mile 20 is a popular place to ‘hit the wall’ – which I definitely did (it was a 13:17 pace). My legs were not very happy with me, and I was definitely overheating. So, while I was in that neverending sequence of the race, I decided to duck into another real restroom, and I switched my bib onto my sports bra, and wrapped my singlet around my wrist as a sort of sweat-wiper.
I was feeling rough, but I knew that I could still finish with my best Walt Disney World Marathon time (my “best” time was my first, at 4:59) as long as I kept up a good walking pace. So, miles 20-24 were my powerwalk miles, with a few little “run test” sequences thrown in.
I knew that if I could muster it, running in from Disney’s Hollywood Studios back to the end with as much running as I could do would be the ticket to finishing strong. So, I stuck to it, and after seeing a few more friends (Hi, Meredith, Katie, and Megan!!!) I could feel those finish vibes, and was so stoked.
At Mile 26, I heard the gospel choir, and felt the nostalgia of that backstage area (shoutout to my Guest Relations peeps!) and was happy to turn the corner and see the finish….and much to my happy surprise, even saw my family (hubs, Abby, Ellie, my sis and bro in law) and ran it in strong!
My official finish time? 4:33:10! I couldn’t be mad about that!
After receiving my medal, I downed a Power-Ade and met up with them, before we started the walk toward Epcot and the monorail back to our resort.
The rest of the day was spent relaxing around the pool (I even went down the water slide!), followed by an early dinner at ‘Ohana, a leisurely walk, and early bedtime before we headed off to Port Canaveral the next day to board our Disney Cruise!
While I would definitely never recommend going into a marathon with minimal training, I was thankful for my experience, and had a ton of fun.
I do not plan on repeating this race for the foreseeable future, so it was a wonderful send-off and emotional on many levels (the 2011 WDW Marathon Weekend was where I ran my first-ever half marathon, after all!)
It’s hard to believe this happened almost a whole week ago…I am still in awe! I’ve run once since (the Castaway Cay 5K), and will officially begin training (for real) for the London Marathon in about two weeks…so I will enjoy this recovery while I can!