Time for another trip report! I’ll be covering my 2022 WDW Marathon Weekend trip. Find all the posts in this report here. Onward!
2021 was the Year With No Walt Disney World Marathon. My heart: broken. My will to live: gone. My serotonin levels: bottoming out.
Enter 2022. A young year, plagued by… the plague just as much as 2021, but nonetheless full of January’s promise. With it, it brought the WDW Marathon! And there was much rejoicing.
I awoke that Sunday morning to the terrifying blare of the telephone wakeup call. Can’t say I slept well, but I was up and at ’em! I blazed through race prep, Erika did the same, and then it was off to the buses.
Pop Century sure has gotten more efficient about those, by the way. I remember taking FOREVER to board a bus from Pop at my first race, but Erika and I were on a bus immediately. Maybe my timing has improved.
Anyway, we made it to the race staging area so we could do, y’know, the usual pre-race two hours worth of practically nothing. We ate a snack. Took a picture. Listened to the deejay. Got excited when deejay began playing my song request (“Kiss” by Prince since you asked). Immediately deflated when deejay turned off song request to bring out announcers. Marched down to the corrals in protest.
Erika and I parted ways here as we were in different start waves; I took one final pee break before taking up position in s3. “Nice throw,” said a fellow s3 denizen as I chucked my cut up tights outer layer before race start.
Shockingly, despite what happened last time, the race started at 5am sharp. And those start waves moved fast – I don’t even know what happened, but I feel like it was something ridiculous like 5:03am when I crossed the start line? You can’t say runDisney hasn’t made operational improvements.
As before, the race started on the road, although minus the local marching band that usually sent us off. (I’ll bet you a five spot the marching bands were a COVID casualty.) The only entertainment the first few miles was character stops. Things filled out later with taiko drummers and hula performers and Adventurers Clubbers and stuff, so they made up for it, but that wasn’t for a bit.
Alas, those same first few miles were very congested, and that made for some long photo lines at the beginning. So long, in fact, that several times I couldn’t even see who the character in question was before it was far too late to turn back. In this way I left behind – GASP – Darkwing Duck. I will remember him fondly but the tide was too strong to turn against.
First park: into Epcot we went! I lost a bit of time taking a bathroom break at the Imagination bathrooms, but as it was basically the only real bathroom stop in that portion of the race I figure it was a good call. From there we ran around a portion of World Showcase lagoon, where the HarmonioUS barges were all lit up. Nice touch!
We weren’t in World Showcase long before we were unceremoniously hustled out of Epcot and past the start area again, via a back entrance to the Mexico pavilion. It was time to tackle the roads that stood between us and the Magic Kingdom.
The best part of this was this cute little Figment figure next to a speaker playing Dreamfinder’s song. Someday, they’ll actually trot out Dreamfinder, right? I WILL turn the tides to get that photo. Any amount of time!
My race goals were extremely modest. I had some residual hamstring tenderness, and I just wanted to have a nice time and not hurt myself. But this still meant that I was approaching this race rather gingerly – and experiencing some slow times. That doesn’t MATTER! you cry. You don’t runDisney for time! I know. I KNOW! But I was doing that thing I do: hitting the wall hella early.
I always say the marathon is a mental game, and my mind is weakest around mile 7 or 8 through 10 or 11. No, I’m not exhausted by that point. I’m not spent. But my brain is like, holy smokes, there is SO MUCH MORE OF THIS.
And I followed my classic pattern. I was all kinds of bummed on those roads between Epcot and the Magic Kingdom. I stopped for nary a character. All my thoughts were full of worry. Why was I so SLOW? How long was this going to TAKE???
Miles 9 through 11 were in the Magic Kingdom, and of course that made me feel a bit better. My wedding photographer/Disney buddy Christy was spectating and cheered for me, which is always a boost. I got a photo with Goofy, and waved to the Country Bears on the balcony above Frontierland.
I peed again. I even stopped for a photo with the castle. Not a GOOD photo, but still, a photo!
Yet strangely, it was back on the boring ol’ roads to Disney’s Animal Kingdom that I started to perk up. My hamstring was doing okay (I stopped and did toe-touches at any photo stop with a line and I think that really helped). The sun was coming up. And by God, the halfway mark was in sight. There’s something about the halfway mark that just changes my whole mindset.
So it was: despite its location in the bowels of absolutely nowhere (miss ya, halfway point at Expedition Everest), my outlook in life improved considerably. This is when we stop trudging and start having some fun. Finally, FINALLY, I stopped for characters with abandon!
Before I knew it, I was approaching mile 16. Not only that, I was running up and into Disney’s Animal Kingdom, my favoritest park, and absolutely loving it. Not even the out-and-back that showed people ahead of me exiting the park could bring me down.
No more doubts! Only joy! Well, not Joy. Dug, Carl, and Baloo, actually:
Annnnd then we exited DAK through the back of Dinoland and began the long hard slog that was another 4 or so miles before the next park. Which delivered another out-and-back, this time including the Blizzard Beach parking lot.
Luckily there was a pretty good deejay stationed there, and anyway I was feeling weirdly all right? Maybe better than all right? Dancing past the deejay stand to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” all right? (Better get ready for some run-dancing right now, because more’s a-comin,’ kids.)
There was nothing for it but to stop for more race photos, of course. Oo-de-lolly, oo-de-lolly, golly what a day.
Does Little John look funny to you?
Oh, hey, y’know that hill in the old course where the Green Army Man used to shout at people and make them do pushups? Around the same point in the course, I was like, huh, this reminds me of that hill. And then I was like, no, this isn’t the same hill; it’s the wrong angle. Then I got to the top, looked to my right, and saw the old hill from the old course. It’s funny how all these runDisney details work their way into your psyche.
Where was I? Ah, yes, I was on the road, taking photos, dancing/running, having a grand old time.
Then – and THEN – I was on the backend of mile 22 and entering the Studios!
“Hey EVE-A!” As I ran past the Tower of Terror, a brilliant bellhop left the side of the course and ran up beside me, locking in his steps with mine. He had a hat and a trench coat and a briefcase and I want to say a handlebar mustache? Basically he looked like the perfect bellhop by way of the Adventurers Club.
“EVE-A,” he said, “where is WALL-E?” In retrospect I think he was looking for something more along the lines of “Where’s Waldo” but instead I told him I was from an alternate Twilight Zone timeline where EVE leaves Wall-E behind. He was aghast. 😂
From here I think you all know how this goes: sadly, we didn’t get to run down the main Studios drag on this course, but as per usual we exited the park and then it was time for the BOOOOOARDWAAAAALK.
A deejay on the side of the course at one point mentioned this is the worst part of the race, I guess because it’s like mile 23 and presumably you’re tired and ready to be done? But for me it is not! It is decidedly NOT! This is when maximum runner’s high kicks in for me, right as I enter the Studios all the way to the end of the course. This isn’t the runner’s highest I’ve ever been, but it definitely still held true.
So I bopped my way on down the lake path and onto the Boardwalk proper, around the corner and toward Epcot – but lo, what’s this? Is it Jeff Galloway himself, cheering expressly for me??? It is! It was! Tragically someone else ran up to him at right that moment to talk to him, so I didn’t get a selfie, but it was still a pretty great boost.
Into Epcot and the World Showcase I breezed, just as “Under the Sea” from The Little Mermaid began to play on the speakers. This wasn’t a key training song for me or anything, but it’s still a bop, so I started mouthing the words and doing weird hand motions because this makes me run better, swear. Yes, spectators will gently tease you, but it works. Try it!
Incidentally, as I powered forward into I want to say Morocco? Not certain but the above photo is from there, so why not – as I powered forward into Morocco, I noticed a spectating couple on the side of the course, also singing along. “The fluke is the duke of soul!” sang Sebastian, and as he did, I pointed at the male half of the couple. “YEAH!” he responded in his best basso profundo, perfectly in time with the song, and you probably had to be there but it totally made my race.
“Under the Sea” was followed by some song from A Goofy Movie I didn’t really know and then “I’ve Got No Strings” from Pinocchio, neither of which I found particularly galvanizing; 2020 and especially 2018 were better in the Epcot soundtrack department. But it hardly mattered as I left the World Showcase and its speakers behind and whooshed toward Spaceship Earth.
We don’t get up close to our beloved golf ball right now, thanks to all the construction walls, but that final mile wasn’t devoid of fun. A Cast Member was standing in front of the Creations Shop gift shop, keeping the automatic doors open and “flapping” the air conditioning out at the runners. As someone who trains in Puerto Rico, 75 degrees is NBD for me, but it was still funny and welcome!
Shortly after we left the forward-facing part of Epcot in favor of backstage. The Green Army Guy unexpectedly showed up here at mile 26, but do you know what much more important act showed up at mile 26 as well? That’s right, the gospel choir! YES! I don’t know what possessed runDisney to eschew them in 2020, but I sure am glad they’re back. (Now let’s talk about the lack of Haunted Mansion gravediggers this year, not to mention the Lion King stiltwalkers’ absence AGAIN…)
You might think that was it. And you’re right, technically. All I did then was speed toward the finish. Yet as I sped toward the finish, they were playing “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” by The Darkness, which is my official karaoke song. Commence lip-syncing and dance-running.
“Look, she’s rocking out!” said Carissa, and I have to believe she meant me because who else would look this stupid?
Thus I crossed the finish line looking like a complete idiot but that’s okay because I was having complete FUN, with a capital F and that rhymes with run! Hooray, hooray, hooray!
The end of the WDW Marathon is always so bittersweet, no? You’re so glad to be done with also so bummed to be done. I collected my post-race medal and drinks and snacks, threw them all in the bag graciously gifted by the merch tent, and climbed aboard a bus to Pop. I was already thinking about 2023.
Heck, I’m thinking about it now. All runDisney races are an irreplaceable experience, but there’s just something about the WDW Marathon. Nothing can touch it. This was a pretty good one, too – not the best, but up there.
2021 will forever be the Year Without A Marathon, but I’m knocking on wood that it’s the only one. If it’s up to me, I’ll never miss it!
Don’t forget, you can follow FRoA on Twitter @fairestrunofall and on Instagram @fairestrunofall. If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment or email firstname.lastname@example.org. See ya real soon!