My husband loves going to Disney. Every year he goes to Disney with his boys. He asked me to go this past summer but I chose not to go. Being that we’re on a budget I chose to save my money to go on a cycling trip or to Scuba Cyclist’s house in San Diego. A while back I read about a man who lost weight by taking up running after having weight loss surgery. His goal was to run his first marathon, he chose the 2020 Disney marathon to be his first. I wasn’t into running at that time but the event was somewhere in the back of my mind.
One day I was on Facebook and an ad for the Disney marathon popped up and I remembered the article I read and thought it may be fun to do it. Although I hadn’t run my first marathon yet I decided to sign up for a second marathon, the Disney marathon. I asked my coach if it would be advisable to do two marathons within a couple months of each other and she said it would be a good event for me to participate in. She told me I would have a lot of fun and she knows people that love it so much that they do it every year. I talked it over with my husband and he was just as excited to accompany me to Disney as I was about running the marathon. He made all the travel arrangements for an extended Disney weekend, including the itinerary, and I registered for the marathon.
In the months leading up to our trip I was getting excited. I bought some Disney apparel for both the marathon and for the parks. I was excited about running the marathon and wasn’t at all nervous. I was actually very relaxed. That is until my training runs got longer and I started experiencing discomfort. I couldn’t go crying to my doctor because I had met the calendar year allowance for his services and I couldn’t afford to pay completely out of pocket. I wasn’t in horrible pain so I continued my training as planned. The marathon was in the beginning of the next calendar year so I was able to resume treatment prior to the event. I went to him a few days before I left for the trip hoping that that one visit would help me. In the back of my mind I questioned whether I’d be able to complete the marathon but I kept it in the back of my mind where it belonged. Even if I didn’t complete it I’d be happy to run as far as I could in the happiest place I know.
Early in the morning on Friday, January 10th we headed out to the airport by way of ride share car service. We took off and landed on schedule. Arrangements were made for our bags to be sent to our hotel and we were to arrive there by way of the Magical Express bus service. We were to be the last stop on the bus. We noticed that we were passing the ESPN center where the race expo was being held so we decided to get off at the very first stop and take a bus from there. The expo was a lot of fun. I picked up my race bib, shirt, and gear bag as well as a couple of other small things. We took pictures and demoed a couple of new items. While we were at the expo we received a text that our room was ready, we checked in online so we could go straight to the room. Our luggage hadn’t arrived yet. My shoes were cute but not comfy enough to walk around in for long periods of time. As luck would have it our luggage arrived before we left for lunch and Animal Kingdom.
Being that our trip was short my husband had made arrangements that were efficient with time. He scheduled a VIP group tour of Animal Kingdom that would afford us the time to take in all of the main attractions in a short amount of time. I had a blast! A meal, a drink, and a dessert were also included as well as plenty of bottled water. At the end of the tour we were escorted to prime reserved seating at the River of Lights show. We went to dinner in the park at a nice restaurant after the show and took the bus to the hotel closest to ours that served delicious beignets for dessert. It was a magical day that filled me with a deeper appreciation of my husband and all the lengths he goes to ensure my happiness.
I woke up early the next morning to run before having breakfast and going to the Magic Kingdom. It wasn’t hot but it was very humid. The marathon would have similar weather so that helped me decide on my race strategy. My husband got us fastpasses that would begin in the afternoon. The lines for certain rides were short in the morning so he planned accordingly. We had lunch before using our fastpasses. We went on all of the rides that we wanted to go on and had so much fun. We took the monorail to the Skyliner because we thought it would be cool and it was. We had dinner in Disney Springs but we didn’t walk around because I had to wake up very early for the race. The race started at 5:00am but participants were encouraged to leave their hotel at 3:00am.
Our hotel didn’t offer an early breakfast for race participants but I had packed most of what I would need to make overnight oats. The shop didn’t have almond milk so I bought soy milk. I didn’t bring my pure maple syrup so I used the syrup packets from the hotel and took a banana. Ordinarily I’d have blended the banana into the milk and pour it into the oats but I ate it separately instead. There was a coffee maker in the room. I brought my hydration pack as well as all of my normal race nutrition.
I woke up very early and was on the bus by 3:20. I arrived at the start at Epcot Center with plenty of time to spare. I used the porto potty before heading to my corral. I didn’t anticipate the event starting twenty minutes late. The event wouldn’t start until after they received confirmation that the roads were all blocked off and ready to go. Before we even started I had to pee very badly. My strategy was to run as far as I could before sunrise while keeping my heart rate even. I had absolutely no intention of racing it even if it were cooler out. I was there to have fun! The weather would be getting hot around noon so I planned on being long done by then. We were released from our corrals in one minute increments. I was in corral D, the fifth corral to be released including the wheelchair racers.
The first set of porto potties was a half mile in and there were no lines so I went. I felt instantly better. I was very conservative with my pace. At the very first water stop, before any sign of feeling warm, I started dumping water on myself to remain cool and drank a tiny bit of it to alternate with my energy drink. I doused myself at nearly every stop. At the second stop I doused myself with about half of a cup of gatorade before realizing it. At every stop after that I drank before dumping it on myself. I didn’t stop to take pictures with any characters in the first few miles as there weren’t any that I was dying to see.
I had conversations with random people all along the course. The first was a nice young lady that had studied the map prior to the event. I already had to pee again. She informed me that we would be passing actual bathrooms when we got to the Magic Kingdom. I would hold it until then. Around mile six my stomach started to kill me. Around mile seven my body informed me that it desperately needed the bathroom. At mile eight I had to give in and use the roadside porto potty. I prayed that this was a one time occurrence that wouldn’t haunt me throughout the course and, thankfully, it was. That was my last bathroom stop. I attribute this sickness to not having my regular food for breakfast. My strategy of getting as far as I could before sunrise went to hell with that not too lengthy stop.
Once my stomach was completely settled was when all the characters I was interested in seeing were along the course. I felt really good because, although my stomach was killing me, I still ate my gels and nutrition bars on schedule. No matter how bad it felt to eat, I knew I needed the extra support in the harsh conditions. I was only mildly interest in the first characters I passed so I didn’t wait in line, I took their pictures between participants. Around mile 10 was when I started waiting in short lines for pictures. The lines moved very swiftly. There were professional photographers as well as people ready to take my own phone for pictures. The only unknown characters I posed with were these pretty colored bugs that didn’t have a line. Right after that I remained at that stop to retrieve my sunglasses from inside my hydration pack. They were wet with the water I kept dumping on myself and I had nothing dry to wipe them with. I was starting to get tired so any excuse to stop was a good one. Although my glasses were dry they were streaky so I stopped when I saw the towel that people used to wipe their hands after using Biofreeze, I used a corner to be safe.
I stopped briefly to take pictures of and with anything and anyone that I thought was cool. Every time I stopped I felt better. I rarely stopped for any reason in the sun. I was tempted by the sign that said “Open Bar” that a man was holding up in Animal Kingdom. Other participants had stopped for a drink in the shade but I knew it was a bad idea so I kept on moving. Shortly after that there were volunteers handing out small bags of ice. I took one and held it in my hands. I opened the bag and offered some ice to people that looked very hot and instructed them to hold it in their hands to stay cool. I dropped a few pieces of ice down my bra and took some ice out to hold before ditching the bag at a water stop.
There was a loop through a sunny parking lot at Blizzard Beach. We were already in the sun for a while at that point. It pretty much sucked but it wasn’t unbearable. I stopped there at the mile twenty-one marker to take a picture because the marker had Lilo and Stitch on it, whom I love. At mile twenty-two there was a DJ playing a popular song. There was an older gentleman dancing so I stopped to dance with him for about a minute. I thanked the DJ in my own little way (by smacking my booty and then pointing at him:-). Both the older gentleman and I started running again but he gave me a pound before we separated.
I had my last gel at half past mile twenty-two. It was pretty sunny the rest of the way. I dug deep to keep on moving. We got to Hollywood Studios sometime around mile twenty-three. The crowd at Main Street was very hype and encouraging. The volunteers handed out Hershey’s Kisses. I took some and ate one. It was gooey from the sun but it was just the sweet that I needed at that point. I put the rest in the front pocket of my hydration pack.
Shortly after that, around mile twenty-four, we were back in Epcot Center and it was there that the crowd was carrying some of the best signs I’d seen all race. One said “Soon you can drink on Friday Nights Again”. More ice was distributed and, again, I took some. At mile twenty-five I knew I was almost done but it was tough. In a shady spot I saw a lady carrying a sign that said “Free Hugs and High Fives”. I saw another runner had just finished hugging her and her t-shirt was wet from that runner’s sweat. I stopped for a hug too and she was a very good hugger. I thanked her for the hug and she asked if I was ok. I told her I was and she told me I was almost there. I thanked her again and left. My legs smelled the finish and they started moving faster. I no longer had to watch my heart rate. I let my legs run free. About half a mile from the finish line my legs took over and I ran fast. When I turned the corner and saw the finish line, I sprinted for it! I ran past two ladies that were excited to finish together. I didn’t care, I just wanted to be done. I crossed the finish line at about 10:38am after being on the course for a little more than five hours.
Shortly after the finish line, a respectable distance away to let other runners have their finish, I pulled off to the right and bent over to regain my composure a bit. I just needed a minute to catch my breath. Shortly after a young man approached me and, respectfully, got me upright gain. He asked me to walk with him. I explained that my husband was around there somewhere. I put my hand on his shoulder to help me walk on my sore knees and he continued leading me down the finish line area. I stopped to collect my medal and we continued walking. He brought me to the self treatment area. He asked me if I wanted my knees iced or to sit at the fans and he suggested the fans, which I was already starting to point to. A young lady came to ice my knees and asked if I was still lightheaded. I never communicated that I was lightheaded or that my knees were sore but I’m guessing that they’ve seen this behavior in previous finishers and knew what to do.
As soon as I felt right again, I reunited with my husband who greeted me with a single pink rose with a Mickey ornament inside of it in my signature color. I cried. He’s such a good man and he’s so good to me. On the way to see him I was given a water, my finishers Mickey ears, and someone opened the water for me. I collected my finishers snack box on the way out and we headed over to the bus depot. The bus came shortly after we got there but the participant that was there had waited long. My first stop at the hotel was the bar. I drank an IPA leisurely. It was just after noon when my husband got the notification that, due to the weather, the course was being revised. Although it was being revised all the remaining participants that crossed the finish line would be considered completed and they would receive finishers medals. I would later learn that the participants were passing out from the heat, most of them at Blizzard Beach. That’s the loop of the course that was removed.
I noticed that, over the course of our stay, that the participants that finished the various races that were held over the marathon weekend were wearing their medals out and about. I thought that was great and I did it too. I wore it on the Surrey that my husband and I rode around the hotel grounds and I wore it while lounging by the pool. After I got dressed for dinner I put it back on. My husband asked, because it was heavy, if I really wanted to walk around in it. I assured him that I did, that it would be the only race that would be stylish to wear the medal afterwards. It was Disney after all!
We took the riverboat to Disney Springs and walked around. I was congratulated by many people and congratulated many participants myself. We went to the Coca Cola store and we, unexpectedly, got to meet and pose for pictures with the Coke polar bear. My husband then took me to a very fun Irish restaurant with live entertainment. We loved it! As luck would have it they had a 20% discount for marathon participants. My husband immediately apologized for questioning my decision to wear my medal out and about. We went to Ghiradelli for dessert and then, also unexpectedly, waited on a long riverboat line to return to the hotel.
Our vacation was amazing and we both wish we could have stayed longer. Disney is a magical place and the marathon event was run very well. My only criticism is that they didn’t feed the runners well. Only a packet of sport beans and Hershey’s Kisses were handed out. There was plenty of water, gatorade, and powerade but the food was lacking. There were many volunteers and medical tents. The race entertainment was awesome and all of the volunteers, including the characters, were very cheerful and encouraging. I would definitely attend the Disney Marathon Weekend in the future.
On Monday morning the Magical Express brought us back to the airport. I wore the shirt that I received at the expo. It was at the airport that I spoke with other finishers wearing their shirts that told me about all of the participants that suffered heat exhaustion and the part of the course that was omitted. Being that I had finished early, I was spared the sight of many people passing out. The organizers sent out many warnings and advisories prior to the event as well as tips to avoid exhaustion but not everyone can handle those conditions.
Although I had an amazing time at the marathon and I’m recovering well, I think I’m going to take it down a notch. I think I’ll limit myself to running a marathon annually. I love running marathons but the training is tough. I’ve trained in the sweltering heat as well as the freezing temps and, in both extremes, training for a marathon is hard work bot physically and mentally. I hope to be able to run the NYC marathon at the end of the season but we’ll see how it goes. Thank you all for the love and support I’ve received from you all as I conquer all of my goals and, as always, I thank you all very much for reading!