While running a marathon, you have quite a bit of time to think about random topics. One thing I thought about was writing this recap. Even minutes after crossing the finish line, I was so mentally drained and overcome with emotion that I couldn’t remember portions of the race. However, I certainly remember enough about the experience to share it with all of you. Before I begin, I want to note that these images were taken by runDisney. I wasn’t coordinated enough to take any photos myself during the race.
Pre-Race — Disney races start incredibly early, so the roads and parks can reopen. I woke up at 2:45am to be on a bus at 3:15. Thankfully, I slept well the two nights before the race. After a short bus ride to the starting line in Epcot’s parking lot, I met up with Seth to hang out before we had to line up in corrals. From the moment I got to the starting area, I was blown away by how well the kind volunteers were organizing 25,000 runners. The lack of chaos helped keep the nerves away, as I entered Corral I at 5:00. I stretched and finished my fuel while waiting for the first corral to start at 5:30. Each corral started to its own gun about 3 minutes apart. I started at 6:00.
Miles 1-4 — The first stretch of the race was on a highway. It was still dark and chilly, but there were a few bands placed along the road to entertain us. I concentrated on not going out too fast and wanted to set a realistic pace for myself. About one mile in, I realized I had to pee. Sigh. I thought this might happen later in the race, but not after I had hit the bathroom three times in the last two hours. Let’s just say that somewhere during that second mile, I quickly found a quiet spot behind a bus. Oh, the joys of being a marathoner.
Magic Kingdom (Mile 5) — At Mile 5, we finally approached the first park. I remember seeing some of our first spectators as we wove our way through the parking lot to the entrance. We ran down Main Street, where I saw my mom and a college friend, toward Cinderella’s Castle. The castle is decked out with Frozen lights for the holidays, and it looks gorgeous. I thought about what it would be like to run through the castle during many training runs and really tried to soak up that moment. The excitement carried me out of the park through Tomorrowland.
Miles 6-7 — These miles were back on the highway. I believe we passed a few hotels and some character photo ops, but I don’t remember a lot about this stretch. I still felt great.
Walt Disney World Speedway (Mile 8) — The sun was rising as we entered the Speedway. Seth warned me that this was one of his least favorite parts of the course. He also recommended that I move as close to the inside of the track as possible. The portion of the track where cars race is slanted upwards, but there was a narrow, flat surface to run around on the inside. Toward the end of this mile, some people had parked their sports cars on the slanted part of the track.
Miles 9-11 — When I headed back onto the highway, I had my first feeling of “Oh my gosh, I’m not even halfway there.” Thankfully, soon after I had that thought, Jeff appeared. What are the chances of seeing someone you know in such a huge race? Jeff talked with me and helped pace me for what ended up being a few of my strongest miles of the race. This was also the sunniest, most humid stretch of the race. Thank you for sticking with me, Jeff!
Animal Kingdom (Miles 12-13) — Jeff and I parted ways as we entered Animal Kingdom. On the way in, there were a few animals hanging out with castmembers along the road. I also saw some monkeys and passed Expedition Everest in the park. For some reason, Animal Kingdom is a blur for me. What I remember most is leaving the park and hitting the half marathon point.
Miles 14-16 — This is another stretch of highway that I don’t clearly remember. I do remember seeing another friend from college near the end of Mile 16. Then things started to get tough.
ESPN Wide World of Sports (Miles 17-19) — Oh man. I’m sure you’ve either heard about or experienced The Wall. Most marathoners hit it between Miles 18-20. My body started to get heavy as I entered ESPN. My one saving grace during these miles was being handed a wash cloth soaked in cold water. It felt amazing to hold the cloth against my face, neck, and arms. In ESPN, we ran around a track, along some walkways, and around a baseball diamond. While I was still following my race plan at this point, my body was in pain. Then, it started pouring rain. I wish I was kidding.
Miles 20-22 — It poured on and off as we ran down the highway. My race plan (in terms of when to take walk breaks) was only set in stone through Mile 20, so I decided to take it mile by mile from this point. The rain, humidity, and heaviness in my legs were rough. I remember walking a bit more than I would have liked during these miles but made myself start running when I reached the next park.
Hollywood Studios (Mile 23) — Hollywood Studios was filled with characters and encouraging cast members. I tried to focus on them and appreciate the fact that it had stopped raining. It wasn’t easy. I wanted to glare at every spectator who told me I was “almost done.” If you’re watching a marathon, please don’t say that unless you are standing at the Mile 26 marker. To redirect that frustration, I kept repeating my race mantras to myself: Keep Moving Forward. and You Trained for This.
Miles 24-25 — We ran along the lake that splits Hollywood Studios and Disney Boardwalk. It was lined with more spectators. I took candy from one of them to distract myself. While I was still in pain, I thought I would feel magically lighter when I entered Epcot.
Epcot (Miles 26 & .2) — Unfortunately, I still felt pretty terrible as I rounded the World Showcase. I even had to take two short walk breaks. When I reached the front of the park, I heard someone say that we had .25 mile left. After exiting the park, I passed a gospel choir and one of the most beautiful signs I have ever seen. It was Mile 26. All of a sudden, I started sprinting toward the finish line and looking for my mom in the bleachers. I couldn’t see her because I had started to sob. Maybe I’ll share one of my finish line photos, so you can see the emotion. I was so tired, relieved, and proud of myself. I couldn’t believe that, after months of training, I had done it. While I didn’t have a goal time for the race, it did take me longer than I expected to finish. However, I consider a 5:25 finish for my first marathon through rain and humidity a massive accomplishment. I don’t think it’s hit me that the race is over. It feels incredible to be supported by so many and to officially say that I’m a marathoner.
I’ll be sharing the answers to FAQ about my marathon experience in a later post. If you have any questions for a first-timer, let me know!