Tuesday, January 06, 2009
A Disney Marathon Tour!!!
I have described the Disney Marathon course to a few people over the past year. I thought I would go ahead and take everyone on a tour of the Disney Marathon course. This year will be my third time around the "World" on the most magical marathon around! If this is your first time and you would rather be surprised, than consider this your "spoiler alert."
The marathon begins as it ends - in the parking lot outside of Epcot. It is dark and sometimes cold as everyone begins to gather for the race. Runners begin arriving around 3 or 3:30 am. The start area is well lit where you can find some pre-race refreshment, live music on stage, the baggage check area and rows and rows of porta-potties.
Many find a place to sit down on the asphalt in the parking lot. Garbage bags are good for covering up the ground. You relax until 4:45 am when the crowd begins to move to the starting corrals.
It is a 1/4 - 1/2 mile walk out to the roadway where the race starts. There are two start areas - the Red and the Blue. The corrals are arranged by expected finish times. There are more porta-potties by the corrals but not as many - so the lines tend to be long there. There are also lots of bushes and grass - which some believe also make good porta-potties.
The runners wait in the corrals for about another hour to race start. More sitting on the road - with some people jogging around to warm up before the race. Me - I rest my legs all I can. I use the first 2 miles for my warm up! :-)
At the starting line, there is a large platform above the runners where Minnie and Mickey are on hand to send the runners off. There are also large screens further back in the corals so you can see what is going on up near the front. The starting "gun" turns out to be a colorful array of fire works!!! It is a very cool start with Minnie, Mickey, Donald and Goofy waving you onto the course. This will not be the last time you will see Disney characters. They are located near the parks throughout the course - and available for pictures.
The two starting areas run separately for the first 3.5 miles or so and both enter Epcot about 2.5 - 3 miles into the race. They go through different parts of Epcot so it isn't so crowded. If you didn't get a porta-potty stop before the race, there are bathrooms in Epcot you can use!!! :-) I have had to use them both times! As you run through Epcot, it is lit up around the world showcase and there is inspirational music playing. They even have some of the laser lights on in the lagoon. It is very inspiring!
As you come out of Epcot, the two starting areas merge and it DOES get a bit crowded. The group then heads toward the Magic Kingdom. To get there, you run on a series of Disney World roads, parking lots and some back streets. Just before you get to the Magic Kingdom, you cross the 10 mile mark - then enter the Magic Kingdom near the entrance just to the right of Main Street. Main Street is lined on both sides with wall to wall people!!! If you have family coming to watch you, this is a great place to see them. I cry every time I run down this part...with the castle up ahead, the crowds around - you KNOW you are running the DISNEY marathon.
The course takes a right from Main Street across the bridge into Tomorrowland, then around toward Fantasyland and the back of Cinderella's castle. You go past the carousel and through the castle! There are Disney "cast members" up on the castle - trumpets that are announcing your arrival!!
You run through the castle and out the other side, heading toward Liberty Square, down the road past the Country Bears. Before you get to Thunder Mountain, you go straight and out of the Magic Kingdom - just before hitting mile 11.
Your next park will be Animal Kingdom, which comes just after mile 16. Before then you will go by a few hotels, then run some back roads outside of Animal Kingdom. I will warn you that you will also run by Disney's sewage treatment plant, and it can be a bit smelly if the wind is just right. There are Sharpie signs on the side of the road with funny sayings to help keep you distracted. You enter Animal Kingdom at the back of the park, run past Everest, by the big yellow dinosaur and out the entrance to the park. By now, the parks are open and so the runner's path is roped off and Disney staff help them cross the path when runners are clear. As you leave the park, you will be running down the parking lot and exit road. Traffic will move in one of the lanes near you.
Your next park will be Disney Studios around mile 22. The space between Animal Kingdom and Disney Studios is the toughest part of the race. You run out toward Wide World of Sports, but there isn't really anything to see out there. Just lots of access roads, no real tree coverage and to make it worse, an out and back segment at mile 20-21. They do have some entertainment out there (a band and others) to help make it more bearable - but it has been, for me, the "no man's land" before the final stretch.
Finally around mile 22, you enter Disney Studios from the back area - you run through some back lots and then run by the big hat. After exiting the studios, you run through the Disney Board Walk area near the Swan and Dolphin hotels. This is a really pretty area and makes you feel you are back in civilization once again. Part of this run takes you down the sidewalk along the waterway used to transport guest by boat from the Swan and Dolphin to Epcot and other places.
From the board walk you will enter Epcot at the World Showcase near France where you pass the 25 mile sign. Now, hours after beginning your your journey through this same place, you take one more lap around the lagoon. Like in Animal Kingdom and also Disney Studios, Epcot is open and cast members shuttle people across the runner's roped off pathway. Some of the guests will encourage you by telling you you are almost done, just around the corner. You can really begin to feel the excitement of the finish. You leave the World Showcase and run toward the "Ball", just to the right and out to the finish area.
Just before the finish right after mile 26, there is a huge choir singing praises! It really gets you pumped up to run that last .1 mile to the finish.
You make one last turn and there is the finish line, about .1 mile away! Last year Stitch was high fiving the finishers when I finished. There are bleachers on the left of the finish area where friends and family can sit and wait for you to finish.
You cross the finish line....you have just completed the Disney World Marathon!!! :-) Time for your mylar blanket, cool medal, food and a massage!!! :-)
I am really psyched now!