We did it! The 2013 Goofy Challenge, and the 20th Walt Disney World Marathon!
Though Sunday wasn't quite as hot as they thought it might be (81 instead of 84) it was still a tough day to be running 26.2 miles. Very humid, too, and sunny, without the clouds I was hoping for, which just made it seem even hotter. It was a beautiful day if you *weren't* running a marathon. I was really happy to cross the finish line! I actually had a pretty good race, and although I didn't push it, I still ended up with a personal best time of 5:22:07. There must be something to this whole training thing because I wasn't totally dead after the race, and today (Monday) I feel pretty good. A little stiff if I sit too long, and slightly fatigued, but otherwise good!
Race day began, as it always does, much too early at 2:30. At least we slept better since we were tired from the half marathon. :-) There was a longer line for the bus and we had to wait for the third one (they were stopping at some of the other Epcot resorts first, so were arriving 1/2-2/3 full) before going on our way. There was more traffic so it took 20-25 minutes to get to Epcot - that's more normal than the 10 minutes it took the day before.
There were 25,000 people entered in the full, not much fewer than the half, but it seemed like there were a lot more people in the staging area. We again met up with Team AllEars, and there's a group photo floating around somewhere, but I don't have it. I think there were almost 40 of us in the marathon - that's very cool, especially for the first-timers like our intrepid co-captain, Michelle Scribner-MacLean.
After the disaster in getting to the corrals the day before they tried something a little different, and the first call was for those in Corrals A and B. Makes sense, since they start first. Then after about 10 minutes they called C and D. This time there was no huge non-moving mass of humanity - we were able to walk continuously to the corrals. Not a fast walk, but better than the shuffle I've seen before.
Of course the disadvantage is that we arrived in our corral with over 45 minutes before the race started, and over an hour until we were due to start. The advantage was that we were able to see all of the pre-race "show", featuring Disney race announcer Rudy Novotny (and a couple of others I don't know) and their interviews with Jeff Galloway, Frank Shorter, and Joey Fatone.
We were waaay back from the start line, but they had huge screens up by each corral so that we could see what was going on (sorry that the pictures are grainy - but that's why).
Several times we were cautioned about the heat - don't go too fast, drink lots of water and electrolytes, don't go for a PR...(And I didn't! It just worked out that way!)
Mickey, Donald and Goofy came out and "spoke" to us, we heard the national anthem, and then it was time to countdown to the start of the race! The wheelchairs went off at 5:30 and Corral A followed at 5:35. We again had a good fireworks display behind us, but each corral got their own start and fireworks over the start line.
We were near the front of Corral D and so once we got up to it we had a better view of the start line than we had the day before.
At 5:52 we were off! There were a lot of people still, but the course didn't seem quite as congested as it had been the day before - these were more experienced runners who understood (and practiced) race etiquette. So while there were still people walking (us included!) they generally weren't walking 2-3 abreast in the middle on the one-lane sections like we had seen the day before.
Still it was crowded enough that I didn't take any photos in the early going. There were the same character opportunities there had been the day before like Jack Sparrow and the pirates and Jack Skellington, but the lines (while shorter) were still too long.
It was a new marathon course this year. At the beginning, instead of going around and through Epcot like it has in the past, this year the marathon course was identical to the half marathon course for the first 8 miles, which meant we headed straight for the Magic Kingdom, and reached it about mile 5.5 At mile 6 we were in Frontierland in front of the Country Bear Playhouse.
The first new part of the course was just after mile 8, when we went onto the Walt Disney World Speedway. There was a steep hill going down under the speedway and then back up the other side which was a little treacherous.
We ran on the flat part of the track for about 3/4 of a lap.
On the track itself were a bunch of classic cars that the owners had come to display to us as they cheered us on - very much like what we saw at the Disneyland Half Marathon last September. It was great to see them out there.
Mater and Lightning McQueen were also out there.
After we came off the speedway we took the familiar Bear Island Road towards Animal Kingdom. The sun had come up by then and it was starting to warm up. At least that helped reduce the humidity, which was pretty close to 100% for the first 90 minutes or so. Along Bear Island Road there are a lot of tall trees that shaded us, and there was also a cool breeze so it still wasn't too bad.
Once we got close to Animal Kingdom we had some more character sightings, though most of them still had long lines (the one I was sorry to bypass was the villains). It was still Christmas there!
With the new course we arrived at Animal Kingdom about mile 13 instead of mile 16. I have to say that messed with my head a little bit - I'm used to thinking that I'm about 2/3 done by then instead of just halfway through, and I was a little discouraged to only be half done.
Outside Animal Kingdom is one of my favorite photo stops - the Haunted Mansion gravediggers. Alas, the race had been too much for Lee...(he said he was tempted to lay there a little longer!)
We had Team AllEars and Team AllCheers people cheering us on throughout the race, and they are terrific! Some of the most welcome places are in the second half of the race where there are some long stretches of road without much in the way of entertainment or spectators (because it's hard to get to!) and several of our cheering sections had set up in those areas. So a HUGE thanks to everyone who came out to cheer us on - it helps so much!
There were a couple of sets of characters out there and we didn't have to wait long for photos with them - that's what usually happens in the second half of the race.
Near mile 17 we entered the Wide World of Sports complex. This was another new part of the course. The best part: they gave us wet sponges!!! That gave me some relief - I was very hot and very sweaty by then, and it felt good to sponge myself off a bit. Ahhhh.
We ran around most of the complex, which included running on the nice cushy running track. I've heard mixed opinions on that - some people (like me) thought it felt good, while others didn't like the feel of the surface.
At this point Lee told me to go ahead - he was doing ok, but I was having a better day than he was, and he didn't want to slow me down since he knew he would be walking more. It was a tough day with the heat and humidity.
We ran on concrete paths throughout the area - I didn't like that very much because it's quite a hard surface. It was also winding and relatively narrow - it's a good thing the runners had gotten fairly spread out by then.
They had the Mickey balloon on one of the fields.
We ran around the inside of Champions Stadium. This wasn't nearly as cool as running through Angel Stadium, though. And this also got mixed reviews - we were running on gravel and apparently a lot of people got it in their shoes.
After we left Wide World of Sports we arrived at the Mile 20 Spectacular. Or the "not-so-spectacular", as it was dubbed.
They had music and a bunch of the big character puppets, like Lumiere, Sebastian, Genie, and Tigger.
There was also a raised stage with Mickey, Minnie and Pluto on it, where people were getting their photos taken.
And over the road was a huge Celebrate 20 Years sign. A lot of people didn't realize that was mile 20, and further down the road I heard several people asking where mile 20 was, and I told them we'd already passed it. :-)
So yes, it was a nice diversion, especially since otherwise that was a pretty uninteresting part of the course, but "spectacular?" Not so much.
We had more Team AllEars people near mile 21 - it was really good to see them!
At about mile 22.5 we entered the Studios. And by this time people were hot and tired and just wanted to be finished so there were almost no lines for characters from that point on. I took advantage of that, and had my photo taken with the Incredibles and Wreck-It Ralph.
We were staying at the Boardwalk again and our room looked out over the course very close to the mile 24 sign. That section was a bad part of the course, though - the path along the canal is not very wide and a lot of people were walking by then. I was still (mostly) jogging and I kept having to weave around and through people - it was frustrating. Once I got to the bridge that goes over to the Yacht Club it was wider and wasn't too bad the rest of the way.
More Team AllEars folks just beyond the bridge - I got a big hug from Deb Wills, and that helped get me the rest of the way to the finish!
There were a number of characters at Epcot. These two were just outside the International Gateway. I recognized the Fairy Godmother, of course, but who is the one in pink?
There were more characters out in World Showcase. World Showcase was open to guests by the time I got there, but priority was given to runners, and in a couple of places guests had to wait for me to get my photo taken first. I thought that was very appropriate.
At the mile 26 point was the gospel choir. I LOVE seeing these people. And not just because it means I'm almost finished. They sing with so much energy and passion that it flows into me and I can finish strong. I don't know the name of the group but they are awesome!!!
At the finish line I got to high-five Mickey just before I crossed!
And then a wonderful volunteer gave me my Mickey medal, and another wonderful volunteer gave me my Goofy medal!
They still had those silly runDisney food boxes...come on, I just ran 26.2 miles and that's what I get??? Oh, yeah, there were bananas and packets of gummy candies, too. In preparation for that I'd put a package of mixed nuts into the bag I'd checked, and I was glad I did. (To be fair I have to say that I talked to a woman on my flight home who liked the change to the boxes, and thought the snacks in there were better than the bagels, orange slices, and bananas they usually have.)
Lee was not too far behind me, so I waited for him and we exited the runner's area. We made a pass through the merchandise tent just to see what they had - there wasn't a whole lot left by then.
We were pretty tired and took the bus back to the Boardwalk rather than walking - I hope they give all of those seats a good cleaning after marathon weekend... :-) When we got back to our room I could still see some people out on the course.
As you can see, Donald isn't lonely anymore - he has plenty of company now!
Thank you to all of the terrific volunteers and cast members for a wonderful weekend. And thank you to all of the spectators who came out to cheer us on, and all of the bands who came to play for us. I'm sorry that I didn't have the energy to acknowledge everyone who cheered for me, but please know that I appreciated you, and the energy you brought to the race, and in turn passed to me, so very much.
Marathons are hard - I'm going back to halfs for a while, though we have our eye on Goofy in 2015, since it's the 10th Goofy Challenge. Our next race is the Tinker Bell Half Marathon at Disneyland, which is this Sunday. And yes, that means we'll earn our Coast-to-Coast medals in a week - and we won't be the only ones doing that!
Thanks for reading!
The previous post in this blog was 2013 Marathon Weekend - Part 2 - Half Marathon.
The next post in this blog is Peter Pan: Now Playing at the El Capitan Theatre.