10 things I learned from running the Walt Disney World Marathon

This past weekend, I participated in the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. I completed the full marathon, achieving all three goals I set for myself: 1) Finish the race; 2) Don’t die; and 3) Don’t get injured. Bonus: I also finished 7,551st out of 9,697 women, which means I wasn’t last. What can I say? I reach for the stars. Rockin' that 22nd percentile! I didn’t think I was fully prepared and, shocker, I was right. HOWEVER, the weather was perfect (no suffocation-worthy humidity), and I ran/walked the entire race, which was what I’d trained to do. I also babied my bum knee, took a grueling refreshing ice bath after, and two days later I feel as good as new. Steps were hard for my friend Adriana, however. I don’t think she took an ice bath, which she is probably regretting right now as I say, “I told you so” and enjoy my fully functioning legs. If you’re thinking of participating in the WDW marathon next January, hooray! It’s a lot of fun. But here are some things I urge you to consider before registering, as well as some tips to get you through alive. NEXT PAGE: If you like to have money and hate crowds, sign up for a different race.

1. If you like to have money and hate crowds, sign up for a different race.

Personally, I enjoy having money and I don’t like being in the middle of a ton of people. But I’m a Disney fanatic, and this was my first (and probably only) marathon, so it was worth it to me to endure the cost and crowds. If it is for you too, that’s awesome – just make sure you’re prepared to get up at 3 a.m. or earlier, endure traffic and spend a few grocery bills’ worth of cash on the race registration alone. Also, you have to sign up early, because this mother sells out fast.

2. If you like free things, hang around at the expo, but don’t bring money.

The expo where you pick up your race packet is a runner’s dream. Tons of vendors sell everything from running shoes to glow-in-the-dark wicking shirts and give out free samples of stuff like energy bars and KT Tape (which they’ll apply on your body for free if you’re willing to stand in a huge line and have strangers touch you, which I am not). Cigna had a photobooth setup, which was really fun and especially rewarding for me, because they hiked up my premium this year and I took my anger out on the survey I had to complete to get my free photo strip. I accept your free photobooth experience, Cigna, but it’s not worth an extra $28 a month. Speaking of free, there are also a ton of freebies along the race course, like energy gels and bananas, that volunteers hand out to keep you alive. I say “free” but let’s be real, those bananas cost 10 cents and I paid for 1,500 of them, but it’s nice to delude myself sometimes. NEXT PAGE: If you don’t dress up, you’re doing it wrong.

3. If you don’t dress up, you’re doing it wrong.

I got my running outfit from Etsy, and it was a Christmas present from my fiancé because I’m way too cheap to buy a $100 running costume for myself, but other runners really, REALLY get into it. Like this guy, who was dressed as Lumiere and whose (not pictured) companion was Cogsworth.

Where do you even get candle gloves? Or learn how to make candle gloves? Also, how do you run 26.2 miles with candle gloves? And most importantly, why am I calling them gloves when they’re obviously mittens?

 4. If you enjoy being not stressed, stay on property.

Let me tell you, race-day traffic is a bitch. You have to wake up even earlier, and it’s stressful as hell trying to get on property because everyone else is doing the same thing, and you’re tired, nervous, etc. So do yourself a favor and stay at one of the resorts. You will thank yourself when you get a precious extra hour or two of sleep.

5. Disney magic or not, you’re still in for 26.2 miles of torture.

Don’t let the fireworks and fairy dust enchant you too much — when you puke from pushing too hard, your vomit will not be sparkly or possess magic powers. It will just be disgusting, and potentially chunky depending on what you’ve eaten in the past 24 hours. I saw a lot of people getting sick at the finish line, and while I can’t say why for sure, I can assume many signed up and really didn’t know what they were getting into – that they were just swept up in the Disney magic. It’s still hard, and it will still take a lot out of your body, so TRAIN, stay hydrated, stretch, etc. Able to stand upright because I kind of trained! #brag

Able to stand upright because I kind of trained! #brag

6. If you can’t decide whether it’s a hill, it’s a hill.

There are a bunch of little inclines throughout the course, and you’ll find yourself asking, “Does this count as a hill?” Yes. Yes it does. If you haven’t trained on hills, don’t try to be a hero — walk those (even the wussy-looking ones). However, if you’re not from Florida and you actually have hills in your area that you’ve trained on, then by all means, go nuts.

7. Even if you complete the race, there’s always something else you could have done to be better, so you will hate yourself regardless.

At the start of the race, while we were all waiting in our corrals, this announcer kept telling us to “Scream if you’re running the Dopey!” The Dopey Challenge consists of the 5K Thursday, 10K Friday, half marathon Saturday and full marathon Sunday. No, thank you. I’m not suicidal. But then this dude goes, “Yell if you’re only doing the Goofy!” ONLY? Who’s ONLY running a half marathon Saturday and a full today? Those lazy asses. And he said it a few times too, so it wasn’t just a slip-up. I only did the marathon, man. Excuse me while I go eat six pizzas and marathon Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix.
Six medals for the Dopey folks, including my friend Harvey pictured above. SIX. How they are expected to have the neck strength to wear them all at once afterward is beyond me, but apparently it is doable P.S. There’s a reason these events are named after characters whose names are euphemisms for IDIOT, announcer guy. Sincerely, a person who will never be athletic enough to do them. NEXT PAGE: Carbs are your friend. So is alcohol.

8. Carbs are your friend.

We ate at Maggiano’s the night before the race, which was both the best and worst decision I’ve ever made. Best because the three pieces of bread, half a flatbread appetizer, huge plate of pasta (which my friend Adriana called a “platter,” but what does she know?), and tiramisu carried me through the race, but bad because I’m up three pounds from last week. Survey says? Worth it.

9. Alcohol is your friend, too – after the race.

On second thought, I think my post-race Mexican lunch-and-margarita combo may have also contributed to my weight gain. Carbs are carbs, man, and I needed to refuel. I regret nothing.

10. Sleeping is underrated.

No really, take the next day off and use it to sleep. And walk around some. But mostly sleep. Your legs and immune system will thank you.  
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