It’s my favorite annual trip report – my WDW Marathon trip! See all the posts in this trip report here. Onward!
So anyway, what I did was, the night before the WDW Marathon I had a panic attack. Haha!
Or at least I think it was a panic attack. I honest to God COULD NOT SLEEP. My heart was pounding and my mind was racing. I can’t fully explain what was wrong with me. This has happened to me before, but I was pretty calm up until I wasn’t. Who knows!
At any rate, by the time my alarm went off at 2:30am, I had only dozed off once, briefly. Indeed, my Garmin registered NO SLEEP AT ALL. An auspicious beginning, no?
Still, I felt strangely awake and alert and ready to go. I made myself a green tea in the little coffee maker – you know, for calm – threw on my race stuff, and got ready to go. Erika did the same, and we were rolling out the door in short order.
There were plenty of buses waiting for us, and we arrived at the staging area in due time. We passed by the bathrooms outside Epcot on the way, prompting Erika to double back, but she sent me on ahead. We were headed to separate corrals anyway, so it didn’t really matter (or so I thought…).
Determined never to be caught in the morass again, I used the porta potties immediately and marched straight to the front of corral B. The announcers did their chatter thing to kill the remaining half hour, and before we knew it, we were off!
The race began, as it always does, on the road, with a local high school marching band seeing us off. Our first point of interest was of course a jaunt through Epcot, with a reverse of the end’s World Showcase segment. We popped out behind the countries for a bit before popping back in briefly and then exiting the park – if you’re having troubling visualizing it, it was basically the same as the Tower of Terror 10 Miler.
And thennnn back to the roads we go! Which did have one noteworthy feature – the course doubled back past the starting line, and I happened to be trotting by as the very last corral took off. I got to see the Balloon Ladies in the flesh for the very first time! They seem nice.
For the first couple miles, none of the character stops tempted me. Indeed, before the crowd thins and the lines shorten it takes something pretty perfect to pull me to the side. But it was here, still in the single digits, I saw something pretty friggin’ perfect – Oogie Boogie! And me, dressed a Zero. What a coinkidink.
Oogie Boogie’s line kept me dormant for a couple minutes; still, TOTALLY worth it! I slid back on the course and continued down the road to the Magic Kingdom. A taiko drum troupe was out serenading us at the Ticket & Transportation Center, where I also took a brief bathroom break. There was a small backup for the stalls, but I feel like by the time you’ve committed to stopping to pee it’s best to see it through.
And then shortly after it was the moment we all wait for: The Magic Kingdom! Even the most jaded among us have to give it up for the moment you run up Main Street toward Cinderella Castle. There’s incredible crowd support here, so between the visuals and the kinetic energy, this part of the race is unmatched.
Thus I tripped merrily up the street, hanging a right into Tomorrowland and swinging around into Fantasyland. I spotted the Beast out for photos and despite a medium-length line I stopped; without an ADR for dinner at Be Our Guest, how often does the opportunity come around?
From there it was through the castle, and soon I found myself in Adventureland, an Captain Jack Sparrow having a very short line I figured I’d stop for him too. (Although I genuinely think @joggingjacksparrow is more convincing!)
I hadn’t run much further before I found myself exiting the Magic Kingdom and venturing out onto – you guessed it – more roads. It’s the connective tissue of the race, kids!
Let’s see, what did I do during this particular asphalt purgatory… Oooh, I stopped for a photo with Mushu, because Mulan 4 Lyfe, and I wanted to stop for the Adventurer’s Club but there was no CM stationed there for photos that I saw? So I just shouted KUNGALOOSH at them as I passed. And there was a Mickey golf cart with recorded golf commentators saying silly things in hushed tones, which was briefly distracting.
I think this is where I started taking the on-course bananas, as well. Usually I don’t like plain bananas, but I realized too late the day before that I had not eaten nearly enough for pre-marathon purposes. I had Honey Stinger chews on me, which I consumed steadily over time, and bananas would have to pick up the slack. Good news; they were barely ripe, which is how I like ’em best. Your mileage may vary.
Oh, also! A very important thing happened: I passed the halfway mark. Everything starts looking up when you’re halfway.
Things were looking so far up, in fact, that I was surprised by how quickly I came up on the Animal Kingdom. The only animal out before the entrance was, um, a sheep if I recall correctly? And still no Festival of the Lion King stiltwalkers, boo. There was nothing to tempt me to stop, so I soldiered on into DAK proper.
I love this portion of the course! Obviously you get a huge boost from being inside one of the parks, but there’s more to it than that. DAK is incredibly beautiful, sure – yet I’d argue the secret sauce is in the Cast Members, who are always out and cheering with abandon. With DAK’s early opening, there were also random passerby milling about, many of whom were good enough to get into spectating even if they weren’t sure what was going on.
There was a photographer station by the photo op of Expedition Everest, and since there was no line I paused to get the shot. Turns out it was a harbinger of things to come – DAK had just opened, and so had its premiere roller coaster.
Now, in seven previous instances of this race, I have never ridden Expedition Everest while running. Yet this time, I heard Cast Members calling out enticingly, “Single rider! Single rider!” and I said to myself, you know what? Let’s do it.
And I did it! It was, naturally, awesome. My only regret is that I didn’t stop to bump my Magic Band for the photo, because it still hasn’t shown up in my PhotoPass. Alas. Also I forgot to turn off my Garmin, which means it thinks I went VERY FAST AND VERY HIGH for like half a mile, but that’s okay; it’s not like I intend to use this race data for anything.
My first-of-its-kind ride being done, I shimmied back onto the race course and continued my sojourn through DAK. There wasn’t much left – I found myself in Dinoland soon after, and shortly after that I was exiting the park and back on the (you’re never gonna believe this) road.
The succeeding couple miles were uneventful, with the next area of note being the dreaded parking lot of Blizzard Beach. Very very weirdly enough, I was still feeling pretty good? I did use the most untenable porta potty of my life here, but that’s just one of those things you have to accept as a runner.
Having escaped the dreaded parking lot, I knew that Hollywood Studios wasn’t far away – and sure enough, the unmistakable shape of the Tower of Terror soon loomed into sight. Just before entering the park, though, I took an EXTREMELY important pit stop, for it was none other than DARKWING DUCK!!!! With no line at all???? Have people NO TASTE?!?!?! In my family, Darkwing is practically RELIGION.
Thus completing this holy pilgrimage, I took my first steps into the Studios. Is it just me, or is our time in this park hella short? I know we’re many years removed from the former costume tunnel et al, but it feels like it’s just past Tower of Terror, down Sunset Boulevard, and hard left outta there. I wish the course traversed a little more of the Studios.
Of course that does mean that once Hollywood is behind you, you’ve basically got a 5K to go! And what a 5K it is – from here on it’s nothin’ but good scenery, tons of spectators, and NO MORE ROADS. Yay!
I was still feeling pretty strong, having the capacity to dance my way past the deejay stationed on the walking path to the Boardwalk. She admonished me for having entirely too much fun this far into the race, and to stop it right now. I did not! I was unstoppable!!!
Indeed, I did not stop – I kept on surging past the cheering bystanders that lined the Boardwalk, then over the bridge and past the Skyliner to enter… EPCOT!
This is it, kids. This is why we do it. Anyway, this is why I do it, because those last couple miles through World Showcase are what I believe in the modern parlance we call EVERYTHING. The crowds, the Cast Members, the pavilions, the characters – it brings me joy.
Except one thing was very, very wrong this year, and that was the music. I noticed early on that a lion’s share of the music played on course was all the same ’90s music loop; this became apparent when I heard an inferior cover of Cake’s “The Distance” three separate times. (Why the terrible cover?! The original is from the ’90s as it is!)
Tragically, this motif translated to the World Showcase portion of the course. There were some ’90s Disney songs mixed in, but I predominately heard ’90s pop and I did not like it. I hope this trend does not extend to next year; bring back my all-Disney soundtrack! I’m not afraid to get Disney villains involved in this correction if I have to.
Aside from the music, it was largely business as usual: from World Showcase we ran past Connections Cafe and Mission Space, where the Jammitors were STILL jamming (they were there during the first Epcot part of the race too). We left the bounds of Epcot proper and soon there they were – the harbingers of mile 26.
Point two miles more and my 2023 WDW Marathon was over. I stopped at the med tent for a mask, got my medal and snacks which I bagged at the merch tent, and took the bus back to All-Star Sports. Another one down.
My watchword for this race going in was gratitude. Having almost missed the race myself and having read about several others missing it for their own reasons, I was truly, sincerely, just happy to be there. By some divine providence, I was able to show up and put in a strong performance.
Yeah, I didn’t sleep; I bungled my pre-race nutrition; I stopped four times for the bathroom because twice I couldn’t go; my Zero ribbon kept coming undone and my fingers were too swollen from the early morning cold to tie it again in one try; I pinned my skirt weird and had to stop to repin it. So what? This is nothing compared to the overarching grandeur of the event. The WDW Marathon is my favorite part of the whole year, and I will never take it for granted ever again.
See you in 2024! And 2025, and 2026, and 2027, and –
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!