Thursday January 10th
I have to say that being in Florida in January when it is 82 degrees out…yes 82 or roughly 28 Celsius for my Canadians, is great! To be here at the Walt Disney World Resort makes it incredible!
Sadly I missed the morning event on Thursday but I was here in plenty of time to head over to ESPN Wide World of Sports to get registered for the weekend events and take in the Expo. The Expo is a great chance to see the latest in running technology, nutrition, gear and to hear from experts in the industry.
Everything you can think about being a requirement for a prepared running event is on site and this year had something very special…Official New Balance Shoes emblazoned with the colors of Mickey and Minnie and the runDisney trademark. You can also refer to them as my new favorite kicks!
Well, enough of the shopping, time for a get together at Epcot – World Showcase Pavilion for “Pasta in the Park”. We went over to enjoy some great food in a wonderful place and get to know each other a little better. Did I mention that the World Showcase Pavilion is next to the Canada Pavilion?? It was nice to be close to home without the cold.
Friday January 11th
Today was an early get up and go morning over to Hollywood Studios for a fun 3 mile run and get together with some really great people, including running legends Jeff Galloway and Joan Benoit-Samuelson. That’s right…a couple of bona-fide Olympians. Joining Jeff and Joan were TVs Drew Carey and the quintuple threat (actor, singer, dancer, cook and runner) Joey Fatone (insert girly scream here) and Bart Yasso, the inventor of the Yasso 800s Marathon Training Schedule.
It was a great time running around Hollywood Studios and hearing from some inspirational people about health and fitness along with a really great message from Drew Carey. (More on that in another post).
Some other notables that were there to make the early wake up more fun…The Fab Five in their sports gear!! Talk about having a fun run, high fiving Mickey and his pals.
I went back to the Expo in the afternoon to get my hands on some merch that I though would come in handy in the future including a new pair of head phones for running and some compression socks.
I’m not one hundred percent sold on the compression socks…need some time running with them on to see if they are really all that they are touted to be for your energy, but the new headphones…SOI have been using YurBuds for sometime and I like them but they still fall out or at least feel like they are going to fall out. My new fav running buds are SnuggBuds. They are great! They fit great, stay in and do an awesome job at blocking out exterior noise. The wire is sheathed in a fabric instead of plastic and for cold weather runners, you know how important that is.
When the evening rolled around it was time for a little VIP (Very Important Pixie) party at the Yacht Club Convention Center. This was another great opportunity to meet new people and learn about each other’s interests and lives. I can’t say enough about how great it is to meet new people and learn about them.
Most importantly though, was when runDisney honored 95 amazing people. You see this was the 20th anniversary of the Walt Disney World Marathon and they wanted to recognize some incredible people.
95 men and women have run in every marathon weekend so Disney paid tribute to them recognizing their accomplishment. And no small accomplishment at all…think about it, these 95 men and women have run 524 miles on the WDW property! That’s incredible and shows the class that is Disney to recognize and honor them. Well done!
Well…bedtime because tomorrow is race day for the runDisney Half Marathon.
Saturday January 12th
Ring, ring, ring…wake up call 3:00 AM. OUCH!!! The nice thing about this wake up call was it was delivered by Stitch!!
We met in the lobby at 3:30 to head over to the race site for the half marathon. Early?? Sure is, but with all the excitement in the air, you soon forget about the time and you get caught up in the energy of the people around you.
runDisney does it right! Characters are all around you cheering you on and getting you all pumped up while you wait for the start. There is entertainment and interviews happening all broadcast over loud speakers. It is really an amazing experience to take in and be a part of.
As 5:30 am approached the excitement just kept building with everyone waiting for the signal to start the race. For me it’s not so much a race as it is an accomplishment. Even though I have done marathons, half marathons and many lesser distant events, for me it’s about the journey of the training and lifestyle, more than trying to win and I know I’m not alone in that regard. Many, many people I talked to were running their first half marathon while others had run many but had no interest in setting world record times… they just merely wanted to complete the run.
Some of the most inspiring people I met were those that had overcome serious obstacles to be there. Cancer survivors were there. People with physical disabilities. Some who had set a goal to compete in a half marathon to complete the end of a weight loss journey and lifestyle change. To them, just still being alive was the accomplishment. When I ran my first marathon, that was the goal I had set on the road to losing over one hundred pounds.
KA-BOOM!!!! How does Disney start a race…full blown fireworks. Is there a better way? Off we all went.
The route itself would take us through the Disney Resort Property with every mile being marked by more entertainment, music, Disney Characters…yes, it is cool to have your picture taken with Aurora or Belle and the Beast during a half marathon! Stitch looked really good too considering he woke me up!
At mile 5 of the run we entered The Magic Kingdom! First a run up Main St USA (Hello Tim Weston, one of the official Disney VoluntEARS!) then a right turn to go through Tomorrow Land, followed by a right to head past the brand new FantasyLand…and then through Cinderella’s Castle!! After the castle, a right turn through Liberty Square and through Frontierland. What a way to get to the halfway point. You don’t even notice how easy you just covered a mile and a bit because of the scenery and the spectacle of it all!
Mile 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 (oh I hate mile 9 through 11). Just when you really are starting to feel it and you start doubting yourself, in to sight comes Epcot and just beyond the front gate, the finish line!
Mile 12 is at the front gate of Epcot where you enter the theme park for a run through the west side Future World to World Showcase Lagoon and back through the east side of Future World where you hit mile 13!!! Only 1 tenth of a mile to go to the finish line!!
A funny thing happens at mile 13. You start to think you could just keep going because so many people are there cheering and screaming for EVERYONE’s success not to mention one of the best gospel choirs I have ever heard!! It was absolutely electric!!
2:17:05…my time. My goal was 2:15 so 2 minutes over 13 miles… makes me a happy girl (darn little bladder…2 pit stops).
What a great time! What a great race! Time to hit the parks!! Yup, that’s right. Run a half marathon and then spend the day in the parks…it’s how I roll!!
Sunday January 13th
Time for the big one. Today is the day. This is what the whole weekend is all about!! The MARATHON. 26.2 miles of endurance set in the most magical place on earth. 25 thousand people are registered to run the big one…oh, and if you really want to be impressed, 10 thousand of those people ran the half marathon the day before. That accomplishment is called the Goofy!!
3:00 am phone call with Stitch on the other end again. OUCH…it doesn’t get any better the second day. Back down to the lobby for the ride over to the start line. There I was…within inches of Joey Fatone who was one of the many doing the double!! Way to go.
The excitement and electricity were even bigger for this event than it was the day before. I saw so many familiar faces that ran in the 1/2 Marathon who were giving their all for the full 26.2 miles! Just like yesterday there was a lot going on to keep your mind off the time.
Once again…KA-BOOM; Fireworks light up the sky and we’re off!!!
The Marathon runs through all four of the Walt Disney World Theme Parks. The runners get to pass by the Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom and around the fabled hat from Sorcerers Apprentice in the heart of Hollywood Studios. There was also a piece of the Marathon that took you onto the Richard Petty Experience Track and past ESPN Wide World of Sports Entrance
Everyone I talked to agreed when you feel like you’ve had enough and you can hear your heartbeat and feel how heavy your legs are that there is a magical relief here. Sure enough, there is another band, a group of cheering spectators, the VoluntEARS, an announcer…they all keep you pushing on. I can’t say enough about how amazing the runDisney team is and the event that they put on.
But, I would be lying if I said it was just them. Behind the scenes there is an incredible group of people who really make this all happen. No matter how much planning, no matter how many sponsors were involved and no matter how many people paid their registration fee to make this weekend happen, the reality is it would be a failure without the VoluntEARS. Those are the people who give freely of their own time to assist as ChEAR Leaders, logistics, planning and medical personnel.
For the Half Marathon that means 2000 people show up to the WDW Resort to do their part while most of the runners are still sleeping and they don’t go home until all the runners are done. For the marathon…3000 people, many of the same ones do it all over again.
I can tell you first hand how incredible it is to have them there to help you get where you are going and when your feet are pounding the pavement, how appreciative you are when there are a group of four or five people cheering you on. Complete strangers who just want you to succeed It’s truly awesome and humbling to watch them in action.
In the end, here is what the take away was…
Along with the VoluntEARS… a special thanks goes out to all the sponsors of the event. Primarily Cigna Insurance, H2O+, Ocean Spray, Chiquita, Clif Bar, Champion, Dannon, Dasani, Celebration Health, iFitness
Think you might like to conquer an incredible running event? Visit the runDisney website and click “Events” for a list of events that you can take part in. I guarantee you will have an amazing time! You can even choose from either of Walt Disney Resorts, Disneyland or Disney World!
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post!!