So I left of in the days leading up to the marathon recovering from a cold and nervous as hell about this race. Oh…did I fail to mention that? Yeah, I was NERVOUS!
My alarm went off at the oh so lovely hour of 2:30 am and even though I only had 5 1/2 hours of sleep, I popped right up. I didn’t sleep very well and I think I was running purely on adrenaline. I stuck with my nutrition plan and made an english muffin with almond butter and a cup of green tea. I also downed one last cup of Emergen-C and took some immune system booster vitamins.
I was happy I took the time the night before to lay out all of my clothes and the supplies that I would need to get ready. It made getting ready much less stressful. I taped up my legs and hip flexor with KT Tape, slathered on a ton of Body Glide (TMI?) and got dressed. I made sure my fuel belts were stocked and recheck the bag of supplies I was having B bring me later in the race. I was as ready as I was going to be…let’s do this!
I met up with a bunch of other media folks in the lobby of the hotel and we hitched a ride over to the Epcot parking lot. We were given the unique opportunity to catch a glimpse of the starting line before any of the runners arrived. It was so cool to see the event staff getting set up and ready for those 25,000 runners to arrive. I’m a logistics geek…what can I say? We were also able to watch many of the pre-race interviews (sadly I didn’t get to interview Joey Fatone ) and see the wheelchair racers get set up.
The runners started piling into the corrals and what was a ghost town one second was FULL the next. This meant it was time to get going. We were brought back to the starting corrals and patiently waited for the race to start.
Before I knew it, the National Anthem was being sung and the 20th Walt Disney World Marathon was minutes away from starting. The most moving thing I saw during the day happened during the National Anthem. Just behind me a man stoically raised an American flag and quietly stood there as the Anthem was being sung. I have no idea if he was a war veteran or just a very patriotic citizen, but it was an amazing show of patriotism. I was wondering what he did with the flag after the Anthem. Did he run the entire marathon with it?!
Before I knew it Mickey began the countdown, the fireworks went off and the marathon was underway. Please forgive the foul language in the following video…I couldn’t contain myself!
Before I got sick, my goal time to finish the race was 6 hours. I knew that this might not be a possibility now, plus I knew the weather was going to slow me down a bit. The forecast had been saying it was going to be in the low 80s with high humidity, which are less than ideal running conditions. I decided to go at my steady 3 minute run/ 1 minute walk pace for as long as I could and then just go with the flow. My goal on that day became to just finish.
The first 5 miles went by incredibly fast. I kept a steady 13 minute per mile pace and I was feeling really good! Call me crazy, but I actually enjoy that first stretch of World Drive after the first mile of the race. It’s flat and a great place to really get your stride. Oh and you have this great sight straight ahead, which always makes me run faster! (I apologize in advance for any blurry photos and video…I was movin’!!)
I was so excited to see Jack & Sally near the TTC, but the line had at least 20 people and I didn’t want to waste that much time. I decided that I wasn’t going to stop for character photos if the lines were long (most lines were very long!) because I knew I was going to need all of the time I could get on the back end.
The 5 mile marker was just outside of the Magic Kingdom and I crossed that at 1:07. I was feeling awesome and was so excited to get into the park! This was my favorite part of the Princess Half Marathon. When you enter Main Street USA and see all of those people cheering from you, you can’t help but get a little emotional. It’s quite amazing…
I was so excited to see the WDW Radio crew right ahead of me cheering like crazy! My friend Suzannah saw me and called out my name…it is so amazing to see a familiar face, so thank you Suzannah for that!
As I turned that corner to see Cinderella’s Castle, I couldn’t help but smile. They had kept the holiday lights on the castle just for the races…what a beautiful sight! Further down Main Street, I also saw my friends Jillian and Kelly. Jillian just ran her first half marathon the day before (congrats girl!) and it was so great to see her out there cheering all of us on
The course winds through a lot of the Magic Kingdom. From the hub you head right through Tomorrowland and through New Fantasyland where there are a TON of character meet and greets! Of course the best part of the Magic Kingdom is running through Cinderella’s Castle. And what better way to do it than to be greeted by trumpeters!!
From there we wound through Liberty Square where I saw this guy with the best costume of the day…full on Snow White!
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but the best thing about Disney races are the real bathrooms! When you go through any of the parks, all of the bathrooms are open so make sure to make a pit stop here instead of at one of the Portalets. My favorite restroom in the Magic Kingdom is the one between Frontierland and Adventureland. It’s very large so you have less of a change of waiting in line.
The next few miles were fairly uneventful as we left the Magic Kingdom and headed toward the Walt Disney World Speedway. The course did get very congested here as we were down to just one lane, so I had to stop and walk more frequently than I would’ve liked. People were actually going on the other side of the cones, which was very dangerous because of oncoming traffic. Don’t do this during a race…
The Speedway was a new element to the marathon for this year and was just after mile 8. To get into the Speedway, there is a very steep downhill and uphill that proved to be a bit difficult for some runners. But when we entered the track, we were greeting to the beautiful sight of the sun rising.
I’m not a big car person, so I didn’t think I would enjoy the Speedway all that much, but it was actually one of my favorite parts of the entire course! It was a completely different experience from anywhere else I have run before. All along the track vintage and race cars were lined up and their owners were out there cheering…it was really cool! As you could expect, various stars from the movie Cars made an appearance here as well!
Mile 9 came at the end of the race track and I knew we were now in for a long boring 3 miles up to Animal Kingdom. The course goes up Bear Island Road which is pretty secluded (were we still on WDW property?!), but runDisney did a good job of placing various photo stops and entertainment along the way. Santa’s reindeer and the toy soldiers were even out…they must be on their post Christmas vacation. We also ran past the water treatment facility, which was just a gorgeous sight
At this point in the day, the sun was starting to peak over the trees and the heat was creeping up. We made the approach into Animal Kingdom and to my surprise there were a ton of animals out! Now I’m a big animal lover and I have a small obsession with goats. So of course I bee-lined for one of the goats and asked the handler to take my picture with him….he looked at me kind of funny due to my excitement and how I hugged the goat, but whatever…
I immediately regretted this because now my hands smelled like goats. Kind of gross when you want to wipe the sweat off of your face. As soon as we entered the park, I stopped at the bathroom just outside Expedition Everest to wash my hands and splash some water on my face.
I had seen in prior marathons that runners have stopped to ride Expedition Everest during the race and I so wanted to do this! This is one of my favorite attractions and where else can you ride a roller coaster during a marathon?!? I was sad to see that the attraction wasn’t running yet so I had to just keep going I know that is was open later in the day because I say ride photos. But looking back, it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t ride because I’m not sure I could have gotten up afterwards!
As we exited Animal Kingdom, we reached mile 13. I had reached the halfway point in the race in 3:08 and was really happy with that time. It was a little over my original goal of 3 hours for the half and I was still feeling good at this point. No major pain, no chafing, still had energy…yeah! Oh how things were about to change…
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my Walt Disney World Marathon recap!!
Disclosure: I was invited to attend the entire weekend as media. My hotel expenses, meals and park admission were provided by Disney. As always, all opinions are 100% my own and I am 100% obsessed with runDisney events.