Walt Disney World Marathon Report – Part 2

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Picking up where the Walt Disney Marathon Report – Part 1 left off, after exiting the Magic Kingdom, we still had a fun stretch of track immediately in front of us, despite not entering another park for around 5 more miles. This was especially true for me, as I was thinking the next stop was going to be Epcot in another couple of miles, and I was excited about the prospect of morning light there. I don’t know why I thought this, as I knew the event began and ended in Epcot. I guess I just wasn’t thinking; I swear I wasn’t delusional–yet.

I realized Epcot wasn’t on the agenda pretty quickly, after we exited the Magic Kingdom.¬†In reality, the course was set to go past the Grand Floridian, Disney golf courses, and through the Richard Petty Driving Experience before heading to Animal Kingdom.

There remained a lot of things to see and do along this park-less stretch of course, and all of this made it easy to understand why people love these runDisney events so much. Even if you aren’t stopping to get photos with the characters, or pausing to enjoy the high school bands or DJs, it’s energizing just to see and hear them. They truly give a palpable sense of energy to the course. As someone who doesn’t really like to run, I can see why so many people say, “I will never run an event that isn’t runDisney.”

I think this probably describes me: I like competitive events and am pretty crazy, but I’m not crazy about running 26.2 miles just for the sake of running 26.2 miles. The “Disney crazy” bit of me helps make the running part of it happen…

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If I were going to stop for any characters, it probably would have been Donald and Goofy in golf attire with the Mickey Mouse golf cart. The line wasn’t too long, the light was phenomenal, and I’ve never seen these outfits before. I paused for a moment debating, but ultimately was still concerned about being swept later in the race if I had to hobble my way through the last dozen miles.

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At Mile 8, I was still at about a 10 minute mile pace…

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Not many people had costumes for this runDisney event, which I assume is because it’s on the more intense side in terms of distance, and wearing a costume for 26.2 miles might be a bit cumbersome, to say the least. These two had probably the best costumes I saw.

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At this point, with every passing mile, you’re going to notice my pace slow a bit. This is despite stopping less and less.

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There were lots of cars out on the Richard Petty Driving Experience track; I liked the way the light cast long shadows of runners next to this car.

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This was one of the longer meet & greet lines at the event, and it’s no surprise why given the villains alone. Worth noting is that there was an awesome backdrop here (note the dead Scar), which I assume is an old parade float.

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Passing Mile 10…

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The poor Country Bears had probably the shortest meet & greet line that I encountered, with only 2 people in line, both of whom were probably asking, “who are these bears?”

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Passing Mile 11, I neared Animal Kingdom via backstage access.

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The biggest meet & greet stars were here: goats! Yes, I realize the animal pictured is not a goat, but there were like 4 goats, I swear. Unfortunately, I was taking photos on the run, and all of my goat photos are out of focus, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

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The time on the Mile 12 sign wasn’t working, so you’ll just have to take my word for the fact that I ran a 3:55 mile between Mile 11 and 12. ūüėČ

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Expedition Everest was open to ride! If I weren’t worried about my legs tightening up and not being able to finish, I would have totally taken advantage.

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The sight of Dino-Rama motivated me to pick up my pace, as I wanted to get the heck away from that garbage.

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Made it to Mile 13…

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MADE IT TO MILE 13.1!

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I forgot to take photos of the markers for Mile 14 & 15. That, or I got in a car after Mile 13 and was dropped off at Mile 16,¬†The Office¬†style…

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This stretch of track was really dull. Probably my only complaint about the Marathon was that very little was going on between Animal Kingdom and the ESPN Wide World of Sports. In fact, aside from the Wide World of Sports itself (which wasn’t that interesting of a stretch of course), the course was pretty dull between Animal Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

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Disney’s homage to the Stay Puft Marshmallow man from its latest film.

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Somewhere in this area of the course, I was really starting to feel the effects of not having trained. My knees were in pain each time I planted a foot, and my muscles ached with each stride.

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I began to power-walk almost exclusively around this point, doing so for probably 4 or so miles. I was a little tired, but it was more because I could land “softly” as opposed to hurting my knees more. I think my power walk pace was around a 14 minute mile, which would be fine for finishing.

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Missing a few more photos of Mile markers, which is because I put the camera away so I could focus on moving. I made brief stops for pain reliever pills and biofreeze at the medical tents. I had never used either while running, and I didn’t even really know what biofreeze was at the time (using medical products you’ve never heard of can’t possibly be a bad idea, right?), but I figured slathering it all over my legs couldn’t hurt. Everyone else seemed to be doing it. Even though I was well past the halfway point, I was really concerned that I wouldn’t finish due to my knees.

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Arriving at Disney’s Hollywood Studios was a relief, even if I was greeted by this stupid¬†Planes¬†overlay. Probably the only time ever I was excited to see something¬†Planes-related.

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Mile 23 back by the Streets of America.

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For some reason I thought I had heard these lights were on for the Marathon. Maybe that’s the Half Marathon? I guess it would be too light out when most people reach this area for it to make sense to have them on.

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Okay, so this is going to see crazy and/or ridiculous, but after feeling fairly defeated and not running at all for roughly 4 miles, seeing this gave me a jolt of energy. By this, I don’t mean the BAH (regular readers of the site know I hate that abomination), I mean the wall around it.

Like I said, it sounds absolutely crazy, but this gave me my second/third/fourth/whatever wind. I started thinking about all of the exciting potential this blighted park has and how it’s likely to see a rebirth in the coming years, and I stopped thinking about the pain in my lower body. (That, or I was becoming delirious or simply couldn’t feel my legs from all the biofreeze.)

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I look a little worse for wear (see how you look after running 23 miles on 4 hours of sleep), but this is the look of unbridled enthusiasm. Seriously.

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This newfound energy kept me running, and I didn’t stop for a while.

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A big part of the reason why I didn’t stop was because the home stretch of the Marathon was full of people, all carrying encouraging signs and shouting words of encouragement.

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These signs ranged from hilarious to motivational, and I’m not sure that the spectators holding them know how much of a difference they made. For me, this was two-fold. First, because I come from a long line of stubborn SOBs. Due to this, I felt compelled to keep running as I passed these onlookers. They had done their part, getting up early, carrying signs, and cheering strangers on. My part was to run and finish, and it was my turn to do my part.

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Second, the various signs and cheers were flat out motivational. I’m not normally one for cheesy motivational posters, quotes, and all that malarkey, but this worked. I still cannot quite articulate why, but these cheers were motivational. It truly made a huge difference, so a very sincere thank you from me to anyone who was out there holding signs, cheering, clapping, or just plain watching. Thanks.

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I don’t know why I stopped for this photo. I guess I have a weird compulsion to take photos of Disney transportation?

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By the time I arrived to Epcot via World Showcase, I was in serious pain again. Each time a foot hit the ground it really hurt, and I was starting to get a little nervous that my leg might just give out and I’d crumble to the ground.

I wish I would have taken photos of World Showcase, because this stretch of the track was awesome. Great background music (anyone know what it was?) was playing, almost like the Illuminations pre-show, and the torches were lit. Unlike cheesy motivational quotes, fire is universally motivating.

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However, I was so far gone not even fire (FIRE!) could motivate me, and¬†I started walking again. (Thanks to Ben Hendel who captured the photos of me that follow–check out his photography portfolio.)

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Almost immediately after starting to feel this, I saw some friends cheering me on, which gave me another jolt of energy. At this point, I thought, “screw it” and willed myself to run the final mile or so.

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In situations like this where I want to push myself to the limit and not worry about the repercussions, my mantra is: “That’s Tomorrow Tom‘s Problem.” I’m sure many people consider this stupid and irresponsible, but if you’ve ever wondered how I can photograph into the early hours of the morning one night, then get up for sunrise, carry heavy camera gear all day…and do the same thing again, that’s how.

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This is one of those ‘within reason’ mantras. I’m not going to use it to justify doing drugs¬†behind a dumpster or getting one of those bird-man suits and jumping off El Capitan, but if it seems like a noble (and my threshold for noble is obviously low if it generally relates to photography) cause that requires some sort of valiant (read: crazy) effort, I’ll invoke that mantra.

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As I passed Spaceship Earth, the rain really started coming down. Around this point, I had to put the camera away so that it didn’t get soaked. I didn’t manage to get a photo crossing the finish line, but from friend Cody did:

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After receiving my medal! I ended up finishing in 5:14:33. My goal prior to the race was finishing in under 6 hours. During the race, I “upgraded” that time to under 5 hours before realizing that even 5:30:00 would be ambitious, so I was very pleased with my final time. Next time, I plan on actually training and going for a sub-5 hour time.

Overall, I really enjoyed the event. I mean¬†really.¬† I’ve heaped a lot of praise in this report on runDisney, and I think it’s all absolutely warranted. I hear a lot of jokes about how people are “stupid” for paying Disney money to run, and I think that’s a deliberately obtuse way of looking at it. I think people are quick to scrutinize the way others spend their money, but relatively slow to do it for themselves. If you drink beer, eat out, go to movies or sporting events, or do a multitude of other things (I do all of the aforementioned, so I’m not casting any stones), people could likewise criticize how you’re “wasting” money or spending money in a non-optimal way. The point is, value is in the eye of the beholder, and I don’t think anyone can justify every way they spend every one of their dollars, nor should they have to.

With that said, in the case, of runDisney, I think the entry fees¬†are¬†justified in terms of the entertainment provided. In terms of the race itself, I obtained 5+ hours of entertainment; comparing that to the entry fee, the per hour cost was about $10, which I consider pretty good. However, the calculation doesn’t really stop there, as the training (I could have done) and anticipation would have been fun preparation, and the medal, shirt, and sense of accomplishment I also received had incredible value. Obviously, Disney is bringing in a ton of money from the runDisney events, both directly from entry fees and indirectly from trips and also filling the parks and hotels during non-peak periods. From a business perspective, it’s quite brilliant, and that plus people¬†paying¬†to run (which does seem odd in principle) and Cast Members volunteering to assist with the races is probably a little unsettling for some critics. I get that.

After seeing the overall quality of the Walt Disney World Marathon, I just have to vehemently disagree with that criticism from the perspective of a participant. The event was simply organized so well and really done to the highest degree that it’s impossible for me to offer any substantial criticism.

It actually felt a lot like something put together by the Walt Disney World of old. I don’t know which Cast Members/higher level runDisney executives are responsible for the division’s success and quality, but I really wish some of them would move over to Team Disney Orlando and give it a similar shot in the arm. In other words, color me very impressed with the Walt Disney World Marathon. It was a really special¬†event, a unique experience for me, and something really fun for me that helped rekindle my enthusiasm for Walt Disney World a bit. Now to the post-Marathon festivities…

At the last minute (the day before the Marathon) I decided I’d go to Typhoon Lagoon and eat a Sand Pail all by myself in celebration. This meant driving to the Tommy Bahama outlet to buy sandals and a swimsuit since I didn’t pack either, but it was soooo worth it for that delicious ice cream!

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After that, I ordered one of the new-to-me Island Burgers, which was absolutely delicious.

While guests wearing Marathon medals around the parks post-Marathon is pretty common, I got the impression that it wasn’t at Typhoon Lagoon. Several Cast Members and other guests stopped me wondering what it was (and probably why a dude in a swimsuit was wearing all dat bling).

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I stuck around Typhoon Lagoon to see this glorious sunset, and closed out the park, being the last guest to exit (really not that much of an accomplishment since I left at like 5:30 pm and in the last hour I was there, I was less than 50 other guests).

Prior to this, I had done a couple of laps in the lazy river, just lying there, gazing up and relaxing. I don’t know how long I was in the lazy river, but when I tried to get out, I could barely stand. I literally had to use the handrail of the stairs into the lazy river to pull myself up, and it took a couple minutes of standing in one spot slowly stretching before I could walk away…

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Despite this, I figured it would be a good idea (good idea is probably the wrong term…”not totally stupid idea” is a better choice) to head to the Magic Kingdom and close it down. After feeling some serious pain when getting up out of Pirates of the Caribbean, I decided that bending down to set up my camera on the tripod might not be a good idea. This really killed me because there were some awesome puddles.

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So instead, I just set the camera down directly on the ground, tilted out the LCD screen, and watched from above. I can envision myself 60 years from now driving around the parks in my scooter and doing exactly this late at night.

That night, I woke up several times as it hurt so much as I moved around in bed that the pain woke me up. The next day I went to Epcot, and after getting out of the elevator and walking through the lobby with my camera bag, I had to go back to my room and drop it off because I realized I couldn’t bear the weight. I’m feeling a lot better now, but all of this is to say that my “strategy” of running this marathon without training was a terrible one that should be replicated by no one, and definitely will not be my strategy next time. And there¬†will¬†be a next time.

That’s it for this Walt Disney World Marathon Report. Hope you enjoyed it!

If you’re in the process of planning your own runDisney event trip to Walt Disney World, make sure to check out¬†our¬†dining reviews to find the best restaurants and our trip planning posts to figure out what to pack, ¬†where to buy Walt Disney World tickets to save money, which discounts to look for, and all the other ins and outs of a trip to Walt Disney World, all of which are covered extensively in our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide.

Your Thoughts

Have you run the Walt Disney World Marathon? Do you think runDisney events are worth the money? Are you interested in this race or other ones?Any questions? Please share your thoughts in the comments!


54 Responses to “Walt Disney World Marathon Report – Part 2”
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