Friday, February 3, 2017

Walt Disney World Marathon Part 3: The First 13.1

Welcome to my race recap! Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

We woke up around 3AM and basically sprang out of bed. This was it! The magical day we had envisioned for months, through endless training runs and long workdays and non-Disney-related moments.

We got dressed, made sure we had what we needed in our gEAR bags (lol) and caught a bus around 4. Yep, it was cold all right! Started out in the 30s. Not bad running weather, but not really the kind of cold you want to stand around in for hours. I was thankful I had heard you didn't really need to be there 2 hours early like Disney claimed. We ended up having the perfect amount of time to get through traffic, security, gEAR check, port-a-potties, and corrals.

Wow. I knew runDisney races were crowded but this was a crazy amount of people. After the race, we found out that there were over 17,000 finishers (not including people who started and didn't finish for various reasons). Disney is nothing if not organized though, and we calmly moved through the horde to get to our starting corral.

I had gotten into Corral F (corrals ran from A-P, with P being the largest including the walkers) which was a result of my proof of time from my last half marathon. My friend was in Corral J, so we decided to start together there. However, somehow we ended up in Corral K. Oh, well.

We watched as corral after corral was sent off in a blaze of fireworks, with Mickey counting down for each start. How magical is that?

Runners were huddled in clumps all around us and it was pretty amusing to see the get-ups inspired by the desire to be warm. Resort towels, garbage bags, and even a bathrobe were on full display. As we moved up to the start, more and more of these comfort objects were tossed to the side (and picked up by people waiting in later corrals!). Disney collected and donated all the throwaway clothes; this happens at many races.

Finally it was OUR countdown and OUR fireworks. Go! Shortly after 6AM, we set off in the darkness. The first few miles flew by and we drank in every little thing. Running under the Magic Kingdom entrance and seeing the first few character stops, we couldn't stop smiling.

As we ran down Main Street towards the castle, I wanted to freeze time and savor the moment, but we had to keep moving! Our pace was slow and steady even from the beginning because of several reasons. First, we were with slower runners and, in the middle of huge crowds, we really had to run the pace of those around us. Second, the course was narrow at times and we had to keep our eyes open for people suddenly walking (thanks, Jeff Galloway), veering off to meet spectators, or stopping for a quick selfie. Third, we were focused on enjoying the unique runDisney experience and meeting our own personal goals. Mine was to run the whole marathon...that's it!

I see why people get addicted to runDisney races. It is my favorite race I have ever done. Period. Nothing beats the magic! True it was crowded and crazy and of course it was difficult, but the pros greatly outweighed the cons.

Runner support was phenomenal. Water/Powerade stops were nearly every mile, with dozens of volunteers ready to assist. Multiple aid stations had everything from Vaseline to Biofreeze (I used both!). Thousands of spectators cheered, offered food, and held up signs.

Many runners were in costumes, so that was fun to see. Lots of great people-watching opportunities! Each mile marker had a different Disney character(s) on it along with accompanying music. Character stops were plentiful, and even though I never stopped for one, I enjoyed seeing them as I ran by. They included Beauty and the Beast, stilt walkers, the dragon float from the Festival of Fantasy parade, Lilo and Stitch, and even Oswald the Lucky Rabbit! It seemed we were always coming up on unique characters and many racers took full advantage, lining up for a picture. My friend and I weren't interested in standing a line during a marathon, though!

Running through the parks was the absolute best, everything I dreamed it would be. One of my favorite places was Africa in the Animal Kingdom. Such great theming! I had heard that it was possible to ride Expedition Everest halfway through the race but unfortunately we ran past it too early and it wasn't open for riders yet. I definitely would've done it if I had the opportunity though!

Honestly, the first 13.1 miles flew by. Months of training had paid off and I was feeling great.

Would the magical Disney runner's high help me "go the distance?" Stay tuned...

Keep going! Read Part 4 here...


Becky Ginther said...

Disney is such a magical place to run! You definitely can't do a RunDisney race with a time goal though, the course gets so crowded/congested. Even starting in corral G my pace to start was much slower than I'd planned. It all worked out though because between the slower pace and stopping for characters I made it to Everest at 8:59 and was able to ride!

Laura said...

I'm so jealous you got to ride! Such a unique experience in the middle of a race.

Mark Allman said...

Sounds like a great start to your race. Its great they had so much help for the runners. Looking forward to hearing about the finish!