|Michael on the way to completing her first marathon!!!|
January 8, 2012
18th Marathon Completed
(First one completed with my wife!!!)
Overall Experience ... 5 out of 5
Spoiler Alert ...
- Maybe the best overall marathon experience ever
- Had the honor of running with my wife, Michael, in her first marathon ... she was AWESOME!!!
- Took pictures and video of Michael as she ran and just tried to stay out of her way
- Perfect weather ... 60's, sun, no wind
- Super-flat course
- Very well organized marathon from start to finish
- Registered for the VIP Tent ... well worth the additional $100
- Stayed in an awesome Condo just a few miles from the Disney properties
- Early 5:30 AM start ... woke up at 1:30 AM to get ready for the race
- Only 4 out of 5 because the course got a little boring when not running in the Disney Parks
- Finishing a marathon with someone you love is an unforgettable experience
Finisher Medal & Race Shirt...
Michael and I went to Universal Studios on Tuesday after the race and it seemed like we were be the only English speaking patrons in the park. Orlando is definitively a world destination for vacations and holidays. It was really cool seeing all of the different countries and regions of the world represented, although it made it tough at times to ask for a photo - but sign language usually sufficed.
The weather was perfect in Florida - about 60 degrees in the mornings, climbing to 75-80 in the afternoons. It was a stark contrast to the 14 degrees that greeted us in Kansas City on Thursday morning back at home. Overall, the city and weather could not have been more perfect.
|Two idiots at ESPN Wide World of Sports|
|Michael & Mickey|
|Michelle, Michael & me at packet pickup|
This was probably the second biggest Race Expo I had ever been to. It was held at ESPN Wide World of Sports and was awesome. The ESPN grounds are home to several shops, conventional halls, sports fields, and the Atlanta Braves Spring Training complex. I'm a huge sports nut - so I was in heaven. Michael couldn't have cared less about the sports, but she was walking on air at her first full marathon Expo! She checked out pretty much every single item available for purchase before deciding on an "I DID IT!" t-shirt. We joked later that the "I DID IT" logo looked like "IDIOT" ... which we we figured was applicable for someone who was running a marathon and putting their body through the torture! Michael was a little hesitant to buy the t-shirt before the race. She briefly tried it on, but took it off as quickly as possible so she didn't jinx her finish ... not a chance. This girl was in it to win it!!!
All runners got a very high quality long-sleeve red technical t-shirt and a commemorative pin. I'm not really a "wear a picture of Mickey Mouse on your t-shirt" guy, but the shirt was really cool - probably one of the best I've received. Michelle, Michael and I spent time walking around the ESPN grounds and of course took several cheesy pictures. It's what we do best!
|The perfect dress rehearsal for the race ... Michael flying!!! Me just trying to keep up!!!|
|Beautiful girl with her "I Did It!" t-shirt|
|Two idiots and a giant lizard!!!|
|Our amazing Condo for the weekend|
Michael's triathlon friend Michelle hooked us up with a great two bedroom Condo through her work that was only a few miles from the Disney Complex. It was beautiful! And it was great of Michelle to invite us to stay ... it made the trip a lot less expensive and really relaxing and enjoyable. The Condo had an awesome pool and clubhouse area that we took advantage of on one of the 80 degree days while in Orlando. It was located in a nice gated community that was very safe and easy to access. This beat the heck out of Hampton Inn where I usually stay! It was awesome, and just another thing that helped make the entire trip unforgettable.
But here is a public service announcement to those of you who travel with two chicks that aren't as serious about their diet as you are ... BE PREPARED TO EAT CHICK-FIL-A the day before a race!!! That's not the worst of it! If Michael had her way, we would have eaten McDonalds. That's right ... I said McDonalds!!! The friggin' day before a marathon!!! Now I've been known to down a pizza or two for a pre-race carb meal, but it serves a purpose. I probably only eat Mickey D's or Chick about once a month or less ... and never would I think about putting all of that grease on my stomach the day before a race. But not good ol' Michael & Michelle ... oh no! They had no problem hitting up the drive through at the local grease pit! I begrudgingly went along with it and later regretted it during the first half of the marathon. More on that later.
But our pre-race dinner was fantastic! Meredith, who was back at the Condo with her family, made a full spaghetti dinner for all of us the night before the race! Again, another incredibly kind thing to do for all of us! It was amazing. It was so nice to go back to your FREE Condo and have a wonderful spaghetti dinner the night before a race. This was by far the best pre-race setup I've ever experienced. Simply amazing! We were very fortunate and we're both thankful for Michelle!
Race Day ...
|World Famous Pre-Race Dance Party!!!|
When Michael woke up I asked her if she was ready to run her first marathon. Sleepily she replied "No!". But she rolled out of bed just in time for the World Famous Pre-Race Dance Party!!! After that, we got ready and then the four of us - Michael, Michelle, Meredith, and me - were off to the VIP Tent that we had shelled out an extra $100 for. Michael and I have been extremely blessed in our careers and are at the point where it's nice to be able to afford stuff like this ... but $100 each is still a big deal for us. So I was hoping the pre and post-race tent would be worth the money. And as a matter of fact ... it was worth EVERY PENNY! It was awesome! It was another one of the things that made this trip unforgettable and special.
When we walked into the VIP Tent, volunteers greeted us and cheered like we were celebrities. Pretty cool! Once inside the enormous tent, we experienced huge video screens, linen table clothes, a padded stretching area, massage therapists for after the race, Disney characters for photo-ops, a Disney merchandise area, and pretty much anything you wanted for breakfast from fruit to eggs and hash browns. But probably the best features of the VIP Tent were the gear check area and private port-o-potties! No standing in line at either!!! When we had to pee ... we walked up and peed ... just like that! And when it was time for the race, we just walked up and dropped our gear ... easy-peasy! It was soooo relaxing and stress-free. I would HIGHLY recommend it if the $Benjamin isn't too much to fork out. It's well worth it!
|Just chillin' before the race in the VIP Tent|
Disney had several starting groups and Michael and I were in one of the later ones, so we didn't have to kill ourselves to get to the starting line. One of the cool things that Disney does is recreate the start for each group. So each corral gets to experience their own set of fireworks and a count-down from Mickey Mouse himself! (It was really just a guy in a costume, but it was still pretty cool) We were in starting group "F", and as each group was released at the start I watched as Michael started acting weirder and weirder! This girl was pretty nervous ... but really excited! As we started walking toward the starting line, I told her, "This is what you've worked for and this is YOUR DAY ... enjoy it! I love you!" And just like that, the fireworks for group "F" went off and Michael was running her first marathon.
|"What is this ... a trash bag for ants?"|
|Me, Some Horse, Michael, Michelle, Meredith, and Woody before the race ...|
All of us acting like grown adults EXCEPT for Michael???
|Michael and a bunch of fruit in the VIP Tent|
Dawn broke somewhere between Epcot and our next stop ... Magic Kingdom! And as the sun came up we got our first glimpse of the Disney Castle ... and it was incredible! All along the way so far I had been stopping here and there to take pictures and video of Michael, but in front of the Castle, there were several race volunteers and Disney staff to take a pictures. This was also the first place where the huge crowds were evident. There were people everywhere! There was Disney music everywhere! And all of the cheers made every runner feel like superstars on their big day. This was probably the most memorable stretch of the race.
|Hey look at us ... running a race in Magic Kingdom!|
The ONLY downside to the Walt Disney World Marathon is how much time you spend running when you are not in a park. The race basically makes its way through four parks ... Epcot Center, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. However, very little time is actually spent in each one. Most of the race is spent on the connecting roads and parking lots between each theme park. And some of the time in each of the parks is spent behind buildings next to dumpsters and employees on smoke breaks. Disney has held this marathon for 20 years and they obviously have a reason to route the race like this, but it would have been nice to spend a little more time running through the different parks with more visual stimulation to take your mind off of the marathon. But this is literally the only semi-negative thing about the weekend ... the rest of it was magical!
It's no secret that Michael and I are hams for the camera. And this was on huge display as we ran the Disney Marathon. There were great photo-ops everywhere. We really wanted to get more photos with Disney characters, but the lines were sometimes 25 or 30 runners long and it would have eaten up a lot of the clock, so most of the time we kept moving. Plus, I decided to run with our camera and snap pictures of Michael along the way, so we got some pretty cool photos without stopping.
|Beautiful girl at Epcot Center|
|Michael, me, Cap'n Hook ... and Doc or someone - who knows?|
|Beautiful girl at a waterstop|
|Run for your lives!!!!!!!!!!|
|Almost there ...|
After running through a smelly Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, we finally made our way back into Epcot Center where the race began and finished. I could tell she was ready to be done. But also, there was a growing excitement as we neared the finish line. I'm not sure who was more excited ... Michael or me! I couldn't wait to experience the joy of the finish line of her first marathon with her. And as we ran through the last .2 miles with the grandstands full of cheering people, I shouted to her again ... "Enjoy this! This is your day!!!" ... and we raised our hands together as we crossed the finish line!
At the finish line Michael broke down in tears of joy and I hugged her and fought back tears of my own. I was so proud of her. She did it! And I could tell that a huge weight had been lifted from her shoulders. She was finally a marathoner!
|Beautiful girl after crossing the finish line of her first marathon!|
|A few more pictures from Michael's great day!|
|Two marathoners with their medals!!!|
|Two idiots with Buzz Lightyear ... and their marathon medals!!!|
I've ran several marathons. The 2012 Walt Disney World Marathon was my 18th overall. And I'm hopefully on my way to running one in every state. But I can tell you that out of all my marathons, this was probably the most memorable because I got to experience it through the eyes of my lovely wife. She will be the first to tell you that she's not a natural runner. But she worked so hard for this day and I couldn't have been more proud of her. She fought, and battled, and persevered to the finish ... and finish she did! She is forever a marathoner, and no one can ever take that from her. She will tell you that she felt like a hero on Sunday at the race ... but she seems like that every day to me. I love you sweetie ... congratulations!
... be great today!