Sunday January 13th
So yesterday evening runDisney issued a heat advisory warning due to the high temperatures expected for the Marathon. On Facebook I saw a post saying that the local hospitals had called in extra staff as a precaution for anticipated increase in volume of patients…we had been drinking fluids frequently during the previous couple of days just to be safely hydrated.
The alarm went off this morning at 2:30am…woo hoo…an extra 30 minutes of sleep from the day before. Actually I had slept really soundly last night as I was so tired. I already had a 5K and a Half Marathon plus two theme parks done, only a Marathon to go.
Today was a big day for my wife Shari. It was going to be her first Full Marathon. I was excited for her as much as she was nervous for herself. I’ve been there. Today I had a different set of nerves. I have finished three marathons before but I hadn’t done anything as crazy as the Goofy Challenge before and I had a lot of people depending on me to finish not to mention I had planned my eating of treats out for the next two days and I needed to burn some calories to make up for it 😉
We both got ready in silence so as not to wake Rina and the boys in the next room. It was eerie as we were probably both a bag of nerves. We headed down to the lobby of the hotel where we were meeting our friend Beth who was also running the Full. Having a passenger with us as we were driving to EPCOT and having someone to talk to all the way through to the start line is the best distraction we could have. It really helped relax us before the start. In future I will make sure to wake my friends in the early hours before I head to any race just for company (although I probably won’t have many friends left after that).
Like yesterday I got the directions right but unlike yesterday the volunteer in the car park directed us to the far end of the far right parking lot which led to a decent walk just to get to the bag check area. Where was the monorail or a Fast Pass when you need it? Either way, it got the muscles warmed up a bit. Unlike yesterday I made sure we went straight through the bag check and met up again on the other side. I didn’t want to get stuck in the human traffic jam that happened in the Half Marathon yesterday. You don’t want additional stress just trying to get to your corral. It was fine today. Shari, Beth and I walked slowly and carefully to our corral. It was dark in spots and some people did trip up on the way to the start line (not good). We were all in corral ‘B’ and were there early enough for the pre-race stuff. We heard interviews and advice from Jeff Galloway (I’m a Galloway propenent), Frank Shorter, Joey Fatone, Bart Yasso and Bill Rodgers. We sat in the corral for a while watching the video screens and I realized this was probably one of the few times during the weekend when I wasn’t on my feet. And before you knew it we were ready to go. I gave Shari a good luck kiss and off we went.
It was cool at the start but we knew that it was going to get warmer. We took advantage of the early water stops and the first few miles seemed to go by pretty fast. We didn’t stop for the Pirates of the Caribbean today as I had promised Shari we would do many of the Princess photo ops when we got to the Magic Kingdom. We were obviously drinking enough over the last few days as we had to stop within the first couple of miles to use the port-a-potties again (more on that later!).
As we approached the entrance to the Magic Kingdom transportation center we could see the Speedway on our left. Shari noticed the silhouette of Mater and I also noticed Lightening McQueen. I was really looking forward to that part of the course. As you get closer to the park and see the Contemporary Resort you could feel the excitement building. It was nice to have someone to share it with who wasn’t a complete stranger. There is a small underpass as you approach the park. I overheard a fellow Goofy runner say that they must have made the uphill part steeper over night. Ha!
Once we entered the park it was pictures galore. We stopped a couple of times on Main Street USA, we stopped in Tomorrow Land to meet Buzz Lightyear and then stopped for photos with every Disney Princess you could imagine. Shari had her pose down pat by the time we got to the Castle. Shari was on such a high at this stage that she wanted to do her usual ‘jump’ shot. I had to remind here that we had another 20 miles to use those knees and that we should wait until we had our medals. She did thank me later. Finally we got our photo together in front of the Castle. Priceless.
After Magic Kingdom we headed over to the Speedway just around mile 8. We had still been drinking all the way but the sun was now up and warming all the runners. Little did I know that this would be the last port-a-potty break of the run. Wow. As you enter the Speedway there was a steep drop into the circuit. Steep was an understatement….holy moley…glad it wasn’t uphill. The Speedway was set up like a classic car show and right at the halfway point we got to take pictures with Lightening McQueen, Mater and my fellow Brit Finn McMissile. Nice.
After the Speedway we entered the long stretch past the water treatment plant on the way to Animal Kingdom. As you run you cannot help but notice the smell…its very un-Disney. Also as it was heating up it didn’t make you feel that much better. It was around here, miles 10-12, that my foot which I had tweaked running into EPCOT in yesterday’s Half Marathon started to hurt. I had never had to stop before in a race but I had to stop a couple of times over that stretch to take my shoe off and massage my foot. I use speedlaces which are elastic and allow room for feet to maneuver but I just couldn’t get my right shoe to feel good. Shari advised me to stop for some Tylenol at the medical tent but I didn’t want to try something new during a race having never taken medicine before in a race. We both stopped to take advantage of the BioFreeze. Big tip – look for the volunteers with towels at the med tents to wipe your hands. We saw plenty of people later in the race with BioFreeze hands who inadvertently wiped sweat away from their eyes. You can only imagine how that feels. OUCH.
We finally made it to the Animal Kingdom. It was nice to have some shade as the temperatures were continually rising. I loved the fact that a Disney employee was telling us when and where to smile as we ran through park for the photographers. We got plenty of cool shots with Minnie, Daisy, Mickey and Pluto. I found out from reading someone’s post on Facebook that they stopped to take a ride on Expedition Everest and grabbed a soda to cool themselves off before continuing and finishing the Marathon. I told Shari this after the race and she was like “We could have done that?” I also saw someone post their GPS route from the ride. LOL. Getting out of Animal Kingdom was pretty much a walk. It’s a very narrow walkway and we got stuck behind a 5 hour pace group (yes, we had really stopped so many times). Once free of that we headed out on the stretch to ESPN Wide World of Sports.
The heat was on now as we made our way to the ESPN. We were grabbing extra water at the water stops and pouring it over our heads. I’d never had to do this in a race or in training before. It had been a while since I had a bathroom break but as I was still able to sweat I knew I had to be somewhat hydrated. I heard after the race that over 4,500 people either dropped out or were pulled off the course because of the conditions. I wasn’t surprised. Shari was doing well. She was hanging on and we were still together. The ESPN zone seemed to go on FOREVER. Seriously, there were left turns and right turns and it was just hot. There was a little shade in places but you had to keep going. I stopped again to massage my foot and caught up with Shari just before we entered the running track. Wow, was that bouncy? Not sure at 19 miles I benefited from the soft surface. I don’t think it did my knee any favors. We then entered the baseball stadium. Most folks said they liked the change in texture under their feet (it was sandy/grit) but after a few thousand people had run over the inside track it was far from even. Somehow we missed the wet sponges they had passed out at the first water station in ESPN. That was a shame. As we exited ESPN the heat began to hit again and we did have to walk for a minute or so.
After ESPN we reached what was to be the high point. The 20th mile celebration. I will be honest and say that I was expecting much more. Although a photo op with Mickey is never a bad thing. The best part about this was that we seemed to catch our breath and recapture some of our energy along this section. Mile 20 last year was where I began to struggle and it was way cooler than this year. As we passed the 20 mile marker Shari hadn’t realized that we had passed the ‘Spectacular’. From what I have read on line she wasn’t the only one.
Next up Hollywood Studios. It seemed to go pretty fast. I guess we had our second wind. Before you knew it we were passing over the timing mat at 23 miles. I turned to Shari at this point and said its only a 5K left. She looked at me and started to cry. The only thing I could say was to be careful not to cry too much as she needed to retain fluids in this heat….romantic, huh?
Just the Boardwalk to run and then back into EPCOT. It was hot. I was tired. I didn’t want to let Shari down. She was doing great and I could see she was getting very emotional at this time. As we turned into England (nice) in the World Showcase and turned right through the countries the realization began to sink in that we were pretty much done. Shari had run her first Marathon and I was completing the Goofy Challenge. As we reached the front of the park and passed by Spaceship Earth I made sure everyone knew that Shari was completing her first Marathon and ensuring that they cheered her on to the finish. We stopped at mile 26 for a photo and I saw the choir. I had been waiting for this moment since Saturday morning’s fireworks at the start of the Half Marathon.
We saw the finish line and ran hand in hand together. We stopped just short of the finish line for just one more photo op with Minnie and with Goofy. As I was having my photo with Goofy, Shari turned and headed to the finish line and finished 2 seconds ahead of me….she had to beat me, right? We finished in 5:28. Nowhere near my 3:59 in Philadelphia 8 weeks prior but much more fun and rewarding. I ran the whole distance with my wife and best friend. Awesome.
First stop after receiving our medals….self treatment. Ice had never felt so good. We sat there for 20 or 30 minutes. It was a sense of relief. Shari was texting with Rina and her parents and I was chatting with the same guy from NJ I had met in self treatment yesterday. We were done. We made it over to the Goofy tent to get my medal and headed out to meet up with our friend Beth who had finished about 20 minutes ahead of us.
Then we had the very long walk across the parking lot to retrieve our car. Funny, I think the walk helped actually. Other than being tired and a little sore I felt better than when I ran my first marathon back in 2011 and I had just run 39.3 (or 42.4 but who’s counting). I guess all the training paid off.
Now back to the hotel…we had two days at the Magic Kingdom left to enjoy 🙂
Thanks for sticking with this for so long. If you made it to the end of this post you can probably feel you read a Goofy Challenge!