Saturday, January 17, 2015

Walt Disney World Marathon

Perhaps I should call this, "How I survived my first marathon in spite of myself" or something like that. You see, last spring I registered for the Walt Disney World Marathon, because I'd gotten this wild hair at some point that told me I needed to run a full marathon before I turned 30... and this race would take place just a couple of months before my self-imposed deadline.  WOOF.  Thankfully, my parents jumped on board right away and committed to going with me.  Here's how it all went down.

At the Race Expo, and a photo of my race bib!

  • Training:  I didn't train like I should have.  I'd planned to follow the Disney Marathon "finish upright" training plan, and I completed three half marathons during my training months.  But I never built up to a distance beyond 13.1 miles, truthfully because ain't nobody (okay, ain't many people) got the time/motivation to run 3-5 hours straight on a weekend.  Yikes.  I effed up training.  And it made me a nervous wreck going into the holidays and Disney.
  • Diet:  I let myself off the hook diet-wise the week leading up to the marathon, taking the online reco to carb-load and reduce fiber and protein.  I really think this helped a lot.  Seriously.  I didn't eat like a 3rd grader, but I did eat a good deal of pasta and baked potatoes.  I also focused on hydration, reasonable.  It helped me stay fueled during the race.
  • Gear:  I am used to running with a Fitletic Ultimate II running belt, with whatever hydration and sunglass pouches attached that I choose.  I need something to keep my phone and inhaler, and this fits the bill.  For the marathon, I stocked my belt with Clif/Gu to eat about every hour (I only eat vanilla, Gu has caffeine but Clif tastes better to me), one hydration pouch, a pouch for sunglasses/chafing gel/chapstick, and my phone/headphones.  I wore my Garmin Forerunner 10 to keep pace, and the battery actually lasted up until my final mile.  I also wore Swiftwick Aspire Twelve compression socks.  All of this gear I was used to wearing during my long runs and half marathons, so I knew that I would be fine with them.  I chose to wear a Sweatyband I bought at the Expo in my hair for the race, similar to ones I wore before too.
  • PANIC:  The number one best thing I did was digest this 6 1/2 Hour Marathon Survivor Race Strategy.  Because I was using a run/walk strategy to prevent injury (again, because I effed up training) I knew this would work for me.  I even made a little piece of paper with the times to hit and "laminated" it between some clear tape.  This little guideline became my security blanket, which I felt I needed to avoid being swept off the course for not meeting cutoff times.

Course Map, through all four parks at WDW!

I woke up at 3 am (blergh!) in order to get to the gear check and starting corrals on time.  There were literally 20,000 people running, so they had start corrals A through P.  Since the race started at 5:30, they wanted you in corrals by 5 am.  I wore a garbage bag over my clothes to stay warm, and many people wore "throw away" clothes that they tossed off at the start; Disney donates these to Goodwill or something.  There were portapotties, many with super long lines.   I was in Corral M, so I actually didn't start until almost an hour after the first runners!  They move you up like cattle as each group begins.

These are some Start photos Disney gave me when I purchased my marathon pictures. :)

MILES 0-5:
By the time we started (every corral got fireworks!), I had to pee within the first couple of miles; I felt funny joining portapotty lines so early on, but I am glad I did it.  I kept to a 14-minute per mile pace (4 minutes running, 1 minute walking) consistently to start, knowing I'd need my energy later.  I felt like I had to hold myself back in those first miles, because the energy is so high.  Every mile marker has a display with different Disney character images, which is cool.  There are also bands, cheerleaders, and ALL THE DISNEY CHARACTERS along the way.  For real, people queue up to take photos with characters.  I was too nervous to wait in lines, but I did run by the characters to sneak a peek when I saw them.  So cool!

MILES 6-11:
This was probably my favorite part of the race.  Much like in the Disney Princess Marathon, we run up Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, then through Tomorrowland and through the back of the castle.  It's super magical! You don't even realize you're running!  I knew that my parents were waiting for me in the Magic Kingdom, and I searched the crowd for Dad's bright orange hat.  I was honestly so happy and emotional to see them; Mom gave me a clementine and I left on my way.  I was bummed it wasn't still dark (they'd done up the castle in a Frozen lighting scheme at night) but I did get to see Elsa and Anna as I entered the castle!

I saw my parents once more coming out of the castle and heading to the Speedway.  We actually got to run around the race track, and there were race cars and the Florida Corvette Club displaying cars.  Then we had to hit a long road with not much going on for a while.

MILES 12-17:
As we got closer to Animal Kingdom, there were actually some animals there to see us, plus cast members.  I have to say, it's awesome how many cast members come out to cheer on the race.  Your race number has your name on it, so people call to you by name.  The water and fuel point volunteers were amazing too!  By the time we got to Animal Kingdom, the park was open, so a lot of runners detour to ride the Expedition Everest roller coaster.  I get motion sick, so I didn't go, but it was fun to see people do that.  At some point we ran by a stinky water treatment facility (I think before reaching AK) and that was my least favorite part.  It also started a lightly rain around mile 17 for me, but it wasn't too bad as it had warmed up a little.

MILES 18-22:
These miles were the most boring.  Once we left Animal Kingdom, we headed for Wide World of Sports (where the Expo had been) and had to weave in and out of a track, soccer/baseball fields, etc.  We even ran around inside a baseball stadium.  The plus side to this chunk of the race is based on my strategy, I slowed down just slightly for each mile, and at mile 20 I switched to survival mode.  The best part of WWoS was that my Mom was there waiting for me!  She had orange juice and more clementines for me to eat.  I also grabbed an acetaminophen from a medical tent during this time.  I remember that this is where it all started to hurt.  The bottom of my feet hurt the most, from pounding pavement.  An experienced marathoner later told me she thinks Florida/Disney puts a lot of shells in their pavement or something that makes it feel even harder.  Well, I felt it.  Tons of people around me were walking a lot at this point, but I knew I was safely ahead of the sweepers by almost an hour.

MILES 23-26.2:
This is where we went through Hollywood Studios (the hat was still there, though fenced off for removal) to the Boardwalk resort to Epcot for the finish.  Hollywood Studios is where I burst into tears.  I just felt so emotional, and even though I had such a relatively little distance to go, I was just so distraught for some reason.  A gal from Texas named Misty (wearing a Team RWB shirt like me) stopped to pat me on the shoulder and tell me I was going to be just fine and finish strong.  Tons of other Team RWB people came up to me during and after the race, so I was happy I'd worn the Eagle shirt (instead of my original plan to wear a costume) for the extra encouragement!

With a few Team RWB shoutouts in that last chunk, I braced myself and could see the Eiffel Tower in the World Showcase in the distance.  Once I got into the showcase, I powered through as much as possible.  They had all kinds of princesses (Jasmine, Mulan, etc.) out but I just wanted to be done.  I pushed until we ran past Spaceship Earth and towards the finish.  Some people stopped for beer in Germany and margaritas in Mexico, which they ran with to the end!

I heard (and saw) my parents cheering, and I knew I was almost done.  As I ran across the finish line, I raised my arms up because everyone else was doing it.  I did it!  I finished in 6 hours, 6 minutes, right where I'd planned to be.  I'm not as fast as I once was as a college runner, but I was incredibly proud and felt so accomplished when I earned that Mickey Mouse medal.

I don't know that I'll ever do a full marathon again.  It was a significant emotional event.  It hurt for days afterward.  It takes a lot of freaking time.  It makes me almost start to cry thinking about how it made me feel, good and bad.  But I sure picked the right one to do...  the Walt Disney World Marathon says that "every mile is magic", and I think they're right.  You're never alone, you're taken care of, and you feel like thousands of people want you to succeed.  It was definitely a magical day, one I won't soon forget.

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P.S.  I posted this on Facebook, but I HAVE to repeat it here.   I must give THANKS to everyone who supported me in this insane endeavor. I had the best ChEAR Squad ever.
  • To my coworkers who made me an awesome sign for my desk, chose Happy Hour venues that could accommodate my carb-loading, made sure I was covered for the work I was missing, and sent me messages believing in my ability to finish.
  • To LC, HH, KH and AW for the text messages during the race. I needed those, and it felt so good to read them!
  • To VV, who ran my first half marathon with me at Disney, and was a huge support during the race via texts; I felt like she was running it with me again, and her advice as I started to falter helped me get through the worst.
  • To my Sissy for sending me Mulan GIFs and encouraging messages, knowing I would find strength and inspiration in one of my favorite Disney movies of all time.
  • To my friend AB, who drove to see me after the race and spent the afternoon and evening with me distracting me from my pain. Real friends will spent hours on a bed with you when you don't want to move, and make sure you eat bananas and rehydrate.
  • To every friend who left me a text, Facebook message, tweet, or Instagram message before and after: I read every single one, some of them more than once during walk breaks on the course.
  • To Dan, who gives me strength and hope for the future always.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, I thank my parents. When I registered for this race last April, they told me they would be there, without me ever asking. They took time off work, booked us a place to stay, paid for their travel expenses, checked homemade spaghetti sauce in their luggage, and cheered for me and provided snacks out on the course. They even gave up their IU vs. Ohio State basketball tickets! I still don't think they realize how much I needed them out there, and that knowing they would be at the finish line kept me going through the worst bits
I'm blessed, simply blessed, to have such a legion of family and friends in my life.


  1. You are SO inspiring! Seriously thank you for posting this recap. I got so emotional reading it because it's such a huge deal that you accomplished this!! Way to go :)

  2. Thank you Kristin! Multiple people have mentioned getting emotional while reading the recap, and to be honest I got teary-eyed writing it. It was a lot to put my body through, but I'm glad I did it in the end.

  3. Disney's Endurance Series is the ultimate in competition with running, ... road races at the Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort.
    Walt Disney World

  4. I absolutely love your blog! I stumbled across it accidentaly and I'm glad I did! :)
    P.S. Your cats are adorable.

  5. Aw, so you are so sweet! Thanks so much! (I also agree the cats are adorable, but they are also adorably mischievous.)

  6. Awww this makes me want to cry how excited you are at the end and how amazing this was for you. Can I be proud? Because I am definitely proud. This is amazing. You are amazing. I would only ever be able to run at Disney. There's not a whole lot of other places I would be interested in seeing 26 miles of. Like you, I can't imagine taking 6 hours out of a day to train an run a full. That's crazy.

  7. You can be proud, LOL! You're my Disney guru. I am telling you, I can't wait for you to do your first Disney race, whether it's a 10K, Half Marathon, whatever. I think you're destined to do an event with RunDisney.


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