It's a very slow process - two steps forward, one step back - but I'm inching in the right direction. - Rob Reiner

January 13, 2012

Walt Disney World Marathon Review – One of the Best Days of My Life!

WARNING:  Really long post… many things to share!


Marathon Expo....oh yea!!
Jim & I left the house about 5:30 am on Saturday to catch our flight to Orlando, Fl.  First stop was to pick up my girlfriend Michelle, who was also running the marathon and then it was off to the airport.  We arrived in Orlando around noon and headed straight for the expo.  In the off chance that our flight was delayed, we had already arranged for our other friend Meredith to pick up our packets since the expo closed at 5pm, but we still wanted to visit the expo if we got to Orlando in time.  The expo was at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, which was really cool.  Unfortunately by the time we got to the expo it was in its 3rd day and close to closing so they were already sold out of a ton of merchandise.  My only regret for the entire marathon is that we didn’t fly out on Friday.  I think it would have made the trip a little more relaxing and there would have been a better selection at the expo.  Nonetheless I was still able to pick out several items including an “I Did It” t-shirt – which seemed a bit pre-mature….but I didn’t know if they’d be available later and I really wanted it.  I was a little nervous that I would jinx myself by purchasing it in advance.

Me & Jim at the airport.  Ready to ROCK Disney!

Me & Michelle at the expo - it's huge!

Catch me if you can!

Pre-mature???  I hope not!

Pre-race meal...delicious!
 After the expo we headed to the condo – which was totally awesome!  My friend Michelle works for a company that owns the condo so let’s just say she was able to get us a really good deal.  She rocks!
Our awesome condo!
We had to wake up insanely early to get to the race so we had dinner about 5:00 pm.  Meredith offered to make all of us dinner so we didn’t have to deal with the stress/time of eating out.  It was an awesome spaghetti dinner with salad and bread!  She was so nice to do this for us!!  After dinner we pretty much headed back to the condo to try to get in bed early.

The race starts at 5:30 am, but they recommend you be at the park by 4am.  You have to be in your corral by 5am, and it’s about a 30 minute walk to the corral starts.  So we planned to leave our condo at 2:30 am to be sure we got there in time.  We were only about 10 miles away, but we didn’t know what kind of delays we might have getting into the park.  I planned to get up at 1:45 am, but I ended up getting up at 1 am instead– which is midnight Kansas City time!  I think I managed to get in a whole 3 and half hours of sleep.  Of course, no matter how sleepy - Jim and I must do our now world famous pre-race dance.

We all meet (me, Jim, Meredith and Michelle) and get in the car….a nervous excitement just filling it.  It was Michelle and Meredith’s first marathon too!  Of course, it was Jim’s 18th so it was no big deal to him.  He was excited for me though.  We were all kind of sleepy and giggly, but ready to go!

The 3 M's in the VIP Tent!

We got to the race in plenty of time, and were actually some of the first ones there, but luckily we had all opted to pay the extra money for the Disney VIP tent and it was AWESOME!!  It was totally worth the money.  If you ever do the Disney Marathon I would highly recommend it.  It is a climate controlled tent with tons of tables and chairs and places to sit where it’s nice and warm.  You have your own porta potties with absolutely no lines, your own gear check area, an area to stretch, and tons of food both before and after the event.  You even get a “VIP” gift after the race – which was a pair of Walt Disney World Marathon socks.  They also had some of the Disney characters set up inside the tent to take pics with before and after the race.

Some pre-race coffee to wake me up!

Hey, I thought we were all doing something fun....maybe I shouldn't have had that coffee
About 4:30 we started heading for the start line.  It was a little chilly for standing around/walking– about 55 degrees, but I knew it would be the perfect temperature for running.

There were people everywhere!  We were literally shoulder to shoulder for the half mile or so that it took to get to the corrals.  Disney was so organized though of course, and even had porta potties along the walking route –which we all ended up needing to stop at.  It took probably 40 minutes to actually get to the corrals….although on a normal day it would probably take 20.  There were just thousands of people.  There were 8 corrals – A-H based on your approximate finish time.  Jim and I were assigned to F, but Meredith and Michelle were assigned to B.  So we wished each other good luck and parted ways, ready to race!  Jim of course, would have been in the A corral, but he had chosen to run with slow me.

Me & Jim right before the race started

Once we found our corrals, it was not long before it was race time.  I was so incredibly nervous.  Would all my training be worth it?  Would I finish?  It was hard to breathe.


The first wave of runners went off promptly at 5:30 am.  And a new wave went off every 3 minutes.  Before long it was my time – they were calling for corral F to line up!  They began playing “Shout” and I was singing and dancing along, trying to calm my nerves.  The fireworks went off and it was time to go!!

Jim was awesome through the entire thing.  He was encouraging, and trying to calm me down, and taking tons of pictures and video.  I did all of my training runs completely on my own….so many hours by myself; it was really nice to have him by my side.

About mile 3 - still totally dark

When the race started it was still completely dark outside, which was fine as we were just running along the highway for the first couple of miles.  The first few miles ticked away very quickly and then we headed into Epcot!  That was awesome.  It was like we weren’t really running a race at all, just visiting the park.  Unfortunately, we were only in the park for about a mile, and then it was another long, long stretch of highway from about miles 4 to 10. 

Me & Jim just being silly along the route

Probably around mile 8 or 9 the sun started coming up.  It was getting warmer, but still not hot since it was only about 8 am.  At mile 10 though the fun begins again as you enter the Magic Kingdom and run straight through Cinderella’s castle.  I’m still feeling really good at this point, no issues at all to complain about.  It’s a wonderful experience. 

Heading toward the Castle!

After heading through the castle, you head back out of the park and embark on another long stretch of highway from about mile 11-16.  During this stretch however, I reach the half way point – wahoo!  I’m feeling really great and feeling pretty certain I can finish. 

You enter Disney’s Animal Kingdom and run miles 16-17 here.  They have tons of animals – birds, donkeys and even a TURTLE to look at or stop and take a picture with. 

Hey turtle - you and me are just the same - SLOW!!
Then you run by Mount Everest, the Tree of Life, and Dino Land!  Although I’m starting to get a little tired here, there are so many fun things to see it energizes me a bit. 

It's easy to run a marathon when you are being chased by a dinosaur!

Hey is that Mt. Everest??
Jim and I stop to get a pic with Jimmy Cricket.  We wait in line for a minute or so only to be told he’s got to go – WHAT??  I was a little upset by that.  I didn’t mind losing a few minutes here and there to get a few fun pics along the race, but I still had a time I wanted to beat, and it was frustrating to lose those few minutes and not get a pic.  Once you head out of Animal Kingdom you start toward the worst part of the race.  I had read about this from several other people so I was expecting it.  You are once again on a long stretch of lonely highway from mile 18-21.  By this point it’s starting to get warm, I am starting to get tired, and there’s really not too much to look at.  But, hey, I’m still having a GREAT time.

Jim has been by my side almost every step and has been so incredibly encouraging. 

Baby, I love you!
Somehow, I find it in myself to run my fastest mile of the entire race in mile 19!  Not sure why, I guess I was just “feeling” it.  Of course, by mile 20 I was really “feeling” it, but in a different way.  We come up over a bridge, one of the few hills in the race, and I set my left leg down and almost lose my footing.  My knee just kind of feels like it’s going to give out.  Jim was a little freaked out I think.  I think he thought I was about to pass out.  He was like are you ok, do you need some water, are you feeling light headed?  I told him I was fine, my leg just kind of gave out due to fatigue I guess.  I have had a myriad of injuries during my training, but I hadn’t had a single issue with my knee until that point.  I could feel the tightness/fatigue in my knee through the rest of the race, but it didn’t bother me too bad.  Around 20 miles I also started having some tightness in my left calf, which I had been dealing with for about 2 weeks.  So, I would just periodically have to stop to stretch it out for a few minutes.  But, I was still fine.  I knew I was going to make it….only a few more miles really. 

Really, six more miles???

Finally at mile 21 you start making your way back into the Disney parks.  You run along a little beach area for awhile and then around mile 22 you head into Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  It’s great to have something to look at again, but by this point I am really getting tired.  22 miles is the longest training run I had done, so I was running farther than I had ever ran before.  Again, Jim continued to encourage me and tell me how proud of me he was.  It was awesome!  Finally, I reach mile 24 and starting making my way back into Epcot…to the finish.  I know now that I am going to matter what I’m going to finish.  I’m tired, so tired.  I’m hurting, but I can almost taste the finish line.  I get to mile 25 and can see the big giant Epcot ball, it’s so close.  I just have to make it to that ball.  Somewhere through mile 25 we are in Scandinavia or something and Jim keeps running up ahead of me to these groups of girls in costume and having them yell out “Go Michael”.  It’s awesome! 

At about mile 25, almost done!

One of our few character pics due to the long lines

Me & Jim just after the race.
Finally, I reach mile 26 and it’s one of the coolest experiences ever.  Right there, you know you are almost done, and to the right is this huge choir singing some wonderful song.  They are dressed in bright gold and blue robes.  It is so amazing.  I almost lose it right there, but I hold on.  I still have just a little bit more to go.  Then we come around the corner and see the grandstands.  There are so many people there cheering and screaming.  Jim and I grab hands in a “victory” pose and cross the finish line together.  I DID IT!!!  I start bawling.  I can’t believe it.  After 4 months of training, battling injuries, and endless hours of running all alone….I did it.  I am so happy.  It’s hard for words to describe the awesome feeling I had when I crossed that finish line, with my wonderful husband beside me.  It was a day I will never, ever forget.

So Happy!

Happy Cry!

My final finish time was 5:54:48.  My ultimate goal was to finish, but I had hoped to finish under 6 hours, so I was very, very happy.  I had really hoped to be around 5:45…but it was worth taking a few extra minutes to snap a few pictures along the route.  I think if I hadn’t stopped for any pictures I probably would have been much closer to 5:45.  But I’m glad to have the pictures and memories instead of the time, and let’s face it – after 5 hours does it really even matter that much?  Plus, my Garmin registered 26.66 so I ran almost an additional half mile – that’s quite a bit!


Jim and I collect our medals and head over to the post race VIP tent where we meet back up with Meredith and Michelle.  They both hugged me and congratulated me and I did the same for them. 

Everyone’s race experience was a little different, but at the end of the day we could all proudly say we were a MARATHON finisher!  And that was so awesome!  We ate, chatted about our day and just celebrated in general.

Flying high after the marathon.  Hey I'm balancing on one foot - that's pretty impressive after 26.2 miles!
When I got back to the condo I had a little marathon gift waiting for me from Jim.  He had sneakily picked up a few items for me at the expo as well as a few items from home.  It was awesome!  Later that evening we went out for a nice celebratory steak dinner and of course dessert too!

Post race goodies from Jim!
Celebration dinner!

Monday was a light day of just recovering by hanging out by the pool and getting a massage. 

Tuesday Jim and I headed to Universal Studios were we had another great day.  Sadly on Wednesday we headed home.  It was difficult to go and leave the warm sunny weather; at home it was cold and snow.  Plus I really didn’t want to leave the glow of this great experience. 

Help, someone help!

It's electric!!
I love you Woody!
Is that Jim peeing in the bushes again??

Going back in to work Thursday morning I was a little bummed.  It was cold, there was snow on the ground, and I was tired – plus my marathon was over.  I had worked so hard and now all of that was over.  Then I walked into my office and found this waiting for me.  It was so amazing!  I have the most wonderful and amazing co-workers EVER!  It was such a huge pick me up.

Overall, my whole marathon experience from beginning to end was so incredibly amazing.  I could share 100s more details with you, but this post is way too long already.  My friends and Jim were so awesome and it was great to get to experience this with them too!

I DID IT!  I am a marathoner!  Wahoo!


  1. Congratulations!!!!!! What an amazing experience you had from start to finish! I am so happy for you, marathoner!!!! You did amazing! It is HARD to run for almost 6 hours! Woohoo!!!!! Now you need a 26.2 sticker, runner girl ;)

  2. Reading this review gave me chills and brought a big smile to my face. It sounds like a fantastic experience--you definitely make me excited both for my race this Sunday AND to run something fun with my husband sometime SOON.

    Congratulations, Michael--you are a marathoner!! Welcome to the club, girl!!

  3. Great race report. Congrats Ms. Marathoner!

  4. Awesome post!!! Loved the pictures!!

    Congrats on conquering your first marathon. You did an awesome job and looks like you had tons of fun doing it!

    Congrats again..... marathoner!

  5. YAY Congrats on entering the 26 club....can't wait :)

  6. What a fantastic race report! It sounds like an amazing time fron start to finish....CONGRATULATIONS! You freaking DID IT!

  7. how awesome!!!

    Congratulations!! You are a marathoner! Everything was so well documented and seems like a wonderful experience!

  8. Congrats on an AWESOME job!!!! I'm so happy for you. I loved the race report!

  9. What a great report. I love that Jim did the whole thing with you and that he got you extra cheers. That's so cool!

    Congratulations. You did it!

  10. This sounds so fun! I think if I ever run a marathon it will have to be Disney. Congrats on a great race!

  11. AWESOME! Congratulations on your first marathon! I teared up reading your post. Sounds like everything went really well. So happy for you. When's the next one? ;)

  12. Hey congrats! Love the pics. My favorite might be the Buzz Light Year pic, although the one of Jim "peeing" in the bushes made me laugh too. ;)

    Oh and the runner girl stickers...super cool.

  13. This was such a GREAT post!!! I don't even know where to start! Well, first and foremost.. CONGRATULATIONS!! If anyone has earned it, it's YOU!! You know you have :) The race looks so great, I really wanna run it now! Maybe something to think about for next year??

    How cool was that of Jim to pack you up some goodies after your race! Love the shirt!

    Cry those tears all you want, I cried for you too!

  14. I commented on Jim's blog that I think I am right behind your heads in that pic in front of the castle. I was on the sidelines right there and I swear that I saw Jim but not you. :( I was thinking about you though! I was also at the finish line right around the time you finished because my friend came through in 6:02. Congrats on your first marathon! I am sooooo excited for you. I literally teared up at the pic of you two sharing a smooch on the course!! And the dinosaur pictures cracked me up!

  15. Congratulations!!!! I've been so excited to read your recap, you did fantastic. You're a marathoner!!!!

  16. What a nice recap. Very happy for you. That Jim is somethin' else...picking up goodies for you. Congratulations.

  17. Awesome!! Yay so happy for you!!

  18. CONGRATULATIONS! Great job and wonderful race report. What amazing friends and coworkers you have :) You are a marathoner!!

  19. Awesome race recap!! Congratulations! YOU ARE A MARATHONER!!!!!!

    when's the next one? LOL!

  20. Good job! Glad you had so much fun doing it too!!!

  21. Michael, I am so, so proud of you! You pushed through so many setbacks~ hooray for you! My hero... seriously! You go, girl!!

  22. Ok Michael I swear I am not an emotional person but for some reason I found tears streaming down my face as I read this. I am just so incredibly proud of you. You have no idea how big of an inspiration you are to me. You are so strong, and I am just happy beyond words. Congratulations!!

    P.S. I really love your bangs. So cute!

  23. You made me cry, AGAIN! I am just so proud of you. You are an amazing person, sister and friend. Thanks for sharing this incredible experience with all of us. I love and miss you! Congrats!

  24. You did WELL, Michael! That is SO early to get out for a race...oy.

    Your knee incident must have been scary, but how nice to have a partner for your race :)

    I loved the photos and the matterhorn/everest shot.

    You have a fantastic workplace. Very nice co-workers.

    So, are you ready to start getting ready for the next one? How is recovery going?

  25. LOVED reading this, Michael! What an awesome first marathon experience!! Congrats!

  26. How awesome that you have this fantastic race report as well as Jim's own wonderful report to help you recall the memories of one of the greatest days of your life!! I'd imagine though that your memories are clear and crisp - and will remain that way - regardless of the posts, but still nice to have...

    I know what you mean about getting back to real life after running that first marathon. It is a bit of a bummer because a lot of the special feelings you feel in the lead-up to the race, the magic of the day itself... it all sort of evaporates. But I can also tell you that every one of my four marathons has been special, huge, important, memorable.... the luster doesn't wear off (for me it doesn't) but that little extra something was reserved for No. 1 only.

    Anyway, congratulations on the race and on training for it the way you did. It's truly inspirational to see you set your sights on it, encounter the challenges you did during training yet remain undeterred in your goal of finishing a marathon.

  27. This is AWESOME! I am so glad you had such a good first marathon experience! Man you did a big one right out of the gate. You have so many good pictures and so many good memories! Running with Jim must have been great.

    When I completed my first marathon I came home to signs up my driveway and then a huge poster at work and an announcement over the school intercom. It is wonderful to have people celebrate with you.

    Keep basking in the feeling for days to come.

  28. This was an amazing experince. I'm so glad we got to do it together. I love your recap, it made me tear up just thinking about it again! Congrats you were amazing!

  29. Congratulations! You ran a MARATHON!!! Awesome.

    I hate to break this news to you though: That dinosaur you were running from is a herbivore. You were never in any danger. ;)

  30. your co-workers are awesome! congrats on your accomplishment :)

  31. AHHHHHH!!!! I LOVE THIS!!!! CONGRATS CONGRATS CONGRATS! you did amazingly. you had a blast! and it will be a memory held forever. that pic of you running with the castle in the background and then of course the one of the 2 of you crossing the finish...both my absolute faves!!!! eeeeekkkk! congrats!

  32. Congratulations!!! I know the feeling of pure elation when you finish 26.2 miles!

  33. new follower here.....but Congratulations on your marathon! What a terrific accomplishment, and you have every reason in the world to be proud! You did it! Well done!!!!!

  34. Loved this race report! What a magnificent day!!

  35. This is the best marathon race report that I've read! Totally smiling for you! Congrats!!!

  36. I am so proud of you. What an amazing feat. Maybe one day I can be at one of your races. You looked beautiful in all the pic. Love you

  37. Great recap! Congrats on your first marathon! I'm really proud of you considering all the injuries that you've had recently. That must have been extremely gratifying at the finish line! Sounded like a great weekend overall!

  38. Congratulations to you!
    I am so happy for you!
    I just saw your video over at Jim's blog! So great! Made me cry and also want to do it myself!

  39. Congradulations on your run. I love the pictures. My wife and step son were volunteers for that race.


  40. MICHAEL!!!!!! Huge congrats to you! That first one is an amazing amazing thing, and I am so glad you had such a wonderful experience!

    I will be back this weekend to watch your video!

    Again, huge congrats! Marathoner! Whoooooooooot!

  41. hey michael...congratulations on an awesome accomplishment!!! Way to go! I actually read about it, and watched the video with my friend on your husbands blog first...You should be very proud of yourself!!

    I will be training for my very first triathalon...and marathon with my frined once I am cleared to return to my sports regiment...i am still recovery from hip surery, and it has been a long road! these blogs are keeping me motivated and imspired!!

    Thanks for sharing!

  42. So freaking awesome! LOVE all the pictures and so happy for you :) I totally agree - the race retreat is worth every penny!

  43. Congratulations!! You are a marathoner and you got to share the experience with Jim. You are one lucky lady!

  44. Congrats on your 1st marathon! What a fantastic race recap Your hubby seems so awesome and supportive - love it!!!

  45. Congratulations! Glad to find your blog - you're race report was awesome. What an inspiration!!