February 5, 2016
As in previous years, I want to start this report with a HUGE thank you to the thousands of volunteers that make this race weekend magical. They’re there even earlier than the runners and doing important work like directing traffic, working at bag check, manning water stations, working medical, and handing out medals! There was even one guy volunteer I recognized from my last Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend who was in the same spot every morning greeting and directing runners!
As I mentioned in my Goofy Challenge Goals post, this was my fourth time coming to the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend. I missed last year, but I don’t feel like I missed much because not much changed.
This year was rather different for me because I wasn’t traveling with any other runners, just my mom.
We flew down to Orlando on the Thursday of the race weekend. The 5k and start of the Dopey Challenge was already over before we got on our flight. There were quite a few runners on our flight, some of which were just going for the 10k on Friday morning.
It was a big shock landing in Orlando. So much warmer than Toronto! Palm trees and humidity were a pretty foreign concept compared to back home.
My mom and I took the Disney Magical Express to our hotel, checked in, then took a bus to the ESPN Wide World of Sports for the Expo. The layout of the expo changed a bit since the last time I went: You had to weave between 3 or 4 different buildings to see everything and it wasn’t exactly straightforward. Fortunately there were a lot of volunteers to guide and direct traffic.
I got a couple of commemorative souvenirs: A Vinymation Run Disney 3″ figure to go with my figures from 2013 and 2014, and a Bondi Band that said Walt Disney World Marathon. It’s complicated trying to explain to people what the Goofy or Dopey Challenges are, but people understand marathon.
There was only one booth at the expo that really caught my eye. I saw a table selling lots of books by Jeff Galloway. He’s essentially the most famous proponent of run-walk interval programs, so much so that most run-walk programs are now simply called the “Galloway Method.” It’s quite typical to see Galloway’s books being sold at expos and I have one of his books at home. But to my surprise, standing in the booth was Jeff Galloway himself!! He was signing books, and race bibs and promoting a virtual race. He graciously signed my bib and posed for a photo.
On the Friday of race weekend my mom and I went to the Magic Kingdom park. It rained heavily in the morning and I felt a little bad for those who ran the 10k that morning. The rain cleared shortly after we got to the park. It was a great time seeing characters, going on some rides, seeing shows, and seeing parades. We left before the fireworks because I wanted that extra hour or two of sleep.
I did buy some light-up Mickey Mouse ears. I’ve worn ears at my previous Disney World Races but my other ears had broken so it was time to buy a new set!
I was careful not to eat any pasta before the races. After my stomach trouble during the New York Marathon, I decided it was safer to avoid pastas until after the races. But I love pastas and promised myself pastas after the races.
I woke up groggily around 3am on the Saturday morning. I think I got almost 7 hours but I could have used more sleep.
Ate my “runner’s snack box” I bought the day before from the resort. It was fairly complete with a bagel, banana, granola bar and bottle of water, but certainly not worth $7.50.
I boarded boarded bus at my hotel around 3:45am. There was certainly an irony about the hotel location on race day. I was staying at the Port Orleans Resort: French Quarter. From where I picked up the bus I could see the lights of the starting corrals. It was almost literally across the street. But, we were sent phone messages explicitly saying that we needed to take the buses to the start area and not walk directly to the start.
Upon reaching the start area and getting off the buses there was a huge line! It was for bag inspection and they were also inspecting all race belts. The line was quite disorganized and people were cutting in right and left. They sorted out the line by Sunday but it took a lot of time on Saturday. By the time I got into the starting village it was almost 4:45am. I had arranged to meet some people through Facebook around 4:30am, so I was worried they had left. Fortunately Jason Coleman was still there. I recognized him by his Half-Fanatics Singlet. He was doing the whole Dopey and we had similar goals for the half, so it worked out well.
The corrals moved really quickly. The American National anthem was played around 5:25 and Jason and I were still walking to the start. We were pleasantly surprised that they moved the corrals quickly. Corral “I” started about 25 minutes after the first wave, which was really quick.
It was really nice to run the race with Jason. We chatted only briefly a few times, but even though we were silent most of the race, it was just really nice to have the company.
I wasn’t so fond of the race day weather. It was very humid and foggy, but since it wasn’t very sunny it didn’t get nearly as hot as when I ran the half-marathon in 2014. It was a little uncomfortable to run, but not unbearable. I was glad that Jason and I decided on a very comfortable pace.
I brought an older camera for photos rather than my phone and I rather regret it. The photos weren’t great, and it was bulky and heavy. But I did get a couple of great little photos.
Somewhere along the course we heard someone make a joke about someone wearing a polka-dot skirt like one that Minnie Mouse would wear: “Nice to get spotted in a Minnie skirt.” Jason and I groaned…
I also remember a guy running around our pace who looked like he was wearing a very colourful shirt that resembled the character Woody from Toy Story. It wasn’t until later we realized he wasn’t wearing a shirt, but instead had a very serious body painting job done! I’m impressed it didn’t sweat off or smear.
As I’ve some to accept about Disney races, they really are meant to be fun races; not speed runs. As with previous times I’ve done this races, it does get really crowded at some points, especially when the course is only one car lane wide. Kinda have to accept that you’re walking when it gets so crowded. Lots of people said “coming through” or “excuse me”. Others just shoved their way through. Jason made a good point that people in Corral “I” or later really shouldn’t expect to PB at a Disney Race.
I felt fantastic at the end of the race. I was sweaty and a little thirsty, but felt like I was just warming up and had a lot left in the tank. I had no fatigue at all and it was like I was just getting started. That was an absolutely necessary-feeling considering I had 26 miles the next day.
|Date||Event||Chip Time||Gun Time|
|2016/01/09||Walt Disney World Half-Marathon||3:02:46||3:30:09|
Jason and I parted shortly after the finish line and I went to the massage tent shortly after the race. When I did this race in 2014 I got a massage after the half-marathon and found it helped a lot. Like most races, these are students training to become RMT’s. Back then it was $20 and one person did the massage. This time they charge $1/minute, and since I was prepared to pay $20 I paid for 20 minutes, which turns out was their maximum. But for the 20 minutes, I got two people giving me post-race massage. I wanted them to massage my hamstrings and glutes, but with two of them for 20 minutes, they starting running out of things to do so they stretched my arms, and massaged my back and feet and other things. $20 well-spent I thought!
On the bus ride back to my hotel, I had a nice chat with a lady beside me. She started the half-marathon but didn’t finish because she sprained her ankle around the 5th mile. She was swept on the course and returned to the start area by a bus, however, she was in really good spirits for not finishing. But, she said that a lot of people were swept and really mad about it. She made a good point that even though it’s Disney World, you still need to train to be able to run a half-marathon: There’s no magic carpet or something to cheat you through the course.
After getting back to the hotel and having some food, I had a little nap and than I was surprised how sore I was. To prepare myself for the marathon, I stretched a lot and soaked in the pool. The pool had a waterslide so I HAD to use it… twice. Yes, it seems I’m really 9 years old.
Ate so much between races. Not sure if I run to eat, or eat to run.
The marathon morning on Sunday was a different experience again. As I mentioned in my race goals post, I finally felt comfortable wearing my Marathon Maniacs singlet, and hoped it would help me make friends on the route.
I went to the specified waiting place like the day before near the letter M. It looks like I missed the main Marathon Maniacs meetup, but did meet a few others who were wearing the same singlet and it was nice to feel that immediate kinship.
I was a little disappointed that I was going to be running alone at the start of the race. I didn’t bring my iPod because I anticipated I was going to run with Jason again. Unfortunately, he didn’t show up when we expected to meet up. It turns out he fell asleep in his rental car in the parking lot before the race. He did make it. He just had to dash to the start.
But, I did make a friend in the starting corral: A young lady from Connecticut was running her first marathon. We had a good chat about all the Disney races we loved. She was planning on running faster than me so she took off shortly after we crossed the starting line.
It was very humid again like the day before, so started by running pretty slowly. Shortly after the first mile I saw a two people wearing Marathon Maniacs singlets too. So I ran up beside them and started a conversation. They were really friendly and had a similar outlook for the race, so I asked if I could run with them and they said yes. There was Sarah from Vancouver but she was suffering some knee pain from the first 3 races of the Dopey Challenge. She was running with Larry from New York who was a really fun character and was also supposed to keep Sarah’s knee in one piece for the race.
It was so much fun to run together with Sarah and Larry. We had great conversations and it felt nice to run with other people, especially since we had matching outfits! Larry was especially fun to run with because he made great jokes at each mile and knew a lot of information about Disney World. Every mile or so “Coach Larry” would give advice or a joke. One of my favourites: “How do you know if a person has run a triathlon? They’ll tell you and never shut up about it :P” And Sarah and Larry seemed to know dozens and dozens of other runners; the race was like a reunion for them!
It turns out that Larry and Sarah had a lot more friends on the course. Near the Magic Kingdom, we meet up with there group and had a lot of photos together.
I remember we had a great joking conversation around the 11th mile. That’s part of a rather boring stretch between the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. The highlight of that stretch is the Water Treatment plant. I joked that we should go to the gift shop and get a stuffed Mickey in a sanitation worker outfit :p
We posed for a lot of photos. At one point we realized we missed a character stop so carefully ran backwards on the grass beside the course. Someone made a great little remark: “A bunch of maniacs going backwards…”
Larry was starting to struggle shortly before we got to the Animal Kingdom. In fact, we were walking a lot at that point. It turns out he didn’t have any breakfast because he was in a rush to meet up with Sarah and was “bonking.” I was getting a little antsy because it was starting to cool down a bit and I felt great.
As we got into the Animal Kingdom, we all collected the whole big group together and did something I’ve never done before: We went on a roller coaster DURING the marathon. It’s kind of funny to step off of the race course and into a line for the roller coaster. I’ve never actually been on the Expedition Everest Roller coaster, so it as my first time doing that too. The line was pretty small so we were only out of the race for about 10 minutes. The roller coaster was really fun and makes for a great story! Sarah had a package for buying ride photos so after the race she posted this gem on Facebook. This is probably my favourite photo of the whole trip!
Leaving the roller coaster I got briefly separated from the group but caught up with Larry and Sarah after about a mile. Larry was feeling a little better and we were running 1-and-1’s. By about the 15th mile point I felt like I could go a little faster. I felt bad leaving Sarah and Larry, but I felt good and wanted to go a little faster so I said my goodbyes and thanked them for their company.
The next part of the race was a different experience. A LOT of people were walking at this point so it was kind of an obstacle course weaving slowly through the crowd. I did stop and chat with a lot of random people who were wearing Marathon Maniacs gear. Being in uniform you kind of gain an immediate kinship. The course went through ESPN Wide World of Sports between the 18-20 mile points.
Entering the Hollywood Studios park, I was running beside a gentleman who had a fancy top hat. I got to chatting with him and it sounded like he had run the course quite a few times. He pointed to his bib which indicated he was “Perfectly Goofy.” FULL STOP! Let me explain what that means. It means he’s run the Goofy Challenge, the marathon and a half, every year since its inception 22 years ago!! Dayum!
Entering the last few miles of the race I finally started to feel a little tired. Good time I guess because at that point the rest of the race is just gravy.
Repeating the tradition I started in 2014, I got a beer at the Great Britain pavilion at Epcot with about 2 miles to go. I declined on getting the souvenir mug, but in retrospect that would have been a pretty cool souvenir. Regrettably, I just couldn’t stomach the beer at that point and didn’t finish it. For shame, I know.
I approached the finish line and was able to snap a selfie with Goofy!
|Date||Event||Chip Time||Gun Time|
|2016/01/10||Walt Disney World Marathon||6:52:15||7:14:31|
This is a VERY well recorded and edited video by Lee Hoedl. It really captures a lot of the highlight moments, the speed of the race, and and some great character shots. And yours truly is in a lot of the stills, particularly 10:27, 10:47, 11:08, 11:58, 13:29,
Everything after the race is a bit of a blur. I quickly headed to a bus and back to the hotel. My mom met me at the bus dropoff and after a shower I went to eat.
I was kind of out of it for the rest of the afternoon. We visited some family that lived in Florida and I fell asleep in the car. After that my mom and I visited Downtown Disney Disney Springs. There were a lot of people wearing medals so it was nice to show mine off too.
I did note that Disney seems to be making great mileage out of their recent acquisitions of Star Wars and Marvel:
That evening I had pasta for the first time in about a week. After the stomach trouble I had in New York City I didn’t want any pasta going into these races. Now it was finally time to indulge in some lasagna.
Overall, I really enjoyed the race weekend. I was glad I wore my Marathon Maniacs singlet and I think I’ll wear it more often. And I think I may get a Half-Fanatics singlet too. The races were how I remembered: Fun, not competitive.
I guess it’s a little sad to say, but right now, I feel like the Magic is gone a bit. When I went to “show off” my medals at the Running Room, a lot of people were impressed, but since I had 3 other sets, they didn’t feel so special to me anymore. I brought the medals to the gym on another day and left them on the floor near me while working out with my trainer. I saw a lot of people looking at them, and someone might have pocketed them when I wasn’t looking, and I wouldn’t have liked that, but like I said, they’re not unique anymore.
Will I come back and do another Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend event? I’d love to. But, I have nothing left to prove. I’ve done Dopey. I’ve done the marathon 4 times now. But, it’s a great experience and it really is an enjoyable time. I’m pinching my pennies considering another trip back in 2017… Registration opens April 26, 2016.