Running a marathon has been on my bucket list for a few years now. Actually since 2010 when I registered for the Chicago Marathon and opted out due to finishing up grad school and getting hitched. It became something that eluded me and I never seemed to have enough time to train.
Last year, that all changed. We received an invite from the folks at Run Disney to participate in their 20th Walt Disney World Marathon and I knew that this was my chance to make it happen. What better way to do my first marathon than at Disney! Not only that, it would be an opportunity to take a quick family vacation and take my bonus son on HIS first trip to Disney World.
Did I mention that this was also my first time visiting Disney? Unfortunately, during a few days leading up to the race, the day-to-day business of Black Girls RUN! kept me from park hopping, but we did manage to have a bit of fun.
During our first day at the park, we decided to hit the Walt Disney World expo. There we had a chance to catch up with New Balance and get an exclusive look at their new Disney-themed running shoe inspired by Mickey and Minnie Mouse! With only 1,000 pairs of shoes on hand they sold out in just a few hours! (and then reappeared on Ebay for $400). We picked up a few items and then headed to get in some Disney fun.
The best part of participating in the Disney Marathon was being able to hit a few birds with one stone. Marathon, family time, hubby time, vacation, shopping and relaxing all in one trip. However, I found myself having to ride that fine line between enjoying the parks and resting up for the race, so I didn’t get to enjoy the parks as much as I wanted to in order to save my legs.
For weekend race participants, the expo is just one of many things the Run Disney crew had planned. They hosted pasta dinners every night, which was a fun way to get into race mode. Not only that, but it also gave us a chance to do a short photo opp with the mouse. We also got to attend a blogger tweet-up where we were able to meet the legendary, Jeff Galloway and Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World, Bart Yasso, among other elite athletes and celebrities.
Finally, race day came along! Okay. The worst thing about the Disney Marathon was the start time. 5:30am. Which means I got up at 1:30am to start fueling and getting my stomach together. The other bad part? Getting to the start line is a beast and includes finding a place to park and a mile walk from the “holding area” to the start. What can I say? We’re spoiled. Fortunately, as a guest of Run Disney, we were able to skip all of that and get a golf cart ride to the front. But honestly, having heard the stories from other people who had to get find their own way to the start, I’m not sure I’d be up for the one mile hike at 3am. It’s the little things.
The course took us through each of the four parks, but we spent a LOT of time in parking lots and back lots. Not the best scenery, but the times that you are actually in the park, make up for the parts that are “meh”. My favorite areas were running through Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and the course highlight at mile 20. Of course, the other fun part is being able to stop along the course and take photos with the Disney characters.
As far as my marathon experience goes, it was, well, interesting. At about mile 5 or 6 I heard something “pop” in my Achilles. Followed by sharp pains. I knew I needed to take it pretty easy to be able to finish the race and get the coveted bling. The good news, 6 hours and 20 minutes later, I crossed the finish line. The bad news, I have a partial tear in my Achilles, which has me out of commission for a while. There will be more to come on my first real sports injury. (FYI, I’m feeling uber hard core these days, but on second thought, I should have definitely stopped when I felt the pain).
Ultimately, if you are thinking of doing a Disney race, do at least one for the experience. It’s definitely one of the better races I’ve participated in, but it can be pricey (race registration, airfare, hotel, food, etc.). As far as me running a marathon, there’s footage floating around of me screaming at Ashley “I’m never doing it again.” But, I’m already thinking about the next 26.2 I’m going to conquer.
Disclosure: Our Walt Disney World Marathon experience was complimentary during a media visit. As always our thoughts and opinions are all our own.