I Can Go The Distance: Why I chose the Walt Disney World Marathon for My First Marathon

| May 25, 2014 | 6 Replies

I’ve always wanted to run a marathon.  This is partly because I’ve always respected the challenges of the marathon and the physical strength and mental rigor of the marathon runner.  To me, the marathon has always been one of those life’s challenges, a bucket list item, if you will, similar to climbing Mt. Everest or Mt. Kilimanjaro, or hiking the Appalachian Trail.  But, like each of these, the marathon has inherent obstacles that confront us mere mortals.  It forces us to face our limitations and either succumb to them, or work through them.  So, as I said, I’ve always wanted to run a marathon.  However, I’m no Hercules so I’ve never actually followed through with that desire.  Until now…

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This summer I will be reluctantly celebrating my 31st birthday (yes, my parents who are in their 60s laugh when I say this…).  As you can tell, I’m not thrilled with the reality that I am getting older.  The former days of my youth seem in one instance so far away, yet in the other just like yesterday.  Realizing that time has that unique capability to transport us quickly through the years before we realize it, I’ve decided to start taking action on the things I’ve always wanted to do.  Thus, enter the marathon.  Add my love of all things Disney and running the Walt Disney World Marathon (a runDisney event) seemed like a no-brainer.

This being said, I’m still quite apprehensive about actually running a marathon.  The official marathon distance is 26.2 miles.  That’s 26 miles and 385 yards.  42,195 meters.  Or, 138,336 feet!  To further add to the intimidation, the origins of the marathon goes back to the legendary run of Pheidippides, a Greek, who ran from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to tell his leaders that the Persians had been defeated.  After running this distance he died.  (To be fair, some say that he first fought in the battle, ran to tell of the defeat, fought in another battle, and then died.  Regardless, you get the idea.)  My point is that 26.2 miles is long.  I consider myself an active person as I try to workout 4-5 times a week and can run 5 miles and not feel completely exhausted. But, that’s not even 1/5th of the distance of a marathon!  Add to this, any search on the internet will bring up all the stories of the many challenges of running a marathon, including nutritional concerns, physiological issues, “hitting the wall,” etc.  So, my decision to run a marathon doesn’t leave me with a nice “warm and fuzzy” feeling.  However, at least running my first marathon at Walt Disney World makes it more attractive.

Why, you ask?  In this sense I believe I have fallen partly victim to one of the unfair critiques about the Walt Disney World Marathon that I have already experienced.  When I tell people that I plan on running the Disney Marathon, the typical response from those who have never run a marathon or who have not participated in a runDisney event is something to the effect of, “Oh, but it’s a Disney marathon, so it won’t be too bad” or “well, that’s not a real marathon.”  To these responses I kindly remind them that running next to Mickey or not, the WDW marathon is still 26.2 miles and one still has to finish to get a medal. Now, despite ranting a bit here, I do admit that, although being 26.2 miles and still difficult, running a marathon at Walt Disney World is much more appealing than other marathons for many reasons.

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First, I think that the fact that people react the way they do when I tell them I’m running the WDW Marathon highlights an important fact and that is that the WDW Marathon and the runDisney program are known to be fun!  That’s why the WDW Marathon (and the other runDisney events) is one of the most popular races in the U.S.  In fact, most of the races for all of the runDisney events sell out rather quickly.  Second, the WDW Marathon requires at least a 16:00 minute/mile pace.  I think this fact lends to the belief that the marathon itself isn’t that serious as a 16:00 minute/mile pace may make the challenge appear easier to some.  To these folks I would offer that completing 26.2 miles at any pace is still a challenge.  Further, to highlight the legitimacy of the WDW Marathon, I would also point out that it is a qualifier for other marathons, such as the Boston Marathon.  To me, I like that runDisney is generous with their pacing requirement as it opens the door for so many to accept the challenge, at whatever ability they are at.  I think it speaks volumes to Disney’s appreciation of people’s dreams.

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I also find the WDW Marathon as an appealing choice for my first marathon because it allows me to visit all four parks in one day, all before…well, whenever it is I actually finish!  The marathon route takes the runners through all the major WDW parks, the WDW Speedway, and the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.  Since my mind gets bored after a few miles of running, I’m sure the changing scenery will keep my mind occupied.  As someone who appreciates Disney and enjoys running, there’s no better place to run a long distance.

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Adding to the changing scenery of the WDW parks, the course also features Disney characters and other entertainment venues.  Despite being a grown man and a father to my young daughter, I’m not afraid to admit that I still appreciate the experience of interacting with characters—there’s something carefree and liberating about the experience as it allows you to forget the cares of the world and to find your inner child.  So, running past characters and the other entertainment venues will certainly be fun and exciting and will help with the mental distraction.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I’ve chosen the WDW Marathon as my first marathon because it’s an excuse to go to Disney.  As I told my wife, “Darling, I’ve decided I want to complete a life’s goal and it just happens to be at Disney!”  How could she say no?

The WDW Marathon certainly presents a lot of ways to make going the distance more appealing.  It offers many perks over some of the other marathon courses across the nation.  However, the mental and physical challenge is still the same as any of the other marathon courses across the nation.  Indeed, I’m quite apprehensive about the actual physical and mental demands of the race.  Yet, as I learned at the former “Wonders of Life” pavilion at EPCOT, the human body is capable of incredible things and I’d like to push my body to its next physical level.  Combine that reality with the magic and wonder of Walt Disney World and runDisney, and you’ve got a magical journey.  Just like Hercules, I’m sure I’ll find that I can “go the distance.”

Join me in the next iteration of this series as I discuss what I’ve continued to learn about the runDisney program, the WDW marathon weekend, and marathon registration.  I’ll also disclose how my initial training has fared.

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Do you have any Disney marathon stories or tips for success?  Share them below!

Photos Courtesy of runDisney



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Category: Disney World, Events

  • Jaxon0619 .

    The most important thing I learned, before running my first Disney Marathon, is treat it as an event, instead of a race. Experience the event and enjoy it. It won’t be easy, but you will have a lot of support and friends with you.

  • val

    I ran a Disney half at the age of 47… it is super…you can do it!

  • kim s

    I also have decided my first and only marathon will be in Disney, and for many of the reasons you listed above! The half is my distance. Just looking for a year where it works with my schedule as a teacher! I love reading your story and look forward to updates. GOOD LUCK!

  • kari

    Good luck with your training. Having never run a marathon myself I can’t even imagine the prep that will take. One typo in your article though 26.2 miles is equal to 42,164 METERS not KILOmeters (there is 1.6 km in 1 mile).

  • Linda

    First, congratulations on signing up for the marathon. If you stick to your training program, you will succeed. I ran the princess half with my daughter last year. I enjoyed it so much i signed up for the 2014 goofy challenge. Talk about being stressed! I ran one marathon 13 years ago and several half marathons
    since but never back to back races. But you know what? I did it and I earned my goofty medal. The 26.2 miles never got boring..there is so much to see and this was how I celebrated my 60th birthday. Good luck!

  • Pablo Aymerich

    I did Disney as my first marathon (2004) and it was awesome. If you have family/friends coming with you have them spread out at different mile markers for much need encouragement. If any of them are runners (not in race) there is a section by the Epcot resorts they can run a bit of that last milage with you .