Finally getting to recap the last day that I had racing at the 2018 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, the 25th running of the Walt Disney World Marathon, and the last race in the weekend’s Dopey Challenge.
Once again Cheryl would be joining me for the run, and after the near miss of the Athletes with Disabilities walk out for the half marathon the day before we decided to meet 15 minutes earlier, so 3:30 had us meeting in the lobby of the hotel. Weather forecast was near-perfect for running a marathon for this Canadian boy, start temperature was around 6-8 Celsius, with daytime temps going up to about 14 – cool for Florida, but exactly perfect for what I like running in.
We had a bit more of a wait for the bus this morning, but luckily traffic wasn’t nearly as bad today as it was on Saturday for the half, so while we made it there in good time, we still made it to the AWD tent with moments to spare – we missed the initial wave of wheelchairs going out, but luckily they all had red tail lights so it was easy for Cheryl to pick out where we needed to go and followed them out for our start and were lined up at the start line about 4:45, to stand around and wait for the 5:30 start.
The Marathon course follows the Half Marathon course through Magic Kingdom and past the Grand Floridan and Polynesian hotels, but then, instead of heading back down World Drive, takes one of the backroads at Disney down to Animal Kingdom. We enter Animal Kingdom in the Africa area by the Safari ride, then head clockwise through Asia, past Expedition Everest and the halfway mark in the race, then out Dinoland USA then a circuitous run around the Animal Kingdom parking lots then more highway miles on the way to Disney’s Wide World of Sports. Once there we weave through almost every pathway and road in the complex to get about 5ish km, before heading back along the parkway then on to Hollywood Studios. This starts one of my favourite parts of the Marathon run, as you enter by Tower of Terror, down Sunset, left onto Hollywood Boulevard and out the park, running along the trail that goes to the Boardwalk, over the bridge, past the Swan, Dolphin, Yacht and Beach Club hotels. Epcot gets entered at the International Gateway, then you make the right to run along World Showcase, into Future World, past Spaceship Earth before turning out a back road and into the parking lot for the finish.
This was also going to be the full Marathon debut for the new fuelling strategy that I developed while training for Dopey – that being that I wasn’t going to do any real actual fuelling, relying on what stores I had from breakfast (two peanut butter and jam sandwiches) and energy stored up in the days previous from my refuelling post-runs.
In training this fuelling did really well, I felt strong and powerful throughout all of my runs, didn’t feel drained or like I was spent at the end, so was looking forward to seeing how this strategy played out in a Marathon. Adding to the interest is seeing what three days of racing prior to the Marathon would do to those energy stores, and if that would mean that I’d be spent and hit the wall at some point.
Start was once again great – being with the Wheelchair Athletes was an amazing opportunity to not have to deal with corral crowding and people selfishly starting their races by bobbing and weaving, people starting walk breaks early and everything else that happens when you’re in the thick of it. It was also amazing to see the lead pack of about 8 runners breeze past again – we were lucky in that we were in a brighter area of the course so I could just make out the pack effortlessly heading past.
Race strategy was to run at a conservative and easy pace for the first half, see how I feel at the halfway mark, and if all systems are still good to go, pick the pace up slightly through the 20 mile mark. Once we hit 20 miles, we would look at how things were going, if I still felt good we’d keep the pace up and see about picking it up even more for the last few miles. Fuelling plan was to walk through all the water stops taking at least one cup of water, but aside from that, keeping the walk breaks to a minimum. I didn’t have an overall time goal, had a 4:30 as a “if everything went perfect” A goal, B goal was sub 5:00, with the C goal just finishing.
Felt really strong and good throughout the first half, running pretty near my goal pace. I could definitely tell that I wouldn’t have the energy to go sub-4:30 and hit that “A” goal, but knew I could comfortably keep the pace up for a while longer, so we decided that we weren’t going to push the pace, but keep it steady and enjoying the race.
The next four to five miles were mostly highway, which passed easily enough. Pace still felt good, but I could start feeling a bit of weakness in my quads, especially on the left side, which was starting to knot up a little bit. Nothing overly concerning, but by that point in a marathon your body is starting to start protesting….it is only worse when you already have three races in three days before that!
This was one of the spots when I really enjoyed one of the nice touches that Disney puts in their races – they had Disney themed jokes written on signs posted along the side of the course. How does Luke Skywalker get through a forest? Ewoks. Why does Goofy wear two pairs of pants when he golfs? Just in case he gets a hole in one…you get the idea. This was a God-send, as it helped take my mind off of things when it was starting to get difficult, and was fun to try and guess the answers with Cheryl. Some signs were really good, there were a couple groaners in there, and a few that were just plain bad….but all helped pass the time and help me forget about what was going on.
We headed out of WWoS and off to Hollywood Studios. As I mentioned, this is one of my favourite parts of the Marathon course, as there is a ton of great scenery, there are no real roads you have to deal with…and I also think one of the big parts is that I know we’re getting close! Hollywood Studios is about mile 22ish, so from there it is only another 6-7km till you’re done…easy, right? Haha….
Rest of the run was great…we ended up catching up to/being caught by a guy running in an Inspector Gadget costume, so had him around us for about the last 6-7 miles or so, which was fun. We could always judge how we were doing by our position relative to Gadget. Never really had the energy levels to be able to push the pace towards the end, but it was my tired legs that were causing more of that issue then my energy levels – I still felt great, it was just getting harder and harder to for my legs to keep me up – a couple of times when we got cut off or had to do a quick course correction I almost ended up going down, simply due to my quads struggling to hold on, and had a couple of slight downhills in the last mile or so that were really tough.
Despite all that, I had what has to be one of my best marathon experiences to date. I was let down from my 2014 Disney Marathon experience when my body gave up a hell of a lot earlier and struggled it in for the last 8-9 miles then, and really didn’t enjoy the experience like I wanted to. This time I was still feeling great and was able to recognize, understand and enjoy the sights and sounds along the final bits of the course…something I didn’t do in 2014.
I got an amazing treat as I mad the last turn towards the finish line, I was able to see my family there cheering me on – I don’t always get to see them supporting me when I run, but it was fantastic to be able to see them as I shuffled on towards the finish line.
Crossed the line, and was so glad to have the weekend of running DONE! It wasn’t the hardest running even that I’ve done…but it is an exhaustive weekend with all the early morning wake-ups, the early to bed nights and everything else that a weekend at Disney entails.
Getting the medals was an especially nice treat, Disney went above and beyond this year
since it was the 25th Anniversary Marathon. The medals (which are usually always top-notch at Disney) were something else – a nice big silver coloured medal with a spinning element in the middle of the medal, and adorned with a ton of sparkly enamel work. Goofy medal was a bit of a let down, but the Dopey was also really well done, this time with a couple of gems encrusted int the medal for his eyes. To top it all off, I also got a set of Anniversary Mickey Ears as further commemoration of the 25 years!
All in all a great weekend of running, and one I’m really glad I did. Would I do it again? Might stretch this to ONE more blog post to wrap up my thoughts since this one is getting a bit long…