Walt Disney World Full Marathon

WDW Marathon weekend has become an annual tradition in my family. In January 2013, I celebrated my 5th anniversary of attending Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend and I am excited for 2014 where I hope to complete the Inaugural Dopey Challenge.

For those of you not obsessed with runDisney, the Dopey Challenge will consistence of running all 4 of the runDisney Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend races. I will take part in four days of running fun for a total of 48.6 miles. I will run the 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and Marathon and earn a total of six pieces of “bling!”

You might be wondering what possessed me to become a “runner” and how I became so “Dopey” for runDisney! In July 2008, I was 36 years old and was NOT a runner. I couldn’t even run a mile. I had two small children and was a small business owner with multiple business partners. I was stressed out and needed an outlet to not only get in better shape, but to refocus my mind. So I made up my mind to run the marathon and registered. In the 6 months of training, I worked my way up from a 5K to a 10K to a Half to finally the Full Marathon. I dropped 10 pounds and went from a size 8 to a size 4, but better than that I felt fantastic! I was really enjoying running. It was an escape for me where I could let my mind go and seek clarity.

My first Walt Disney World marathon experience was “magical.’ Running through my beloved parks was amazing. We were “back stage” and on roads I never knew existed, but when I made that first turn onto Main Street, U.S.A. I lost it! Another runner made me stop and pose for a photo! The crowd was cheering as we ran by and then I saw my family!! They had gotten up and made the early morning journey to the Magic Kingdom! Words cannot express how happy I was to see them (for a second) and then the very, very, very best part was the sound of the trumpets as I ran through Cinderella Castle! Amazing – that feeling will never ever get old.

What I appreciate about the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is that there are runners participating of all shapes and sizes. Yes, there are the “elites,” but this is an “everyman” marathon that a typical “athlete” like me can take part in and not feel intimidated or overwhelmed by lack of experience.

Since that first WDW Marathon I have run the 2010 Goofy Challenge and the Family Fun Run 5K combined with the Goofy Challenge in 2011, 2012, and 2013. So far I’ve logged 192.7 magical miles during runDisney’s Walt Disney World Marathon weekend. (I’ve also participated in both the Disney Princess Half Marathon and Disneyland Half Marathon Weekends). Here are some tips to help you survive your first Walt Disney World Marathon:

Here are my Top Walt Disney World Marathon Tips:

1. Follow a training plan: For my first marathon I followed the Hal Higdon’s novice training plan. For my first Goofy Challenge I followed another Hal Higdon training, but incorporated Jeff Galloway’s run/walk method. If you don’t know where to begin, contact your local running store or running club for a training group. Marathon training groups normally begin in the early summer for the fall marathon season.

2. Get some support: Bring your own Cheer Squad! There is nothing like having your family and friends support you during the race. This event is very family & friend oriented. If you can’t get anyone to run with you, make new friends on running forums, charity partners or local running groups.

3. Be prepared for the weather: Remember that just because the race is in FLORIDA does not mean the weather is going to be warm in January. It could be freezing cold with freezing rain and snowflakes (2010) or hot with 100% humidity (2013) or just right! (2011 & 2012). Remember the race will take place even if it’s raining. Get out there and train and be prepared for race conditions.

4. Write a shopping list: Get to the Expo early and map out your shopping strategy. Study the expo floor plan. Know what you want before you get there. Do not carry extra bags. If traveling with small children remember that you will not be allowed to bring a stroller past the gate.

5. Be prepared for the distance: Wear chapstick, sunblock and glide. The medical tents will provide Tylenol, Vaseline and BioFreeze if needed. The water stations will provide water and PowerAde. Food provided will be bananas, Cliff Shots and candy. If you have trained with something other than what is provided on course, carry it with you.

6. Don’t Panic: This is supposed to be fun and a celebration of your training. Enjoy the experience and even if you don’t want to stop at the character stops, at least make sure that you pose in front of Cinderella Castle! Those MarathonFoto photographers got their system down pat – it only takes a second to smile!

7. Stick to your race plan: If your plan calls for run/walk then do it right from the start. If you choose to walk, then alert those behind you by raising your arm before you slow down and move off to the side. If a family member is going to be on course – be as specific as possible of your meet up spot and make sure you sign up for runner tracking or use a tracking app like GSP Tracker or Garmin Fit.

8. Smile like you’re having a good time (even if you aren’t): There are many photo opportunities with MarathonFoto. Make sure your bib is visible and smile throughout your run because you will never know which photos will look best.

9. Plan your recovery: Use the massage tent. Massages are only a $1 a minute and are well worth the money! Cash only so make sure you have it on your person. When completing the Goofy Challenge I get a $10 massage on Saturday and a $20 massage on Sunday. I feel that it does wonders for my recovery!

10. Make time to celebrate: Make a reservation for a special post-race dinner and make sure to wear your bling! You earned it!

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