Alright, where did I leave off?
Walt Disney World Marathon Race Recap – Miles 1 – 13.1
My alarm went off at 3:05 AM, and we both jumped out of bed. In a slow, can’t-believe-we’re-doing-this-again sort of way. We got dressed quickly, ate breakfast – a banana, Luna bar, few bites of PB toast for me, and drank a few ounces of water and Powerade. We were out the door by 3:45, and got in line in the hotel lobby to board the shuttle to the staging area and gear check. The shuttle was packed with runners chit-chatting about previous Run Disney experiences and wondering which characters would be on today’s route. I think we both were thankful to have gotten almost 8 full hours of sleep that night, or else we would have been like zombies. I feel like we both were pretty wide awake, and excited for race morning to finally be here!
Since we were staying on Disney property, it only took about 15-20 minutes to get to the drop off area. Traffic was pretty hectic, so I was very thankful for being on property and not having to fight it on our own!
The shuttle dropped off us in the Epcot parking lot and we followed the crowds through the parking lot, over to the staging area. There were tons of porta-potties, security, and hilarious costumes. I think we went to the bathroom at least 5 times before we actually started because we kept running into MORE porta-potties! Since we didn’t check anything at gear check, we walked through the main staging area (giant area in the parking lot with gear check, porta-potties, music, more porta-potties, VIP tents, etc.) and headed towards the start line. I had heard that there would be a short walk before the actual starting line, but I think we literally walked for 15-20 minutes to the starting line and corrals. Oh, and more porta-potties. If Disney did one thing right it was ample bathrooms!
The starting line was basically down a back-road, like a utility road, then out kind of on the highway. I think. It was 5 AM at this point and still dark, and we were just following the crowd! But, when we got up to it, the road split for corrals like A-H and I-P, or something like that. We were G, so we went left. We peed one more time, then got in our corral, and just a few minutes later the National Anthem was sung, and the fireworks and countdown begun!
I could barely see the starting line, and there were hundreds of runners in each corral! They had big jumbo-trons up all along the corrals so that you could see what was going on on the stage. When fireworks went off, they were both in front of us and behind us. Mickey counted down and started the race officially at 5:30 AM, and sent off the A corral. It was adorable, and I recorded it, and I’ve watched it at least 50 times since I’ve been home! Goofy and Donald Duck were also on stage with him. In track suites no less.
There were fireworks before each corral, and each corral had their own song that the MC would coordinate with the corral name. For example, we were Corral G, so he called us the Great Corral and our song was Gangnam Style. There was probably 5 minutes or so between each corral send off, and we could hear fireworks going off well into the first few miles of the race. For you non-runners, you can’t just send off 20,000 people at one time, so corrals are made to segment runners and send off smaller groups to help keep the course from being as crowded, and to keep everyone safer and keep similar paces together.
Once we crossed the starting line, around 6:00, there was no turning back! We were officially running another marathon, regardless of how much we hadn’t really trained! Immediately we started off with a very conservative pace, much slower than we probably needed to go. But, since neither of us had trained 100%, we knew that time wasn’t our goal, but rather finishing in good shape and feeling well was our top concern. We just wanted to play it safe, have fun, and not injure ourselves or stress our bodies too much. I think our starting pace was something around a 10:00 minute pace. When you start a marathon, you kind of have to think backwards – remembering that the race doesn’t really start until mile 20. Conserving energy is your best bet! Plus it’s Disney, and we were so excited and frankly didn’t care how long it took. Ha! The worst thing you can do is start out at a too ambitious pace.
The first 3-4 miles were mostly highway, headed towards the monorail station and Magic Kingdom. It was so fun to pass the first few mile signs because we knew we were getting close to park #1. Each mile sign was a different character (on the sign) and lots of runners would stop to take pictures with each sign. No time for that.
We quickly approached the Magic Kingdom entrance and stopped for a quick picture. I remember being a little girl and coming to Disney and seeing the Magic Kingdom sign and just thinking it was the neatest thing ever, and it was just so exciting. Because of course, on the other side of the sign is the greatest place on Earth, Cinderella’s Castle! And let me tell you, getting to RUN into the Magic Kingdom was pretty dang awesome. I mean like, I can’t even tell you the JOY that is captured in all of these pictures throughout the race.
After we ran under the sign, we still had to run a little ways further down the highway into the actual parking lot. Then, we ran under the monorail station/transportation center thing, or whatever it is, and basically around the big lake that’s separates the parking lot from the actual park. We ran alongside the Contemporary Hotel, then right up towards the entrance.
I spotted Space Mountain, and many hilarious memories came flooding back.
Instead of running into the very front, you know where Mickey’s face is made out in shrubs there under the big train, we ran into a back door that took us into a side door to the square. We suddenly popped out into the square and we were IN THE MAGIC KINGDOM!
It was still dark, so the lights of Main Street were just glowing, and there were tons of people cheering all around the square and down along Main Street. There was loud music playing, and I saw the giant Christmas Tree and seriously almost cried. Just for a second. It was just so beautiful and surreal! But then, we made the turn down Main Street and there she was! Cinderella’s Castle in all her glory! It was beautiful, and I tried so so hard to soak up every single step of running down Main Street towards the castle! It was like a dream.
We weren’t sure where else on the course we’d see the castle so we went ahead and took several pictures before going on our way. There were several Disney cast members all up and down main street taking pictures, and several official race photographers as well. I was very impressed with how nice the Disney staff was and how they were so willing and excited to take pictures on runners’ phones for them, and for the most part, all of the pictures they took on my phone turned out pretty well!
After we’d decided to move on, we turned right and headed into Tomorrow Land.
The sun was barely starting to rise, and we were feeling good. Well into Mile 6 at this point.
Right when we passed the People Mover, we saw none other than Buzz Lightyear. We contemplated for a second about getting in line for a picture, and decided why not. We grew up with Toy Story and may as well!
It didn’t take but a second to snap a pic, and we were off. We turned the corner into Fantasy Land, by the Tea Cups, and past the new part of Fantasy Land. I stopped for a quick picture by the Winnie-the-Pooh ride, then we rounded the corner towards the back side of the castle.
And guess who was hanging out up in the castle! Elsa, Anna, and Hans.
We then ran through the castle, and ran down the ramp in front of the castle. It was so fun running through the bottom of the castle, and I wish it didn’t happen so fast!
We popped out to the front of the castle, and decided to take advantage of the official castle photo-op. Tack on another stop.
After we’d taken a million pictures in front of the castle, we turned right and headed towards Liberty Square, Frontier Land, and briefly past Adventure Land. I think. We passed Splash Mountain which is part of Adventure Land, right? Something like that.
We quickly came upon the crocodile from Peter Pan, Tick Tock, and decided he was too cute to not take a picture with.
We also passed Woody, but the line was super long so we skipped it. And instead got a picture of this guy with Woody.
After we saw Woody, we kept running through the backside of Adventure Land, or whatever part that is, and kind of ran out a back door, through almost like a utility entrance. We ran by what looked like a parade float, and saw the Tangled couple. Again, line was really long. So, this will have to do.
We officially ran out of the Magic Kingdom, and were back on the highway.
After another mile or two (??) we came upon the Walt Disney World Speedway. We ran down an awkwardly steep hill, which actually felt reallllly good after running on super flat this whole time, then back up onto the actual speedway and ran a lap in the pit lane. I’m not really sure what miles the speedway was, maybe like 7?
This was probably my least favorite part of the course, but still pretty cool. The sun had come out so it was starting to heat up and the track was pretty much what I had envisioned – a massive circle. But, there were tons of old classic cars on display, and the track was HUGE. I didn’t take any pictures, but Disney did capture this winner:
Once we’d completed a lap, we were back on the highway and headed towards the Animal Kingdom. Park #2.
We ran by a few characters and entertainment here and there, but other than that this was a pretty long stretch of highway. Miles 8-12 ish were run along here. We actually never put our headphones in though because there was always something to see, listen to, and you could pretty much always hear something either back behind us or whatever we were running up to. I didn’t want to miss out on anything, so my headphones honestly stayed in my pocket the entire race!
We ran by the golf course, and had to stop to wait in line for Donald Duck and Goofy! Goofy unfortunately left before we got up there, but we were able to still get a picture with Donald.
This line took a while, and it was funny watching so many runners pass us. But, it was Donald Duck, so who cares!
We passed a few more characters along the way. I may have mixed up the order of these, but close enough. We also were about 30 minutes behind the clock times, so at this point we were more like 1:30.
Genie and Abu!
We got closer to Animal Kingdom, and saw a few more:
Villians (and we’re pretty sure the second from the left is Prince, but that’s still up for debate.) (also, he’s really from the Princess and the Frog)
Friar Tuck and other Robin Hood characters
Somewhere around here we also passed a medical tent where we both took some tylenol to help ward off future pains, and a banana stop was shortly after.
We finally reached Animal Kingdom, and entered in through a back way. There were several parade dancers out, then several animals with handlers.
And then Jiminy Cricket!
We ran by a bathroom inside the park and I decided to go ahead and run in. I don’t usually like to take bathroom breaks during races but since this race I knew was going to take forever I figured why not. Plus it felt amazing to splash some cold water on my face real quick!
We ran one quick loop through Animal Kingdom, and passed Expedition Everest right as it was opening for the public. They were just letting runners on at the time, and we alllllllmost stopped to ride it, but there was a pretty long line of runners, and we thought it might make us nauseous to ride it so we skipped it and kept going.
We came upon the back side of the huge new Dinosaur part of the park, and saw a big line of runners waiting for two characters. And guess which characters it was! Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck! We had to stop. Totally worth it.
It felt like we were in Animal Kingdom for no time at all, and we never even ran by the Tree of Life! I was a little disappointed with that, but no biggie.
By this point the parks were open and there were lots more park-goers cheering and holding up signs. And many were looking at us like we were crazy because they forgot to check the Disney calendar before they booked their trip. Ha!
We ran out of AK, and around the front of the park through the parking lot and by the entrance. There were again tons of people waiting to get in the park so they were all cheering and holding up fun signs. We then ran through the huge parking lot and out towards the highway. At some point around here we passed the 13.1 mile marker which meant we were half way. I’m not exactly sure where the 13.1 was, but it was somewhere right outside Animal Kingdom.
We both were feeling great, and right about this time we stumbled upon the holy grail of characters!
To be continued…