The 2019 WDW Marathon Weekend is upon us. I hear the tents are already being set-up in Epcot! To all my friends running, congratulations! The hardest part, training, is behind you and now you can celebrate with a marathon race through the most magical place on Earth.
Last year I celebrated my first full marathon finish at the 25th anniversary 2018 WDW Marathon. It was everything I wanted to be and more, and I hope for those running for the first time (or the 25th) feel the same way.
Here’s a story highlighting my personal experience that will hopefully get you inspired and excited for your own. I got misty-eyed just writing it. This is my love letter to the WDW Marathon:
The buzz and excitement in the corrals, the frigid January temperatures, and that early morning air all contribute to the nerves.
The first few miles fly by- but don’t go out too fast! Try to breathe and pace yourself evenly. Take in the entertainment. Smile. It’s still very dark. And cold. All of a sudden, there is a sliver of sunrise and you are making your way toward the Magic Kingdom. You fly through the tollbooth and head up to the main entrance just for that special moment: Cinderella Castle lit up in its holiday splendor, and spectators on either side of Main Street. You let out a quick sob and tried to savor the moment. Through Tomorrowland and around to Fantasyland you go, and you get to magically run through that castle on the way to Frontierland. The only other race course that does permits this special Disney touch is the Princess Half Marathon.
Out of Magic Kingdom, you head to the complete opposite end of the park to Animal Kingdom. Through service ways and past the stinky waste management plant and behind conservation station, you will end up in Africa and make your way past the Tree of Life and into Dinoland for the finish out to the main gate.
From there, you approach the dreaded section to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. Breathe. This is what you have been preparing for all season. This is when it gets hard. Once you hit mile 20 you know you can finish this race. Up to WWOS you see the other runners who have just completed this section of the course. This is where people cheat. Why would you cheat yourself of a full marathon? Keep going.
It’s starting to get hot. Make your way through the complex. Run around that track. Boy, I used to hate the track. Now there are Disney characters and bands and announcers helping you make your way. Oh, the baseball stadium! They’re making us run around the diamonds? So cool! Catch the photographer and try not to look like you’re in pain! We made it! Is this part over yet?
Phew! Out of WWOS and on to Hollywood Studios. Magic Kingdom? Check. Animal Kingdom? Check. WWOS aka hell? Check. TWO MORE TO GO!
Okay, this is starting to hurt. So close and yet so far. Not in Epcot yet. Ugh those onramps are brutal. Stop yelling at me, green army man. Making my way to Hollywood Studios! Here comes the side door to Fantasmic and Tower of Terror! Hurl your body down Hollywood Boulevard. Smile at a photographer or two. This isn’t fun anymore. Shuffle past the entrance and make your way to the canal.
Every runner for themselves now – shuffle through the underpass on the waterway, take some of those last couple of gels: you are almost to Epcot! Here we go, Yacht Club, Beach Club, International Gateway…EPCOT!!!! You’re exiting the cast member area and finally reach World Showcase. With the lagoon welcoming you, everyone says you will cry here. I almost did. But you are too tired and want to get through World Showcase: France, Morocco, Japan, USA, Italy, ugh, Germany, China, Norway, MEXICO! Who the heck would drink a margarita right now? We’re almost to Future World!!!
Your boyfriend is cheering you on and yelling your name from the fountain and you have apparently gone deaf with fatigue. You finally give a small wave and collect every last bit of energy to churn out to the finish. YOU ARE GOING TO FINISH YOUR FIRST MARATHON. That gospel choir and HS band is getting you choked up. You see that finish line. Oh my God you can’t believe it. Give it everything you got left! YOU. ARE. A. MARATHON. FINISHER!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Unreal. It still hasn’t truly sunk in. Shed a few tears, collect the medal, finishers blanket and snacks. Take that finisher photo with the paddle beaming from ear to ear. Try not to smell yourself. Hurry home as quickly as you can hobble to get into that shower, eat some soup, and take a nap.
After a deep nap: you sob. You can’t stop sobbing. It hits you. You completed your dream. You are a marathoner. You can go the distance.
Good luck runners, and celebrate every magic mile, and don’t forget to SMILE!
Gina / Will Run for Disney