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Walt Disney World Marathon, Low Lights, Negatives,

11 Less Than Magical Moments About the WDW Marathon

The Walt Disney World Marathon is widely regarded as one of the most “magical” marathons by many runners.

I’ve run the race three times, and I’ll likely do it again, but let’s accept the fact that there are plenty of “less than magical” moments over the course of the 26.2 miles as well.

Walt Disney World Marathon, Low Lights, Negatives,

Where the Pixie Dust is Missing

  1. The mile (or more) walk to the starting line. I mean, as if 26.2 miles wasn’t already far enough…
  2. The excitement as race time draws near is great, unless you’re in a corral that doesn’t begin until an hour after the race actually starts.
  3. Honestly, how many stinky dumpsters are there backstage?
  4. Speaking of stinky, there’s nothing quite like the smell of (literally) tons of animal poo as you start to get close to Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
  5. Running in the parks is really awesome, but the bottlenecks that are created can be brutal.
  6. Two words–Osceola Boulevard.
  7. The guests at the Studios that have no clue there is a race going on and step off the curb right in front of you and expect you to avoid them. Seriously?!?! I’m 23 miles deep into a marathon, and you think I’ve got the energy to get out of your way? Just be glad I didn’t lower the shoulder, because I REALLY wanted to. (Can you tell this one hits close to home?)
  8. Guaranteed you’ll see at least 50 people (men and women) stopped along the side of the road to pee. I’m not condemning or casting judgement, because I’ve done it every time I’ve run the race, but it does take a little bit of the “magicalness” away
  9. The swag bag is basically swagless. Unless of course you bring your credit card, then you can get lots of swag. But seriously, for the price of this race, they can’t give us a 26.2 sticker with a Mickey head in place of the decimal point?
  10. Speaking of sparing no expense, I hope you’re not looking for much to eat after the race. I’ve run 5ks with a better post-race spread than a runDisney event.
  11. The last mile takes FOREVER! When you’re just walking around in the World Showcase the trip from England to Mexico doesn’t seem like it’s that big of a deal. But when you’re 25 miles into your race, that route seems unending!

If you’ve run the Walt Disney World Marathon, either this year or in the past, did I miss anything? Where else could runDisney use a little more pixie dust to cover up the less than magical moments and make an enjoyable race even better?

A Wine and Dine Chat

The Wine and Dine Half Marathon is coming up quick, and I for one, am super excited that the race will be here in just a few more weeks!

This race is easily my favorite runDisney event that I’ve run, and I look forward to the race every year. I’ve run the race every year that it has been in existence, and I’m looking forward to making it a perfect 5 for 5 this year.

Wine and Dine, Wine & Dine

Looking Forward to Another Wine and Dine Half!

What Makes the Wine and Dine Half Marathon Special

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2014 Walt Disney World Marathon

This past weekend I ran my 3rd Disney Marathon, which was my 5th full marathon overall.

There is a lot to love about runDisney events, but after running a handful of non-runDisney events (halves and fulls) I’ve come to learn that runDisney definitely leaves a few things to be desired as well.

The Good Stuff

  • The Bling–Disney events tend to feature some pretty nice finishers medals. This year was no different in my book. Big. Gawdy. Heavy. Love it.

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  • Characters on the Course–If you’re running in a Disney race, you’re going to see lots of characters out there to take pictures with, if you’re so inclined. Not only are Mickey and Minnie out there, but there are also a lot of characters out and about that aren’t regularly seen in the parks. This was my 8th runDisney event, and this was the first time I actually stopped to take a bunch of pictures. Great decision.

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  • Lots of Company–This is a double edged sword, because having lots of fellow runners means that the course can be a little crowded sometimes, and not all runners are familiar with proper runner etiquette. But after running a race in October where I was pretty much alone for 18 of the 26 miles, it was nice having some company from start to finish.

The Not-So-Good

  • Corral Placement is a Joke–On paper, putting runners in order by their projected finish time, and sending them out in waves is a good idea. runDisney fails when it comes to putting this idea into practice. Nothing against walkers or run/walkers, but they shouldn’t be in one of the first couple of corrals in a race this size. When they stop, and usually it’s more than one person at a time, it creates an instant road block. And since the course is crowded virtually the entire way, it can be a hassle to get around them. I don’t know how some people got into the corrals they did.
  • Lack of Guest Relations/Customer Service–For a company that is so focused on making guests happy, Disney dropped the ball when it comes to runner relations at the race expo. I have a friend that ran the race, her first full, and when she registered she didn’t have a qualifying time to give her a good corral placement. She was hoping for a sub-4:00 race, and ran a half in November in 1:50 and change, which should have placed her in one of the better corrals. runDisney, however, decided that November was too late in the year for a change in her corral placement to be changed on her bib, and for the first time that I’m aware of, they wouldn’t permit her to change her corral at the expo even though she had a verifiable qualifying time. She still managed to run 4:01 while weaving through, literally, 1000’s of slower runners that were able to get corral placements that my friend should have.
  • Post Race Food–I’m not going to blast runDisney over the price of the race, which is high, but I understand where the money goes. One place the money doesn’t go, however, is to the post race spread. I’ve been to races that cost $40-50 that have huge buffets, hot food, lots of drinks (read, free beer), and entertainment for all runners. Disney gives you, what amounts to, a poor-mans boxed lunch. We got a few bagged treats (corn chips, almond puffs, crasins), a banana, and a powerade. Spare no expense. (To be fair, all food items were gluten-free, which isn’t often the case concerning post-race foods, so I do really appreciate that thought from the race organizers.)

All in All

When it’s all said and done, I had a blast running this race.

Stopping for pictures with the characters was a first for me, and it really made all the difference. If you’re trying to run a race for a fast time, and don’t want to stop for pictures, you might want to try another option. But if you’re looking for a fun race to run, the Disney Marathon is a pretty good choice.

I doubt I’ll make the Disney full a regular event on my race schedule, even though I’ve run 3 of the last 4, but I’m leaning toward doing it again next year. I’m thinking about doing the Goofy Challenge next year, but that might be my last Disney full for awhile.

Anyone want to run it with me?

Have You Ever Run a runDisney Event? Did You Run in the Marathon Weekend This Year? What Were Your Thoughts of the Event?

2013 Wine and Dine Half Marathon

On Saturday evening, the 4th incarnation of Disney’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon took place at Walt Disney World.

And for the 4th year in a row, I was running in Disney’s only night race.

The Night Race Dynamic

For those of you that have never run a night race, it is a totally different ball game than the typical early morning starts. Some people like the night start, some people aren’t as keen about them.

Since most runners are creatures of habit, starting a race at night totally throws off the race day routine. Should you sleep in or get up early and take a midday nap? What time should you eat before the race? What should you do all day? Normal activities? Lay on the couch?

And what about your bathroom routine?

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Yikes.

But me? I love the late start!

Until recently, I’ve never been a fan of early morning running. So the idea of running a half or a full that started at 6 or 7 in the morning was almost as daunting as the actual run itself.

But to start a race at 10 pm? Being wide awake, fully fueled, and ready to go? Where do I sign up?

That was the allure of this race 4 years ago. And after running it the first time, I’ve been  hooked ever since.

Why Do I Run the Same Race Every Year?

First and foremost, Disney knows how to put on a race.

Yes, the price is steep compared to most other races. But when it comes to race organization and on-course entertainment, it’s really hard to beat a runDisney event. There are Disney characters sprinkled throughout the course for runners to be able to get pictures with, and the allure of running through the theme parks is pretty awesome.

And the route we run during the Wine and Dine Half is fantastic. In my opinion, running the January half course is nowhere near as cool as the Wine and Dine half. Not only do you get to run in 3 of the 4 parks instead of only running through 2, but you also get to spend  more time running in each of the parks! During the January race, you’re only in the parks for a little over a mile. At Wine and Dine, you get about 3-4 miles of park running. And park running beats road running any day.

This Year’s Race

This year, my Wine and Dine experience was a little different than it has been in years past.

After running the Red Ribbon Half in the morning, I was slightly less than fresh for the start of the race.

But I had a plan and I stuck with it.

The plan was simple. Start just off at about 8:45 pace or the first 5k and see how the legs feel. If, after 5k I felt ok, I was going to try to bring that pace down towards 8:30 and give another PR a shot.

As we gathered into our corrals, I started to feel the excitement and nerves.

 

After that, it was time to run.

This year, the race organizers did us a huge favor by creating more starting corrals with fewer people in them to limit the cluster that typically happens during the first few miles of a runDisney event. So instead of being in the first corral with 1500 other runners, I was in Corral C with only about 500 runners.

And this small change made a huge difference.

Coming out of the shoot, runner traffic was flowing smoothly. Yes, the road was crowded. But we kept moving, and that is better than some past race experiences that I’ve had. And while the first water station (just past Mile 1) was still narrower than it could be, having fewer people passing through it at the same time did make it easier for those of us not wishing to stop to be able to keep running.

By the time we got to Animal Kingdom, I was still feeling alright so I decided to push it a little bit. At this point, I wasn’t sure my legs would make it for the entire 13.1, but I knew if I didn’t stay close to my target pace while my legs were still feeling good it wouldn’t matter anyway. I mean, there was no way I could knock out a couple of 7 minute miles at the end of this race, so I needed to keep my second 5k around 8:15 to keep an overall 8:30 within reach.

Coming out of DAK is tough, because the trip down Osceola is BORING! But, I kept an eye on my watch and focused on maintaining my breathing as I got through the worst stretch of the Wine and Dine course. By the time I got to the 15k mark, a PR was within reach. I had made it to the Studios, and my overall pace was down to 8:36.

I entered the Studios and tried doing some quick math in my head. I’d have to keep pushing all the way to the finish, but for the first time I really felt like I could get the second PR of the day. The Studios section of the race is tricky, because there are a lot of sharp turns that you have to navigate with tired legs. The first couple are 90* corners, so they don’t slow you down too bad unless runner traffic gets in your way. But there is a 180* turn around the 10 mile mark that is a killer, because it just totally stops all of your momentum.

And then there are the lights.

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Photo by Amy. @MomsMagicMiles

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Photo by Amy. @MomsMagicMiles

I’m not much of a Christmas lights person, but every time I enter the Streets of America to this scene, I can’t help but slow down and take as much in as possible. This year, I tried my best not to slow down too much through this section, but I know I did.

Coming out of the Studios with 2 miles to go, I liked my chances. I’ve run the route between the Studios and Epcot dozens of times, so I knew how to cut every corner and accelerate up and down every little “hill”.

Once we got to Epcot, there were so many yelling and screaming people that I knew I could get a lift from their energy. And I did.

I rounded the final corner, crossed the finish line, and the Garmin read 1:52:05! New PR!

Yahtzee!

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A 13.1 Mile Double Down

It’s time to Double Down.

And no, I’m not heading to the casino.

Instead, I’m doing something only slightly less foolish this weekend–I’m running 2 different half marathons in the same day. That’s right yall, I’ll be toeing the line at 7 am for the Red Ribbon Half Marathon here in Lakeland. At 10 pm the gun goes off again, this time for Disney’s Wine and Dine Half Marathon. Read more