Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend: The Marathon

What better time to (finally) write my Walt Disney World Marathon recap than in the middle of a blizzard? (Okay, fine, so we didn’t actually get a blizzard this time. But there’s still some snow out there!)

After the previous morning’s half marathon (my recap can be found here, in case you missed it!) and a full day of walking around Epcot, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to another 3:30am wake-up call. Honestly, I kept having to remind myself that I had already completely this particular challenge…and with two additional days of early mornings! Why did it seem so much harder this time around?!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Todd was going to be running with me (EXCITEMENT!), and he graciously agreed to dress up “like a fairytale character,” as he puts it. LOL.


Our marathon costumes were pretty simple, but it did take me the better part of 15 minutes just to clip the damn bow into my hair the way I wanted it, and the felt corset was an entirely different story…it was held together by safety pins that didn’t exactly want to stay put. So, yes, I struggled with pulling it up and re-pinning it all throughout the race. In addition to juggling my stuffed fish, of course. :)


We were out the door by by 4:15 again, and had no trouble getting to Epcot and parking. It felt SIGNIFICANTLY warmer that morning (BOO), and there was a bit of a chill in the air — but it was still already approaching 60 degrees. We made a quick visit to the port-a-potties and squeezed into our corral shortly before the 5:30am start time.

Disney knows how to keep thousands of runners entertained — even at that ungodly hour — and before I knew it we were seeing our fireworks!


Another 26.2-mile journey was about to begin, and I for one could not be more excited. Not only would I be running the MOST MAGICAL MARATHON ON EARTH (again), but this time, I wouldn’t have to do it alone!

Still, in those early miles, I kept thinking about how freaked out I was running this exact same race last year. As my first full marathon, that fear of the unknown was enough to suck the fun right out of the experience, especially when you’ve signed up for some cockamamie Goofy or Dopey Challenge and are already feeling sore from the previous day’s race(s).

This time? It was all about the fun. I was never scared about not finishing, and I knew that even though I might struggle, that I would be able to fight through it.

The first few miles were pretty uneventful. I spotted Wreck-it-Ralph and Vanellope again, and since we both love that movie, I decided it was definitely worth another quick wait in line.


I was feeling some tightness in my legs from the previous morning’s half marathon (not to mention all the walking around the parks) but so far, my knee wasn’t bothering me and I was feeling good. We got started nice and easy, right around that 11ish-minute/mile, and the plan was to walk through every water stop.

There were a bunch of the same characters out from yesterday — The Nightmare Before Christmas people, the pirates — and we opted to pass them by. But I will NEVER pass up a picture in front of the Magic Kingdom gates!


Moving right along to the backstage area and towards the TTC, I felt the same amount of excitement as the previous morning. You would think the whole running through the Magic Kingdom thing would eventually get old…and yet, it NEVER does. We were still feeling good and enjoying the cooler temperatures, although I was DEFINITELY sweating a whole lot more than I was during the half marathon.

And, as per usual, I was having some costume difficulties — mainly in the form of the corset slipping down, bunching, and not staying pinned the way I wanted it to. Fortunately, I stashed a bunch of extra safety pins in my bra (gotta be prepared!) for just such an occurrence, so I took a few minutes during our first potty break at the TTC to try (in vain) to pin it tighter and make it stop slipping.

Soon, we were backstage at the Magic Kingdom, and turning the corner onto Main Street.




Now it was time to take lots and lots of pictures with the castle.


Then we moved into Tomorrowland and stood in a VERY short line for Buzz. I wished all of the character lines could be that short…then maybe we could finish this damn race in under 7 hours. (Sorry, spoiler alert, haha).


We made our way into Fantasyland and behind the castle again, where I was once again disappointed to find no Mickey and Minnie. The Frozens were out to greet runners again, but it really doesn’t make up for missing out on one of my favorite character photos of the race.

Fortunately, running through the castle made up for it!



As always, we grabbed some more pictures in front of the castle, courtesy of Marathonfoto.

My favorite picture from the race! :)

My favorite picture from the race! :)

And then headed towards Frontierland, when we spotted this guy. :)


We did pass up a few characters in Magic Kingdom, namely that ridiculous alligator again and the boring old White Rabbit, in addition to that mime guy. No matter what, our time in Magic Kingdom felt very, very short, and it was time to move out into the backstage area. I saw Rapunzel and Flynn posing with Snow White and whatever her prince’s name is, but a cast member told us that Rapunzel probably would be on her “break” by the time it was our turn…so we moved on.

After leaving the Magic Kingdom, you have the joy of attempting to run on a very narrow path with about a thousand of your closest friends, so I can’t wait for this part of the course to be over. Although, we were excited to see Donald and Goofy together in their oh-so-adorable golf outfits!


Like the previous morning, Genie and Abu were out again. So, of course, we had to get that one, too.


Then the course leads you into the Walt Disney World Speedway, where you have to navigate the world’s steepest and most dangerous race incline. I, unfortunately, had to walk said incline, because my knee was starting to bother me again. Like, a lot.

This time, not only was I in pain, but it felt like my knee was going completely stiff. I felt like the freakin’ Tin Man trying to hobble along. What was strange was that while I was running, it hurt — but the pain was bearable. But then when we’d stop for a picture or to wait in a character line, it felt damn near excruciating trying to start running again.

There was no way my stupid knee was going to put a damper on my fun, though. And I definitely wasn’t going to turn into a Mr. Grumpy Pants and ruin this part of the course for Todd, since he was actually interested in running through the Speedway.

IMG_1021I ignored the pain as best I could and soldiered on. I knew that running through the parks would be plenty of distraction to get me through the discomfort. And I figured if things got really bad, I could always make my first in-race stop at a medic tent for some ice and Biofreeze.

The classic cars in the Wide World of Sports are fun and all, but, again — I’m not really into it. This stretch of the course dragged on a bit for me!

I was really looking forward to Animal Kingdom, and even though the sights aren’t the most exciting along the way, we still managed to have a little bit of fun.235348_181909852_XLarge(1)

Moving along, we found a few more friends.  We have sort of an inside joke revolving around my aversion to the Country Bear Jamboree (sorry), so this photo HAD to happen.


And, how do you pass up a meet-and-greet with THE cricket himself?


We were getting closer and closer to Animal Kingdom, and I couldn’t wait! As I’m sure I’ve mentioned once (or 50 times) before, the great thing about the Walt Disney World Marathon is that there’s always plenty of surprises along the way. Whether it’s a backstage look at floats from some of the parades, the (extremely smelly) sewage treatment area, or some especially attractive topiary.


Or a running goat, for crying out loud! There were several animals out to take pictures with runners, and one of the highlights of my race was getting to run alongside this guy. Who, YES, was wearing a race bib! IMG_1033

Needless to say, I found it downright hilarious. :)

Finally, we were in Animal Kingdom! Unfortunately, this stretch of the course really IS too short — we’re talking a mile or two, tops.


Nevertheless, it offered a great opportunity to 1.) take another in-park bathroom break, with real toilets and EVERYTHING, and b.) gave me a chance to make my knee feel even worse after standing in a fairly long line for the bathroom followed by more character lines.


There was no way I was passing this one up, though, since I missed it last year. I got in line right as Minnie and Daisy mysteriously disappeared…and never actually returned.


In the blink of an eye, it was time to move out of Animal Kingdom. 235348_181746887_XLargeFortunately, the parking lot is a great place for spectators to catch their runners, and there’s always lots of excitement. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to meet Safari Mickey. And for him to steal your fish. :)


As an added bonus, after you run through the “backstage” portion of Animal Kingdom, you’re officially halfway through the marathon.



I’m not gonna lie. I was hurting. My knee was killing me now, and I was still doing a fair amount of hobbling. I had been doing a good job of fueling, alternating between Clif Bloks and Honey Stingers every 45 minutes or so, and I felt okay…other than my stupid, annoying, I-don’t-know-what-the-hell-is-wrong-with-it left knee.

I definitely remember thinking, “we’re ONLY halfway there?!” Granted, I knew there was still plenty of fun ahead, but I also knew that the Hollywood Studios/Epcot portion of the race wouldn’t technically happen until the last 10K. Could I make it that far?

Unfortunately, Todd shared my sentiments. See, we had this great idea that we’d both run a marathon in November — NYCM and Philadelphia — and then he would have absolutely ZERO time with which to recover. He followed a six-week Hal Higdon “multiple marathon” plan in between the two races, which only had him train up to a 16-mile long run.

Needless to say, on that boring stretch of course heading towards the ESPN Wide World of Sports, it wasn’t exactly sunshine and roses for either of us.


Which is a LARGE part of the reason why taking this photo felt absolutely fantastic. The chance to lie down in the middle of a marathon, even just for a second? Priceless.


I was just anxious to get to Wide World of Sports. Todd was asking to take a few intermittent walk breaks here and there, and we were still walking through water stops, so our overall pace was slowing down quite a bit. Plus, there were some spectators handing out snacks, and I’ve been known to eat just about anything during a marathon (in addition to the yummy bananas runDisney gives out!). Honestly, I had turned my Garmin off somewhere in the first 10K, anyway, because it was acting up and I don’t really pay attention to it during a Disney race.

The good news? Although the temperatures had warmed up a bit, the sun still hadn’t really come out. It was nice and cloudy up until that point, and then as we made our way to Wide World of Sports, it started to rain! It was FANTASTIC.

(Of course, I ended up looking like a wet rat for the rest of the race…but who really looks good while running a marathon?)

In Wide World of Sports, we took (yet another) pit stop in a “real” bathroom, and I stood in (yet another) line for the ladies’ room. My knee was still sore at this point, but I think since we weren’t stopping for characters as much (and we did a bit of walking), it was actually starting to feel a little better.IMG_1058

Running in Wide World of Sports is fun and all…but probably not quite as thrilling if you’re not into, you know, sports. Todd enjoyed it, though.


I mainly enjoyed chillin’ with these guys.


And seeing a big, blown-up Baymax. ‘Cuz I love him.


Plus, one of his quotes from the movie just seemed so apropos for this particular moment… ;)


I do like running through the baseball stadium, mainly due to the spectators. I did notice that there seemed to be fewer people cheering us on than I remembered last year, but I also know that had a lot to do with the fact that were bringing up the rear at this point.


I knew that by this time last year, I was almost done with the race. The lines for characters had been getting longer and longer, and we had a LOT of trouble attempting to weave around walls of walkers, especially during narrower points of the course. At times, we decided to walk just for the hell of it, because there was no way we could even try to run without hurting ourselves (or someone else.)

After you’re out of the stadium, you know that the 20-mile marker is SOCLOSE. I knew that if we could make it to mile 20, we’d be just fine — that’s where the fun final 10K begins!

In any normal marathon, those last 6.2 miles can be BRUTAL…but in Disney, it means you still have Hollywood Studios, the Boardwalk, and Epcot to look forward to.


We were still doing okay, physically, and my knee was cooperating a little bit better. I know Todd was struggling with the usual fatigue and pain in his feet and legs, but we were in good spirits. I was still having the time of my life.

I was disappointed not to see the green army man somewhere on the highway before Hollywood Studios, but I know he appeared in other runners’ recaps…so perhaps he was on a coffee break at the time we ran by. Sadness. I always, ALWAYS get a picture with that guy!

Nevertheless, we made it into Hollywood Studios. Which several runners around me were applauding as “the no-sweep zone.”

Honestly, I’ve never once worried about getting swept in a Disney race, which is why I feel like I can take the liberty of stopping for as many characters as I’d like along the way. It’s kind of strange, because I basically bust my butt all year long to keep my pace fairly fast, so that I can have the luxury of going as slow as I want in this particular marathon, haha.

Still, I know we were towards the back of the pack this time around. I knew then that our finish time would definitely be over 7 hours. Last year, I finished in 5:50…which amazes me now because I have no clue how I did that, especially as part of Dopey and with so many character/photo stops! I know that my “racing” pace has gotten slower since my first marathon, which stinks, and plus when you’re running with someone else, you have to be accommodating of their need for pit stops, walk breaks, etc.

Running through the Studios was bittersweet, especially since I knew this would be our last chance to take pictures with “the hat.”


The park was open for the day, which meant plenty of extra spectators to cheer us on. Not to mention the regular park-goers who had no idea what was going on, haha.

I enjoyed every minute of it.


This part of the course also takes you into a backstage” area where you get a look at the costume department, and there’s my favorite stop of all: THE CHOCOLATE STOP. It was there that I learned two very important lessons. Number 1: Hershey’s bars + running = heartburn. Number 2: Stuffing chocolate into your pockets “for later?” Not a good idea in Florida.

But after I munched on some yummy chocolate, I was thrilled to spot some more of my favorites!


And we got to be “Incredible!”235348_181905887_XLarge

We made yet another pit stop on the way out of the park (well, at least I knew I was well hydrated) and headed towards Epcot — THE FINAL PARK. But, first, the course takes you onto yet another crowded pathway, which is annoying, and onto the Boardwalk, which is beautiful.


As we approached Epcot, there was no stopping us. We were no longer taking walk breaks, and our pace picked back up to where it was in the early miles. To me, it felt like we were flying.

I think we both wanted to be DONE. I gotta tell you, being on your feet for 7+ hours can be just a tad exhausting.

Running through World Showcase is always a highlight of the race, not only because you’re just moments away from the finish line, but also because there are always characters with NO WAITS WHATSOEVER! Since the park is open for the day, they let “regular” people take pictures with them, too, but runners get first priority.

235348_181917079_XLarge 235348_182015540_XLarge 235348_181918371_XLarge

Running through Epcot is kind of like taking your own personal victory lap. There’s nothing like it.


Granted, you still have the day guests looking at us throngs of costumed runners like we’re crazy, as they sip beer and nosh on delectable treats from whatever country they happen to be visiting at the time. But you also have tons of spectators watching for their runners, and you know that magnificent finish line is just up ahead.


You make your way into Future World for your final lap before heading back into the parking lot, and I know that at least for me, any pain or physical discomfort I may have been feeling completely disappeared.


This was OUR MOMENT. And it was so, so sweet.


With just two final pictures before the finish line, we finally crossed…in a time of 7:15.

IMG_1101 IMG_1102

Four hours longer than it took me to run the half marathon the previous morning, and nearly an hour and a half longer than it took me to run last year’s marathon.235348_181962663_XLarge

But I didn’t care. I stopped for WAY more pictures this year, and I could not have had more fun.


After collecting our marathon medals and grabbing some goodies, I had to make my way into a special area for my Goofy medal.


This year, they had computer kiosks set up to match your bib number with a photo taken of you at the expo, presumably to help crack down on people trying to play tricks on runDisney when it comes to running with someone else’s bib, etc. After I proved that I was, in fact, Jennifer Nelson, I was allowed to collect my beautiful spinning Goofy medal.


I had done it — AGAIN. And this time around, I was able to focus solely on the experience of running this marathon and less on the panic attacks and the whole “OMG, I CAN’T DO THIS” freakouts from the previous year.

It was amazing. :) PhotoPass_Visiting_Magic_Kingdom_Park_7154478687_2

After I had such a tough time running the New York City Marathon, I NEEDED this. I needed a reminder of how running can be fun, and how much I really do love it.

Running in Disney will always serve as a reminder of why I do this in the first place, and there is no race that will ever top this marathon to me. If I could, I’d run it every year for the rest of my life.

Since I know that this post already went on…and on…and on…I’ll be writing a separate recap with some more highlights from our trip! But after the marathon, we raced (literally) to our first Fastpass+ reservation so that this could happen…


Before getting changed and feasting, in true post-marathon style, at the Crystal Palace.


We spent the rest of the day at Magic Kingdom. And, yes, we DID stay until the end of Extra Magic Hours. So to say we were exhausted would have been an understatement. But Todd knows better than to even THINK about trying to get me to leave the park early. ;)


It was a magical ending to a most magical race. :-D


What do YOU enjoy most about running in Disney?

What has been your most “fun” marathon to date?


  1. Well done! Love all the pictures with the characters. You two are sooo photogenic (I know I’ve said this before) – just great pics!

  2. You got your money’s worth :-p and hopefully you can figure out what’s going on with your knee.

    • Haha, exactly the way I like to look at it! ME TOO. I’ve been trying to be more diligent about icing and resting it (e.g. no more back-to-back running and karate classes) so hopefully that will help.

  3. Ya’ll got some FABULOUS pictures! LOVE them all. My faves are the ones at the finish line and then of course the castle! I am for sure gonna try to get a finish line pic with a character at Princess next month! I never even remembered seeing most of these characters. I did see chip and dale at ESPN and was going to grab a picture but it started to rain and I didn’t want to get my phone out. And what was with that Mime? Where was he suppose to be from? Glad you had a great race! -M

    • Thanks, Meranda! I can never get enough castle pictures, and the finish line pictures can be the best…I love that they’re letting us stop and take pictures with the characters at the end now!

      Haha, so, the mime is from Tangled. He’s in the movie for, like, 10 seconds. Thought it was kind of a random choice for a character stop!

  4. you DID it! and that is all that matters. great recap :)

  5. You have hands down the best race pictures! Next year, I wanna run the Disney marathon with y’all! haha!

  6. I love all your pictures! You always look like you’re having such a blast! No one would have any idea you were in pain while running this! Congratulations to you and Todd! It’s funny how much fun you can have while being kinda miserable. Oh, and I totally learned that lesson about trying to save the chocolate for later…that was not a fun mess in my pocket!

    • Thanks, Kellie! I ALWAYS have a blast. And I definitely know how to turn on the cheesy smile when I spot a photographer, no matter how much pain I’m in. LOL.

      HAHA, glad to know I’m not the only one to make that mistake! I figured since it wasn’t THAT hot, the chocolate would be fine for after the race when I knew I would just love to have something sweet and yummy. Yeeeeahhhhh…notsomuch. ;)

  7. Can I just say that based on these pictures I would have no idea that you had knee pain or that Todd was experiencing any issues either. You two always look like you’re having a blast! I want to run a Disney marathon with you two!

    You two always look great but the second pic of you guys running out of the castle is perfect! Love it!

    • Haha, thanks, Kristina! How awesome would that be? Disney races are the best place to focus more on the fun than the miles, that’s for sure. All the distraction along the way makes it a little easier to ignore the pain! ;)

  8. Great recap! Love all your pictures with the characters. Seeing them makes me think I should have at least stopped for one….will have to do that at my next Disney race! And congratulations on finishing another marathon!!

    • Thanks, Lauren! I know it can be a tough choice to make — it would be really hard to both PR and waste so much time waiting in line for characters during the race. I had to make the choice not to care about my time whatsoever, which is not always easy. But you had an awesome race, so it all worked out! :)

  9. These are GREAT photos! Each Disney race I run, I stop for more character photos. I totally relate to the idea of training hard all year to be fast enough for character stops at Disney races. I loved your pics and your recap!

  10. You and Todd are so adorable! So glad that you two had another awesome Disney race experience!

  11. You guys took some awesome pics as well as the marathon photo ones. Great memories. Congratulations on finishing yet again! And also, I read your article at DisDining. Awesome stuff.

    • Aw, thanks Frank! I appreciate that! :-D Super excited to actually have a legitimate excuse to write about Disney, not gonna lie…lol

Mentioned Elsewhere:

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