Part 2 of N’s posting about the Disney Marathon. Happy reading!
Sunday morning after sleeping about 5 minutes (my sleep estimate is +/- 5 minutes), I got S up at 3:00 AM in time to board the bus by 3:30 AM. We walked onto the bus and saw that most people were dressed in either Disney costumes or garbage bags. I asked someone why so many people were wearing garbage bags and he told me that they know that they are going to be standing around outside for a while before they start running. In Orlando, in January, at 3:00 AM it’s still pretty chilly especially with the wind. People don’t want to dress too warm because when they start running they will warm up and when the sun comes up it does get hot. So some people wear cheap sweatshirts and sweatpants over their clothes and then they just throw them on the ground when they get ready to start. (Disney then collects the clothes on the ground and donates them to the homeless.) Other people wear garbage bags, which do a nice job of blocking wind and keeping in body heat, then when the race starts they just tear off the bags and leave them on the ground.
The bus dropped us off about a mile from the race grounds and we walked there through a sea of other runners. Disney does a great job of keeping everything moving quickly and organized. As soon as we got to the grounds we saw that there was a party going on. I know everyone loves making fun of Disney but no one throws a party like they do. They are super organized and do almost everything right. It was early but there was definitely excitement in the air. After a quick trip to one of the 10,000 porta-potties, we decided that since it was a 20-minute walk to our starting corral and we wanted to be close to the start line of our corral, that we would just go straight there. As we started walking, S and I started getting excited.
We made our way to corral O (the second to last corral), passing some DJ’s and cheerleaders that Disney placed on the walk to keep everyone pumped up. The corrals were easy to find because they were marked with giant glowing balls. Once we entered our corral, we grabbed a seat on the ground near the start. For those of you who have never done a large race before, you can’t have 20,000+ runners all going at the same time. So Disney requested that you send them a certified race that you have run during the last 12 months that was over 10 miles. Then based on your time, they group you into a corral with people of a similar speed. The people who don’t submit a race get put in the last 3 corrals.
We started talking with the people in our corral, everyone was really friendly and was excited to encourage S and I on our first race. Of course, Disney provided all sorts of entertainment while we waited. They had a stage near the start line of the race and big video screens so everyone could see what is going on. The MC’s were also keeping the party atmosphere going in the corral areas. That said there is something Disney could have done better; they should have added more porta-potties to the corral areas. The lines to use them were really long and everyone hydrates before a race.
Disney tells you that you must maintain a 16-minute mile. To enforce this, after the last corral goes, they wait a few minutes and they send a bunch of ladies with big mickey balloons tied to their waists walking at about 4 miles an hour. As long as you stay ahead of the balloon ladies you are safe. If you fall behind them, a guy on a bike encourages you to speed up and if you can’t get back to the balloon ladies a bus picks you up where they cheer for you but force you to stop running.
S went into race day assuming that she would only do a mile or two, but the people in our corral told her that she would have plenty of time. First, we were not the last corral to go. We were the second to last, which meant there would be at least 8 or 9 minutes before the balloon ladies started going. Second, the Magic Kingdom (MK) is only 5 miles away from the start, so even with an 18-minute mile we could reach the MK before the balloon ladies and once you are in MK they won’t force you to stop until you finish that park. That meant as long as S and I could make it to MK in 90 minutes (again 5 miles) we could run through the castle together. That really got us excited!
As our corral started filling up, it was fun looking around at the people who were grouped with us. They really were in all shapes and sizes. Some were clearly serious runners who had not submitted a time and other were … well… quite large. I was very surprised to see that some of the larger people were wearing Dopey and Goofy shirts (people doing the Goofy run the half marathon on the day before and the full marathon, the Dopey is for runners running all 4 races the 5k, 10k, ½ marathon and full marathon). One of the (not so fit looking) women told S she ran the full marathon last year 36 weeks pregnant! She told S that as long as she doesn’t feel more than 4 contractions an hour she would be fine?!
At 5:30 AM on the dot the fireworks went off and on the big screen we watched the wheelchair athletes start their race (the racing wheelchairs go way faster than anyone can run and it would be very unsafe for them to go after so they get to go first). 2 minutes later more fireworks and then corral A went. 2 minutes later more fireworks and B went… as the slower corrals started going they gave more time in between each launch so after corral D started, they gave 3 minutes before corral E. Finally, after corral K went, we got up and started slowly walking to the start line. S and I started getting really excited; we had a new goal, to get S as far as the castle.
At 6:30 AM we finally made our way to the start line and now were right next to the stage. As we were waiting for our chance to go, the announcers were still keeping everyone pumped up. “IS ANYONE CELEBRATING A BIRTHDAY [3 second pause] THIS YEAR?” It’s pretty easy to get people to laugh at 6:30 AM when they have been up since at least 3:00 AM and are very nervous (and excited). Then the announcer saw S and the camera focused on her and they said, “Wow! It looks like you guys are celebrating more than just an anniversary! (We were wearing anniversary pins)” As I said it was a lot of fun! Then before we knew it, “RUNNERS ON YOUR MARK, GET SET, GOOOO!!” Fireworks erupted from the starting line and from behind the corral and everyone started running. Well everyone but us, as we figured our best chance at getting S as far as possible was a brisk walk.
Throughout all 26.2 miles you have a ton of spectators. They were there consistently cheering us on. It sounds weird to say it but it really helps. Your name is on your race bib so a lot of the spectators see you and encourage you by name. There were a couple of times when I was struggling that someone ran over to me and said, “N, you are doing great!” or, “N keep it up.” It’s really an amazing thing because I will never see these people again and they have no idea who I am, but they really helped me through.
A lot of the spectators were also holding up great homemade signs throughout the course like, “This seems a lot to go through for a free banana,” or, “6 months ago this seemed like a good idea,” of course you also have signs like, “I don’t know you but I’m proud of you!” One of my favorites was “The first thousand don’t impress me; it’s the last hundred that I’m impressed by.”