This is part one of a guest post by Mallory Lentz. Look for part two in a few weeks!
Let me start by saying that I don’t like marathons. To be honest, 26.2 miles is a long way to run and training is a lot of work. Each time I run a marathon, I say I’m never doing it ever again.
Except for RunDisney.
The magic, energy, anticipation, costumes, character pictures, volunteers, spectators, and routes that take me through Disney parks are why I love Disney races and why I keep coming back.
In 2012, I ran my first half marathon at Disney World. I honestly had no idea what to expect and wasn’t fully prepared for all RunDisney had to offer. I had barely crossed the finish line before deciding I wanted to do it again and experience the full magic of a Disney race. Since then I have gone back every year to run either the ½ or full during marathon weekend, along with a handful of other race weekends. I have made friends and memories to last a lifetime.
Training for Disney
Whenever I run a marathon, I use the training plans RunDisney offers. For me, it’s the best way to train, mostly because it’s a longer training plan that has me run 3 days a week (Tuesday/Thursday, long run Saturday). It also doesn’t have a continual mileage increase. For example, one week I might run 13 miles, the next 6, then 15, then back down to 7. The back and forth mileage eases my anxiety of the longer runs.
For Marathon Weekend 2020 - my 5th time around - training went better than I had anticipated, and I was actually looking forward to running another marathon.
That was until I looked at the forecast.
In years past, marathon weekend has been cold, and as a Minnesotan, that’s saying something! I signed up assuming it would be cold, and each day I looked at the forecast it progressively got warmer and warmer. For vacation, I love hot weather, but for running, humid and hot are things I prefer to avoid. But complaining about the weather wasn’t going to help me. I couldn’t change the weather, but I could make a plan and be prepared!
Before leaving for Florida, I picked up every hydration option I could find. I loaded up on Liquid IV, Hammer Electrolyte pills, and UCAN hydrate packets. I also had my mom make alterations to my costume to accommodate the warmer weather. I was doing everything I could think of to make sure I was prepared for the unexpected warm weather.
The marathon was on a Sunday, and because RunDisney is pretty strict when it comes to packet pick-up, I like to arrive no later than Friday. This gives me plenty of time to get to the expo,
unpack, and enjoy the parks before the race. (Look who I met at the Expo: Jeff Galloway!)
Not everyone likes to do the parks before the race, as it’s a lot of walking around and standing in line. That’s a lot of extra time on your feet, and running on tired feet and legs isn’t enjoyable. But it’s Disney, and I figure that I can run a marathon anywhere so why not enjoy myself!?
The day before while at the parks, I do take it easy. I don’t walk at my usual power walking pace, I drink water like it’s my job, and I make sure I’m back to my hotel by 4:00 pm,
so I have plenty of time to put my feet up, shower, get my running gear laid out and get to sleep by 7:00 or 8:00 pm.
Rise and Shine, Marathoner!
Before I know it, my alarm starts playing Whitney Houston’s, ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’ at 1:30 am. I feel rested and energized, ready to begin my transformation from Mallory to Mousercise Minnie.
Even though I set everything out the night before, I double and triple check I have everything I need from nutrition to accessories and most importantly my race bib. After getting ready, I prepare my UCAN preworkout, and I let my roommate know I’m heading out.
As I walk to the bus and join the other marathon runners, we each exchange the tired head nod of acknowledgement. This is the morning good luck nod because it’s 3:00 am and everyone’s tired.
The prerace party is already hopping when I get there, as thousands of runners, friends and family are preparing for the race. I station myself by the Bag Drop Trucks and wait for a few friends I’m meeting up with; we take quick pictures before heading to the port-a-potties and make the long walk to our designated corrals.
Once in the corrals, nerves are starting to make their debut, and I completely second guess my decision to run another marathon. Unfortunately it’s too late to back out and as I prepare my Garmin and headphones, there’s nothing left to do but wait for the start and release of my corral.
Mickey and pals countdown 3, 2, 1.
Thousands of runners start their Garmin’s and begin a magical run of 26.2 miles.
It already felt sticky and gross out, and I was barely a mile in. I questioned my ability to make it all 26.2 miles because getting to 4 miles seemed like an impossible feat. I had a game plan in my head, character by character, mile by mile, every ½ mile alternate water and electrolytes, GU/nutrition every 3-4 miles and don’t go too fast.
I honestly wanted to quit between miles 3-7; there wasn’t much as far as entertainment or characters; there was little to motivate me to continue.
Running into the Magic Kingdom changed all that. In the parking lot, hundreds of people were lined up cheering for us runners… and then I heard it “Go TerraLoco, Go Terraloco!!!!” Cue the tears...Someone was cheering specifically for me, they might have been there cheering for their own family member, but they kept an eye out for me and cheered me on. That’s honestly all I needed to keep going.
By the halfway point I was feeling pretty good, even with the increasing temperatures. I stopped for every character and appreciated the much needed breaks.
Between miles 18-20, I was starting to feel fatigued; the sun was beating down, my thighs were starting to cramp and I was starting to feel a little nauseated. I slowed down, and started using the prompts from my Garmin and began utilizing the run/walk I had programmed in earlier that morning.
I was feeling slightly defeated, but texts of encouragement from friends, family and my coaches from Studio really lifted my spirits, and by mile 23 I had my energy back and I was ready to crush the last 3.2 miles.
Heading into Epcot, I knew I was almost done, I’d be crossing the finish line soon.
Even doing 5 other marathons before this, emotions were high. I knew what to expect, I knew what crossing a finish line felt like...but this was somehow different. I had started training only 4 months postpartum, people had told me even running a ½ marathon would be difficult let alone attempting a full. This marathon meant a lot, I felt like I had broken down barriers, and achieved something most only dream of.
I might not be fast or qualify for Boston, but running is something really important to me.
Running at Disney is more than a race: it’s fun, finishing time doesn’t matter, character pictures are taken, medals are earned, memories and magic are made.