Is Disney for you?

Last night was kind of a wash for blogging purposes.  Brad called me to say he and some coworkers were at Dandelion Market.  If you’re new to Foodie Fresh, Brad and I had a pub crawl in lieu of a bachelor and bachelorette party, which involved shenanigans at Dandelion Market and Molly MacPherson’s Scottish Pub.

I was so excited to see the food, I didn’t think to pull out my camera, until we were half way through all the small plates.  So, to make up for my usual last night’s dinner post, this is a post I’ve been planning to write for the past two weeks.


OBX Half Marathon 2008

So you’re thinking about running a marathon or half marathon, but you don’t know which race is the right one for you.  Your first long race is really important.  I stewed over this for a while, using blog race recaps to help guide me.  I considered:

  • personal timing
  • time of year
  • weather
  • elevation
  • the course
  • proximity
  • familiarity

…plus a whole lot of other things that may or may not make any sense to anyone other than me.

Disney may not be the right race for you, but it was the perfect race for me.  Here’s why:


1. Time of Year: marathon training is so long, especially if it’s your first one.  You want to make sure you’re prepared, and too short of a training schedule is not a good thing.  Because of the length of your training, you have to consider whether you want part of your training to occur in the summer or the winter.  For me, the second week in January was perfect.  It doesn’t usually get too frigidly cold in NC during the fall months and I would be training during only a very small portion of the winter and a very small portion of the summer.  I also had to consider that beginning in October, I would lose daylight hours in the evening.  Stacked up against the heat of NC summer months, less daylight was the clear winner.


2. Weather: I am a baby when it comes to running in the cold.  Well, I was until I bought winter-appropriate running clothes.  So when I decided to run a marathon, the weather of my race location was very important to me.  I read the horrific tails of the sleet and frozen temperatures that happened during the Disney World Marathon 2010, but I knew that was an anomaly and not likely to happen again in 2011.  All the weather websites told me that the average low in Orlando was about 50 degrees in January.  In reality, a cold front was on it’s way in and the start of the race was in the mid to low 30’s.  Brrr.  This was unpleasant for a cold-natured person like me, but not unbearable.  Had I been any further north that weekend, it would have been much much colder.


3. Elevation: Most of my half marathons have been predominately flat and I wanted to stick to this type of course for my full marathon.  No need making 26.2 any more challenging than it has to be, right?  Disney is relatively flat, except for a few exit ramps to some of the parks you run.  After running on such a flat course for so long, it actually is a relief to use different muscles for a few minutes when tackling these few short inclines.

I passed through the seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, through the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, and then I ran through the Epcot entrance gate.


4. The Course: Here is where I got mixed messages from various past-Disney marathoners.  I heard “The course is so fun!  You get to run through several parks and there’s a lot to look at!”.  I also heard, “You run down a lot of service roads and are barely ever in the parks.  I was disappointed.” So here is my take on the course.

Yes, you run through several parks: Epcot, the Magic Kingdom, the Asian part of Animal Kingdom, Old Hollywood, and back through Epcot.  About half of the run is made up of roads that connect the parks and some back lot roads used for staging and deliveries.  But personally, this didn’t bother me at all.  You’re never running by yourself so there’s plenty of people to watch and the frequent water station and aid stations help mentally break up each mile.  I never really got bored with the course, but that’s just my own personal take.  You can’t really fault Disney for using service roads.  The park wasn’t built for a marathon course.  It was built for theme parks, handling traffic congestion, and for the ability to expand and add new parks.  So the parks aren’t built next door to each other.  You don’t really get a good sense of this if you park your car and ride the monorail all day from park to park, so I think this surprises some runners.  Note: The half marathon goes through less parks because it’s a shorter course.

5. Proximity: Proximity is relative.  I live in the southeast and a flight to Orlando isn’t extremely expensive or long.  Plus, if my flight gets delayed over and over again, renting a car and driving home is not completely out of the question.  Again, this is not something that typically happens in the southeast in January, but when Brad and I are traveling, you never know what mother nature is going to throw at us.

6. Familiarity: I haven’t been to Disney since I was 16, but I do know I really enjoy the sights of the different parks.  For our second marathon, Brad and I have decided to go somewhere completely unfamiliar.  My familiarity with the Disney course and the race itself has more to do with my blogging research than personal experience.  The two posts that stood out to me that made me consider running Disney was Caitlin’s recap and Monica’s recap from the 2010 marathon. Despite their account of the frozen conditions, Disney sounded like a great race for me.

Note: I skipped personal timing because only you know what’s going on in your life and if you have the time to commit to a marathon, the vacation days at work to travel for a marathon, and anything else going on in your life that might make committing to the race particularly difficult.

Other things to consider:

Cost $$$: Because you’re staying in one of the biggest (if not the biggest) tourist destinations in the country, you’re going to have to shell out some money to stay in the park or anywhere near the park. We saved about $200-$300 by staying at a hotel five miles from the park, rather than the cheapest Disney Resort.  However, if you stay on the park, you get a shuttle service to the race.  We ended up renting a car, which ate into our savings, but allowed us to go places outside of the park, like to visit my family and the Peabody Hotel.

Early Race Time: You have to be in your corral at 5 am, there is a 1/2 mile walk to the corral, and Disney says to expect a 90 minute travel time if you are commuting from outside the park.  We woke up at 3 am both mornings for the half and full marathon, left our hotel by 3:30 am and got to the race gathering area (not the corrals) around 4:15-4:30.  Could we have gotten there a little later?  Perhaps.  But I wouldn’t.  You never know if something is going to make you later than you planned.  After training for months and months, I didn’t want anything to spoil my day.

Disney is a hard race to PR for a half marathon: Others might disagree with Brad and I but this was Brad’s experience.  Even though Brad was signed up for the corral that should have allowed him to keep pace with a 9-9:30 minute mile, there were people walking within the first 1/4 of a mile from the starting line.  I saw it myself and I heard a lot of other half marathoners complaining about this too.  Brad noted how congested the entire race was.  He didn’t notice having much room to run around people until mile eight.  I didn’t have such an extreme crowding or walking situation in the marathon, but thought it was notable for the half.

So that’s my two cents.  I hope you find this helpful if you’re considering running the Disney half or full marathon in the near future.  Am I happy I did the race?  You bet!  Would I ever run it again?  Maybe sometime in the far future.  There are so many other marathons out there, I’m curious to experience them for myself.

Beside, how many Mickey medals does one girl need?