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Just over a week ago, I finished the 25th Anniversary WDW Marathon. It was my third and possibly last marathon. Grab a chair and some coffee, these are my race day memories and thoughts.
In January of 2017, I signed up for the 25th Anniversary WDW Marathon despite all of the what ifs I had in the back of my mind. I knew I wanted to run it again, I wanted to have a better race than my bathroom tour marathon I had a few weeks prior. I knew I could do better and set out to do just that.
In the back of my mind, one what if screamed loudly. It was the, what if you get injured? Signing up for a race a year away that you cannot defer or get a refund for can be risky. That what if did happen and my knee turned on me.
It took a while and a second opinion to get back on the road to recovery. I have been going to physical therapy for over 6 months and I have just started to actually run again. While I trained for the marathon it was not the training I had originally planned to do. Instead of running, I walked and worked to make sure I stayed under the 16mm pace while adding the distance. I had 100-mile months again and successfully completed 2, 20 milers.
All of this extra time spent training meant more time on my hands spent on thinking. The more I thought about things the more I came to the conclusion that the 2018 WDW Marathon would be my last full marathon. Yes, I know I can walk the marathon. Yes, if I do the minimum 16mm pace, I am good but that isn’t what I want to do. I want to be able to run it, stop when I want and not be afraid of those darn balloon ladies.
One of the keys to a great Disney race is corral placement. You submit your proof of time and hope for the best. Due to my injury, I was unable to submit a new proof of time, so I used my same one from last year and this year I stated in corral G. This was the next to last corral due to the new corral set up. For the 2018 corrals were A-H and they set off in 25 mini waves. This was the furthest back that I have ever started at a Disney race. From past experience, I knew I would have to manage my time well.
The time finally came for me to leave for marathon weekend, I would be leaving snowy, below freezing North Carolina for a very cold Florida. It took me longer than planned but late Friday night I finally made it to my resort at Walt Disney World. Saturday morning I spent watching the half marathon, carb loading at the Grand Floridian Cafe and then onto the expo. I had heard the parks were crowded more than usual so I decided to skip the parks this year.
The set up for the 2018 expo was a bit different. In one hall you had bib and shirt pick up in addition to the regular expo. In a separate hall, you had the RunDisney merchandise and character meetups.
Since I knew I would be going slow and starting near the back, I took this opportunity for a picture with Mickey Mouse.
I spent the rest of the day exploring a crowded Disney Springs and checking out what was new there until it was time to head back to my resort to have dinner and get ready for race morning.
Layers were key for my race day outfit. We would be starting when it was in the 30’s but it would be in the 60’s when I finished.
I also laid out my race day essentials that I did not want to forget. My bib, Garmin and Body Glide and a few other things.
I have used Body Glide for about 10 years now. It is my must have to help prevent not only chaffing but it helps prevent blisters on my feet. If you get blisters I suggest trying it out.
Once I had everything laid out off to bed I went, 2:30AM was going to be here before I knew it and it was. I woke up just before my alarm went off got ready and headed for the buses.
Once arriving at Epcot, I made my way through the security bag check line and to Race Retreat.
A friend gave me a bracelet to get into race retreat and I was thankful for not having to wait around in the cold.
While in race retreat I was able to have a banana and some hot chocolate and wait in the warm. At 4:45am we all lined up preschool style, holding onto a rope and took a shortcut to the corrals where we then waited for our turn to go.
I barely missed the first wave of corral G and was in the front of the 2nd wave. When it was our turn I set off running and did intervals as long as I could. Being in the back, attention was given to when the other corrals were released. The fireworks would go off and people would be instantly talking about how much of a buffer we may have between the balloon ladies, aka the sweepers.
The overall course was the same as it has been in years past. There were some minor changes here and there with the course and the characters on the course. The first land we approached was the Magic Kingdom.
The Magic Kingdom is always a favorite of mine but I only ever stop for one picture. I get a castle picture after running down Main Street. While they have Photopass photographers after you run through the castle I always ask a cast member on Main Street to take my picture. This way I can jump back on the course quickly.
The Magic Kingdom to my surprise was not as congested as I thought it would be. There were a ton of people but everyone was moving at a decent pace. I even ran through the castle and onto Frontierland with no issues. It was when we entered the backlot and headed toward Animal Kingdom that the congestion appeared. It was on the journey to Animal Kingdom that I made my first pee stop between miles 8 and 9 at some port-a-potties. I was in line for 10 minutes and would have preferred to be at the character stop next to the port-a-potties for Up.
After my stop, I continued on to Animal Kingdom, past the water treatment plant, the out and back and around the corner past the petting zoo and into Animal Kingdom, the halfway point. The cool part about running the WDW marathon is that in Animal Kingdom if you hit it at just the right time, you can ride Expedition Everest and the more daring go on TriceraTop Spin. With my ten-minute bathroom break still fresh on my mind, I skipped the rides. I didn’t want to risk the balloon ladies catching up to me so onto ESPN I went.
The miles at ESPN are among my least favorite. I don’t think I have ever met someone who likes that part of the course. You are out there for miles 17 to 21 in an area where the course is narrow in most areas. In this area, you will go around the track and around the bases at Champion Stadium. These are the same bases that the Atlanta Braves run during Spring Training. The highlight of this section was a special bystander refreshment stop as we were leaving the complex. Fireball, yes, please!
Leaving ESPN, you are in the home stretch. You just have to go up a “Florida” hill with a toy soldier shouting orders and around the corner to Hollywood Studios This where you have the candy stop. This year’s choices were Candy Corn M&M’s, regular M&M’s and Maltesers.
In Hollywood Studios the course goes by the Tower of Terror, another ride you can go off the course and ride. Aerosmith’s Rock’n’ Roller Coaster is also nearby. I wasn’t that daring.
The safe zone was on my mind and I was almost there. Typically the safe zone is mile 24.
You hit mile 24 as you enter the Boardwalk resort area. This said I did see “parade buses”, also known as sweeper buses at the entrance of Epcot.
Once I was in Epcot all of my previous ideas and plans went away. This was going to be my last full marathon so I was going to get my money’s worth out of that last mile. While so many were hustling to just finish I stopped at 3 character stops.
To avoid using the gross port-a-potties when I was done, I stopped and used a real bathroom, because I could. In Mexico, I stopped and got a margarita and crossed the finish line holding it.
I was then done, my medal placed around my neck, I was given special Mickey ears, and left to wander back to race retreat to collect my things. I had finished my last marathon.
Looking back, I would definitely recommend the WDW Marathon to anyone looking to do their first marathon. The course is primarily flat and easy. The aid stations are plentiful. Disney races have entertainment that you won’t see at other races that helps the miles go by. Plus where else can you say you rode a ride during the middle of a marathon or finish with a margarita or turkey leg in your hand. I am sad to have to say goodbye to the WDW Marathon but thankfully I have the memories that will last forever.