As I have mentioned previously, one of the reasons we chose the week we did for recent our Disney World vacation, was because it was Marathon Weekend, and our DD was participating in the 5-K. This was a totally new experience for all of us, Disney veterans that we are, and I have to say that learning about an entirely new facet of Disney was fun and fascinating. It was also inspiring…but more on that later.
To start, let me give a little bit about what the Disney Marathon weekend offered. There were 3 “major” races (along with some fun “family” races): the 5-K which was billed as the Family Fiesta 5-K on Friday, the Half-Marathon on Saturday, and the full Marathon which was on Sunday. What amazed me was the number of people…and I mean THOUSANDS of people who participated in these events. And what was even more amazing to me….a total non-runner….was how many people participated in more than one race!! To clarify, this is how long these races are:
- The 5-K is about 3 miles
- The Half Marathon is 13.1 miles
- The full Marathon is 26.2 miles
And there were a LOT of people who did all 3!! You do the math…..
(If you don’t have your calculator handy, that would be over 42 miles folks!!!!)
And everyone gets a medal for participating. Even more fun is that they even recognize those who do both the Half and full Marathons with a special medal just for them: the “Goofy” medal. (There is an unofficial name for those who do all 3….it is the “Dopey” lol…but no medals for them, which seems kind of sad to me….)
Anyway, when we arrived at Walt Disney World on the Thursday before the races, we along with thousands of marathon-goers, went to Disney’s Wild World of Sports Complex, so our DD could pick up her registration packet. We were concerned about bus transportation there, but really, it’s Disney, why were we worried? Disney of course had special transportation running to all marathon events from all resort hotels all weekend, and in our experience, the transportation was pretty efficient.
Before we knew it, we were at Wide World of Sports where we got our first taste of the size and popularity of this event. There were thousands of people there, registering, picking up their packets, and participating in the Health/Fitness Fair that was going on. My personal favorite part was the sign-making area, where family members could prepare signs to cheer on their runners, which DH and I, of course, did! This was so much fun, to see children making signs that said things like “You can Do It Mom!” and “Run Fast Dad”…..I started to get a feel for how inspiring this weekend would turn out to be for me, as I saw how proud so many of these kids were of their parents!
We tried not to stay out too late that night, as our DD had to be at Epcot at 5:30 a.m. (!) on Friday for the pre-race. Of course, we were hardly the only ones on the bus that morning, as there were MANY entire families participating in the 5-K, including people who planned to push strollers in the race! In fact, the entire 3rd wave of starters was scheduled to be those who walked or were pushing strollers. Cool fact: those “in” the strollers apparently got a medal too!
Disney of course, knows how to put on a show, so the “pre-race” festivities, while meant to help get everyone warmed up and excited, also consisted of a fun DJ, and character appearances, in this case the Three Caballeros. It wouldn’t be Disney without a character photo-op or two.
Before we knew it, our DD had to go line up, so we wished her good luck and made our way over to the finish line to watch for her. There was a grandstand set up for those who wanted to watch: for the Half and full Marathons, you had to purchase a seat to watch, but for the 5-K, anyone could sit there, so it was nice to be able to see so many of the finishers. It was so great to see so many kids running…many who were running a lot faster than the adults lol!
Finally we saw our DD run by and we waved our signs and shouted and hollered: we were so excited! She got her medal, we gave her hugs and then headed back to Kidani Village to shower and get ready for a celebration breakfast at Boma. What an awesome and fun experience and I have to say that doing my own 5-K is a goal of mine now!
What is especially cool about this weekend is that it is easy to feel a “part” of things throughout the weekend for the big races too! For example, we passed many of the marathoners along their route on the bus to Epcot on Sunday morning…..and were so excited when an entire family, signs in hand, spotted their dad on the road along side the bus! They were on their way to cheer him on at the end….but they got a little extra magic by seeing him along the way.
Probably the most inspiring thing to me though was being in World Showcase later that afternoon, as the final marathon finishers were making their way around the course. My thoughts about what kind of person it takes to do a marathon were forever shattered that afternoon as I saw people completing a race of over 26 miles that one would never think could do such a thing:
- Seniors in their 70s
- People with leg braces and one who had a prosthetic limb
- People wearing Weight Watchers shirts who had clearly worked very hard to be able to achieve this accomplishment
- Husbands and wives holding hands as they completed the race, inspiring each other to finish, in some cases literally holding the other person up in order to finish together
And then there were those who ran for a cause: cancer, leukemia, alzheimers, Give Kids the World, and more….they ran or walked, not for themselves but for a greater cause.
We sat down and watched the last finishers. We shouted encouragement, cheered, clapped and waved, as the final few made their way towards the end. And everyone stood and gave a standing ovation to the last person, broad smile in place, as she walked around World Showcase waving to all, knowing that she had DONE IT!
I loved Marathon Weekend. It was new, it was fun, it was inspiring….it was magical.