Hey…remember that big race weekend back in January that I was going on about for months and months. Well it happened… This is me trying to catch up and recap the weekend. Apologies for being AWOL for a few months (I haven’t posted anything since my November recap). Life is great, work is busy, my kids are awesome and involved in so many extra curricular activities that I just haven’t found the time to sit and get to the blog for a while. My other impetus for catching up is that I have another marathon in just under 3 weeks and I’d better recap the last one before I think about the next one.
So here goes…
Our weekend started earlier than anticipated. We were closely monitoring the weather forecasts here in the northeast. Snow was predicted late Wednesday night into Thursday morning. We were due out early on Thursday and were a little anxious. A work colleague suggested I call our airline and see if we could change our flights due to the weather. Luckily we were able to do so and move our hotel reservation from Philadelphia International Airport to Orlando International Airport. We made it to the hotel around midnight but we at least got there. Phew.
The plus side was that we were able to get a free shuttle to and from the airport hotel and were able to catch our Magical Express to our resort (Port Orleans – French Quarter) around 9am on the Thursday when we didn’t really plan on arriving until early afternoon. We got an extra half day of time in the Magic Kingdom and we decided to make the most of it.
As none of our FastPasses were available until around 3pm we looked around for some rides where the lines were reasonable. I think we caught the last week of winter break from some of the southern schools. The park was heaving. We were able to get on a couple of rides (Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin and Carousel of Progress) when I suggested the Tomorrowland Transit Authority (People Mover). I like this ride. My wife does not. This did not improve when the ride broke down in Space Mountain…in the dark. She was not amused. We were eventually evacuated off the ride by some Cast Members and as we excited they gave us a free FastPass for any ride in the park that day. Now she was happy.
As we excited the ride we tried to catch the Festival of Fantasy Parade which was washed out by rain the last time we were here. This would be our first time seeing it. As we arrived at a viewing spot, the family in front of us got up to leave and offered us their place. Front row right at the hub. So far the bonus day was working out. We even skipped a 75 minute wait for the Haunted Mansion with our extra FastPasses. Awesome. We even got to ride Splash Mountain…some of us twice. It is never open when we visit during marathon weekend so this was a first time for all of us. For real!!! In all my years coming here back to 1981 I don’t think I have ever been on that ride. A new family favorite for sure.
It was a cold day in the Park. I haven’t been down here in weather this cold. We were all wearing hats, gloves and coats. Weird to be so dressed up for a day at Walt Disney World. After a nice fun dinner at Skippers Canteen and a ride on the ‘Jingle’ not ‘Jungle’ Cruise (another first time experience), a ride on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and a view of the new firework show, we headed back to our resort for a relatively early night. It had been a long day but a bonus one at that. Tomorrow was Expo Day and the boys were going to run the Mickey Mile.
As we were staying a host resort we were able to utilize the race transportation. Buses ran fairly regularly to the ESPN Wide World of Sports for the expo. As our resort was the first stop for all the buses we were fortunate that we never had to worry about there being enough seats on the bus and waiting for the next bus to come along. A huge advantage of staying at French Quarter (there was only one bus stop for this resort). We arrived at the expo and went over to the Field House to pick up our bibs and race shirts as well as the boys race bibs. This was our first return to a runDisney race since 2015 and we were surprised to see how things had changed. All the runDisney merchandise was in the same building on the lower floor so we spent some time (and money) there before heading over to the fields for the start of the kids mile races. I’m really proud of my kids. They both did a solid job running the mile and their times were pretty decent too. It was a far cry from their first runDisney races back in 2012.
After the kids races we headed into the general expo. We were in and out of there relatively quickly as we didn’t see much of anything we really needed and wanted to spend our time with the boys in the park (as they had been incredibly patient so far…we didn’t want to lose that!!!)
As there were no direct buses to EPCOT (our park of choice for the day) we decided to take a bus over to the Beach Club and walk to the International Gateway entrance in World Showcase. It was a nice cool afternoon and we had a great time wandering around the park. We stopped for an early dinner at Via Napoli (another family first this trip) for a night of carb loading and later got a prime spot for the Illuminations fireworks before heading back for a relatively early night.
My wife and I were keenly watching the weather forecast for the morning. Although we had escaped the snow back up in the northeast we hadn’t entirely escaped the cold temperatures. It was time for the original running gear to be jettisoned in place of the warm running gear that we threw in to our suitcases as we got closer to race weekend.
We were up bright and early (too early if you ask my wife…always) and got our running gear/costumes on for our first event of this weekend, the Half Marathon. It was a pretty short bus ride to the start line and we were there early enough to grab a character photo with Minnie Mouse before meeting up for a photo opportunity with our friends from Team Shenanigans.
I knew from what I had been reading that they were using a new wave corral system for the race start and the announcers seemed to really emphasize getting to the corrals early to try to be up front. From what I had read the corrals now had multiple waves within them. We made our way over early and found a good place to sit down and wrap up ourselves in space blankets and towels to keep warm. It was quite a wait as we were there so early but luckily we were up front and once the race started we didn’t have to wait around too long.
Soon enough we were off and making our way down the familiar route towards the Magic Kingdom. Although it had been 3 years since we last ran here we pretty much were familiar with the route. After all, this was our 4th runDisney Half Marathon. We made our usual stops on the way to the Magic Kingdom (noticing that they were missing the Black Pearl pirate ship photo stop) and headed up towards the park. One big (huge, enormous and massively welcome) change was that when we approached the Magic Kingdom this year, instead of running to the right of the entrance and entering Main Street from off stage, we ran right in through the park entrance. I LOVED IT!!!!!
It was still quite cold by the time we finished the race and we were on the clock for the baby sitter so we didn’t hang around long at the finish line. Instead we headed back to the resort, grabbed some breakfast on the way to our room and arrived just as our youngest was waking up. Our eldest was still fast asleep. That was the easiest money the baby sitter we hired had ever earned…unless you count the part where she had to be at our room by 3am.
We quickly got showered and dressed and made our way over to Hollywood Studios. We were all pumped to get on with our day and see all the Star Wars stuff and meet the Guardians of the Galaxy….well, the boys were. My wife kind of fell asleep while waiting for the bus!!!
When we arrived in the park we had some photos taken by one of the PhotoPass photographers. He was impressed by all of our medals and made us do these poses with them.
My boys were in their element. All the Star Wars activities, shows and parades. They loved it. Me too.
The highlight of the day for my boys was meeting Baby Groot from the Guardians of the Galaxy.
After a fun afternoon we stayed to watch the Star Wars fireworks. Not before I took part of my routine night before a marathon ritual….a cookie (and a great one) as well as my boys who were still telling me they ran the mile.
Then it was back to the resort to try and get some sleep before the big day. Marathon Sunday.
It was up early again…for the babysitter as she met us at our hotel room for a second day at 3am. We told here our expected ETA based upon the last time we ran the Walt Disney World Marathon together. We are both much faster runners but at Disney we take our time and soak up the fun. Based upon past times we told her we would be back for 11am. We then headed down to the lobby for the bus to the race.
I’ll drop you a little clue here as to our costume theme for this race.
Unlike yesterday’s ride which seemed to be smooth and fairly speedy, we stopped at every bus stop along the route. Early on the seats were all filled and the driver just seemed to be stopping to tell people to take the next bus. Once we were out of the resort we hit traffic. We later found out that a car had broken down and was blocking a lane. Once we arrived we didn’t have much time to wait around. We were too late for another team meet up. We swooped quickly by the remaining Team Shenanigans runners who were waiting to go to later corrals. I stopped to say hello and wish our friend Sandy good luck on her first marathon and then headed straight for the corrals.
Like yesterday we were able to get up front in our corral but it was still fairly cold to start and we were again glad for our towels and space blankets while we sat waiting for the race to get started. It wasn’t too long before we were up and out of our corrals and heading into what was my wife’s 10th marathon and my 20th marathon. Finally, after all this time and training we were on our way.
As was the case yesterday, we followed the same route as before but this time they had changed up all the characters. Gone were the days of us saying “We will get that tomorrow” on the Saturday or “We’ve already stopped before” on the Sunday. A nice touch. This was after all the 25th Anniversary Marathon so there must have been some extra planning involved in setting up this years event.
We headed up to the Magic Kingdom and through the front entrance again (runDisney…please keep this as part of the race in future) and from there we spent what seemed like forever enjoying the park. Our mile splits up to this point were something akin to 10 minute miles until we hit the park and then we started having close to 20 minute miles for our time in the park. Totally worth it!!
Once we were through the Magic Kingdom came the long road towards Animal Kingdom up through cone alley and what seemed liked one of the longest out and backs that I can remember. It was definitely warming up which was good. It wasn’t hot by any means but comfortable running weather.
Once we hit Animal Kingdom we knew we were almost half way. We had made it past the water treatment facility too which was a major plus! We were now close to 3 hours for our first half. Oops. How much was that babysitter again? Oh well, we were having a boatload of fun.
The parking lot out of the Animal Kingdom is long and winding. That is always a tough little section as it appears to go on forever but we set off for our next location which would be around mile 17, the Wide World of Sports. On the way we soon came across our friend Laura, the ‘Chicken Hat Cheerer’. As always out there on the course being everyone’s best cheering squad and bringing plenty of supplies to share. Usually Laura is stationed between mile 20-21 but I believe she may have had a little run in with course security which led her to being stationed around mile 15. Not that we minded in the slightest.
There is so much construction around Walt Disney World right now but Disney managed to make the best of it. Archeologist Pluto was out there digging up dinosaur bones.
Usually the Wide World of Sports is one of the hardest parts of the race. It’s essentially a long twisty out and back. Yes, you do hit the track (for less than a full lap) and you get to run around the stadium, but there is not much else to look at usually. This year runDisney really pulled out the stops and made this less of a drag as they had plenty of character opportunities dotted around the grounds.
After the Wide World of Sports its up and over the ramp towards Hollywood Studios. With so much construction we were ‘blink and you miss it’ time in the park. As we entered they were giving out the candy (always a favorite part of the race). I took a bag of Malteasers to stick with my British roots. One huge surprise backstage was the chance to meet up with Oswald. I thought he only appeared on the West Coast at Disneyland. This is one of my eldest’s favorite characters so we had to stop for a photo with him.
And before you knew it we were through Hollywood Studios and out onto the walkway to the Boardwalk and to the entrance to World Showcase.
We had just over a mile to go. It was now a journey around the world to reach Future World. As we entered I sent a quick text message to members of Team Shenanigans who were waiting inside the Mexico Pavilion. A few weeks earlier I had sent over my PayPal payment the moment someone had the brilliant idea of setting up a margarita stop in Mexico at the end of mile 25 and just before entering Future World. I have some great team mates.
We did it. Just under 6 hours. 5:57 to be precise. Slowest but probably most fun marathon to date.
Another marathon (my 5th Disney and my wife’s 3rd Disney marathon) and another Goofy Challenge (my 4th and my wife’s 2nd). Lots of miles and lots of memories.
As a special surprise at the finish line, and to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Walt Disney World Marathon, each finisher was awarded a special pair of Mickey Ears.
After a quick shower we headed out to celebrate the rest of the day at the Animal Kingdom where we got to experience the land of Pandora together. Lots of fun (and desserts) that evening. Upon returning back to our resort I stopped by the front desk to ask a few questions and pick up these special celebration buttons for us all.
This was the longest trip to Walt Disney World we had taken with the boys. We stayed an extra couple of days after the race and made the most use of our park time. We spent our post race day in EPCOT and finished as always with our last day in the Magic Kingdom.
While we were in EPCOT I headed to Mouse Gears to get our new marathon ears embroidered to remember this weekend.
On our last day we did something that we have never really had the opportunity to do before when the boys were much younger. We arrived before the park opened and got in early. We stayed from park open to park close. We rode the most rides in one day we had ever ridden and finished our goal of riding all the mountains at Walt Disney World (Splash, Thunder, Space and Everest). No one skipped any rides except for Tower of Terror…but my eldest rode that twice in a row!
We were early enough to get some great family photos in front of the castle before the crowds came for the day. We also finally got our boys to do a fairly decent jump shot. A truly memorable race weekend and family vacation.
We left with many happy memories. This was a great marathon weekend for all of us.
Thank you for reading and staying in touch with the blog. Apologies again that this is so late.