Walt Disney World Marathon 2013 Review

The 2013 Walt Disney Marathon was my first marathon and I feel that it was a poor choice.

There were approximately 27,000 participants in the full marathon. This is an insane number of people. The runners were divided into eight corrals which, mathematically speaking, means there were about 3,375 people in each corral. To be placed in a corral, runners were asked to submit a time from a previous race. In my case, I submitted a half marathon time of 1:45:08 (8:01 per mile pace) and I was placed in the “C” corral (A being the fastest group, H being the slowest). Each corral’s start time was six minutes apart. For example, corral A started at 5:36 am, corral B started at 5:42 am, and corral C started at 5:48 am.

Before my group took off I worked my way to the front of the corral. My goal was 3:45:00, which required a 8:35 pace. I used a Nike+ GPS watch to keep pace and I maintained a 8:25 pace out of the gate. The race was proceeding perfectly the first half mile or so, but things quickly fell apart.

Even though my corral started six minutes after the previous one, I caught the tail end of corral B within the first mile of the race. Surprisingly, people in corral B were walking. Worse, the 3-lane road at the start of the race quickly became a single lane. To maintain my target pace I was forced to worm my way through thousands of “runners.” At many points I was forced to run in the grass, which was extrememly dangerous given it was still dark out. I was approximately 10 miles into the race before I felt like I could run comfortably.

After a miserable 4:04:00 finish, I learned that approximately 8,600 of the participants were taking place in the “Goofy Challenge,” which is the half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday. In other words, almost 1/3 of the runners had finished a half marathon the previous day and their legs were already fried. Conversely, those of us who were only running the full marathon had fresh legs and were ready to fly. The Goofy Challenge racers should not maintain their corral going into Sunday. Instead, they should be moved further back in the queue.

In my opinion, this is not a marathon for a runner who is seeking to set a personal best.

Some other random thoughts:

  • The signage leading into the park was totally insufficient. If I were not somewhat familiar with the area I would have gotten lost.
  • The course went “offroad” around the ESPN Wide World of Sports. Running through dirt and tree roots is no fun 18 miles into a marathon.
  • If you are walking within the first mile of a marathon you don’t belong there.
  • If you are stopping for water at the mile 1 water station you probably don’t belong there.
  • If you must walk during a marathon get to the far right.
  • 27,000 people started the marathon and only 20,679 finished so I’m not being harsh, I’m being honest.
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