We did it 26.2 miles !!!! Three years ago my mom, aunt and one of my cousins walked the Rock n Roll marathon in San Diego. One of my other cousins walked the first 10 miles with them and my sister joined them for the last 11.2 miles. Ever since we've been wanting to do a marathon and my sister found the Disneyworld marathon. Though we had to be Disneyland many times, we had never visited Disney World, which for me was the only pitch that would make me go.
In August, we signed up for the marathon and started training. We all had similar training plans, with small difference. I started by walking 12,000 steps a day. Each week I added 1,000 steps to my goal, until my daily step goal was 20,000 steps. I found this plan to work really well, though I did find that school created an interference. At the end of the term I got boggled down with school work and had the flu which took me out. But nonetheless, I survived and managed to walk 26.2 miles!
We stayed at Marriott Springhill Suites which is great because it's in the "Marriott Village" and you have access to all the neighboring hotel's amenities, while still charging purchases to your room. We choose to stay at the Marriott because it was the best value, between race registration ($180), airfare, and renting a car, we felt cutting cost on the hotel and staying at the Marriott (which was very nice and we have a preference for Marriott hotels). We also waited to book hotels, so we weren’t left with many choices. In hindsight, a Disney hotel would have been a better race specific choice, as they provide expo and race day shuttles. The day of the race, we ended up walking an extra 2 miles because of parking and then after the race had to walk the 2 miles back to our car, which felt like torture.
Car- As we weren’t familiar with Orlando or DisneyWorld and hadn’t done much research (oops!), we decided to rent a car. If we had done more research and knew about Disney Hotel airport transport and race transport, we probably would not have rented a car. The rental car places are really close (no buses just walking to the car park), which made it really easy, especially with my large suitcases. Having the rental car did make it easy for us to visit Harry Potter World at Universal studios, which for me was must. We asked about Uber the day of the marathon, and they told us there was way too many people calling and not enough cars, so we decided to drive to the race. Which ended being helpful, as my sister had to go straight from the race to airport.
The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - I'm a huge Potterhead, I’ve read, done, and seen it all, expect the park in Orlando. I assumed that when we arrived at Universal Studios, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter would be obvious. Unfortunately, it was not and it took a bit more effort to find. We first asked the parking attendant and found out that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is split between two of Universal's parks: Diagon Alley ( the original) is in Universal Studios while the castle and Hogsmeade Village is on Universal’s Island of Adventure. The parking attendant suggested VIP parking or valet parking. As it would be much quicker (which we did and was totally worth it). After entering Universal, we asked for more clarification about the 2 parks from the concierge. As we went to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in L.A. last May, we wanted to know how each park compared to it, to avoid a repeat experience. The concierge informed us that Hogsmeade Village on Universal’s Island of Adventure is the most similar to the LA park and we should go to Diagon Alley. The only thing we missed by choosing just one park, was the Hogwarts Express, which runs between the two parks, but you to have to buy a two-park ticket. The walk through Universal Studio, to Diagon Alley is pretty far. Once you get to Diagon Alley, there is a London façade (I felt at home again!), for a minute we thought, that the London façade was the whole of the park, but then noticed the walkway. The inside of Diagon Alley is amazing, there is so much detail. We came to the realization that the only real ride is Escaped from Gringotts, which was sooo fun. We loved the ride, but the line took forever, though they had so many details throughout the wait line?. My mom actually thought there wasn't an actual ride, rather, just a walk through Gringotts, but in the end, there was one, and we had a blast. The ride takes through Gringotts, and down the waterfall dashing down into the screen and twist like a roller coaster following the plot the Gringotts break in from the movie and book. After we saw a little more of the alley and got me a butter beer (duh) we decided to leave. Even though the line for Gringotts? took over an hour we were there for less than 2 hours so, valet was $20 rather than $40 for more than 2 hours.
As I mentioned, earlier this was my first time at in Disney World. Unfortunately, we only had one day to explore the parks, because of the day at Universal and we were trying not to tire ourselves out before the race. We ended up only going to Epcot, but we walked through all of 4 Disney parks during the marathon. I've been to Disneyland about 50 times and have had season passes since I was 6, so that's my Disney reference.
Magic Kingdom- The Magic Kingdom is what you think of as "Disney World" or the equivalent of Disneyland. You have the castle, all the characters, and the "classic" rides: Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, and the Teacups. The main thing I really wanted to go to was Cinderella's Royal Table it might end up being really childish but it sounds cool and is situated with the Castle. The ride that everyone talks about is Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Maybe next, I’ll plan a little better and get to do both!
Epcot- Epcot was Walt Disney's vision it was the difference between a bigger Disneyland and Disney world as Walt wanted to continue to add on to the disneyland concept by creating more parks and concepts. The idea is basically a permanent World’s Fair with a large "ocean" (lake) in the middle and representative countries surrounding the lake. There were two rides I really wanted to go on Frozen Ever After and Soarin. Frozen was fun I love the movie and if you have a kids it's a must do. Otherwise the ride is pretty tame, basically it is a boat ride around Arendelle. The ride is brand new, so you experience all new ride technology. Soarin I really wanted to go on because our favorite Disneyland/ California Adventure ride is Soarin over California (which is awesome) and Soarin did not disappoint. Instead of just flying over California, it's a trip around the world. The ride includes smells, like rose petals while flying over the Taj Mahal. The final ride we did was mission space which is really crazy because you feel like you really are in a spaceship taking off. During the “blast-off” g-force is applied to the rider, and it's intense. There's also a "green" version which isn't as intense, and they warn you, multiple times before the ride that the orange version, which we did, is intense. The last thing to note about Epcot is it's a little dated, and it needs to be updated especially the uniforms of the workers.
Animal kingdom- I thought the Animal Kingdom Park was just going to be a giant safari ride. I think Safari is an aspect of the park, but walking through the park, it felt more like a love letter to Africa and Southeast Asia. While Disneyland has the Matterhorn (a personal favorite), Disney World's/ Animal Kingdom has Everest. All three of us were blown away by the Tree of Life, the carvings are amazing! The park as a whole is beautiful, with tons of detailing, all around it is a beautiful park, with beautiful detailing.
Hollywood studios- Hollywood studios is a lot like California adventures, which I wasn’t expecting. I had thought it would be all cheesy movies Sets, similar to Universal Studios. However, Hollywood Studios has more of an old hollywood, 1920’s vibe. It was a cool park, with a lot going on.
The outfits- For us, the outfits were a huge challenge. We wanted to do something fun since it is the Disney World and many of the participants dress up. We spent a lot of time on Pinterest and came up with some ideas, but nothing concrete.
While my sister was visiting me in London we found some fun Gold pants we agreed on and decided to be animate objects from Beauty and the Beast. we ordered shirts and everything
The week before the race our shirts still hadn’t arrived and there was no update on them. My sister realized, during one of our hikes, that we would want pants with pockets to carry our phones, ID,etc.. We were in Palm Desert, so we thought we would look for some ideas at the outlet mall in Cabazon where they have Nike, Adidas, Asics, Lululemon and more. After an hour of looking around , we hadn’t found anything, we had been holding out hope that our favorite, Lululemon, would have a great pair of pants, but nothing was to be found. To say the least, we were all on edge, right after yelling at each other, we went to one more store, Neiman Marcus Last Call. While, my mom and I were browsing, my sister went straight to the back of the store and randomly found the amazing matching psycho bunny (a brand whose logo, I’ve loved for awhile) pants and sport’s bra, and they had everyone’s sizes!. We then went to Lululemon and bought navy tanks (19.99!), finally we found hot pink quarter zips at Walmart. Everything else (tutus, socks, crowns) we found on Amazon. The day before the race the weather forecast changed from predicting 60 ℉ to 30 ℉, so we went to a Walmart in Orlando and bought matching hot pink furry jackets ( i wanted the matching pants but they said no and wished in the morning they hadn’t). I was a little disappointed that we didn’t do Disney themed costumes but nobody got as many comments as we did.
some of my favorites I saw:
The course- The course takes you through all four parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Epcot) starting and ending at Epcot. You walk from Epcot to the highway, then the Magic Kingdom walking down Main Street Disney and through the castle. After the castle you head to a back road, walk behind The Grand Floridian, and then the Animal Kingdom. For each of the parks, you walk through some “behind the scenes” area. For the Animal Kingdom we walked in through the back service entrance, where they brought out some animals and you can take pictures and pet them, like my new pig friend Emma Lou. After walking through, Animal Kingdom, you go back onto down to the ESPN Center around the perimeter and back the same way, this area includes 2 loops (aww!) then you turn into Hollywood studios. Going through Hollywood Studios you walk out through the parking lot, around the lake, and into the Disney boardwalk walk. Finally you walk into Epcot and finish by going around the world starting at Paris and around ending just past the silver globe.
The morning of the race we left at about 4:30 and drove to Epcot. Once we got to “Disney World” the traffic was bumper to bumper and the five minute drive took us 30 minutes. You are supposed to be in corralled at 5:00 am. We parked AT 5 but of course we had the two miles to the corrals. Though we didn’t really need to be there early because it takes time getting each corral out. They start with corral A and go until corral P so that 16 groups that take about 5 minutes each to get them out and so unless you're in the first carrells its not problem. Once we finally got into the corrals we slowly moved up and were off by about 6 am. The weather was FREEZING, about 30 degrees.
Standing in the corals wasn’t that bad because we had the warmth of everybody surrounding. For about the first mile or so, it was still dark out, the sun didn’t start to rise until mile 2.5, the wind was blowing. Every mile or so, they had either performers or characters to take photos with.
Walking into the Magic Kingdom parking lot, we had all the parking attendants waving and cheering us on. Walking into the park we walked right onto Main Street Disney, past the Christmas tree and then into tomorrowland and headed towards the castle. As we entered the castle Elsa, Anna, and Kristoff greeted us.
We headed out of the castle into liberty square, down and out of adventureland and out to the freeway through the behind the scene area. Then we were in tomorrowland we headed to the bathroom, an awesome guy on the course, told us about a hidden bathroom, by the teacups, without a line (Thank you!!!!). Once we got back on the course, we were informed that the (dreaded) balloon ladies who keep pace, had passed us. We had to catch up and past them, or we risked being removed from the course. If/when we fell behind the balloon ladies, we were being continually reminded that we needed to be up with ladies once you get out to the highway. We passed miles 5 and 6 in the park and then were on the highway, until the Animal Park at mile 12. This section of the race was the most diffectly for us for a few reasons: it is a long highway stretch, we were having a difficult time keeping pace, which meant we were constantly being told to move faster. We weren’t afraid to quit, but luckily we really wanted to make it to the Animal Park, which we did!
Heading into the Animal Park through the back entrance, they had animals for us to take pictures with. Inside the park we hit 13.1 miles aka half way!!! and we felt the confidence to continue on.
When we got out of the park we had the longest stretch of highway from mile 14 to 23. Walking back up to Hollywood Studios we walked into the park (getting to Hollywood studios is the biggest turning point). Then it's just walking through the park more characters ( my fav was the new jersey 20’s hollywood actors telling us we were tutu cute). A friend, who I’ve know since the 1st grade, lives in Florida, and surprised us at Hollywood Studios. Having a friend there to cheer us on, was great! Out of Hollywood Studios, we walked into the parking lot and past the lake (where it narrows) and into Disney Boardwalk where there started to be lots of people cheering us on and signs.
Thank you so much to all the people, standing on sidelines cheering us on, though you were all strangers, who helped us to keep going. Some of those signs were seriously amazing! From there it's just around the world and out to the finish line.