January 22, 2014

Walt Disney World Marathon Race Recap - Christine's Version

We’ve decided to write two recaps of this race because we felt sharing our unique perspectives was valuable.  And let’s be honest, writing a marathon recap is FUN and we both wanted to have that chance!  Pam’s will be coming soon (once she’s back from the sunny tropics). 

Leading up to the marathon, we had chatted about time goals and expectations, given we were running this as race 4/4 of the Dopey Challenge.  I was content to focus on a PR for Mom – her best time leading up to this race was 4:54 and I figured we had that in the bag.  But as time went on, she started talking more about BQ’ing at this race.  After a few fast runs leading into taper, I was confident we could do it.  Note that I thought her BQ qualifier was 4:20 when in reality it’s 4:25…that will be a key piece of information later.  We agreed that we would run together in the full unless her BQ was on the line.  I told her under no circumstances would I allow her to hang back for me if that time was within her reach. 

After the half, I was feeling pretty confident but a little anxious heading into the marathon.  I wasn’t sure how I would feel and was starting to panic about maintaining a pace that would put is in the range of Mom’s BQ.  As we were walking back to our room at the Poly, I told her how I was feeling.  She made a similar comment and we agreed that we wouldn’t focus solely on the BQ pace and run a little more on feel.  I felt a little more at ease and collapsed into bed a few minutes before 8:00PM.  I’m pretty sure I was asleep before my head hit the pillow…the early mornings were definitely taking their toll.

Our alarms were set for 2:45 (I think) and we got out of bed quickly and got ready.  Unlike the previous mornings, you could tell this was “all business” – there was a bit of anxiety in the air for sure.  We were after all taking on 26.2 miles after running 22.4 over the previous 3 days.   Once again, we got on the monorail and made our way to Race Retreat.  We got to the tent much earlier and were able to scope out a large table for our group.  I had a much harder time choking down breakfast this morning, mostly because it was still so early and my nerves were rearing their ugly head.  We met up with Cyanne and Karen and wished them well on their FIRST full marathon, snapped a photo with the penguin, said hello to my hometown friend Kristina, and suited up to head to the corrals.
Met the lovely Cyanne and Karen! They ROCKED their first 26.2 together!

Kristina and I 
Ready to roll!
Once again we started in corral G (like the half) and were off a few minutes before 6:00AM.  We settled into a manageable pace pretty easily and noted that the course was very crowded for the miles leading up to the Magic Kingdom.  In retrospect, I’m glad we weren’t focused on the BQ time because I know I would have gotten frustrated that we couldn’t achieve that pace in the beginning of the race.  Before we knew it, we were running down Main Street and traipsing through Magic Kingdom before dawn.  This never gets old to me and I hope I’m able to run this course many more times!  As we were exiting Magic Kingdom, the 4:30 pacer passed us.  This isn’t really notable at this point but you’ll see why I mention this later.

I was excited for our next major attraction on the course – the Speedway.  Since I didn’t run the marathon at Disney last year, I’ve never had the opportunity to run this section.  And everything that I read in advance was spot on – the entry into the Speedway was treacherous at best.  The incline down is so steep that people are nearly walking to maintain their balance and coming back up and into the Speedway, it feels a little like climbing Everest (not that I know from experience).  It was a nice diversion to run through here and we enjoyed the classic cars and spectators around the track.  

After the Speedway, we turned to head to Animal Kingdom down Bear Creek Road.   I commented to Mom that we’d picked the pace up quite a bit and confirmed she was ok with where we were. I expected to be bored in this stretch but I really enjoyed it.  We interacted with fellow runners and it was very serene and peaceful.  Mentally, I appreciated the time to decompress a little bit and lose myself in my music and peaceful surroundings.  And it was the perfect mileage to zone out – approximately 10-13.  At the mile 12 marker, I checked our split and we were pacing ahead of my Marine Corps pace.  We were on track to hit the 13.1 marker in 2:18 or 2:19.  I quietly thought that I wished I had a PR half marathon in me to help get Mom to the BQ pace but I knew that was all but a pipe dream.

We turned into Animal Kingdom, entering near Asia, just before the mile 13 marker.  It was fun to run through this park during daylight (we’ve only seen it at night during Wine and Dine and just briefly at the Jingle Jungle 5 and the course was much more crowded during that race).  Many runners opt to hop on Expedition Everest during the race but we passed it just a bit too soon – the park wasn’t open yet when we ran through and not to mention, there’s no way Mom would have wanted to wait around while I rode a roller coaster during a marathon!

Coming out of Animal Kingdom, we spotted fellow Dopey Challenge runner Dani.  We had a great chat and she took a hilarious selfie of us on the course.  It was great to see her and get some encouraging words before we were off to ESPN Wide World of Sports (WWOS).
This photo perfectly captures the moment of the race - sun just coming up in the background,
feeling good and having fun chatting with the girls in the colorful tutus behind us!
As we headed back out toward ESPN, I told Mom that it was “game on” and it was “going to get real” when we got out.  I’d heard horror stories about the trek to ESPN WWOS and coming out of it.  I’ve heard it called the “Bhutan death march” and was warned that you would really feel the sun while out on the roadway.  But I refused to be intimidated by this.  We were consistently picking up the pace with every mile leading up to ESPN WWOS so I was feeling pretty confident.  And yet again, we ran into Dani while running around the ESPN complex.  It was great chatting with her and running with her ensured we were keeping a pretty good pace.  The final part of the course around WWOS was running through the stadium which was filled with lots of spectators – another great confidence boost! 

As we made the turn to Hollywood Studios, I started doing mental math, but my brain wasn’t exactly on point if you know what I mean.  It took me about 5 minutes to figure out we were easily on PR track for both of us and it was possible we might break 4:30.  I held my tongue for a little bit because every time I made a comment about our pace, I could sense that Mom tensed up a bit. 

We headed into Hollywood Studios and I was ready to jam to the finish.  I was feeling great and had a lot left in my legs.  I felt like we were FLYING through the park – literally.  We passed a ton of people which is always a boost and as we passed Wreck it Ralph, I yelled to Mom “we are wrecking this marathon right now”…excited much?  One of the girls around us laughed and gave us good wishes for the finish.  I could feel that Mom was starting to fade a bit but I knew she had something left in the tank (she always has gas at the finish so I felt comfortable pushing the pace a bit more). 

As we exited Hollywood Studios, there were spectators everywhere.  I’ve been known to ham it up a bit with the crowd and I sped ahead of Mom to get them going a bit (she needed them more than I did at this point).  I heard a few people yell for us which was awesome, but I didn’t have the mental or physical strength to search the crowd for faces.  We made the turn onto the narrow path to the Boardwalk and eventually EPCOT.  I told Mom a sub-4:30 was in reach, but we had to gun hard.  She told me to leave her but I told her we crossed together, no questions about it.  I looked tirelessly for Jen along this stretch and saw a girl that might be her, but her face didn’t register.  Turns out it WAS her!  Thanks for your cheers Jen, even if we never realized it was you! 

Once we got into EPCOT, Mom turned on the juice…see, I knew it was there!  We were running as hard as we could toward the finish and I never even noticed our pal Dopey out on the course in Germany (or many other characters for that matter).  We were in head’s down, eye on the prize mode.  The only chatter that occurred in EPCOT was me pointing out where I saw her in last year’s marathon and her telling me to slow down when I ran ahead in Future World to get the crowd revved up for her (it was well intentioned!).  As we made the turn out of the park to the finish, we passed the 4:30 pacer and I realized we wouldn't get under the mark but a PR for both of us was certain.  I’ve never enjoyed a finish line stretch more than this one.  There weren’t tons of people coming in so it was nice to enjoy the crowd and the announcers.  We crossed hand in hand and shared a giant celebratory hug!  My final time was 4:31.51 and Mom’s was 4:31.50…we’ll call that her Birthday gift, shall we?!  This was a 23 minute PR for her and 6 for me. 
Celebrating with Danielle
Celebrating the completion of Dopey Challenge with Dani!
In retrospect, we might have had a 4:25 in us to get Mom to the BQ standard, but I’m really glad we didn’t have that pressure over us for this race.  I LOVED just about every second of this race.  Seriously.  I told Mom that I loved the event at about mile 7, which coincidentally is around the same time as when I told Danielle how much fun I was having at the Marine Corps Marathon.  It was an incredible experience to share Dopey Challenge with Mom.  I was immensely appreciative of the companionship along our 48.6 mile journey and most notably, the 26.2 miles of the marathon.  I’d be lying if I didn’t say I feel very proud of how we ran the marathon – double PRs, negative splits and smiles on our faces.  I know a lot of people say they don’t run Disney events to PR but I am here to tell you that you can PR AND have a fantastic time!  Fun and PRs are not mutually exclusive at Disney. 
3 more medals
Coming off this race, I am eagerly awaiting my next full even though I don’t have one on the calendar yet.  I’ve learned I really love this distance and the mysteries it holds.


  1. Awesome recap! I'm so glad that you both had a good race. I can't imagine running a marathon much less 48.6 miles in 4 days-impressive for sure. I was thinking while reading your version Christine (and recalling the recap of your last marathon) that this seems to be your distance-at least from a readers POV :)

  2. Thank you so much for a great recap! I have tears in my eyes - I love how you and your mom run together! I have hopes that someday my daughter and I can do the same. Congrats to both of you on a fantastic race and Dopey Challenge!!

  3. Way to go Pam and Christine! You had me on the edge of my chair as I read this recap and was anxious to know whether or not you PRed - congrats on achieving your goal! I can't wait to read Pam's version of the race - I'm sure it'll be just as nail biting!

  4. SO very awesome! I love how you reflected on the quiet time between miles 10-13. It's easy to get caught up in the hype and hoopla of the exciting parts of the race but I find that time where you're able to just focus on breathing and really get in the zone is so lovely as a runner. It's that sweet spot, you know? Many congrats to you!

  5. Great recap and way to get a PR at Disney! Love reading what you saw along the course since it depends on what time you finish with characters rotating. Happy Running and good luck with your future marathon plans.

  6. Wow what a recap! That makes me want to run the full marathon so badly. You are both awesome for getting a marathon PR after running the 3 days prior!!

  7. Congrats on the PRs for the both of you! I loved reading your recap, and it definitely makes me want to run another marathon. :)

  8. I actually teared up reading this! What a wonderful race story! Christine, you sure do have lots of energy after running all those miles. You didn't tire once, amazing. I'm sure your mom was thankful to have you as a running partner!

  9. Congratulations again to both of you guys, you totally rocked the marathon and the Dopey Challenge! I'm so glad I got to see you guys after the race.

    And Pam, you definitely have that 4:25 in you - go get it!

  10. You guys ROCKED it!!! I have to agree that I liked the speedway far more than I expected to, and the back roads towards animal kingdom were nice and peaceful. I HATED WWOS with every fiber of my being. I could not wait to get out of there. I found it to be the most boring part of the course and felt like we were running in circles. Mentally I couldn't deal with it.

    I think you should come run Philly in November :)

  11. Why is it every time I read about one of your major accomplishments, I get all teary-eyed?! Once again, your story was amazing and inspirational. Keep up the hard work ladies! You make all us chicas proud!

  12. OMG a HUGE congrats to you both! Who the heck PRs the marathon during Dopey!? And most importantly, you had fun! So happy for you guys -- and I know a BQ is in Pam's future!

  13. I wanted to ask you both what you thought about the retreat-was it worth it? Just in case I ever get to cross a Disney race off of my bucket list :)

  14. You ladies are SO inspirational! All that hard work and training sure paid off, you looked like you both had so much fun. I can't wait to read Pam's recap.


  15. SO awesome. Incredible post, and congrats to both of you. I know this is super corny to say, but I can't help but getting a little emotional that not only are you achieving these amazing goals, but you're doing it together. You ladies ROCK. Congratulations! :-D

  16. Awesome job, and loved the recap!! I think it is just so amazing you were able to run together as well!

  17. I loved every minute of this recap!!! I'm so glad you two had such a fabulous marathon - it really put the icing on the Dopey cake! And I have NO DOUBT in my mind that you (Christine) will continue to crush PRs and that Pam will get that BQ. So glad I was able to experience this weekend with you both!

  18. What an awesome recap! Congratulations on those PR's!!!