Wake up number 3 for race number 3. I did actually feel like I needed to use the foam roller to get my eyes open today. Nevertheless I was up thanks to my 2 alarms and hotel wake up call and got up and dressed into my ‘Team Up’ gear. Today the closest I was going to get to a costume was my Pro Compression Marathon Socks were coordinated with my ‘Team Up’ colors. No more costumes this weekend. Looking at the forecast the day before there was a chance of rain and runDisney had already posted a heat advisory for the weekend. We would just have to wait and see how this would impact today. The goal was to take it easy so there was enough left in the tank for tomorrow’s marathon.
Again I arrived early at EPCOT and as you can see from the photograph above it was already quite warm. I headed over to the entrance to the ‘Race Retreat’ for today’s Team #runDisney meet up and after a quick photograph with the group I headed through bag check. I was definitely earlier than I had planned but I recalled last year’s Half Marathon where it was absolutely jammed getting to the corrals. This year was a little different as runDisney had reduced the number of runners which made it easier getting to the corrals.
As I was walking to the corrals I started chatting with folks around me and bumped into Mark who was also running for Team Up. I didn’t have the opportunity to meet him the previous night so we chatted all the way to our corrals (we were both in corral F). Chatting away with someone is a very good way to relax before the start of a race. Mark and I grabbed space in the corral and sat down waiting for the start. Getting there early allowed us to have enough space to sit and get off our feet. Incidentally the speakers around our corral were not working so although we couldn’t hear all the excitement of the pre-show we were able to sit and have a nice chat.
Without the speakers working we suddenly noticed that the crowd had become quiet and we heard the start of the National Anthem so we got up knowing that our start was minutes away. runDisney had reduced the number of overall runners and increased the number of corrals this year. Last year I started in corral B and this year I was in corral F. When I first got my waiver I was a little shocked by the change in corrals but thanks to some great research by the blog ‘Run, Knit, Travel‘ it seems that by the numbers I was pretty much in the same place I would have been last year. We watched the first few corrals leave giving me a good opportunity to get some good firework views as we waited for our corral to be brought forward. Soon it was our turn…
So we were called to the start line…Donald counted us down…3…2…1…GO!!!!!!
Wait…what happened? Where were the fireworks? No fireworks? Really? That’s why I’m here? Can I get a refund? What?
So, no fireworks for our corral. A little disappointed I set off for the start of the race. Just past the start line on the left was Bart Yasso cheering on the runners who were part of the Runner’s World Challenge. Bart is a great guy and was friendly to all the runners passing by. Just as an aside, I ran the Philadelphia Marathon with the Runner’s World Challenge back in 2011 and would recommend the experience. Okay, back to the race.
Due to the timing between corrals a couple of minutes later I heard fireworks. Yup, corral G got them 😦 , nevertheless I was on my way and looking forward to the day. As I approached the first mile marker I bumped into Kimberly from ‘Mother Maker Marathon Runner‘. Kimberly and I have been Facebook friends for a while but we had yet to actually meet up despite some attempts during the previous two days. Some of you may know Kimberly already but for those of you who don’t she is truly an inspiration. She is a cancer survivor and has continued running through her chemotherapy treatments. Since undergoing surgery and her treatments she has run the Dumbo Double Dare in Disneyland, the Chicago Marathon, the New York Marathon and was running the Dopey Challenge…and also was scheduled to run the Tinkerbell Half Marathon the week after the Dopey. Amazing.
Meeting Kimberly was a great start to the day. We chatted while standing in line to have our photo with Captain Jack Sparrow. I said my ‘so long for now’ and wished her luck and headed off for the Magic Kingdom.
You approach the main entrance to the Magic Kingdom and make your way up to the Ticket and Transportation Center. That is a great place for supporters to gather and see their runners pass through. Today was no different and the crowds were out in full force. Also, the Ticket and Transportation Center has nice indoor bathrooms. Just at the right time having been in the corrals for so long 🙂
I took the opportunity today to make stops at as many characters as I could with the plan on taking it easy and so that I could bypass the same photo stops during the Marathon. This worked out well as sometimes depending upon the time you arrive at a character stop there are different although related characters, for example Peter Pan and Wendy might swap out with Captain Hook and Mr Smee. Today gave me the opportunity should there be someone different there tomorrow. As always I tried to get the pictures of the characters that my sons will most want to see.
As you pass through the Ticket and Transportation Center you start to approach the Magic Kingdom. First you pass ‘under’ ‘Bay Lake’ via a small underpass and them run alongside the ‘Contemporary Resort’, round the back of ‘Space Mountain’ and then enter ‘Main Street USA’ just past ‘Town Square’.
My very favorite part about running at Walt Disney World comes when you enter the Magic Kingdom and you run up ‘Main Street USA’. This is truly one of the most unique opportunities in the most special of locations that I can think of. As a self-confessed ‘Disney Head’ I admit that I absolutely love this part of the race and it wouldn’t matter to me if it was mile 1, mile 6 or mile 20 (although it would be cool if it was mile 26.2!!!) This was the 4th time I had experienced this and it was still as ‘magical’. The crowds line the street left and right, the street is all lit up and Cinderella’s Castle is all aglow just in the distance. You cannot beat it for atmosphere. As you can see from my pictures, I’m in my element here.
You don’t spend too much time on Main Street but you run up and make a right turn into ‘Tomorrow Land’ where I encountered the real ‘Buzz Lightyear’ as compared to my fake Buzz from the 10K. This was the first of three character stops in a row where just as I ran up to have my photo taken the character went inside for a quick break (I assumed Buzz had to re-energize his fuel cells, Pooh Bear needed a quick shot of honey and Daisy Duck had to re-arrange her feathers). However, all was well despite this becoming a ’19 minute mile’ that included these character stops.
Then comes another fun part of the race which is running through the Castle and the chance for a great photo opportunity in front.
After running through the Castle we make our way out of the park through Liberty Square and Frontierland and then backstage out onto Floridian Way (a.k.a. ‘Cone Alley’). I took one more character stop to have a photograph with Woody on the way out of the park.
At this point in the race the sun had started to rise although it wasn’t what I would call sunny. I guess daylight is a better way of saying it. Thankfully there was cloud cover as it was already warm and very humid at this point however once we left the park a cool breeze was blowing which made the run a little more comfortable. It as at this stage that I always look forward to seeing Mary Poppins as she is usually located just outside of the Grand Floridian. However this year she was not there (on either day). I later learned that she was with Bert and the Penguins in the Race Retreat tent on both days. So I settled in and with the exception of a few character stops maintained an even pace from here on out until we started to approach the overpass that would lead us to EPCOT.
There is not too much to see on this part of the course as it is basically a retread of the route to EPCOT from the other side of the Magic Kingdom but it does give opportunities for some character stops. This year however those were few and far between on the way back. Generally I noticed less characters out on the course than in prior years. That may well have been part of runDisney’s plan to help get foot traffic flowing along with reducing the number of runners and the changes to the spacing of the corrals.
There are a series of rolling hills (this is Florida…don’t get the wrong idea…they are still pretty flat) as you make your way back to EPCOT. While running towards the overpass along World Drive I heard my name being called and turned to find Jonathan who started with me in the 10K the day before. We had a little chat during my walk break and then parted ways as I began to run again. He looked to be having as good a time as I was so that was great to see.
Once you have gone around the ramp up to the overpass you are only a couple of miles out and as you cross over the overpass you can see the sea of runners coming up behind you. It is a pretty cool sight to see so many of your fellow runners out there and is encouragement to know that you are within a couple of miles from the finish line. It was at this time that I ran alongside Sid Busch (who I actually had lunch plans with that day). Sid has run 19 of the 20 Disney Marathons and is ‘Perfectly Goofy’. He was out here running the Dopey. Sid is a retired naval officer and runs carrying the American Flag in support of our Armed Forces and runs in memory of fallen soldiers. He is kind of famous out here at the Walt Disney World Marathon (and other races too). He was looking good.
There is a sharp right turn at mile 11.5 and that leads you straight towards EPCOT. Once you have made the turn you can see the park and you know you are close to the finish. From there on in you run through Future World and out towards the finish line. As you can see from the photos I was enjoying myself alot. Actually I felt much better than at this point the year before where I almost had injured myself ‘racing’ to the finish line. I took it nice and easy this year. Experience shows.
I made it through the finish line with a chip time of 2:43:54. Not fast by any means but considering my goal of taking it easy and all the character stops (including the ‘disappearing’ characters in the Magic Kingdom) I wasn’t too disappointed with my time. I had said to myself at the start that anything around 2:30 would be fine. WIth 26.2 miles to run the next day I was feeling good and that was what counted.
I got my medal and headed over to the to the self-treatment area to ice down my legs. As I was travelling solo this year I had actually taken a studio apartment rather than a one bedroom like usual which meant that there was a shower but no bath tub where I would have soaked in cool iced water. I took extra time at the self-treatment area to ice down my quads, hamstrings, knees and calf muscles. I looked a sight for sore eyes. I have to thank the folks from the medical team for volunteering and for wrapping me up in ice and clear wrap.
I then made my way out to the bag check and headed back home to shower up for my lunch reservation in the Magic Kingdom.
Again, the wrist band process was much better today as it had been at the 10K even with the added runners who were participating in the Goofy Challenge.
So now I was adding to both my bracelet and medal haul. Not bad for three days.
So after a quick shower I headed back to the Magic Kingdom for lunch (at ‘The Crystal Palace’) with Sid and new friends Rob and MaryJane where we chatted for almost 2 hours and refueled before the Marathon on Sunday. After we said our goodbyes I spent the rest of the day in the Magic Kingdom. I had a checklist of rides and attractions that I wanted to hit that I had planned would be a little restful (i.e. off my feet) before watching the ‘Main Street Electrical Parade’ and heading off home for another relatively early night.
I was getting a bit tired around 6pm and headed to my last attraction (the ‘Carousel of Progress’) and had actually decided to skip the Electrical Parade and head home early. It’s not like I haven’t seen it a few times 🙂 Well, what a good choice that was. As soon as I was back at the Transport and Ticket Center the heavens opened up. Rain was steadily coming down and I was driving home through a lightning storm that lasted a decent amount of time. Getting home early gave me the chance to also FaceTime with my family. I got to show them some of the gifts I had bought for them and also read books to them in bed. It was great. The boys seemed very pleased with my purchases. I think they even missed me while I was gone.
I got my gear ready for the next morning and headed off to bed. My Fitbit stats for the day? Well, considering I had run a Half Marathon (13.1 miles) I racked up a total of 21.27 miles. Again, how that would play out the next day was anyones guess. With that I turn out the lights and tried to get some sleep knowing that in a few hours the main event was going to be here.