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Lessons Learned from the Walt Disney World Marathon

I’m super excited to have Hannah here on RAD today!  The 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon was her first full marathon and she is sharing her tips on traveling with family to race weekends and her struggles during the race.  Great takeaways for everyone!  But enough from me…I’ll let Hannah do the talking…

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I fully intended to be writing a post about how awesome it was to complete my first marathon. How empowered I felt to have my family by my side cheering me on. And, about how we rocked it out in the park for the week following. At least I will get to tell you about the second two since I ended up pulling myself out of the race shortly after mile 16. But let’s rewind for a moment and get you all caught up.

Back in May 2013 I decided that I wanted to run the Walt Disney World Marathon 2014. When I told my husband he said he’d like to do it as well. So we both signed up.

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As the date approached we talked with our families and invited them all along for the trip to Florida. My parents, my in-laws, my sister-in-law and our niece ultimately decided they would come down to watch us run.  I got to work putting together emails about Disney since my mother-in-law still refers to Magic Kingdom as “Disney” and openly declares that she “doesn’t like Disney, but loves Epcot.” I broke down each park into four emails — an intro email, two descriptive emails, and a conclusion email that included tips and tricks for that park. I also included a few general emails (transportation, resorts, packing, food, etc). I tried to space the emails out so they would arrive about once a week, but my schedule got a bit busy so some were grouped together.  I think the emails helped a little, but it still would have been easier if I had out-right planned everyone’s trip for them.

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Despite the minimal hiccups, we were incredibly grateful that our parents, my husband’s sister, and our niece were there cheering us on. It really made the experience something special. We also enjoyed our time on vacation with them.

I do have a few bits of advice if you are traveling with a large group of non-Disney travelers:

  1. Have face-to-face conversations early and often to gauge their planning if you are not doing it all yourself.
  2. Buy a guidebook or order maps for your travelers.
  3. Spend their first day at the park with them so they do not get overwhelmed.
  4. Remember to tell them how much you appreciate them being there.
  5. Breathe deeply, plan some time apart, and definitely don’t share rooms…you will need your own space.

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So back to it being awesome to complete my first marathon. That didn’t happen. In 2013 I had set a personal goal to complete 13 running events and I was successful in doing so. Unfortunately, those 13 events included three half marathons very close together (Sept, Oct and Nov). At my September race (Disneyland Half) I started having an issue with my hip feeling tight. By October (Hershey Half) it was incredibly tight, but I had attributed it to the “colder-than-expected” weather and my muscles freezing up. By November (Philadelphia Marathon Weekend, Half Marathon), I couldn’t deny that there was something going on. So I took a break from running and just never got my groove back before the WDW Marathon.

I kept up with working with my trainer (TRX and weight-training) and completed a 6 week boot-camp class. I figured I’d be okay because I had kept up my cardio with the boot camp, had lost a few pounds, and more importantly, about 3 percent body fat (woohoo!). Apparently it wasn’t enough. By mile 9 or 10 of the marathon my hip was irritated but not enough to be a problem. Then, around mile 11 my knee started aching. Around 12.5 I knew I wasn’t going to finish the race without a real injury so I let my husband know my concerns and we parted ways around mile 13. Where I sat and cried for about 10 minutes.

Then my stubborn butt said “I’ve done this before, I need to do more.” So I got up and got to mile 14, and then to the medic stop after 14 where I took a tylenol and kept plowing on until 15…then 15.5, where I stopped again and talked to one of the bike medics. He told me there was another medic spot after mile 16 so I pushed on and figured I’d make a decision there. And, so I did. I bailed.  The stubborn side of me could have kept going, but the “smart” side decided it would be better to pull out and not risk getting hurt.

To answer the two questions I’ve been asked most — Yes, I will make another attempt at doing a marathon (if you know me, you wouldn’t even bother asking that) and No, I do not regret my decision to pull out. What I do regret is a big lesson learned — train for a marathon. Train seriously. Take it seriously. It’s not a joke. Yes, I can do a half with very little training and still finish and be fine the next day. A full marathon is a whole other beast. You have to take it for what it is.

I do want to say that I am incredibly proud of my husband who ended up finishing his first full marathon! And, grateful that he’s agreed to do another one with me if I want him to.

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Just a few tid-bit tips if you’re thinking of taking on a race at the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend.

  1. Go the expo early. I, and every other person you’ll talk to, can’t stress this enough.
  2. Take a cell phone or some means of communication with you, and set up a meeting point for after the race. We had one cell phone because we intended to stay together. Unfortunately, I was mistaken in believing I would be able to contact our family members at the medic stop…nope. Not until I got back to the finish area could I reach out to anyone. They were all really concerned about where I was after Jon and I parted ways and then we had a hard time finding each other.
  3. Rest before the race and after. We spent the day before the marathon just hanging out at our resort and the night after we did some Downtown Disney walking, but no park. We intended to hit up Epcot, but weren’t feeling it at all.
  4. Walk after the race. Man was it hard to get back up after resting for a few hours (we zonked out for about 2 hours), but it is VERY important to get up and walk.
  5. The parks will be crowded during the marathon weekend so take time to do non-park stuff on the weekend and try to stay for a few days after to visit the parks when they will be less crowded.

Overall, we had great trip and I wish you the best of luck if you decide to try a trip like this or a marathon!

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Hannah is an attorney from Hershey, Pennsylvania. She started running in 2011 while preparing for the Bar Exam as a means of helping her focus on her studying. Hannah completed her first half marathon in October 2011 at the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco. In 2013 she completed 13 running events including 5 half marathons, 2 10ks, 3 5ks and 3 fun races (2 color runs and a zombie run).  She enjoys setting goals and crossing things off of her “bucket list,” and she is strongly considering giving the Walt Disney World Marathon another shot in 2015! Follow Hannah at www.workorrun.com, where she blogs about her everyday goals and challenges.

7 Responses to Lessons Learned from the Walt Disney World Marathon

  1. You’ll be back and do a great job!
    Nicole @ Pink Elephant on Parade recently posted..The Week in RunningMy Profile

  2. Awesome tips! Love this post. That decision to take yourself out of the race was very difficult I bet… you are strong for being able to do that!

    I agree with you about training, too. I recently ran my very first full marathon, and I overheard someone say that they didn’t train AT ALL for the full and it made me both angry and sad for that person. Angry because it made me feel like he was trying to put down everyone else because they ‘had’ to train and sad because he could have been seriously injured in doing something like this untrained. That being said, it still didn’t take away my own joy! It was such an amazing experience.

    My husband and I will be at marathon weekend at Disney in 2015… maybe we’ll see you there!
    Lauren @ Lauren’s Glass Slipper recently posted..Weekly Recap 3/10/14 – 3/16/14My Profile

  3. I’m so stubborn, I often push through things I shouldn’t … then end up hurt. You should be so proud for making a smart decision!
    Katherine recently posted..Review: ‘3500: An Autistic Boy’s Ten-Year Romance with Snow White’My Profile

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