Every mile is magic (until you’re Really Quite Tired)

Alright, time to finish up the marathon recap!  Last time I left you guys, we were exiting the Magic Kingdom.  Post Magic Kingdom was the longest stretch of nothing-ness at the Disney race.  We ran out of the park via the back entrance that Cast Members use to bus into Magic Kingdom, if my memory serves (brought back memories of when I used to work at Cosmic Ray’s!).  Then it was off to Animal Kingdom.

First, we got to run along the Polynesian and Grand Floridian resorts.  Just on the road outside, which made for some cramped running, but it wasn’t too bad.  They had a few character stops out there, like the grooms for the Wedding Pavilion and the penguins from Mary Poppins.

Speaking of the Wedding Pavilion, there it is!  Where Geoff and I got married back in 2014.

Once the Polynesian and Grand Floridian were done with, there was a whoooole lotta nothing.  Lots of trees…a waste treatment facility…whooole lotta nothing.  That ended with an out-and-back which was THE WORST!  Out and backs are pure evil because you just see everyone running past you who already did the bit of track you’re on.  (Until you’ve turned around, and then it’s all ha HA I don’t have to run that part anymore!  TRIUMPH!)

The out-and-back was where I saw my second (and thankfully, last) bout of cheating.  We had made the turn and were in the ‘back’ part of the out and back.  A woman in front of me saw her mom coming the other way and told her to just hop the cones since the balloon ladies were coming (thankfully, that was the only time I saw the balloon ladies, and they were just starting the out and back as we were finishing it!).  Her mom shuffled over to our side and kept saying she wasn’t sure if she should – I’ll be honest, I didn’t have the gonads to be like “don’t, it’s cheating” so just I bleated out something about missing a timing mat.  (I thought I saw a timing mat there, but others said there’s no mat there, so maybe I was in a delirious fog.  WHO KNOWS.)  Her mom wanted to turn around at that point but her daughter insisted she stay, so the mom stayed on our side but dropped back since her knee was bothering her.  My guess is she got swept if she could already barely walk with the balloon ladies a mile or so behind her, but regardless, don’t freaking cheat!  Unless you’re an elite runner you probably won’t mess up the rankings or anything, but you’re cheating yourself at that point if you tell people ‘I ran a marathon’ when you did not, in fact, do so.  So stahp it.  Moving along.

This was at the end of the out and back!  I got a selfie with one of my favorite princesses, Merida!  I’m running her 10k next month and I am so excited!

Then we started entering the Animal Kingdom area.  We came in the back, and got to run past the elephant enclosures, etc.  That was where they had the petting zoo animals and I was so excited.  There was a bird of prey (I honestly don’t know what it was but it looked Very Cool), goats with inspirational t-shirts (like ‘Goat the Distance’), and fluffy sheep that I patted.  I’m still kicking myself for not getting a photo with a sheep!  I told Geoff we have to stop by the petting zoo at Animal Kingdom sometime so I can get my dang sheep photo because it was so fluffy.

Then we went into the actual park.  We entered in through Harambe, ran past Everest, through Dinoland, and out.  I was disappointed we didn’t get any Pandora time, but it was still a really neat course through it!

This was the one photo I have of me in Animal Kingdom.  Epic, it is not.  I appreciate the peace sign behind me though!

Once we were done Animal Kingdom, we ran through the parking lot (there was another marching band there – I think we had about four total along the course?) and towards Wide World of Sports.  The stretch to there was just highway, and by the time you hit the entrance you’re around mile 18.  A couple of things of note for WWoS:

  • A lot of people seem to hate WWoS.  There is a demoralizing part in the beginning – as you run in, you run right by everyone else who’s coming out at mile 21.  So you know you’ve got three miles to burn between you and being on that side of the cones.  But aside from that, I didn’t mind it too much.  The entrance part was boring (it’s one long plain road), and one part inside (running around the expo buildings with no shade) made me SO glad that it was only in the 60s, because that would be a beast in hot weather.  But other than that, it had some neat parts!
  • You got to run on a track.  It sounds silly, but it felt so good on your feet that were used to sidewalks and roads up to this point.
  • You got to run in the baseball stadium and have your imagine up on the jumbotron!  That was so cool!
  • The rest of WWoS was like running in a park.  Shaded sidewalks underneath a canopy of trees.  Wasn’t thrilling, but I didn’t mind it at all.  So for any first timers out there, aside from a couple bleh parts it’s better than running a highway!

This was the stadium portion, and Geoff looks like a super serious bodyguard behind me.

As we entered WWoS (around Mile 18), the great Walk Off began.  You see, you will get great advice on ‘don’t run while injured!’.  That is good advice.  You should take that advice.  I did not take that advice.  Thankfully, using Galloway’s run/walk method, I was able to interval consistently until mile 18.  But at mile 18, my plantar fasciitis went completely nuts.  I had contemplated not doing the marathon for that reason, but Disney doesn’t do deferrals and I didn’t want to be out the money (and, let’s be real, I didn’t want to go through that training AGAIN), so I decided to do what I could and if I got swept, so be it.  I offered to let Geoff run ahead of me but he was super sweet and refused, so we went from doing intervals to power walking, with short bursts of jogging when my PF felt like it could handle it.

As we left WWoS, we hit mile 21, and that is where I hit my wall.  I turned to Geoff and said, “This isn’t fun anymore.”  But, we kept going!  (And spoiler alert – we finished the marathon, but ohhh mile 21 was difficult.)  Part of it was, y’know, being at mile 21, and part of it was just the demoralizing factor of running through WWoS and then…more highway.  Including two on ramps that were not only uphill but also on an angle!  AWFUL!  But at least it was the last stretch of highway.

Aurora, my other favorite Disney princess, was at mile 21.  So there was that.  (Yes, she’s my other favorite.  Merida and Aurora.  Ariel’s my favorite of the mid-princesses but these two are my favorite classic/new princesses and yes I know they are polar opposites don’t judge me on my fictional character tastes.)

We got some cool views of the mountains being built for Galaxy’s Edge at Hollywood Studios!  You can see a teeny flag and Christmas tree at the top.  I die.

This was also at the top of the overpass above Hollywood Studios’ entrance.  There was a Green Army man there who was making people do pushups.  Geoff and I agreed to not partake in that challenge because we knew we wouldn’t get up.

Then we ran along World Drive and up the ramp to come into a backstage entrance of Hollywood Studios.  We ran through a backstage area behind Tower of Terror and came in through part of the Fantasmic area.  There we found the chocolate station!  So in total, the marathon had two banana stops, one or two (I can’t remember which) Jelly Belly bean stops, and then this glorious chocolate stop (also tons of water/Powerade stops).  At this point I was starting to get nauseated, but I grabbed a pack of M&Ms and for some reason that (temporarily) settled my stomach.  I have no idea why.  Then we ran past Tower of Terror and up Sunset Boulevard!

We got this amazing photo of me looking like a celebrity waving to my adoring paparazzi, and Geoff being my no-nonsense bodyguard.  Yes.

Then we turned left onto Hollywood Boulevard – I can’t lie, I wish we had more running in Hollywood Studios (especially since a) it’s my favorite park and b) they have the new LA section open and it would’ve been awesome to run through!) but I’m glad we got any of it.

Also, the cast members along Hollywood Blvd were handing out tissues which was amazing.  Pack tissues.  Your nose will run.  It was infuriating.

We ran out of Hollywood Studios and along the sidewalk that connects Hollywood Studios to the Yacht & Beach Club and Boardwalk area.  The sidewalk is so narrow, so it became a walking only zone (doesn’t help that they put a fueling station on the sidewalk which just jams it more).  I wasn’t too mad though, since I was fine with slower walking for a bit.  The Boardwalk/Yacht & Beach area stretch is always fun because there’s so many spectators there, cheering us on!

Then you get to Epcot, which is glorious.  You’re backstage for a moment before coming out to a wall of spectators and cast members as you enter World Showcase.  I know that’s a big spot for people to start crying, but I was fine until Moana’s “How Far I’ll Go” started playing around Italy and then I started sniffling because we were so close to being done!

This was our one character stop – you never see Belle and Aurora posing together, so I was like “dangit we’re stopping for this one” (and there were only two people ahead of us).  Huzzah, first race character stop ever!

Also, after Moana’s inspiration song, “Cinderelly” came on.  Don’t get me wrong, the lyrics fit (we can do it we can do it are two lines) but Moana’s voice suddenly making way for a chorus of very shrill mice was quite a wake up.

Once we were out of World Showcase, we beelined it straight to Spaceship Earth.  I was so glad at that point that we weren’t weaving around Future World – I was ready to be done!  I know a lot of people get very motivated in the final stretch, but for me that’s where it takes the most willpower because I’m just so over it at that point.

Spaceship Earth looked gorgeous!

As we went into a backstage area, there was a gospel choir on both sides of us.  The choir is there for, I believe, all half marathons and up?  It’s a really awesome jolt right by the finish line.  We then turned out of the backstage area into the final stretch of the parking lot.

Can you see how happy I am?  SO HAPPY.  And so very limp-y.  My foot was shrieking.

At that point we turned and could see the finish line.  We went into a jog for the last stretch, made sure no one was behind us that we would be blocking, and held hands as we crossed the finish line.

This, by the way, is my only coveted ‘both feet off the ground’ photo.  My right heel is mere millimeters off the ground, but I zoomed in and it’s off!  Very exciting.  I never get the floating photos.  TRIUMPH.  😀

That was the end!  We were done.  We passed through the chute and got our medals (my Mom was there wildly snapping photos, and Dad was waiting past bag pickup to get us).  My stomach was roiling at that point – while I had fueled, everything had been so sweet.  I had brought my own Honey Stinger waffles, which are sweet.  On the course, the Powerade flavor was black cherry, which was super sweet.  The bananas, M&Ms, and jelly bellies were also sweet.  Thankfully, Disney provides delicious snack boxes (ours had tortilla chips, cheese dip, Ghiradelli chocolate, dried fruit, and applesauce).  The super-salty tortilla chips were perfect and settled my stomach right away.

Here we are with our new medals and ears!

After going back to Pop Century and showering, we went to dinner with my parents at the food court (I had more Mickey Waffles, mmm).  I felt great during dinner, then later that night developed a fever which led to a pretty bad cold the rest of the week.  I’m still getting over it, but the better I feel the more it sinks in that I’m a marathoner!  A slow one, but a marathoner nonetheless.  My estimated finish time based on my half marathon times was 7 hours, and we beat that by 5 minutes.  While I wasn’t as fast as I would’ve loved, completing a marathon period, especially while dealing with my plantar fasciitis, feels amazing.

We’ve had some people ask if we’ll do another one.  I’ll never say never (I never thought I’d do a full), but right now I’m happy one-and-doneing a full.  Some people take that to mean I don’t think I could do it again, and I do think I could – but it wasn’t nearly as fun for me as halves are (and 10ks/5ks).  The time training takes etc is so much more intense, so while I’m so thrilled I did this one, I don’t know if I have a desire to do another one, at least not anytime soon!  I’m not done racing though – I have the Princess 10k in February, and all three Dark Side races in April!  I’m also signing up to do the virtual Light Side half so I can get that dang Kessel Run medal!

Now, I leave you with the two rewards we got for becoming marathoners – Mickey ears celebrating the 25th anniversary of the WDW Marathon, and our medals!  We’re marathoners.

And here’s a little video with clips I took from the course! I tried to take most of them during walk intervals to reduce how jittery the videos would be.