In late Spring 2016 (or maybe early Summer 2016), my Dad approached with me the idea of running the Disney Marathon in 6-7 months. He had run the same race in 1998 and wanted to do it again. For me, I had set a lifelong goal in 3rd grade to one day run a marathon. So, why not, let’s do it! As the date approached, we also learned that my sister, Nicole and her daughter Reagan would be visiting during that time as well, so along with my parents, her and my family, we would have the opportunity to spend a few days in Orlando all together.
With such a large group, we looked at two options for our stay, multiple hotel rooms or a vacation home. With the popularity of the Disney Marathon, the hotel rates were very high, so we searched for vacation home options and luckily caught a popular in between other bookings for the time we were looking to go. From the pictures, description and reviews, this vacation home near Disney looked amazing and we were all very excited to start our stay!
Nicole, Reagan and my family arrived at the house at the same time on January 4, 2017 and had to wait 20 minutes for the cleaning crew to finish their work from previous guests. From the outside, the house looked large, but otherwise ordinary. When we first walked in, however, we knew this was not the case. Immediately upon entering we could see the first two bedrooms and both were themed to the nines! The first room was Disney princess themed highlighted by a carriage bunk bed, toys and princess dress up clothes.
The second room, which connected into a third room, were Harry Potter themed. Amazingly, just as many costumes and dress up clothes were available for Harry Potter, along with a castle bunk bed and, in the adjoining room, the Knight Bus (another bunk bed).
Upstairs in the loft area, there was a Cinderella inspired bed and dress (in which Caitlyn decided to sleep every night).
From the same hallway as the Cinderella loft was a Pirate Room, with sleeping quarters for up to three, toys and more dress clothes.
In addition to these themed bedrooms were four King bedrooms that were also themed, but more subtly, like the Frozen bedroom and Moana bedroom.
Five full bathrooms accompanied all these bedrooms and the listing boasted that it could sleep 22 people (and I don’t doubt it), but our party of 10 made for a perfect size for the house. Our favorite room, however, was the Star Wars themed game room. Not only was it stocked with toys and games for the family to play, but high end Star Wars costumes, decorations and furniture.
Also, there as a 3D projection screen with video games and movies to boot.
The kids could have stayed in this room for the entire trip and been perfectly happy. In fact, one day, some of them decided that they would rather stay and play at the house than go out for the day. While most of the costumes were designed for kids, they also included adult sized costumes too (including a full size Chewbacca that my Dad donned to surprise the kids)!
Because the kids were so well entertained and the kitchen was well stocked, we ate every meal we could at the house, along with packing lunches for each day at the theme parks. We were able to visit Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot during the trip and the close proximity of the house to the theme parks made it very convenient.
That Friday, January 6, also happened to be my birthday and we celebrated at the house. Brooke made some of my favorite foods; Chicken Parmesan Sliders, Green Beans, Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Ooey-Gooey Butter Cake!
As the trip went on, I began to get nervous about the race and the weather.
I had trained fairly well, but not nearly long enough on my long runs (my longest prep run was only 12 miles). We did an enormous amount of walking at the theme parks, so I figured that would help, but I also ate to my fill like on my birthday night, so those probably washed each other out. What concerned me the most, however, was the weather. It was projected to be cold and wet the morning of the marathon, and the half-marathon which was scheduled the day prior to the marathon was actually cancelled due to poor weather conditions. On the morning of the marathon, we awoke at 3 AM to very chilly weather and wind, with a feels like temperature of 28 degrees. For a Florida boy, this is literally and figuratively freezing. My Dad and I got prepped with layers and layers, some food and caffeine, and made our way to Epcot for the start of the race. Even though the official start was not until 630 AM, they wanted everyone in their corrals by 530 AM and if you wanted to park at Epcot, you had to be in the parking lot before 430 AM. Needless to say, being outside that early morning made for some cold conditions and runners.
The wait for the race to begin was excruciatingly long and some of our fellow runners looked to be in pain. Many of them had not prepared for this type of cold and were wearing towels and robes from their hotel rooms. Some runners even went as far as wearing trash bags just to keep out the wind. Finally, the first couple of corrals got started and I eagerly anticipated the start of the race, if for nothing else than to warm up.
The race started in the Epcot parking lot and made its way first over to Magic Kingdom. A large majority of the race occurred on back roads and major roads between the theme parks, which made for some long stretches, but the periods in the actual theme parks went by quickly. Along the route, there were characters, DJs and more port-a-potties than I could count. You could also ride Everest at Animal Kingdom. But, for both the rides and picture opportunities with the characters I declined for fear of not being able to start back up. At one point around mile 10, I stopped to tie my shoe and do some light stretching (my first stop of the run), my hamstrings cramped up so bad I had to sit down to stretch them back out. I decided to proceed with some caution from there, as my primary goal was to just finish the race.
Around mile 18, I began to hit a wall in running, but was able to alternate running 3/4 mile and walking the other 1/4 all the way until mile 24, which I walked primarily the entire mile. Entering Epcot, the last portion of the race, I was able to muster the energy to finish jogging until the finish line.
My Dad finished not long after and we met in the waiting area after collecting our medals and some food and water.
We met up with the rest of the group inside Epcot and slowly walked to a couple of attractions before feeling rehabbed enough to get in the car for the 2 hour drive home.
I was scared for more cramps, but was lucky to avoid them. The next two days were filled with soreness and being tired, but I was amazingly happy to have achieved this lifetime goal and quite proud that my Dad had been able to complete the race as well. I am still thanking my wife Brooke for all the support during the training, it takes large chunks of time to prepare for a marathon. Now, onto the next race!