By TMSM Racing Disney Guest Blogger Catie Neal
Marathon morning we woke up and it was COLD! Now I’m from Virginia, and I know it wasn’t as cold as it was up there, but still it was in the 30s with a real feel temperature in the 20s. We got up, put on all of our layers and our costumes and made our way out to the bus stop. Major props to Disney on the last few races, I personally feel they have really gotten the bus system much more organized! We were able to climb on to the first bus that pulled up to our stop and we were the next to last stop on the bus line at our resort!
We got to the runner drop off area and bravely made our way out into the frigid air. We were so happy this year that we had gotten the Runner’s Retreat tent for the Challenge again thinking we would be walking into a nice warm environment for a bit before our race. Sadly, we were so mistaken. The Race Retreat wasn’t that much warmer than outside! They had cold air constantly blowing throughout the whole tent! In fact, the air blowing was so cold that when we came back to our bag pick up after the race, my clothing I had packed to warm up in was freezing when I put it on!
So anyway inside our barely warmer Race Retreat tent, we put on our last few layers (gloves, ear warmers, and hot hands), finished our pre-race breakfast and then began the walk to the starting corrals. What I love about Disney is that they do their best to entertain you throughout your entire racing adventure from the time you arrive at the runners village until you return to the finish line. Keeping in line with this mentality, runDisney had placed a DJ about halfway through the walk to the starting corrals to get people pumped up! It was a nice break in the walk and everyone around us on the walk got involved!
As we rounded the last corner in our walk we came upon the massive wall of port-a-potties. We made our final pit stop and then said our goodbyes to our mom and my brother and I headed out to our corral and Mom made her way towards her own. Thank goodness we didn’t have to wait too long in order for the corrals to begin to move from the time we made it into our corral. The announcers brought out the gang of characters to start the race and then said the 3 magic words and the WDW Marathon was officially under way. A few more corrals later, and our corral, Corral D was ready to take off.
Unfortunately, by this time I was already really cold. So as we first started moving it took me a while to finally warm up. And even once I was “warmed up” I definitely was never fully warm throughout the whole race. We started out on the usual beginning of the marathon course as we made our way to the Magic Kingdom. Along the way they had some super cute characters so Ross and I made some pit stops to grab some pictures. Out in the parking lot of the Ticket and Transportation Center they had Jack Skellington and Sally and when we posed for this picture a runDisney photographer also snapped us and we ended up on the runDisney Facebook page! We felt really good through this part of the course and felt strong going into the Magic Kingdom. Inside the Magic Kingdom, I felt like they did a great job of having characters out that were super visible. As Ross and I rounded the corner in Tomorrowland to head into Fantasyland, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum were just making their appearance again so we were able to slide in for a picture without waiting. As we looped around Fantasyland back towards Storybook Circus, they had Donald out in his magician’s finest. We had to pause for about 3 minutes while we waited on him but the picture ended up being super cute! Next we wound our way back around the backside of Fantasyland beside Be Our Guest and who was out there but the BEAST! We were so incredibly excited to snap a shot with him as we had dressed as Belle and Gaston for this race. This has officially become my favorite runDisney photo op to date.
After that super fun boost in morale we cruised through Cinderella’s Castle and paused for a picture in front of it too. We headed out towards Frontierland where my brother had some friends who were supposed to be working; however, we ended up not being able to spot them! ☹ We kept trucking though and as we entered the backstage area we paused for another photo op with the Maleficent float. I love that they have this out during races, I think it is so neat that they let you get up close and personal with these floats!
I had checked out the race maps prior to the event and knew from previous Marathon Weekends that the next 7 or so miles were all on backstage areas. However, again runDisney out did themselves and did a superb job of having some really obscure characters out for pictures during this part and my FAVORITE picture stop consisted of old ride cars from some rides I’m sure many had long forgotten. I’m talking about Snow White’s Scary Adventure, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, the SkyWay bucket, and a submarine from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. It was so cool! I wish they had a PhotoPass person there, but luckily I had chosen to run with my cellphone so we were able to get a picture!
We made our way past the water treatment facility (praise the Lord for the cold weather!) and then started weaving our way to Animal Kingdom. At one point, before we reached AK, there was an out and back portion on the course and I am pretty sure I witnessed at least 1 runner cut the course. I personally find this so sad as I feel you are only cheating yourself when you do that. I mean c’mon, you’ve put in the training and now you’re going to cut out only 0.5 miles?
As we entered AK they had Animals out to greet us and the cast members were really enthusiastic and gave us a boost. However, once we entered AK, since the park was already open to visitors, I had forgotten how crowded the course could seem. I was almost tripped and at this point I was experiencing some chafing on my arms from my t-shirt and I was just grouchy. I was still not warm 13 miles into the race and I just knew there was no way I was going to be able to push through like my brother was able to. At this point, we said goodbye because he wanted to try and go sub-4:30. Personally for me I was just hoping to go sub-5 as I never treat Disney as a race to PR for time. The only downside to this, was my brother had agreed for us to stick together for the entirety of the race and therefore I didn’t pack my music to help keep me from getting inside my own head – especially in ESPN which is where we headed next.
So after trucking along the highway out of AK towards ESPN, I finally felt like I got into a good rhythm again at a pace I was enjoying. However, when I entered ESPN, I just felt off. I realized at mile 17 I still had on my gloves, ear warmer, and my hot hands were still in my gloves and I was shivering any time I stopped for a picture. I tried everything to help out my body, I made myself munch down on fuel, I tried to run in the sunlight as much as I could, I granted myself a ton of walk breaks to help me conserve my energy. I just felt off. At this point, I was feeling really down about my performance so I started texting my sister who lives in Wisconsin. She and her husband were awesome and actually called me and provided some super encouraging words! It was very beneficial as it gave me the needed strength to push through ESPN and head back out for the last 6.2 miles!
After my pep talk from my sister and brother-in-law, I decided I would just interval the rest of the race. I ended up doing about 3-4 minutes of running followed by :30-1:00 of walking. I think this really helped me to be able to push towards the end of the race. The course made us climb some “hills” on the way to Hollywood Studios and on the “hills” I was able to pass quite a few people which gave me some more confidence as well. Next thing I knew, we were entering into Hollywood Studios. They changed up the course this year and had us enter at Tower of Terror and then loop up and around the amphitheater that Fantasmic happens in. However, the super exciting point of this part of the race was that they had an OSWALD character stop! Hello! How awesome is that?!
So I was finally in the actual home stretch of the marathon, I was running down main street in Hollywood Studios and heading out to the Boardwalk to enter into EPCOT. Thank goodness for awesome spectators on this part of the course who read your bib and shout out your name to encourage you! It really helps! All you spectators – you guys are fantastic!
I entered into EPCOT and prepared for what always feels like the longest mile of my life. However, for some reason at this point, I picked up a ton of energy and I went sailing through World Showcase hopping from picture op to picture op. It started with Alice, then Belle, then Aladdin (who when cheering me noticed I stopped to tie my shoe, I told him my carpet wasn’t behaving so I had to use my own feet today and needed my shoe to be tied!), then Mulan, and past the Viking crew, past some super fantastic spectators in Mexico – thanks for the high 4! And finally, I realized I was about to turn by Spaceship Earth, run past the choir, and then head out towards the finish line. I felt strong, and I realized I was going to finish my 10th marathon!
I crossed the line with a smile, grabbed my medal, and made my way through the finishers area where I was awarded my challenge medals and my medal from the half that wasn’t. My dad called me to congratulate me, my brother called me so we could meet up (he ended up finishing in 4:34 – way to go Ross!) and my sister called me to say congrats! My brother and I made our way into the Race Retreat tent so I could put on my COLD clothes and then eat some nice warm food. We relaxed, stretched, and patiently waited on Mom. We went out to buy her 4 balloons – one for each of the Dopey Challenges she has now completed, and 2 roses, one from each of us. Note to anyone attended a runDisney event – you must have cash for these purchases – I found out the hard way one year. Therefore, I now always pack some case in a small plastic baggy to keep it from getting sweaty during the race.
We watched Mom cross the finish, she gathered all of her gear and just like me, she was freezing so she was ready to head straight to the hotel to warm up via a shower. We didn’t have too long of a wait for our bus again – thank goodness! And the bus driver had the heat on! SCORE! We arrived back at our resort and we dropped off the first runners at the first bus stop and as soon as the doors opened you heard a whole bunch of clapping and cheering from everyone at the bus stop. It is such a neat experience to hear others rooting you on for your accomplishments! We got off at our stop and slowly made our way to our room where we all foam rolled and stretched and prepared to go out to slowly venture in the parks to celebrate this huge accomplishment!
Note to all of you who are wanting to run Disney in the future. Don’t stop moving after your race. Even if you move slowly, continue to move after the race. Work out the soreness and stretch. Use a foam roller if you have one, if not, static stretching works as well. And just keep moving – you won’t regret it!
All in all, I’m super pleased with how this marathon worked out for me. It was my 10th – holy cow my 10th! marathon and I got to have it be the magical experience of a runDisney race. I got to experience it by running with my family and friends and I got to run through the most magical place on earth. I hope to see some of you out there next year for the 5th anniversary of Dopey – yep that’s right I’m already signed up! Happy running!
TMSM is very excited to publish the “Racing Disney” runDisney series by Addie Clark and Catie Neal. Please keep an eye out for more of their amazing and informative articles! If you missed of the articles in this series make sure you check them athttps://www.themainstreetmouse.com/tag/racing-disney/
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