When you hear “Florida” what do you think of? I think of heat, humidity, palm trees, Miami by Will Smith and Dexter.
After the lightning and rain storm yesterday, cold weather came in fast and I’m still in shock! It was close to zero degrees Celsius and the wind chill was crazy. I knew it had seriously cooled off so I added a thermal layer on top of my throwaway shirt and brought a garbage bag for a wind breaker but I was not even close to adequately prepared (and neither were 75% of the other eighteen thousand runners.) Who knew freezing in Florida was a thing.
Serious Tip: ANYTHING can happen on race day. I thought I understood this but was proven wrong. For real, to have been comfortable this morning from exiting my Uber (3:45 am) to actually starting the race from corral H (6 am), I would have needed an additional throwaway toque, gloves, jacket or thick blanket and sweats or jammie pants. It was FREEZING. It was colder than the Historic Half in Vancouver on November 28th! Mind: blown. On a positive note, the gear-bag check was super fast and easy, which was my first task after arriving to Epcot for the fourth and final race. Huge compliments to runDisney on the organization. I don’t think it was necessary for me to go quite as early as they suggest, but personally the idea of being late is too stressful for me.
To avoid freezing, after a quick pic with Dopey himself I joined in at the pump-up stage where the DJ was directing a massive Macarena HAHAHA! I also hid in a couple Porto Potties for a few minutes here and there to escape the wind. Then I joined the crowds huddled by some patio heat lamps that weren’t even on (LOL) and met a dude from Edmonton who’s teeth were chattering as much as mine. It was honestly brutal.
It was a long wait til corral walk-out and when it was time to head out I was grateful to be moving and jogged pretty much on the spot, shuffling along with the massive crowd for the 15 minutes it took to get there. Thankfully the race started efficiently (sent of by Mickey with fireworks for each corral!) at 5:30 and I was across the start mat by 6.
I didn’t ditch my outer layer for at least the first 6km which is unheard of for me as I am a notorious over-heater. A headwind that felt below zero wasn’t helping anyone warm up and unfortunately this headwind was a factor in other parts of the race, not just the beginning. I did eventually warm up of course, tossing my second layer as we entered Magic Kingdom. Your bib number needs to be showing to get race pics and I was warm by this time but still thankful I wore my arm warmers. At around 8km when I saw this I cried (not my pic, but this is what the castle looks like at this time of year.)
The castle was so pretty I really did actually cry. It’s hard to explain the emotions in your body during a huge run like this but it’s REALLY overwhelming. For example, in the corral there was a woman running her very first marathon and when our starting fireworks went off she started happy-crying and hugging me and we had met 30 seconds prior. Or during my first marathon, BMO Vancouver, I started crying in the first 500 meters running down Cambie Street just realizing that I trained for this and was going to accomplish something huge.
The sun was just barely up and Magic Kingdom was lit up with frosty lights from the holiday season and the most beautiful thing of the entire weekend FOR SURE. This was the first place with massive spectator crowds and it was so overwhelming. People who go out to marathons to cheer should be recognized because it is one of the most inspiring parts of running one!
At all different sections of the course there were characters, gospel choirs, varsity teams cheering and marching bands and cheerleaders, stilt performers, acrobats on trampolines and thousands of spectators. The course starts at Epcot, goes through Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, ESPN Sports Complex, Hollywood Studios and ends back at Epcot.
I am so impressed with the number and quality of aid stations. There were 19 in total I believe and all had Powerade and water, and some also had bananas, Clif shot gels and even candy!! I think I ate a total of 2 bananas and a package of M&Ms during my run which was extremely helpful. As well as my own gels and Honey Stinger Gummies, I tried the raspberry Clif Shot and it was like getting Lucky Charms as a kid when you have Shreddies parents. YUM. I’ll be buying a case of those.
There were also certain stations where the volunteers were handing out little popsicle sticks with blobs of Vaseline and for this I am extremely grateful because my inner arms were chafing like a b!+*# and it was getting hard to ignore. Again, anything can happen on race day. I don’t usually use Body Glide on my inner arms. Suprise.
Towards the last quarter of the race we ran through ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex and through a stadium with a big screen showing all the runners and there were lots of people in the stands cheering and supporting. This was around the infamous 32km (20 mile) mark of any marathon. I was struggling at this point and the spectators are one of the biggest things that helped me keep going.
As was the case in the last full marathon I ran in October (Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon) the last 10km were very difficult for me. I took lots of 15-30 second walk breaks and told myself that running slow is faster than walking, and that I could break 4:10 if I pushed. Turns out if I had done a better job running the tangents I definitely could have made that goal. Dammit. At the finish line my Garmin clocked 42.76km, so I ran an extra half-kilometer due to the twisting of the course and the weaving around runners at a slower pace than mine. Regardless, I am overjoyed with a time of 4:11:27 and 103/1523 runners in the Women’s 30-34 division, and in the top 12% of all 17,729 runners! Wooooo!!!
It does not get old haha, my throat closed up after crossing the finish line and I started to ugly-cry a bit while feeling pretty much the happiest and most proud feelings that exist. Volunteers presented us with the Mickey marathon medals right away and after the sports drinks and water section the Goofy and Dopey Challengers got to receive the 1/2 marathon medal from the cancelled race on Saturday (yahoo for every person who ran their own unofficial half!) and the Goofy and Dopey medals! Because I am a nerd I brought the 5km and 10km medals in my gear bag so I had all six with me!! Gear pickup was even easier than check-in and I think knowing this now I might have even checked a bag for the 10km race on Friday. Impressive.
A note about your gear bag, pack more than you think you might need. I was pretty good with my long-sleeve technical Dopey shirt, a thick new Gryffindor sweatshirt (LOL,) my favourite Oiselle toque and the space blankets they hand out, but the way the body cools down after running for that amount of time, I could have used a parka and snowboard pants considering the Florida temperature that I didn’t know existed.
I didn’t allow myself to get distracted and forget about recovery, and chugged a sports drink and a water and ate a protein bar and a banana. I stretched in the reunion area, and then again at home and warmed up thoroughly and put on a super warm outfit. All day long I made sure to hydrate and snack, and on the plane (omg. Do not fly home the day of the marathon. Why do I always do this??) I got up to stretch my legs as many times as possible without being an A-hole to the guy sitting in the aisle seat.
Over 24 hours after getting up on marathon morning I got to the the Fairmont YVR at 2am after a delayed flight from SEA-TAC to Vancouver and had the most glorious birthday sleep in a king bed. GLORIOUS.
To wrap it all up, Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is INCREDIBLE! True, a lot of the running isn’t right in a magical park, but it isn’t possible to map out courses of that length all within the parks because they aren’t big enough!The courses are mostly flat with just a few small hills going up overpasses or over bridges in the parks. The energy of all the events is unexplainable and the expo, official race gear, organization, volunteers, aid stations, cast-members, medals and finish-line support is absolutely amazing and all very well organized. The time change was a bigger issue for me than expected. I slept a lot after each race and I didn’t do nearly as many activities as I thought I might while visiting the Orlando area, but I came here to do my favourite thing which is RUN and I got everything out of this trip that I wanted, and more. If you are planning a runDisney event in Orlando, let me know!
OH, and my friend Lindsay always wants to know what the post-race meal consists of, so let me tell you, the lobster eggs benny at SoCo in Orlando was possibly the best thing I’ve ever eaten.