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(Special thanks to Disney-Dead Holly Thompson for scanning these photos for me.)
Yep, I do 26.2! Although January 11, 1998 marked my second marathon, it was the first Disney marathon I'd done -- and I really enjoyed it. With its 7-hour limit, it encourages even recreational walkers to participate.
The promise of the 1998 marathon brochure was "Herculean Entertainment," and the finish line theme, as well as some of the featured characters, were from Disney's animated "Hercules" film. Entry fees were $50 for the marathon, $25 for the half marathon, and $50 per team for the Ekiden Relay. Tickets to a carbo dinner featuring photo ops with Hades, Phil, and Meg from "Hercules" as well as a pasta and salad buffet (which included take-home bottled water and fresh fruit) were $18.
The free marathon expo at Disney's Wide World of Sports facility was a bit lean, but did feature several celebrity speakers, including Jim Ryun, Nancy Clark, Alberto Salazar, Joan Benoit-Samuelson, Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Jeff Galloway, among others. Included in the expo exhibits were "recruiters" from other marathons. One fun booth offered a chance to get a computer-generated photo of you and Hercules in the FamilyFun 5K or you and Mickey in the WDW Marathon.
As far as the marathon course itself... What stands out in my mind are the parts of the marathon that went through the Disney parks and resorts, making my overall feeling about the marathon a very positive one. The race began at 6 a.m. and we headed toward Epcot. The music, fountain, and lights as we were going into Epcot early in the morning were just incredible -- and the music throughout the park was so dramatic that I was awestruck. I also loved that all the Disney Cast Members from all the countries in Epcot were lined up in costume and cheering for us.
The Magic Kingdom was even more spectacular for me -- not only did I dance to a steel drum band and run through Cinderella's Castle, I high-fived Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, Raffiki, Timon, Geppetto, Pinnochio (I'm sure there were others that I've forgotten) -- and Cruella saw my dalmation bandana and said, "I could make a coat out of that one!". As I came through Future World, they were playing the music from Spectromagic that accompanies Cinderella's appearance and I had to draw a ragged breath as my eyes brimmed with tears -- I had an almost palpable recollection of my little girls' sense of wonder at the tiny ponies and Cinderella waving "right at us, Mommie!" I guess that was the exact moment that it hit me that I was really doing the Disney Marathon!
When we reached the part of the course that took us along the highway out to the Wide World of Sports, it was more like a "normal run": flat, spectatorless, and boring. The highway out and back took forever, and there seemed to be nothing to see once you got there. But after the Wide World of Sports, we ran through the Gates of Hell (which was cool) then came to Disney-MGM and the Blues Bros were playing. There were spectators and Cast Members in costume cheering us there too -- I was tired by then and so much of it is a blur, but it was great. By the time we came back through Epcot heading toward the finish, I realized my jaws were actually aching -- I'd been walking/running with this huge grin the whole time.
Completing that marathon was the realization of a year-long dream. The perfect weather, venue, characters, and the music made the experience all the more... well, as they say, "magical." And as icing on the cake, even though I finished achy, exhausted and a slow 6:11 -- still a PR for me, there were Disney-Deads Dave and Eileen and their friend Ellen cheering me to the finish again. Tears of gratitude streamed down my face as I collected my Mickey-shaped medal, realizing they stayed long after they'd finished the course themselves just to cheer me on. I was not alone this time, and it felt great. I didn't get to thank them in person -- So I'll thank them now: THANKS!
All marathon participants received a long-sleeved four-color marathon logo t-shirt. Finishers received the traditional Mickey-head-shaped medal. The medal includes an area on the back to engrave the date and finishing time. (Engraving was available at the Wide World of Sports or at the Disney Marketplace.) Characters (in my case, Mickey, Pluto, and Goofy) were available at the finish line for souvenir photos. I was so exhausted at the finish, I didn't take advantage of that in 1998, but I will in 1999!
For an archive of posts from runners and walkers training for and completing the Disney marathon, half-marathon, relay, and 5K -- as well as many more photos and race reports, visit the home page for the Disney-Deads (listserv) virtual training group.