Doing the Disney Marathon is not just a task of the endurance, it's also the task of enduring the weekend. In addition to the attraction of running around the park, and getting tired before the race even starts, there's the fact that the race starts at 6AM, and the fact that you basically have to leave your hotel between 3-4AM. And if your spouse is doing the half marathon on Saturday, like mine was, you get 2 basically sleepless nights back to back.
That being said, this marathon is unlike any other I've ever encountered. If you want a big marathon full of entertainment, spectacle, people, and sights, this one is for you. If you don't like those things, you might want to stay away.
After getting up at 2Am on Saturday for Jo to go do the 1/2 marathon, I got up at 2:30 Sunday morning to get to the buses. I had heard that the early buses got to the start in about 10 minutes, but some of the later ones took an hour. So I wanted to hit the buses early. Got on the first one at 3:05 and got to Epcot within 10 minutes. Epcot at 3:15 in the morning is an interesting experience. I've been there at night, but it's not quite the same. Quiet and dark and cold, but still lit up. Pretty neat.
|Spaceship Earth with the monorail lines in the foreground.|
Luckily, I had paid a little extra for the "Race Retreat" While people that didn't sign up for the retreat had the joy of sitting out in the parking lot in 35 degree weather for 2 hours, I got to go to a temperature controlled tent, with chairs, couches, food and characters. When I was signing up I was thinking that the extra $100 seemed like a lot on top of everything else going into this, but then I had read about the prior years marathon, and the 22 degree and sleeting start, so it sounded like a good idea. It was great.
|To infinity.....and beyond!!!!|
Met a couple of new people to talk to and then wound up meeting Jeffrey, who Jo had met on Saturday. Jeffrey was doing the "Goofy" which means doing BOTH the half on Saturday AND the full on Sunday. Quite a challenge. Jeffrey was able to give me some good tips on getting through the race (especially which bathrooms weren't used very much), and was great to talk to in general. He was able to keep me distracted from the panicked feeling I had earlier. After a quick pic with the "Toy Story 3" characters it was time to get to the corrals.
You need to be in the corrals by 5AM, so you have to head out a little before that. So you get to sit in the corral for an hour slowly getting colder. Luckily at this point I still had on my throw away sweats, so I was toasty at least. I actually saw something I'd never seen before. They were handing out the Solar blankets BEFORE the race even started. I had one, but I was warm, and I gave mine to a woman who was obviously freezing to death. Since there are so many corrals, the race actually starts at 5:30 with the wheelchairs, and then slowly sends off a wave every 5 minutes. I had hoped this meant I would start earlier, as I was afraid of the race getting to warm, but alas, I didn't start until 6:05. This staggered start was also interesting when I got to every mile marker. Since I started 35 minutes after the first wave, I had to mentally deduct the 35 minutes from the time on the clock at every marker.
Considering the number of people there it was quite well organized. The fireworks show at the start was cool, and the flames that went off as each wave started were warming.
|The start from my angle|
|The flames look nice and toasty|
And then it was down to the business of actually running the marathon.
Mile 1: The first mile is out on a service road outside Epcot. Not much to see except the elite runners who started a half hour ago looping around to mile 4 on the other side of the road. At the 1 mile mark I finally ditched my sweats. After the 1 mile mark I decided to take a pic at every mile marker. After the first mile we headed back into Epcot through the parking lot. We headed through the car entrance and then hit the mile marker.
|Welcome to Epcot - at 6:15 AM|
|That's 2 down.|
After a brief run through the parking lot we got to Epcot itself. We ran up through the entrance and right past Space ship earth (and a virtually empty bathroom. sweet!) . The Christmas decorations were still up and lit up, so it was quite pretty
|All lit up for the marathon|
|The trees were still lit up|
And then out towards the world pavilions.
|Welcome to Mile 3|
This was where I had my first character greeting during the race. I guess i didn't realize that there would be places to have your picture taken with characters throughout the course. The first character was "Duffy", a new character. he's Mickey's teddy bear . Nobody seemed to have any idea who he was so there was no line. I stepped right up and got my picture taken and then started going around the world. We went past Mexico, Norway and China, before heading through a back passage to see our first view of Disney backstage.
|Who are you again?|
|Running by Mexico|
And our view was.....garbage. No really, we got to go right past the garbage bins and back of the pavillions. I suppose in some way it's interesting seeing the backs of buildings, and then we were on the service road again.
At first I thought the road looked strangely familiar and then i realized that it should, since it was the same road we had just started on and we were looping back around.
So we past the starting line again, but instead of heading back into Epcot, we turned right, went around a loop and headed for the Magic Kingdom. I can honestly say I don't recall a single thing between the mile 4 and mile 5 markers.
After mile 5 you pass over an overpass and can see the people spread out across the road. And then you hit mile 6.
After the mile marker you loop around and get onto "World Drive" heading towards the Kingdom. And there were pixies (Tinkerbell's friends) here. I stopped to get a picture with them and moved on.
Right after the pixies, I saw Pooh and Piglet up ahead. When I got there, the line was enourmous. It was at that moment that I realized that if I stopped to wait on line for every single character, it would take me 3 days to finish. So I started living vicariously through other people. I took pictures of the characters with whoever they were with as I went on by. I decided to only stop for pics if there was no line or only a person or two waiting.
|Yes that is pooh in the background|
|Had to take this pic for Julia|
|Hot air balloon|
And that brought me to Mile 7
About the only thing that happened in Mile 7 was the fact that we passed the gate for the Magic Kingdom. There are a lot of miles out on the open roads, and that's why Disney tries to keep you entertained with characters and signs.
|The entrance to the Magic Kingdom|
After Mile 8, we passed by the Richard Petty driving experience. I've been to Disney at least 10 times, and had no clue that this was even here. Apparently, you can learn how to drive a race car, on the full size track! Just like in Charlotte at the speedway. Who knew? After that it was mile 9
|The instructors from the driving experience|
Again, I can remember absolutely nothing from mile 9 to 10 except this: Around Mile 9 you pass the ticket and transportation center. I ran into the bathroom here and pushed the off button on my ipod. It didn't stop. I pushed it again. It clicked but the screen stayed dark. I figured at least as long as the song was still playing, I was good. Then the song ended. And then.....nothing. Now, I run with music all the time, and need it to push me on. Here I was at mile 9 of a marathon, and i've got nothing. Not good. I tried to reset it, while running, but nothing. I was out of luck.
The other thing I remember from this mile is the twinge I started feeling in my left knee. I've had knee problems years ago, but always in my right, never the left. I had no idea what that was about, but figured it would go away. Unfortunately, it only got worse. More on that later.
The Mile 10 marker was right outside of Space Mountain.
At this point we were on another back road somewhere in the Magic Kingdom, but I had no idea where. We went through a gate, and Bam! We were on Mainstreet USA! Didn't come out under the trains station, we came in from the side. And right away the Christmas Tree is right in front of you. The decorations were up and we were running up Main Street towards the castle, and there were even spectators in the park cheering. Awesome.
|Christmas tree in the town square|
|Buildings on Main Street still decorated|
|Head for the Castle!|
|Sir, can you take my picture a little faster please?|
|Still heading up Main Street|
|Self portrait (with castle)|
After the quick jog up main street (and high fiving a bunch of little kids) we made a right at the castle and headed into tomorrowland.
|Welcome to the world of tomorrow.|
After a quick jog past the front side of Space Mountain, it was past the teacups, pooh ride, snow white ride, and the carousel to the back of Cinderella castle.
On the roof of the back of the castle where trumpeters greeting us, very cool. Then as we headed through the castle, the women from the restaurant were all outside cheering. Then it was running right through the castle which was incredibly cool, and down the ramp down the front. I stopped for a picture in front of the castle, and then we made a right to head into frontierland.
|Rapunzel and...whatever his name is|
|The wicked stepsisters|
|Thank you ladies|
|Johane calls this one my "Sound of Music" moment|
|The cast of "Princess and the Frog" and I. The princess is|
standing pretty far away. I didn't think I smelled THAT bad!
|Woodie and Jessie|
|leaving the Magic Kingdom|
Once we left the Magic Kingdom, we turned immediately into a backstage area, where the "Pirates of the Carribean" crew were. The line to take a picture was ridiculously long. It was probably a 45 minute wait. I just kept moving on. Though the guy they got to play Captain Jack Sparrow looked exactly like Johnny Depp!
|That's "CAPTAIN" Jack Sparrow|
I found the miles until the next park, Animal Kingdom, to be long, and difficult. The pain in my knee had settled in full force and I found myself wondering how exactly I was going to finish. At least around mile 15, my ipod decided to start working again so there was that at least.
After hitting the 12 mile mark the first bit was out past the Grand Floridian resort, and then over some of the Disney golf courses. There were some crowds here from the hotels which was nice.
|I've never seen mice play golf before|
|Mary Poppins and her entourage|
Then we headed to the half marathon point, which was on the opposite side of the street from the 9 mile mark, which seemed a long time before.
After the half marathon point, we took a sharp right away from the park and towards Animal Kingdom which was 3 miles away. This was the only real hilly part of the course with a slow uphill from miles 14 through 18. The access road was pretty barren so Disney tried hard to keep you entertained with signs on the ground, and characters more frequently.
Still until you reached mile 16, there wasn't much around. Once we reached the 16 mile mark it was a turn towards Animal Kingdom, and right away you got the sense that's where you were going. There were some staff out on the road with some of the animals. They had some of the most beautiful birds just sitting on their arms as you went by. Really nice.
|I think this is a Falcon|
|A really cool looking owl|
Soon after this we passed the animals, there was a "food stop" The food stop had energy gels. I passed the first woman who said she only had mocha, and the next one, and the next one. Finally I asked if there were any other flavors. They only had 50 cases of mocha. I'll pass thanks.
Right after this, we entered the park. There were a lot more characters here, and I even managed to score a picture with Flik, from "A Bug's Life" when no one was waiting on line.
The interesting part about Animal Kingdom was the walkways. When they built the park, they put animal tracks into the concrete. It's a cool feature if you're visiting, but if you're running there...not so great. So the footing was a little slippery, especially for me, since I'm always twisting my ankle. Running through Animal Kingdom was pretty cool. By this point they had starting letting people in for the day, so they had partitioned off the runners from the visitors. I was thinking that it probably wouldn't be a great day to be a visitor since you basically had a little tiny pathway to make your way around.
|Please tell me we don't have to climb Expedition:Everest!|
|Running away from Expedition:Everest|
After the 17 mile mark we headed through Dino-World and then out of the park on a service road. I got an interesting view of the back of Expedition:Everest from here, and you can see that the back is just a building. Pretty neat.
|The rarely-seen back of Expedition:Everest|
Then it was around a loop, which strangely took us past the main entrance of the park again, before embarking on (in my opinion) the toughest miles of the course.
|Animal Kingdom main entrance with Christmas Decorations|
Miles 18-22 are pretty much out on open roads and are a tough haul. Disney tried to keep us entertained with performers and signs along the way. I don't remember too many characters during this part.
Mile 18 was pretty much not memorable except that the pain in my knee was starting to be unbearable.
|Something to think about|
Mile 19 was better as I saw some people with a neat sign on the side of the road, and when I went to take a picture, they suggested instead taking MY pic with their sign. pretty cool.
|That's how I feel|
|A bad day to drive to Disney|
Right around Mile 20 was when I was feeling pretty low. We were out in the middle of nowhere and my knee was killing me. Even worse, mile 20-21 was an out and back, so you're heading out on the road and can see the people coming back the opposite direction. This mile seemed to last forever. I texted Johane where I was, and she started sending me inspiration messages, which was great.
At the turnaround point there was a ESPN screen so I got to see myself on the big screen and take a picture. As I was getting closer, I kept hearing "And the ESPN cheerleaders are here". When I got to the turnaround I looked for them...and looked.....and looked. Yes, there were 2 of them!
|Nearing the ESPN section|
|Wishing I was heading in the opposite direction|
|Yes that's the whole squad|
After heading back down the turnaround we got to mile 21.
When I had passed this mile marker going out, I saw a sign around the corner that said "Disney Hollywood Studios", so i figured it was right around the corner. Unfortunately, right after taking my picture with one of the army men from "Toy Story" i went around the corner and found.....a freeway entrance that seemed to go on as far as I could see.
|He spent the whole race yelling at runners as they went by|
|Back on the highway. This sums up how I was feeling|
Out on the freeway with nothing around and it seemed to be warming up quite a bit. As some of the cars went (slowly) by they honked and cheered, so that was a plus.
We got to the next offramp and headed up the hill to mile 22.
Right after the mile marker was a huge medical tent. There were people all over the place. I also saw one of the funniest things I saw the whole time. A woman right in front of me went over to the medical tent, got 2 handfulls of Biofreeze, stuck her hands down her pants, and started massaging her butt. I was trying to figure out how your butt starts to hurt during a marathon! A got a good chuckle out of that one.
Right after the 22 mile marker, we headed around a corner, went about another 1/2 mile and then went in one of the service entrances to Hollywood Studios. The first thing we saw was the back of the Tower of Terror. Another plain looking (except that it's pink) building. Then the character greetings started coming fast and furious again.
|The back of Tower of Terror|
The incredibles, then Doug the dog from UP, then Phineas and Ferb. Had to take pictures for Julia, who loves them.
|I love this show too|
|He looks ready to run a marathon|
|Doug the dog from UP|
Then we hit mile 23.
Right after the mile marker, there were tables and tables full of hershey mini candy bars. Score! Definately what i wanted there. I got a Mr. Goodbar and plain and they were awesome. Right around this point I started thinking of the ice cream sundae I was getting from Ghiradelli that night!
After this we started hitting the main areas of Hollywood Studios. Headed down "New York Avenue", cut into a picture with the characters from Monsters, Inc.and made my way to the sorcerers hat. Then down the main boulevard out of Hollywood, with crowds lined up and cheering. A real lift.
|You, Mike and Sully!|
|Just like NY-Not!|
|No we don't all talk like this in NY!|
|Heading out of the park|
|In between Hollywood Studios and Epcot|
Headed out through the main gates, through the parking lot and then to what i thought was a short part of the trip, the Boardwalk and marker 24
It felt like it went on forever. Went along the path, then finally hit the Boardwalk. The Boardwalk was interesting since I'd never been there before (though I'd wind up eating dinner there the next night).
|Beach and Boardwalk|
|Please let me go in the right direction.|
|Back in Epcot!|
|Yes, this is definately the UK|
Right in front of Paris was the 25 mile mark. It was around the whole rest of the world back towards where we had come from.
It was around the world, got a picture with Snow White, and then made a quick pit stop at the Norway pavilion to take a picture of the Greta Waitz statue. I was running a marathon after all!
|A great sign|
|Which dwarf am I?|
|Gotta take Greta's pic|
After this it was past Spaceship earth, and to the 26 mile mark right near the entrance.
After the 26 mile mark, it was through another backstage area out to the parking lot, and along the last .2 of a mile which seemed like a full mile. They had bleachers set up with people cheering and a whole chorus. Up ahead I saw Donald and Goofy waiting to high five you at the finish line. I cut all the way across the road to give Donald a big high five, and I was done.
After the finish line I kept walking and got my medal. The medal was huge! It was really cool.
|Me and my giant medal|
After that it was back to the race retreat for some food, some water, and some rest.
Then it was back to the hotel for a ice bath, a hot shower and some more rest.
We managed to make it to downtown Disney later on for dinner, and I even got my Ghiradelli sundae (though I only ate half).
And the next day we hit the Magic Kingdom for 7 hours!
Overall, I'd have to say that Disney is a great, fun marathon. Yes, there are some negatives like the early hours, and some of the empty roads, but I'd definately recommend it, especially for a first time marathoner.
I'm even thinking of going back next year to do the Goofy!