2017 Disney World Marathon

So another year, another marathon.  I've been training for the past few months to prep for the 2017 Disney Marathon.  Last year, I ran the San Antonio Rock 'n' Roll marathon.  Finished in an acceptable time, but really felt the effects of the run for a couple weeks afterwards.  Honestly, it was largely an unpleasant experience, especially the last 8 miles or so.

So, this time, I decided to run a marathon at the "Happiest Place on Earth" and see if a little Mickey Magic would help.  Plus a better training plan, sleep plan and nutrition plan. 

However, my training plan revealed that a nagging issue with my right hip flexors was still present.  I can't blame anyone but myself.  My coach had me on a pretty good regimen of stretching and strengthening that I was marginally compliant with.  When it flared, I got much better about it and was able to keep the injury from getting worse. Lesson learned for this hard-headed guy -- follow instructions from people who are smarter than you are about running. 

Anyway, back to the run.

The RunDisney Expo

The RunDisney Expo

My wife and I arrived a few days early and headed to the Expo on Day 1. As is typical for RunDisney events, it was fabulously organized, and we were in and out of the registration process in about 5 minutes.  However, the parking lot as ESPN Wide World of Sports was particularly crowded, so there was  little walking to get to the registration. The exhibitor floor was stuffed full of all sorts of vendors from Fit2Run (a large, Florida-based running store), New Balance, Disney apparel, Sport Hooks, Garmin and more.  Great to see the latest wares and talk to the experts about running and great gear.

Running the "virtual" half on Saturday AM

Running the "virtual" half on Saturday AM

So my wife and I headed to the parks that Friday afternoon.  Unfortunately, the warm, sunny Friday yielded to an angry, stormy and lightning-filled Friday night and Saturday morning forcing RunDisney to cancel the 1/2 marathon.  The decision to cancel could have not been easy, but was clearly the right thing to do, as bands of strong thunderstorms rolled across Orlando from about 10pm to 8am.  Putting 25,000 runners into lightning storms would have been rather irresponsible. Disney did, however, offer disappointed runners reimbursement in the form of a future half marathon, gift cards, free passes to the parks or the ability to run the full marathon the next day.  Many of the Dopey and Goofy challenge folks ran their own half-marathons on Saturday morning after the weather cleared.

While Friday morning was a balmy in the mid-60s, Sunday morning, Marathon morning, was another matter entirely.  Just goes to show the wisdom of bringing cold-weather running gear and "throw away" warm clothes to ditch at the beginning of the race. Sunday morning was 38 degrees with a 20 MPH wind from the north.  Chilly.  I headed out the door at 3:30am to catch the bus and was very pleased that I was wearing cheap sweats and my running tights and jacket.  Once we got to the corrals (about an hour later) I dumped the sweats on the side of the road.  RunDisney collects this discarded clothing and donates it to local charities.  

'Twas cold!

'Twas cold!

At 5:30am sharp, after the National Anthem, the wheelchair division racers were off, followed, every 5 minutes, by a corral.  I crossed the start under a shower of typically-awesome RunDisney fireworks at 6am.  As we headed away from EPCOT and headed towards Magic Kingdom, we were treated to DJs, performers and character photo opportunities along the route.  I headed into Magic Kingdom at around the six mile mark and stopped for the obligatory "castle" photo and headed out.  My strategy for the first 18 miles or so was to run much slower than my normal pace -- around 11-11:30 miles, so that I wouldn't hit the proverbial wall quite as hard as I did in San Antonio last year.

After Magic Kingdom, it was about six more miles to Animal Kingdom. After a quick trip through Africa, Asia and Dinoland, we headed to the parking lot and toward ESPN Wide World of Sports.  For the past few months, I've been concerned about WWoS.  I figured it would be boring and relatively boring as we wound among the sports fields of the complex.  However, the route planners mixed it up with some runs on the tracks (including a lap on the inside of the baseball stadium) and routing along the beautiful tree-lined paths that crisscross the complex.  Very nice.  Looping out of WWoS, we headed over to Hollywood Studios, entering right behind the Tower of Terror, and heading out the front gate.  As the entire back part of Hollywood Studios is undergoing renovation to make space for the new Star Wars and Toy Story areas, the run through the park is disappointingly short.

Immediately on exiting Hollywood Studios, the course enters the Boardwalk area.  This beautiful part of Disney a boardwalk lined run along a canal and lake surrounded by trees and fantastic Disney resorts. About now, right around mile 24, I started to feel the run.  Started to walk a bit more and think about finishing a lot more.  I wasn't in the sort of pain or distress I had experienced in San Antonio, but I was ready to be done.  The Boardwalk ends right at the entry to EPCOT parade of nations between the UK and France. Just after crossing the bridge to France, the 25 mile marker beckoned.  All along the roped-off course, crowds gathered to cheer on the runners as we passed all the countries between France and Mexico on our way to Future World.  Again, I stopped for the obligatory, "Big Ball (aka - Spaceship Earth) photo and ran out the exit (and the 26 mile marker) to the parking lot and finish.

Minnie was there at the finish line giving out high-fours as we crossed the line.  I finished in 5:15. Well over my 4:57 from San Antonio, but feeling much better about the run. Yes, I was tired, but I didn't feel awful as I had a year earlier.  I grabbed my medal and lunch (with that awesome nacho cheese sauce everyone talks about) and headed to the Race Retreat Tent.

For those not familiar, the Race Retreat is an option that runners can purchase in addition to their race experience.  It offers a nice plan to hang out both before and after your run in climate controlled comfort with dedicated port-a-potties, changing rooms and food + drinks.  A bit expensive at $125, but in my view, worth it.

All in all, I found the Disney World Marathon to be a superb event. Terrific organization, enthusiastic crowds made up of volunteers, employees and the general public with terrific on-course entertainment.  Unlike other marathons, the support and entertainment continues to the very end.  If you're looking for a first or 100th marathon, this should be high on your list of runs to consider.

I'm not sure I'm going to run another for a while. It takes a lot out of my schedule, work and family to train for a marathon. I'm going to explore improving my 1/2 marathon times, losing some weight and maybe dabble in some triathlon events.  However, I do plan to do a Dopey challenge some day in the next few years, so I fully expect to do 26.2 with the big Mouse again one day.

The Battle of Leon Creek 20K & 20 Miler

Today I ran the Battle of Leon Creek 20 miler, put on by Scallywompus Events.  This event, it turns out, is the last in a four run series the race director, Bart Childers, says is specifically designed to help local runners prepare for marathon season and the San Antonio Rock 'N' Roll at the beginning of December.  Several years ago, Bart and some of his running partners realized the local running events were not mapped out to be friendly to those on a half or full marathon training plan for the San Antonio marathon.  Thus, the Alamo Beer Challenge was born.

The Alamo Beer Company sponsors the four race series, which begins in late summer and has an event once a month in August, September, October and finally in November.  Runners who run the events get to do their long runs on beautiful courses that are well-supported with water stations and an awesome party afterwards. "We want people to come to the run and stay for the party", says Childers.

The run started at the Hill Country Place apartments, near UTSA under cloudy skies with temperatures in the mid-50s. Water and toilet facilities were  plentiful.  The first folks out the gates at 7:01am sharp were the 20 mile runners and the walkers.  As we headed out, the MC reminded us, "This isn't that hard. It's just right, left, right, left. Repeat."  True.  We looped out of the parking lot and hopped on the Leon Creek Greenway and headed south.  The Greenway is part of a larger network of linear parks that San Antonio has been developing over the past decade or so and will ultimately link up different parts of the city with roughly 150 miles of trails.  Leon Creek is a well-developed pathway of smooth concrete with enough room for three runners to run abreast and still room for passing on the sides.  The trail is generally very flat and meanders along Leon Creek.  Scallywompus placed water stations roughly every two miles and the trail was very well marked to ensure we stayed on course.  We turned around roughly behind Ingram Park Mall and headed back toward UTSA and the finish line.

I'm not the fastest runner; I completed my 20 miles in about 3:25 -- under my goal time of 3:30. Happy with my results, I turned in my timing chip and headed to the vendor area.  Each adult bib had tear-off tags for beer and food.  Priorities being what they are, I headed over to the Alamo Beer tent and grabbed their excellent Octobofest.  Pizza Classics was helping feed the masses with a variety of their excellent pies, while Highlander Bar & Grill was handing out Kiolbassa sausage (on a stick!).  Several other sponsors and vendors lined the parkings lot: Sessi Wine who was sampling their fares along with the Rebecca Creek Distillery, Monster Energy and Generation UCAN.  The aforementioned MC was busy handing out prizes and keeping everyone entertained while a DJ handled the playlist.  Everyone was having a great time.

Good run.  Good beer.  Good food.  Good times. Bart says that about 1000 people ran today's event, but he wants it to be much bigger.  Well, plus one, Bart -- you've earned a new runner.  I'll be there next year.  This time for all four events.  Bookmark Scallywompus and check out their other runs and next year's series.  Interested in registering for the 2016 series?  Here's the link: 2016 Alamo Beer Company Marathon Challenge  

Did you run this event?  Been to a Scallywompus Event before?  Leave a comment below!