Last week I travelled over to Florida. My main reason for going was to run in the Walt Disney World Marathon.
The Walt Disney World Marathon was scheduled to start at 5:50am this year and Disney seems to think that people should arrive quite a bit in advance of the start. Consequently I was awake a little before 3am to get prepared. Clothes and food were already laid out, so it was a case of getting all of these in the appropriate places. I had a mug of coffee stuffed into my hand while I was eating bananas and cereal.
Then it was time, just after 3:30am, to go get on a bus. I was unimpressed with the ‘Hello ladies. Good luck today.’ the pair of us got on the way to boarding the bus. The bus was fairly empty and we were quickly, before 4am, at the bus drop off point. We then walked to the race arena and decided to go straight through bag drop – neither of us needed the bags any longer and it looked quieter on the other side of bag drop, which only people racing were allowed to go through.
We staked out some floor space and sat around talking and relaxing. Also, we did the toilet queue a few times. I discarded my throw away trousers early – the promised mid40s F (single figures in C) temp had not materialised. Instead it was 52F (11C) and comfortable to be walking around in shorts. Disney, again, seemed to be working too early and was trying to move people towards the start long before we found in necessary to start moving. I said bye to my friend at the split point – the WDW marathon uses two starts, with the first 3.4 miles, being different for the red and blue starts – and the two of us were off from different starts. I went towards my corral, A, took my pre-race gel and discarded my old top.
I arrived in the corral with less than ten minutes until the official start time – plenty soon enough. My pre-race plan was to start close to the 3:40 pace group and stay with them for the early part of the race if that was a pace that felt comfortable. This plan instantly became more difficult when I realised that the 3:40 pace group was starting from the front of the B corral rather than the back of A, so I was already a bit in front of them, though I did make it close to the back of the A corral before we started. We were welcomed, the US anthem was sung, and then we were prepared. The wheelchairs went off at around the time we were meant to start and then we went off soon behind them with the usual Disney flair.
I started at a reasonable pace, slower than my intended race pace, with the intention of getting up to race pace in the first mile. It took me just over a minute to cross the start line. The first mile is around the major road outside Epcot. The red start apparently went off ten seconds later than us (!?) and they start a bit further down the road on the other side, so we go past a lot of people for the first bit. At some stage in the first mile the 3:40 pace group went past and I tagged on a little behind the group, where I had enough space to run at my normal rhythm. The second mile took us round the edge of Epcot. I was carrying a drink for the first few miles so that I could miss out on mayhem that was the first few drinks points. By the two mile marker I was about 100m behind the 3:40 pace group.
2 miles in 17:44 (I do not have the first mile split, but expect that the split was 9:15 and 8:30)
The next mile was through Epcot, though it was dark and I was concentrating on not running into people, so I did not really manage to see that much of the area. During this mile I felt that the 3:40 pace group was going too fast for me and I let them go – since then I have found out that they ran a 9ish minute first mile and then preceded to ‘bank’ three minutes in the first half, so they were effectively running at 3:30 pace for 2-13 miles. The pacers in this race seem to have been utter useless.
3 miles in 26:23, a 8:39 mile
During the fourth mile the two courses merged just leaving Epcot. However, the red start had no people of around my pace and so this merge point was not noticeable. (For people running in future years note that the merge point is troublesome for people in C and D corrals with this split of people, but they have, in past years, had different corral splits between the two starts.) We are now back to the start, which has been largely packed up in the 30ish minutes since we left.
4 miles in 34:55, a 8:32 mile
The next few miles are along the roads west and then north, going to the Magic Kingdom. I am running comfortably at this point, but do a quick ‘hedge’ stop to get rid of excess liquid a little before the five mile point. I continue at a pace I am happy with and seem to have a group around me running at a similar pace.
5 miles in 44:00, a 9:04 mile
6 miles in 52:17, a 8:17 mile
7 miles in 1:00:43, a 8:26 mile
Around this time I finish the drink I am carrying and chuck the bottle at a drinks point. It is now starting to get light, though the sun has not made an appearance yet. At around 8.5 miles I see one of my friends in a bunch of supporters – this would be the only time I would see a friend all day, though the names on race numbers mean that I had plenty of people cheering for me all day. I take on some Powerade and find it to be very watery and take my first gel at around eight miles. I keep a decent pace up for the next few miles as the sun comes up, which makes this part of the course more interesting than it would otherwise be. At just after eight miles you can see the half way point and the we cheered the leaders through – so I was only about five miles behind at this point.
8 miles in 1:09:10, a 8:25 mile
9 miles in 1:17:27, a 8:19 mile
10 miles in 1:25:56, a 8:28 mile
The next mile takes one around and then through the Magic Kingdom. This includes a trip through the castle – not that I noticed it! This is also where I first noticed that something was not right – my smooth running had gone. Through to the half way point the course passes a couple of resort hotels. During these miles I stop for some stretching and walking breaks, though these do not help and I now seem to be limping slightly when running. However, during the walking I noticed that I was able to maintain a good pace with no limping. At some point around here I took my second gel.
11 miles in 1:34:45, a 8:50 mile
12 miles in 1:42:24, a 10:38 mile
13 miles in 1:54:30, a 9:06 mile
Half way reached in around 1:55
At the half way point I decided to walk for a while. If I could maintain a decent pace (i.e. about 4 miles an hour) without limping then I would keep going, else I would pull off at a medical tent and get myself transported to the finish. We were offered a banana at around 14 miles, but I did not take this.
14 miles in 2:09:19, a 14:49 mile
15 miles in 2:25:05, a 15:46 mile
We entered Animal Kingdom during the sixteenth mile and also got a Clif shot at this point. I got mango flavour, which was icky – it turned out that the better flavours were towards the end. I had already been to the Animal Kingdom so I recognised quite a bit of the route through this area. Also, there was an owl on display – if I had had a camera with me I would have stopped for a photo.
16 miles in 2:40:25, a 15:20 mile
17 miles in 2:56:06, a 15:41 mile
18 miles in 3:12:38, a 16:32 mile
Coming out of Animal Kingdom the 4:30 pace group went past me – I remember this group going through as they managed to go past me on a thin section of course without one person bumping or barging me. I also stopped to re-tie my shoes and go to the toilet. It was also at this point that I noticed that it was getting hot – the temperature rose to 83F (28C) by the time I finished. This is also one of the worst parts of the course, including the 21st mile where you go down one side of the road, turn around, and come back on the other side. At 19.5 miles there was a DJ and she did not seem to understand why none us were too happy at her when she was playing ‘Another One Bites the Dust’. I did not take another Clif shot in this section, nor the bananas, but instead took on my third gel. I found these miles tough, and only just managed to keep going. Towards the end of this section my mind was suffering as this was now longer than I had ever been out, in terms of time or miles, and it was also longer than I had hoped to take for the marathon.
19 miles in 3:30:51, a 18:13 mile
20 miles in 3:46:52, a 16:01 mile
21 miles in 4:02:42, a 15:50 mile
22 miles in 4:19:21, a 16:39 mile
From here to the finish was around Hollywood Studios and Epcot. The support was fantastic. The music through Hollywood Studios was great and I managed my two fastest walking miles. We were offered chocolate at this point, but I did not take any. I did, though, take on my final gel. From here on I would also be overtaking about the same number of people as were overtaking me, rather than it being a case of lots of people going past me.
23 miles in 4:33:53, a 14:32 mile
24 miles in 4:47:48, a 13:55 mile
The 25th mile took us around the lake area and onto a wooden boarded section. I thought that this was going to be nicer than the roads but it was actually worse and I had to slow down again. The last few drinks points seemed to have lots of people standing around them – welcoming the chance to have a rest!
25 miles in 5:03:28, a 15:39 mile
Then it was back into Epcot for a chunk I had done earlier in the day and then into the finish. At this point my mind was finally realising that I would finish – I was smiling, I had a sense of accomplishment. Oh, and I was finally going to be able get out of the sun. Towards the end I decided to ignore any pain and ran the last bit, overtaking a few people going into the finish.
26 miles in 5:19:39, a 16:12 mile
26.2 miles in 5:22:17, a 2:38 last bit
Then it was a case of grabbing a, very unneeded, foil blanket, have the chip removed, and a medal hung around neck. I used the tactic of going to the last person for each and avoided the queues that others were waiting in. Then I had my photo taken before I grabbed some water and powerade. I did not bother with any food as I knew it would be a while before I would manage to eat anything.
I reclaimed my bag and, in the chaos of the post race area, I managed to miss my friends. I got on a bus, which was very busy, and went back to my hotel. There I had an ice bath to cool off the legs and then I very welcome shower. The combination of these left me feeling much fresher. My feet were hurting a bit, but I walked down to get food which proved difficult as my mind was struggling to make sense of what I wanted.
While eating the last of the food, the other friend who had been running returned. She too had found it tough, but had completed the Goofy Challenge. One other friend had come back – to sort out anything we wanted – while the others had gone into one of the parks to allow us some relaxation time. We talked for a bit and then I collapsed onto my bed, falling asleep very soon.
A few hours later I was awoken. It was time for dinner. We were eating at the California Grill, a short boat journey away. The food and service here was excellent – definitely a good choice for a post race weekend celebration. After food it was back to the hotel and off to bed.