Originally posted at laurabowers.net on March 11, 2015. I’m updating my author website by moving all older runDisney and running content here!
This one is about big momma, the WDW Full Marathon.
It. Was. AWESOME.
So okay, where did I leave off? Right, with Jackey and I getting to bed at around 8:30 on Saturday night feeling oddly calm compared to the psychotic mess I was on Friday night. Thanks to God and a little help from Mr. Bud Light, I slept wonderfully well. Once our multiple alarms went off at 2:20, though, I found out Jackey didn’t at first. Oh man. Did she have the same insomnia nightmare as me? But no, toss-up another praise, she was able to drift off. Whew!
During the half, I was annoyed by my migrating Minnie ears and a wandering belt so I decided to keep my outfit simple this time: My favorite Lululemon running skirt and Fila shirt. But which visor? The cute, coordinating one or the boring but comfortable one I wear all the time at home? I wised up and picked boring. See? You can teach a vain dog new tricks.
Jackey wore a fantastic Victoria’s Secret tank that said I HATE RUNNING. I thought it was hilarious in a wonderfully sarcastic way and so did everyone else except for this one gal who questioned why she was there then. Geez. Lighten up, buttercup.
Because I had a mission – to hustle to the merchandise tent in hopes there were preorder commemorative jackets available – we left our room at around … oh, the details are getting fuzzy … 3:00? 3:10?
I thought we’d be a bundle of nerves considering most of our previous conversations revolved around finishing, the color of our pee, hydration and whether or no we were able to poo, but we were still oddly calm. Maybe because time was up and there was nothing more we could do to prepare. Besides, we did our training. We took care of ourselves the best we could pre-race … well, if you don’t count Mr. Bud Light. What was done was done and there was nothing left to worry about.
But this is also when I made my biggest mistake of the day by grabbing only a Nature Valley granola bar for breakfast – my normal go-to, pre-race meal. It was so not enough. Not even close and something that would kick me in the rear come mile 22.
After arriving at Epcot’s parking lot, the monorail passed over us which Jackey said was good luck. Nice! Then at the merchandise tent, there were plenty of commemorative jackets for sale. Double nice! They were also selling banners for $40 and since Jackey’s son loves Donald Duck, she bought a half marathon sign to surprise him with. I know this sounds weird, but we took it as a sign … both literally and figuratively … that everything was going to be okay, we would finish and have a great time. Triple nice!
As always, it was amazing being able to chat with friends pre-race! This is why I like arriving early – so there’s plenty of time to eat, take care of bag check, hit the port-o-pot, and wish everyone a great race. Highly recommend it for anyone with anxiety issues.
This was also the first time I met Ginny – the gal beside me in the red dotted skirt. Our mutual friend Tricia, (back row, third from the left,) thought we’d make great running partners and I was a little worried at first because I’m a bit … well, much sometimes, (okay, okay, a lot of times,) but Tricia was right! It was amazing running with Ginny and I could tell right away she’d be a blast. 🙂
Soon it was time to head out to the corrals and have some fun along the way!
As you can tell by my throw aways, it was rather chilly but not as bad as the morning of the half. Jackey had left her jacket in bag check, so before we separated, I gave her mine. (That’s love, y’all!) But really, Ginny and I had an emergency blanket to share and huddling together was a great way to get to know each other better!
Ginny was assigned to Corral E, but she came back to be with me in J. Aw! Once again, I snagged a discarded black jacket like I did for the half since when it comes to being warm, I have no shame. For nutrition, I ate a packet of Sports Beans and drank just a tiny amount of water since we were determined to make it to Magic Kingdom before needing a bathroom break. But as usual, I got hit up with a nasty case of Phantom Pee Syndrome – where your bladder keeps saying it’s full even though you know full well it’s not. There were port-o-pots right outside of the corral area but no thanks, I didn’t want to risk it.
Pretty soon, the awesome wheelchair racers were getting their fireworks start followed by Corral A. Every time we moved forward, I got more and more excited. We were about to run our very first marathon!
Here’s a quick breakdown of the entire course:
- We started at Epcot Center Drive.
- Then headed to the Magic Kingdom parking lot at the TTC before passing the Contemporary resort.
- After about 5.5 miles, we reached the Magic Kingdom!
- Then we ran past the Grand Floridian and Polynesian to reach the WDW Speedway.
- We reached Animal Kingdom at around Mile 13!
- Then we headed to the Wide World of Sports Complex…
- …before running to Hollywood Studios, at around Mile 22.
- We then looped around the Boardwalk Resort (gorgeous) before running through Epcot and reaching the…
- …Finish line!
26.2 miles, 4 parks, and 2 gals who were ready to run! Time to chuck the throw aways, ditch the mylar, and GO!
Woo-HOO, we were off!
There’s something so magical about running that first half mile on a dark highway, surrounded by the sound of pounding feet and heavy breathing as fireworks go off behind you, growing farther and farther away. Before the start of the race, Ginny and I had chatted up a storm but now she was silent and reserved. My paranoia kicked in. Had I annoyed her? Was she thinking of a tackful way to ditch me? So I asked her. “Are you okay?”
She then told me how the enormity of what we were about to do … running 26.2 miles … had overwhelmed her, bringing on a mini-meltdown momet of panic. But like most meltdowns, this, too, shall pass. She relaxed and we went back to having fun.
My meltdown was to come at Mile 12.
Since I had stopped for major character photos during the half, our strategy was to break for mile markers and characters with short lines. The only must-do on our list was riding Expedition Everest, no matter how long we had to wait. We also decided to pace ourselves for the first two miles and save some juice for the long haul so we were both feeling pretty great at Mile 1!
As a side note, both Ginny and I brought headphones to listen to music but neither of us got them out because we were too busy chatting. That’s pretty impressive considering we ran together for over five hours!
By mile 2, I had already tossed the jacket because the weather was feeling pretty awesome – perfect for a marathon!
Seeing that gorgeous Magic Kingdom sign was as amazing as ever!
So, remember me saying earlier how we wanted to make it to Magic Kingdom before having to use the bathroom? Yeah. Well, that didn’t exactly pan out. Once we saw a row or port-a-pots near the Mile 3 water station, I had to admit that the pesky Phantom Pee Syndrome wasn’t so phantom after all. Good thing Ginny had to go as well since I didn’t want to hold her back. Afterwards, we got some PowerAde and water, I took a Gu shot, and we both felt like new women. As far as pace goes, we were both pretty evenly matched although I had the feeling that Ginny could have smoked me had she wanted to. 😉
She also had some pretty good dance moves!
Before the race, I told Ginny that I wanted to keep up my tradition of getting a picture of every single mile marker. By Mile 4, we had the routine down pat for mile marker photos: Stop, I’d take a picture of the mile marker (in case anyone needs a person-free one,) then we take a selfie. Mile 5 was just too awkward for selfies, though, so we skipped that one.
Soon we were running down Main Street and seeing the gorgeous castle still lit up with holiday lights! Sigh. Again, this part never gets old!
One of the pictures I really wanted to get was from the alcove, giving a full view of the castle. The day before, a CM did a wonderful job taking pictures and hurrying folks along but not for the full. Instead, there was a long, LONG line and we had to wait for the gal in front of us who turned it into a photo shoot. Yeah. Got to admit, we were both getting a little edgy but this picture is one of my favorites. Worth it!
As another side note, after I saw this amazing picture my friend, Stephanie got during the half marathon, I decided that my goal next year is to get assigned to an earlier corral and make it to Main Street before the sun comes up. It would be awesome running through the castle when its ablaze with lights!
Back to the recap!
We then entered Tomorrowland and passed Buzz who I’ve yet to get a picture with. Sorry Buzz, one of these times! Once we reached the White Rabbit, though, Ginny needed another bathroom break which was fine by me – I waited in line and then she was able to join me afterwards. I love this picture!
And I loved running through the castle! I know me saying this is getting old … but that never gets old. Love how the Fairy Godmothers-In-Training at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique cheered us on!
Speaking of shaking, around this time, we decided to shake things up with our mile marker photos so they won’t all look the same. Love this one!
And let me take a moment here to talk about how great it was having a water/PowerAde stop at nearly every mile! runDisney races continue to be the best supported events I’ve ever been to. I never regretted my decision to not carry a water bottle and at each stop, I drank both a PowerAde and water, thinking I’d get enough sodium between the PowerAde and my Gu packets. (It wasn’t, but more on that later.) I did regret tucking my visor into the back of my race belt since that was a pain at times but it did come in handy later!
Okay, there’s a story behind this picture. These handsome gents were stationed by a wedding pavilion near the Grand Floridian. There was no line, (not the case during the Princess Half,) so I asked Ginny if she wanted to stop in a casual, “eh, only if you want to,” kind of way. We were on the other side of the road and because getting to them would require nimble passing, we passed. But then a minute later, we had this conversation.
Me: That kind of would have been a really cool picture.
Ginny: Yeah, I know, it would have!
<< Silence for a few strides >>
Me: Do you want to go back?
Ginny: YES! Let’s go back!
So we dodged off to the side of the road and hauled rear as fast as we could, ignoring the many, many, “YOU’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY,” shouts from other runners. We might have looked like idiots but the guys were very impressed by our determination and this is one of my favorite pictures! Worth it.
Seeing the tremendous line for Goofy made me very grateful I had gotten a photo with him the day before! Soon we were nearing the WDW Speedway with the sun starting to really hit us full force. We both tried putting on sunglasses but all they did was fog up. So we gave up.
And oh my gosh, the ramp!
We had to run down a short but steep … and I mean steep … ramp to cross over to race track. There were oil stains on the concrete so we both broke down to a walk after I mentioned having visions of us falling and barrel-rolling to the bottom. Yeah, that part made me nervous but running up the ramp afterwards was no problem.
About the Speedway. I’ve heard people say in other race recaps how they don’t like this part, (and come next year, it wouldn’t be an issue seeing as how it’s rumored to be demolished,) but I rather loved it! There were so many people there sitting in front of their vintage cars, sipping coffee and cheering us on. Loved them! And it was great how Ginny felt the same way about thanking as many spectators as possible for being there, supporting a bunch of strangers. I knew from my day cheering at the 10k how much that’s appreciated!
Now. Here’s what I love most about running events … both runDisney ones and others:
Everyone has a story.
Every single runner on that course has gone through their own personal battle to get there, whether it’s illness, injury, family issues, weight loss, or just plain old fear. Everyone has a tale to tell. Lessons to teach. Emotions brewing underneath their Mickey ears and Bondi Bands. The writer in me wanted to ask everyone, “What’s your story?”
Of course, that’s impossible, so I love it when some runners shared their story by other means, like this guy who wore a sign that read:
2008 – Barely able to walk.
2014 – Dopey Finisher, Dumbo Finisher, Marathon PR, First 5k
2015 – To infinity and beyond!
Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift! -2 Corinthians 9:15
See? Every runner has a story and his had us in tears.
Sniff. Moving on.
Entering Animal Kingdom was AWESOME! They had all sorts of animals out, including this cute burro that was being quite the difficult model since it was more interested in eating hay. Buddy, I don’t blame you. I was starting to get rather hungry myself by this point and those two Gu’s just weren’t cutting it.
And look at this gorgeous owl! How could you not love this face!
I did remember reading on another recap how someone petted the wart hog … and then had wart hog stench on her hands for miles. So I warned Ginny not to touch this wonderfully adorable little beast … although gotta admit … I was kind of tempted myself. It’s like how you always feel the need to smell the spoiled milk after someone just tells you it stinks.
Now. Remember how Ginny had her meltdown near Mile 1? Well, after passing the Mile 12 mark, it was my turn. I became overwhelmed by the fact that once we hit the 13.1 mile mark … we’d have to run that entire distance all over again.
Oh. My. Gosh.
But again. This, too, shall pass, and I calmed down.
Good thing because next up on the course was Animal Kingdom! It’s my second favorite park (behind Hollywood Studios) and since my only other experience running through Animal Kingdom was during Wine & Dine … aka, Splash and Dash … it was great having no rain this time.
Now, up until then, I did a good job resisting any character photo stops that had a long line but once I saw Balloo? Forget it. “Ginny, can we stop, huh, huh, huh, can we stop, please, please, PRETTY PLEASE?”
We stopped. And look, isn’t this a great photo? Go ahead and say it with me: It’s one of my favorites.
This, however, is NOT a great photo. It shows every single one of my wrinkles in all their (non)glory but it also does a great job expressing how we felt about not being able to ride Expedition Everest.
When we approached the ride at around 8:40 and saw it running with empty seats, we thought they’d be opening it early, but nope. It wouldn’t be open until 9:00. Bummer. There were already some runners waiting in line but as much as I admired their dedication, we had to move on. I had the feeling that if I stood around for twenty minutes, I wouldn’t be able to move again.
I was so excited about getting this picture because I’ve never ran a race longer than a half marathon so I was about to pass my official high water mark! Awesome!
Afterwards, as we approached a medic station, Ginny and I had this conversation.
Ginny: Hey, there’s James from our running group!
Ginny: There, in the black shirt!
Ginny: By the table, right in front of us!
It was great seeing someone from our group during the race, so we ran a bit with him and got a group selfie by the Mile 14 marker. We split up after that so Ginny and I could get pictures with the Grave Diggers, one of whom scared the crap out of me by scraping the road with his shovel.
Not literally though. That story comes later.
Can I just take a second to mention how AWESOME the spectators were? Not only did they wake up at butt-crack dawn to be there, but many were passing out pretzels, Twizzlers, gummy bears, and what-have-you. Somewhere around this point, I gladly took some pretzels from a kind bystander only to choke on them. With no water. I think my exact words were, “If I don’t finish this marathon because I choked to death, I’m going to be really pissed!”
Yeah, I know. Don’t say it.
But we loved the spectators. Especially this gal who made the above Taylor Swift sign. She was so sweet!
I was also happy to get a photo by the RODS: Racing for Orphans banner, the folks I had purchased my bib from! It such a great charity and they are so passionate about what they do. The cape was mine to run with but unfortunately, it would have been very uncomfortable so I had to side with Edna and her no capes theory!
Now, around this point, when we were heading toward ESPN Wide World of Sports, I started to worry. Not about whether I would finish. No, about a runner’s second biggest fear: the dreaded Runners Trots. (I know, I’m getting into TMI territory here, but hey, if you want a true perspective from a first time marathoner, you’re gonna get it.)
See, I might have accidentally farted. (My apologies to those around me.) Then I started to worry about something else accompanying that fart. The more I worried, the more my mind started to play tricks on me until I became a paranoid wreck.
Gotta say. Phantom Pee Syndrome ain’t got NOTHING on Phantom Poo Syndrome.
I told Ginny I needed to use a bathroom … like, as soon as possible … so we picked up our pace and busted a move for the next mile with me having these awful, horrendous visions of people laughing behind me, taking pictures of my backside that would soon be plastered all over the Internet in various memes, forcing me to change my identity and go into hiding for the rest of my life and never do a runDisney race again which would really suck since I was already signed up for the Princess Half Marathon which is my favorite race weekend so missing it would be awful.
Like I said. My imagination was going a little crazy.
And that’s all it ended up being once we reached the bathroom … nothing but an overactive and anxiety-boosted imagination because everything was just fine. Thank you, Lord.
Moving on, TMI over.
So … where was I? Right. Entering ESPN. I just loved this part! The complex is so pretty and the fields are so manicured, it reminded me of my own boys’ travel sports days when they played at great locations such as Cooperstown’s Dreams Park. It was so fun, being able to make a loop around the diamond at the stadium, where we ran into Leslie and Nicole, two gals from my group who were handing out Twizzlers and other snacks. Thanks again, ladies!
After it started to rain, though … I kind of had a slight meltdown while trying to detach my visor and pull a plastic bag from my race belt to put my phone in. I kept dropping things which made me feel so clumsy and stupid and the harder I tried, the more clumsy I became. So Ginny slowed with me, holding my Gu packs and patiently putting me back together mentally.
But later we witnessed something that unglued us both.
Because the ground was now extra wet at the next water station, we saw a woman fall. Hard. It happened so fast, we couldn’t tell if it was because she was cut off or what and at first, it seemed like she was okay but when she went to raise her arm … it was clearly broken. I just couldn’t believe it. We felt horrible for her. Just horrible.
So please … PLEASE, people, be careful at water stations! Slow down so water doesn’t spill when you grab a cup and for the love of God, please don’t do the dramatic dump-water-over-your-head stunt until you’re away from the tables and to the side! You never know who that might hurt later on.
Okay, preach over. Stepping down from soap box.
On to happier topics! Like passing Lynn, (the gal I cheered with during the 10k,) and Shannon after leaving ESPN when there were runners on both side of the road, coming and going. And when we finally reach Mile 20, woo-HOO!
I have to admit that both Ginny and I were often shocked at how short the time seemed between mile markers. There were many times when we would say wait, is that Mile 15 already? Mile 16? 17? that we started to get paranoid about karma punishing our cockiness. So we rephrased it to Oh, thank goodness, Mile 18, finally! But it wasn’t because we were super speedy – the time just flew between the fun course and our conversations. Had I been running solo, it definitely wouldn’t have felt the same!
By that time, we were running about a ten-minute-mile pace and we mutually decided to only stop for mile marker photos. My legs were churning like a locomotive rolling down the track and it took too much energy to stop and start again.
Here’s where things got real, when it began to sink in fully that in only 4.2 miles, I was going to be a marathoner! But somewhere around Mile 22 mark, I started to realize just how major of a mistake it was not eating a bigger breakfast. I had been hungry since the halfway point but Gu packs, water, PowerAde, a banana at Mile 18, and miscellaneous snacks from spectators did a good job holding it back.
Everything changed once we entered Hollywood Studios, though. I felt drained, starving, and … oh, how to put this. Okay, you know how sometimes you get too tired to sleep? Well, even though I had a protein bar and another Nature Valley in my belt, I was too hungry to eat. And I couldn’t stop – the train was rolling and the thought of stopping made me worry I’d be off the tracks for good so I told myself to carry on and enjoy the sites!
After running through Disco Alley, I did take a mini Mr. Goodbar at the Mile 22.5 candy stop but oh my gosh. Big mistake. I almost lost said Mr. Goodbar at Mile 22.75. Things would only get uglier if I didn’t eat something, so I forced down half a Nature Valley on the run while exiting Hollywood Studios. And I made a plan for my next marathon: Eat a large breakfast as soon as I wake, like oatmeal and a bagel with peanut butter. Then eat something lighter at an hour before the start followed up with Sports Beans at the corrals.
Oh, and by that time, the mere thought of drinking any more PowerAde made me feel like chunking again.
I did feel much better, though, while running from Hollywood Studios and along the pathway to the Boardwalk Resort, which is always … here it comes … one of my favorite parts! How awesome it was with all the wonderful spectators cheering us on! The sound of pounding footsteps on the weathered boards! The little kids giving out high fives! And the knowledge that there was only less than THREE MILES to the finish!
Lord, I knew right then and there that I just have to come back and do this again in 2016!
Meanwhile, Jackey was having a great time texting friends and posting pictures, but when I tried to send Bob a text at the Boardwalk, we had the following interaction thanks to my gal, Siri:
Me: Hey honey I’m at module
Me: 20 far
Me: Mile 24
Him: Go, go, go, GO!
Oh, how I love running through Epcot’s World Showcase! You know what’s coming. It’s one of my favorites!
Let me backtrack a little and mention how before this, we were passing characters with absolutely no line. It physically pained me, not stopping for a selfie with the Fairy Godmother! And in WS, Belle had no line! A princess with no line? Unheard of! But Ginny and I were in major JUST. FINISH. mode.
But somewhere after Mile 25 … it happened.
My major wall.
The combination of not sleeping Friday night, running a half the day before, and my lack of nutrition hit me full force, making me feel so nauseous and so exhausted and so depleted that I had to say something even more painful than passing a nonexistant Fairy Godmother character photo line:
“Ginny, I have to slow down.”
Are you kidding me? With only about ONE MILE to go, my body decides it’s a great time to fall apart? Got to say. This annoyed to no end. I did not want Ginny to have to slow her pace because of me, not after everything we’ve been through so far. And earlier throughout the race, whenever we saw groups of spectators, I had so much fun throwing my hands up in their air, thanking them for being there and stirring them up even more, but now, I could barely manage a weak fist pump.
Thank God for Ginny. She did a fantastic job building my spirits back up. In a very gentle but firm way, she basically denied my fatigue and told me to keep moving, WE’VE GOT THIS, making me forget about being tired and hungry. I wanted to finish strong so it was my turn to suck it up, buttercup.
Before we knew it, we saw this beautiful…
… gorgeous sign! I am a little disappointed, however, that I didn’t look more excited in this picture.
I mean, look at Jackey’s Mile 26 photo.
THAT’S how it’s done, folks, so next year, Ginny, we’re getting a jump shot!
And then we saw it.
The finish line.
We both were about to complete our first marathon.
Now, earlier in the race, we passed some time by planning out exactly how we wanted to finish together – hands clasped and raised.
Sort of like this:
We did it.
We were marathoners … something that’s still hard to believe. And for me, I had just completely the Goofy challenge, which I would have told you was simply impossible years ago. Our official time: 05:17:39 and our unofficial time from Ginny’s running app that pauses whenever we stopped was five hours. Not too shabby!
Now, unlike the day before, I didn’t cry at the finish line. But sometime after we gathered our goodie boxes and bags from gEar check, I called my husband Bob and became a weepy, blubbering mess. He couldn’t understand a word I said, so his first response was, “Are you okay? Did you get hurt?”
But after I managed to eek out a, “No, I’m a marathoner!” he told me how proud he was of me. More tears. Love my man.
It started to rain again so we threw on some ponchos and headed to concessions for a well-deserved beer! I also changed out of my skirt and into yoga pants because as much as I love that skirt, my legs were starting to feel amputated after wearing it for roughly eight hours.
TIP: Wearing a long dark poncho makes for a very convenient changing room! I did have Ginny stand guard behind me, though, in case a strong wind picked up.
Ginny had other family members who ran the marathon as well, so after chatting for a while longer, they left in order to have time for their lunch ADR.
It always seems that although there are lots of folks from my running group at every runDisney event, we don’t hang out much afterwards, either from everyone’s staggered finish times or them choosing to leave for a shower. So by then, I was feeling a little mopey over being alone. Wah, wah. So I was very happy to meet up with Nicole, the gal who gave out treats at ESPN and when Jackey finished her race and we had ourselves a party!
We had a blast dancing to the DJ and getting pictures with characters … I’ve never seen Clarabelle Cow before!! … and enjoying ourselves!
I did have plans to get jump shots with Niki later on, though, (more on that in my next post because—wow—this one is already way too long,) so we headed to the Pop Century/Art of Animation bus stop … the same one we got in after the half.
(Foreshadow hint #1.)
While riding to Pop, we once again shared stories and photos and I told Jackey about my attempts to text Bob while near Boardwalk, the resort we had moved to after the half.
(Foreshadow hint #2—a kind of obvious one.)
After we arrived at Pop Century, however, Jackey looked at me with this panicked look and said, “OMG, Laura, we’re at the wrong resort!”
I looked at Pop’s sign and said, “No, we’re cool,” thinking that she had meant we were at Art of Animation.
(Dumbass moment #1.)
“No, Laura, we moved out of Pop Century!”
(Dumbass moment #2.)
We could have ridden the bus back to the race but we were tired and we smelled and I was hungry and we smelled so we decided to get a cab using the $10 Jackey stowed in her bag.
As fate would have it, the same bell hop who took a picture of us goofing off on the golf cart after the half was there again. He remembered us and took this picture … one we did not hesitate to share online because and a little self-deprecating does a soul good.
Now, on Friday, we had made a deal with some other ladies to celebrate our finish by taking a trip down the infamous Clown Slide at the Boardwalk pool. No one from that group was around, but Jackey and I take our deals very seriously so down we went. The cool water felt amazing on my sore legs!
We then took a quick soak in the hot tub before I hustled off to shower and join Niki.
All in all … my experience running the Goofy Challenge was absolutely incredible. In fact, the whole trip was incredible! Ginny was an absolute joy to run with and Jackey? Don’t even get me started. She’s like a total soul sister who shares my belief that life is just way too short to hide your crazy. Be sure to check out her Run For Laughs blog!
Then there’s my running group – Jackey and I had so many conversations about how both of our lives changed after meeting those wonderful, adventurous folks. We all had so much fun over the next few days, which will be covered in my final blog post!
Until then, thanks for making it through this long, long recap and count me IN for 2016’s Dopey Challenge!
Question: Now what about you? What’s your story? Send me a message if you’d like to share it here on my blog!