Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – Final Thoughts and Day 6 – Fun at Magic Kingdom

One month ago today I became a half marathoner!  The runner’s high I’ve been on is still going strong, and although I’ve been a little easier on myself in terms of intensity and mileage during my current training cycle for Rock ‘n’ Roll USA, the emotions from crossing the finish line at Disney World have me holding my head high as I prepare for half #2.

Over the past month I’ve had time to process my experience during Marathon Weekend, both as a runner and as Preston’s #1 cheerleader for the Dopey Challenge.  We’ve discussed the pros and few cons of our experience, and overall had a very positive experience while running through Disney World.

We were fortunate to be able to celebrate our Marathon Weekend accomplishments with one last half day at Disney World before we headed to the airport.  We had a mid afternoon flight back to DC, and spent the morning and early afternoon at Magic Kingdom.

Celebrating our last day of Marathon Weekend at Magic Kingdom

Celebrating our last day of Marathon Weekend at Magic Kingdom

Below are my final thoughts on our 2014 Marathon Weekend experience.  If you have a question that I haven’t addressed, please don’t hesitate to ask!

How did Preston and I train for Marathon Weekend?

We both followed versions of Jeff Galloway‘s training plans.  Preston followed a modified version of the Dopey Challenge plan, and I followed a modified version of the Dumbo Double Dare plan (which is the Disneyland Half Marathon weekend challenge where runners complete a 10k and half marathon on back to back days).  The modifications we made centered around the many fall races that we ran.

We both found Galloway’s training plans very manageable.  We both utilized run-walk intervals, especially during our long runs.  Most weeks we ran three days a week – two timed runs on weekdays and a long run on the weekends.  Some weeks we had a long walk on Friday or Saturday followed by a long run on Saturday or Sunday.  Although Galloway’s Dopey plan included two Dopey simulations, time limitations never allowed Preston to complete those.  Although I feared that Preston would be under prepared, he felt great during the races and actually recovered much more quickly than I did.

Showing off with Buzz Lightyear just how strong and powerful we felt after I completed my first half marathon and Preston completed the inaugural Dopey Challenge

Showing off with Buzz Lightyear just how strong and powerful we felt after I completed my first half marathon and Preston completed the inaugural Dopey Challenge

What was my favorite race of the weekend?

My favorite race of the weekend was the half marathon.  I absolutely loved the course.  Running down Main Street and through Cinderella’s Castle were by far the highlights of that race, and then crossing the finish line holding Preston’s hand was a moment that I’ll never forget.

Crossing the finish line of my first half marathon! Photo Credit: MarathonFoto

Crossing the finish line of my first half marathon!
Photo Credit: MarathonFoto

What changes would you like to see runDisney make to Marathon Weekend in the future?

I’ve already shared most of my concerns about the 10k.  It was an inaugural race and I think there’s lots of room for improvement.  When we picked up our bibs at the expo and noticed that “inaugural” was misspelled on my 10k bib, that should have been a sign of the disappointment that we wound up facing during the race itself.  I’m thinking the 10k was a bit overlooked by runDisney since the big inaugural focus for Marathon Weekend was on the Dopey Challenge instead.

My 10k bib with "Inaugural" misspelled

My 10k bib with “Inaugural” misspelled

As for the Dopey Challenge, the biggest snag Preston hit was the long line he stood in in order to get his finisher’s wristband after the 5k.  However, that problem appeared to have been rectified for the rest of the weekend, as there were virtually no lines after the 10k and half marathon.

Although many other runners indicated problems with the corrals for Marathon weekend, we didn’t experience the problems personally.  Preston was placed in Corral A for the 5k and 10k, and Corral C for the half and full marathons.  However, he registered for the challenge with Runner’s World, which gave him preferred corral placement (he would have been in Corral E for the half and full if he hadn’t registered with Runner’s World).  I’m not sure how the corral placements were done for the 10k, but I was placed in Corral B (Preston bumped back and started with me), and based on the Corral Placement Chart for the half marathon I was correctly placed in Corral I (which Preston again bumped back to).

How much time did we spend at the parks?

Although our primary focus for this trip was on the races, we also wanted to spend time at the parks as well.  We went to the parks each day we were at Disney with the exception of the first day since we didn’t arrive at our hotel until very late in the evening.  Although we spent six days at the parks, we spent less time at the parks than we did last year when Preston only ran the marathon but were at Disney for one less day.  The days of the 5k and 10k we were at the parks just after park opening, and the days of the expo, half, and full we were at the parks by mid afternoon.  Would we have loved to spend more time at the parks?  Of course, but that wasn’t the main reason for this trip to Disney World.

Were we exhausted each night after an early morning for a race followed by being on our feet at the parks?  Absolutely.  But would we change the way we approached our time at Disney?  Absolutely not.  We know that many other runners opted to not visit the parks until after they had completed all of their races, but we found walking around the parks extremely beneficial for helping to keep our legs loose.

Preston and his celebratory Dole Whip

Preston and his celebratory Dole Whip

Will we run during Marathon Weekend again?

Absolutely!  It was in 2013 that Preston ran his first marathon during Marathon Weekend and where I was inspired to start running myself.  For those reasons, as well as the fact that I ran my first half marathon this year during Marathon Weekend, this race weekend will always hold a special place in our hearts.  Will we be running during Marathon Weekend in 2015?  That is unknown at this point.  There are other runDisney races we’d like to do, as well as other races in other locations, and we’ll have to see how finances and leave from work play out.

Preston celebrating his completion of the Dopey Challenge with the host of the challenge

Preston celebrating his completion of the Dopey Challenge with the host of the challenge

Will Preston run the Dopey Challenge again?

Currently, the answer is no.  The four early mornings for the races were very rough on us, and led to us having early dinners and leaving the parks earlier than we would have liked to in order to get to bed.  Training to run four back-to-back races also required a lot of time and dedication, which led to a very structured schedule in the fall and early winter.  Training was especially difficult around the holidays, as that was right before both of us started to taper.  For me, running 13.1 miles on a treadmill in cold and snowy Illinois just days before Christmas wasn’t ideal either, as it took precious time away from spending time with my family.  Preston is currently thinking about running either Goofy (the half and full marathons) or just choosing one Marathon Weekend race in the future, but who knows what the final decision will be each year when registration opens for Marathon Weekend!

What was your favorite part of Marathon Weekend?

There were so many highlights for me, many of which I’ve already shared throughout my Marathon Weekend posts, but without a doubt the number one best part of the entire experience was running and completing my first half marathon.

QOTD: Did you run during Marathon Weekend?  What was your favorite part of the race weekend?

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10 Responses to Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – Final Thoughts and Day 6 – Fun at Magic Kingdom

  1. Courtney! says:

    Congrats on your finish! Your finish line picture is so cute! We did Goofy Challenge in 2013 and it was one of my favorite weekends ever. This year we are doing Tink and Princess, so we probably won’t be back for a while, but in the future if we return for any Disney races I think it would be just for one race at a time. Disney is pretty expensive to travel to and stay at, so I think just doing one race instead of all the challenges would allow more time to explore the parks or take a day trip to the beach and just get more out of our vacation time.

  2. Great post — pretty much echoes everything I felt about the weekend! That being said…it was still AMAZING. The training was definitely worth it, but I’m not sure I’d want to do Dopey again right away.

  3. This is a great post – thanks for writing it. I so enjoyed reading all about both of your experiences. A Disney race is a huge bucket list item for me, so this was really helpful :)

  4. I loved almost everything about Marathon Weekend…but Disney races are my favorite so I’m a little biased lol! I didn’t even notice that inaugural was misspelled on the 10K bib! Wow! That really surprises me! So glad you both had a great experience!

  5. runDisney certain puts on a good race! There are a lot of people (and they were quite expensive!), but it’s always a good experience. That’s so funny that they misspelled inaugural!

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