What’s wrong with me? How I ran my first marathon and finished!

 Adults are just grown up kids anyway.” – Walt Disney


One given day, I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could run my first marathon before I get too old to try?”  Now being the goal oriented, I-can-do-anything-I-put-my-mind-to-person, I decided to just do it!

Once my mind was made up, the next thing left was to search for the right marathon for a beginner like me.  I took 2 months to search for just the right event that would cater to my new experience, and most of all make it fun.  Pouring over running forums, blogs, and Runner’s World Magazines, I discovered Walt Disney World’s Marathon Weekend.

Runner's World magazine, published by Rodale s...
Image via Wikipedia

After reading all of the special things they do, the fun that the runners experienced while running the event, and the magical feeling you get while running through Cinderella’s castle was enough to convince me to go for it.  Without pondering any further, I signed up and BAM it becomes a goal.

An even more glorious goal was to do one on my actual birthday.  I got my wish with the Disney Marathon!  I will attempt to explain in words what I felt the entire weekend.  This is a challenge because it is hard to describe the emotions felt and the feat I was about to accomplish.  Unbeknownst to me it would become one of the most exhilarating and difficult things I have done.

I wanted to celebrate my birthday Disney style so I scheduled many things to do throughout the weekend that would not only be enjoyable for me, but for my family as well.

Before running in any of the events scheduled for the big weekend, you must present yourself at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex to sign in and pick up your runner’s packet.  This is where you present your i.d., turn in your waivers, and pick up your bib number.  This makes it official. I was so excited at this point that I could hardly contain myself!  I remember thinking there is no turning back now.  I’ve picked up my number and now its full speed ahead.  Let the fun begin.

After bib number pick up, you walk across to the next building where Disney’s Health and Fitness Expo is held.  It is here that we pick up the rest of our packets consisting of a runner’s shirt, bag check-in tag (to be used during the marathon), Clif bars, and other advertising material.  The Expo was enjoyable and informational.  Anything you need for running they had to offer via many vendors.  They even had massage stations available and areas where they would tape up your knee and other achy body parts, if needed.  It was a cool event kicking off what turned out to be a spectacular weekend.

We spent an hour or so walking around the Expo, brought a few things, and then walked out.  Heading towards the back of the grounds of the Sports Complex, the kids were anticipating meeting some of their favorite Disney characters at the “Pasta in the Park Party.”  This is a paid event that consists of a party held from 6:30pm-8:30pm with a pasta style buffet dinner.

The event itself includes: Buffet pasta dinner and dessert, a live DJ, and Disney character appearances throughout the entire meal.

The menu offered consisted of: Mixed Greens with Lite Vinaigrette & Cucumber Yogurt Dressing, Herb Balsamic Potato Salad, Herb Roasted Chicken, Bowtie Pasta with Grilled Vegetables and Basil Pesto, Wheat Penne Pasta with Marinara Sauce, Parmesan Cheese, House-made Focaccia Bread with Butter, Whole Bananas, and Chocolate Brownies.  Food prepared for every runner’s delight.

We were seated in a round table under an oversized white tent where we awaited the arrival of Disney characters.  One by one they came: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, etc.  As we dined, the kids were able to get up and take pictures with each character, shake their hands and even whisper in their ear.  It was one on one time with the characters.  It felt more intimate than the appearances at the theme parks.  They gave the kids plenty of time to interact with them.  My kids were smiling ear to ear.

After dinner the kids ran loose around the grounds and grassy areas of the complex.  As we watched our kids run and play, my husband hugs me and asks me if I was ready, I looked up at him and told him ready as I’ll ever be.  He squeezed my arm and said he had no doubt that I would cross the finish line.  We got back to the hotel, changed into our swimming suits and swam in the heated pool.  Exhausted, we collapsed in bed around 11:00pm.

The next day, Saturday, was my birthday!  I had arranged a character breakfast as if I was turning 9 instead of 39.  Why not?  As Walt Disney has said, “Your dead if you aim only for kids. Adults are only kids grown up, anyway.”  I can be the biggest kid you’ll meet.  Having fun in life is what it’s about after all.

Our reservations for breakfast were at Disney’s Hollywood Studios Play ‘n Dine at Hollywood & Vine.  We had done many of the other character breakfasts in other parks before such as: Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary Resort, and The Crystal Palace at the Magic Kingdom among others.  We decided to try something different.

I loved my buffet breakfast, especially my Mickey shaped waffles, and Disney character greetings for the kids.

One of the highlights was when Disney characters came to our table and sang Happy Birthday to me! I glowed and felt like a kid again.  Looking across the table I could see how much my kids were enjoying my reaction and joined in my glee.  My husband only smiled.  Our bellies were full and we were ready to hit the park, Hollywood Studios.  At this point I knew that I should probably go back to the hotel and get some rest because my running event was at 6:00am the next morning with a wake up call of 3:00am.  However, I didn’t want to spoil the fun and the time with my family.

We left Hollywood Studios around 9:00pm and went searching for a restaurant to have my pasta dinner before the big race.  One of the recommended prerequisites of running a full marathon is carb loading the night before a race.  Especially a 26.2 mile run.  We were surprised to find every single Italian restaurant around Lake Buena Vista full.  We were growing tired so we went back to the hotel and realized that our hotel was serving runner’s fuel.  It was here the whole time.  Phew!  A nice plate of penne pasta with marinara sauce it is. Thank you Disney’s All-Star Pop Century Resort!

Finally after carb loading, we retire to our room.  It is now 10:30pm.  I should probably be in bed by now right?  I only have to get up at 3:00am.  However, there is no rest for the weary and my beautiful family surprises me with a Mickey cake, flowers, and presents they arranged while I used the hotel room’s bathroom.  Yay!  But it is now almost midnight.  Knowing I still had to prepare my clothes, attach bib number to my shirt, etc. so I don’t wake everyone up at 3:00am, I couldn’t yet go to bed.

Exhausted after having walked all day at a Disney theme park, I hit the bed but cannot sleep.  Arg!  The nervous jitters hit me.  I stare up at the dark ceiling and begin to wonder, “What’s wrong with me? Am I crazy?  What makes me think I’m ever going to finish 26.2 miles on 1 hour’s sleep and having just walked a theme park all day?” I couldn’t shake the butterflies roaring in my stomach.  I felt my heart beating in my ears.  Getting up once again, I look at my bib number.  It is now 1:00am.  I know I have to sleep, but I cannot.

Going back to bed, I force myself to sleep.  I must have dozed off at some point because the next thing I know my phone alarm is going off.  It is now 3:00am.  Sitting up in bed all that I could muster was a heavy sigh, because NOW I’m tired.  The excitement gets the best of me and I jump up to get ready.

Ready to go, my husband opens his eyes as I kiss him on the forehead and whisper, “I’m ready to go.”  He kisses me and wishes me a great start confirming, “See you at the finish line beautiful.”  That gave me all of the zest and energy I needed.  I knew my family would greet me at the finish line so with a renewed zep in my step I took off downstairs and through the hotel lobby where the Disney buses were waiting outside to transport all of the runners to the starting line at Epcot.

The moments so far leading to the event were dreamy and everything Walt Disney would’ve wanted a grown up to feel in his domain.  Embarking on one of the biggest challenges of my life consumed me.  Wanting to capture the breadth of the experience, I will go into the details of marathon day in the next post.  Stay tuned…

“When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do. And one thing it takes to accomplish something is courage.” – Walt Disney

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: HARK… The Finish Line! « Great Diaries of an Adventurous Mom
  2. Maya Fitz
    Jan 30, 2012 @ 23:01:16

    Wow! I’ve ran 5 1/2 marathons but never a full! It’s on my list of things to do before I turn 40. What an amazing place to do it at. CONGRATS on this amazing accomplishment.


    • Jeanette Garcia
      Jan 30, 2012 @ 23:59:06

      Thank you! It is wonderful that you have done 5 1/2 marathons. That is also a great accomplishment! A full was also on my list of things to do before turning 40. How ironic. It sounds to me like you are ready for a full soon. Hope to see you accomplish this in the near future Thank you for stopping by and sharing your goal.


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