Well, here it is finally: my recap of the 2012 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.
Thursday: Up bright and early to catch my 6:00 AM flight (Delta canceled my preferred direct flight, and now I'd need to connect in Atlanta). Arrived in Orlando, quickly checked into the All Star Sports Resort, then met Elizabeth (in from SoCal) at the race expo to pick up all the goodies. Then we spent the afternoon at Animal Kingdom hitting all the good rides like Expedition Everest (a Yeti themed indoor rollercoaster - awesome), the safari, a 4D show featuring characters from A Bug's Life, and other fun things. Later, we had an awesome dinner with fabulous wine at the California Grill, atop the Contemporary Resort, and had a bird’s eye view of the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom. A great way to start the weekend.
|My veggie plate from California Grill|
Friday: Up early (2:30 AM!!!) to get to the starting line of the 5K (3.1 miles). It was a family-oriented event with lots of kids, and no official race timing. Brrrr, was it cold at the start of this race, which was run in almost complete darkness until the end. Elizabeth, Michelle (in from Denver) and I ran together at an easy pace, using this race as a warm-up for the big races to follow. Many people were dressed in costume, so the crowd was entertaining and fun. The 5K route ran through Epcot and along the World Showcase (where they have Disney-fied versions of different countries) there were a few character photo-ops. We had our picture taken with Goofy, Pluto and Dopey. Later that day we were lazy and spent the afternoon at the All Star Music Calypso Pool, where we were met by Jennifer (from NorCal), the Disney trivia guru. During our chit chat at the pool, I learned that I still needed to pick up my wrist bands for the "Race Retreat" so I had to go back to the Expo. The good news is that, while at the expo, I was able to change my starting corral from H to D, allowing me to start much earlier. This was good, and I'd now be in the same corral as Michelle and Elizabeth. That evening I carbo loaded at my hotel. They offered an $8.99 "Runners Special" which included a huge serving of pasta with marinara or alfredo sauce, a garlic breadstick, and a side salad. Dinner was shortly followed by an early bedtime. Earned the Three Caballeros medal.
|With Michelle and Elizabeth, Goofy and Pluto at the 5K|
Saturday: Another early morning. This time waking at 2:15 AM. The half marathon (13.1 miles) didn’t start until 5:30, but it took time to catch a shuttle bus to the start, hang out in our VIP “Race Retreat” tent for breakfast and mental preparation, character photos with Woody from Toy Story. Then we had the long, crowded, crowded, and did I say crowded, long walk to the starting line. Michelle, Elizabeth and I were met by Jennifer and Mitchell, friends of theirs from Northern California whom I met for the first time on this trip. We parted when they headed to a different corral. The half marathon was my best race. I shaved time off my October half marathon in Hartford, CT. And that was even while stopping for photo-ops! I ran this race in costume as the Red Queen from the Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland. There were MANY other runners in costume! We ran from just outside Epcot to the Magic Kingdom, through Cinderella’s Castle, then back to Epcot. I posed for some fun pics with the original Disney Queen of Hearts and Alice, the toy soldier from Toy Story, and others. Later that day a group of us went to Hollywood Studios for the afternoon. My friend Elizabeth has a VIP pass and we were able to go to the front of the line at every ride and show! The evening was characterized by more carbo loading and another early bedtime. Earned the 15th Anniversary Donald Duck medal.
|My outfit for the Half Marathon; I even wore the Red Queen's blue eyeshadow!|
Sunday: The big day. The day of the full marathon (26.2 miles). It started much like the previous day, only this time I donned Minnie Mouse ears, a running shirt picturing Minnie and labeled “Minnie Me” and a red running skirt with white dots. (Only at Disney would I make such an effort to dress up for a race.) We started the marathon by running around and then through part of Epcot, and then to the Magic Kingdom. Around the 10 mile mark my leg injury (stress fracture to the tibia) started bothering me a bit. By mile 12 I decided the prudent thing to do would be to walk to reduce the amount of impact on the leg. Of course, a more sane person may just have dropped out of the race, but I wasn’t about to do that. So I walked the last 14 miles of the marathon. It was the slowest, most painful walk ever. It wasn’t my injury bothering me during the walking portion, it was the tired and sore muscles, tissues and joints. Walking uses the body in a different way than running, and my legs and feet were not prepared for this, so it HURT. There were also some long, boring stretches of road in between the theme parks. Even though there was an occasional band or Disney character, the second half of the marathon was very challenging mentally. Animal Kingdom was really cool. As we approached the park, animal handlers were there and we could have our pictures taken with an owl, a snake, a hawk, a parrot, and some other small animals. Then later I had Jiminy Cricket (my mom's favorite) and Captain Jack Sparrow (my stepmom's favorite) photo ops. After Animal Kingdom I encountered the longest stretch of boredom, but then we came to Hollywood Studios, and from there it was cake. We finished by running (well, I was still walking) through Epcot once again. In the very last meters of the race, Jennifer and I met up, so we finished the race together and received our Mickey and Goofy medals together before heading back to the race retreat tent to meet Mitchell and Elizabeth (Michelle, a faster runner, was long gone and on her way to watch her Broncos win that night). For those who don't know, the "Goofy Challenge" is the achievement of both the Disney half marathon and full marathon on back-to-back days. It's hard on the body and, to be honest, not really advisable. That's why there is a special honor for those of us who are "goofy" enough to do it. And unofficially, the "Dopey" is what they call it when you run the Goofy and also the 5K, so I'm dopey too. Later on Sunday there was a meet-up of a Disney marathon Facebook group I belong to, so Elizabeth and I went to Epcot to share beers and conversation with people we may have only met online. Then we drank our way around the World Showcase, watched Chinese acrobats, had dinner in Mexico, and rode a few final rides (The Maelstrom and Test Track). Earned the Mickey Mouse and Goofy medals.
|I was "Minnie Me" for the Marathon; I left the gloves in my bag after posing in them|
|My 2012 medals; 5K, Half Marathon, Marathon, and Goofy|
Monday: I got to sleep in to the late hour of 8:00 AM and then picked up my rental car to drive about an hour away to The Villages, a 55 and up active retirement community where my aunt Debbie and her husband Ken have a house. My grandmother was there too, and I hadn’t seen her since Labor Day, so that was great. I relaxed, used their hot tub, and was shown around the golf courses, recreation centers and town squares of The Villages. These retirees are more heavily scheduled than a school kid, and their retirement is more active than when they worked. Crazy! It was nice to see family and enjoy a couple meals with them.
|At my aunt's house with my grandma Ann; I didn't know this would be on of the last times we were together|
Tuesday: Made my journey home. My plane flew from Orlando to Atlanta, where it sat on the tarmac for 40 minutes AFTER landing. I had to sprint from the gate to my connecting flight. I tell you, my body was not in the mood for a sprint! But I made it, and got home as expected around 10:30 PM. The cats were so happy to see me and were more clingy than normal. I know they were well taken care of while I was gone, but it's always nice to know they missed me!
So that's the story of my first Disney race experience, and you can find pictures in my WDW Marathon album on Facebook. In just two short weeks, I'm off to Anaheim, CA to run my second Disney race: the inaugural Tinker Bell Half Marathon. Until then, I'm giving my legs a break from running and will only cross train. When I finish Tinker Bell, I will have earned the Disney Coast to Coast medal for completing Disney races of 13.1 miles or more in both California and Florida in the same calendar year!