Completing Your First Marathon – The BEST Feeling EVER!

Marathons are AMAZING accomplishments in one’s life…something very few people can say they have done. I can hardly believe that I have actually done it!! Well today Ashley is back to to share the story of her first marathon and it is pretty incredible…enjoy 🙂


Ever have that feeling when you cross something major off your bucket list and you don’t know what to do next?? That’s how I’m feeling after spending the most amazing week at Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend January 9-13, 2014!

I’m Ashley, and I blog over at I began my blog to document my training for the WDW 2014 Marathon. I followed Jeff Galloway’s marathon training program to a tee because his training plan fully prepared me to run the Princess Half Marathon in February 2013, so I trusted it would prep me well for the marathon – and it did! My husband and I are both runners. Now we are blessed with our 18-month-old son, who loved spending a week at Nana’s while we ran Disney! (Last year, he came to Princess when he was just 7 months!)

Ashley Bartley - Marathon 01

Some inspiration I lived by while training:

  • “If you can dream it, you can do it.” ~ Walt Disney
  • “There will be days you don’t think you can run a marathon. There will be a lifetime of knowing you have.” ~Unknown.
  • Pictures of the 10k and marathon medal taped to my treadmill for early morning weekday training runs

{What I wore:}

  • At the last minute, I decided to switch what I was wearing for the 10k and full. The straps on my original Lululemon tank were way too thick for 26.2 miles in Florida! I wore a light-blue Lululemon “Free to Be” tank with black Target C9 shorts, Brooks socks, hot pink Mizuno Wave Inspire 9s, a new sparkly gold Sweaty Band from Fit2Run, my new paracord watch that my husband made, my pink Disney MagicBand, and a SPIbelt loaded with 4 GU packets, ChapStick, and an external battery charger/cable for my iPhone. I carry my iPhone in my hand while I run, using BlueTooth with my wireless Jaybird headphones, and I simultaneously use RunKeeper, music, and the camera, so the battery would have given up right after I ran through the ESPN Wide World of Sports had I not been carrying my charger!

Ashley Bartley - Marathon 02 

{What I ate:}

  • For lunch Saturday before the marathon, we ate at Pop Century Resort. I grabbed pepperoni bread and a Caesar salad. For dinner, we had reservations at Portobello in Downtown Disney at 4:30. Our hostess told us that Marathon Weekend is their busiest weekend of the year, so I was glad that we snagged our ADR 180 days in advance and opted for an early dinner. Our food arrived at 5:30, so it was perfect! I ordered the “Rigatoni Calabrese” which was large enough that I ate the leftovers on Monday morning! Our waiter even gave us free refills on our fancy strawberry lemonades, “Sorpresa Di Fragolino” and then waived the price altogether when he felt that our food took too long to come out (I hadn’t even noticed!). YUM! We also received a 10% Marathon discount, so our total was not bad at all!! We got free samples at Ghirardelli chocolate before catching the shuttle home.

{The night before:}

After returning home late from Downtown Disney, we were exhausted and laid out all of our running gear on the extra bed in our room, which we called the “staging” area. We set our alarms for 2:30, plugged in our headphones, external battery chargers, and phones, and were quickly asleep!

Ashley Bartley - Marathon 03

{Marathon morning:}

We were up at 2:35, dressed, and in line for the race shuttle at 3:45. The line was so long that two full buses left before we got on our charter. Traffic was CRAZY!! We finally arrived at EPCOT at 5:05. We made our ways to the starting corrals, which was much more of a hike than to the  10k corrals, but the same as Princess and the WDW half marathon the day before. There were so many corrals that they actually had runners take different roads to access their corrals, so my husband and I parted ways while he went to his and I headed back to mine. By the time I arrived, there was not much time before Mickey began counting and the fireworks were off for the wheelchair group and then Corral A! I didn’t even get a chance to hug my sister, who was two corrals ahead of me with her friend.

Before starting, I told myself that I was here to “have a good time,” not to “get a good time.” After all, this is Disney! I decided that I would have no regrets when I finished. That meant I would run solo and play it by ear whether to stop for character stops. My main goals were to get photos of every mile marker and grab Powerade and water at every water station to stay hydrated, since I wasn’t carrying water on me. I planned out when I would take GU.

Ashley Bartley - Marathon 04 

Right after Mickey counted “Three! Two! One!” to start my corral, I hopped over to grab a photo of him and a photo of the starting line. (All in all during the 26.2 miles, I managed to grab 122 photos on my phone!). I loved that the fireworks for my corral were just as generous as those for all the other corrals.

Ashley Bartley - Marathon 05

I turned off my headphones so that I could listen to the excitement buzz around me as we made our way over the speed bumps entering into Magic Kingdom and the TTC, where most of the first spectators were. The stretch between Miles 5 and 6 were obviously one of my favorites. Still lots of high energy, character stops, and Cinderella’s Castle! I also used the opportunity to use the restroom in TomorrowLand. I did not wait for a picture with royal Mickey and Minnie behind the castle because the line looked long, but I did grab several shots in front of the castle, which glistened with silver icicle lights! I backtracked a little after my castle photo so the MarathonFoto photographer that was taking pics as we came out of the castle could catch me.

Ashley Bartley - Marathon 06

After passing Woody, it was on to Mile 6! Twenty miles to go! At Mile 7, I caught up briefly with Donald Duck! When my husband ran through this character spot at the Palm & Magnolia Golf Courses, Goofy was there instead, and he justified this one stop because he was running the Goofy Challenge.

Ashley Bartley - Marathon 07

After Mile 8 came the Speedway, which was interesting, but the cars were hard for me to see because it was so sunny out! Luckily it stayed breezy and cool for most of the race! We headed on to Animal Kingdom – I’d never been there before! After the Mile 12 marker, I spotted Jiminy Cricket, one of my favorites, with barely a line – photo op! Same with Rafiki from the Lion King! At this point I stopped for a “secret bathroom” break in a building that looked like a trailer from the front, but actually had restrooms behind it. And then I was off again!

Ashley Bartley - Marathon 08

And then – Expedition Everest was RIGHT.THERE. I had heard that it might be open. I love roller coasters – I did the Roller Coaster Insider Tour at Busch Gardens this summer, where I grew up, but I’d never ridden this one. I saw marathoners running into the FastPass line, and I asked the cast member how long the line was “It’s so quick! Just do it! When will you ever be able to do this mid-marathon again?!” In a split-second decision, I ducked inside, leaving my RunKeeper app running. Miles 13, 14, and 15 happened right there on that ride! There was virtually NO wait (maybe 3 minutes, tops??), and in no time I was jumping right into the FRONT ROW! I had a great car of runners – we were all so excited!! I’ve never had such an adrenaline rush before and am SO glad I did it!

Ashley Bartley - Marathon 09

Right when I came out, I spotted Minnie and Daisy with a short wait, so of course I had to do that, and then I knew I really needed to step it up so as not to lose momentum.

Ashley Bartley - Marathon 10

Heading past Mile 13 and out of Animal Kingdom, I saw the BEST poster: “Bucket List – check!” Simple. Loved it.

Ashley Bartley - Marathon 11

I would have loved to stop for Mickey, but he had a line and I had already stopped enough that mile, so I picked off Miles 14, 15, 16, and 17 before hitting the luxuriously-padded track at ESPN Wide World of Sports. I felt like we were in there forever though! It was nice when we were finally into the single-digit miles remaining. We ran around the baseball field, the track, and the whole complex, before heading out to the infamous “Mile 20” wall that most people caution about. My longest training runs beforehand were 20 and 23 milers, so I knew I’d be okay, and I was, but I still LOVED the motivational quotes staked in the grass along the way.

Ashley Bartley - Marathon 12

I knew we still had to hit Hollywood Studios and EPCOT, with not much mileage left, so I chugged along, noticing that many more people were solely walking at this point. Loved, LOVED the Hollywood Studios water tower and the costuming viewing area! Around Mile 24 I had to grab a picture of the “40k” banner – (who’s heard of such a thing??) and knew we must be approaching Epcot very soon!

Ashley Bartley - Marathon 13

Entering into World Showcase got emotional for me. I started tearing up with the enormity of what I was about to accomplish, but a spectator said, “you’re okay, sweetie!” and I realized she probably thought I was in pain, so I got myself together and smiled with my thumb up. I could see Spaceship Earth in the distance, but it was SO far away, and I could see runners all the way around the lagoon.

Ashley Bartley - Marathon 14

So close, yet so far! It really helped when a spectator encouraged us by saying that we only had “point three miles to the finish!” I spotted Sorceror Mickey’s picture on the 26-Mile marker, briefly savored the motivational gospel choir, (regrettably) bypassed Dopey, who barely had a line – because I was SOOO close at that point!), and rounded the corner where I could SEE THE FINISH LINE!

Ashley Bartley - Marathon 15

Ashley Bartley - Marathon 16

I remember taking a video, blowing kisses to an uber-excited Minnie on my left, Mickey on my right, and across the finish I went! I realized I was still running through the chute and put on the brakes to receive my BEAUTIFUL FINISHER’S MEDAL! There was some confusion until I could find my family outside the gear check tents, but we were all so excited to have all finished and achieved such an accomplishment!

Ashley Bartley - Marathon 17

I admired my husband’s colorful Goofy medal, my brother-in-law’s Dopey medal, and hopped in line to show Chip, Dale, and Pluto our newest bling.

Ashley Bartley - Marathon 18

Ashley Bartley - Marathon 19

Ashley Bartley - Marathon 20

We hopped onto our shuttle back to Pop Century, where a hot shower and compression sleeves awaited me!

Ashley Bartley - Marathon 21

Soon afterward, we shuttled to Magic Kingdom, caught the monorail to the Polynesian, and enjoyed the BEST post-race dinner at ‘Ohana with my sister and her friends, where the meat was literally bouncing off my plate and onto the table, it was coming so fast! Afterward, we ordered a Lapu Lapu, but they were sold out (lots of marathoners there celebrating!). Instead, my husband and I watched “Wishes” fireworks show from the beach at Poly and filled a cup with a soft-serve Dole Whip – the perfect fairy-tale ending to an absolutely perfect day!

Ashley Bartley - Marathon 22

Ashley Bartley - Marathon 23


I’m so excited to be writing a race recap for Running at Disney today! I’m Ashley, and I blog over at Running MOMentum. I’m an elementary school counselor by day, but when I am home, I’m a cloth-diapering, nursing, babywearing mommy to my sweet boy. My husband and I are living in a toddler’s world! Blogging is my way of processing and reflecting on my experiences and relishing in the loves of my life – my faith, my family, my friends, and my experiences!

I ran cross country in high school but took a hiatus after a spinal fusion, and only recently returned to running about a year before my son was born. My favorite races have been at Disney – the 2013 Princess Half Marathon, the 2014 Inaugural Minnie 10k, and the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon! You might also catch me taking pictures, writing, finding freebies, attempting to cook, attending Bible study, scouring Pinterest, and scrolling through Bloglovin. Virginia has always been home to me, my husband, our son, and our sprightly Jack Russell Terrier, Scout.

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