Let me start by saying that I LOVE going to the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.  This is seriously, and without exaggeration, up there on my personal calendar at level with Christmas and my birthday.  And I love Christmas and my birthday.  It will not be surprising when I say that I am genuinely looking forward to running my 4th full marathon and some o’dark thirty hour of the morning.  

The weekend started with a 6:30am flight from LaGuardia Airport.  I hate flying out of LGA.  The terminal is dark and old.  The food options are limited.  There aren’t enough seats at the gate.  I will say that security was a breeze and we got to the gate without incident.  Tom and I were hanging out and chatting when I saw my first Disney friend.  This was a member of the Disney’s Moms’ Panel who happens to live in our home town and was heading down on our flight to run the Half Marathon today (Congrats Erin!!!).  We arrived in Orlando, picked up our luggage (our race day clothes were in the carry-on!), and hopped in our rental car.  We made a quick pitstop at Publix to grab some provisions (I would kill for a grocery store like Publix in New York!) and then went to the Race Expo.

The nice thing about the new Dopey Challenge, which started on Wednesday, is the the Race Expo was relatively empty on Thursday morning.  We grabbed our bibs in one building and then headed to the next building for our shirts.  I thought the runDisney merchandise was particularly uninspired (although I LOVE my new race shirts!) and I managed to avoid giving the Mouse any extra money.  Tom waited in line for the lovely KT Tape folks to tape up his ankle while I shopped around.  I bought a few things – new Yurbuds to replaced my broken ones, a few Sweaty Bands, a Dr. Cool wrap for my foot, etc.  We avoided buying the adorable but pricey New Balance sneakers that runDisney has released (although I have a pang of regret because they are SO cute).  Other than my friend from our flight, we saw nobody that we knew at the Expo.  Normally I would see Jeff Galloway but since he is running the Dopey, he wasn’t there at that time.

My husband and I enjoyed a drama-free, child-free afternoon at Epcot which ended with a drink at the wine bar Tutto Gusto and dinner at Via Napoli.  We went to bed early and the alarm went off at 2:45am.  We made it on the 2nd monorail over to Epcot, breezed through the security check (they inspected running belts and water bottles this year instead of just inspecting “checked” baggage), and headed to the area near the DJ.  And that’s when the real fun began! We met a few of my online running teammates from Team Studios Central, ran into a few random friends, and got some text messages from other friends who wanted to make sure we saw each other before the race.  The starting corrals were crowded which prevented us from seeing as many people as we’d hoped but we did run into a few more friends on the course.

I’ll write up the 10k more later but we finished.  And Tom crossed his first finish line!  Once we were beyond the finishers’ chute, we ran into some more “virtual” friends.  One of the women we saw is someone that I’ve “known” for 4 years and finally met in person! There were hugs and pictures and catching up.  Even though my husband’s ankle was really hurting, he realized how important this was to me. Later that afternoon while he recovered from the 10k, I headed over to Epcot by myself.  I sent out a Tweet that I was wandering Epcot and happy to catch up.  One of my Team Studios Central friends was also solo in Epcot and we sat and talked for an hour.  Then we headed over to Beach Club for the Mickey Miles Podcast meet-up.  We were 30 minutes early and so was our other teammate.  We enjoyed some quality time together.

At the Mickey Miles Podcast meet-up I ran into many old friends and finally met some virtual friends.  I also met some wonderful new people.  The love and support of the group was amazing! It’s one of the best things that has entered my life through running – these awesome friendships! Here is a group of people as diverse as you can imagine and yet we all share a love for running and a desire to help one another across the finish line.  I am so fortunate and blessed to know my running friends – whether I’ve met you in person or not. After the meet Tom and I joined another couple (more running friends!) for dinner in Epcot before going home and crashing.

Today we wore our 10k medals around Hollywood Studios where we talked to many Cast Members and fellow runners about running.  We enjoyed some rides but mostly enjoyed some wonderful human interaction.  Even at dinner tonight we talked to more runners about running.  What could be better!

Tomorrow I will conquer another marathon while being surrounded by friends who share my love.  And with my husband on the sidelines cheering.  And with many friends from across the Country sending me “virtual support” via text messages and social media.  All in the name of Running.  It doesn’t matter if I finish in 5:30 or 6:30.  I will finish because I will be carried through the course by the love and support of the running community – both those who are here with me this weekend and those who are home and taking time to cheer anyway.

And this is why I LOVE running and especially running at Disney!