The Casual Runner

2017 Walt Disney World Marathon (Part 2)

2017 Cigna runDisney Walt Disney World Marathon hosted by Mickey Mouse

January 8, 2017
Walt Disney World Resort, Florida

We have TONS of coverage of the 2017 runDisney Walt Disney World Marathon coming your way! Here is a quick guide so you don’t miss any of it:

Can’t get enough of this great event, including the Dopey Challenge & other race events? You can check out our past coverage of the 2015 and 2016 Walt Disney World Weekend now:

If you missed Part 1, read it now!

Along the Course (continued)

When I start my intervals I do not like to walk for more than 30 seconds because I feel like it makes it that much harder to get myself running again.  It doesn’t matter how long I run, I just cannot stop to walk for more than 30 seconds.  So I began doing this immediately after departing from Mike and Meghan shortly after the mile 1 marker.  As I made my way around the on-ramp to World Drive, I noticed John and Sara (from the podcast, Not Real Runners” – obligatory shout-out for some awesome running buddies) not too far ahead and decided to catch up to them.  They were very noticeable in their bright orange, as they were dressed as Bob’s Barricade workers!  

As I was running to catch up with them I noticed Mike and Meghan were running with them so I got to see them again.  I said my hellos as I caught up with them and Mike and Meghan said their goodbyes as they continued to run on while I started an interval.  I decided to run with John and Sara for awhile as they were doing a good run/walk pace of 40 secs/20 secs.  I enjoyed getting to talk to them for awhile and getting to know them a little bit.

Running with John and Sara made the next 3 miles go pretty fast and before I knew it we had passed the mile 3 marker along with Mater and Lightning McQueen in the Magic Kingdom parking lot, followed by Jack and Sally and the mile 4 marker at the Transportation and Ticket Center. We went under the water bridge by the Contemporary (always a cool moment in this race), then past the resort before making a turn in front of Space Mountain. We came upon the mile 5 marker (that had a timing mat at it) right before entering Magic Kingdom. This timing mat was actually pretty great because our friend Laura was in the Magic Kingdom to cheer us on, so she got alerts via runner tracking right before she was going to see us.

Magical Moment. Sara had never been to Walt Disney World before this trip and, up until this moment, she had only seen Epcot.  Entering Magic Kingdom with someone who has never seen it before – particularly during a race – was pure enjoyment!  It was like seeing a kid’s face on Christmas morning!  John and Sara decided to stop and talk to his mom on Main Street who was there cheering them on so I decided to see if I could find Laura and see if her fiance, Jason, was anywhere close to me.  

Well wouldn’t you know, in looking for Laura I ran right into Jason before entering Tomorrowland (thanks Laura for cheering us on, sorry I didn’t get to see you).  Jason decided he had to make a quick bathroom stop so I decided to get in line for Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum who were right by his bathroom stop.  

As I waited in line I kept watching for Jason to come out of the bathroom, but never saw him. After waiting a few minutes I figured I had probably missed him, but I did see John and Sara again so I rejoined them.

Once we ran through the castle I stopped for my obligatory Cinderella Castle pic then I was off to run on my own once again.

When I made the turn toward Frontierland I saw Kim, Gail, and Kylie (of Run all the Races – another well-deserved shout-out for these amazing ladies!) waiting for a character stop so I stopped to join them for a quick pic then continued my run through Magic Kingdom with them.

While waiting in the backstage area of Magic Kingdom for a pic of the Malificent parade float Jason found me and so did our friend Lauren Morse which was also close to the mile 6 marker. One more quick photo and then we were off to make our journey to Animal Kingdom!

From this point on I would stay with Jason.  A lot of thoughts go through your head during a marathon (not all of them good!), and I knew at this point that I had to stay with someone for the rest of this race. I was already thinking in my head that maybe I should stop at the halfway mark in Animal Kingdom and just call it a half marathon instead of a full.  I did not share this information with Jason until after the race because I did not want to even let him think it was an option. I knew that if I could stay with Jason, I may actually be able to finish this race.  I told Jason to call all the intervals and I would stay with him no matter what he wanted to do. Jason is big on running based on his playlist (as opposed to time) so there was no rhyme or reason as to the intervals that we did, but we did them as he called them.

Miles 7 and 8 were spent on Floridian Way, making our way past the Grand Floridian, Shades of Green, and the Polynesian Village Resorts.  We were keeping a good pace and decided not to do any character stops in this part of the course.  I remember seeing the penguins from Mary Poppins and Vacation Genie in this stretch.  

It was time to make a right turn onto Bear Island Road and head toward the water treatment plant (insert eye roll here).  This is probably my least favorite part of any runDisney course.  It’s long, it’s boring, and it’s completely unmagical. It is also more than a bit smelly.  

That being said one of the coolest things I saw the entire race was on this road.  There was no Photopass photographer at this point so we decided not to stop, but there was an area set up with all these amazing old Walt Disney World ride vehicles from retired attractions!  They had a bucket from the Sky Way, a Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride vehicle, the Nautilus from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (also the namesake of a fabulous adult beverage at Trade Sam’s!), a vehicle from Snow White’s Scary Adventure, and an old Astro Orbiter vehicle.  This was just an awesome set up that I cannot let be forgotten.  

Alright so we’ve gone past the mile 9 marker, mile 10 marker, and stinky water treatment plant, so it was time to head for a down and back on Western Way.  This same down and back had existed the previous year and a shorter version was also a part of the Wine and Dine Half Marathon in 2016, but with the construction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, lost race miles had to be made up somewhere and this is where quite a bit of miles were made up.  It seemed like we were on the down and back of Western Way forever!  The mile 11 marker was right before the turnaround and after we made our way back to Bear Island Road the mile 12 marker was in sight, along with bananas!!!

It was finally time to head into Animal Kingdom!  We entered Animal Kingdom near the train station for Rafiki’s Planet Watch.  Then we turned left along Discovery River where you saw the Tree of Life on your right.  There were plenty of character stops in Animal Kingdom, but the park was already open when Jason and I arrived there, and the flow of day guests traffic made it nearly impossible to get to them.  Next we turned left and headed toward Expedition Everest and crossed over the half marathon timing mat.

Magical Moment. This is where Mike would want me to tell you that he had the opportunity to partake in an experience unique to the WDW Marathon: he rode a roller coaster in the middle of the race! With the redesigned course, Expedition Everest was located just after the half marathon point. Mike and Meghan timed it perfectly so they had a short water break while waiting for the line to open up and rode the roller coaster before getting back on their way to finish the second half of the race.

Additionally, runDisney surprised runners as they opened up the bar located adjacent to the half marathon point! Many runners waiting for the roller coaster and those who were calling it quits at the half-way point chose to partake in some adult beverages to warm themselves up!

As we passed the exit for Everest, Lauren once again caught up with us, so we briefly played cat and mouse with her.  We circled around the river, passed the Finding Nemo theatre, then headed thru Dinoland to exit the park on our way out into the parking lot.

Normally, the crowds outside of Animal Kingdom are pretty strong, but this year they were noticeably more sparse. I assume it was due to the cold weather, but those who did show up were vocal and wonderfully supportive. Their support was definitely noticed and appreciated.

We made our way onto Osceola, which is not bad when it is run in the dark, but in the daylight it gets a little boring. There were some water and GU stations set up along this stretch, but some more entertainment would have been welcome. There is always a nice collection of spectators near the overpass in front of the McDonald’s and the All Star Resorts as convenient parking is located nearby. This is where we were greeted again by Jason’s fiance (now wife!) Laura and her mom. You have no idea how much seeing a familiar face on the course, especially this deep into a marathon, will help buoy your spirits.  

At the entrance to ESPN Wide World of Sports we turned right onto Victory Way. Many runners will tell you that this is their least favorite portion of the course, and for good reason. This section is all about racking up the miles needed to get to 26.2 as you make your way throughout what is admittedly a beautiful athletic complex. Fortunately there was a nice selection of character stops inside the complex. Jason and I worked out a plan where I would run ahead and get in line and he would catch up and join me. It worked out great with our respective intervals.

After making our way around the track I made my first bathroom stop of the course and pulled out my phone while I was waiting in line.  I had a text message from Mike 2 minutes prior stating he was at the mile 20 marker and I realized he couldn’t be too far ahead because according to my calculations we were about 3 minutes away from that marker based on our pace.  I realized we may actually be able to catch up with them especially because he said they were going to try and stop and ride Rock ‘N’ Rollercoaster in Disney Hollywood Studios.

We entered the baseball stadium, and again, the crowds were lower than normal, due to the cold temperatures. Once in the parking lot again we saw some friends from our running group who had set up a table of snacks and drinks for us! A great big shout out to Chelsea, Garrett, and everyone else for all of the hard work you guys put into this, your support and encouragement was awesome and much-needed on race day!

We made our way back out to Victory Way to exit the complex. We saw the last runners and the balloon ladies, including those who were struggling to stay ahead of the sweepers. You cannot help but be filled with emotion as you start pulling for these runners and want to will them on to success. I stopped to hug my friend Jessie and offered her all of the encouragement I could. This would not be her day, but I was damn proud of her for putting in such a great race and am confident that she will conquer this race!

About this part in the race Jason and I started to get exhausted and our run breaks became a lot shorter.  I suggested that we try to walk a street light, run a street light, walk a street light, run a street light, etc.  This seemed to really work for us for the rest of the race.

Back out on Osceola we made our way on the ramp towards Hollywood Studios. This is the last dull/hard stretch of the course before it starts getting FUN, and it will stay that way to the finish. We entered Hollywood Studios via a backstage entrance behind the Tower of Terror, and turned left into the Fantasmic theater where volunteers handed out drinks and candy for a much-needed sugar boost. At the bottom of the hill, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit greeted runners He is a very hard to get picture at Disney World, so of course Mike and Meghan stopped, which was perfect for us because…

Upon entering Hollywood Studios I turned my phone back on and had a text from Mike a minute prior stating he was at Oswald, but he was no where to be seen so I gave him a call. He let me know they were at the bathrooms by Tower of Terror and they would wait on us.

As we entered Sunset Boulevard, Mike and Meghan were waiting at the end of the street to finish the race with Jason and I, the running party was officially on! The park was several hours into its opening so the crowds were plentiful as we made our way down Sunset and turned left onto Hollywood Boulevard, before exiting to the left of the main gates. Sadly, our time in this park was all too short.

We entered the path to the Boardwalk and were pleased to find that it was not very crowded at our particular time on the course. Sadly, we saw one runner receiving medical treatment in front of the Yacht Club Resort with what looked like a lower leg injury. Your heart breaks for any runner who is unable to finish a race for whatever reason, but it is even more sad when they are injured in the last 2 miles of a marathon. We hope she is ok.

Our friends surprised us at Beach Club with some celebratory Coronas for us to enjoy in the final stretch, boy were they delicious.  We made our way up and down the hill towards Epcot’s International Gateway entrance, but then turned left to enter a backstage area where a final water stop awaited us. Now. let the magic begin!

We entered World Showcase to huge enthusiastic crowds in the United Kingdom. We told Jason, who was running his first marathon, to soak up every moment of this, as this was his victory lap! He certainly made the most of it.

My friends Josh and Kelley were waiting for us in the UK with hard ciders, but the crowds were so thick that Mike had to work his way over to get them for us. The four of us enjoyed our drinks as we strolled along on our World Showcase victory lap. By the time we passed through, the character stops seemed to all be on their breaks, so we do not know who all had been available. Magical Moment. As we made our way along the Promenade, we gladly returned the numerous high-fives being offered by park guests and raised our glasses to those who cheered us on. To say it was emotional would be an understatement. This is the reason you run this race. We soaked it all in.

We passed Mexico and exited World Showcase into Future World where large crowds of park guests were trying to make their way towards the various attractions. It always amazes me how great of a job the Epcot Cast Members do controlling traffic. We exited into a backstage area where a gospel choir hit every high note to will us onto the finish!

Now it was time to exit into the finisher’s chute and make our way the last .2 magical miles to the finish. In the end (literally), the capstone to this amazing race experience was that Jason, Meghan, Mike, and I all got to cross the finish line together!

The SMOpinion

I am absolutely in love with the full marathon medal.  It’s such a classic medal that one would imagine for a marathon medal.  It’s gold and in the shape of Mickey Mouse himself.  On the medal is Mickey running, and around the medal it reads: “Walt Disney World Marathon” and “2017, 26.2.”  The medal is on a red lanyard with Mickey on it, 26.2 miles, and 2017. It really is a gorgeous medal!

With the cancellation of the Donald Duck Half Marathon we also received our Half Marathon and Goofy Challenge medals at the finish time. The Half Marathon Medal has Donald Duck in gold running on top of “XX” stacked on top of each other representing the 20th Half Marathon. It has the first running of the race listed on the medal (1998) and this year’s running (2017) with Walt Disney World wedged between. It’s on a blue lanyard with Donald on it, 13.1 miles, and 2017. The Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge Medal is a bronze with Goofy running in the center with a blue/orange outline around him with 13.1 on one side and 26.2 on the other side. It’s on a navy lanyard with Goofy on it, 39.3 miles, and 2017. Overall the three medals really look good together especially when they’re all together.

The Post-Race Experience

Laura Eaton (now Cartwright as she and Jason married the week following the race – congratulations you two wonderful people!) was at the finish line with her mom cheering Jason, Meghan, Mike, and I on, which always is nice to have someone cheering for you.  Special shout-out to them as they really hauled butt around that course to cheer us on, it is great to have such wonderfully supportive friends.

We briefly stopped to thank them, then it was off to get our marathon medals.  After getting our medals we grabbed our mylars (we will save them for another race since we were too tired to think to put them on, instead we “sillily” just held them, which did not do too much to warm us up!) then headed on to get our water bottles and Powerade. We then went through the challenge medal tent to get our Donald Duck Half Marathon and Goofy Challenge Medals. Next it was time to grab a our runDisney snack pack and banana.  Then it was time for our finish line photos!  After saying our goodbyes and making plans for later, Mike and I headed to the car to take our post race naps (hey, 26.2 miles takes a lot out of you)!

In case you are ever looking for something fun to do the night after a runDisney race I feel that I should share with you even later in the day post-race experience.  One of our favorite things to do after a runDisney race weekend is a Monorail Crawl!  Since many of our friends were leaving Monday we decided to do this Sunday.  This may have not been the best decision, as some of us were so exhausted they bailed early (but I would never name any names, such as Mike!) but I did make it to all three monorail resorts before bed so I call it a win!

Playlist Peek

My playlist alternated between Disney songs and Top 40 songs. However, since I was practically running with someone the entire race I only had one earbud in. That being said I cannot remember any particular song that stood out in those 26.2 miles because I was having so much fun running with others and enjoying the conversation.

Looking back now

Will I run this again? Absolutely!!! (yes this is exactly copy and pasted from my review of the 2016 WDW Marathon!) I have every intention of running this race every year until my body can no longer take it. I absolutely love this race. I really do intend on only running the full marathon next year, but runDisney is really enticing me to run Dopey next year with the 5th anniversary of Dopey, the 5th anniversary of Minnie 10K, the 25th anniversary of the Full Marathon, and now they’re saying 2018 will also be the 20th anniversary of the Half Marathon since it was not run this year. Only time will tell.

If you missed Part 1, read it now!

Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!

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Enjoy the freedom of going wherever your feet, imagination, & determination take you!