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Reflecting on Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

Friday, February 01, 2013

Although I've participated in several runDisney events this was my first ever Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World.  I sort of knew what to expect, but my thoughts were on a much bigger scale.  My thoughts were right.  The weekend in general is huge.  From the fitness expo to the full marathon each of the events are just simply bigger than other race weekends.  To say Marathon weekend is the grand daddy of them all is a very accurate statement.  Maybe because Disney was celebrating 20 years of the Marathon Weekend that everything seemed turned-up a notch.  You could feel the excitement in the air. 

The weekend started with the Health and Fitness Expo at ESPN's Wide World of Sport Complex.  Walking into the complex it was apparent this was going to be the biggest fitness expo I've ever attended.  Two of the complexes biggest buildings were in use for packet pickup and vendor booths.  It was extremely crowded and I found myself bumping into other runners who were looking for that perfect running tool or gift.  After spending 3 hours at the expo it was time to head back to the resort and rest for the following day's races; the Family Fun Run 5k and half marathon. 

Runners and spectators gather at the 2013 Marathon Weekend Health & Fitness Expo

The next morning it was up early to prepare for the Family Fun Run 5k.  Most of the Disney 5ks I participated in over the years were pretty big, but manageable.  What I discovered at this 5k were a large crowd, starting corrals, and a crowded race course.  I wasn't expecting this large of a crowd for a 5k.  I figured Disney would limit the number of runners because of the size of the course.  Although the race was sold out I didn't expect to hear that more than 10,000 runners were in the race.  When I lined up in my assigned corral I couldn't believe the number of runners in front of me.  As the race started (with a fireworks send off) the massive crowd began filling the course.  Getting around walkers was difficult and with the course becoming so crowded it was tough getting around slower runners.  Of course, this was a "fun run" so time wasn't the priority.  It was about finishing the race and having fun along the way with character photos.  Personally, I would have liked to see more characters along the course.  The character stops along the course had huge lines.  I found myself running past them because the lines were very long.  The best part of the race was the festive finish line where several spectators cheered you through to the end. 

Fireworks signify the start of the 2013 Family Fun Run 5k through the EPCOT theme park

After the 5k it was back to the resort for some rest and relaxation before heading over to the Beach Club Solarium for the Mickey Miles Podcast meet.  Right after that meet it was time for Team Studios Central to gather and talk about the race weekend.  It was quite the scene to see so many runners gathered together in one place.  It was the only time during the weekend I really had a chance to talk to so many other runners about their race experiences.  After the meets it was back to the resort for the evening since the next day's half marathon started at 5:30AM. 

Listeners of the Mickey Miles Podcast display their jazz hands at their first ever meet & greet

Members of Team Studios Central gather at the Beach Club Solarium for some Marathon Weekend conversation

The alarm went off at 3:00AM the next day to begin the trek to the EPCOT parking lot and the start line of the weekend's half marathon.  The crowd in the parking lot dancing to DJ music was huge.  I decided to go ahead and pay for a race retreat which gave me access to a private tent full of runner amenities like a light breakfast, power-ade, massages, and character meet & greets.  I'm glad I did this despite the $120 price tag.  At 4:30AM a group of us decided to make our way over to the starting corrals.  It was a good thing we decided to head over early.  The walk to the corrals was rediculously long and the crowd was moving extremely slow.  By the time we made it to our assigned corrals the race had already started.  It was 5:50 and our corral was crossing the start line.  There was little time to waste waiting in our corral.  As the race progressed through miles 1 through 4 it was apparent this was going to be a crowded race.  Trying to get a PR (Personal Record) was not in the cards today.  It was about finishing and having fun so I decided to throttle my expectations back and not worry about my time.  As we ran through the Magic Kingdom there were points were runners had to completely stop to allow the masses to get through a narrow passage.  Some runners held up other runners because they wanted a picture along the course (near Cinderella's Castle).  As we continued through the course it was apparent the crowd was not going to thin out.  It was crowded the entire way through the course.  However, I don't want to dimish the fact it was a fun and exciting race.  There were several spectators along the course who cheered us on.  Seeing Deb Wills at mile 11 was a real treat and made getting to the finish line a little easier.  Crossing the finish line I said what I had been saying from mile 8 to mile 13...."Boy!  It's hot!"  The heat and humidity began catching up with everyone.  I was grateful to be able to go sit and relax in the air-conditioned race retreat and enjoy a nice post-race breakfast.  I sat with some friends and reflected on the race.  It seemed the biggest topics of discussion were about the crowds and the heat.  Rightfully so because we were exhausted. 

The last group of runners cross the finish line at the 2013 Walt Disney World Half Marathon

This year's half marathon medal awaits finishers of the 13.1 mile race

The next morning I decided to sleep-in a bit and wake-up later in the morning.  The plan was to head over to the marathon finish line to watch runners come in and celebrate.  As I staked my spot near the finish it was aw-inspiring watching runners look to the heavens and thank god as they crossed the finish line.  If for anything else it made me and others around me want to compete in next year's marathon.   Running an endurance race it tough, but it's well worth it once you get to the finish line.  The rush of the finish and reflecting back to all the training you did to prepare for the race is worth every mile of pain and suffering.  Everyone has their own story to tell, their personal fingerprint as to why they run, and why they feel so good crossing the finish line.  The adrenaline rush crossing the finish line is a high worth all of the time, training, and effort leading up to the race.  It's a sense of accomplishment you can't buy or teach.  Congratulations to all of the finishers during Marathon Weekend. 

Marathon runners begin their 26.2 mile journey through the Walt Disney World resort

Marathon runners enter the "Mile 20 Spectacular" where runDisney celebrated the 20th year of the marathon

Marathon spectators show their support for their favorite runners

Team Studios Central Update

Several Team Studios Central runners participated in the 2013 Walt Disney Marathon Weekend.  At the top of the list we need to congratulate Amanda North and Rich Gairing for completing the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge.  They both finished the half marathon on Saturday and full marathon on Sunday (Rich also completed the 5k on Friday - Call him Dopey).  That's a huge accomplishment for anyone!  Way to go Amanda and Rich! 

Also participating in the race weekend was Chris Walthers who along with myself completed the Family Fun Run 5k on Friday and half marathon on Saturday.  Call it the "Goofy Light".  Congratulations Chris!  You've come a long way and should be proud of your accomplishments. 

Congratulations to Melissa Lanetta and the newest memeber of Team Studios Central Kristen St. Clair for completing the half marathon on Saturday morning.  You both did great and should be proud of your awesomeness!  This was Kristen's second year in a row completing the half marathon. 

If you are interested in joining Team Studios Central you can find all of the details here.  We are a group of runners dedicated to health and fitness while making a difference in the community.  Our charity is Give Kids the World who help send children with life-threatening illnesses to Central Florida to enjoy the theme park attractions.  For more information about Give Kids the World and their amazing village in Kissimmee, Florida check out their website at www.gktw.org

To all the Team Studios Central runners participating in the upcoming Princess Half Marathon Weekend, February 22nd - 24th good luck and happy running.  We'll be rooting for you from start to finish. 

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About this column

Aaron DelPrince looks at the various activities you and your family can experience at Walt Disney World


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