I'm thrilled to report that I finished my very first marathon in Disney World on January 11, 2009!
The expo was huge--in two separate buildings in the Wild World of Sports complex. We arrived around 7 p.m. on Friday night and did not have to wait in any lines.
Ben and I stayed at the Polynesian Resort on Disney property (hence the lei in the picture above). Upon check-in, they upgraded us to concierge level--we had a lounge just outside our room with drinks and snacks available from 7 a.m. - 10 p.m. each day and our own concierge staff on the first floor for easy access to park tickets and dinner reservations. I appreciated the banana and bottle of Evian from the lounge--it was perfect for race morning nutrition and hydration!
We had a good time spotting "hidden Mickeys" around the resort and in the parks. This particular Mickey wasn't so hidden, but it (and the bed!) were a welcome sight upon check-in.
On race morning, I woke up at 2:30 a.m. to eat, dress, and board the first of two monorails. The Polynesian monorail conductor proudly announced that I was the resort's first monorail passenger of the day (at 3:15 a.m.). You can see for yourself how crowded my monorail car was. The race started at 5:50 a.m., but we had to board the monorail for transportation to the start line before 4 a.m.
An official countdown by Mickey, Minnie, and the gang plus fireworks started the race. (Fireworks, I suppose, are the one advantage to the pre-dawn start time!)
Sarah and Ben were fantastic cheerleaders along the course. They cheered for me at miles 9, 13, and 26.2. I gave them big, sweaty hugs and kisses--Eww!
Running through the Magic Kingdom, specifically up Main Street and through Cinderella's Castle, was the highlight of the run. Even though the park wasn't yet open to the public, there were lots of supporters all along main street cheering us on. At around mile 10, it was a great motivational lift.
Splash Mountain was closed for renovations the week of the marathon, but it was still great fun to run by my favorite Magic Kingdom ride. This photo also gives you a good view of a typical mile marker sign.
A petting zoo just outside Animal Kingdom. Really, you could stop, pet a goat, and get your picture taken. Talk about distractions on the race course...
Expedition Everest! My favorite Disney World ride! Even though I rode it three times the day before, I was still happy to see that snow-capped peak at around mile 16. Only 10 miles to go.
One of the things that made me choose the Disney World marathon for my first marathon was the fun, laid-back attitude of most racers. This is not the race to make your "PR" or try to qualify for Boston. People stopped running to get their pictures taken with characters all along the course. Here I am, around mile 23, in Hollywood Studios.
Crossing the finish line was an amazing experience. About a half mile before the finish, there was a gospel choir singing and clapping, and then I saw Sarah and Ben cheering for me just before I took off for the finish. The crowds were great, and the post-race volunteers were all efficient and supportive--perhaps even too efficient. Mylar blanket, shoe chip removal, medal, finisher photo, drinks and snacks, then thrust out into the meeting area for friends and family. It was such a blur that I didn't think to take any pictures after the finish (until I had showered, swam, and ordered a glow-in-the-dark celebratory drink at dinner, that is).
Ben and I went to Magic Kingdom the day after the race. I was proud to show off my race shirt and Mickey medal!
Ben said he might run the half marathon with me next year. Here we are, posing with Donald, dreaming about Donald medals in 2010.