Thursday, January 26, 2012

Walt Disney World Marathon 2012

As with the half marathon on the day before, Day 2 of the Goofy Challenge comes early with a wake-up call just before 3 a.m. As yesterday, I quickly get dressed, grab my stuff and head down to the bus in front of the hotel for the trip to the starting area. After arriving I look for some friends near the bag check tent, although today I was unable to find any of them. Today I check in at the information tent and use a time from a previous race to get myself moved up to Corral B so I can better get out ahead of the crowds at the start of the race, using the logic that if I stay ahead of as many people as I can then the lines for photos will be shorter.

With a bit of fanfare the race begins early in the morning. I start trying to keep a moderate pace without pushing too hard, and I mix in 2 minutes of walking with every 10 minutes of running. Our first destination today is Epcot as the race runs through the front of the park and then out a side service exit near the World Showcase.

After that we are on the road towards the Magic Kingdom. For me this seemed like the longest distance between any two parks for the day. However, there were a number of entertainment choices in terms of characters, school bands and cheerleaders out to support the runners today. The weather was a slight bit cool, but very comfortable for running, especially for long distance running today.
Just before arriving at the Magic Kingdom we are running past the Disney World Speedway, where you can drive a racing car (for a price). All I got to do today was pose by the cars!

Given that the Magic Kingdom is later in the race it is light out when I come through on this day. I take the opportunity to slow down in this park to take several photos on my way through--and even see my friend Jeff on the way down Main Street.
After running through the park, and especially the castle, we make our way back out through the same service entrance as we did yesterday. However, unlike yesterday, we are heading all the way to the Animal Kingdom park. This route takes us along a long back service road which includes a backstage storage area for the Magic Kingdom, as well as several more photo opportunities to pass the time.

As I run into the Animal Kingdom I have two competing thoughts going through my head, the first is hoping that I will be able to ride the Expedition Everest roller coaster that I also left the course for 2 years earlier, the second thought is the realization that I am entering the park about 5 minutes before its projected opening time. This is a big surprise to me as I had never considered that I could have gotten to this point this early in the morning! As luck has it I am allowed into the entry gate as I approach Expedition Everest and join up with 3 other runners as we ride on the first ride of the day.

After finishing the coaster ride, I am off to run through the rest of the Animal Kingdom and then back out along the roads towards the other long portion of the race that is out of the theme parks, pausing for one photo just outside of the Animal Kingdom parking lot that I just had to have, although I do have to wonder just why my daughters think this was my best photo.... In any case I take this photo somewhere around the 18 mile mark and after I get back up to run I realize that I am feeling good and am still having a great time. In fact, I have never felt this good on a run of this length...ever. As I am running along up ahead I have a chance conversation with another runner, who was dressed as Tinker Bell. She noticed my Ironman Texas visor and told me she had done the race as well. It turns out that I had come all the way to Florida to run this race and randomly meet up with someone who lives almost down the road from me that I did not previously know. Here are Erin and I in front of a mile marker. We ran virtually all of the rest of the race together just chatting along with each other, as well as other runners, and just generally enjoying the race. Having joined up with Erin, and her friend Jerry that she was pacing through his first marathon, it made the next miles go by so much faster with the good company. Fortunately they shared my goals of having a fun time and we all stopped at all the photo opportunities along the way.

As we turn into the Hollywood Studios park we know we are getting into the last few miles of the race. In the Studios park the photo opportunities are fairly numerous and and can be easier to get as some of the other runners are just trying to get through the race. They are also, obviously, themed towards the movies.
Leaving the park means that we are entering the home stretch of the marathon. This is also the toughest part of the race for several reasons: it can be starting to get warm (though this day is not a bad day), you are pretty tired around 23 miles into the race (I'm still doing pretty good), and the crowd of many now walking runners clogs a narrow course path (OK, this one is still true). This part of the course runs along the path that connects Hollywood Studios to Epcot, by way of the Boardwalk and Beach Club Resorts. This area is full of supportive cheering crowds offering support to the tiring runners. As we make our way into Epcot and around the World Showcase, we all know are race is coming to a close soon. Around the 25 mile mark I run into my one problem on race day, which is some minor hamstring cramping. After a moment of walking and self massage, I resume running slowly and just try to enjoy the rest of the race. As we come towards the front of Epcot and pass the mile 26 marker we are ready to close out the race. I let Erin and Jerry go on to the finish as I pause for one last "must-have" photo of the Gospel Choir near the race finish.

Having just about concluded the most fun race of my life, I officially make it to the finish with an easy run for the last couple hundred yards and claim my finisher medals for the marathon and the Goofy Challenge. I finish the race in 5:30:45, improving my marathon PR from 6:11:36 from November 2009. More importantly, I had a great race with tons of fun on a wonderful day. I certainly hope I am able to do the Goofy Challenge again some day.

I save my last bit of Goofy Challenge fun for when I arrive home by adding a new sticker to my car window to help me remember all of the fun.


Amanda said...

I'd be completely jealous if I didn't know how hard you worked to get to this point. Your training sure has paid some great dividends with all those PRs and with some awesome photos as well.

So glad that you had a great race and had tons of fun along the way!

K said...

Loved your report! The pictures say it all, and the joy of a child's heart shows in every one!