2014 Disney Marathon Weekend Recap 4: Running a Marathon!

21 01 2014

So here I am, a week post-marathon, facing that runner’s high after an absolutely amazing race experience and wanting to sign up for another! I had the BEST vacation at Disney’s Marathon Weekend, January 9-13, 2014 and am ready for my next running adventure! I need to sign up for fewer races this year and savor each one more. I felt like this past year, we were shuttling from race to race every weekend and never really had time to appreciate each one … it was always go, go, go! I want to spend more time blogging about each one, making photobooks, and finding something to do with each medal to make a pretty display other than the one in our 3rd floor office that no one ever sees, including us.


{I wrote a marathon recap for the Running at Disney blog and wrote another for my blog so that they wouldn’t be duplicate.

This is my second version! You can check out my original post here once it’s up.}


The hardest part of Disney marathon weekend was the potential for fatigue. Every morning, we were up at 2:30 and going strong ALL DAY LONG, including our first day, when we caught an early flight. We’d usually crash around 11 PM and start again a few hours later. By the time Sunday rolled around, we were a healthy mix of tired and excited!


So let’s talk about alarm clocks. There’s a popular Seinfeld episode that had been running through my head all week. “It was the volume!” the marathon runner Jean-Paul disclosed after missing his alarm clock and sleeping through his Olympic marathon run. I made sure on Saturday night that the volume on my phone was all the way up and that notifications were off so that I wouldn’t get any texts (I always have this on anyway from about 9 PM- 8 AM). Well… that was the plan until I got up to test my Bluetooth headphones and make sure they were off and charging. I set the volume on my phone so that my headphones wouldn’t blast when I turned them on and forgot to turn it back up for my alarm… whoops! Thankfully, after about 5 minutes of my alarm lightly and ineffectively going off Sunday morning, my husband heard its faint trill and woke me up. Otherwise, his alarm clock was set for 45 minutes later! So we woke up at 2:35 AM… not shabby!

After laying everything out on our extra bed the night before — our running “staging area” as we called it — I wore a light blue Lululemon tank, black running shorts from Target, my hot pink Mizunos (Wave Inspire 9) with custom orthotics, a new glittery gold (I am OBSESSED with gold these days) sweatybands handband from the Fit2Run store at Downtown Disney, the paracord watch my husband made me for Christmas, my pink Disney park MagicBand, a black and pink SPIbelt, and my official marathon bib.


We got in line for our shuttle to Epcot at 3:45 AM, but between the looooong line and the insane race traffic (this many people run marathons?!), we didn’t actually arrive at Epcot until 5:05. The actual starting line was about a 30-minute hike – and it was a cold one! P and I were in separate corrals and actually had to take separate roads to get to our individual corrals – I was four corrals behind him.

The morning before, I had overheard a runner saying he was here to “have a good time, not get a good time.” Perfect approach for a Disney race. I did not want to finish with any regrets, so I set a few goals for myself but also left my running plans flexible. The cool thing about running solo is that I could stop for the photo ops I wanted, skip the ones I didn’t, use the restroom when I needed to, and take the time to actually focus the camera on my phone to get decent pictures without feeling like I was holding anyone up. (There are also advantages to running in a group – I ran in the inaugural Minnie 10k with a group, and we had SO much fun!). I knew I at least wanted a picture of every mile marker, no easy feat to be on the correct side of the road to spot and capture all 26 of them!


Since I wasn’t carrying water or Gatorade on me, I also knew that I should fuel up at every hydration station and banana station. I had decided that I would play each character stop by ear – looking at the size of the line and who the character was.


I loved hearing Mickey countdown for each wave of runners to cue the fireworks to burst and runners to begin. There was so much buzz and excitement at the beginning that there was no need to use my headphones just yet. The familiar speed bumps welcomed us into Magic Kingdom as we made our way to the TTC and the first big wave of spectators. This next stretch would be one of my favorites of the entire race! Disney definitely knows how to keep the miles both magical and entertaining. Cinderella’s Castle was dressed in its finest – silvery icicle lights and a royal Mickey and Minnie to greet us behind it.

I used the same restroom in Tomorrowland that I had used for the Princess Half, which was much cleaner that race porta-potties with barely a line. And okay, so I’m admittedly sad that I didn’t stop for royal Mickey and Minnie, but I did get Minnie to wave at me for a picture in between her photo ops with runners (and I did see her later, in Animal Kingdom AND at the finish! She is so fast, that Minnie Mouse!)


I did make absolute sure to get my picture professionally taken in front of the castle, and I handed my phone to the guy behind me in line to take an extra set of photos. I even backtracked on the course to the race photographers so that they could catch me coming out of the castle again! I haven’t purchased my MarathonFotos yet, so I’m not posting those – just my iPhone pics! I took 122 during the race! Side note on photos: while watching the half, I videotaped runners coming out of the castle, running off-course to get their photos taken. There’s definitely no “stopping” involved in race photos. It looks like a fast-forwarded video! You have to run out of your way to the photo op, pause for about 2 seconds on the designated tape “X” on the ground, and run back to catch up with the race. So when I say that character photo ops added to my time, it wasn’t because I “stopped” – but because I had run off the race path a bit to get to the character to pause for a second or two, then ran back!

Mile 6 came just after I saw Woody from Toy Story and got a picture of him (but not with him). Only 20 miles to go… Donald Duck was waiting at the Palm & Magnolia Golf Courses, so I decided to grab a photo with him. When my husband ran through there early, Goofy was at the golf course and I am SO proud that he got a photo, since he was doing Goofy’s Race-and-a-Half Challenge this weekend. He ran 13.1 miles on Saturday and 26.2 miles on Sunday!


The Disney Speedway was after Magic Kingdom, after I had run 8 miles. It was neat to see all the people who had brought their fancy cars to show off at the Speedway, and many of them tailgated around their cars to watch the race! We were so lucky that it was breezy and cool, but the sun made it hard for me to see some of the cars! I left my sunglasses in Virginia – I forgot it would be practically summer in Florida when I was leaving icy Virginia.

The marathon took me through all four parks, and I had been to all but one – Animal Kingdom! This was next on our course. I spied Jiminy Cricket after the 12th mile marker, and I was able to run right up to him and Rafiki from Lion King with no waiting at all!


I knew from last year’s race recaps that some runners would have the opportunity to ride Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom, which I’ve never ridden. I planned to scope out the line when I got to it and decide at that point. (Remember my Roller Coaster Insider Tour? I love roller coasters but was afraid that it would add way too much time to my run!) The FastPass line open to runners, so I asked the cast member who was ushering marathon runners through to estimate how long it would take. “It’s so quick! Just do it! When will you ever be able to do this again?!” He practically pulled me in. I was sold. I ducked in, made a few friends, and in mere minutes, was making my way into the front row seat! Because my RunKeeper app was still going, it clocked a few extra miles during this leg of the marathon!


I HIGHLY recommend riding Everest mid-marathon. It was one of the biggest adrenaline rushes I’ve ever had – and I videotaped most of my ride, as did all the runners in my car! The guy next to me interviewed me. I was excited to spy Minnie and Daisy right after the ride, sporting their safari gear. Then I decided I needed to kick it in harder after Everest and Minnie Mouse, but of course there was a hydration station right there. This mile took a little longer than anticipated, but it was oh-so worth it!


And the best.marathon.spectator.poster.EVER:


Yup – big check for me!

Safari Mickey was next, but I had promised myself I would press on, so I continued running out of Animal Kingdom and right on through the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. The padded track was SO nice compared to pavement!

My sister began texting me her mile markers, and she was about 2 miles ahead. I felt like I was in ESPN WWoS forever as we made our way around the track and baseball field.

Mile 20 is where people typically say they hit a wall. My Galloway training plan had me run a 20-miler and a 23-miler already, so l was glad that I didn’t! But I did appreciate all of Walt Disney’s inspirational quotes that lined the grass along Mile 20. They were perfect for a marathon, or really anything your heart dreams of doing!


It was crazy to think that we had single digits left after running through ESPN, but we still had TWO parks through which to run! Hollywood Studios was fun; I hadn’t been there since it was called MGM Studios on my 1992 visit. Most of it was pretty unfamiliar to me. It was neat to see the costuming area and water tower. I knew we must be close to EPCOT with only a few miles to go!


Entering into World Showcase at Epcot was where it got emotional. I knew that what I was about to accomplish was enormous. I had been training for years for this moment, and I put a lot of things on hold and made a lot of sacrifices to be able to go on this trip. The training, the traveling for practice races, the money, weaning my son from nursing so that he could stay with Nana for a week, LEAVING him for a week, giving up every weekend for a year to complete long training runs, not seeing my husband as much on weekends since we trained separately, leaving our son with a sitter on occasion, buying a treadmill to be able to train on winter mornings before work — and to achieve this with my husband and sister! There are no words.

Sometimes I even felt like I was putting my life on hold for a year to accomplish this feat. Then I thought  of Earl Nightingale’s quote — “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”

Running a marathon is living.

There will be days you don’t think you can run a marathon. There will be a lifetime of knowing you have.” -Unknown.

I had just started to tear up as I ran into World Showcase when a spectator called out, “You’re okay, sweetie!” I gave her a smile and a thumbs-up and began the final lap around World Showcase Lagoon. Spaceship Earth still seemed so far off, and I could see so many runners making their way around the lagoon!


I tried to savor those last few miles as I realized it was coming to a close and I was almost finished! One girl told me that it was just 0.3 miles to the finish from where she was standing. Only point three!! I managed to catch both Mile Marker 26 and the energetic gospel choir, but bypassed the photo op with Dopey. By then, I was just way too close to not finish right then!!Image

And there was the finish line in all its glory.


I didn’t know that my husband was watching in the bleachers, but I pumped my arm and blew a kiss to Minnie Mouse at the finish and totally forgot to STOP RUNNING as I crossed over the chip timer strip and into the finisher’s chute. Then I came to my senses, put on the brakes, stopped my RunKeeper app, which said I had run 28.96 miles (thank you, Everest ride), and allowed the voluntEAR to put the medal around my neck.

My heavy, gorgeous, Mickey marathon medal.


I joined my husband, sister, and brother-in-law outside of gear check as we all congratulated each other. I admired my husband’s Goofy medal and my brother-in-law’s Dopey medal. I’m so glad that they also met their goals and could truly understand what this achievement meant. It’s so hard to explain! I’m hoping my little blog does it justice.


Left: only half of my brother-in-law’s Dopey 6-medal haul! Right: “Just the Goofy” bling // “Just the Marathon” bling

Honestly, Disney is the only place you’ll hear someone say, “I’m just doing the marathon.” (Although that didn’t fit any of us, since I ran the 10k and my husband ran the Goofy Challenge!) We hung around the finisher line party to snap pictures with some of the characters (Chip, Dale, and Pluto) before heading back to Pop Century for showers. And compression sleeves.




Our group had made ADR at ‘Ohana at the Polynesian, which must just absolutely be the best place I could have imagined to spend after running a marathon. Unlimited skewers of meat abounded, and the meat was coming so frequently and fast that it was bouncing off my plate and onto the table before I could even eat it! The Tambu Lounge right in ‘Ohana was all sold out of Lapu Lapus – sad day! I had read so many good reviews about them and we had been holding out ’til after our run! Oh, well, it was for the better – i heard they are STRONG! We watched “Wishes” for the second time this trip, this time from the beach at the Polynesian, at my sister’s suggestion. Afterward, we tried our hand at fitting as much Dole Whip soft-serve into our cup as we possibly could, and enjoyed it in the gorgeous ambience of the Polynesian. We kept saying “next time we come…” even though this was our big trip!! It was so amazingly perfect. Full review of the Polynesian to come, but here’s  a teaser of pictures!


Oh, and we caused quite a scene with this photo shoot of our group’s race bling – “Run Disney so you can eat ‘Ohana!”


Thanks for reading! Check out my other Disney Marathon Weekend recaps here!



11 responses

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21 01 2014

You -almost- make me want to run a marathon!

22 01 2014
Christine @ We Run Disney

Fantastic recap Ashley! I LOVED your photos, especially the mile markers. Since the marathon was all business for us, I never took out my phone once so I enjoyed seeing all of your photos. Hope to see you around town 🙂

22 01 2014

Thanks! I enjoyed your recap and was in suspense the whole time! It sounds like you had a great experience together. I would love, love to run Shamrock and get a PR by NOT taking (as many) pictures!

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