Patty Winter's
Walt Disney World Trip
January, 2007

Day 3 (Sunday, Jan. 7)

Marathon Day!

  • Gliding to the Grand Floridian
  • Penguins, otters, and Mary Poppins
  • Jingle jangling in the jungle with Mickey
  • (Click on any photo to see a larger version. Click on links to see additional information or photos.)

    Today was the day! Cheering on my friends Lloyd and Meg in the Walt Disney World marathon was the nominal reason for my Disney World visit--although of course, I'd been looking for an excuse to use my annual pass again anyway. :-)

    As I walked out the door at 4:30 a.m., my worst fears about the weather were confirmed: it was warm and muggy. The weather forecast called for it to remain this way until Tuesday. I felt really bad for the runners, because this is just the kind of weather they don't need.

    From looking at the marathon booklet and talking to my net-friend Laura, I had chosen the Grand Floridian resort as a good place to watch the runners. Specifically, I had told Lloyd that I would try to be near the Mile 12 marker, which looked to be just north of the hotel on Floridian Way. So after I took the special marathon bus to Epcot, I caught a monorail to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC), and then another to the Grand Floridian.

    Those of you who've taken the Epcot monorail know that it goes through some forested areas of Walt Disney World. It was eerie and beautiful gliding over the treetops in the quiet predawn hours, a waning moon overhead.

    Floridian Way north of the hotel had no streetlights, but with the help of the moonlight, I managed to find the Mile 12 sign not far past the Grand Floridian convention center. The sign was accompanied by a generator that was running speakers to provide music and encouraging comments for the racers. Other than that, the 12-mile point had only grass and dirt. So I decided to hang out at the service road for the convention center, which was only a hundred feet or so south of the sign and had a few CMs hanging around. I had a very nice time chatting with a Disney security guard named Bob, and a hotel maintenance person named Van who kindly went and got me a patio chair to sit in.

    As I mentioned earlier, the air was humid and warm even before dawn. The skies were clear when I came over to the Grand Floridian about 5:00 a.m. But perhaps an hour later, the air hit its dewpoint, and the whole area around me became covered in ground fog. We could only see a couple of hundred feet up the road toward the direction of the runners.

    So I'm sitting there in my chair at the edge of Floridian Way, chatting with the CMs and waiting for the racers to reach us, when who should come up the service road but a Disney character handler with Mary Poppins, Burt, and two penguins! I knew that Disney brought out lots of characters to cheer on the runners during all of the races, but I didn't expect to be near any of them. I chatted with them a bit, then got my photo taken with them before the runners began arriving.

    The first wheelchair racer came by us at about 6:55, and the first foot runner about five minutes later. The elite runners, of course, were well ahead of the pack by the 12-mile mark, so we didn't get a steady stream of runners until after 7:30 a.m. Around that time, I turned on my cell phone to see how Lloyd was doing. There was a message giving the time when he had had passed the 5-mile mark, so I left the phone on to await the 10-mile alert.

    In the meantime, I clapped for the passing runners and watched Mary Poppins and her friends cheer them on. Actually, the penguins didn't talk, and Mary herself hardly said anything. But Burt was constantly calling out, "Very good! Step in time! Step in time!" and other encouragements. By now, the elite runners had finished the race, and we were getting a lot of recreational runners carrying cameras and stopping to have their photos taken with the Disney characters. Mary and Burt and the penguins (who took a couple of breaks) had an almost constant stream of visitors, keeping their handler Carrie busy taking photos.

    Further entertainment was provided by some otters who were trying to get from one part of a canal to another via Floridian Way. (I was told later that there are grates on the canal to keep detritus from getting into Seven Seas Lagoon, so that's why the otters couldn't swim under the road.) Actually, I shouldn't say that it was entertaining, because the otters were clearly distressed.

    One of them finally made across Floridian Way it through a gap in the runners, which then left the other otters even more upset at being separated from him. I think that first otter later came back. Meanwhile, whenever an otter would run across the grass and approach the runners, one of the security guys would scoot it back toward the canal. As they pointed out, an otter could trip a runner, or bite one on the ankle. Or the otter itself could get hurt. All in all, it was best to keep them away from the road until the runners were gone.

    About 8:30, I began staring earnestly at my cell phone, waiting for the text message telling me that Lloyd had passed the 10-mile mark. Suddenly, I saw Lloyd waving at me from up the road. The 10-mile alert finally showed up about 45 minutes later. Subsequent alerts were prompt, so the system must have gotten overloaded for a while.

    Lloyd decided to stop and chat with me for a couple of minutes, giving us a chance to reconfirm our plans for meeting up at the end of the race. (I wasn't going to try to view the actual finish line, but instead would go to the family reunion area at Epcot and wait for him there.) I also convinced him to have his photo taken with Mary and Burt. Then he was off and running again.

    I stayed around for a little while after Lloyd left, then began working my way back to Epcot. I had brought some food with me, but with all the excitement of watching the race, I hadn't eaten much of it. So I found a bench in the courtyard of the Grand Floridian and munched on a blueberry muffin and some yogurt. Then I caught the monorails back to Epcot, photographed a couple of benchmarks outside the park entrance, and sat in the shade near the finish area for a while.

    Around 10:30 a.m., I went into the park for a while. Spaceship Earth was handy, and had almost no line, so I went on that ride. Then I checked for passholder exclusive pins (didn't see anything that grabbed me) and watched runners coming through Future World on their way to the finish line.

    I left the park at 11:00, walked to the reunion area (which was off in a remote Epcot parking lot), found a spot in the shade near the exit of the "L" tent, and waited for word on Lloyd. The 20-mile alert came through, and I could see that his pace had slowed down considerably. In chatting with some other runners who were resting with friends outside the tent, I wondered whether the weather was affecting his pace; one person said that when the sun came out, she felt like she had hit a wall. Once again, I was glad that I was sitting in the shade instead of running in the heat!

    The message that Lloyd had crossed the finish line displayed on my cell phone shortly before 1:00 p.m., and he came out of the tent a few minutes later. He sat down next to me in the shade, and we chatted while he ate a bit of the food that was handed out to the incoming runners.

    It turned out that around the 14-mile mark, he got a cramp in one leg, so he dropped to a walk. That worked, but as soon as he tried running again, the cramp came back. After a couple more attempts at running, he gave up and decided to walk the rest of the way. Luckily, he was well ahead of the allowable time at that time. (Runners had to keep at least a 16-minute per mile pace.) So he calculated that he could walk the remaining 12 miles and still have an authorized finish. I applaud anyone who made it 26 miles in that heat, walking or running!

    (By the way, there was a thing called Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge that let people register for both the half marathon and the marathon. Yikes! I saw a few people emerge from the tent with the Goofy medal as well as their marathon medal. I later heard that some people even did the 5K family fun run on Friday as well as the two races on Saturday and Sunday. It makes me tired just hearing about it...)

    After Lloyd rested for a while, we left Epcot. Lloyd, Nick, and I had originally planned to go to Animal Kingdom to see the last performance of the Christmas parade. But Lloyd decided that he should return to Pop Century and rest. I took a runners and spectators bus to Animal Kingdom Lodge, then made the short bus trip to the park, arriving about 2:45 p.m.

    The plan was to meet Nick in front of Tusker House at 3:30. I wondered whether there might be time to go over to Asia and ride Expedition Everest, but decided it would be too rushed, if it was even possible. Besides, I can be happy hanging around Harambe village looking at the theming and enjoying the entertainment. So I went straight to that area, found a shady concrete bench near Tusker House, and settled in a little before 3:00. Nick found me there just before 3:30, and we had a nice view of Mickey's Jingle Jungle Parade, which began its route not far from us on the other side of Tusker House.

    After the parade passed by and we could make our way out of the park, Nick and I took a bus back to Pop Century and went up to Lloyd's room. Lloyd happened to have just the right cable to connect my digital camera to his computer, so we downloaded the photos I'd taken of him so he could email them to his wife Meg back in California. It was too bad that Meg couldn't be here for the marathon, but I'm glad that I was able to be there to cheer Lloyd on and get some photos of him.

    The three of us went to the Pop Century cafeteria for dinner. I had the fish special, which turned out to be salmon and wasn't half bad. I then said goodnight to the guys (Nick was staying at Pop also) and caught a bus to Downtown Disney, where I did some shopping at World of Disney before continuing on to Port Orleans. I stopped at Fulton's General Store at Riverside to get some throat lozenges, figuring that my throat had started feeling sore because of cheering for the runners this morning. No such luck, as I realized the next morning. :-( I went to bed about 9:00 p.m., which is way early by my standards -- except when I've been up since 3:45 a.m.!

    Steps today: 28,100, or about 8.5 miles.

    Planning | Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 4
    Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8

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    Text and photos (c) 2007 Patricia F. Winter, unless otherwise noted.

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    Last updated 2/9/07