Monday, January 19, 2015

CheapRunnerMike's 2015 Walt Disney World Marathon Recap

Posted by CheapRunnerMike

It has been a week now since I ran the Disney Marathon in Florida and life is slowly returning to normal.  Michelle and I left for Disney on Friday morning and hit the expo shortly after landing to pick up my bib and we took a very quick tour of the booths while we were there.  Pretty much the same old same old and any items I would have wanted to get were already sold out, so I was able to save a few bucks.

After bib pick up we set headed over to Michelle's Aunt & Uncle's condo where we were spending our first night.  We had a great night with them, which included cards and a wonderful pasta dinner made with the runner in mind.  The next morning Michelle and I got out early for a quick shakeout run before having a nice breakfast and then saying our goodbyes as we went to check into our resort.  We were staying at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort, which is our home resort for Disney Vacation Club.  We arrived before noon and to our surprise our room was ready.  They were even able to accommodate all of our room requests, a nice bonus for sure.

We quickly settled into our room and then went to the Magic Kingdom to pick up our Annual Passes and enjoy the afternoon.  We took it easy there as I didn't want to do too much walking and burn out my legs and before too long it was time to go for our senior's supper at 5:00.  Nothing fancy, just straight-up linguine and meat sauce at Olive Garden (and unlimited bread sticks!) to get my last carb load on.  Then back to the resort for a quick soak in the hot tub and off to bed by 8:00.

The alarm(s) went off at 2:15 on Sunday morning as we had a date with the shuttle bus at 3:00.  I was up easy after a great night's sleep (which happens approximately NEVER before a race) and grabbed my breakfast of oatmeal, a banana and bagel.  I had avoided coffee and caffeine the last couple days and stuck to it race morning, so just a PowerAde to drink.  We made the first bus out and arrived at the Epcot staging area around 3:30.  I was up in Corral A and the race kicked off at 5:30, so Michelle and I just hung out for a little bit as we both had time to kill.  I tried (quite a few times) to get my "runner's business" done before heading to my corral but I was unsuccessful.  Guess I could have used that coffee to get the system flowing…


Eventually I gave Michelle a kiss goodbye and began the long walk to my corral.  It was a cool morning and I thankfully had my throwaway sweats to keep me warm waiting for the start.  Once in my corral I found Shan, one of the runners I follow on Strava.  We knew we were both running and in Corral A, so we were hoping to catch up with each other before the race.  It was nice having someone to chat with and help pass the time.  It was such a weird experience leading up to the start though as I really wasn't nervous at all, not even anxious even.  I just wanted to run.  I knew I had busted my ass for the last 4 months and had done all I could do, so now it was just time to cash my chips in.  Shan and I were both chasing Boston Qualifying times, 3:10 for me and 3:05 for him, so we knew we would be running similar paces.  We also both were after loftier goals of going sub-3, which was the goal I was really after though I was trying not to tell people.  To be honest, if I "only" got my BQ with a time around 3:10 I would have been disappointed…as awful as that sounds it was the truth.  If I ran a 3:10 my paces would be slower than I had run in months.


Before long the countdown began and we were ready to run…Shan and I wished each other luck and figured we would see each other again on the course at some point.  Our corral set off at 5:35 and the conditions were great for running…12°C/54°F with no noticeable wind.

Epcot to Magic Kingdom - Miles 1 to 5 (7'16", 6'55", 6'57", 6'48",6'38")

I knew that I would be tempted to go out quickly with the crowd but I resisted the urge and ran the first mile at 7:16.  The fastest pace group here was 3:05 and they were out of sight in no time.  I figured I would catch them eventually but for now I just had to run my own race.  I took some water at the second water stop and decided I was warm enough that I could ditch my last cold weather item, my gloves.  I started to settle into a quicker pace after 5K when my legs began to feel nice and loose.  As we approached the crowds at the Ticket & Transportation Center I kept my eyes peeled for Michelle…she had decided to camp out there this year instead of in the craziness of Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom as she would be able to scoot over to the Polynesian Resort and see me again.  I saw Michelle (well, I heard her first…she isn't quiet!) and it was a nice boost at the 4 mile mark.  She told me afterwards that she was a bit worried as the 3:05 pace group came through a bit earlier but I managed to catch up to them shortly by running my own easy pace.  I joined up with them at the underpass where the Seven Seas Lagoon meets Bay Lake, just before the Contemporary Resort.  Up ahead I could see the lights twinkling on Cinderella's Castle…we were about to enter the Magic Kingdom!


Magic Kingdom to Animal Kingdom - Miles 6 to 13 (7'01", 6'51", 6'58", 6'54", 6'53", 6'56", 6'41", 6'44")

The run down Main Street USA during the marathon is simply incredible.  There is so much energy and excitement you can't help but get a boost from it.  I had decided that I would stick with the 3:05 pace group for a while to make sure I didn't go faster than I should…the last thing I wanted was to bonk and have to drag myself through the last half of the run, as had been my experience in my first two marathons.  I saw a few characters along the way through the Magic Kingdom (none of whom had any lines whatsoever) and as much as I may have wanted to jump in for a picture, I had my sights set on my goal.  We came out of the park and ran past the Grand Floridian and Polynesian Resorts where I was able to see Michelle again before doing a lap of the Disney Speedway.  The 3:05 group and I came out of the Speedway and crossed the 10-mile point at 1:09:48.  We set off down the service road towards Animal Kingdom.  I ran until mile 12 with the pace group and decided that was enough…my watch was showing my pace at 4:18/km (6:53/mile) and I needed to be under 4:15 to go sub-3, so I figured it was time to make my move if this was going to happen.  I dropped my pace at bit and set off to run my own race as I headed into Animal Kingdom.  I made the turn towards Expedition Everest and made my Yeti-scaring face just like last year, then blew kisses to Minnie Mouse and Daisy Duck in Dinoland before exiting the park.


Animal Kingdom to Wide World of Sports - Miles 14 to 17 (6'34", 6'51", 6'42", 6'41")

The worst stretch of the entire course, Osceola Parkway between Animal Kingdom and Wide World of Sports.  Just highway, nothing else.  Sure Disney tries to spice it up with a few characters (the Haunted Mansion gravediggers were here) and the DJ dance party, but this stretch is the most boring on the whole course and it is at a tough time for a lot of runners as it is right after the halfway point.  I crossed the half-marathon timing mat at 1:30:58 which was right where I should be, but it also meant that if I wanted sub-3 I would need to put up a negative split.  I was still feeling really good though so I pushed on and kept the pace strong.  I navigated the highway overpasses (the only real hills on the course) and asked for some McDonald's fries from spectators who were standing by the Golden Arches (they didn't fulfill my request).  There was also a runner just in front of me that went a got a kiss from his wife and hugs from his kids, so when I ran past I asked her for a kiss too…she opened her arms and said "bring it in big boy" (or something to that effect), but alas I couldn't stop for the smooch, I was on a mission.


Wide World of Sports to Hollywood Studios - Miles 18 to 23 (6'38", 6'39", 6'31", 6'42", 6'43", 6'38")

If the stretch towards WWoS is the worst, WWoS itself is a close second.  It is nice to have scenery and lots of great support again, but the course itself is brutal.  It is full of turns as you wind your way through the complex for a full 5K.  You run between soccer fields, do a lap of the running track and even run the warning track at Champion Stadium, the Spring Training home of the Atlanta Braves.  The scenery and support must have helped though as I was able to dial up some more speed through WWoS.  One thing that the Hansons training plan kept preaching was that they were preparing you for the last 10 miles of the marathon while most plans get you ready for the first 20 miles.  I was into the last 10 miles now and was feeling great, and it was clear that those around me were struggling.  It is a huge mental boost to pick off other runners at this stage of the race instead of being the one being passed.  Once we left WWoS there was a little bit more highway running as well as the biggest hill on the course (the ramp from Osceola to World Drive), which had one of the Toy Story Green Army Men barking out orders for you to "get your butt up that hill!"  Once we were up the hill it was just a short run into Hollywood Studios, which is the best part of the race, the homestretch!


Hollywood Studios to Epcot Finish - Miles 24 to 26.2 (6'26", 6'21", 6'18")

I turned into Hollywood Studios back behind the Tower of Terror and then ran through the smoke-filled costume tunnel from the old Backlot Tour (seriously terrible idea having us run through a smoky tunnel at mile 23, Disney…).  Then it was past the soon to be removed Sorcerer's Hat and down Hollywood Blvd and out of the park.  We followed the pathway along the water to the Boardwalk area and I was now flying, knowing that I was in the last 5K.  I would look back afterwards and wee that I ran my last 5K in 19:31, my fastest stretch of the whole race.  Just before I got to the Boardwalk I saw a familiar face up ahead of me…I had caught up with Shan.  I said hi and gave him some encouragement to push through to the finish and continued on my way.  When I made it to Epcot I could smell the finish and knew that my sub-3 goal was within reach.  I was now in full-on race mode and was pushing with all I had…as crazy as it sounds, I was crossing the 25 mile point and was just then feeling the first bit of fatigue in my legs.  How was this happening?  I had long since crashed at this point in my other marathons and would have been at least walking the water stops, but I was still going STRONG.  I was focused, and here's the visual proof as I cruised through the World Showcase…


My last mile was my fastest of the day at 6:18 and I felt like I gave it all I had.  I rounded the Epcot geodesic sphere (or the 'ball' for those not in the know) and ran past the Hallelujah Chorus into the finishing chute.  I knew I had my sub-3 and after 4 months of hard work I was certainly caught up with emotion.  Then I saw/heard Michelle cheering me on and I kinda lost it…


I crossed the line and had a finish time of 2:58:20, 12 minutes below my BQ time and a 17-minute PR.  I ended up with a negative split of 3:36 which is HUGE…my half marathon PR is 1:29:16 and I ran a 1:27:22 second half.  Incredible.  I ended up coming in 52nd overall (out of nearly 20,000 finishers) and I felt amazing afterwards.  I have never felt so good during or after a marathon!


After the race Michelle and I headed back to the hotel where I was able to shower before we headed over to Downtown Disney so I could grab a Starbucks.  We spent the rest of the day at Hollywood Studios and the Magic Kingdom, and then capped the day with dinner and my traditional post-marathon margaritas over at Margaritaville.  Yum!!!

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So now the plan is to run the 2016 Boston Marathon!  There's lots of time between now and then though and I have taken a solid week off from running since the marathon.  I'll get back out there this week and start to think about what my 2015 goals will be, but for now I'm just going to enjoy the high of this race and getting my year started with the best race of my life.  Thanks for reading!


  1. Holy crap, Mike, way to go!! So glad I resisted the urge just to go to the end of the post to see how you did! Congrats on the PR and the BQ, what a testament to what hard work can do for you! And you always seem to have such a good time racing, as well. Cheers!

  2. Thanks Brian...I do have a lot of fun racing, it's my happy place :)

  3. Agreed...Boston 2016! Hopefully sooner than that though, there has to be a local race before then that we both end up running...
    The Hansons plan was outstanding. A lot of work but when you get the payoff it is all worth it...can't wait to see how it works for you.

  4. Best race recap - love reading about such a happy and great race!!! You are awesome! Now that you have gone under 3:00 can't wait to see what's next for you!!!

  5. Glad you enjoyed it Kim, I always enjoy reading other people's recaps too. Hmm, no idea what to set my sights on next...just going to enjoy this for a little while!

  6. Amazing job Mike! Congratulations!!! You certainly worked hard for it and deserve it!! Soo happy for you!!

  7. Thanks Rhoda, hard work pays off! I was thrilled with the way it turned out

  8. Wow that's amazing. And very inspiring because you certainly put the hard work in. Loved the recap (i was initially tempted to scroll down and peek at your time but the reading was too good!). Congrats 😊 here's to a speedy and happy 2015!!

  9. So So Sooooo proud of you. There really are no words, I was legit screaming when I saw you went Sub-3! Hard work and dedication pay off, Boston 2016?!?!?!?

  10. Thanks Rache! Glad you fought the temptation and toughed it out through the whole recap, I know it was a long one :)

  11. You just keep raising the bar and I've gotta try to keep up :) Boston 2016 it is HAPPENING!!!! We will finally get to run with each other (you will be there, right? RIGHT??).
    Sub-3 was what I really wanted but it is hard to let yourself believe you can do it and equally hard to let yourself want it. Like you said though, hard work and dedication. Let yourself believe and let yourself want and prepare to be amazed.

  12. Kristi@BlogforanAverageRunnerJanuary 20, 2015 at 1:06 PM

    Wow! Can't even imagine what it must feeling to not only BQ but feel good while doing it. Very inspiring - congratulations!

  13. Congraulations!! What a great story and I had tears in my eyes at then end. Amazing job!

  14. Wow, just wow! Congratulations Mike on the BQ and sub 3 marathon! The way you executed it too... so strong towards the finish and a 19.5 minute 5k, just crazy! Well done!

  15. Thanks Kristi, it was a great feeling!

  16. I had tears at the end too Jenn...all the emotions of 4 tough months comes spilling out when you reach your goal, and having Michelle there cheering me on was the tipping point.

  17. Thanks Kevin, I was really happy with the way it played out and I would have never guessed that I could finish a marathon so strong. I had a great training plan that prepared me for it and I stuck to it.

  18. Amazing, amazing, amazing!!! I'm still in shock about this from when I read it on Michelle's post! I don't know what to say other than awesome job, Mike. Congrats!!

  19. Thanks Katie, I'm still a bit in shock too

  20. Amazing Mike!!!! Congrats and beautiful recap!!!