Marathon Finisher: Disney Edition

I’ve been running for a while on and off. I was really consistent for a long time and have done many half marathons and even more smaller runs of 5k or 10k length. My first half marathon was the Disney Princess half marathon in 2010. My friend and I trained for over a year to make our running debut and become Disney Princesses! (That what the tag line for the Princess marathon is, that may be somewhat unofficial, but I like it!)  I mean what could be better then that, right?

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Doing the Princess Half was great and led to doing many more half marathons. All of which were just leading up to my ultimate goal of doing a marathon. I attempted to do one once before and I only made it half way. I just wasn’t dedicated and I definitely was not ready. I chose one in West Palm Beach, I just assumed there would be lots of people running. Every half marathon I’d done up to this point had tons of people. That was probably because they were all  either at Disney or Rock n Roll series. This marathon was a single event outside of a larger organization and it did not come close to having the amount of people I was used to seeing at runs. I made it half way to 13.1 miles, at that point my feet hurt so bad from blisters, there was not one other runner in sight, and i was so exhausted I just couldn’t keep going.

After that I decided that when I was ready to try again it would be at Disney. I need to have tons of people around me so I know I’m not alone. I need their motivation to keep me going. I really need the entertainment along the course.

Fast forward a couple years and I signed up with my same friend I did my 1st half marathon with (and her husband) to do the Disney Marathon. It wasn’t cheap but we knew at least it would be fun and have the entertainment we need along the way.

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I always said I didn’t want to do a marathon if I didn’t think I could finish around 5 hours since I finished my first half marathon at 2:34:38. I didn’t factor in the double distance would slow you down. I trained for the year leading up to it loosely, but as it got closer I followed the Jeff Galloway training plan on the Run Disney site.  I went with the one under “experienced runner” to just finish in the upright position.  I also did about 5 half marathons in the 4 months before the big day.

One mistake I did make was playing “bubble soccer” for a friends birthday about 2 weeks before. I knew in my head that it was probably a bad idea, but everyone was saying how much fun it was and the guy putting it on claimed “it’s impossible to get hurt.” Well I pulled off the impossible and hurt my knee. Not majorly, but enough that it was actually hard to walk for a few days. Then I could walk, but it got sore when I would run. I had two weeks so I got a knee brace for support and just hoped for the best while silently cursing my decision to play that stupid game.

The night before I stayed with my friends at their hotel near Disney. If you don’t know Disney races start extremely early. They’re a 5:30 am start time, but you want to get there by 4:30 because it’s a long walk from the staging area to the start line. I didn’t want to have to get up even earlier then the already 3:30 wake up to make the bus and get to the start line. Disney races are known for people dressing in costume and we love to have a theme, so we dressed as Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum, and the while rabbit from Alice and Wonderland. I laid out my stuff and attempted to get some sleep.

It was so early, I think we actually woke up at around 3 am, but we made it and with my knee braced, my belt loaded with supplies for energy and lots of positive thoughts of just wanting to finish without being swept because I knew I wasn’t going to be fast (well I’m never fast, but I wouldn’t be close to my normal pace with a bad knee.) I started my very long day!

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Disney courses are great because they go through the parks and they have tons of entertainment along the way. The half marathons go through Magic Kingdom and Epcot only. The Marathon being twice the distance went through both of those parks plus added Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Wide World of Sports.

We started outside Epcot and everything was going great for the first half. I made it  through the castle, but there was still a long way to go. My knee started hurting more and more. I stopped at every medical tent to bio freeze my knee and it would help for a mile or so after each stop. I was starting to get tired around mile 16 but still had 10 mile to go! Due to my knee pain and my feet starting to blister I was walking more then I wanted to, but I was still smiling.

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My method going into most races is that I just need to make it half way. Once I get to that halfway point I know mentally I’m in it for the long haul. I like know that finally the miles left are less than the miles already run.  In my head I keep telling myself it’s all downhill from here on out. I made it to mile 18, knowing I still had 8 miles to go, this was turning out to be the longest day of my life!

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Most of my race photos are not that flattering. Those photographers always sneak up on me. I like this one though because at least at that point I was still running! I found my friends boyfriend at around mile 20 so we stuck it out together. My motivation was that I was determined to finish because I did not want to go through the preparation and stress of this ever again! This was it, this was my shot at finishing a marathon and I was making it to the end. His motivation was that he was planning to propose at the end and it would kinda take the magic out of proposing after you both finish you 1st marathon if one of you didn’t actually finish.

Luckily Disney is on the more lenient side of time requirements. You have to maintain a 16 min mile, but since we weren’t in the last corral and had run a lot of the first half we had a little bit of a cushion on that 16 min time limit. They also have the Balloon ladies (who are a self formed group) who stay at the very end of the race with balloons to give you a visual of the cut off point where you could be swept. There is a rumor that as long as you are in front of them going in to Epcot, the final park, you’re guaranteed to finish. We could actually see them in the distance behind us leaving Wide World of Sports, but we made it Epcot and it was smooth sailing from there.

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We made it to the 40K mark (24.8 miles) and with only 1.4 miles to go and I knew I would survive and most importantly FINISH! The last thing you do before seeing the actually finish line is circle around the Epcot Ball and see the 26 mile marker! We got to the finish line and they gave us our medals I’d never been so happy to finish a run! I mean I wasn’t fast and my time was over 7 hours, but I didn’t care because I finally had done a Marathon!

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Once we got our medals, made it out of the hectic finishers area where they give you all the goodies it was time for the important things to happen. Heather finished probably an hour before us and had taken a nap already waiting for us. Props to Matt who carried that ring safety pinned inside his pocket for 26.2 miles.  She thought he was collapsing  for a moment when he started to get down on one knee.  She was so surprised and it was a beautiful ending to a long day!

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After all the excitement I headed home to eat way too much and went to sleep! The next day we rewarded ourselves by spending the day running around Disney with our medals. It was truly a magical experience. Heather and I did out 1st half marathon together at Disney 6 years earlier and now we did our 1st marathon together at Disney also.

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They continue to run and have plans to do other marathons. I’m pretty sure this might be it for me on my marathon career. I think half marathons is my distance of choice. It just gets so boring to me after the 15 mile mark when training. Maybe I just need to find running friends to train with so I don’t have to train alone.

I also made this shadow box to commemorate my first marathon. I figured it was a big deal and it deserved more then just throwing the medal on the rack with all my other ones. They have really nice ones you can order at the expos but they are so expensive! This one looks great on the wall with my other medals.

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Have you run any half marathons? what about marathons? Which ones and any recommendations for good ones? Which were your favorites to do? Share with me below in the comments!

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Til next time!

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5 thoughts on “Marathon Finisher: Disney Edition

  1. Good for you! We have done a couple of 1/2’s. And we have been to the Chicago Marathon with our daughter and watched her. We ended up joining in with her the last 12 miles. Walking of course. She was hurting for sure. I enjoyed my knee last her. But I can’t wait to get back out there!

  2. Wow! I am so impressed with you. I have been thinking about doing the Disney 5K (baby steps!) and have been doing a few local 5K’s to train. You have definitely inspired me to keep training! Thank you!

  3. Congratulations on finishing your first marathon!!! My first marathon was the Walt Disney World one too, in 2014. I love running in Disney and have participated in all of the runDisney races, except the Wine & Dine and the Star Wars. I’m actually going to do the Dark Side Challenge in April 🙂 My favorite WDW race thus far is the Dopey Challenge, which I completed in 2016! Training and then running those 4 races in a row was an AMAZING experience and I loved every minute of it!! That was definitely a once in a lifetime experience for me. I’ve run many half marathons and 5 marathons. The Chicago marathon was a great one to do because it is flat and LOTS of people are cheering you on. There are so many people along the course, as well as music and live entertainment, that it keeps you energized every mile of the race. This past November I ran the New York Marathon, which I didn’t like as much as Chicago, but I was so blessed to be able to participate in. It is very difficult to get in so I was lucky 🙂 When training for a marathon, it truly helps to complete your long runs with a friend!! I did all of my weekly long runs with friends and it made the miles so much easier, especially once you were running 16-21 miles. 9 times out of 10, there will be others training for a marathon around the same time as yours so you will be running similar distances. It is so much easier training when you are running with people! Once again, congratulations on completing the marathon. As a runner myself, I loved reading about your experience 🙂

  4. Congratulations on finishing your first marathon!!! My first marathon was the Walt Disney World one too, in 2014. I love running in Disney and have participated in all of the runDisney races, except the Wine & Dine and the Star Wars. I’m actually going to do the Dark Side Challenge in April 🙂 My favorite WDW race thus far is the Dopey Challenge, which I completed in 2016! Training and then running those 4 races in a row was an AMAZING experience and I loved every minute of it!! That was definitely a once in a lifetime experience for me. I’ve run many half marathons and 5 marathons. The Chicago marathon was a great one to do because it is flat and LOTS of people are cheering you on. There are so many people along the course, as well as music and live entertainment, that it keeps you energized every mile of the race. This past November I ran the New York Marathon, which I didn’t like as much as Chicago, but I was so blessed to be able to participate in. It is very difficult to get in so I was lucky 🙂 When training for a marathon, it truly helps to complete your long runs with a friend!! I did all of my weekly long runs with friends and it made the miles so much easier, especially once you were running 16-21 miles. 9 times out of 10, there will be others training for a marathon around the same time as yours so you will be running similar distances. It is so much easier training when you are running with people! Once again, congratulations on completing the marathon. As a runner myself, I loved reading about your experience 🙂

  5. Disney races are the best! You should give the Goofy Challenge a go. I had a bad marathon experience prior to doing the Goofy, but had a blast at Disney.

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