State # 1: Florida – 2011 Walt Disney World Marathon

My race recaps will slowly be posted here, with my 50-state marathon journey officially beginning in January of 2011. I had run three marathons before that time: The Walt Disney World Marathon in 2006 and 2007, and the Philadelphia Marathon in 2009. I had run all three with Team in Training while fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which to this day I still feel very strongly about how amazing this program is: run a marathon for a great cause, meet lots of new running friends, and have incredible support from teammates and coaches from all over the country on race day. If you ever have aspirations to run a marathon, and don’t know how to get started, Team in Training is a great organization to give you all of the resources you need. I will get into that another time!

This first recap will be for what I considered my official State #1: Florida. It was to be my final marathon with Team in Training, and the final marathon that I ran before being diagnosed with celiac disease.  So I had a lot of adjustments to make in my life: training long distance on my own, and a complete diet overhaul.

Please note that most of the recap below is taken from my blast email that I sent to those on my email list when fundraising for Team in Training.

I will spare you the details of the half marathon experience from the day before, after all this IS just a recap of my marathon races for each state, but I will say that the Saturday before the marathon I purposely took it slow and easy so I would have plenty of fuel in the tank for Sunday morning’s marathon, and earned my Donald Duck medal with a personal worst half marathon time of 2:16. The rest of the day I took it easy, and realized that I felt pretty good.  I took a two hour nap before lunch and spent the day off my feet by the pool and hot tub.  That night we had an early dinner and I managed to get a whopping 4 hours of sleep that night before the big day.

So let’s fast-forward to 1:30 AM on Sunday morning, and it’s a repeat of Day 1 in terms of the usual get to the start and wait in the cold, dark waiting area before we got to our corrals.  My teammates K., L. and C. were all fairly my pace, and we trained together for a good part of the season, so we decided to try to stick together the best we could that morning.  It was definitely a lot colder that morning (40 degrees instead of 55!), my toes and fingers were freezing!

There were 17,000 registered runners for the full, and compared to the 27,000 for the half, it was a nice respite.  We all did the march to the corrals much like I did the day before, trying to keep warm and make sure we didn’t need any last minute stops.  When the corral gun went off, we started and were so excited.  This was really it!  I was nervous at first…how would my legs feel?  Sore? Tired? Surprisingly…none of the above!  In fact, I felt like I had not even run a half marathon the day before!  That is exactly how I hoped it would go.  My training runs had paid off.
                                       2011 Disney Marathon Race Map

So the miles began in the cold dark.  K. and I kept a conservative pace while L. and C. were a tiny bit ahead of us.  K. and I knew we had to be smart and conservative and not go all out so we held back a little, but understood that the excitement of the marathon is enough to have anyone going a little faster than usual!  The first couple miles immediately take you into Epcot, and it was beautiful!  The World Showcase was lit up and the Illuminations globe was also lit and slowly rotating.  It was a wonderful way to start the race!  After that, you are back on the roads for a bit, but they really do try to make sure that you are entertained as much as possible along the way with DJs, Disney characters, cheerleaders, and of course the crowds are there to support you with loud cheering, signs, bells, high fives, you name it.

We ended up stopping for a break around Mile 7 (we decided we would stay Musketeers as much as possible…or should I say Mouseketeers?), and then hit the Magic Kingdom around mile 8 or 9.  Much of this part of the race was very similar to what I had run the day before, but I loved being able to run through the castle again!  At this point in the race, maybe 10 miles in, I started feeling some hot spots in my feet.  Ugh.  Blisters.  I knew this would have to come.  I remember in my highest mileage weeks I started getting some blisters in spots, so I knew this might be a problem.  My quads also started to feel the burn a little, after all, I was 23 miles into a 40 mile weekend.

Exiting the Magic Kingdom is when the race kind of starts to slow down in terms of Disney fun.  Sure, you see Mary Poppins, maybe some crowds, but it really can be desolate.  I managed to see my husband Chris three times by mile 12, but once I saw him the final time I knew I wouldn’t see him until the finish.  We made the best of this time; the four of us were still trucking along together and would take turns chatting with one another.  L. was running her first full and was doing great!  She was so enthusiastic every time we passed a new mile marker.

Miles 14 through 16 are sort of the death miles to some.  There is not much but freeway and a sewage treatment plant, not too exciting, but I will say that the Davy Crockett guy on the course truly had me cracking up when he said “If you’re low on potassium, there’s some nanners at mile 14 up ahead.” That had me laughing for the rest of the slog.  Luckily we did not have massive heat to contend with this year, so it really made it a lot better than the last time I ran Disney in 2007.

We would run into various TNT people from other chapters, and sometimes would run with coaches.  K., L. and I would sort of alternate spots while one ran ahead of two others.  We lost C. maybe halfway through.  The main focus was just trying to keep each other upbeat and positive and talk as much as possible!  That was what made the training runs so enjoyable, just catching up and talking about anything that came to mind.

As we approached Animal Kingdom, you knew you could start counting down your remaining miles in the single digits.  It was an exciting prospect!  Animal Kingdom definitely is my favorite section of the parks to run through, it’s lush and green, and there is great jungle-themed music!  The one ride I was dying to try to get on was Expedition Everest…I had heard of marathoners doing it in the past and it sounded SO awesome.  But alas, we were too early and the park had not officially opened yet, so the ride wasn’t operating.  I don’t know if I would have had the guts to do it anyway, I worried that my quads would have a hard time getting started again.

Leaving Animal Kingdom and heading to Hollywood Studios is really where the race usually falls apart for a lot of people.  It’s boring, lots of  freeway with a couple bridge overpasses, and an out and back that is a good mile long.  The crowds have pretty much disappeared, and if it’s hot, it can be miserable. This was the point in the race where I didn’t really bonk, but I definitely got quiet and lost my enthusiasm.  There was never a point where I did bonk actually, I think I ran strong the entire way though, but I just felt a little wiped out and needed a bathroom stop and there were none in sight for miles it seemed!

Around this time we saw a welcome sight, another one of our coaches, A..  It was great because he wasn’t exhausted and was really upbeat and could help pull us up out of any kind of mental wall.  Around mile 20 we finally stopped to use a restroom, and then took off, it was a well-appreciated break.  There was no way I would have had a successful finish if I didn’t stop first.  The last six miles would be cake.

A. assured us we all looked great and really strong, none of us had that marathon death shuffle that some start to get at this point.  K. and I kept pace while he ran with L..  My mood had lifted, and I started to encourage people around me to keep going.  I especially wanted the Goofy folks to know I felt their pain, my feet definitely felt as if they had erupted in blisters, but I refused to stop and get them checked, I wanted to just finish and deal later.  So I made sure to keep myself in good spirits, K. and I kept each other laughing, we were rooting on fellow runners and teammates as we passed and just soaring like we had no cares.

Hitting Hollywood Studios was great!  They had a huge table loaded with mini candy bars…I grabbed a Mr. Goodbar only to have it break apart in my hand!  I groaned in good-natured disappointment and just ate what I could.  Hollywood Studios was great and bustling with cheering crowds, and exiting it you knew you only had a short way to go!  We ran along the Boardwalk Hotel area and marveled at how great of a day it was…and it this point K. started running ahead a little more and more.  I was fine to let her go, I had done my best and was happy to see her faring so well and feeling so strong.  I just chatted with people as I passed them and we constantly let each other know we were so close to the finish!

Hitting Epcot again meant the final stretch, the World Showcase was a good mile to loop around and I was actually feeling great, as if I had gotten a second wind.  I started charging ahead with a huge smile on my face, I was actually going to do this!

Hitting Mile 26 was the pivotal moment.  I thought of all the people stricken with blood cancers that I was running for (whether in their memory or honor), and suddenly just burst into tears.  I had made it.  I ended up seeing a guy I had met on the bus yesterday who had run the Goofy Challenge in years past and gave me some tips.  I said with tears in my eyes “Hey!  Goofy Guy!  We did it!” He just grabbed my hand and grinned.  The crowds were screaming in the stands for us, and totally had us pumped up to finish.  We ended up crossing the finish line, arms lifted in victory, and suddenly it was all over.  I had done it!

I looked around at my fellow marathoners and Goofy Challengers and we all kept congratulating each other.  Some of us even hugged!  Disney TRULY brings out friendship and comradery among strangers.  I have run plenty of races over the years, and this one always brings out people who want to just have fun, don’t worry about Boston qualifying (well, I am sure some do!), and all encourage one another with enthusiasm and smiles.

K. finished maybe 2 minutes ahead of me and gave me a huge bear hug and I started crying all over again in relief.  We had done it!  We were given our medals and then I had to go to the Goofy line to get my second medal.  All of us were clanking around like Jacob Marley’s ghost, but it was SUCH a great feeling to finish and congratulate everyone around us.

K. and I found Chris, her fiancee J. and her dad, and they were all smiles and so proud of us!  Chris had brought my flip flops to change into, and pulling off my socks brought a gasp of horror, my feet were in bad shape after all!  Some of the blisters were in spots I had never imagined!  I got them treated at the med tent and bandaged up; hey, if blisters were all I had to account for close to 40 miles worth of running, I’ll take it.  Some of the people in the med time frightened me with how bad they looked!

That night consisted of lots of celebrating with everyone, including getting our pictures taken with Mickey and MInnie at the TNT Victory party.  Minnie grabbed my Goofy medal and mimed sleeping as if to ask if I was exhausted, and to be honest, I didn’t feel too bad overall!

So I can easily say that running the Goofy Challenge was one of the best race experiences of my life at that point.  I will never forget it!  I feel a pang of sadness thinking I will likely never, ever get back to Orlando to run another Disney marathon. There are way too many states I need to run, and I think third time is the charm with Disney. Gotta close that chapter and look forward to the many new adventures that are sure to come my way.

Finish time: 4:40:25
Overall Place: 5095 / 13512
Sex Place: 1647/6265
Division Place: 330/???

Lessons Learned:
  • Not long after that I discovered Injinji toe socks, and I have never looked back. Blisters are a thing of the past with these socks, and even during marathons where I forget to Bodyglide my toes, the socks do their job with gusto. If you have blister issues, I highly recommend Injinji!
  • Since being diagnosed with celiac disease, I no longer have issues with restroom emergencies on the racecourse. I used to dread my races and long runs due to this very issue, and now I can run a full marathon without needing to stop. GI issues are next to none since adopting a gluten-free diet. It’s been truly eye-opening to see how my life has changed for the better.

Next recap: My second state medal is earned in Burlington, Vermont. While a beautiful racecourse, it was probably one of my most horrible marathon experiences due to high heat and humidity as well as getting “glutened” before race morning. All in all, a bad combination, but the medal WAS earned and life goes on!

Until next time!


One thought on “State # 1: Florida – 2011 Walt Disney World Marathon

  1. Pingback: The States Conquered Thus Far… | Rebecca, Run.

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