Over 4 years ago I never would have thought I would be running often, let alone running 48.6 miles in 4 days. But, that’s just what I did at the 25th anniversary of the Walt Disney World Marathon. Though it wasn’t my first race, it was still a huge task. This was my experience…
The race expo is held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. I’m used to it being located there, and at a particular scale. This was a bigger footprint for this scale of a race week.
Check-ins were spread out between one building and the outside of the baseball stadium. By the stadium check-in were a few vendor booths with race-related items for sale. Located with the Marathon and Dopey Challenge check-in was the official race merchandise. This was the biggest version of the pop-up store I’ve ever seen! There were so many different shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, pants, shorts, pins, mugs, magnets, and more commemorating each race and challenge.
The rest of the vendors were in a separate building. Many of the usual suspects were around, but even some I’ve never seen before. It was huge!
All of this made me realize the magnitude of the event. This wasn’t going to be like any other Disney race I’ve done before.
The 5k was the first race in the lineup. A simple 3.1 miles around Epcot. It may also be a bit daunting for you to know that the majority of it really was in the park. It’s entirely possible to go 3.1 miles around Epcot. The character that the race focused on was Pluto, and he kicked off each corral.
It was a fun run with quite a few characters around various parts of the park. It was all in the dark of night…or rather the morning, which made it a very lit up race.
For someone who trained for a marathon, it was easy. Also considering I didn’t run a lot of it to conserve muscle strength for the big one.
The next day was the 10k, with Minnie as the focus of the race. About 3 of the 6.2 miles were in Epcot park again (each race started at Epcot). After meandering through the park, it ventured out to the Epcot resort hotels. Runners went past the Yacht, Beach, Boardwalk, and Swan & Dolphin resorts before returning to the park.
Characters were set up throughout the parks again. Along the hotel routes were various guests cheering runners on as they went past towers of rooms.
Continuing on with the early mornings was the half marathon. This is the big race I’m used to. But, it was going to be a bit of a challenge because of figuring out how to conserve strength for the marathon the next day. It ended up that I was able to walk a lot of it, with some running at times. A good way to get through and conserve strength.
Donald kicked off each wave for this race. As for the elements of the race, though it started at the Epcot parking lot the race took runners to Magic Kingdom before going back to the Epcot finish line. The route went on stage and backstage with some fun character photo ops. One such favorite of mine was the penguins from Mary Poppins set up near the entrance to Grand Floridian. Another was the parked train engine almost backstage.
I found that a lot of people were taking time to walk more than run, and I guessed that others were doing same as me: The Dopey Challenge.
The day had come. It was time to run 26.2 miles through all four theme parks and the Wide World of Sports Complex. Mickey was the race starter, and as fireworks went off each wave would go.
People were immediately keeping to whatever training they had for pacing. I was one of those runners. This was going to be a long race.
The route started similarly to the half marathon, and even featured some similar photo stops. But, after the Magic Kingdom area, it started to head to Animal Kingdom.
I wasn’t prepared for some interestingly long switchbacks on the course. You’d see a group of people that were a mile ahead of you, but going in the opposite direction.
By the time I got to Animal Kingdom, the park was starting to open. Some actually got in line for Expedition Everest as it was a couple minutes before it opened. I decided to keep going through. Oh, and my biggest photo highlight was near Animal Kingdom: petting a warthog!
After Animal Kingdom it was onto the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Along the way were some scenes from the now gone Pleasure Island. I stopped to get a photo with the Adventurers Club.
The ESPN Complex had a bigger chunk of the course than I thought it would. I knew there would be a run around the baseball stadium, but one part was also around the field and track! I think about 3 miles of the course was in this complex.
Then it was off to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. By the time I reached there the park had well been open, and many of the guests weren’t going on rides and cheering runners on instead! Some fun photo stops like Oswald with a black and white steam train.
The route exited the park and went to the Epcot resorts and over to Epcot to finish. Guests lined the hotels to cheer people on. In Epcot the park was open too. Many were around World Showcase to see the marathon spectacle. International cast members were cheering runners on as well. In Germany, a couple of cast members brought out Werther’s caramel corn samples for those running!
When I crossed the finish line I almost cried. Not because of exhaustion or pain. It was because after almost a year of training I did it! I ran not just 26.2 miles of a marathon, but 48.6 of a challenge! It is something I’ll hold onto throughout my life. As crazy as it was, I ran through it.
And it was fun! It really was! It surprised me. I knew Disney races were fun, but the marathon was another level. There was so much to do and see along the way, it was actually having me consider doing another.
For anyone considering the marathon or Dopey, I say do it. Get through training. Get through the races. It’s worth it! You’ll come out with some great photos. You’ll come out with some great gear and medals. You’ll come out with some self-confidence. It’s worth doing!