Saturday, January 19, 2013

Walt Disney World Marathon #GoofyChallenge Part 2

Quick Summary -MAGICAL!
The Walt Disney World Marathon was one of the best running/racing experiences of my life. I executed my race strategy perfectly and had fun from the start to the finish. I crossed the finish line at a full sprint and was buzzing from endorphins for much of the day. Continue reading for lots of details and photos. Thanks!

Early Morning Wake-up ... Again
About 19 hours after I finished the Walt Disney World Half Marathon (the first third of the Goofy Challenge) my alarm announced it was wake up time. At a few minutes before O'Dark Thirty (3 am) I leaped/fell out of bed. To complete these tasks:

1. Check the final score of the Packer game. D'OH! I went to sleep right after Sam Shields returned an interception for a touchdown. Apparently things went downhill from there. 
2. Make coffee, coat a bagel with crunchy peanut butter, and stow a banana, cliff bar, and bottle of water in my drop bag. 
3. Get dressed while doing my best to not stub a toe walking around in the dark hotel room. I was successful. 

Relaxing in Dino Land Saturday afternoon (after the half and before the full)
Bus Ride to EPCOT
A few minutes after O'Dark Thirty (3 am) I walked to Coronado Springs bus station. The bus was much, much, much quieter than the day before until we filled up all the seats with the Team in Training group that was at bus stop 1. Just as all the seats filled I heard one of the best lines of the weekend, "Hey coach, can I use your Bodyglide again?" I am a Bodyglide users and advocate. I also know the places I apply my Bodyglide and there are no circumstances I can imagine where I would a) let someone else use my Bodyglide or b) use another's bodyglide. Would you? 

The nervous energy of the Team in Training group propelled our group forward. I don't know much about TnT but from what I gathered is they were a) very excited, b) very nervous, and c) fairly inexperienced. Many of them were about to run and or walk their first marathon. Given the warm weather and humidity it promised to be a difficult day for many of them. They also raised loads of money for leukemia and lymphoma and deserve great praise for their efforts. I did my best offer encouragement to the TnT members I saw on the course.  

The buses line up at least 10 in a row, nose to tail, to drop off runners. Bus 10 is closest to the start village. Bus 1 is furthest. We parked in Bus 1 spot and had the extra walk past all of the other buses. It was fun to walk into the start village with so many others. I was reassured that the other Goofy Challenge runners were as sedate as me and bouyed by the enthusiasm of the runners that were "just" running the marathon (it is an odd thing to say "just" running a marathon and no slight is intended). 

Start Village Day 2
Without my wife to talk to and wondering how I was going to survive a marathon with the combination of little sleep and high heat/humidity I found a spot to sit immediately and planned out my eating/drinking/potty plan for the marathon. I wanted to eat bagle and banana at about 0400 and then half a cliff bar at about 0500. Plus I needed to down about a liter of water and find enough porta potties. With the advantage of knowing the start area layout and process I made a plan and followed the plan. 

Trip to Corral A
The only difference between Sunday and Saturday was they allowed us to begin walking to the corrals much earlier. Maybe they had trouble getting everyone to the corrals on Saturday. Once inside Corral A I planted myself along the fence, tried to close my eyes, and listened to nervous chatter around me.

Like Saturday there was lots of chatter from the race MC and DJ, VIP introductions, and more. There were 95 runners preparing to run their 20th consecutive Walt Disney World Marathon. I talked to one briefly when he stood next to me. It looked as though his peak fitness might have been 20 years ago and he reported the organizers told him he could pick any corral so he picked A to minimize his time in the heat and sun (the final corral wasn't scheduled to start until almost 0630 ...  a huge difference. 

Almost Time to Start
I appreciated the encouragement from Jeff Galloway and Bart Yasso. Joey Fattone from DWTS fame (I think) had the same comments as the day before. Another Disney vocalist sang a snappy version of the National Anthem (he obviously shares my belief that a 90 second song should be sung in about 90 seconds). 
Waiting in Corral A

The 20th anniversary banner

I assure you I was not as awake and bright eyed as I appear in this photo

Counting down to the start ... 3 ... 2 .... 1

Cue Fireworks!
Disney knows how to put on a show. With a countdown from Mickey and an explosion of fireworks in the pre-dawn sky we were off. 
KaBoom! .... note the fellow in the yellow shirt and white hat trying to jump the fence back into the corral
Again I was surprised by the burst of speed some runners leave the start while others in the A corral begin with a 14 minute mile pace. Go figure. 

Link to the course map

To the Magic Kingdom
The marathon route is the same as the half marathon until about mile 8. Since I had just run the same path 24 hours earlier I had a good sense for the lines I wanted to run and didn't feel compelled to pause for any photos before the Magic Kingdom. The mile 1 sign looked the same on Sunday as it did on Saturday. 

I did stop at the porta potty again before mile 1 which was easy and convenient. The time loss is minimal to use a porta potty early in the race and beats the risk of trying to jump a fence. Because it is dark and the early miles are roads through the forest many runners (male and female) just step off the road and go. 
The silhouette of Space Mountain is in the distance. We are near the Contemporary Resort.  
During the run to the Magic Kingdom I talked running socks with the "@SockGeek". I queried about how he got into the sock business, what to look for in a running sock, why a sock matters, and how to know when it is time to retire a sock (when it gets saggy). We talked a bit about friction and moisture before fading apart. Thanks for the conversation!

5M Split in 46:39 (pace 9:20 min/mile for an estimated finish time of 4:04:36).

I was running a very comfortable pace. My legs felt great and I was feeling awake. The heat and humidity was obviously going to be an issue. Since I wanted to have a fun time running and enjoy the rest of the day I was very comfortable with this starting pace. I was also grabbing a 1/4 cup or so of Powerade at every fluid stop (pinch the top to be able to gulp while running and not spill all over your chest or snort lime fluid). 

Into the Magic Kingdom

It is truly magical to turn onto Main Street USA and run towards Cinderalla's castle. I have run on Las Vegas Blvd (training runs), 5th Avenue in New York City, through Lambeau Field, on the Miami Beach boardwalk, through Olympic Park in Atlanta, and several other famous landmarks. Main St USA, for me, is just as good as any of these other famous running routes. 

One of my kid's favorite rides. 
Inside the Magic Kingdom I stopped for a photo with Belle (no line) since Beast was not around. I also waited in line about 8 people deep for a photo with royal Minnie and Mickey. I used this opportunity to finish my Cliff Bar which I washed down at drinking fountain in Frontier Land, just across from the Country Bear Jamboree (by the way I remember those Bears being much more realistic when I was kid). 
Cinderalla's Castle from the rear

Belle outside the entrance of the new Fantasy Land

Royal Minnie and Mickey

Outside the Magic Kingdom 
Outside the Magic Kingdom I had a photo with a prince and princess (not sure from which movie) before continuing the run past the Grand Floridian and Polynesian. Just after the ticket and transportation center the course angled across a parking lot and through a tunnel into the Walt Disney World Speedway. Just before entering the speedway I ducked into another porta potty. This was a good indication that I was well hydrated that I was able to void urine 8 miles into the race (and about 4 miles before the sun would rise). At the time I thought to myself it will probably be 1 pm before I urinate again (it ended up being almost 2 pm). Nonetheless, I was happy with my hydration and nutrition status at this point in the race. 

A car show was arranged on the race track and we ran on the apron. 
Runners on the apron, below the cars. Still before sunrise. 

Running, running, running
My kids are huge Cars movie fans (I am too) and I was excited for these photos with Tow Mater ("You did what in your cup?) and Lightning McQueen ("Ka Chow"). 

I am a big fan!

I looked for, but didn't see, the guys from Rusteezes. 

We made a 3/4 lap of the race track and exited to the road. 

Through the Wilderness
Much of the Walt Disney World Resort is woods, swamp, and water. The route from the speedway to the Animal Kingdom is a service road through the woods, but also the physical plant and support areas for WDW. We ran past the wastewater treatment plant, recycling facility, garbage collection area, and the bus barn. There were also characters, country bears, villains, and more, about every mile but I passed on these photo ops. As we ran by the waste water treatment plant a series of signs shared factoids about WDW. I thought about photographing, but didn't. Instead I enjoyed a Guu. One sign did say, "Walt Disney World has more AEDs than any location on the planet." I believe it. Another runner thought the water treatment plant smelled like beer. I thought it smelled like Anheuser Busch. 

Onward to the Animal Kingdom ... 

10M Split in 1:35:25 (pace 9:32 min/mile for an estimated finish time: 4:10:09)

This slowing pace reflects mostly my stops for photos in the Magic Kingdom, the bathroom break, and the photos on the speedway. I was feeling great at this point and although I was on pace for my slowest marathon ever I knew from experience that it was too early to push the throttle. Instead I kept a moving pace between 8:30 to 8:45 minutes per mile and kept taking fluids. I also enjoyed half a banana (this was the first race I have been handed a whole unpeeled banana. Typically half or quarter bananas are handed out). Hmmm....

Animal Kingdom Backstage

We entered the back stage area of the Animal Kingdom near the African Safari Animal Housing area. We ran by the elephant and white rhino quarters as well as several other animal buildings. Animal Kingdom staff were cheering us with birds on their shoulders and burros in tow. It was fun to see the animals. 
I think this is Rafiki from the Lion King ... no line for a photo with him.
Animal Kingdom ... as the sun was rising. 

We entered the Animal Kingdom near the Yak and Yeti restaurant. The uneven terrain and 'rough' sidewalk was a nice variation of the running surface. We ran past Expedition Everest roller coaster (many runners told me that later in the morning the ride was open and large groups of runners were pausing to ride the coaster!).
Runners can be seen in the distance near the Yak and Yeti restaurant (really good food)
The route took us past the building for the Nemo stage show, Dinoland, and out of the park just before the main entrance. 

The Sun always rises ...

Just as I left the Animal Kingdom the sun was high enough to be above the trees and we were bathed in sun as we ran through the Animal Kingdom parking lot and past the main entrance. We continued out of the park, running east on the Osceola parkway. Fortunately much of the route was still in the shade. Slower runners reported no shade at all from this point until the end of the race. 

Somewhere just outside of the Animal Kingdom I crossed the half marathon mark and stopped for a photo with Minnie Mouse.

Half marathon split in 2:02:31 (pace 9:21 min/mile with an estimated finish time of 4:05:01)

Of the three half marathons that comprise the Goofy Challenge the middle was my slowest, but as you can see I was picking up the pace since the 10 mile split. I was also watching lots of runners falter around me. People I remember going by me early in the race were now quickly fading behind me. The heat was obviously an issue but so far so good. 

Osceola Parkway

The Osceola Parkway is a wide stretch of road that was taking us to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. We were running on the east bound lane and still benefiting from shade. The terrain was gently rolling because of roads we were running over. This was by far the dullest part of the course and the most mentally challenging. I was grateful that I was not encountering this area 1 or 2 hours later as I could see how it could suck the life force out of a runner. 

As we neared the ESPN complex runners we could see runners as they ran between miles 19 to 22. It was good to see them on the north side of the road and since they were 5 miles ahead I was probably seeing runners that were going to finish between 3:00 and 3:30.

ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex

Although this portion of the course was probably better than running a long, straight 6 lane highway like we had to get here it was still an odd bit of course. 

As we entered the complex we were given wet, cold sponges. These were exceptionally refreshing. A little trick I will remember for the future but didn't learn until I had already thrown away my sponge. Many of the runners around me kept their sponges, tucked under a jog bra strap or under their hat. At later water stations they re-wetted the sponges and were able to continue to apply it for cooling as they ran. 

No shade. 
The route took us around several playing fields, 3/4 of the way around a running track, around several baseball diamonds and into and around the cinder track infield of the stadium used by the Atlanta Braves during Spring training. The stands held some cheering fans and our images were projected on the big screen with what appeared to be the pace per mile we were on that point. 

Runners and their pace on the big screen
The cinders of the track were a little too loose for my liking. 
Go Brewers!
Another highlight of this portion of the course was the gentle ribbing I took and returned back to a Chicago Bears fan. She was running with a Cleveland Browns fan and like my friend Kyle says in mid-September about his Bills, "there is always next year." 

Running through the ESPN complex is when I began to pass lots of runners. Many, many people were fading in the sun and increasing temperature. I continued to feel great and was very happy with my steady pace.

20M Split in 3:01:33 (page 9:05 min/mile with estimated finish time of 3:58:01)

The organizers promised something "spectacular" for mile 20 of the 20th mile. I was envisioning a rock and roll band or someone exceptionally famous. I was half right. Mickey Mouse was waiting for us at mile 20. I stopped for a photo and said, "Thanks for the race Mick!" 
Remember, it all began with a Mouse
We headed back towards the Osceola Parkway. Watching the runners coming towards me I saw a lot of pain and agony. The heat and humidity was definitely taking its tool. I continued to feel great and was grateful that my hydration and nutrition was serving me well. I was feeling some tightness in my hamstrings, which has plagued me in past marathons, but a bit of self massage was treating me well. 

After turning west on the Osceola Parkway we were headed towards the Hollywood Studios. I decided that at 5k left I would do my best to push the pace. 

Much like the half marathon cloverleaf we were greeted by several Green Army Guys when we turned off of Osceola Parkway and onto World Drive. Fortunately this stretch gave us some more shade. I sang along to a bit of Neil Diamond/Sweet Caroline as I continued to pass lots of runners. 

Hollywood Studios

The course entered the backstage behind the Tower of Terror. We passed through an aid station that was distributing mini Hershey Bars (seemed like an odd final 5k treat). I passed on a chocolate bar as I have never eaten chocolate during a training run or race. 

The course included a portion of the "studio lot tour". We exited into the actual theme park and ran through the New York City facade, before turning towards Mickey's sorcerer's hat. 
I remember thinking, there seem to be less people running with me

Stadium for lights, motors, action is in the back. That is a fun show. 
At this point Hollywood Studios was open for visitors and it was an interesting mix of runners, running spectators, and just regular people out for a day at the park. Many of them looked on in amazement as we ran past. 

We exited Hollywood studios through the main entrance and headed for the boardwalk that runs along the canal between Hollywood Studios and Epcot. This portion of the course reminded me of the sidewalk/boardwalk through downtown Green Bay on the Cellcom marathon route. There were spectators on this portion of the course, people staying in the adjacent, condos and hotels. 

Although it was full sun and quite warm I was still feeling great and continued to increase my pace. My basic strategy was to pick out the runner in front of me, pass them, find the next, pass them. I don't recall being passed by any other runners after I left the Wide World of Sports complex. 

EPCOT World Showcase

The course entered the World Showcase between the Canada and England pavilions. I gave a shout to the spectators as I made the turn towards the French pavilion. I continued to feel GREAT! and was confident I was going to finish in under 4:00 (my goal). 

Unlike the lines early in the race, the characters I saw in EPCOT were alone and looking a little befuddled that no one was stopping for photos. 

I veered across the course for a photo with Snow White and was delighted at the Morocco pavilion to see Jasmine standing alone. I didn't take the time to get out my camera and just had the marathon photographer capture. When I buy the race photos I will post those. 

Towards Spaceship Earth

After leaving the World Showcase the course runs towards and around the east side of Spaceship Earth. We were now on the same route as the final half mile of the half marathon. I knew this stretch well and dropped the hammer for the final push to the finish. 

Glad to see some fans. 
Running Backwards, Yes, That Guy is Running Backwards

At some point early in the race I saw a man running backwards with two people acting as guides. Just as we left EPCOT I saw the three runners again. Two going forwards and one running backwards. I was relieved to pass him so I would not be bested by a fellow running a marathon backwards. 

400 Yards to Go

When the 400 yards to go sign came into sight and up shifted in to full sprint. My head was in the clouds and my feet were barely touching the ground. This was one of my best running experiences ever. I waved to the crowd, pumped my fists, and did my best to pass as many people as I could in the final yards to the finish. It was as my son says, "Capital awesome, which means A-W--E-S-O-M-E!

Across the Finish Line in 3:53:38 (pace 8:55 min/mile)

I gave Goofy, I think a high five, and then found myself face to face with Bart Yasso (@BartYasso), the Chief Running Officer of Runner's World magazine. I asked him for a photo and he agreed.

Me and Bart
Finish line behind me. I think this photo mostly captures my elation  with the Goofy Challenge 

Not everyone was as enthusiastic as me

Marathon Medal, 20th anniversary edition. 
I continued onward for my marathon medal, water and Powerade, Goofy Challenge medal, more photos and food. I also took a moment in a high powered cool mist fan. This was delightful and I credit in large part to my rapid recovery from the heat challenge of the run. 
Big fans next to the banana truck. They were outstanding for cooling off quick. 
I took a few minutes to eat and drink and bounced around the finishers area. I was elated.

Both medals - marathon medal and Goofy Challenge medal

Thanks Donald!
Since I was waiting for anyone else, but rather had family waiting for me so we could get to the Magic Kingdom for a day of rides, I moved through the bag check quickly. Took a few more photos and boarded a bus to the Coronado Springs.

I walked on to my bus and we drove away
One of my top moments of the morning was getting off the bus at the hotel. My kids were waiting for me at the bus stop for high fives. They also told me to move it so we could get to the Magic Kingdom. 

By noon I was riding the Toy Story ride in the Magic Kingdom with all three medal around my neck.

To infinity and beyond!

Laps from my Garmin
A few notes about these lap results

Mile 1 - porta potty stop

Mile 6 - photos with Belle, Minnie and Mickey, and in front of the castle

Mile 9 -  porta potty stop, and photos with Tow Mater and Lightning McQueen

Mile 20 - photo with Mickey Mouse and delayed pressing of lap button

Miles 24, 25, and 26 - three fastest miles of the race

Total Garmin mileage - 26.64, this sort of makes sense because it is impossible to run a perfect line and I moved off the course regularly for photos. Some is just some irregularity of the GPS which could be off by .01 per mile, which is nearly a quarter mile in a full marathon. 

Final Results
Overall place: 1285 of 20680
Gender place: 974 of 10061
Age division place: 177 of 1930  (this must be one of the largest divisions in the race)

How does Disney Compare to other marathons? 

Is one of the questions I have been asked most frequently. I had an amazing experience. This was one of my slowest marathon times, but it is one of just three (Twin Cities and Green Bay) where I crossed the finish line happy, health, and with energy in the tank. 

I am glad I kept my pace in check, stopped for lots of photos, and had energy at the end. Perhaps I could have run a bit faster earlier in the race but I might have paid for that later in the race. I know from experiencing both, that I would much rather be passing other runners than being passed in the final miles of a marathon. It is energizing to be moving through the crowd. 

In the following days I talked to lots of other runners. Not everyone's experience was as positive as mine. Many people really struggled with the heat. Especially runners/walkers in later corrals that had significantly greater sun exposure. 

I have a few other post planned about my Disney experience. Thanks for reading.

Did you run? Share your experience in the comments or link to your blog post race recaps. 


  1. Looks like you had lots of fun! Great race and glad you enjoyed it!

    1. Thanks. It was a fantastic experience. Still basking in the exhilaration of it all.

  2. Nice recap. Almost makes me want to do it...almost....except for the heat and humidity. I am not a fan of H/H.

    1. I heard several runners discussing the freezing rain they endured in the start corrals several years ago. I suppose you could have anything from real cold to real hot.

  3. Great recap! I ran Goofy in 2008- it was my 1st half and my 1st full. I had so much fun, though I didn't stay long enough to enjoy the parks. Oh, and that year, the weather was perfect- high 60's for both days.
    I am planning on running Goofy next year, and I am really looking forward to it!

    1. I would love to do it every year, but per mile it is the most expensive race I can imagine ... airfare for family, lodging, park passes, meals... maybe I will come back for the 25th.

  4. Great recap and amazing race pics! What camera were you using?

    1. I was using a Nikon Coolpix that is about 7 years old. It is a small point and shoot on the auto setting. I had many other pictures that were too blurry to post, especially from Saturday morning when it was foggy. I tried taking a couple of photos while running but didn't have a fast enough shutter speed to make those any good. It was the first time I raced with a camera and I am pleased with the results.