I was up at 2:45 am Sunday morning. It was very cold out. The storm had blown through leaving temps in the 30's and icy winds in its wake. I wore a short sleeved shirt, with a long sleeved tech shirt over it, and a long sleeved throwaway shirt over THAT. I wore a garbage bag over that, and a Mylar blanket on top of it all. I had bought a pink stocking cap and gloves at the resort market yesterday, and I'm glad I did. And to think a week ago I was worrying about the heat!
The traffic to the race start was bad so it took awhile for the bus to get there. We had trouble finding the VIP Race Retreat tent and by the time we did it was almost time to get in our corrals. But we had our own gear check and porta potties, and we had a little time out of the wind.
The walk from the staging area to the corrals was long, probably a half mile, much like the Marine Corp Marathon in DC. We were still walking along when they played the national anthem and the first wave began, but again we were in one of the back corrals so it really didn't matter. We found our corral and kind squirmed our way into the middle where it was a little warmer. For the marathon they set off fireworks for the start of each corral. That was fun! They warned us to get rid of our Mylar blankets before we passed the start because they messed up the timing chips, so at the last minute I reluctantly got rid of the blanket and the garbage bag. But I still had on three shirts, my hat and gloves. I've learned my lessons from Marine Corp and New York. Cold marathons are great but you have to stay warm at the start!
The marathon ran along the roads for awhile before dipping into a park. It goes through four parks: Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom and Epcot, plus the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. But you also spend a lot of time out on the roads. The roads were cold and windy, the parks a little warmer. Many people complain that running the roads around Disney is boring; there aren't any spectators, and there's not much to see. But I liked the roads as much as the parks in a way. The quietness of the roads made it that much more exciting when we entered a park. And Disney tried hard to make the roads interesting. There were bands, marching and otherwise. There was music. There were volunteers cheering us on here and there. And occasionally there was a huge movie screen projecting an animation short, often with dancing and singing Disney characters timed to music. I loved those! They took my mind off any tiredness and were energizing.
And of course there are the Disney characters. We didn't get in the long lines, but if a line only had 5 or 6 people in it we were game. I loved getting our picture taken with the big bad wolf! That was funny. I tried to make a growling face at him and I think it worked pretty well!
The first park we went through was Hollywood Studios. We entered the part close to the Tower of Terror, ran along the streets, and then back out again onto the roads. It didn't last long at all. The next park was Animal Kingdom and again it was in and out. But we wove our way through the Magic Kingdom for quite awhile. The highlight was running through Cinderella's Castle. It's so pretty, and I got all excited running through it and didn't realize that Paula had stopped to take a picture.
This is the only time we lost each other. I stopped and we texted, trying to find each other. First she ran right by me and it took us a little bit to realize that she was ahead of me. Finally we found each other. We wanted to stay together. It's really something new for me to run a race with someone else. It made the time fly by and gave me something else to think about besides my own aches and pains and fears.
After the Magic Kingdom we were back out on the roads for awhile. Usually around mile thirteen I'm ready to stop and pee, but at Disney the porta potties always had lines, and I think the cold makes me need to pee more. We were shameless and squatted in the bushes twice, and a third time behind a shed in the ESPN Complex! One place we stopped there was a sign warning of alligators but I said I didn't care. I did face the bushes however in case one came charging out of the trees!
Somewhere along the course they were handing out bananas. I didn't want one yet, but I took one anyway in case I wanted it later. I tried sticking it in the back of my shorts but that didn't work too well. It kind of dropped into my underpants and I had to retrieve it through one of the legs, which Paula said made it look like I pooped a banana! Then I stuck it in the front of my shorts, which worked much better, although that looked strange in a different way.....
Some people think ESPN is boring but I thought it was fun too. That place is huge; we must have been inside it for close to 5 miles. We ran around practice fields, we ran around a track, and we ran into the spring training complex for the Rays and ran all around the baseball field. They even showed the runners on the Jumbotron but we never saw ourselves cause we couldn't figure out where the camera was.
Somewhere in ESPN we hit Mile 20. At 20 I start to feel optimistic about a marathon but I can't get too happy yet. A lot can still happen in 6 miles. Paula was getting a little tired and our running method changed a bit. She fell behind me a tad, still running and walking whenever I did, me checking back to make sure I didn't lose her. I didn't want to tell her too soon, but we were going to speed up a little at mile 23. I knew she could do it, and so could I.
Right before mile 23 I told her, "starting at mile 23 each time we run, when the beeper goes off we count to 10 before we stop”. We had been using a run/walk ratio of 30/60, so now we're walking 50 seconds, and running 40. This pace carried us through the end of ESPN and back out onto the roads. She did suggest that we walk up some of the hills, and that was fine. But we HAD to run up the one where the army guy from Toy Story was yelling at us!
When we entered Epcot suddenly there were huge crowds screaming and yelling for us. It was pretty thrilling. And people had Skittles, Snickers and Twizzlers they were handing out to the runners, which is so wonderful in the last miles of a marathon when the thought of another gel makes me want to puke. At mile 25 I said "okay for the last mile we count to 20 at the end of each run sequence before we stop!" So then we were walking 40 seconds and running 50. I'm sure Paula hated me a little bit right then but she was game and stuck with me.
When we entered the finish chute we agreed - no crying until after the finish line - and we ran over the finish hand in hand. We were so HAPPY! I was so relieved, this was a race I wasn't sure I could do, but we did. My 7th marathon and Paula's 2nd. Yay!!!!
We got our picture of the finish line, our marathon medal, our water. My leg felt fine, no need to stop and get ice or biofreeze. I had stopped to use some biofreeze sometime during the late miles of the race and I think that really helped. My quads were very tight, but I've certainly felt worse at the end of other marathons.
We went to the Challenge tent and got our Goofy medal (for completing the half and full marathons) and our Dopey medal. We went to the VIP tent, retrieved our gear bags and got a little something to eat. They had an amazing brunch spread out, but my stomach had been bothering me the entire race so I didn't eat as much as I would have liked. I did eat some mac and cheese and drank hot chocolate and they tasted great.
Paula really wanted to get our picture taken with Dopey, but I really wanted to make it to the buses before the last one left for the resorts at 2 pm. Dopey wasn’t there anyway, but there was a nice-looking backdrop so we took advantage of it. Paula had put all the medals in her gear bag and she lent me hers so we could both get our pictures taken with all 6 medals.
We made it on the bus just in time. A hot shower, stretching, and rolling my sore muscles all felt great. We had time to rest a little before it was time to try to get to Narcoossee's for dinner with our friends. Unfortunately we just missed a bus and the wait was going to make us late to our reservation so we took an Uber instead. Disney free transportation is great, but it's been nice to have Uber as a backup just in case.
Paula and I both proudly wore our race shirts, and our Dopey medal. Lots of congratulations came our way as we made our way through the Grand Floridian Resort. The only thing was it was COLD outside and we had to walk quite a ways through the grounds of the resort to get to the restaurant. I was just freezing. Narcoossee's was nice, however. I had a celebratory Manhattan. I had their lobster bisque which was wonderful, and warming, and then Paula and I split an order of the scallops. That way we had room for dessert. We got the chocolate cake and the almond cheesecake for everyone to share. Cheesecake isn't my favorite dessert but that almond thing was one of the best desserts I've ever tasted. It beat out the chocolate which is saying quite a lot.
After dinner we took the monorail over to the Contemporary Resort and went up in the tower, which is exclusive to Disney Vacation Club members. We could go up there as Amy and Bill's guests. It was very crowded because everyone goes up there to see the 8 pm fireworks. The view is better outside on the balcony and there's music too, but it was just too cold.
After that Paula and I were ready to cash it in. The Contemporary is a huge resort and it took us awhile to figure out where the lobby was so we could catch another Uber back to our hotel. We finally did, and it wasn't very long before I was in bed. I woke up once at 5 am, and thought NOOOOOOO and the next thing I knew it was after 7!