Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Disney Marathon Race Report

Is it a sacrilege to have a running blog and NOT post a race recap after a major goal race has been run? Probably, so here is my attempt at a wrap-up of the Disney Marathon. The problem is that it was such a great race - and a fun vacation all around - that it is hard to neatly and concisely write up the event.  So, here's my attempt.  Warning, though, this is very much written just as it occurred to me.  It's very much stream of consciousness.

What's to say about the Disney Marathon?  It was a really fun run.  I had a great time (as in enjoyed myself), but not a great time (as in how fast my legs carried me).  In fact, it was the slowest marathon I have ever run - not that I have done that many.

My official chip time was 5:28:46.  (My watch time was 5:22, but I did pause it for potty breaks.  Of course, my watch also recorded 26.6 miles, but that is another story....)

While 5:28:46 (or even 5:22) is a far cry from the original goal time of 4:40 that I had originally set for myself, it is perfectly in line with my revamped goal of just finishing and having fun.  Strangely, with that finish time, I still placed in the top half - barely - of total finishers.  That still blows my mind - the fact that I could finish in five and a half hours and still finish in the top half of a very large field.  That should give you an idea of what this race is about - it certainly isn't about speed.

For me, race day morning started at 2:55 a.m. when the alarm went off.  Talk about a rude awakening.  I can't remember the last time I had to wake up that early....oh right....I think N-E-V-E-R.  We were staying on the property at the lovely Polynesian Resort, one of the host hotels, so aside from actually getting out of bed, the pre-race preparations and transportation were really made easy.  Of course, it helped too that Hubby had run the half marathon the morning before, so he already had everything figured out.

After getting dressed and doing the usual potty breaks, we headed downstairs to Captain Cooks - a little cafeteria style eatery on the first floor, which had opened early for runners.  I was really happy to see they were selling those instant Quaker Oats cups and bananas, so I picked up those as well as a juice to share with Hubby and a cup of coffee.  I mixed up the oatmeal and then carried everything off to the monorail.  An easy ride over had us to Epcot and the race start before 4 a.m.

4 a.m.! What the...??!?!  Trust me, if it were up to me, I would not have been there that early.  We were told in our pre-race information that they wanted us on transportation by 4 a.m. and in our start corrals by 5 a.m.  Since I was traveling with Hubby, who likes to be insanely early to race starts, this is what I got.  To be honest, this was the hardest part of the race for me.  It was hard to get up and moving so early, but mostly I hate getting to things early, because I hate to wait around.  In fact, that very thing is what will probably guarantee that I am never tempted by the Goofy Challenge.  Who wants to do that two days in a row?  Well, not me.

Hubby and I got to the start and were there when they opened the gates for us to start our walk to the corrals.  After a bit of a walk, we finally made it to our corrals.

Hubby and I at the start....
As Hubby was in corral A and I was in corral D, we said our good-byes and went our separate ways.  I think I was in my corral by 4:30 or so.  Then it was a long wait until my 5:56 scheduled start.

Huge TVs set along the corrals kept us entertained with pre-race hoopla as
20,000-some runners continued to stream in. 
Notables like Jeff Galloway were interviewed, and Mickey,
Donald, and Goofy made an appearance too to send us off.
Finally, around 5:30 a.m. the first runners were sent off to the cheerful explosion of fireworks.  Rather than having one start and then letting the corrals filter out as they may, each corral had its own start with countdown, fireworks, and everything.

By the time the gun went off for the Corral D start, I was fully energized and ready to RACE!  Well, ready to shuffle forward anyway.  Congestion at the start of the race was unbelievable.  Couple that with the fact that we were in fact running in the dark and you have the makings of a slow start.  In fact, looking down at my watch to check my pace, I was startled to see I was running slower than a 13-minute mile.  (The sad part is that I felt like I was going too fast!  haha)

This is a Galloway-endorsed event, not to mention that I think a lot of people just do it for fun.  That being said, the one complaint I could make about the race itself has to do with the number of walkers.  That may sound odd coming from a gal who employs a run/walk method herself.  However, when you have that number of people doing a run/walk, you are surely going to come across some folks who do it poorly.  And, I did.  If you are going to walk during a run, then move off to the side.  Don't just stop in the middle of the path.  And, for goodness sake, do NOT walk five abreast, when the path only fits five.  Of course, most people doing the walk breaks were very considerate of those behind them, and the couple of cases I have mentioned here were overwhelmingly the exception and not the rule.  I even learned a thing or two from the hardcore Galloway folks, like raising your hand before walking.  I didn't know that was a common practice but apparently it is.  You learn something new every day.

I think my main gripe with the race congestion is that it never let up!  This is the only longer distance race I have done where the crowd of runners NEVER thinned.  From start to finish, it was essentially shoulder-to-shoulder.  While it was nice for once not to feel like I was just left in the dust, by the last quarter of the race I really wished I had just been left in the dust.  :)

So, back to the start, ... Having sat in the start corral for an hour and a half after finishing that lovely cup of coffee, I had to pee.  Badly.  So, given the first good set of porta-potties in the first mile, I had to stop to take a bio break.  I wasn't the only one and ended up waiting in line for several minutes for a turn.

Getting back into the run, I was finally able to start enjoying myself.  I didn't worry about my pace at all, which of course takes a lot of stress off of a race.  I went into this knowing I was undertrained and with bigger goals on the horizon.  So, I really just planned to run for fun, taking a one-minute walk break every mile, as well as walking through the water stations, and I stuck with that plan until mile 20 or so.

There were a lot of highlights to the race - fun moments running through the parks.

Magic Kingdom was definitely my favorite.
Cinderella's Castle was all lit up, and as the sun
was coming up, I got there just in time to really
be able to appreciate it.
We even got to run through the castle, which was fun.
Saw a lot of princes and princesses, not to mention every other Disney
character you can think of.  Due to the long lines to get a picture taken
with them, I only queued up once for a photo op.  
The Disney Speedway...who knew they had that?  I actually dreaded running
this track thinking we would bake, but it was actually nicely shaded for the
most part.  I don't know who the car owners were (a classic car club?), but the
whole track was lined with neat cars to look at.  
Of course, these guys were my favorites....
...And this guy.  Don't know who the runners
Coming into Animal Kingdom, they had a line of goats to greet the runners...
So cute, but this is the guy I finally waited to get a picture with - Rafiki!  My kids
understand why! 
Despite the fun of running through the parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Speedway, ESPN Zone, and Epcot), there were also a lot of boring moments.  The parks are not connected to each other, of course, so there are many stretches on roads, running past the water treatment plant, going through back storage areas, etc.  Wherever you were, though, Disney did make it fun.  There were plenty of characters along the way you could have a picture taken with.  Comedic entertainment was provided, music, and trivia signs and inspirational signs.

There were about 20 water stations on the course, so for once I didn't worry about carrying a water bottle.  With a high temperature forecast for 80 degrees, I was careful to alternate between water and Powerade for hydration, and as the day wore on I started dumping water on my head at every stop.

Even being so far back in the pack, there was no shortage of water and the volunteers were encouraging us to douse ourselves with water to stay cool.  There was one sponge station where they handed out sponges, and that was nice - although I think they could have done that again.  There were also a ton of medical stations where they were doing who knows what.  I never stopped at one, but I was impressed with the HUGE vats of Biofreeze they had with pump tops. I have never seen so much Biofreeze. Towards the end, I considered getting some for my quads which threatened to seize up, but I ended up passing on it and was fine.

Nutrition-wise, I took three sleeves of Clif Blocks with me, cut in half.  My plan was to eat three blocks every 45 minutes, which seems to work well for me generally.  As I approached the time when I would have wanted that third set of blocks, though, I noticed that I was starting to get hungry - like give-me-food hungry.  Strangely, it was right around that time that a banana table popped up.  Talk about providence!  I ate a banana in place of the planned Clif Blocks and felt great.  In fact, timing-wise, I was able to do that again later in the race.  So, my food intake looked like this: Blocks, Blocks, Banana, Blocks, Blocks, Banana.  That worked out so well that I am trying desperately to think of ways to carry bananas with me when I run.  I never had tummy problems, in fact no discomfort whatsoever - and I wasn't hungry.  Bonus!  (As a side note, to the gustatory-minded, they handed out mini chocolate bars towards the end, too, but I passed on those.)

I have to say that this was the first marathon I have run where I actually ENJOYED the experience.  This is definitely the one to make me say I like going 26.2 miles and the challenge of it and I want to do it again.  Now, I am not sure if that is because this was DISNEY and not some other race or because I have finally gotten used to the IDEA of doing the marathon distance.  I guess my next race will help me sort out the answer to that.  What I do know is that despite the aches and pains I had fun.

As to the run itself, having only done an 18-mile training run leading up to this event, I was a little worried about when I would bonk - because I knew it would happen at some point.  I was pleasantly surprised when I made it past mile 18 and still was sticking to the one walk break per mile and I even made it past mile 20 with that.  At mile 20, though, I did start losing some of my enthusiasm and that is when I decided to pull out my Sansa and listen to some music.  Finally, by about mile 22 is when I decided to go to a two walk breaks per mile.  I knew it would happen at some point, I just didn't know when.  That I made it that far, though, was a small victory for me.

EPCOT! Finish is lens is blurry from all the sweat....
...Otherwise this picture would be a lot better.  I even tried to wipe the lens off,
but as you can see from this (second!) picture attempt, it did no good.  Ah well.
It would have been a nice picture!
As we entered Epcot - where the finish would be - and at about Mile 25, I started getting slightly emotional.  This surprised me because I thought I was beyond that at this point in my running life, but I guess not. It's nice to know you can still be moved.  I knew I was going to finish, and after my DNF in September that obviously meant a lot to me.

After choking back the tears at Mile 25, the finish was a bit anticlimactic, however.  :)

All in all, I was very impressed by how well Disney took care of the runners.  From the number of water stations and medical stations on the course to the constant reminders to hydrate and cool off, they really wanted participants to enjoy themselves.  Crowd support was phenomenal (not something I take lightly given how slow I am), and even at the early hour of the start there were a ton of people there to cheer you on.  Every park was lined with supporters cheering encouragement, although the stretches between parks tended to be quieter.

At the finish, they had misting stations to help cool runners down as well as bags of ice they were handing out.  I took advantage of both and probably made quite a sight with my ice bag on my head.  Volunteers were imploring people to drink up and rehydrate.  Massages were available at the end, but for a price and I hadn't brought any money with me.  Shuttles were there with clearly marked signs ready to whisk runners away to their hotels.

In the end, I guess I cannot say enough good about this event.  It really was fun.  I enjoyed walking around the parks later that day and the next with my race bling and shirt.  It was fun to see everyone else taking pride in their accomplishments, too, in the same way.

I am grateful to have a body that could allow me to do this, and I am grateful for the people in my life who support me in doing this.    Happy Running!

Marathon shirt as modeled by Hubby.
Proudly showing off my marathon medal.
Found my happy place after the race...a hammock strung between two palm trees
on the manufactured sandy beach of the Polynesian Resort.  I probably could
have hung out there (literally) for the rest of the day, but I ended up rousting myself
so that I could join Hubby, the GPs, and my kids at the pool - where I had a mai tai.
I know.  Life is rough sometimes, isn't it?  


  1. Hello,

    Reading your marathon recap it sounds exactly like my experience last year when I did the Goofy. Interestingly enough I found the congestion worse for the half than the full. Much worse actually as the raceway was tighter so the groups of walkers were a real blockade at points.
    Getting up early was definitely the hardest part especially for the marathon. Those stretches between parks can be tedious that's for sure.

    Great recap, I am headed to WDW this fall for the Wine and Dine and that run starts at 10:00pm!

    1. Thanks for reading! My husband did the Goofy Challenge this year, too, and he said that he preferred the marathon to the half. I think with him it was more just he found the marathon's course more interesting. Good for you, though, doing the Goofy! I don't think I would ever be too tempted because of having to get up two days in a row at that hour. lol Have fun with the Wine and Dine! That is definitely on my bucket list. It sounds like a lot of fun!