2022 Disney Marathon
Race Review | Should you run the Disney Marathon?
You should run the Disney Marathon if you are looking for a fun race with good entertainment and an easy course. You should not run the Disney Marathon if you thrive on “ideal” race conditions.
Let’s break this down. This race was fun and full of entertainment. There was some sort of Disney character available for pictures and cheering on runners about every mile. There were also several screens set up that were playing key scenes from Disney movies on repeat. I’m pretty sure I heard “Hakuna Matata” at least 4 times during the race. I also got to hear Elsa belt some “Let it go” and one of my all-time faves from Olaf when he sings “When I’m Older.” In addition to all of the Disney themed entertainment, there were a couple of DJs strategically located at some more boring points of the course that added some flair.
Lastly, on the entertainment front, you get to run through all four Disney Parks starting at EPCOT, Magic Kingdom around mile 10, Animal Kingdom around mile 16, and a brief tour through Hollywood Studios just prior to mile 23 before finishing back up through EPCOT. In between the parks you are mostly logging highway miles to make the trek from park to park. Running through the parks was a ton of fun though, especially the venture through Magic Kingdom in the dark. You get to venture down Main Street while it is all lit up and filled with people cheering you on. They snag a great photo of you in front of the castle which I have included here.
The course is super easy. My watched logged a total of 236 feet of elevation gain (basically nothing). It is worth noting though that the highway miles are a bit awkward. You run through a couple on/off ramps that have a banking incline/decline. I am not used to running on banked pavement in the slightest, so it did feel a little weird. I also heard a couple of people note that they stepped on reflectors in the road and hurt their feet. I managed to navigate around them. All of that being said, the course is very manageable and easy. It’s a great course for first time marathoners.
Now, to address my comment about the less than ideal race conditions. In order to avoid congestion at the parks, the race starts at 5:00am and runners are “required” to be at EPCOT by 3:30am. I had a 2:22am alarm set for the day. I’ve done some dumb stuff for a long run, but I’ve never gotten up that early (or late let’s be honest that’s still night time). The early start did up being a blessing though because it helps you avoid the Florida heat. Once the sun comes up around 7:30am it gets hot quick. When I finished around 8:10am I was ready to get out of the sun. I imagine that anyone running a 4+ hour race spends more time in the Florida sun than they may desire. The temperature at start time was right around 60, but was 75 when I finished and only escalated from there. In addition, my legs were already pretty destroyed from spending two days at Disney Parks prior to the race so depending on how you plan your vacation or can add this to the less-than-ideal race conditions category.
I need to cap this off with some kudos to Disney. As you can imagine Disney organizes a great event. There were ~11,000 runners and they managed this mass of people, the spectators, and their every day park goers very well. They even had a canal style “lock” (or 2) set up in EPCOT to manage park goers crossing the race course without impacting runners on the course. As an industrial engineer I found it very fun to watch. They organize the start into 4 large corrals based on expected finish time and they stagger these starts to avoid congestion. The start and finish areas for this race are very large, but Disney did a great job of making it easy to navigate.
Oh, and the medal was pretty cool too.
Personal Race Experience
I’ll try not to be too long winded here. This was not intended to be a peak race for me. I knew that I didn’t want to be worried about nailing a race plan while I was in the middle of a vacation with my family. Adding to that note, I was beat from one full day at Magic Kingdom and one full day at Animal Kingdom prior to the race. I was logging ~20k steps/day and on my feet all day long. We also planned to spend the day at EPCOT after the race. Though I had originally planned to nap after the race and then catch up with the family, but I learned from the first two days that if I did that I was going to miss out on a lot. I wanted to finish the race knowing that I could still manage to hang at EPCOT as long as humanly possible.
So I decided that If I could maintain the progress that I made in 2021 moving my marathon PR from 3:25 to 3:12 then I would be very happy. The night before I lowered the expectations with my wife and told her I thought I would finish closer to 3:30.
So, I started running around 7:30 pace and figured I would just slow down when my body started to hurt. The pacing groups were doing a run/walk. I passed the 3:20 group pretty early in the race (around mile 2) when they were in a walk interval. One of the runners commented on how many people were passing them and going out hard. To which the pacer responded, “Oh we will pass 90% of these people, happens every race.” To which I responded, in my head, “Oh the fuck you are!”
I ran a steady 7:20 pace throughout the entire race, excluding my pee break at the 14.5 mile point and I did speed up in the last couple of miles. I felt absolutely incredible when I finished. My legs were tired, I was a bit fatigued, but I knew that I had so much more left in the tank that it left me very hopeful about my 2022 racing plans and goals.
I saw my family at the finish line and the kids were jacked to get to Frozen Ever After so I took a quick break after the race, shed my race shoes and singlet and we rope-dropped EPCOT. I ended up logging ~54k steps that day and I was totally destroyed for our Hollywood Studios day on Monday, but it was worth it to avoid the nap. I got to be a part of so many fun moments with the kids and soak up some excellent EPOT experiences.
So Disney caps off 2021 racing for me. Stay tuned and I’ll share my 2022 plans in the very near future. For now, I leave you with this picture that captured the moment that I saw my family right outside of the finish line and our group rope-dropping EPCOT shortly after.