Op-Ed: Walt Disney World Marathon Motivational Moments

in Disney, Events, Walt Disney World

2020 Walt Disney World Marathon medal

Credit: Disney

We’re 26 days away from the beginning of the 2020 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, Jan. 8-12, and that may well be the number of miles you’re due to run this weekend — 26. So, how about a little pixie-dusted motivation to get you in the mood?

My first runDisney Marathon

Two years ago, I was preparing to run my first Disney marathon — the 25th anniversary Walt Disney World Marathon. My first time to ever run a marathon, something I thought I’d never do. I’d run the Princess Half, even the Glass Slipper Challenge, and I had two Coast to Coast medals from races at Walt Disney World and Disneyland (do you miss those as much as I do?) and in my training, I ran the Wine and Dine Two-Course Challenge. I LOVE runDisney, but a marathon? Not me.

I hadn’t planned on running this race, and then a dear friend of mine that I’d trained to run longer distances decided to sign up. It was then that I figured if I was going to continue to coach and train with her, well, I might as well get a medal, too!

Training for the Walt Disney World Marathon

And so, we set out to train for a marathon. We researched and read everything we could for any tips and tricks and tried and true training, and that led us to Jeff Galloway, former Olympian and runDisney trainer. , a 29-week training program, was just what we needed! Between that and the encouragement of the runDisney community on social media, suddenly we didn’t feel quite so alone or overcome by our upcoming, magical quest.

At the Walt Disney World Marathon start
Credit: Jessica Quinn

Marathon Race Day

The day came and to our surprise, my friend, Courtney, and I were settled in our corral, ready to go an hour before our start time, and freezing I might add, when we met a new friend, Shelby. Shelby was a nursing student from the University of Florida, whose grandmother had worked at Disney for 40 years. She’d recently hurt her back and she was by herself and we did what you do in a runDisney corral, you talk about your love of all things Disney and you bond. Little did we know that when we invited Shelby to run along with us, that she would, and she would do it for 26.2 miles.

Tip: Wear something you can shed. Disney donates the clothes to charity.

Magic Kingdom Castle during marathon
Credit: Jessica Quinn

Over the next several hours, we stayed strong on our intervals, we’d trained and we knew we could do this, but the doubts would try to creep in, and yet we kept going, encouraging one another and reading encouraging texts we were receiving from our friends and family. My sister and brother were running as well, so knowing they were out there ahead of me was also motivating to keep going for that reunion at the finish.

Tip: Text your family to let them know when you are getting close to their spectator location, and find out where they are standing. Makes the stop quicker. Can you say dry socks?

Mr. Toad photo stop on WDW Marathon
Credit: Jessica Quinn

We ran and we shed layers, we shed tears of joy, we laughed — a lot, and we took really funny pictures with some characters we knew and some others that we didn’t. We found our loved ones along the way and posed for pictures with them, too. (Thanks, honey, for those dry socks at mile 14!)

Tip: Unless you’re an elite runner, take the time to stop for pictures. The memories are worth it!

Marathon through Disneys Animal Kingdom
Credit: Jessica Quinn

The Wall?

Everything I’d read warned about the wall, hitting the wall. And you know what? We didn’t.

It made no sense. I thought for sure as we ran the, well, less than exciting road to ESPN Wide World of Sports, maybe we’d hit it then, and we came close, but we didn’t. Or maybe running around every possible square foot of ESPN, but we didn’t there either. (And thankfully it sounds like you won’t have to either with the new course for 2020!)

We played word games where we had to come up with Disney movie titles, or characters, or stories, that began or ended with the last letter of that word. You do what you have to do to get your mind off the fact that your body is tired. When one of us got quiet, we’d lift the other up.

It was amazing how we arrived at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and realized how far we’d come, how few miles left to go, and we were still going! We were doing it! And I’ll never, ever forget hearing the Hercules lyrics of “Go the Distance” as we made our final in-park run around the World Showcase at Epcot.

“…I won’t look back, I can go the distance

And I’ll stay on track, no I won’t accept defeat

It’s an uphill slope

But I won’t lose hope, ’till I go the distance

And my journey is complete…”

Songwriters: Alan Menken / David Joel Zippel, © Walt Disney Music Company

And then we rounded the corner, rejoiced with the Gospel choir, and we did it. We went the distance and crossed the finish line!

25th Anniversary WDW Marathon Medal
Credit: Jessica Quinn

Tip: Add this song to your running list! Find music that motivates you.

So, this weekend, when you’re tired, you’re enjoying the warmth of your bed or your couch. Get up. Run the miles you need to run. Set your goals to fight those mental blocks — you know you can make it to that next street sign, or that next grouping of bright Christmas lights a block away. Wherever you find yourself — keep going. Finish your training strong this weekend, and then you are that much closer to accomplishing your goal.

The medal is amazing, but the life-long title of “Marathoner” is even more magical! Go run. I know you can go the distance.

Are you running the marathon this year? We’d love to hear how your training is going in the comments below!

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