If you haven’t caught up on the other parts of this trip report be sure to do so at the links below (then come back to read this one..):
Well we’ve made it. The final part of the trip report. Unlike previous mornings this day did not start at 2.30am. It actually started just after midnight when I was awoken by a pain running through my knee. I’ve had knee issues when running in the past, but I really thought that wearing the knee supports and having an epsom salt bath was going to give me an injury free weekend. Sadly that wasn’t the case. I could barely bend my knee which felt like it had completely seized up overnight. I had to try and get a few more hours sleep so sprayed a lot of biofreeze on it to relieve the pain and hope for the best when I next woke up.
My alarm went off at 2.30am and, while the pain had subsided a little, it was still uncomfortable to move in and I was getting really concerned for the day ahead. I decided that I wasn’t going to let this get into my head too much and headed to the bus stop. There was no bagel this morning as I had purchased race retreat for the marathon day which included breakfast.
On arrival at Epcot I headed straight for the race retreat tent and tucked into the continental breakfast of croissants, bagels and other carby goodness. I also grabbed an orange juice to drink now and a gatorade for the corral wait.
One of the main benefits of race retreat are the exclusive character meets. For the marathon we had an exclusive meet with the characters from Hercules. I got in line and managed to meet Hercules (new character), Hades, Pain and Panic.
I regret not taking off my very much packed running belt for these pictures..
On walking over to the corrals it was immediately apparent that today was much warmer, and much more humid, than the previous days. I again waited and chatted with Steven, Christian and Megan but as go time approached I was getting really, really nervous. My longest training run had been 20 miles, 6.2 miles short of the marathon distance. That, combined with the tiredness of multiple early starts and worries over the strength of my knee, had my anxiety building and building. I asked Megan if I could stick with her at least for the first little bit and I’m really grateful she was happy to start together.
The marathon course would take us through all four parks – the only race at Walt Disney World to do so. Again we would start in the Epcot car park and head up to Magic Kingdom, through the park and down a long highway run to Animal Kingdom, then onto ESPN Wide World of Sports, Hollywood Studios and finish up for the final time in Epcot.
After the first few miles I was actually feeling pretty good. The one thing I was really noticing though was the higher humidity. On the half marathon I found I didn’t really warm up until pretty much half way through the race, but today I was starting to feel the heat much earlier. Before long though I passed through the TTC (where Leah was cheering us on, much respect trailing over there so early in the morning!) and it was back into Magic Kingdom to once again run down Main Street and towards the castle. I already touched on this in the half marathon report but there is really nothing more special than running down Main Street and getting that lift from the crowd cheering you on!
My first character stop ended up being in Fantasyland.
Ulf from Tangled! I have no idea what I was thinking with this pose.
I of course had to stop for the mandatory castle picture.
My next character stop was just as you entered backstage at Magic Kingdom to leave the park – if you read the half marathon report this meet was in the same location as the princesses and princes.
A really cool multiple villains meet – Frollo had swapped in for Facilier just as I entered the queue. Clearly I didn’t get the memo about the sinister poses.
The Magic Kingdom to Animal Kingdom section of the race felt a lot longer than I imagined it would. A ~7 mile slog down highways and roads. That’s not to say there wasn’t plenty of entertainment and things to see though. There was entertainers, DJs, old ride props like ride vehicles from Mr Toad (which I really regret not stopping and taking a closer look at) and of course characters!
So cute right? It never ceases to amaze me just how many outfits the fab 5 have! Other characters on this stretch included the hilarious Bowler Hat Guy but having met him previously I decided not to stop.
I ended up taking my first walking break at around mile 11, and with Megan heading on I was alone for the first time in the marathon. Miles 10 to 12 were not a fun time, the out and back felt like it went on forever. Finally though, finally I entered Animal Kingdom. This ended up being maybe the most disappointing park to run through. I hadn’t paid too much attention to the course map beforehand (my own fault really) and wrongly assumed we’d go past the Tree of Life and be able to get a picture. Instead though we ran through Africa, down the side, into Asia and out again. I did however stop for another really fun character meet.
Madame Upanova aka the Ostrich from Fantasia. I honestly didn’t even know this character was meetable, and she’s almost certainly the rarest character I’ve ever met along with maybe Llama Kuzko?
Another treat was waiting as the course left Animal Kingdom.
The Grave Diggers! This was so awesome, I’d heard from many people this a can’t miss meet and as always I was shocked to see no queue at all. I loved the back drop too, its difficult to tell this was basically in a car park!
It was on the next highway stretch, between Animal Kingdom and ESPN, that I started to struggle. One element was the heat, there was very little shade on the highways and the temperatures were much higher than on any of the previous days or on my training runs. A lot of this section was also pretty much one straight highway. It seemed like it went on and on and on. There was a cute pooch along the way though who can raise anyone’s spirits.
Again props to Disney for making something decent out of a potentially terrible backdrop. With a few strategically placed props a building site can easily become a Dino dig site!
Around mile 17, just before ESPN, my knee went. The pain from the night before was back in a big way. Thankfully I was still able to walk at a decent pace, but any attempt at even jogging was met with a lot of pain. My mood wasn’t helped much when the DJ reminded me that I was entering ESPN at just over 17 miles and would be leaving at just over 20 miles. That meant 3 miles of generic buildings, 3 miles of running around sports tracks. I was not thrilled.
It wasn’t all bad though, this section had some of my favourite character meets of the whole weekend.
Referee Mickey and Donald!
Joy and Sadness! Not sure what relevance they have to ESPN or sports but still a fun meet.
Leaving ESPN I let out a huge sigh of relief. It was like a weight off my shoulders. I had passed the 20 mile mark, I was out of those cursed sports fields and I was on the way to Hollywood Studios though.
At mile 22 I had another nice surprise, Steven had caught up with me! At this point of the race in particular it was so nice having a friend to chat to. Being alone for the last 11 or so miles I’d started to really get caught in my head, fighting against thoughts of giving up and stopping several times. Steven and I chatted away until we entered Hollywood Studios where we briefly split. I had a bit of a 15th wind at this point and was at least able to jog long enough for the photopass photographer to grab a quick snap.
It wouldn’t be a run post without at least one thumbs up photo!
I regrouped with Steven along Crescent Lake and we stuck together for the final stretch of the race. Eventually we finally, finally entered Epcot for the last lap around World Showcase. The atmosphere was incredible, with cast members and park goers cheering the runners for their last push. Some were even giving out free snacks, but I decided a giant pretzel from Germany may not be the best idea at this stage of the game.
26.2 miles after I started and the end was finally in sight.
I slowed down to a very slow jog as I crossed the finish line. I really wanted to savour this moment.
I did it. I really did it. I gingerly walked to the finish area, collecting my finisher ear hat and of course all the bling.
The sweetest finisher picture I’ll ever have.
I walked back to the race retreat area with the intention of having lunch but at this point I felt terrible. I think my body was in shock, I just couldn’t eat anything without feeling like it would come straight back up and all I could think about was getting back to the hotel. I therefore abandoned the race retreat and took the bus back to the hotel – I will review the race retreat properly in the final post but I didn’t find it was worth $130.
I got back to the hotel and still felt like I really needed to eat. I went to the food court, bought something, and again could barely eat any of it. At this point I admitted defeat on eating for now and went back to the room. A quick shower later and I was chilling on the bed when I received a text from David (@David_Heller25 on Twitter) to say Donald Duck would be meeting in my hotel lobby. Against my better judgement I forced myself up, threw some clothes on and got some pictures with my favourite duck.
Thanks again David, I’d have missed this if it wasn’t for your heads up!
I was up, it was my last full day and I had some fastpasses booked for Magic Kingdom. Again against my better judgement I found myself on a bus to the park.
I had never had my picture taken in front of the train station before. Medal pics are a perfect excuse to get some.
Am I milking it yet?
I met up with Katie, who had arrived the previous day, and we had dinner with Megan and Leah at Cosmic Rays. My appetite had come back by this point and I had the biggest thing I could see on the menu – a double bacon cheeseburger, fries and a massive diet coke.
We then had to go and get some pictures with the main Mouse himself.
The day ended how my perfect Walt Disney World day ends, watching Happily Ever After. A sensible person would then have headed straight back to the hotel and pack, but I’m an idiot so I ran around the park with Katie fitting in final rides on Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion.
I won’t go into my final half day too much, but I spent the early part of the day at Animal Kingdom before park hopping to Epcot and hanging out with Katie for my final few hours. This day should probably be called medal picture day.
I was picked up by the Tragical Express just before 4pm for an emotional journey. I’d only left the UK 6 days ago but what an incredible few days it had been. 48.6 miles, 4 theme parks, stupidly early mornings, exhaustion, elation, great company. Definitely one of the greatest achievements in my life. Dopey Challenge? Done.