2015 Disney Marathon
Author: Joanna Williams
Date: 13 January 2015
It was a magical first marathon experience!
I had previously thought I could never run a half marathon. Then I ran my first half and loved it. I remember thinking, I could never run a full – that’s two half marathons back-to-back! After being inspired by several friends, I signed up for one.
If I was going to run my first full marathon it was going to be at Disney! It was 8 months before the race, so it seemed like a great idea. As time went by I realized I had no plan. I was running but I didn’t know how to prepare for a marathon. So I approached Michael Scott from Run Nerds Rock, who’s page I love and follow on Facebook. Michael helped me train for this race. He tailored a running plan just for me and provided constant communications. I will never forget his feedback after my longest run in training: “This is awesome!! Way to have a strong finish. You are ready to nail that marathon!!” – Thank you Michael, You Rock!
During week 9 of training I ran a strong 21 miles – my longest distance. I took note of everything I did that day, so come race day morning I would be ready. This consisted of the following:
• Dinner night before race: Spaghetti and chicken with a glass of lemon water
• Breakfast before race: English Muffin with Peanut butter and banana
• Hydration during race: Vest filled with Tailwind Nutrition endurance drink mix
• Snack during race: Handful of Old Dominion Butter Peanut Crunch Clusters
Race Day is finally here!
If you’re not staying at a Disney resort or Disney Hosted hotel with bus service to the race then leave super early. The traffic was dense and stressful. A 10 min drive turned into a 35 minute ride. I made it to my corral on time though thanks to my husband.
The corrals were crowded and security is strict. It was interesting and entertaining seeing folks trying to get into a higher corral than their bib indicated. The corral volunteers reminded me of Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi episode… “No Corral for you!”. I was waiting in my corral for over an hour. It was brisk and the occasional wind made it cold but at least it hadn’t started to rain at that point. The runners in my corral (Corral P – last corral) were great. The comradery and feeling of joy and excitement was contagious.
The course was incredible. It was simply amazing to run through 4 theme parks and through the castle. There was music at every turn, beautiful sets, decorations, and every Disney character you can think of on the locations of the course. Disney had so much entertainment that I didn’t need the Podcasts! The crowds were difficult to maneuver around especially in the narrow paths where bottlenecks developed. Everyone was forced to walk to get through them. This is not something you can train for so trying to stay on pace and not overexert yourself was challenging.
The volunteers were everywhere and they were super supportive and motivating. It was amazing to see so many folks volunteering their time, at the water stations, at the side lines, conducting traffic, always cheering you on with a smile.
The Journey of 26.2 miles
I was reminded by my friend Gelcys (Runner Unleashed) minutes before the gun when off for Corral P, to not go out too fast. It’s something I tend to do. I was right up at the very front of my corral so it would be very easy to just take off.
The first few miles were filled with excitement. Here started my journey to finish my first marathon. In 5 hours I will be a marathoner! That’s all I could think about. My goal was to keep a 10:45 pace. That goal quickly slipped to 11:15 trying to get through the crowds. Wow, there were so many people. Everyone was on their own pace trying to get that groove. I was following the Galloway method of run 4 minutes and walk 1 minute (4:1). It’s what I did in training. Lots of runners were also running this method but at different intervals so you would hear there gps watches go off at random times. The etiquette was to have runners on the left and walkers on the right of the path but that was not followed by the majority of runners. As a result you would have to weave around people to maintain pace.
The route was very entertaining. There were characters along the course. The music was loud and cheerful. It was amazing how many volunteers there were. The family and friends and spectators aligned most of the sidelines with huge smiles, funny signs, and encouraging cheers. It was very cool to see that. By the time I reached the half way point I noticed my legs were starting to burn from all the weaving through the crowds. I was worried that my legs and feet wouldn’t make it to the end. It was too soon for that. So I slowed down my pace.
The first time I heard my name being called it was at the ESPN Wide World of Sports section around mile 15. Wow did that make a wonderful difference. Our bibs had our names on them so random strangers would call out my name saying “You’re doing great, Joanna”, “Way to go, Joanna!” It worked as a major motivator. I felt like a rock star!
It had started to rain at mile 16. By mile 17 my feet were wet. I was able to maintain an average pace of 11:30 until mile 23. During the beginning of my training I hit the wall at mile 17. I was so close to the end that I didn’t want to hit that wall. All I thought about was focusing on my stride and envisioning the finish line. I was receiving text messages from friends and family encouraging me to keep going. They were getting updates on my split times and knew my pace was consistent and that I was doing well. Reading those inspirational and motivating messages helped me focus. Throughout the run about every 10 minutes I would take a swig of Tailwind from my hydration pack to keep hydrated. About every mile I would eat a peanut cluster. It really helped me stay strong and fueled. Mile 24 my legs were OK, my feet not so much.
As I approached mile marker 25 I got this urge to sprint. I only had 1.2 miles left. I looked to my left and saw the Epcot ball in the distance. Hallelujah! The finish line is so close. I was reaching the Epcot Boardwalk bridge and it reminded me of my run with my friend Marissa at the Disney Wine and Dine in November. It was the same route and at that moment I wished she was running it again with me. At about mile 25.5 I started to speed my pace and started to cry. The last 0.71 miles I was running at a 9:54 pace to the finish. The crowds were so energetic. They were calling my name. Random spectators were cheering me on. It fueled my sprint. I was a few yards a way from the finish line and all I felt were my feet and my strides reaching for that blue and red line.
I won’t lie, it was pretty emotional reaching that finish line. Months and miles of training have come to this day, this moment. The mental battles with doubts and fears were crushed crossing that line. My husband and daughter met me at the end with a rose. It was so sweet and thoughtful. My husband calls himself “Race Support”. He’s always there with water, snacks and my flip flops. I was so happy to see them. They are my biggest supporters. Their support of my running endeavors makes all the difference. I was able to walk around Epcot afterwards which honestly surprised me. I didn’t have any blisters. I spent the rest of the day there eating!
Would I do it again?…Where do I sign up?