Runners are simply the coolest people on earth and when thousands of runners gather at the Happiest Place on Earth, it is a magical experience. Connecting with many old running friends and new ones made this event special. As a Gator, I couldn’t be happier for the Hensley family and how well they all ran. My four kids got to meet several of the best runners in the state, a couple of running legends in Bill Rogers and Frank Shorter and they even got their picture taken with this year’s winner, Adriano Bastos. Oh, and they also got to meet some Disney Princesses, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and more. Before the starting line fireworks, the Disney experience was already in full gear.
My race started well and I settled into a comfortable pace. Cruising through the Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom, I hit the half marathon in 1:21:05 and was feeling fine. The next few miles I eased back the pace just a little, making sure I’d have something left for the last part of the race. Still running strong through ESPN Wide World of Sports, I soaked in the cheers in the baseball stadium as they called my name out over the PA system. I wish I could say I had fond memories of the last two parks but entering Hollywood Studios, I got the first twinges of cramps. From there, it became the survival run, fighting with my left hamstrings, right quadriceps and eventually the arches of both feet. Ow. That is the Beauty and Beast of marathoning.
The marathon is sometimes an unpredictable dance partner; graceful and flowing and then clumsy, stepping all over your toes. I danced with Beauty for 22 miles and then changed dance partners to Beast the last four.
The potential difficulty and testing the edge of our running speed and endurance is what makes marathoners so cool. We are willing to risk it and keep going. When runners talk about the “experience” of running a marathon they refer to a challenge and achievement that you can only really relate to if you’ve done it. The Disney “experience” is the same. You have to run through the parks and experience the magic of Disney. There is an exceptional friendly, encouraging atmosphere that permeates the race staff, volunteers, resort staff, and everyone at Disney. The combination of these experiences is the reason why the Disney Marathon weekend has grown into such a huge event. I’m not Happy (Maybe I’m Grumpy or Dopey?) with my time of 2:56 but I will be back to experience the Disney Marathon magic again- next time in a faster time!