Walt Disney World Marathon 2016 Report – Part 2
In Part 2 of our Walt Disney World Christmas Trip Report, I stressed the value of the friendships I’ve made through the Disney fan community. This has never been borne out as well as it was on the home stretch of the Walt Disney World Marathon, as we headed into Disney’s Hollywood Studios and then onto Epcot.
Every morning of the Dopey Challenge, I had friends out there both participating and cheering. Oddly enough, this group of friends is from the Disney photography community, a sub-niche of the Disney fan community. What does photography have in common with running?
Well, it turns out that when you regularly carry 20+ pounds of camera gear around on your back while walking 10+ miles per day at Walt Disney World, you’re pretty much glutton for punishment. The next logical step is thus running around in circles for 10+ miles at 5 a.m., and then carrying around a bunch of camera gear for the rest of the day! Who knew?!
In some cases, I’ve known these people since around the time I first got into photography and started posting on Flickr back in 2008. Others I’ve met more recently, but all of them are photographers, and each of them participated in at least one event over the course of Marathon Weekend. (Plus, of course, my lovely wife, Sarah.)
Pictured above is just the selection of Marathon runners: Cody, (me), Mark, Kevin, Adam B., and Jenny in a photo by Brett. Not pictured are Katie, Adam H., Rebecca, Carrie, and Diana (phew, I think that’s everyone).
I don’t have any photos from Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but that’s for good reason: I was actually running through the park!
My calves were giving out and I had found a medical tent with biofreeze, so I pulled up my compression pants and caked the stuff all over my legs. This forestalled the inevitable muscle failure for at least a couple of miles, and I was good to go for a bit.
I started to slow again heading towards the Yacht and Beach Club. About the only thing that got me running again was seeing some friends–I don’t like to walk past people I know, as it makes me feel weak.
I might be flashing the thumbs up there, but I can assure you, I’m crying on the inside. (Photos above by Brett.)
Entering Epcot, I noticed there were a few rare characters out, none of whom had lines! I assume this is because people just want to finish as quickly as possible in the home stretch, but also because I had worked my way past most of the “doing it for fun” crowd into the runners who care more about their time.
This makes me think that if I submit a time and get placed into an early corral for the next race, I can actually have my photo taken with characters, instead of just snapping shots of random strangers as I pass. (On a side note: I really regret not getting my photo with Genie–he seems like the perfect mascot for this blog in that outfit.)
On the final stretch in Epcot is where things really get exciting. (Above and below photos by Ben and Katie.)
No, I’m not recording video, black box style, so the authorities have a record of what happen to me when I die on mile 25…
I actually look happy here, and that’s because I AM FOR SOME REASON.
I can only assume that my brain released a surge of dopamine to counteract the pain that my body was reporting.
This dude next to me clearly wonders what’s up. “Why is this weirdo running with his phone up? Is he social media’ng? And why is he whistling while he runs?! I’d better get away from this hooligan before all hell breaks loose.”
Okay, here is where I think I basically blacked out and let instincts take over. I saw Adam in the distance and knew I must demonstrate to him my epic kung fu prowess with a flying kick.
FEAR DOES NOT EXIST IN THE EPCOT DOJO, DOES IT? NO SENSEI!
It might surprise you to learn that I have no formal martial arts training. 😉
Honestly, I have no idea what I was thinking here, and given that I could barely pick up my legs without cringing in pain only a couple miles back, I am shocked that I landed this kick and managed to keep running in stride. As Rick James would say, Biofreeze is one helluva drug.
At this point, I had less than a half mile to go, and I was in the zone. I didn’t end up finishing in under 4:30:00, but I did finish with a time of 4:40:16, with which I am beyond pleased. In 2015, I finished in 5:14:33, and that was while being a year younger (obviously) and without running 20+ miles and getting up at 4 a.m. for the 3 days leading up to the Marathon. Suffice to say, I was very pleased with my time.
I really don’t know how I did it, so I’m just going to go ahead and assume that running the 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon provided the perfect 3-day training plan for the Marathon. If you’re looking for a training plan, I plan on packaging all of my “wisdom” in a convenient program called the “Couch to Couch” in 9 weeks plan (no relation to the Couch to 5K plan), available for the low, low price of $99. 😉
Sarah gave me a hero’s welcome at the finish line, as I darted over, dipping and enthusiastically kissing her in what was basically a reenactment of V-J Day in Times Square. Or…I hobbled over to her, barely able to walk, and nearly collapsed. Let’s just pretend it was the former, though.
(Oh, and you’re welcome for posting the version of this photo with shirtless angry dude in the background. I had one without him, but I’m all about GIVING THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT. 😉 )
We met Cody at the finish line (Cody is like 8.5 feet tall, I’m not super-short) after I had headed to the Merchandise tent to buy an “I Did It!” shirt. Unlike the Disneyland Half Marathon, they had tons of merchandise available for purchase. Woo hoo!
Overall, I had a lot of fun running the Walt Disney World Marathon, and will definitely be doing it again next year. Running through the parks is nothing short of awesome, and the crowds of cheering spectators are more energizing than you can possibly imagine (so thanks to all those who came out and cheered, friends and strangers alike).
There were some sections of the course that definitely could have used more entertainment to raise the energy level, but that’s a minor quibble, and I fixated on it at the beginning more because I’m worried about this being a gradual trend based on past experiences, and I really don’t want to give up on runDisney in a couple of years. Running is far from my favorite thing in the world, so the fact that I now find myself somewhat addicted to these events really says it all.
I’ll be back tomorrow with a recap and some parting thoughts on the Dopey Challenge as a whole. If there’s anything in particular you want to know, ask in the comments here, and I’ll try to address it in that post.
If you’re planning on getting into runDisney, read my runDisney Race Reports (plus other running-related posts). Also be sure to check out my runDisney Packing Tips post for what you should use to train, and what to carry on race day.
Planning your own Walt Disney World trip for a runDisney event (or otherwise)? The best place to start is our comprehensive Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide to make the most of your experience!
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Did you run the Walt Disney World Marathon this year? Did you karate kick your way to the finish? What motivates you to power on through the tough stretches of the course? Any additional thoughts on differences in on-course entertainment through the years? Thinking of doing a runDisney event and have questions? Share in the comments!
My goodness. I’m a swimmer, always have been, so I don’t have legs that were built to run but for some reason I decided that I will be running (walking?) the Dopey challenge in 2018. I’ve been looking for opinions on the race since registration opens tomorrow and yours is funny as hell. I don’t want to read about how “GREAT! :D” it was; I wanted to know that your legs started giving out and that you slightly regret park time and late nights so I can be as prepared has humanly possible. I’ve run 2 of Disney’s half marathons and with literally no training what so ever I finished in 3 and 2:30 hours, which I thought was pretty amazing for a non-runner. Just ran a 5k last week (again with literally no training like an idiot) and finished just over 30 minutes so I think with a little training thanks to Jeff Galloway, I may be able to finished in the times you did. Maybe I’ll even see you on the course!
Loved this recap.! Your posts about the marathon have partly been an inspiration for me to start running again. Problem is my 5k time is barely under 30 minutes and so my marathon time would probably be something like six and a half hours with a 50/50 chance of death. But hey a year a from now I’m hoping for incredible improvement!
My 5K time was above 30 minutes and I didn’t die!
Totally thought the shirtless dude picture with the army men was you! Haha, thank you for the awesome recap! Your recaps are such a fun read and it makes me snicker quietly in office at work! You guys are my most favourite Disney blog to read, keep up with the jokes and awesome photography!
Hey dopey…get a running watch. Jk…but it’s the only way to see and measure progress. Congrats on the challenge…some of those photos look like you are passing kidney stones
Thanks for the recap – lots of fun to read! And congrats on running the race!
I’m not a runner in any way, but I loved hearing your stories and enjoyed your photos.
Thanks for posting it all.
It looks like an amazingly good time!
And, I will say I give Sarah credit for accepting the dipping (and I assume sweaty wet) kiss, in her pretty dress!
There was no dip. I could barely support myself…I’m sure if I tried that, we both would’ve ended up on the ground.
As someone whose college team did a week of spring training down at Disney’s Wide World of Sports each year, your pictures of running through the complex gave me PTSD flashbacks to runs I never, ever wanted to remember again.
Certainly an accomplishment to be very proud of!
Well done Tom!! You had a brilliant time and I know you will get to your goal time regardless.
You truly are Dopey in the best way!!
Congrats Tom, that’s quite the achievement! Your posts have encouraged me to register (or I will at the start of Feb when it opens!) for the inaugural runDisney at Disneyland Paris.
Great to hear. I am really hopeful that the event is a blast. If Disneyland Paris could flesh out the slow seasons of its calendar with races, that would be HUGE for that park’s fiscal well-being, too!
Congrats Tom! I absolutely agree with you on the WWOS section! I swear I’d taken a wrong turn a doubled up somewhere because it just wouldn’t end! (Plus at that point I was slightly out of it!). I think Disney organized an amazing race, and everything about it on their part was so well thought out. I was bummed, however, that it is not stressed more that people whe are walk/running should not stop running right in the middle course and continue walking….in the middle….most of the time shoulder to shoulder, leaving little room for runners to get through and also leading to a lot of people dodging. I was running an 11:15 pace and dodged so many stoppers that at mile 19, while dodging a guy who dead stopped in front of me, I threw out my knee. Luckily I had to get out of WWOS and I was crossing the finish even if I had to crawl! So I dragged my leg through the rest of the course, and stayed all the way to the right side so as not to be in anybody else’s way! Moral of my story, I too will be back next year, I must have Disney Marathon vindication!
That REALLY sucks! Running etiquette is something I’ll be discussing in my Idiot’s Guide, as it is a big problem. Unfortunately, it cuts both ways. Being back in Corral O, I was with a lot of walkers (and really, that far back it’s pretty much fair game, IMO) and I heard several runners yelling at people quite rudely when trying to pass.
Some walkers need to learn about proper protocol when slowing, but some runners also need to realize that runDisney events aren’t the Boston Marathon.
Would love to hear how you replenished all of those calories back in the park. All-you-can-eat turkey legs? Dole whips? Buckets of ice cream?
Thank you for sharing your experiences, I enjoyed reading!
Here’s a teaser of what our day looked like following the Marathon:
-L’Artisan des Glaces
-Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar
That’s all in a single day. It was glorious.
Tom – I love Sarah’s Baymax dress. Make sure she knows. I tried to buy a plush Baymax at DW back in Dec 2015 but they had absolutely nothing. Reminds me of the Frozen debacle when they did not have enough stock for months. Big Hero 6 had just come out a couple of months earlier. But I did meet Baymax and have some photos like Sarah’s Instagram post.
FYI, Sarah just updated her What to Wear to Walt Disney World post with where to find that Big Hero 6 dress and some other outfits that she has recently purchased.
Tom, I completely agree with you about the WWoS section! While all of the sports fields and greenery would seem to add some visual interest… I was about ready to die with each winding turn through the complex!! Leaving that section gave me such a mental boost, I really thought it would never end. Can’t wait to read your recap, and great job on your time!!
Hey Tom…question for your wrap up post. You mentioned the runDisney races routinely sell out. Are we talking Rolling Stones at Madison Square Garden, selling out in 10 minutes or, selling out over the course of a few days, weeks, etc.? I plan on signing up the day registration opens in April, but I want to know how quickly I need to pounce. Thanks!
Lee, jumping on your question here, but I registered for the marathon in July and it was only 84% full, so that was my experience! From what I’ve heard, the Dopey and the half marathons sell out quicker.
The marathon takes a while to sell out, however all the shorter races (half marathons, 10ks and the various challenges) typically sell out in an hour or so.
I plan to be on the computer the moment registration opens.
I must say that I’m disappointed in your attire. I kept looking for that fly figment hat and never did see it. You probably passed me around WWOS, and it would have been just the pick me up I needed to get through that tedious section. Plus it would have been a good distraction from the muscle gel I accidentally got in my eye and had to find a restroom to flush my eye with water.
My husband doesn’t remotely understand my love of Disney but we really enjoy your runDisney blogs – we still laugh about you getting stuck in an innertube last year. Thanks for sharing your experiences!
Congratulations!!! Just a few questions…
Did the earlier races (5k, 10k, and half) have an impact on your performance in the subsequent races?
If one were to choose just one other race besides the Marathon, which would you recommend?
The Half Marathon. That way, you can do the Goofy Challenge!
Do you think the Dopey Challenge really adds something to the experience? It looks like the marathon by far the best event. I’m thinking to run it again next year for the second time, however the Dopey Challenge doesn’t look to add much to the plate, it doesn’t appeal to me.
Am I wrong?
I wouldn’t necessarily say that you’re wrong, but I enjoyed each of them. The big downside of the Dopey is the cost and having to get up so early 4 straight mornings. In addition to being really early, that really impacts your ability to go out and enjoy the parks.
The upside is all the sweet bling, and the sense of accomplishment you feel when all is said and done. I’ll likely do the Dopey again, but wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. I’ll cover this in greater depth in the recap post.