Matthew and I woke up marathon morning and did the same routine we'd done for the three previous mornings: crawl out of bed at 2:30 am, take cold medicine and Airborne, dress for the race + 100 layers (fleece pajamas and the bathrobe for me), and get on a bus to the start by 3:30 am.
As we got off the bus and headed towards the bag check security line (which was incredibly long- much longer than the day before) we ran into Ian and his wife Shari whom we first "met" online while training for Dopey four years ago! The runDisney world is a small one sometimes.
|Good morning, friends!|
It was great to catch up with Ian and Shari while we waited in the security line- it took us almost 20 minutes to get through! I'm not sure why the wait was so much longer for the marathon than the other days- I think we may have just arrived at the most popular time.
We eventually got through the line, said our goodbyes to Ian and Shari, and then went off to meet up with our running ohana at our usual spot. I also picked up some KT tape from Katherine because I hadn't brought enough down with me. I realized I was going to be short the night before and messaged our ohana to see if anyone had any. Sweet Katherine was at Disney Springs and offered to buy me some- what a fantastic internet friend! :-)
|"Some people are worth |
After lots of hugs and good lucks, we all headed back to our respective corrals. Matthew, Jim, and I were all in F again so we walked back together.
While it was technically warmer this morning than the previous morning, it actually started to feel colder when we were back in the corrals. I was so glad I'd kept the bathrobe for the marathon- it worked really well to keep the wind at bay while we were waiting to start.
|I call this look "runner chic."|
|Matthew and Jim sitting on mylar blankets...|
|...and Matthew under a mylar blanket.|
Similar to the day before, the mini wave system worked well and we were moving towards the start in a somewhat continuous movement. One of the benefits of being in the back-of-the-pack is that you have your pick of literally hundreds of discarded clothes, gloves, hats, blankets, mylars, etc. because so many people in front of you already discarded their throw-aways.
Matthew had given his gloves to our friend Amelia who had forgotten hers, so I was searching for a discarded pair for him. I was also starting to get hungry and had already eaten my mile five snack- whoops! So, as I was searching for gloves along the side of the corrals, I found a nature valley granola bar (still wrapped!) and scooped it up for later :-) Then I found the BEST gloves for Matthew- they were red and green, glittery, Christmas, finger-less gloves that had a little mitten part that you could pull down over your fingertips if they got cold. The best part? One glove said "naughty" and the other glove said "nice" :-)
Jim picked up a fuzzy blue bathrobe for himself and while I considered grabbing something extra, I ultimately decided that what I had on was probably enough to keep me warm.
|Only 26.2 miles to go.|
This time, we ended up at the very front of our mini wave so we were quite close to the starting line. As Jim and Matthew and I talked, Jim decided he was going to stay with us as long as possible- our pace of 13:30-14:30 minute miles and intervals of 30:30 seemed like a good plan for him as he was under-trained for this marathon. We hadn't planned on running the race together but this ended up being such a good decision- more on that later.
Before we could talk too much about race strategy, our fireworks went off, our countdown from Mickey hit zero, and we were off on a 26.2 mile adventure through all four WDW theme parks!
|Run 26.2 miles, gain 9.4 ounces. This billboard was just a few yards away from the start line.|
The three of us quickly fell into a rhythm and order. This race definitely felt more crowded than the half marathon so several times, we formed a single-file line: Matthew, me, Jim. Since Matthew is better at keeping us at an even pace, he lead for most of the race.
We slowly followed our steps from yesterday towards MK, keeping a steady pace of about 14:30-15:00 minute miles. Our goal was just to finish the marathon and not worry about how long it took us. Secretly, I hoped to finish this race in around 6:30. I had trained for 13:30 minute/mile (which is a 6 hour marathon pace) and knew I could beat my course record- 6:32, from my first marathon. But, I know the marathon is a fickle beast- you can never predict what can happen over the course of so many miles.
Mostly silently, Matthew, Jim, and I ran. We talked occasionally- usually to yell "walking!" so everyone in our group could hear it- with so many folks using intervals, watches were going off every 5 seconds and sometimes it's hard to hear which one is your interval!
I ditched the bathrobe around mile two. As we got closer to MK, I started to get warm but I was wary about letting go of my fleece pajama top- the wind was brutal and the temperature wasn't necessarily going to increase by much while we were on the course. I asked Matthew if he was still cold. He was, so he wore the top backward for the next few miles. :-)
|He rocked this look.|
We entered MK the same way we did for the half and it was still as magical. We ran down Main Street- still magical- and grabbed a selfie- also magical. We ran through Tomorrowland and Fantasyland before making a pit stop at our favorite and never-crowded bathrooms- right next to Pinocchio Village Haus.
|Just strutting down Main Street in my PJs.|
|Double jazz hands FTW!|
After we exited the park, we made our way through the scenic water treatment plant, smelling exactly like you'd think it would, on our way to Animal Kingdom.
We grabbed a few more pictures in AK but declined to wait in line for Expedition Everest. Jim was tracking the balloon ladies (keeping a 16 minute pace- you need to stay in front of them so you don't get swept) and they were only about 2 miles behind us. Our pace had dropped a bit from the bathroom stop and a quick mid-race KT tape application so we had to keep moving. One day I'll ride Everest during the marathon, one day.
|Welcome to Animal Kingdom!|
|Well hello there Florida sun! Nice to finally see you!|
Once we left AK, we started the worst part of the marathon: the dreaded stretch of miles that consists of never-ending highway and winds through never-ending Wide World of Sports (WWOS)- basically miles 14-23. I have zero photos on my phone from this part of the course because it took all my energy to stay upright. Seriously, this is the part of the marathon that is TOUGH- mentally and physically.
Surprisingly, we actually picked up the pace during this section. Jim was leading us and his strategy was, "this part sucks, let's get through it faster." After what felt like forever in WWOS, we finally got out towards the highway that would take us to Hollywood Studios.
|Looking like Joy but feeling like Sadness.|
|Badass Matthew, leading us along.|
|I look like I know what I'm doing here.|
|Look. At. Those. Curls. ❤|
Around mile 22, we were all feeling the fatigue of the marathon and all the miles we'd run in the few days before. Jim started to slowly fall behind us. After a few run walk intervals, Jim was really far behind us.
We waited for him to catch up and asked him what he wanted to do- should we stay with him? Did he need to walk the last few miles? Should we go on ahead without him? He told us it was up to us- we could decide to stay with him or forge ahead.
Here's the thing- there's a reason we call our friend group "ohana." "Ohana means family, and family means no one gets left behind."
We'd just run 22 miles together, no way in hell were we splitting up now! We continued on, changing up the intervals a bit to 1 minute walking, 30 seconds running. That's why I love the run/walk method so much- it's incredibly flexible and can be adapted mid-race.
Soon enough, we were entering Hollywood Studios. I was excited for two reasons- #1: chocolate! runDisney always gives out chocolate just past mile 23. #2: We'd see Jim's wife Kellee and their adorable son Trent in just a few minutes. Fun fact- Trent was our "baby Stitch" character stop at last year's Pop Art Half Marathon!
|All smiles for friendly faces. Photo courtesy of Kellee.|
|Hollywood or BUST!|
Seeing Kellee and Trent was just the boost we needed to finish out this marathon. We left Hollywood Studios, rounded Disney's Boardwalk, and made our final victory lap around World Showcase.
|Special mile 25 recognition for the 25th anniversary.|
|We seem to be missing a few dwarfs.|
|It is SO good to see you, golf ball!|
We finally saw that gospel choir at mile 26 and we knew we were just a few minutes away from finishing the 2018 WDW Marathon. No matter how much pain I felt in that moment, it was all somehow equaled out to the joy that marathon #4 would soon be in the books.
We did it- we were marathoners once again. Matthew finished his third Dopey Challenge and TENTH marathon. I finished my fourth marathon and first unofficial Goofy Challenge. Jim finished his fifth Dopey Challenge. We. Freaking. Did. It.
|Sometimes I have great finisher photos and sometimes I have finisher photos |
that accurately depict the suffering that is the marathon.
|This guy is my hero.|
After we collected our medals, snack boxes, gear check bags, and commemorative Mickey ears (!!!) we snapped a few photos. Matthew gave me his Goofy Challenge medal because he is quite possibly the sweetest, most wonderful man on the planet.
We met back up with Kellee, Trent, and Jim's parents and our friend Nathan. After some hugs and more pictures, we said our goodbyes and headed off toward the merchandise tent.
I was able to buy a "I Did It!" Goofy Challenge shirt and Matthew and I picked up a few commemorative pins for the 25th anniversary weekend. I was grateful they still had merchandise for sale and that we didn't have to wait in a two hour line to look at it like we would have had to at the expo.
Newly purchased items in tow, we headed back to French Quarter exhausted but elated. The marathon was over. We survived.
|Not the best finisher photo, but it captures the spirit of this finish.|
Even now, weeks later, I am still processing my thoughts about this race. I'll probably write another post with some final thoughts in the next few weeks, once I wrap my head around all my feelings. I always get this way after a marathon- super reflective and emotional. Running brings all my emotions to the surface, in a good, cathartic way.
Running with Jim and Matthew was a total blast- there really is nothing better than running with friends. I mean, how can you not bond over running 26.2 miles together and living to tell the tale?!
Even though parts of this race were painful, even though parts of it were boring, even though parts of it were stupid challenging, I wouldn't change a thing about this race experience. Marathon number four was hard, fun, empowering, uplifting, challenging, and about a thousand other emotions. I wouldn't want it any other way.
I think I'll end this post with one final picture- one that captures what the marathon is like for me.
The marathon is a always a question- do you have what it takes to endure? And while I might look nervous, and I might be scared, I know at the end of the race- I will be victorious. I will finish.
Thank you WDW Marathon, for 25 years of helping runners endure to the finish line. Here's to the next 25!