Sunday’s race was the marathon, taking us through 4 parks: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom and Disney Hollywood Studios. In addition, we ran through Disney’s Motor Speedway and ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
In my post-run stupor Saturday, I forgot to explain about the fireworks to start the half marathon. When the first corral took off, there was an awesome fireworks display. It only lasted a few minutes, but it was enough to put smiles on the faces of all the runners and add to the excitement of the event. And then with the start of every corral, a single blast of fireworks was shot off. It was awesome! I was surprised to find the initial fireworks display on day 2 to be shorter. It was still fun, of course, just shorter.
Getting to the race on Sunday was similar to Saturday, but this time I left at 3:10 to allow more time to get to the start. Since I knew exactly where I was going and what to expect, it wasn’t stressful at all. And I found David and Cathy, 2 colleagues with whom I’d run some of the long runs. We started out together, but only made it a few miles before splitting up. The course was just too crowded. It was tough to weave in and out among the walkers.
The first part of the course was the same as the Half Marathon, so I didn’t stop to take any photos, plus the lines were quite long. On the positive side, while I left Cathy and David behind in the first couple of miles, I found Debbie (the British lady) shortly thereafter! She gave me the insight that a perfect potty stop was the Wild West in Magic Kingdom because there were tons of stalls and most runners didn’t know about it. She was absolutely right — good tip for any future runners out there!
And Debbie was a trooper. I stopped for a couple of photos in Magic Kingdom (Mickey and Minnie in front of the castle, although I didn’t get in the shot because the line was too long; the steam train engine (although I look a little hyped up); and Genie was near the parking lot with his magic lamp. Debbie could have left me, but she snapped the photos and was glad to have company.
From Magic Kingdom we headed to Disney Motor Speedway. I had no idea it even existed. I guess I’m not much of a racing fan. As we neared the stadium, I had no idea where we were headed. There was a loudspeaker that was continuously announcing, “Attention runners, steep incline ahead.” They weren’t kidding!! Luckily everyone slowed down to walk down it and most of the way up the other side. Personally, I thought it was a dangerous thing to throw into a marathon, but when we came out the other side, there was quite the site to behold. The raceway was lined with cars — many cool old ones as well as fancy new ones. We ran almost half-way around when I spotted Mater. I felt guilty for holding Debbie back, so I didn’t get in line for photos, but I snapped ones of Mater, Lightning, Finn and the sign on the Speedway.
By this time it was starting to get extremely hot — especially on the Speedway, but also throughout the parks. We were stopping at every water station. It added time, but we knew we had to stay hydrated.
The next stop on the route was Animal Kingdom, although we entered via a service entrance. They had a few animals to greet us, including a tiny owl (no pic because it was too crowded), a goat and a type of pig. Again, Debbie hung in there with me while I took quick photos.
Animal Kingdom is where my absolute favorite part of the marathon took place: they were allowing runners to veer off course to ride the Himalayan roller coaster and then jump back into the race. How AWESOME is that? Unfortunately, this was around mile 13 and I was already feeling the heat. I knew I couldn’t handle a roller coaster ride without throwing up, so I opted not to partake of the fun. Nevertheless, I still think it was super cool! On our way out of the park Pluto and Mickey were near their safari Jeep for photos.
Sadly, after Debbie was so patient with me for the 10-11 miles we were together, I lost her. Coming out of Animal Kingdom was a nightmare. They filtered us through the sidewalk next to the parking lot. It was extremely narrow and the incredibly rude walkers covered most of the path. I kept weaving, often jumping onto the grass and back down onto the path to make my way forward. Debbie stuck with me through most of it, but on the final burst forward, when I got to the end, I couldn’t find her. I stopped at the medical tent at mile 14 to put a little Bio Freeze on my aching thighs and knees, and I stood there a couple of minutes hoping to catch sight of her. But I also knew I couldn’t stand too long or the throng of people I had just fought so hard to pass would be back in front of me. I trudged ahead on my own, hoping she’d catch up to me (while simultaneously looking forward wondering if she had passed me while at the medical tent stop). I never saw her again.*
The next couple of miles were on the highway taking us to ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. That place is ginormous! We made our way along the various sport fields, and we even ran a portion of the outside track of the baseball diamond. At mile 20, close to the exit of the Complex, Wilca was waiting for me. Wilca is one of the Renegades, and she offered to help me through the final leg of the race. I had warned her that I planned to walk more than run the final stretch, but she was willing to stick it out with me. Almost immediately we came across some giant puppets of various characters. The lines were short to nothing, so I got photos with Sebastian and Tigger. The line for Donald, Mickey and Goofy was outrageous, as you can imagine! (Those are the 3 characters on our medals.) I decided to just snag a shot of them without getting in it and keep moving. The heat was horrendous and I wanted to finish this thing!
Wilca and I ran through Disney’s Hollywood Studios, snapping a few photos along the way. We then ran right past the villa where we were staying with our friend Georgette. Georgette was waiting for us with bottles of water and snacks. I was starting to feel sick and didn’t think I could eat anything, so I just took water and kept going. I thought Wilca was going to stay at the hotel, but she caught up to me and stayed with me through Epcot, leaving me just before the finish line.
I almost forgot the most important part of seeing Georgette at The Boardwalk. She handed me my Donald medal from the half marathon. I carried it the last 3 miles so that once I crossed the finish line and got the Mickey and Goofy medals, I was able to take a photo with all 3 medals! What I didn’t do was stick around for the character photos like I had done the day before. I was hot, dehydrated and hungry. Wilca and I got on the bus back to the Boardwalk, and she was kind enough to make me a couple of eggs to snack on until the Giordano’s pizza arrived.
Since this was the 20th anniversary of the Disney World Marathon, the medal is a doozy! The catch phrase has been “it’s all about the bling.” I didn’t know what that meant until I saw the medal; it definitely has BLING! (And since WordPress has changed its media format, the photo gallery below is in reverse order. You can see the medals right there at the start! Unfortunately, it makes following the blog a bit more challenging. But I opted to put the photos at the end rather than throughout the post so that people could scroll through them if they so wish. Enjoy!)
That night we celebrated by going to Jellyrolls, a dueling piano bar on the Boardwalk. It was a blast! We sang, danced and celebrated with many other runners. I think Wilca and Georgette took a few photos – I’ll have to check. But it was the perfect way to end a fun, challenging and wonderful weekend!
*The course photographers snapped a couple of shots of Debbie and I together, so I used her bib # to discover her surname. I checked the results, and she finished in 6 and half hours, about 45 minutes behind me. At least she finished! I hope to look her up so I can apologize for losing her. I feel terribly guilty.