Helen’s Disney Race Weekend

Toronto Power Walkers arrived in Disney prepared to complete the Goofy Challenge of completing two races in one weekend. A half marathon followed by a full. Coupled with the distance challenge was the reality of getting out of bed at 3 am. Both races start time was 5:35.

Race 1 – Half Marathon
Ela, Lorna and Phyllis found me walking to the start line, unbelievable given there were 21,969 participants . We were in the last corral and that meant nearly an hour wait until we crossed the start line. We watched the fireworks and chatted about the race and what lay ahead. Four of us crossed the start line together and walked a few miles until Phyllis and Ela sped up. Nothing new there.

Lorna and I had a plan, walk a steady pace of 9:20 per kilometer which we were able to do most of way. The route was crowded and narrow in the parks. We were content to walk the distance at our pace. We were saving ourselves for the marathon. The route was lined with Disney characters, I would say, every mile or less. Many people stopped for photos of the mile marker or their favorite character. It was a lot of fun watching the characters and waving to them. My favorite was a the GI Joe type character that encouraged us to get up the hill, telling us we trained for it. Or maybe my favorite was the wedding singer, who looked so out of place on the side of the road. My most favorite ‘characters’ on the route were of course, Susan and her husband Alex and my husband Jim – our tireless cheering squad.

It was great to see them cheering along the route and at the finish. Lorna and I stopped and took a picture of our cheering squad. Their enthusiasm was contagious. We enjoyed the route and walked confidently, upright and smiling at the finish. We met up with Phyllis and Ela who finished 9 minutes ahead of us. We stretched and ate post race food of bananas, oranges, blueberry mufffins and powerade or water. We all returned to the Port Orleans Disney resort by bus. Ela, Lorna and Phyllis took the free water taxi back to the Disney Marketplace and from there walked back to their hotel. I went back to my hotel to soak and stretch in the pool rather than a cold bath followed by some reading and a nap. Ela , Lorna and Phyllis were more energetic than I, they went to the race expo Saturday afternoon.  Ela even hit the outlet mall with Susan and Alex that evening!

Race 1 over – feeling great.

Race 2 – Full Marathon
The next morning I met Phyllis, Lorna and Ela at the letter T meeting spot . “T” for Toronto Power Walkers. We walked the distance to the start, about a 10 minute walk. It was colder than Saturday, we were wrapped in race blankets and had extra layers on. I wore a lovely beige wool turtleneck on top of my black Midsummer race shirt and I kept it on until 8K. Phyllis and Lorna shared a pair of gloves. Lorna proudly wore her Toronto Power Walkers jacket for the first half of the marathon. Lorna would run every so often and it was inspiring to see our logo from a few metres behind her.

Phyllis and Ela were ahead after a few miles and that was expected. They were aiming to keep below 9:15 but in reality they were averaging approx 8:40/k. Ela and Phyllis kept reminding each other to slow down. Lorna and I had one goal  – to finish before 7 hours. Our strategy was to walk a comfortable 9:20 pace the full marathon.

There were some different Disney characters on the route, some we’d seen before and others not so familiar. The route takes you through four parks: Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios with the start and finish at Epcot . We saw areas not open to the public and backroads in Animal Kingdom . One thing I did not expect was animals out cheering us on but in the Animal Kingdom there were two goats and an owl out there with Disney staff . Lots of volunteers cheering, bands playing, cheerleader teams and Disney employees encouraging the participants.

There was a late model car club cheering us on complete with some members in fifties costumes, old cars and people riding unicycles. It was wonderful. At times Lorna and I thought how are we doing this? We didn’t have the benefit of full training. So how is this possible?(Distraction and slower pace)  As we entered Epcot for the last mile, I remarked to Lorna we could stop and buy a coffee and still make the cut off time. Of course we didn’t stop and after seeing Susan, Alex and Jim at the finish we walked a little stronger with bigger smiles as we high-fived Goofy when we crossed the finish line. We were given our Mickey Mouse medal for the marathon and then a few more steps and we were given our Goofy medal for well, being Goofy and completing both races . Phyllis and Ela had finished 30 minutes ahead of us and were there to greet us at the finish. We all were the epitome of ‘upright and smiling’!

We met for a celebratory dinner on Sunday night, joined by Beth (Phyllis’s daughter) and our cheering squad, Susan , Alex and Jim as well as Phyllis and Lorna’s colleague, Anne who also completed the Goofy, and her husband Rob. We all slept well that night, especially since we did not need to get up early the next morning.

Great fun, great races, and we’d all do it again!  Susan – when you are physically up to it, we’ll be there with you!

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