Rising to the occasion - a Disney marathon report!

We’re baaack! As always I’m joined for race weekend by my BFF from high school. Several years ago, when I first started considering running a marathon, I convinced BFF that we should run the DW marathon in 2020 as a celebration of 35 years of friendship and 50 years circling the sun. Luckily for me, she is easily convinced ;)

As some of you may know from my last race report, I had an injury at the end of 2018. 2019 was supposed to be a recovery year punctuated by my triumphant return to racing with DW marathon in 2020. Unfortunately, that’s not how it turned out. :( Instead, I ended up with one injury after another - the last occurring October 20th 2019 when I injured my knee at my local half marathon. At the time, I thought I would just take 2-3 weeks off and hop back into training. But after 6 weeks of no improvement it became apparent that that would not happen. After sports med, PT and a last ditch attempt to relieve the pain with a knee injection (that didn’t work), I finally gave up the idea of running and decided that I would WALK the entire marathon. After all, I just had to maintain a 16 minute pace and I would have a bit of a cushion by virtue of starting in one of the earlier corrals. How hard could it be? ;):ROFLMAO: So going into race weekend, I had 3 goals:

  1. Walk the course without being swept.
  2. Have enough time to stop for some pictures (because what’s the point of racing at Disney if there’s no photographic evidence? :LOL:
  3. Ride both of the rides in Star Wars land .🤞

I may actually have been most nervous about the last goal since the boarding groups used for RotR required a certain amount of spontaneity that just doesn’t fit with my usual over-planning of every second of our trip :LOL:
 
Friday January 10th - Travel day

I initially convinced BFF to go Saturday-Tuesday (instead of Fri-Mon as we usually do) in hopes that crowds would be better in the 2 days after the marathon. She agreed, so I booked us a room at POFQ for those dates. Right before we got our plane tickets, we read a post in a runDisney facebook page pointing out the danger of flying in Saturday morning because any flight delay could mean missing bib pickup at the expo which ends early on Saturday. So I convinced BFF that we should fly in Friday evening instead and to keep cost down, got a single night at All Star Sports for Friday. In an act of Disney magic, I got a call offering a free upgrade to Coronado Springs for Friday night. Yes, please! I’d never stayed there before, so I was very excited to see a new resort even if only for one night.

The trip started well. The ride to the airport and flight were smooth and uneventful. After a leisurely walk to DME, I hopped right on and we left about 10 minutes later. I had never gotten a text that my room was ready, so checked MDE and was happy to see that I had a room assigned. After a quick stop in the lobby to pick up a map of the resort, I headed straight for our room in Casitas building 4. This was my first time staying in any of the moderates besides POFQ and, even though I knew the resort was huge, I still couldn’t quite believe how big it was until I had to haul my bags all the way from the bus stop to the room. Finally made it to the room and this is where the misery begins.

My magic band wouldn’t open the door. I had had a similar experience on my last trip, so I knew that I should be able to use my phone to open the door even if the magic band wasn’t working. Tried the phone - the light turned green - and the door still wouldn’t open :( At this point, I got a push notification from MDE to call guest services, so I talked to someone who tried to reprogram my magic band remotely. That didn’t work. She said to wait and she’d send someone to the room to fix the problem. 35 minutes later I was still waiting, so I called again. I explained the situation to a new person and she again tried to reprogram my magic band remotely without success. Then she had me try the phone again. Shockingly, it still didn’t work on the 10th or 11th try. So she assured me that someone should be there soon. I pointed out that I’d already been waiting OUTSIDE my room for 45 minutes at this point and I really was not willing to stand there for another 45 minutes. I asked to speak to a manger, but she said that the manager was unavailable and that they would call me later. She also said that someone would be right over to let me in the room and told me to wait. 15 minutes later, someone from housekeeping arrived and let me in the room. So then I was in the room, but I was trapped! I couldn’t leave or I’d be locked out again.:mad:

Finally someone showed up to try to fix the problem. He reprogrammed the magic bands and they STILL didn’t work. So he decided that the problem was actually the lock and I would have to wait for yet another person to come put a new battery in the lock. Well, that guy showed up and changed the battery and the lock still wouldn’t work, so he said he’d send yet another guy to reprogram the lock. At this point, BFF texted that she was approaching the hotel and I had had enough. After waiting 1 hour to get inside the room and an additional 1.5 hours trapped inside the room waiting for the door to be fixed, I was just DONE! So I grabbed my bags and marched back to the bus stop, grabbed BFF, proceeded to the front desk and demanded a new room. The CM at the desk was appropriately apologetic, got us set up with a new room and gave us a 75$ credit. After the long walk back to the new room, we were finally in a room with a functioning lock. Woohoo! It was after 11pm and BFF and I were both starving so we quickly ran down to the food court to see if we could grab some snacks before everything shut down. There wasn’t much open, but we were able to grab water and chips. We had our snack and prepped for bed because we were both exhausted and ready for the day to be over!
 
Saturday January 11th - Expo and AK

After packing up and arranging for our bags to be sent to POFQ, we headed for the expo. Got there a little after 9:30am. Lines for packet pickup weren’t bad and we were soon browsing the merch at the expo.
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Raw threads had some cute shirts, but I didn’t see anything I couldn’t live without

We grabbed a quick pic with the 26.2 sign and headed over to look at the official runDisney stuff in the other building. Dopey and Goofy were meeting, but the lines were super long and brunch was waiting...

We got lucky with a bus to AKL waiting for us to leave. On the bus ride there, the manager from Coronado actually called me and offered an apology for our experience the day before and 3 anytime fastpasses to help make up for lost time. She added one fastpass for each of our 3 park days. Yay! We arrived with a few minutes to spare for our 11:45am reservation at Boma. About 10 minutes later, we were fueling and hydrating like crazy ;)

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After brunch, we headed to AK where we met up with a friend that I hadn’t seen in 17 years. We spent an hour or so catching up before she had to leave to meet up with her running partner and we had to leave for our first fp+. Expedition Everest was a blast as always. Unfortunately, we forgot to tap a magic band so no evidence that we survived another trip. We had a little time to kill before our next scheduled fp+ at KS, so decided to use our anytime fp+ to grab a pic with Mickey and Minnie :)



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After a great safari, we headed to Pandora for dinner at Satuli Canteen, took a ride down the Navi River, and enjoyed the scenery during the slow fade to dark. We left pretty early, but were able to catch the show at the Tree of Life on the way out.

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Got lucky with the bus again and we were soon grabbing our bags from the bellhop at POFQ. Never got a room ready text, but the room number magically appeared on MDE and this time no problems at all opening the door. Yay! It was so good to be back! We picked up some donuts and water for pre-race fuel and tucked in for an early night since we’d be waking up super early for the new 5am start of the marathon.
 
Sunday January 12th - Disney Marathon

The alarm went off at 2:15am. :sleep: o_O We got dressed, grabbed our water and donuts, and were on our way by 3:10am. Traffic was heavy and it took about 30 minutes before we finally got to the drop off area at the start. We walked to the gear check area to meet up and take pre-race pics with some friends from my various running groups, then started the long trek to the corrals. As we walked, all of the volunteers were reminding us to hydrate because the temperature was expected to be extremely hot.

I was in corral D and BFF was in F. Usually I would move back to her corral so that we could run together, but I knew we would need every extra minute that we could get. So we agreed to each start in our own corrals and BFF would run until she caught up to me. We lined up in our respective corrals and waited for the start … and waited … and waited some more. Texts started flying from some friends that they were still stuck on the bus because of some type of traffic problem. Finally a little after 5am, the announcers reported that the start would be delayed due to problems clearing cars off of the course. The race started at 5:22am. My corral reached the start line about 10 minutes later and finally we were off! My goal was to to maintain about 15 minute per mile walking pace to leave a little extra time for photos and I managed to come in just under 15 minutes for the first mile. Right after the first mile marker, there was a photo stop. I knew I shouldn’t stop so soon, but I couldn’t resist because …

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Tinkerbell!!

I only waited in line for about 4 minutes. Worth it! I half expected BFF to catch up to me before I hit the mile 2 marker, but it was more like mile 3.5 before she finally caught me. We did a pretty decent job maintaining 15-16 minute pace and were able to stop for several photos before the balloon ladies finally caught up to us around mile 20.

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Around that time people started getting notifications from runDisney that due to unsafe conditions (temp of 86 degrees and humidity of 90%), the course would be shortened by eliminating the 1.3 miles through blizzard beach. Although disappointing, I think everyone agreed that this was a good idea because people were dropping all over the course. I’ve never seen so many people leave the course by ambulance during any other race! Luckily, the on-course medical staff was great! There were so many medics on bicycles riding the course that they arrived immediately whenever someone was having an issue. I never felt like I had to stop to assist anyone because there was a medic there for every single person.

After they made the announcement about the course being shortened, lots of people, BFF and I included, started slowing down because we thought we would still have the same amount of time to finish the shorter distance. It turned out that that was NOT true. A few minutes later, some of the runDisney staff started yelling that a sweeper bus was coming and that if we didn’t catch up to the balloon ladies, we’d be taken off the course. They said that we still had to maintain the same pace even though the course was shortened. After 20+ miles, BFF and I were not about to quit, so we ran a little and picked up the pace enough to catch the balloon ladies. We stuck with them to the end, except for a couple quick pics because there were literally no lines at this point. People were too afraid of being swept to stop for pictures!

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Although I finished with a distance of 25.35 miles (shortened course + extra mileage from weaving around other runners and photo stops), I definitely felt that I earned my medal!
 

lovett1979

Member
Congratulations on completing your marathon. I am in awe of anyone who runs that distance. I tend to stick to 10Ks myself. And I am so jealous of your picture with the Fantasia hippo. I never stop for characters during my races, but I would definitely stop for that one!.
 

Anne

Well-known member
Congrats! So happy you are doing a trip report. I missed out on marathon weekend this year so am enjoying reading about your experience! Happy to have missed out on the 86 degree temps though! Yuck!
 

beachta1

Well-known member
I love a race report!!! I did hear about the heat and a lot of people dropping out, glad you were able to make it through.

Question about the balloon ladies- I thought you weren't able to go behind them? Were there certain spots that if you're behind them, they sweep you? I thought they were like the end of the line.
 

lovett1979

Member
Question about the balloon ladies- I thought you weren't able to go behind them? Were there certain spots that if you're behind them, they sweep you? I thought they were like the end of the line.
The way I've heard it explained is that the balloon ladies are a visible representation of where the 16min/mile line is. Yes, they do start as the "end of the line" but character stops/bathroom breaks/slow pace could put you behind them. If you fall behind them, you are at risk of being swept. The actual sweepers are on bikes, and will usually give you a warning to give you a chance to speed up (and get ahead of the balloons) before sweeping you.
 

Monica

Member
So happy to read a runDisney event report - I am toying with the idea of trying out a 5K or 10k event to start. I am astonished that one needs to wake up at 2 for a 5 am start, and glad to be educated about balloon ladies
 
Thanks for following along ladies!

The official line from run Disney is that you have to stay ahead of the balloon ladies or you risk getting swept - all the way to the finish line. From what I've heard and experienced, however, it is highly unlikely that you'll get swept past mile 22ish unless you are failing to make forward progress. A very large clump of people walk along with the balloon ladies and it doesn't really matter if you are ahead or behind as long as you are keeping pace. One interesting thing that I didn't realize is that run Disney actually tracks the balloon ladies pace and makes them stick to exactly 16mm pace at certain check points. For example, around mile 21 or 22, a runDisney official stopped the balloon ladies and told them they were 1 min 23 seconds ahead of pace and they were held back until that amount of time elapsed.
 

beachta1

Well-known member
For example, around mile 21 or 22, a runDisney official stopped the balloon ladies and told them they were 1 min 23 seconds ahead of pace and they were held back until that amount of time elapsed.
Wow, that actually must be really hard to do! I wonder, do they train to walk at that pace?!
 
Sunday January 12th, Part 2 - ALL THE FOOD.

After grabbing our medals, some ice for my knee, and our post-race hydration, we headed straight for the bus. The ride back to POFQ was much shorter than the ride there and we were back in our room to shower and change a few minutes later. We had plenty of time to get to our 2:30 ADR at Wine Bar George, so we took the boat to Disney Springs. It was so nice to sit down and relax. It was not so nice when we had to get up and walk again :oops: and we used almost the entire 30 minutes left until our ADR to walk from the boat ramp to the restaurant :ROFLMAO: When we got there, we were a little disappointed to find out that they were no longer serving brunch (even though website said brunch was served until 3p), but consoled ourselves with some delicious slushy beverages and tapas.

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Afterward, we walked over to the ganachery where I couldn’t resist picking up some beautiful chocolates to bring home for my kids.

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Then we went to sprinkles and got cupcakes just in case we needed another snack before dinner ;)

We took the boat back to POFQ. BFF took a nap while I sat in the hot tub and then we just relaxed for a bit before getting a Lyft to dinner at Cali Grill. I had lucked into a 7:40pm ADR with fireworks in MK starting at 8pm. We checked in a few minutes early, but they had a problem find our reservation in the computer system. I was able to show the hostess the ADR on MDE, so she said she would take care of it and gave us a pager to wait. She anticipated that we would be called for our table in 7-10 minutes, but said that if we didn’t get a page, we could go still go upstairs to see the fireworks from the outdoor viewing area while we waited. After 10 minutes, we hadn’t gotten a page so we joined the line to go upstairs to watch the fireworks. They only had one elevator running, so the line moved extremely slowly and we ended up walking outside just after the start of the show.

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I had never seen HEA before and had pretty low expectations seeing it from so far away, but the view actually wasn’t too bad and I enjoyed it. I imagine it’s even better when you can see all of the projections on the castle. Our pager still hadn’t gone off so we found the hostess and asked when we would be seated. Apparently, our ADR still wasn’t showing up in the computer system, which is why we never got a page. She apologized and seated us immediately. BFF got the pork tenderloin and I got tilefish with gnocchi and clams. Soooo delicious! Full and happy, we caught a Lyft back to the hotel for another early night. Tomorrow we’d be racing the crowds in HS!
 
Monday January 13th Part 1 - Galaxy’s Edge

I was so worried about this day! When I first made my fp+ (at 60+3 days out) there were no fp+ available for SDD or TSMM, so I picked up fp+ for Star Tours mid-morning, RnRC at noon and a throw away fp+ for a show in the early morning. Two weeks before the trip, park opening was moved up from 9am to 8am and I missed the chance to get new fp+. :RpS_sad: So disappointing. But, 2 days before the trip, opening was moved up to 7am. This time, I was able to snag a fp+ for SDD at 8am. Yay! I figured we could always ride RnRC single rider if we couldn’t get it as a 4th fp. The biggest thing I was worried about though, was getting a boarding group for RotR. Long before Disney released information about the boarding group process, I had made reservations for a massage followed by afternoon tea at GF. I was so worried that we either 1) wouldn’t get a boarding group or 2) would get called right before we had to leave to get to the massage. I was willing to miss tea (and pay the no show fee) if absolutely necessary to ride RotR, but really didn’t want to miss my massage or feel rushed to get back to the park. So we decided that we would get there before park opening, cross our fingers for a good boarding group and play the rest by ear. Here’s how it all shakes out…

Around 6:10am, we tried to get a Lyft with goal of being at HS by 6:30. First car was not available for 18 minutes :oops: The time kept creeping up and I was super worried that we wouldn’t get there in time, so kept an eye on the bus stop and would have hopped on if a bus had shown up. BFF went off to the food court in search of caffeine while I waited in the lobby. While she was gone, I got a notification that a different car was available and would be there in a few minutes. Yay! I texted BFF to get back to the front asap and the Lyft arrived a few minutes later. The ride to HS is short, but there was a VERY long line of cars waiting to drop people off in the ride share area. We hopped out of the car around 6:50 and went straight in. We didn’t bring any bags with us so we could basically walk straight through security without stopping. Tapped in to the turnstiles around 6:52 and started walking to the front. There were a lot of people, but surprisingly, no one seemed super concerned about getting towards the front. Maybe everyone was planning on going back to the hotel to nap after they nabbed a boarding pass?

We took advantage of gaps in the crowd and made it all the way up to the theater and when I turned around, I saw that the crowd had filled in behind us and the boulevard was now packed! We all stood there waiting to press the orange button that would determine our fate… I had given BFF a tutorial on the way over and made her practice a couple times ;) … Precisely at 7am the frenzied tapping began. Luckily BFF managed to get us a boarding group before my MDE would even bring me to the screen to push the button. We got boarding group 46. Yay! We made the split second decision to try for MFSR and started heading in that direction - along with almost everyone else. :rolleyes: By the time we made it back to GE, it was 7:10ish. The line seemed ridiculously long, but there were lots of interesting things to see while we waited.

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We made friends with 2 lovely ladies in front of us who were also there for marathon weekend. It was their second time riding MFSR and they ended up being the pilots in our ship. BFF and I were gunners and 2 other people were the engineers. Our new runner friends turned out to be excellent pilots and we had great flight!

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It was a couple minutes before 8am when we made it back out. We headed over to Toy Story land to see if we could ride TSMM in standby before our SDD fp+. Unfortunately, TSMM was showing a 55 minute wait, so we decided to skip it and headed straight to SDD instead. I love that ride!

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8:15am. A quick check of MDE showed that boarding groups in the teens were being called. Our next scheduled activity was an ADR at Oga’s Cantina at 10:20. Since day drinking on an empty stomach didn’t seem like the greatest idea ever, we decided to grab some breakfast at Docking Bay 7. We both got the Mustafarian cinnamon rolls and coffee. Not the best cinnamon rolls I’ve ever had, but certainly not the worst. They looked pretty and hit the spot. We wandered GE, enjoying the sites.

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Then we browsed the shops in GE to figure out what we would be purchasing when we came back later that evening ;) Around 10:15, we got in line for our ADR at Oga’s and were pleasantly surprised when they “seated” us at the bar almost exactly 5 minutes later. The drinks are most definitely overpriced, but very fun. The atmosphere was really great and we made sure to take a little tour around to see all the cool details before we left.

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MDE had been stuck on boarding groups 17-29 for quite a while and I was starting to get a little nervous. Slowly the boarding groups started catching up … 20-29…23-29…26-29 and finally only 29. We decided to head over in the direction of RotR to see if we could figure out what was going on. We browsed some merchandise carts near the entrance to RotR and then sat in the shade to wait. At this point, it was about 11am. The boarding groups finally moved past 29 and were in the early 30s. Yay! We were talking to some other people with boarding groups in the 40s who were also just hanging out waiting, when I realized that we actually had a fp+ for Star Tours. :) So we took the short walk to Star Tours and were rewarded with a new sequence from the latest movie. By the time we slowly walked through the gift shop and back to RotR, we only had to wait a few minutes before our boarding group was called. The timing worked out like this: 11:40 boarding group called, 12:12 entered pre-show, 12:32 back out front. I won’t give any spoilers, but suffice it to say that RotR was unlike any other ride I’ve ever experienced. It was definitely worth the early wake up!:love:
 
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