Last year we ran the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon as our first Marathon, and to say it did not go well is an understatement. The first half went according to plan. However, at about mile 15 I stopped sweating and it went downhill from there. Our final time was almost 6 1/2 Hours. Immediately after the run, I swore off marathons. However upon further reflection, I decided I was not going to let the Marathon win. So, we signed up for the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon, which I dubbed my redemption Marathon. This is the story of that Marathon. (My WDW 10K recap will come soon).
I did not change a whole lot heading into this race, except our last two long runs were better than our last two long runs last year. Also, I switched to eating raisins during my long runs instead of gels. I think that made a big difference. Most importantly, the weather this year was almost perfect.
Our 2:30 am wake up brought us temps in the mid 50s. As usual we took one of the first monorails to the Race Retreat outside Epcot. This year, there were 16 corrals instead of the 8 the year before. This seemed to make the cattle drive to the start line much smoother. It also seemed to thin out the course in the first few miles. Not so much in the narrow miles from 6-8 though.
The race started at 5:30 a.m. We were in corral K, so we crossed the start line about 35 minutes later. We left Epcot and headed to the Magic Kingdom. Just past the 5 mile mark, we entered the Magic Kingdom and headed up Main Street, probably the most magical part of the run. Then, it was through Tomorrow Land, along Fantasy Land, and through Cinderella’s Castle – another highlight of the run. Things were going according to plan at this point.
We then headed out of the Magic Kingdom through Frontier Land and made our way through the narrowest part of the course toward the Grand Floridian. This is where we first met up with the 5:30 pace group, running 5 wide on a narrow part of the course. When they stopped to walk, they stayed five wide. It was either a bulldozer running up on you from behind or a slow-moving wall in front of you. We do the run/walk as well, but at least we know to go single file when we walk and try not to run more than two-wide. We kept up our pace to get clear of the group.
Then, we ran past the golf courses and entered the Walt Disney World Speedway just after mile 8. Once again there were race cars, exotic cars, and classic cars lining the track, and it is certainly another highlight of the run. We exited around mile 9 and headed onto the least interesting part of the course which passes the trash and compost facilities on the way to Animal Kingdom at mile 12.
Just after we exited Animal Kingdom we passed the halfway point. I still felt good and our time was respectable. Again, the weather was certainly cooperating, which helped. However, it was just after this point last year that it all seemed to fall apart, and that was certainly on my mind. The miles from 15-20 are my least favorite, probably because that is when I fell apart last year. This is also the hottest part of the course. However, I felt OK this time around.
We trudged on through these miles, said hi to Ferb, and made our way through Wide World of Sports (where they handed out water-soaked towels, which really helped for the rest of the race).
Unfortunately, the 5:30 pace group passed us as we exited the Wide World of Sports. Fortunately, it was on a wider part of the course. Exiting Wide World of Sports, we passed mile 20 still feeling OK, but realizing that those tell-tale signs were creeping in again. For me, that sign was the fact that my headband wasn’t wet with sweat any more. I had gone through two prior to that point, and the third was barely damp. (Yes, I carried 4 with me – I am that headband guy). As you may be able to tell from the photos in this post, I was sweating less at the end.
But, we kept on and headed toward Hollywood Studios. As painful as it was at this point, it was much better than last year.
As we headed to the Studios, and miles 21-23, Joyce began to struggle a bit, and we increased our walk breaks some more. Around mile 23, the lower part of my legs began to cramp in muscles I didn’t even know I had. It hurt with each step. Ironically, it felt a little better when we ran than when we walked. However, by this point we began to call it “shuffling” rather than running. Still, our walk breaks were reasonable, and I was able to keep shuffling, rather than just walking like last year.
We made our way through Hollywood Studios, around the Boardwalk, and finally made it to the back entrance of Epcot.
After taking a picture with Sleeping Beauty at mile 25, we made our way to the finish.
That last 1.2 miles around World Showcase are the longest 1.2 miles I know of. We kept up with our run/walk and made it to the finish. End result: a personal Best that was 40+ minutes faster than last year.
Mission accomplished? I think so. Do we have a faster time in us? Probably. Are we going to do it again next year? Nope. I feel OK about this Marathon, so I am OK retiring to half marathons. I’ll never say never, but I have no interest in doing it again at this point. I feel I redeemed myself from when my body failed me last year. I still had some issues in this one, but they were certainly less severe than last year.
I love the RunDisney races. The courses are great, the entertainment on the courses is awesome, the crowd support is unmatched, and the volunteers are first class. Even though the run was tough, I had a smile on my face most of the time. From the characters and entertainment on course, to the thrill of running through the parks, to the inspirational runners all around us, I’m not sure the experience can be matched anywhere else. I can now proudly say “I did it.” Last year, I wasn’t so proud to say that.