I did my best to get a good night’s sleep, but it did take me a little while to fall asleep. I think I finally ended up being out by like 8:45, maybe? With a 2:45am alarm set, I didn’t think this was too bad. Six hours is reasonably respectable for the circumstances.
Once the alarm when off, I got myself dressed and stuck with what I had planned to wear the night before. The weather was a little warmer, I think it was even over 40º when I woke up! It’s a miracle! Much warmer than the previous three days, for sure.
My bus ride over was quick and uneventful. Going through security, I just hoped to not see the same transphobic guard from the half marathon. I, yet again, was wearing all my post-race clothing so my bag check bag was in my pocket, meaning I could go through the no-bag side.
The Ohana crew was already starting to assemble at our meetup spot for our final hangout. As much as I was over waking up in the middle of the night, I was sad it was our last morning to hang out. While it was still cold out, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the days before. I was wearing a pair of tube socks with the toes cut out as throwaway arm warmers, but I had a pair of real arm warmers and gloves if I wanted them for the race. I knew it’d be warming up way past the point of needing either so I really didn’t want to wear them, but I did want gloves to start. Unfortunately, I hadn’t brought throwaway gloves, but my friend Matthew offered his up to me without missing a beat. I felt bad taking his gloves and tried to refuse, but he wasn’t having any of it. I especially felt bad because he was a bunch of corrals back and would be waiting to start in the cold for much longer than me.
Before heading off to the start, Issac, one of my trans runner friends came over to say hi. He lives in NYC, but this was the first time we actually got to meet in meatspace.
When it was time to head to the corrals, Nathan, Katherine, and I again made the long trek together. The walk from the staging area to the corrals is more than a half a mile long and kind of annoying when you’re cold, but at least it’s something to get your legs moving a bit.
We hopped into the A corral and found ourselves way closer to the front than we would have liked, but we wanted to be around other people to stay warm. The three of us hung out and mentally prepared ourselves for the final day of running. I just wanted to get moving.
Miles 0 - 5
When you’re running Dopey, you probably shouldn’t be in the very first mini-wave to start the marathon, but there we were. Not just A corral (where the three of us did belong), but the first of the mini-waves they broke the corrals into (where we did not belong). I did not want to get swept up in the start and end up going too fast.
Katherine and I started off together, but quickly lost Nathan. This was to be expected, though. Katherine was going for a course PR and Nathan was planning to run a bit slower. We kept the pace nice and manageable, but my legs never really felt like they were settling into it.
These first few miles are always a bit quiet and dark. Even though they’re along the same course as the half marathon, the half seems to have a little more excitement. I think it’s just because you have less ahead of you to stay focused on. There also seemed to be much less entertainment out here than normal. I guess it was just the cold. Or runDisney scaling back. I guess either is likely.
Oh, and the terrifying Mickey Mouse hot air balloon was nowhere to be found.
Coming around by the Ticket and Transportation Center, just before the 4th mile marker, Katherine spotted Twitter friend Christina who was exactly where she said she’d be. She didn’t see us, but we saw her and screamed her name until she heard us. It was nice to see a familiar face for a brief second.
Just after passing the 4th mile marker, I decided it would be a good time to pee since I had to go a bit and didn’t want to hold it all race. I told Katherine I probably wouldn’t be able to catch her at the pace we running so we wished each other a good race and I peeled off to a porta potty.
Spoiler: That was the last I saw of Katherine.
I was on my own now! Pretty much the first time since the first half of the 5k.
As we came into the Magic Kingdom bus area and I lapped my watch for mile five, I knew it was time to try to reign in my pace and get things under control. My splits were a bit erratic already and I do better when I’m running more steady.
Miles 6 - 13.1
After passing the 5th mile marker, we turned towards the entrance of Magic Kingdom just like we did the day before. And it was, again, glorious. I just can’t get over how much this small change enhances the race. It’s just so magical to enter this way.
Main Street USA was energetic as always and I soaked it all the way up. As I came around through Tomorrowland, I saw there was hardly any line for Buzz Lightyear so I snapped a quick photo with him. And then I snagged a photo with the White Rabbit, Tweedle Dee, and Tweedle Dum as we came along by Mad Tea Party.
I was pretty close to the front of the pack, relatively, so lines for photo stops were non-existent.
In New Fantasyland, I crabbed out with Sebastian, whom I’ve never gotten a photo with before. And after coming through Fantasyland and Cinderella’s Castle, I also snapped a photo with Woody and Jessie in Frontierland.
Just like that, we were coming around Splash and Thunder Mountains and making our way out of the park. Back to darkness (my old friend?).
The inter-kingdom trek between Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom is, to me, the hardest and worst part of the race. It feels looooong, mostly because it is, and it’s rather boring. You basically just countdown the miles until you get to Animal Kingdom.
I did grab some photos with Clarabelle Cow and the Up gang, though, so that helped to pass about thirteen seconds of the time. I also passed some time on an out-and-back section by looking for Katherine as the course doubled on itself, but no dice. She, apparently, saw me though. Somehow, somewhere, I had gotten in front of her. No idea when that happened, but neither of us saw it happen.
My pace and splits had started to even out a lot more through this section of the race. I got more on track, but I was worried about how fast I was running. I was running roughly 8:20 miles here and didn’t think I’d have it in me to keep that. My legs didn’t feel great and hadn’t at all the entire race. I just never felt good at all. Plus, I was feeling like there might be a 💩 situation later on. Neither my stomach nor my intestines felt amazing. Both had been feeling off since my first gel at mile six. I prepared myself to bonk later in the race and end up with a positive split. I’m just so bad at slowing down once I get moving.
As we approached Animal Kingdom there was just one animal out, a goat or sheep? I can’t remember now. I’m sure it was too cold for most of them, just like it was last year. Usually, there are a whole bunch, though.
Coming into Animal Kingdom, I got a quick photo with Rafiki and Timon and soaked up, what I think is, Disney World’s most beautiful park. Fight me on this, if you want, but I’m right.
We passed the halfway mark with pretty much no fanfare at all. There was just a timing mat and a smaller 13.1 sign as we came through Asia. I was at 1:54:something, on track for a sub-4:00 finish.
Dinoland USA flew by and we were back out of the parks again.
Miles 13.1 to 20
This is the other portion of the race that people tend to not like. I sort of dread it each year knowing it’s a little boring, but it always ends up ticking right off like nothing. Through here, I just focus on getting to ESPN Wide World of Sports and then to that 20th mile marker.
Coming out of Animal Kingdom and around to the front of the park, I couldn’t help but notice how quiet and empty it felt this year. Usually, there is a pretty solid crowd cheering in front of the park, but not so much this year. Again, I’m chalking it up to the weather.
Speaking of the weather, it was warming up a bit and even getting a little warmer than I’d prefer for racing. Just by a couple of degrees, though. The sun was also up now so I popped my sunglasses on. This was the first year I’d brought sunglasses for the second half of the race and I’ve always regretted not doing it before. I had tucked the arms under my Garmin and Apple Watch on my left wrist and, while it wasn’t super annoying having them there, it did feel good to have them on my head now.
I snapped my annual graveyard pic and then mostly continued to ESPN without anymore stops. I had picked my pace up slightly and was now running more like 8:15s. I still wasn’t feeling monster, though.
Throughout the windy two miles of ESPN Wide World of Sports, I was sort of just over it. I was running well, but not feeling like it. I was tired and my legs were tired.
I got a photo with sporty Minnie Mouse, but it never showed up in my race photos so that’s disappointing. But I did get another photo with Joy and Sadness this year right before heading into the stadium for our lap around the baseball field.
After passing the 20th mile marker, I knew it was just 10k left to go, which to me always feels manageable. For most marathons, part of my strategy is “just get to mile twenty” and I was there.
Miles 21 - 26.2
Coming out of ESPN, I was starting to pick things up a bit. My last 10k was by far the fastest section of the race for me. I don’t know what it is about this course, but this has been fairly consistent for me at the Disney World Marathon.
I was feeling tired, but my legs were trucking and I was passing people left and right. Quite a few runners gave words of encouragement as I went by, “get it, girl,” “you’re crushing it,” etc. Even though my legs were tired, I felt like my form and everything was on-point and I had plenty of back kick.
After mile 21, all of my miles were sub-8:00…which was surprising. So, at this point, I had two things on my mind… 1) score a new course PR and 2) go sub 3:40 for another BQ. I knew I was in good shape for the first, but the second was going to be close.
We quickly approached my absolute least favorite quarter-ish mile of the course. Just before you get to the marker for mile 22, you go up an on/off ramp from one highway to another. It’s probably the steepest hill of the race, which isn’t really same much, tbh. BUT it’s also banked so you’re running uphill and lopsided. And while you’re dealing with that on your oh-my-fucking-god-I’m-44-miles-deep-in-this-stupid-Dopey-crap legs, you’ve also got a Toy Story army man drill sergeant dude getting all drill sergeanty on your ass here. Every. Damn. Year. “Run faster, private!” “Get them knees up!” Etc. Etc. They’re always way deep in character, but I’m rarely in the mindset for shenanigans at this point. Surprisingly, my legs powered through and I must have looked good enough that the he actually complimented me on my form and pace. And, let me just say, this was a lot better than the year he tried to make me drop and give him twenty.
Coming into the back of Hollywood Studios, I knew I was done with taking water and stopping for photos. From here on, it was just running and just high-energy sections of the course.
We came around Tower of Terror and some of the guests in the park were cheering, but most just seemed confused.
While I really miss running through the Backlot Tour and Streets of America, getting to run down Sunset Blvd is a really great consolation. I love it!
Then after a quick jaunt down Hollywood Blvd, we were out of Hollywood Studios and making out way over to the Crescent Lake resorts. This part of the race goes quickly, but can be a bit frustrating because of how narrow the course gets when you’re running behind Disney’s Boardwalk. But as I was coming down here, I heard my friend Jen scream “AMELIA I LOVE YOU!” I was SO confused at first. I was sort of flying at this point and in total end-of-race focus mode so I didn’t recognize her voice. I turned and looked and yelled back “I LOVE YOU TOO,” but it wasn’t until a few seconds later that I realized who I said I love you to. I thought I was just yelling at a stranger at first.
Coming over the bridge connecting Boardwalk to Yacht Club, I started looking out for Danielle. She spotted me real quick and from pretty far away so she had a nice bit of screaming my name as I approached. As I ran by, I just screamed “SANDLOT! SANDLOT! SANDLOT!” at her. This idea popped into my head early in the race and I had figured I’d forget by the time I saw her, but apparently, not.
I was fucking beat at this point. I knew I was inside two miles, but ooooooooof. Kill me. Despite that, my legs were still trucking with a mind of their own at sub-8:00 miles. In fact, I was actually speeding up. Mile 25 was a stupid 7:35, roughly PR half marathon pace, and was only second to…mile 26? WTF? 🤷♀️
Entering Epcot’s World Showcase, I was down to less than a mile and a half. I just kept reminding myself of that and picturing myself on my running route at home and where I’d be with 1.5 miles left. Oh, and that poop thing I mentioned way back in the first half of the race? Yeah, I was uh…squeezing cheeks.
We crossed over the bridge to the France Pavilion and I lapped my watch and did some quick mental math. I’d have to trip and fall and stay down to miss a course PR at this point, but that BQ time was going to be…close. I just kept pushing and kept passing people.
The countries ticked off, but the World Showcase felt empty a-fucking-f. To be fair, it wasn’t technically open yet so there weren’t a lot of people cheering, but there also weren’t many runners around me here.
Passing by Mexico, I was in the homestretch now and knew it. The pain would be over soon. I came around the turn into Futureworld looking…really good? Like my form looks fantastic in this photo here. This was near the end of a 7:20 26th mile. The hell?
Futureworld flew by as I kept focused on getting to that finish. As I came out of the park and made those last few turns before the finish line comes into view, I was keeping on the effort and still squeezing them cheeks.
As I approached the finish line, I thought “hmmm…I wonder if I can do another jumping finish?” I figured I’d at least give it a try. Just as I was crossing, I jumped up with all I could and barely left the ground…and then barely stuck the landing. My legs buckled a bit, but I was about to keep from going down.
It was over! 48.6 miles of running was done!
I crossed at 3:40:15 for a new course PR by over three minutes! Pretty amazing. I did miss a BQ by 16 seconds, but who can complain? Besides, I didn’t need a BQ and it wouldn’t have been fast enough to actually matter anyway.
After getting my medals and checked bag, I basically ran right to a porta potty and, you know, did what needed to be done.
I figured I should get at least one post-race character photo so I got in line for Dopey…where I finally found Katherine!
I got my photo, looked at the lines for other characters, and said “fuck it.” I hopped on a bus and literally shivered violently the entire ride back. It was so bad the guy sitting next to me asked if I was okay and if I needed anything.
After getting back to the room, I took my time getting ready for the day. I did some Rapid Reboot recovery sleeving and…uh…pooped like four more times. To be honest, my GI was a complete fucking mess the entire day. Even after leaving the room, I wasn’t done needing to…go. I’ve never had this kind of issue post-race before. I’ve had photo finishes before where I thought I was going to shit my running shorts, but never have I been a mess all day. I even, ugh, fucking 💩💨ed in Animal Kingdom. And, let me tell you, sharting in Disney World is not exactly ideal. I recommend against it.
I’m really happy with how this race went. Like, really, really happy. I ran well and stayed strong. I ran another negative split, making for negative splits in six of my last seven marathons. There is just no way you can complain about that.
I was worried that actually training for Dopey this year was going to backfire on me, but it didn’t. I ran my fastest overall Dopey ever. Hell, it was also my fastest Goofy Challenge too!
Lastly, I think this was my favorite Walt Disney World Marathon course ever. This was my sixth time and I don’t think the course has ever been exactly the same any of the years I’ve run it.