The *Magic* of the long run.

538608_10151303497487626_1164015679_n26+ mi. I can say that any thought of Dave Masterson doing the Disney Marathon ever again was a surprise. In 2007, I did the Goofy Challenge. I thought the course was mostly back roads and service alleys, with too few of the miles spent in the parks where the supposed “fun” should be. This year was the 20th anniversary of the race, so that meant special medals, special signage throughout the pre-race expo and special things happening on the course. Things have changed since 2007 – they’ve improved greatly. I really enjoyed the new course and the marathon experience for 2013! Could the “Happiest Place on Earth” deliver a good long run on a Sunday morning?

322002_10151387580961438_391089806_oJessica gave me a day and half’s notice that she had a way for both of us to run Disney this weekend if I was “in” with the idea. If not, she would opt for the 5k Color Run with friends. That race was also Sunday in Orlando, taking place at the Citrus Bowl. Would I spin a marathon off the cuff? Yes, I do those! I made arrangements for John to bring a friend, Harrison, and I set them up with a way to get into Epcot on Sunday, right when the park opened. We stayed at Embassy Suites, so our “manager’s reception” cocktail hour and a Sunday cooked to order breakfast for the boys was set. We drove up Saturday and went to the convention center. Jessica was finishing up at the Surf Expo, we stopped there to meet her, then we went to our race’s expo at ESPN-land in Disney. By the time we parked and went in, the show had only 40 minutes left. I’d expect a bigger show with more vendors for 30,000 runners, but this is what they had. The boys, with an interest in running from participating in high school track, wandered around, tried samples and saw all the runner gear.

428996_10102618162992223_359605042_nWe met with Jessica then met some of her local friends outside the venue. They were happy to see her, they spoke about the Half Marathon a few of them had done earlier in the day. They also took plenty of pictures. She has a good group of fans among her ladies in the Melbourne area! We would meet up with many of them on the course in the race on Sunday – they are really nice group. Back to the hotel and it was lay out the clothes and prep time before dinner. I brought plenty of visors, sunglasses and shorts. Jessica was sure she could outfit us in matching jerseys from Power Bar or Fit2Run, I also brought some lululemon tops for us in case there wasn’t a good match. Jessica toyed with the idea of running with blue wigs or something wild looking, I’m glad we didn’t because that would have been hot on our heads just shortly after the laughs from the other runners subsided. We agreed to be Power Bar Team Elite runners, the pockets and tight fit of the jerseys were better than the Fit2Run singlets. The four of us ate dinner at an Ale House filled with football fans for Division Championship weekend. Once back at the hotel, we soaked in the spa, toyed with dipping in the cooler water in the pool, and went to sleep. It’s always an early rise for Disney, that I remember!

20130117-172144.jpgWe drove one car to Epcot, the start and finish area of the race. My little directional “mess up” on the private Disney highways had me first go too far, then cut back and make it to park well in enough time. Helpful volunteers were everywhere, as you’d always expect in the Disney model of how things get done. We met up first with Dave Mari, took some pictures with him and started towards the corrals. We had bibs from a gal named Natasha and a guy named Jerome. Corrals B and E were our assigned start places, together we squeezed into corral B and pressed through the crowd to get to the far right and less populated side. Not long after we found corral B, I heard my name being called. It’s hard to imagine how in 30,000 people, two girls that you know from home are standing right in front of me smiling! 408658_10200308378854895_2103422613_nIt was Adrienne and Lisa, fresh from the half marathon they completed yesterday. Maybe it was our “light up” Glimmer Gear arm bands that brought attention to us? Jessica had one light up pair, so we each wore one sleeve. These things were comfortable and bright, I’d wear them in the mornings while riding or running in Juno Beach. We as a group of four careened through the crowd and positioned ourselves in the front grouping of corral B. The starts were done by waves, with each wave getting the same fireworks and fanfare as the opening gun for the race, that was neat! Once sprung out of the gate, we zigzagged plenty around runners in an effort to find some of Jessica’s friends from home.  We were looking for two guys pacing another to his 3:20 PR. We didn’t see them or ever catch up with them – the final word on them was they did their deed and zipped quickly back home to Starbucks. (Serious about their running!) In the effort to gallop up and find them, we had a healthy pace going and we also hopped off the road a few times to use the highway’s grass shoulder as a passing lane. Going at a good pace and not really being able to see too far ahead of me, I thought I’d have to adjust something in order for this to continue past 5-6 miles. I was right on Jessica’s heels so as to stay together in a big crowd.  I figured because I couldn’t see too far in front of me due to us passing people, I’d lapse in concentration and trip over something or someone! It panned out nicely before 3 miles, the road got wider, the crowds were more spread out so I could see where I was going. Mind you, I don’t have a vision problem, it’s dark out and there are plenty of people to pass! We were actively looking for photo ops everywhere on the course. 602921_10102618228984973_1715921987_nWe took a few in the complete darkness with Jessica’s phone, some good, some shaky. We learned that most good photo spots had a pro photographer and some blue shirt Disney cast members, they would take your phone and shoot pics with your equipment if you asked. We asked. And asked. And kept asking all morning! We tried plenty of different things to ensure we would have a huge collection of pictures from the whole race. I think we did great with no prior planning of knowledge of what opportunities were at which points along the course. Facebook was the instant beneficiary of many of the pictures. 428976_10102618331863803_1988360693_nWe would stop, upload and tag a few, then keep running. People chimed in via text from all over while we were still running – asking when I registered for Disney Marathon, was I pacing in this race, who was I running with and how was I running a marathon AND taking all of these pictures along the route? What a fun time we had laughing, scouting the course, encouraging other runners and snapping pictures as fast as we could! 479707_10102618331080373_1796285475_nSome of Jessica’s friends from Melbourne  asked us how fast we were going – she answered with, “We’re not competitive today, just running it for fun, but we will finish in under four hours.” That got more than a few “wows” from the Melbourne ladies!

Two course changes from previous years made for nice views as the sunlight came. We got to run on the NASCAR track oval, a really cool way to spend a mile of running vs. the highway roads. Disney invited local car enthusiasts and car clubs to park their collectible cars along the racetrack for all runners to see on their lap around the track. Auto themed music, “Route 66”, “Born to be Wild” etc. played from the loudspeakers for this neat segment of the race. In later miles 19-21, we ran through the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Concrete sidewalks had gravel or fairways grass along the sides that Jessica and I ran on. We visited the track oval and ran a 300m with cheers and music from high school track runners and a band. 734776_10151303421107626_1816265712_nWe wound our running through several venues in ESPN, also going trough the baseball stadium and around the field perimeter. A camera at home plate broadcast the runners on live video to the stadium jumbo screen in center field. Another nice addition! Some more out-and-back waving at runners entering ESPN-land and then to Hollywood Studios.304148_10151307108092626_2021989097_n We heard that you could ride the attractions in the parks, which were now all open. We saw park guests lined up but couldn’t get any cast members to direct us to rides we could go on at 9am. We took plenty of photos now in great surroundings, and came out onto the Beach and Boardwalk area. More fans, great water stops, this was well-planned by the race management people. The final jaunt was through Epcot – around the big lake, through the different countries. Here we also attempted to go on rides, the Malestrom Viking water ride opened at 11am however, for us, that would mean a full 1.5 hours of a wait. (Not happening!) We took more Epcot pics, Jessica worked out some small twinges in her lower leg muscles and figured out why her stomach wasn’t agreeing with her in the late miles – sweet Powerade after drinking water all day. 537458_10151303497007626_1051687318_nWe ran out of Epcot, hooting it up and inciting the crowd of people along the final quarter mile to cheer and make noise. It was fun to finish among a big grandstand full of fans. Once done, I learned how effective Biofreeze can be when applied to your legs immediately upon finishing. That worked well! Jessica used it on her legs and feet – I was too lazy to take off my socks, so I’ll try that next time. My legs weren’t sore, I didn’t have a limp or staggered walk, everything was under control – very nice!

My bib (Jerome) was a Goofy challenge number. Once through the regular exit corral, we ended up with volunteers getting us two Goofy medals and shuffling us forward before exiting into the family and friends runner reunion area. They looked cool for a picture and made a neat clinking sound around our necks, but we did not do the Goofy Challenge of completing the Half Marathon Saturday followed by the Full Marathon on Sunday. Several people came up to Jessica and I to thank us for cheering for them, running with them or just motivating them to keep going. For some it was a high five or nice comment about their colorful gear, others were glad to hear us pepping up the groups of fans when we saw a nice gathering of people. Some runners wanted only a reminder as we passed that their pace was good and they looked strong. For me, this was a terrifically enjoyable component of the race.317974_10151307036217626_343862869_n It was as if we were pacers, but with no assigned time or dedicated group. One of Jessica’s 2013 objectives is to “give back” and pace to  help others reach their goals. I certainly have that same feeling, wow – was this a surprise reward for both of us upon finishing. Talk about a warming effect? One guy had to take pictures with us so he’d always remember us as part of his Disney race. Too cool!

The tale of the tape? We both finished in exactly the same time (To the second) at 3:57:24. All the pictures, stops, water and potty breaks made for still a neat experience in WAY less time than I ran Disney full with my brother in 2007. I won’t reveal that time here, but safe to say it rhymes with six hours and eleven minutes, I think!428173_10102618753528783_1401321582_n

The Disney course and entertainment made this a really enjoyable long run. Without the idea of competing dominating our efforts, we had loads of laughs taking pictures, seeing the attractions, hearing the music and sharing with the other runners. The Disney “magic” and a fantastic partner made for an exceptional long run that I’ll never forget.

– dm

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