blog, Reviews, RunDisney

I ran a marathon at Disney!

Hello friends! Are you considering signing up for the Walt Disney World Marathon? I’d like to tell you about my experience and why I love RunDisney events.

After I completed the Princess Half Marathon, I definitely wanted to sign up for another RunDisney event. I decided on The Walt Disney World Half Marathon. This is usually held around the second week of January. Only one thing went wrong… it was sold out!!

If you read my previous post about my first RunDisney race, you’ll know my friend Brittney enables my running habit. I called Brittney and she convinced me I could finish a marathon. I bit the bullet, and signed up for the full marathon.

So, I’m signed up. Now what? I followed Jeff Galloway’s half marathon training plan, so I figured he could get me through a full as well. Thus, I began the journey of increasing my miles from 13.1 to 26.2. I trained for about 7 months and it went by very quick. Due to life kinda getting in the way, the longest run I was able to do was 18 miles.

A few things I remember about increasing my miles:

Completing your goal makes you feel really great about what you can accomplish, AKA “runners’ high”.
You get to set a lot of personal records.
Much to my dismay, you don’t get a medal for running more than 13 miles in your neighborhood. haha!
Other runners are kind and encouraging.
Long distance running is very time consuming. My long runs would be on my only day off. I spent half my day running, recovering and soaking my feet.

Before I knew it, Marathon Weekend was here in a flash and it was time to check into my Disney resort.

Pro tip: If you know you are going to sign up for a RunDisney event, book your hotel as soon as you can.

Although January after New Years crowds start thinning out, It tends to be a bit busier at Disney World during the January Marathon Weekend. Because of this, I had a hard time getting a 4 night consecutive stay. I had one night at Pop Century and then 3 nights at Caribbean Beach. At Caribbean Beach I had 1 night in a pirate room and 2 nights in a standard room.

CB-Pirate Room

I don’t mind hotel hopping and frequently hotel hop by choice. Disney will even move your bags to your new hotel if you call bell services. That said, I would advise against switching rooms the day before your race. It can add some unnecessary stress before a big race, like a marathon.

Next up, picking up my race bib at the run Disney expo. Since I arrived late at night on a Thursday I went over the expo Friday afternoon. I was traveling solo and I got to take my time walking around the expo. You can easily spend half the day or more here, if you want.

At the expo!
My bib! It’s real!

Inside the expo I hit up some booths, including the KT tape booth, to get my feet taped. I got a new headband and a 26.2 sticker for my car. I headed over to Coronado Springs’ Spa for a manicure then Brittney picked me up and we went off property for dinner.

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and tried to sleep. I think I got about 2 hours of sleep, if that. My nerves had the best of me. I was up at 2:30 and on the bus by 3, the race starts at 5:30 am and since Caribbean Beach is very close to EPCOT I was at the race in about 5 minutes. For this reason, I highly recommend Caribbean Beach during Marathon Weekend. It was the shortest bus ride ever!

Going through security was a breeze. I never bring a bag to the start of races, if I can help it. Since I was at the start about 2 hours early, I stood around nervously in the dark by myself lol. I forced a bagel, banana and some coffee down. I was not hungry by any means but I knew I needed to eat something.

Here I am being nervous at the start of the Marathon.

I decided to walk to my corral. If you’ve never done a Disney Half or Marathon, walking to your corral can take about 15 minutes so give yourself ample time. Please note: If you are and your friends are running and in different corrals you can always move back but not forward.

Waiting for the race to start seems to take forever. I was in a big group of people and couldn’t see much. But I finally saw the start! My heart was racing so fast! I just kept thinking “I’m about to start running 26.2 miles!

Mickey Mouse was at the start as well as some announcers. Sean Astin was running the Dopey so they made an announcement about him running with us! Wow! I never saw him, though. The announcers let us know it was our time to start, the countdown began and we were off.

The race begins at EPCOT and then you run on world drive over to the Magic Kingdom. It was still so early, my brain was definitely still sleeping. I don’t think my brain and body were in sync until around 11 am. lol

I don’t want to spoil everything on the race course but a few highlights were running in the (now demolished) Speedway, running through Animal Kingdom and seeing Mickey Mouse on a safari truck waving at everyone.

The half marathon marker was as we exited Animal Kingdom and I remember thinking it went by so fast! They handed us bananas at this point as well.

Brittney was around mile 15 and handed me some snacks. After we exited Animal Kingdom there was a huge stretch of only roads and very little to look at this. This was the hardest part for me but I was starting to hit a wall.

The notorious balloon ladies (16 min pacers) caught up to me around mile 17. They actually had quite a following of runners with them. They would frequently yell out timings and let us know if we had to jog faster to keep the 16 min per mile pace. I managed to stay with them until I entered Hollywood Studios.

At mile 19 I cried and  said “I can’t do this, I can’t finish” to some stranger passing by. I finally entered Hollywood Studios and Brittney reminded me that you are not likely to get swept once in the parks. I was able to slow down at this point, which my feet so desperately wanted. We got bite size Hershey bars at the Studios entrance. The sugar perked me up for a few more miles.

Once I entered the world showcase at EPCOT, I knew I would cross the finish line. I starting screaming, throwing my hands up and smiling as all the park guests encouraged me and shouted my name. I also got my one and only character photo with Duffy.

At the finish line, I cried and I was so emotional a cast member asked if I was ok. I can honestly say, this was one of my favorite moments of my entire life. To be honest, it was not easy to finish the race and I felt like I earned my medal, which is still one of my most prized possessions.

Brittney met me at the finish line and gave me a big hug. She made it back to the hotel before me and had a warm bath, snacks, and water laid out of me. I remember my feet hurting for a few hours after the race, but we managed to nap and wake up in time for a very late dinner at Chef Mickey’s.

I never thought I could finish a marathon. But I did it! I will say, it’s not easy, it takes a lot of work and determination. It’s as much physical as a mental test of your abilities. I was on cloud 9 for days and I carried my medal around for a few weeks.

Are you thinking of running a race at Disney World? Do you have any questions? Leave me a comment below.

Thanks for reading and stay magical, ya’ll!

4 thoughts on “I ran a marathon at Disney!

  1. GEAUX KRISTI!!! I was so proud of her and had lots of people at each mile I saw her at cheer for her! Especially at the finish line!!! 🙂

  2. What an amazing story! Thank you for posting. I needed that info and inspiration! I’m doing my first half at Disney in January. I too fear the notorious balloon ladies lol! Longest distance so far has been 10K, so I have some training to do. I chose Caribbean Beach too since it was so close to Epcot, glad to hear that’s s good choice! Thank you again and congrats!!

    1. Thank you for reading!:) Do not fear the balloon ladies they are actually very nice (although I doubt you will meet up with them). It’s such fun and you will finish and feel so great!!

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