The cold never bothered me anyway…tales from the Disney Marathon

Cold? No problem. Rain? No Problem. Lightning? No thank you!

This year’s Disney marathon weekend was definitely one for the books. There were highs and lows and a new challenge formed. But thousands of people proved this weekend that you can’t keep a good runner down. And the power of positivity will always win. πŸ˜€

My plan this year was to up the stakes and go ‘almost Dopey’, running the 5k, the half-marathon and the marathon.  My brother that I always run Disney with was running his fourth Dopey. Mother nature had other ideas. I’ll get to that in a minute.

I flew in on Wednesday and after lunch at Disney Springs (D-Luxe burger has the BEST FRIES EVER), we hit the expo.  Or at least most of it.  Because for some reason, the line to get into the main building where all the exhibitors was was long than the ones for Seven Dwarves Mine Train and Frozen combined.  Eek!

Fortunately everything I needed (bibs, shirts, Dooney purse, sparkle visor) was in the other buildings.  Yay!

After the expo we settled into the hotel and headed over to the Wilderness Resort for some frontier style family fun – the Hoop De Doo Revue.  Its become kind of a family tradition to eat here marathon weekend.  The show is corny and hilarious.  And the food is amazing.  Even for celiacs… the chef made me salmon and veggies and for dessert, brownies covered in strawberries & whipped cream.  Oh yeah, and the sangria is good too.  Plus! I got to play the washboard!

Thursday morning was the 5k, which i ran with my brother, sis-in-law and nephews.  It was the younger one’s first 5k and the older one’s second and they both did SO good.  We had a blast running through epcot in the dark, lit by torches and crossed the finish line all holding hands.    There is always moments as a runner that warm your heart and stay with you.  Crossing that finish line hand in hand with family will always be one of them.

Friday was my morning to sleep in with the boys while my brother & sis-in-law tackled the 10k. We did spend the rest of the day at Magic Kingdom where I got to meet Merida (love her!) and tell her I was running dressed as her Sunday. πŸ˜€

Saturday should have been the half-marathon.  However, as often happens in Florida, fireworks of another kind were on the schedule.  I have to give props to Disney for how they handled it.  As this was the 20th anniversary of the half-marathon, it was a big race for them and they had a lot of special things planned.  When the first threat of storms came along they monitored the weather and updated us regularly through social media.  And when they realized that the danger wasn’t going away, they made the difficult decision to cancel the race.

Then they made sure that all runners were aware via email, social media, the event guide, messages to all hotel room phones, and anything else they could think of.

They also gave options to those registered for just the half, including the choice to run the full marathon Sunday as space permitted.  1,500 people took that opportunity.  And from what i’ve heard, a good portion of them finished.  Other choices were transfers to other races, a refund, or park tickets.  Plus every runner still got their medal.

And this is where those amazing half-marathon runners made lemonade out of lemons.  They decided to run anyways.

After the storms rolled through (and boy did they – crazy forks of lightning striking about when I would have been at mile 9 – EEK) those runners all got together and did their own half.  Running through hotels and the parks to earn their half medal, or in the case of challengers, their Goofy & Dopey medals.  Cast member set up water and aid stations as best they could.  Other vacationers donated snacks.  Everyone really came together.

And this is why I love running Disney – its truly an amazing group of people.

Did i run 13.1 Saturday?  No.  I had already walked about 20 in the parks the past two days and my brother & I decided that we’d rather save our legs and have a really great marathon. And I think we made the right choice. Also, we got to go into Epcot early which let us meet Joy & Sadness. And I got to tell Joy I had run dressed as her the day before. πŸ˜€

And here’s where mother nature threw us another curve ball.   After those storms came through, the temperatures dropped.  Like to Boston temps…  we were going to go to see Wishes Saturday night.  But as we sat at dinner shivering we decided having an early night in a warm room was a way better choice.

And Sunday morning, at the race start…was a wind chill of 30 degrees. Say what?

Those who know me know I like running in the cold.  However I usually have more clothes with me than a skirt, tank top, sparkle arm sleeves and a thin toss hoodie (when I left home they said high 40’s for the start.  oops).  Needless to say we caught the latest bus possible to the start to minimize waiting time.  But even still… it was COLD and windy. 

Our first mile was the thawing out our hands and legs mile.  I ran with my hood up and my hands tucked in my sleeve as best I could.  It was crowded and slow going, but eventually room opened up and we warmed up and it got better.

We trudged along chatting and laughing and soon were at mile 5 – the Magic Kingdom.  Main Street gives the Wellesley girls of the Boston marathon a run for their money.  Its lined with adoring and loudly cheering fans, plus the castle is right there, all covered in lights, a beacon showing you the way home.  Its….magical.

And when we came up on the castle from behind to run through, there stood Elsa on the balcony.  Poor Elsa probably caught a lot of grief…I simply yelled out “The cold never bothered me anyway”.  Before getting through the castle and mugging the photographer for an “I’m freezing” pic.  LOL

The course has long stretches between parks, but there are character stops everywhere and fans along most of the route.  So there’s always something to see.  There are also things i’ve now seen in each of my three Disney marathons.  Because it isn’t mile 7 unless i’ve heard “Don’t Stop Believing”

Around mile 8 my brother tossed his hoodie (he’d had both a hoodie & sweats for the start) in a pile with some others, but i kept mine.  Mine had been given to me by a friend when she & I walked a half-marathon together the year I broke my hip.  And I wanted to leave it somewhere that meant something.

Mile 12 is the entrance to Animal Kingdom.  Every year volunteers stand out there with animals from the conservation station wearing race bibs.  Its one of my favorite things on course.  So I had to stop…and pet a sheep.  πŸ™‚

We made it through Animal Kingdom, crossed the half-marathon point and cruised along. My brother was doing great – and I could tell that he was going to have his best race ever.  And around mile 14 coming through the parking lot of Animal Kingdom, just past the marching band (love that!) I saw the spot to leave my hoodie.  We were in the unicorn lot.  And there, at the base of the next unicorn, I carefully placed the ‘tribute to the unicorn gods’ with a smile and a “Thanks Amy”.

The next ‘destination’ was the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex…aka the labyrinth of doom.  Seriously – I don’t know if its the way it winds or simply because its at those critical miles of a marathon, but everyone I know considers it sheer torture.  I took a picture of my brother on the “highway to hell”  LOL

By now we were taking a couple minute walk break at every mile sign, which gave us a chance to hit the water stop and take in fuel as needed.  A great strategy, which always helped break up the miles.

We ran around the track and we ran the warning track of the baseball field and then on the way back out we stopped to fish stones from the warning track out of our shoes (and I almost couldn’t tie my shoes – my fingers were so numb.), we were offered beer and assorted candy and I found a pats fan in a jersey in full game-day attire (love that guy – Go Pats!).

By mile 22 my brother was at the “get all the biofreeze” stage of the race.  So we hit the water stops and the med tents and while our paces then slowed, our spirits didn’t.  My brother looked better than i’ve ever seen him at this point.

And a shoutout to a guy I chatted with for a bit that mile.  A runner and race director from Utah named John who was running 411 (412th?) marathon – and like 280 something consecutive month.  Such a nice guy and really amazing.  He’d been wearing a marathon maniacs shirt and I came up behind him with a “you maniac” which got us talking.  Thanks for the chat!

As we made the turn to head towards Hollywood Studios, I had one of those awesome karma moments… they played Don’t Stop Believing followed immediately by Sweet Caroline. I sang along (well, sorta) to both and thought of my Sole Sister Karen – who loves both.  That was your mile woman!

Coming through Hollywood Studios is always fun – they hand out chocolate as you enter!  And I mugged for the camera (really – I had all race) on the turn, then grabbed smarties from a spectator.  There is a picture I won’t share of me with half a roll in my mouth.  Its funny!

And coming out to head to the boardwalk was a sea of fans and high-fives.  I had to high-five someone dressed as Judy Hopps!  Great costume.

Along the boardwalk are just tons of people cheering and handing out sugar. I snagged more smarties and a nestle bar. Which I declared “omg this is better than a medal.” Then “no, not really” which totally cracked up the couple standing there. 

And we made it to Epcot. We decided to walk to mile 25 and then run it the rest of the way in. And we did…waving at fans, smiling and watching all the while for squirrels. I didn’t want a repeat of last year. Lol

And I suddenly had a genius idea for a photo. I don’t know if it was the warrior music playing or not, but I channeled my inner Merida and pulled out an imaginary bow & arrow. And was rewarded with what is now my new fave race photo. 

Just before mile 26, my brother looked over and said “see you at the finish”. With a grin I took off. 

Just before the finish chute I spotted a man struggling. Badly. And I noticed he was wearing plaid pants that matched my ribbon. So I put my hand on his shoulder, said “come on clansman, let’s finish this” and kept going.  (He came up to me after to thank me. Said he really needed it at that moment. Awww. I’m just always happy to help another runner. We’re all in this together). 

And I sprinted full on to the finish line. Veering over to the side to high-five Pluto. 

And crossed the finish with arms held high. Gosh I love this race!!

It should be noted that this was a marathon PR for my brother, by 7 minutes. So proud of him. He really trained hard this year. And even tho we didn’t get to run the half, he still 100% deserves that Dopey medal. 

It should also be noted that I ran the entire marathon with my hair down. That’s a PR too! Lol

Speaking of Dopey…I think it’s time. I’ve been Goofy long enough, and it’s time to fully embrace the crazy. Let 2018 be the year I get Dopey. Who’s with me? 😁

 Thanks Disney for an awesome weekend. See ya real soon!

 

 

 

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