Disney World Marathon Weekend has certainly evolved over the years. The marathon and the 13.1 used to be run on the same day. I love the fact they don’t run those on the same day anymore. I don’t enjoy races as much when they do both races on the same day. I like for all of us to battle the same race at the same time. It also has changed the whole weekend. It gives more of us the ability to support and cheer on other runners throughout the weekend. I love racing, but I also enjoy getting the chance to cheer for others as well and watch a race. Eventually the 13.1 was moved to Saturday and the marathon to Sunday, creating the Goofy Challenge. I have done the Goofy Challenge once. I did it in 2010 on the coldest race weekend in Disney World History! That's right! We are talking mid 20’s at start time with howling winds. Not my favorite race day experience! Maybe it was the cold, but I did not enjoy that year. One thing you have to do is slow it down and conserve energy on those races for the next day. That is not a natural talent of mine! Would I do it again? Probably not, but I am glad I experienced it and I am glad there are so many who love it.
If you are planning to run the Goofy or Dopey the biggest advice I can give you is, save it for Sunday. That was the biggest mistake I made. I felt great Saturday but I was about 10-15 minutes too fast even though I still took it easy. It hit me for the marathon at about mile 8-9. It felt like I had a giant piano strapped to my back. So, don’t race the first 3 days. Make sure you are making this a true endurance 4 day event. Enjoy it! You are in Disney World for goodness sake!
Over the years they added the 5K race on Friday and last year they added the 10k and officially launched the Dopey. Yes, 5k on Thursday, 10k on Friday, 13.1 on Saturday and the marathon on Sunday. If you are keeping track, 48.6 miles in 4 days. Am I interested…NO. Not even the slightest. I am glad this has become so popular, but for me personally it is the 4 mornings in a row of crazy wake up times and the cost that helps with that decision. When I am in Disney, I want to enjoy myself. Going to bed at 8pm each night to get some sleep is not what I want to do, but the race sells out crazy quick! I know it is popular, but it is not for me.
I have not run the 5k or 10k so I don’t plan to really talk about them since I can’t do so with any experience. Here is what I will say. I love the idea.
My first Disney race was the Race for the Taste 10k. I loved it! It was connected with the Food and Wine Festival in the fall. It essentially was the last 6.2 miles of the marathon course. I love having all the options, I just don’t love how quick they sell out. The 5k is a great race for runners who are trying to get started. It actually is my favorite distance to race, but it is great for a first time runner as well who is trying to get started running. The 10k is that nice happy medium for runners who have done the 5k, but might not be quite ready for the 13.1. It is just enough to push yourself but the training is not overwhelming as a new runner. I do love how Disney gives you a chance to build up to the longer distances.
I know the thing that comes up often with others is the price. I get it. It gets compared to every other 5k or 10k that is run in your community. The problem is that it is not every other 5k or 10k. I understand it is more, but if you really take a look at what you are being provided I think there is a big difference. From the experience on the course, the number of volunteers, the shirts, the medals and just the Disney difference, it all adds up.
The toughest part of Disney Marathon weekend is how quick it all sells out, but I plan to speak into that next week. I think Disney has done an amazing job of creating new runners. With the addition of Jeff Galloway, his training plans, and coaching as a part of the weekend, the friendly cut-off times make it a very inclusive event. I love that. What I enjoy is getting new runners involved in this sport. I am thankful Disney has done a great job of helping to make that happen. There is enough room on the road for all of us, regardless of speed. Whether you run a 5 minute mile or a 16 minute mile, guess what….our medals look the same!
So if you are looking to run a fun race in the future and not sure of the distance, you have no reason not to run on Disney Marathon Weekend. All options are open to you. I still believe that if you are a new runner looking for your first race and crossing that finish line for the first time, Disney is one of the best options out there. It will help you create a memory and an experience you will not forget.
So what about the courses? Today I plan to dive into Miles 1-4. In the coming weeks I plan to cover both the 13.1 and the marathon course, but the first few miles are the same so for now we will cover this courses together.
We will skip the start and get right to the course. Trust me, the start is worth its own blog entry alone!
Start to Mile #1
Slow down!!! Your first piece of advice is to slow it down. Stay patient. It is 13.1 and 26.2 miles to the finish. There are so many runners and so much positive emotion, if you get carried away you will be shocked at how quick you run those first few miles. Those first 4 miles are pancake flat and your adrenaline is pumping. Your first mile is filled with all the things good about racing and a couple of the bad. The only bad is watching some runners lose patience. You have to keep it steady early on in Disney. There are a good number of fans lined up that first mile, a ton of positive vibes, announcers, bands and just a whirlwind of excitement. You will soon look up and be shocked at how quick that first mile marker has come upon you. I always say to run slow the first mile and I will continue to preach it, however I understand if you go too fast. Just make sure and settle down after that mile. It is a long race!
Another theme of the day: look around. Don’t look down and straight ahead. Disney does an amazing job of trying to distract you and entertain you. The mile markers are huge and I have seen many runners line up at each and every one for a picture. Disney also places many good and funny signs along the road. So, look and take it all in. You might disagree, but I would highly encourage you to UNPLUG. I would never recommend running with headphones in this race. A lot of races, I get it. This weekend is special in a couple of ways. First, the experience they put on is amazing. They entertain you the whole way. I would hate for you to miss it with headphones in. You won’t hear people cheering your name either. Secondly, there are some amazing people on course having a great time. Some of my best memories of this race are from the other runners and conversations had on the course. We are all trying to reach the finish line together.
As you hit the first mile you will pass the first water station. Disney will not let you go thirsty. Some races might struggle with keeping you hydrated, but not this one. Soon after you pass the first mile you will eventually take a turn onto World Drive which will start your journey to the Magic Kingdom. There are usually some good entertainment options along this stretch. You might find a band, cheerleaders and even characters from Disney. Be careful, I have seen Pooh on the side of the road at this point! You never know what you might spot on World Drive. I think I remember a hot air balloon and a pirate ship once. Continue to keep steady and watch your step. It will be dark and there are a lot of runners. Keep your head and take care of yourself. You can’t do anything to make your race this early, but you can do something to make it really tough. Not too long after you have turned onto World Drive and you will soon hit Mile #2.
Straight and flat is my best description. You will be aiming for the signs of the Magic Kingdom parking lot. This feels like a really long road. It will still be crowded and it will be for a while so just accept it. This course is flat but also has a lot of turns. Those turns can be tricky with a lot of runners. Much of this course can be really crowded. Some of the big marathons block off many roads. Disney in many spots does not have that luxury, so you have to accept the traffic and be patient. This is still a good stretch with some great Disney distractions so take them in. Soon after you pass the toll booths for the Magic Kingdom parking lot you hit Mile #3.
This is a pretty infamous spot for me. Sometimes in life you can see too much. Without getting into too much detail, when it is dark and you want to sneak off and take of care business people can’t really see you. However, if you go and do this under a light post, 25,000 runners can see you! I am just saying!
Right at this mile marker you arrive at another water stop. If you are thirsty, drink up. If not, you will soon find another! As you clear the water stop, there is a race track on your left. On marathon day, this is a really cool feature. But, we are not there yet. There is usually some good news and bad news about this stretch. Unless you are in the top few runners, you will usually see runners who are about 4 miles ahead of you going the other way on the other side of the road. The other part, is you are running through a parking lot. However, Disney steps it up for you. They provide some good entertainment during this stretch. One of my favorites in the past was pick your favorite decade of music. You could choose one of two paths and you had different styles of music depending on your path.
More good news is one of the best parts of the course is just ahead. The Ticket and Transportation Center (TTC) is one of my all-time favorites. I know it sounds crazy, but trust me here. I usually have family there cheering for me, but this is a nice long stretch of a ton of fans cheering you on. It is always loud and this is just one of the best places to watch and run through. I dare you to look down at your watch and see your pace through this section. I would tell you to slow down some but I can’t help it either! Enjoy the moment, but slow it down after you pass through.
Guess what? You have just finished the first 4 miles of the 13.1 or 26.2! Well done! You have just passed the TTC, slow it down and pace yourself again.