Sunday, January 12, 2014

Spectating the Walt Disney World Marathon

by Meghann on January 12, 2014

I had one of those deliciously rare weekends where I was on my own. My brother-in-law was in town for my father-in-law’s birthday (Happy Birthday, Steve!), so Derek spent the entire weekend with them eating steak, drinking beer, and playing golf. It was a boys weekend, which was fine by me. Sometimes it’s just plain nice to have a weekend to yourself.

I took full advantage of a little “me” time by seeing Frozen in the movie theater for the first time since it opened.

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Yes, I may have been the only childless almost thirty-something woman in the matinee showing, but it was so worth it. I loved everything about the movie. I loved the storyline, I loved the animation, I loved the characters, I loved Olaf, I loved Kristen Bell as Anna (who knew she could sing?), and I loved Idina Menzel as Elsa because, well, she’s amazing.

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Yes, I downloaded the soundtrack as soon I got home. Would you have expected anything less? It’s been on repeat since yesterday and I’ve just about got it memorized. Do you want to build a snowman? It doesn’t have to be a snowman…

As an almost 30-something adult, I give it two thumbs up.  If someone asked me to go see it again in the theater tomorrow, I’d do it in a heartbeat.

Since I knew I was on my own this weekend, I had planned to go to the Walt Disney World Marathon expo to try my hardest to score a pair of the New Balance Run Disney Cinderella shoes….

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Aren’t they beautiful?!

But I decided to be a good little runner and get my 7 miles I needed to run in. This was my longest distance since Wine & Dine Half (for some reason I keep saying Ironman Florida, I think I keep forgetting I ran a half marathon a week later). The run was slow and I was still pretty sore from CrossFit, but I’m glad I got it in.

Instead of going to the expo on Saturday, I decided to make some signs and cheer a few #RunDisney friends on at the marathon this morning.

I ran into Walgreens after dinner Saturday night to grab supplies. I really, really had to pee so I spent all of 30 seconds looking at the options (they had a surprising decent selection), and just grabbed what looked the easiest. Of course I got to the register and ended up spending $25 on poster supplies that way (what the heck?!), but I did come home with some pretty cool stuff.

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The biggest chunk of change was this awesome poster making kit that came with stickers, scissors, glue, letter cut-outs, stencils, etc. The kit was way overpriced at $15.95, but it had a lot of cool stuff in it that I will keep for future poster making.

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Of course, I used nothing from the $15.95 kit because all I really needed was in the $5.95 sign kit.

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This came with a poster board and cut outs. Even better, it had a cling sheet that secured everything in place so there was no need to mess with any glue.

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Now, what to say? I wanted to do something about photos since most Disney races are about the photo opps. I thought about a sign where I would offer to take people’s photos, but everything I came up with sounded a little creepy. Instead I thought I would appeal to everyone’s humor side.

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Perfect.

The plan was to cheer for runners in Magic Kingdom. When I ran the race in 2010, Magic Kingdom was near the halfway point of the race. I figured that meant most runners would be running down Main Street about 2+ hours after the start, giving me plenty of time to get to the park if I left the house at 4:45. Unfortunately I never thought to check an updated course map for 2014. The course had gone through a complete transformation in the last two years. Now Magic Kingdom was at mile 5.3, a little earlier than I was expecting. Whoops.

I arrived on Walt Disney World property just as the first corral was being released. Of course, all the roads around Magic Kingdom and Epcot were closed. How the heck was I going to park? I consulted RunDisney’s spectator page and they stated Epcot’s parking lot would be closed 5-7, but all traffic would be rerouted to Magic Kingdom. Since the main entrance was closed, I wasn’t exactly sure how we were being rerouted.

So I drove around Disney property for 20 minutes, seeing if the roads would eventually take me anywhere. Eventually I did find a “Magic Kingdom Detour” sign, which brought me passed the entrance to Fort Wilderness and through the back entrance of Magic Kingdom (aka the Ticket and Transportation Center). I ended up parking in the reserved “Diamond Lot” at the Ticket and Transportation Center (free for all spectators!!), just feet away from the runners.

In the end, the parking situation was great. I was able to walk right on the monorail and hop off at Magic Kingdom. All of the gates were open and the park was free to all spectators (the whole park wasn’t open, we could only stand in Main Street). It was actually pretty cool to be there before the parking officially opened, especially since Cinderella’s Castle was still lit up in holiday lights.

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However, the crowds were INSANE. There were a zillion spectators all crammed together, trying to spot their runners. I’m not sure if this photo does it justice, but it was crazy.

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I was tempted to give up and just head back to Ticket and Transportation Center to spectate, then move on to Epcot, but I decided to stick it out. I stood behind a small crowd and held my sign up the best I could above everyone’s heads. Eventually a family member of friend would see their runner go by, give them a hug, then move out of the crowd. Inch by inch, I slowly moved my way to the front to cheer on my friends.

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I hadn’t signed up to track anyone via texts alerts (though I heard they were pretty accurate this year), so I was relying on social media updates on where everyone was. I saw Heather come through…

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and she looked great!

Unfortunately that’s the only photo I got of a friend. Ugh. Worst spectating friend ever. However, I need to give a shout out to Stephanie, Stephanie, Megan, Amanda, Megan, Rachel and anyone else I saw on the course today. Everyone looked great out there!!

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See how the crowds thinned out?

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I wanted to stay in Magic Kingdom until the last runner came through, but my stomach was eating itself from the inside out. I needed food and I needed it stat. They were selling pastries, coffee, and popcorn (random) to spectators, but I needed real food. The Polynesian has the best quick service breakfast around the Magic Kingdom resort area so I hopped on a monorail and headed there for breakfast. I forgot to take a photo, but I had the largest breakfast platter available at Captain Cook’s and ate it all.

While eating breakfast, I made friends with someone from California who was cheering on her fiance. We decided to cut over to Epcot together to watch the final runners come in. We took the monorail to Epcot, which was fairly empty.

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I knew my friend Jackie was going to be at Epcot, so I connected with her and we decided to take advantage of the empty park by riding Test Track

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For the record, I had no intention of riding the ride with my sign, but when I went to leave it on the other side the attendant told me it was okay to have it in the ride. I couldn’t resist trying to hold it up for the photo.

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Close. Very close.

From there we headed to the world showcase to cheer on more runners.

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I think my sign was a hit. I had a lot of comments on it and a lot of points and laughs. Runners would go by and say “So true!” or “Wait, is there really a photographer ahead?!” I’m telling you, runners love picking up the pace and hamming it up for the camera (this one included).

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I waited with Jackie until her husband ran by.

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And by “ran” I mean stop, take a selfie with his daughter, pick her up, give her chocolate he had saved for her from the course, and basically win father of the year award. Seriously, awesome dad. 

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Then I said my good-byes and started my walk to Hollywood Studios (I walked and held the sign so people could still read it as I walked). I was able to score a FastPass for Toy Story Mania and I was not going to let it go.

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I’ve been on Toy Story Mania at Disney’s California Adventure, but never the one at Hollywood Studios (the lines are INSANE and FastPasses usually sell out early). Yes, it’s the exact same ride, but it’s good to finally say I’ve been on the one at “my” Disney. The ride is SO MUCH FUN and I got the added bonus of beating the random stranger I was paired with. Sweet.

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After Toy Story and Star Wars, I headed back to Epcot for lunch.

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LOVE the Moroccan Quick Service Restaurant.

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Saw Santa working off his Christmas cookies.

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Then finally headed home felling exhausted. There were still runners on the course when I left Epcot around 2 – more power to them!! I hadn’t run at all and I felt like I was going to fall on the sidewalk and crash.

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CONGRATS to all of the Walt Disney World Marathon finishers today. You guys seriously lucked out with weather (a high of 65 instead of the predicted 81!) and did such a great job. Way to inspire us.

Of course, now all I can think about is registering for Dopey in 2015 now. Seriously, I’m so inspired. Dopey is RunDisney’s latest challenge: 4 days, 4 races.

  • 5k on Thursday
  • 10k on Friday
  • 1/2 marathon on Saturday
  • Full marathon on Sunday

Total: 48.6 miles! 6 medals!

Who wants to do it with me? Registration opens in April!

 

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