Going into this year's marathon, I felt pretty good. I'd hit the majority of my training runs, had no major injuries, and didn't get sick in the days before the race. Woohoo! I was ready.
Matthew and I got up early on marathon morning and got our bags packed and ready; mine with snacks, body, glide and flip flops for after the race, Matthew's with snacks, cow bells, and sunscreen. The weather forecast had changed dramatically from the few days prior. It was scheduled to reach 79 degrees with 95% humidity by noon. runDisney had already sent an email with a heat advisory. Yay.
The best spectator ever.
We grabbed an early bus over to Epcot and went to meet up with our ohana. Matthew and I discussed where he'd see me: mile 4 at the TTC, mile 7 at the Grand Floridian, mile 14 in AK, and then mile 25 in Epcot, right around France. With a solid race strategy, we said our goodbyes and I walked back to the corral with Coach.
I bought that bathrobe from Goodwill to throw away, so damn it, I was going to wear it to the start!
We look cute for 4 am.
I had earned a spot in corral E with my time from the Capital City 10 Miler. Though I had tossed around starting with the 6 hour pacer (my A goal), they were all the way back in corral G. I felt like I'd worked hard to get to E so I decided at the start that I would run my own race and start in the corral I'd earned.
Solidly middle of the pack for this one.
I have to be honest, it was VERY weird being in the corral by myself. I have never run a runDisney race on my own and it was kinda lonely. Matthew was sending me motivating text messages to pass the time and I was just trying to relax and get in the right mindset to run. In fact, I actually did a quick guided meditation (via the Insight Timer app) sitting in the corral!
Somehow, in a see of 11,000 runners, I found Brittany! She was a friend we met last year on the Disney Dream during the Castaway Cay Challenge cruise. She was absolutely crushing her Dopey and it was such a boost to see her before the race started. We chatted and made small talk as we worked our way towards the start.
Congrats on the Dopey finish, Brittany!
The race started at 5:30 am and our corral was off by 5:51 am, so we only waited about 20 minutes until E corral was on its way.
Carissa, Rudy, and Mickey counting us down!
As the race started, I planned on sticking to my strategy of 30:30 and keeping my early miles around 14-15 minutes per mile. My fastest marathon at Walt Disney World was a 6:32 and I was really hoping to get a course PR in 2019. I knew it was improbable that I would get a PR; I hadn't trained for one and honestly, the marathon is such a beast, I'm just thankful to finish upright and smiling.
The first few miles of the marathon course are always dark and quiet. While there's palpable excitement at the starting line, it's almost like reality sets in as soon as you embark on the 26.2 mile journey- everyone is hushed and focused on their own race.
I silently chipped away at the miles, looking forward to seeing Matthew at mile 3.9 at the TTC. My body felt stiff and achy and it was already incredibly humid. It usually takes the first few miles of a long run for me to find a rhythm.
He peeled me a baby orange. 😍
Seeing Matthew was just the boost I needed to power me through to the Magic Kingdom. As I was leaving him, I saw one of the women I had been standing near the day before when I was cheering for Matthew. Seeing a familiar face on a marathon course, even if you don't know their name, is just the coolest thing!
Oh hey, girl! Always making friends. 😊
From the TTC, I made my way towards the Magic Kingdom. Like last year, we entered in the front gates of the park due to construction. I absolutely love entering the park this way and I hope runDisney keeps it this way even when the construction is complete.
I have always wanted to reach the castle in the dark, but I'm not quite that fast yet. However, it was absolutely gorgeous to watch as the sun was coming up just before we got to the castle.
1 down, 3 to go.
There she is. 😍😍😍
"Paging Mr. Morrow, Mr. Tom Morrow."
Mid-race purple wall selfies.
Check out those sunrise colors.
After a quick pit stop at the least-crowded bathroom on the whole course (near Pinocchio's Pizza!), I took a stroll through the castle and continued running through all the lands of Magic Kingdom. Running through the castle this year was the least crowded it has ever been- and I've done this eight times in six years. Compared with 20,000+ runners in the marathon last year, for 2019, only 11,000 runners completed the course so it felt significantly less crowded this year.
That smile is so genuine. I was having a blast in MK!
Castles = Jazz Hands.
After having the time of my life in MK (seriously), I headed out of the park towards the Grand Floridian and Matthew. I was feeling pretty good and was actually running way too fast- around 12 minute miles in the park.
More baby oranges!
By the time I made it to Matthew I was in some serious pain. My legs were fine, my feet were fine, but my stomach was tore the hell up. I have been having recurrent digestive issues (mainly indigestion and trapped gas) for months now and of course, it flared up around mile 6 of the marathon. I mean, really?! Of all times?! UGH.
Anyway, I took some gas relief pills (that I'd packed in my skirt for just this reason) and soldiered on towards Animal Kingdom. The miles during this stretch aren't the most fun- especially the out and back just before AK. And of course, this was just as the sun was really starting to shine directly on us. It was really starting to heat up at this point and I was just trying to stay focused on the mile I was in and get to the next park.
Anyone know what/who these are?
The Adventurers Club!
Oh, hi Florida sun. So glad you could join us. 😞
2 down, 2 to go.
Shortly after I entered AK, I crossed the 13.1 mile mat. I was actually feeling pretty crappy and was not looking forward to another half marathon. But then I saw the entrance for Expedition Everest. It was a few minutes after 9 am- the park had just opened. It's long been a dream of mine to ride Everest during the marathon- I mean, what other marathon offers you the opportunity to ride a roller coaster in the middle of it?! And in my mind, since I was already thinking this would be my last marathon (because I was feeling like absolute crap), I made the split second decision to get on the ride.
Probably the coolest thing I've ever experienced in a marathon.
While it took about 13 minutes off my time, I absolutely don't regret getting on Everest for a second. I got off the race feeling awesome and ran to find Matthew at mile 14. He gave me more body glide, helped me reapply sunscreen, and got more oranges ready for me. It was a miracle that he had even made it to the park. Buses weren't running to AK when he was trying to get there from Grand Floridian and he was worried by the time he got a bus, he would miss me at mile 14. Lucky for Matthew, he ran into Doug, a Minnie Van driver, who gave him a complementary ride to AK! Talk about Disney magic!
So excited to see my boo!
After getting all fueled and glided up, I headed back out on the course to embrace the next 11 miles until I saw Matthew again. These sections of the course are some of the most boring- lots of highway miles and then what feels like never-ending miles through Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.
But, I pushed on. My stomach cramps had returned, it was stupid hot, and I was seriously questioning my life choices by this point. I was not having a very magical race at all.
Single digits left.
Headed into WWOS. Those folks on the left are at mile 21, we are at 17. Talk about a mental game. 😔
Walking through Champion Stadium around mile 20.
I powered through WWOS and started on the two mile trek to Hollywood Studios. At this point, I was crying and really feeling awful and so damn hot. I started to debate if I wanted to quit now- but I kept thinking, "who quits a marathon at mile 22?!" They gave us cold sponges somewhere in WWOS and at every water station, I dipped it in water and then tucked it in the back of my sports bra- it was awesome and helped relieve some of the heat.
Finally, I made it to Hollywood Studios and climbed up this horrible (but short) hill at mile 23. At the top of the hill, there are bathrooms on the right and volunteers with chocolate on the left. I stopped to use the bathroom and texted the following to Matthew:
Both my language and my attitude
are foul at mile 23. 😉
Somehow, I managed to keep moving down Sunset Boulevard and out through the front of the park. There was lots of Gondola construction so we ran a weird little route towards the boardwalk and Epcot. This year, we entered the boardwalk and turned right instead of left which was a welcome surprise.
Just thinking finish line thoughts.
3 down, 1 to go.
Once I got into Epcot, I threw my hands up and thanked God that I'd made it to the end, which is weird because I am in no way religious. Marathons are weird, man. Matthew was waiting for me just before France with a cold Schofferhofer (from the Germany pavilion) and a piece of schoolbread (from the Norway pavilion). He is literally the best spectator on earth.
I grabbed the food and the beer and Matthew started walking with me around the World. We saw our friends Matt and Kim and grabbed sweaty hugs and selfies before heading on towards the finish.
Running towards my two loves, Matthew and beer.
Matt and Kim!
Check out that beer holding technique. 😅
Matthew stayed on the course with me as I made my way around the rest of the World Showcase. I swear, that last mile feels like it takes forever. I grabbed a bunch of silly pictures, sang horribly and loudly to "Go the Distance," (which you can hear in the video below) and then said goodbye to Matthew as I turned the last corner to head to the finish line.
"Making my way downtown, walking fast, place is packed and I'm home bound.."
Dancing towards Japan.
4 down, 0 to go!
So close I can taste it!
I ran past the gospel choir, grabbed a high five from Rudy, and then finished my fifth marathon. Five. Freaking. Marathons.
Crossing with a beer in hand and a course PR.
I finished my fifth marathon (and fourth Disney marathon) in 6:18:51- a new course PR and my second-fastest marathon ever.
While I didn't come close to my A goal (6:00 or under), I did cross two things off my bucket list that I'd always wanted to do during a Disney marathon: ride Everest and cross the finish line with a beer in my hand. Check and check.
I met up with Matthew and Nathan in the family reunion area. Nathan had already finished his marathon, went back to his hotel to shower, and made it back in time to see me finish- he's wicked fast! And a solid friend- thanks for coming back to cheer me on, Nathan!
I'm so out of it, my skirt is tucked into my shorts pocket.
Perfectly Dopey Nathan.
My guy. 💕
Number 5 in the books.
After resting for a bit, I got cleaned up as best you can in an Epcot bathroom, and Matthew, Nathan, and I did a few laps around World Showcase to stretch out the legs. A few beers and snacks later, we headed back to the resort for a real shower. Later that night we ate at Skipper Canteen (which was fantastic!) in MK, walked around Disney Springs, and then finally went to bed around 11 pm. Pretty sure I put at least 30 miles on my feet that day. 😉
How else do you celebrate a marathon?
Just goofin around in Germany.
"When you wish upon a star..."
While there were so many awesome friends I saw on the course, and so many amazing volunteers, I have to save the biggest thanks for Matthew. This was a horrible race for me. 80% of the time, I had horrific stomach cramps and it was so stinking hot. I wanted to quit so many times. But Matthew kept me focused, kept me laughing, and kept me in the race.
Thank you, Matthew, for being my biggest cheerleader and for believing in me when I can't find the strength to do so. I am so, so, so grateful I get to do life with you. Thank you.
Will I do the Disney marathon again? Hell, will I do any marathon again?
If you would have asked me right after I finished this one, the answer would have been a resounding HELL NO. However, now that I've had time to recover, I can't say for sure that this one was my last. I still have the desire to run long distances and maybe even an ultra. Time will tell to see what my future race calendar holds.
Will we be back to Disney for the 2020 WDW Marathon Weekend?
Absolutely! So many of the issues we've had over the years (crowded expo, crowded race courses) were not at all a problem this year. The whole weekend was so enjoyable- we will be back in 2020 for sure. Which races we'll be running, that's still a mystery at this point. Though I'm sure I'll post about it here once we decide. 😊
P.S.- if you want to see what the route looks like with a roller coaster thrown in there, check out my relive below!
Have you ever run any of the races during WDW Marathon Weekend? Which is your favorite?