A Tale of Two Marathons: Disney vs Five Points of Life (Part 1)
As a brand new endurance runner, I have been fortunate to complete 2 full marathons this season. First, the uber-sized, mega spectacular , borderline luxurious Disney Marathon in early January. Followed by the smaller than most 5ks, tiny but it tries hard, borderline nonexistent 5 Points of Life Marathon in Gainesville. Both were vastly different experiences in every major way possible. Both were extremely worthwhile and entertaining experiences, but for VASTLY different reasons.
Let me start with Disney. Now I know what any reader may be thinking. This is a blog about running cheap, and my first post was all about how running competitively was too expensive. So he is wrting about what? One of the most expensive marathons in the US? Follow me here for a second. Lets just I ended up running this race for free because of umm… “Personal Corporate Sponsorship”. Yeah, thats what Ill call it.
How did I end up running this race?
Back last year in mid spring I made the decision to try a marathon sometime next year. I figured I needed lots of time to train to become more comfortable with my long runs, and wanted a nice cool Florida day to race. I started targeting runs for the following February in Ocala and Gainesville. These races were cheap, they were close enough to drive, and they fit my distant training schedule perfectly. I mentally selected either of them and decided to wait a little bit for signing up. When I expressed my desire to try a marathon to my sister a few months later, she was aghast that I would chose to run such a boring race.
“Do you really want to look at Ocala for twenty six miles?” She asked me rhetorically.
Point well taken, I did not. However, from an expense standpoint I had little other choice. Tracy was undeterred she suggested Disney and convinced herself that my parents would love it. They would make a whole weekend out of it and totally would get behind it. I was not convinced. Still she persisted, and later that very same day she had my mom firmly sold on the whole idea. Why would my mother do it? Lots of reasons I guess. She was into me challenging this distance, she has always been super supportive of my interests (even the weird ones), and maybe it was an excuse for her to just go out and enjoy the Disney. It dint hurt that my parents had a connection at a hotel called the Swan and Dolphin either. Bottom line was that I was now officially stoked, pumped, thrilled ( ok better adjectives are escaping me right now) ; I was getting to run Disney! I knew very little about the Disney marathon other than it went thorugh the 4 parks and was ultra expensive, but it simply had to be cool. I mean its Disney. I have always said about Disney that it may be costly , but you generally get what you pay for. I imagined it would be highly organized and completely over the top. I was beyond thankful and appreciative to my parents for giving me what may be a once in a lifetime race.
Pre- Race Weekend for Disney Marathon– Getting ready at the S &D
My family left for Disney on Saturday morning so i could get to the expo to check in , turn in the waiver, and get my race number. Everything about the operation screamed massive. For starters the check in was in an entirely different building from the expo where I picked up my “goodie bag” (alright but not spectacular) and my tech shirt (loved it, still love wearing it or just leaving it by my closet and looking at it) . I thought it was classic Disney that after picking up my stuff they deposited me into a locale with lots of over priced Disney goodies for sale. It is very similar to how all of the rides in their parks deposit you conveniently into gift shops on the way out. The expo itself was fun for a first timer like me. Lots of free samples, and giveaways and items that were cool to look at and look at and look at and look at some more, and maybe wish I could buy. I would have spent more time thre but we needed to check into our hotel at the Swan and Dolphin.
The S & D is a resort of the first class. I dont know how much my parents paid for it, and I dont want to know. I could look it up this second,but I really still dont want to know. Nor do I want to know how much the expensive dinner at the great Italian restaurant inside the resort was. The Il Mulino New York Tratoria was one of those places that just screams money to me. The kind of place that rich foodies might review and write snarkily about. Dinner there was fantastic, I scarfed on a delicious pasta dish called Penne Rigate, tons of bread, and a fruit styled dessert. Yep as you can see, I believe heavily in carbing up. Plus, I dont get a chance to eat in places like this often, so I had to weigh my marathon needs with my life desire to experience great food.
RACE DAY AT DISNEY – Seriously, once in a lifetime…
Disney shuttles people to the staging area and from there, you walk not a short distance to the start line and wait for your corrall to start. The whole thing was ordered perfectly, and I found the seemingly nine million portalets in the waiting area beyond comprehension. I wanted to camera phone a picture and send it to everyone. Of course, my crappy phone doesnt actually have a camera and it was it 4 am in the morning, so not so much.
Each wave went off with a Disney character counting down, motivational music playing, and a display of fireworks. It got everyone going. Most races that I have run typically do a good job (on a smaller scale) setting up the race start. The beauty of Disney was how they managed to keep it the entire course. At no moment did you ever feel isolated in your race doom. Spectators were everywhere, marching bands were playing, and there were aid stops constantly throughout the course. In between those things, the magic of Disney sustained you. There characters were everywhere, and not just the big ones either. It seemed like every employee, every form of Disney entertainment was out there. Im not a huge Disney fan but I did have a couple of “holy crap” moments where the enormity of it caught me. Running through the Princess’ Castle and running through downtown Disney after the park had opened were two of those particular instances.
I ran the race really well too. Spent the first few miles sifting through the crowds, and settled into a nice pace that I ran pretty much until mile 22 or so. Not bad for a first timer, and I thank the Garmin (a gift, from siblings) for keeping me on my pace. I faded those last few miles but crossed the finish line with a tme of 3 hrs and 41 minutes. I was ecstatic as I was dead tired, and I was really tired.
Disney Post Race– A Golden Mickey
Post race at Disney was a short experience for me. First came the medal, an impressive golden Mickey that impressed me a lot more than I thought it would. I wore it/held it for a long time that and was not shy about showing it off the next day at work. Next came a quick picture. In my post race fog, I thought Disney would send to me for free. Yeah right. Beyond that I grabbed what I could from the recovery line, stuffed into my pockets and met my mom. No time to bask. Time to head back to the hotel to chill and check out and be on our way. A shuttle, a snack, and a shower later and we were in the car headed back home. As we were driving happily away and my legs were going into “store as much painful lactic acid as possible” mode, I could still see tons of people who had not come close to finishing yet. Once again the scale of the mega marathon caught me.
Summary –Endless thanks
Most distance runners can probably recall fondly their first marathon experience. This is certainly no different for me. Im happy I got to run a spectacle style race like this for my first, because who knows if I ever will get a chance to run another dream-like supercharged one again. It was also really enjoyable to run a race and not have to worry about cost. My parents spoiled me on this one, and Im grateful they did. Endlessly grateful. The next one I would get to do all on my own and would bear no resemblance to anything that I just discussed.