Proving that it’s never too late for a race report.
Below is my account of the Walt Disney World Marathon, which I ran with my daughter, Lucy, in 2016. I’ve transcribed it word for word from my diary and have included some of my illustrations I’d drawn in it, at the time.
It was masses of fun, flat, you get to run through all the parks and their back-lots and then get to spend a week in Disneyland afterwards. What’s not to love and enjoy?
A GREAT BIG tick on the bucket list – can’t recommend it highly enough.
Thursday 7th – Travelling to London
Well…we’re off. 20 weeks of training and over 600 miles of running around Durham.
This is me. Currently worried about:
– getting a cold
– missing the flight
– flight being delayed
– not making the expo in time to get our bib
– being ill
– not waking up in time on Sunday
– needing the toilet during the race
– runners belly
– not finishing
– Lucy’s leg injury
– How I’ll meet Lucy at the end.
Met Lucy at Gatwick. Checked into the Sofitel and then did a practice run to the check-in desk for tomorrow.
Friday 8th – Travelling to Orlando
Last night they told us that the phones and lift would be off from 09:00. What they actually omitted to tell us was that there was no flaming electricity in the whole hotel.
I got in the shower to wash my hair just as everything went black. I was left with wet hair and no way to dry or straighten it. This is how I arrived at check-in.
Cashed in all my Virgin miles and went Upper Class. What a treat.
Saturday 9th – Expo Day
NEVER SLEPT A SINGLE WINK – I’M SO NERVOUS
Up stupid early to get our race bib – the next thing on my list of things I’m obsessing about.
Got to the bus stop so early that the buses to ESPN, where the expo is, hadn’t started. Despite my reservations, there were no problems at the Expo.
Looked around the Expo. Purchased additional T-shirts. One can never have too many commemorative t-shirts.
Lucy lied, she said my official T-shirt was a perfect fit!
Went to Epcot to carb-load at Italy.
Bed by 7:00. Earplugs jammed in.
Sunday 10th – RACE DAY
Woke up at 01:30 am (no surprise). The travel kettle I bought with us for our porridge is rubbish. The change of electricity means it takes 20 mins to boil. Good job I put it on a practice boil last night. Filled it up, switched it on and reset the alarm for 02:00 am.
Out of the room by 03:10. Tied up our hair in red and white polka-dot Minnie mouse ribbon.
Bus went directly from our resort to Epcot parking lot, where the race is due to start at 05:30. The timezone difference put us at a massive advantage but I think the people on the bus didn’t like us very much – they were sleeping and we never stopped yapping the entire journey – nerves and excitement.
Walked to the start through the parking lot and security.
So many people, so early in the morning. Had our photo taken and mulled around a while.
Real carnival atmosphere.
Lots of trips to the toilet. It’s SO incredibly humid. Sweating profusely. It was about a 10 to 15 min walk to the starting pens from the drop-off. Headed across at 04:00 am.
Yesterday at the Expo we signed up for ‘Live tracking’. The plan is that Michael lets everyone else know our progress through the race.
Lucy and I had a big kiss goodbye at 05:00 am before we split-up to go to our respective corrals. Both got very nervous. I cried when the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ was played.
The crowds were not as chirpy as at UK races. Not very cheery but I suppose the 02:00 am wake-up accounts for that.
We were set off by corral at 2:30 min intervals.
I wasn’t expecting that but EVERY corral got a firework display as they set off and a big send-off from Mickey, Dopey, Goofey and Donald.
Each mile of the race was marked by a massive illuminated billboard of a Disney character with the corresponding musical number. Got very emotional at the Beauty and the Beast one. They were playing ‘Be Our Guest’.
Masses of characters all along the race route. Lots of runners were stopping for photos but I ploughed on. The temperature when we set off was 18 degrees but the humidity was totally unbearable.
The 1st mile went by very quickly. I was so worried about setting off too quickly that I ended up doing the first 5 miles stupidly slowly but to be honest, the humidity was so bad at that point, I didn’t think I was going to be able to finish. I was streaming sweat and my heart rate was up at 185bpm.
It started to settle down by the time I approached the Magic Kingdom. As we approached the tunnel to the MK there was a man with massive hands on top the bridge, shouting words of encouragement.
As we approached the MK, the route followed alongside the monorail. As a train passed, it tooted its horn. Runners were literally jumping out of their skin with surprise.
Ran through the MK car park entrance booths, across the MK car park and into the MAGIC KINGDOM and then down Main St. It was utterly amazing. The crowds were huge.
It was still dark and very early but hundreds of people were crammed in, cheering and waving their posters of support.
This was my first view of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle since we arrived. It was all still lit up with its sparkly Christmas lights.
Despite having resolved that I wasn’t going to stop, I ended up taking a selfie.
The route passed through Tomorrowland, then by the Seven Dwarfs’ Mine train and back through Sleeping Beauty’s Castle where all the characters from Frozen were waving from the balcony. They even had snow falling from the balcony onto the runners. Wonderful. Headed past Big Thunder Mountain before leaving the park via the back lot. Lots of runners were stopping for pics. Saw the new mechanical dragon, which is part of the parade, all parked up in the back lot.
We then had a boring 6 miles of road, in the dark as we headed to the Animal Kingdom. Lots of characters along the way though; Corpse Bride, Mary Poppins, Mickey, Donald, Goofy and many more.
The sun started to come up and it was light by the time we reached the Animal Kingdom. As we approached they had petting animals by the road. I was disappointed that they didn’t have their proper animals out. They must have been asleep. Patted a Shetland pony, a donkey, a pig, a giant tortoise and a goat.
Ran past the Everest ride which was very funny. It was strange thinking that it was only a year ago since we were trekking the trail to the real Everest. I probably would never have trained for this had we not been there. Ran past the AK’s new Dinoland. Went by quite quickly.
Very disappointed to get overtaken by the 4:30 pacer – I should be doing better than this. Coming out of AK we reached the halfway point. People were perking up considerably at the sight of the sign – no idea why. We’ve still got the same to run again.
Another 5 miles of roads which went by quite quickly. The cambers on the turns in the intersections were mental. Almost running at a 45 deg angle. Very tough on the ankles, knees and legs
(Forgot to mention that en-route there had been numerous uniformed, marching high school bands and cheerleaders. That also made me emotional. Between sweating and crying, I was like a prune)
(NOTE: The banana advice I got from a fellow runner last night was spot on. At 11 miles, my stomach started to cramp and I thought I was going to be in trouble. Just as it happened a banana stop came into view. It was very difficult to eat and run. I looked like a chipmunk with it stored in my cheeks. It killed the cramps almost immediately. It’s obviously potassium that’s doing the trick. Had another one at 17 miles)
At 16.5 miles did a sharp left into ESPN. At this point, there were runners who were ahead of us on the other side of the highway. They were at 21 miles. That was a bit tough to handle.
Entered the gates of ESPN at 17 miles; left 3 miles later having run around EVERY conceivable sports groud known to man. Who knew the Americans played that many sports. Each time you left a sports ground, thinking it was your last, then you entered another one. What a nightmare.
Finally got to the baseball stadium, which I knew was the last one. Mickey Mouse was there and lots more cheering supporters.
At 21 miles we arrived at the only hill on the course (A bank to an intersection- hahaha). The much anticipated Toy Story Green Soldiers did not disappoint. They were barking orders to run faster, dig-in, etc at all the runners. I gritted my teeth and speeded up.
Another 2 miles to Hollywood Studios. At this point, I was doing lots of motivational talking in my head. 22.5 miles was the longest I’d ever run in my training. I had to keep saying to myself that it was only a parkun.
Into Hollywood Studios past the Tower of Terror. Runners were stopping for rides – not me. You could hear people screaming as you ran on through the park.
Onward through Washington Sq gardens and the set of the New York streets with the false perspective. Ran through the Big Movie ride in the dark. Exited via Hollywood Bvd. We then ran around the lake and the Boardwalk.
Entered Epcot just in front of the UK part of the Round the World and then ran around all the countries of the world at Epcot Showcase. I was really biting back the emotional blubbering.
More head ‘talking-to’.
It was amazing when Spaceship Earth came into view. My last mile was bizarrely my quickest.
Finished 4 hrs 45 – blubbed my eyes out.
Rang Michael straight away. He told me that Lucy was doing really well so I decided to wait for her rather than go to the hotel as planned.
Got more photo’s together and Lucy posted on Facebook. More donations for our Just Giving page for the Alzheimer’s Society (we made over £3500 at the final count). Back to the hotel.
Both had ice baths which were a life saver. The only problem was that as soon as I got in the bath I discovered that I’d got blisters on my bum; Lucy was similarly scarred.
Once clean and tidy and Savlon-ed up, we headed back to Epcot in our T-shirts and medals to get more photos. It was brilliant. Everyone was congratulating us. Rode the all rides at Epcot. Mexico for dinner.
Back to the hotel and bed at 9:30
WHAT IN UTTERLY AMAZING DAY. EXCEEDED ALL EXPECTATIONS.
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