Disney 2014 (Or Why This Trip Mattered So Much)

Warning – This post has many pictures.

 Recap: Back in 2001, Steph and I decided to run the Walt Disney World Marathon. In the end, I ran the marathon while she sat on the sidelines nursing an injury. Not getting that MIckey medal really bothered her so thirteen years later, we went back for another shot. I wrote all the fine details back on May 22nd.

2001

 

In 2001, we had some simple goals:

  1. Stay at a Disney Resort (something neither of us had done before)
  2. Run the Walt Disney World Marathon
  3. Eat a celebratory dinner at the California Grill
The Resort
Click to embiggen
When i was a kid, I always asked my parents if we could stay at the Contemporary Hotel (the biggest at the time) instead of some chain motel an hour or more away. I don’t remember the exact response but I suspect it had something to do with money and trees and then Dad telling me to eat my cereal.

When Steph and I had the chance, we picked Port Orleans Dixie Landings (now Riverside). It was a lot of fun and basically cemented into our minds that we would never stay off premises again when visiting Disney.

 

The Marathon

This, as many know, didn’t turn out so awesome. Steph got injured mere weeks before the race. I ran alone, narrowly missing four hours (4:04:01) but I didn’t care. I had a Mickey Mouse medal and I’d completed my first marathon.

Click to embiggen

California Grill

For those not aware, the California Grill is located on the top of the Contemporary Resort and has fantastic views of the Magic Kingdom. If you time your dinner right (as we did on this trip), you can watch the fireworks from the comfort of your seat. It’s also a very high class restaurant so it was ideal for our celebration of the marathon.

Contemporary Hotel from Monorail (2014)
California Grill is the very top.

All things considered, it was a great trip. We had a fantastic time but ultimately only one of us really came away celebrating. I didn’t realize until several years later just how bad Steph wanted a Mickey medal. Yes, I knew she was disappointed (who wouldn’t be?) but the extent was a bit surprising.

2014

 

In 2014, we had a single goal – finish the marathon and get a Mickey Mouse medal. On top of that, I decided to try and recreate 2001 as best as possible so that Steph could have the experience long denied her.

The Resort

Fireworks at the start of the Half Marathon

Port Orleans French Quarter. Same general area as Dixie Landings/Riverside back in 2001, just slightly quieter. We stayed there once before and really enjoyed it. So we booked a room over looking the river.

As an added bonus, our room happened to be within sight of the races. On Saturday morning, we were able to hear and see the fireworks when the Half Marathon began.

The Marathon

The big show, the one event we’ve been waiting for. Up until now, training had gone pretty well except for a few minor injuries. We were about as ready as we could be for the race. A pasta dinner the night before and a 3am wake up call was all we needed.

One thing we can say about Disney is that they know how to put on a show. Huge fireworks at the start. Volunteers everywhere. Entertainment and music abound. It was like a running party. Did a lot to take your mind off the miles, especially later in the race. (My favorite? The Toy Story Toy Soldier Sarge – “You are looking GREAT! You’re making every toy in the toy box proud! Hoorah!”) Few things can compare to running down Main Street at 6:30am, in the dark, with Cinderella’s castle lit up and thousands of people cheering you on.

The day was a bit hotter than either of us would have like – high 60s with some pretty thick humidity. Because of that, we were each drinking a lot. I think both of us took water and Gatorade at nearly every stop (and there were plenty of those). Surprisingly, neither of us went through all our GU. And the candy at mile 21? Better than any gourmet meal a 5 star chef could ever make. *nom nom nom*

The Course (PDF)

The Course (YouTube Video)

One starts just outside of Epcot and runs along the highways towards the Magic Kingdom. Of course, all the entrances and parks were lit up and fully staffed. (One thing to touch on that – volunteers and staff had to be in place before the runners arrived, which was at 3:30am. That meant some of them were probably around by 2am or earlier.) Miles 5 – 6 are in the Magic Kingdom and then we head out for a 6 mile stretch to Animal Kingdom. After the AK, it’s off to ESPN World of Sports and a loop around the WDW Speedway. Next up is Hollywood Studios and then a run along the path toward the Yacht & Beach Clubs.  Last stop? A run through the World Showcase and underneath Spaceship Earth before finishing in a parking lot just outside Epcot.

We started in corral D ( the fourth out of  sixteen). This was a change from 2001 where they went on the honor system (“Oh, you are going to run a 4 hour marathon? Right up here, sir! … why are you walking at 6 hour pace?”) This year you had to have proof of time. It kept a lot of walkers and the charity runners out of our way and made it a lot easier to get started at the pace we wanted. The ultimate goal was to finish and we both thought we could do it in 4 hours or less.

Things started well with us being faster than pace. Then around mile 9, Steph’s knee began to hurt. This was the same injury that kept her out in 2001 and had plagued her throughout her past two marathons. Still, she toughed it out and we kept running. By about mile 14 or thereabouts, Steph’s knee was pretty much just attached to her leg and not doing much else. If she had the opportunity to take it off and beat me to death with it, I’m pretty sure she would have.

Back to the running – by mile 18/19, we started switching to a run/walk pattern. Part of this is because – “Hello, we just ran 18+ miles” and the other because it helped loosen up the knee for Steph to run again. I was also suffering a bit with some foot pain but we both got through it. After that, it was pretty much just toughing through things. Epcot was another bundle of activity with a huge amount of cast members, volunteers, and spectators everywhere. Also in Epcot? The Gospel Choir, singing Hallelujah as we hit mile 26. Literally right around the corner from them was the finish line. Steph got to Hi-Five Donald Duck and then we were done.

Steph got her Mickey Medal and I’m pretty sure she cried when the volunteer slid it over her neck. What more to say?

Shiny

California Grill

Just like 2001, I managed to get us reservations at the California Grill. I was also able to time it so that we’d be up there during the fireworks. We got there a little early and I asked the hostess, “I know everyone asks, but if there’s a chance we could get a good seat for the fireworks, that would be great.” Lo-and-behold, we did – a perfect window seat overlooking the Magic Kingdom. Plain and simple – people would kill for the spot we had.

We ran a lot so we figured we could eat a lot.

Dinner: Oven-dried Tomato Flatbread, Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli, Yuzu-marinated Sashimi, Georges Bank Scallops (Matt), Seafood Stew (Steph), and Chocolate Pudding Cake.

I also managed to catch the end of the fireworks so here you go:

And now, the pictures …

Magic Kingdom (6 miles)

 

Hollywood Studios (Mile 22-ish)

 

Finish Line (Mile 26.2)

 

Medals x 2

 

 

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