Saturday, January 23, 2010

WDW Marathon Race Report

Marathon day dawned pretty similarly to half-marathon day -- COLD. Actually colder than the day before. I had managed to get a bit more sleep, I think, and felt pretty rested when the alarm went off at 3 again. Since I hadn't discarded any clothing on Saturday, I put on essentially the same stuff. Spread cheese on another bagel, grabbed some Powerade, and we were off to the buses again.

Saw some familiar faces -- and heard people chatting about how every scrap of warm clothing had sold out from the expo yesterday, and than even local shops like Target, Costco, and WalMart had sold out of anything remotely warm. Was glad that we bought such warm stuff at our local Goodwill before going down.

Even though the temperature was a couple of degrees colder, it wasn't windy, and it was dry. Of course, no one dared speak those words, for fear of jinxing us all. Again we found a place to sit in the starting complex, and then trudged to the corrals. We had requested a move up to the D corral, based on our Run Like Hell half marathon time. This meant that we would start with the first wave in the red start, right behind the elites again. (My favorite!) I was feeling a little weird -- my left leg was already hurting, but I was thrilled that we had even been able to get ourselves to the starting line, so I was feeling pretty confident.

I felt the music was less interesting this time. We heard the Cuban Shuffle (?) each day, once in the starting area and once when we were in the corrals. We also heard the Black Eyed Peas song that always makes me think of the Oprah/myTouch flashmob. Both days. Maybe they only had one loop? But again, we sent the wheelers off to some fireworks, and then it was our turn.

Wil and I started off with a little run -- which actually felt pretty good. We ran for most of the first mile, and then decided we would run for 5 minutes after each mile marker. But then we started to worry that maybe that would tire us out too much -- that maybe we would crash and burn at mile 15 or so. So we settled back into our brisk walk and kept our eyes on our (awesome!) pace bands, which would get us across the finish line in 6:55, in time for a medal. (Actually, for two!)

I love the red start -- you get to run into Epcot, under Spaceship Earth, all lit up and sparkling, and then a loop around part of the World Showcase, which is lit by flaming torches. Then a turn backstage, and then the merge with the blue start (who also get to run around part of the lake... just not under the Spacehip) and we were back on the highway where we started, essentially. This year, in the starting area, there was a big sign that said "trail to viewpoint", which I hadn't noticed before. It took people out to the roadside at mile 1 for the blue start or mile 4 for all of us. It was really nice to have people at that point -- I seem to recall it being pretty dead last year.

Then it was just highway for miles. Enjoyed the cloverleaf overpass/underpass at mile 6 where you could see thousands of runners in front of and behind us. Also passed a very cool hot air balloon being inflated -- a balloon version of Spaceship Earth. Veered inward past the racetrack at mile 8, and again saw some wheelers and a couple of the elite runners headed the other way at mile 14, and we all whooped.

A few more turns and we hit the "Goofy celebration" bit -- unchanged from the day before. For some reason I thought it might change up a bit, but given that only 7500 of us would have seen it before, I guess it wasn"t that important. I was also a little surprised that Goofy himself wasn"t there.

After another little stretch, we hit the Ticket and Transportation Center again, and the screaming crowds. Then under the water again, and into the Magic Kingdom. This time it was much brighter, so we stopped and took a picture with the castle behind us. It shows two people dressed as if for snowboarding, looking very cold.

The Magic Kingdom was essentially the same as the previous day -- same characters in the same spaces. Another glimpse of the hippos backstage, dancing pirates, etc. Then we were back out of the park and headed down to Animal Kingdom. We passed Mickey and Goofy in full golf attire, messing around on a golf course and posing for photos. A little while later, when we ran past the wedding complex near the Grand Floridian, they had a guy who could only be described as a stereotypical Wedding Singer out by the road, singing wedding karaoke. As we approached, he started singing "Sweet Caroline", and everyone -- I mean EVERYONE -- joined in for the "bomp bomp bomp"s. Fantastic!

At some point we were joined by a firefighter in full uniform. He was suffering quite a bit because he was racing in his firefighter boots -- not that conducive to running! We caught up with him around mile 13 and were near him for the next 5 or so miles.

These miles seemed to pass pretty quickly. Suddenly we were at the outskirts of Animal Kingdom, which was a pleasant surprise for me. No animals alongside the course this time -- too cold? -- but once inside, we saw Rafiki jumping up and down, and danced past the drummers. I was in quite a bit of pain at this point, and when Wil headed off to the bathroom, I told him I would keep moving and he could catch up with me. So I went through the park mostly by myself.

Because we were so much slower this year, it was later in the morning, and there were more people in the park. Again, Disney was good about controlling the rest of the guests and keeping paths clear for runners. The sun was up, it was starting to warm up a little, and I was happy with where I was -- even if I was limping.

I found myself in the midst of a group of Canadian women. One was telling the others about a movie she had seen, and describing it in detail. I can't remember what movie it was, but the story was obviously fiction -- perhaps something about aliens, or about talking animals, or something. And one woman turned to the speaker and said, "Was it a true story?" "No, Agnes. Don't be an idiot." It was all I could do not to laugh out loud.

Wil caught up with me just outside of Animal Kingdom, and just past the point where they were handing out sponges. Hmm... not many takers this year... Still, I remember how awesome they were last year, when it was 50 degrees hotter...

Then back onto the freeway for the "out and back". This was the weirdest point -- all of a sudden, nearly everyone around us seemed to be wearing Goofy hats, Goofy beads, and Goofy shirts. Clearly, we had found our tribe. A big group of people dressed as Goofy came trotting up behind us, whooping and dancing. I suddenly realized that, here at mile 21, we were going to finish.

Then turned to head toward Hollywood Studios. I spotted the point where, last year, my knee popped out and I had to start walking. On we went, into the park, where we were too late for candy, and were offered boxes of raisins. Ewwww. The park had opened, and there were a few people milling around, but most of them were actually there to cheer for us -- nice.

Then we went along the water, through the Boardwark resorts -- much emptier this time, but again it was freezing cold -- and into Epcot. By this point I was in a lot of pain, and we had slowed down considerably (having "banked" a lot of time over the course of the race). I saw a guy ask a castmember if it was okay if he stood along the course and cheered. He was just visiting, hadn't known about the race, but thought it was cool. Sweet.

The slow circuit around World Showcase -- which last year had felt like a victory lap, and we actually sped up during -- this year felt like a death march. It finally really dawned on me that we had nearly completed the races. But my pace was slowing, I was dragging my left foot along, and I was still cold.

Finally we passed Spaceship Earth and headed backstage past the choir -- a little less ecstatic today. Then around the corner, and into the finishing area. We saw Goofy dancing around just before the finish line, and we hustled over as best we could to high five and then group hug with him. I think Goofy was a little overwhelmed by two adults essentially assaulting him, but, hey, it had been a long couple of days. We said goodbye to him, turned, and finally crossed the finish line in 6:40. I was happy-crying and we were embracing and saying how proud we were of each other.

I will always remember the sensation of taking a cup of Powerade from a volunteer and discovering it had turned to slush. It was so cold that liquids were freezing in the cups. In addition, the roads around the water stops had turned into ice slicks by the time we passed through them, which meant you had to inch your way across them so you didn't fall.

I also remember the hot air balloons, the surprising lack of characters, the exuberant cheerleaders bundled up, the accordionists under deck heaters, and the Epcot lady who I saw both days who said "I just love those ears!" Oh, and I remember the dismal state of the porta-potties at the end of the second day -- I guess that's one reason to run faster.

During the course of the race Wil actually took off some of his layers -- one of the jackets, his fleece trousers, his gloves. I only discarded my jacket late in the day. At least the sun was out during the full, even if I didn't think it warmed up very much.

After crossing the finish line, we got our Mickey medals, our mylar blankets, and then headed to the Goofy Challenge tent for our Goofy medals. They were huge, but sadly had been redesigned for the anniversary... in a design that clearly wasn't approved by focus groups of runners, they put a jumping Goofy on a large "5" background... thus making it look way too much like an overly elaborate 5K medal. Oops. But the volunteers were gentle and enthusiastic and congratulatory, which was nice.

We picked up some food and drinks (Wil and I made a beeline for the volunteer with the small tray of cold Diet Cokes) and stood in the sun stretching and snacking. After a little while, we picked up our bags and limped to the buses -- stopping at the merch tent and considering buying the "medal" t-shirts, but knowing we would never really wear them. Then quickly on the bus, and home to Pop Century, where we showered, rested, and then made our way back to the parks.

In the intervening two weeks, people have asked me if we're going to do this again. Last year I got up at 6am the day after the marathon to register for the Goofy. I was that determined and excited to do it. This year? Well, I'd like to do more marathons, just not back-to-back events. I also don't know if I need to run at WDW again. The race fees are really high, it's a long way away, and clearly it doesn't guarantee winter sun/heat. At least for us, the grey weather gods...

However, I did a little search for January marathons in the U.S... there happens to be a marathon on Maui the same weekend as WDW. And Wil has never been to Hawaii, and I've never run there...

But for reference, here's a link to the WDW Marathon course map.

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