I can’t let another day pass by without finally sharing (and bragging) about Mark’s first full marathon and our first ever Disney Marathon weekend – he did incredible and it was fantastic!
When Mark originally booked our resort stay for his Marathon Weekend (Jan 7-9) he only booked Friday, January 7 to Monday, January 10 and I being the Disney fanatic that I am knew that wouldn’t be enough time to actually enjoy the parks because we knew there was a chance he would be completely dead after his race. Sadly, we tried to extend our reservation an extra night to include that Thursday before the race but All-Star Movie Resort, and all the other value resorts were already booked. Not to worry though – instead I grabbed one night at the Flamingo Crossings Marriott and it was amazing! We almost wish we had stayed there the entire weekend… but I’ll get into detail about that later.
Day one consisted of us driving from Tampa to Orlando and going straight to ESPN Wide World of Sports for the race packet pick up and Fitness Expo – we love to check out the official Run Disney Merch but this year we weren’t in love with the options and the items we liked most were already sold out. So, we got Mark’s official race bib and Marathon shirt then headed to the parks!
Since it wasn’t quite time for check in for the hotel – we drove to our first park reservation of the weekend at Disney’s Hollywood Studio’s. Since Mark was about to run 26.2 miles for the first time – the name of the game all weekend was FOOD and HYDRATION. Even though we weren’t able to get an online reservation for Sci-fi Diner – we were lucky enough to get on the walk-up list and only waited about 15 minutes before being seated in one of our personal favorite places – a 50’s style drive in theatre. We enjoyed crispy onion rings, flying saucer impossible burgers, and a long island lunar iced tea while watching sci-fi movie clips and retro drive in commercials. After that we naturally got Blue Milk from Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge and had a quick chat with our man, Chewbacca who loved Mark’s shirt – We wandered the park for some photo ops and then headed to our hotel to get settled.
Fairfield by Marriott Inn & Suites Orlando at Flamingo Crossings Town Center is located just 3.2 miles from Walt Disney World and offers free breakfast. We have stayed at several hotels in the Flamingo Crossing area when we can’t get availability or can’t afford to stay on Disney property and we have always been really pleased. It’s one of our favorite Disney hacks!
Our room was HUGE and gorgeous and high tech, quiet, beautiful, and comfortable. Sadly, we didn’t have much time to spend just enjoying the hotel but what we saw of the pool, dining areas, bar, and breakfast – we definitely plan to return. The only downfall to staying off site is obviously you have to drive yourself to the parks or arrange transportation that isn’t complimentary. As Annual Passholders we park for free at all parks, so it doesn’t bother us that much.
After we got settled in the room, and it was after 2 PM and we had already gone to our park reservation of the day (Hollywood Studios), it was time for a quick Park Hop to Epcot for the night and to of course, find more food! Unfortunately, this time of year is not our favorite time of year at Epcot – we absolutely LOVE Epcot festivals – Art Festival, Flower & Garden, and Wine and Dine, and Holiday Festival is our least favorite but none of those were happening during this time. All outside smaller stands for food and drink were closed and all restaurants were booked, and quick service stands were overwhelmed. We actually got on the list for Spice Road Table and then we were never called…. Thank goodness for Yorkshire County Fish Shop in the UK – we did a mobile order and got fish and chips before turning in for the night.
After the complimentary breakfast at the Marriott – we checked out and headed over to check in at our value resort – All Star Movie Resort – they luckily allowed us to check in super early to get settled for race weekend. We grabbed a drink from the Silver Screen Spirits pool bar then explored the grounds. All Star Movie Resort shut down during the Pandemic and went under a full renovation for all the guest rooms. We stayed here a long time ago in the Mighty Ducks rooms and thought it was “okay” but of course outdated. All Star Movies Resort has a Toy Story, 101 Dalmatians, The Love Bug, Fantasia, and The Mighty Ducks themed areas. We of course think several of these themes could be updated but in general the grounds are really wonderful and definitely bring on the nostalgia. We requested Fantasia which is very close to the pool and main building with dining, gift shop and bus transportation but has less parking near the rooms.
Our day two park reservation was for Disney’s Animal Kingdom, so we headed that way via Disney bus transportation. Let me just touch on Disney bus transportation from All Star Movie Resort – it’s not ideal. All Star Movies shares buses with All Star Music and All Star Sports (temporarily closed) which means that the buses stop at and often fill up at Music before ever getting to Movies AND when you are coming back from parks you also have to sit through the off-loading and on loading at Music before you are returned to your resort – it does make bus times longer since its shared with other resorts so just be aware of that so you aren’t frustrated when wait times are longer.
Once at Disney’s Animal Kingdom we took our time walking the park – having incredible Bloody Mary’s from Dawa Bar, and cocktails at The Thirsty River Bar before getting on the walk-up list at Yak & Yeti – one of our absolute favorites. I always order the Pink Himalayan cocktail and this time we ordered the App of the day, plus the Roasted Vegetable Bowl, and Lo Mein Shrimp – omg take me back!! With a full belly we continued wandering for photo ops then headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up and nap – then to our Disney Springs dinner reservation. I told you this trip was about food, right?
The eve of the race is always full of anxiety and nerves and a full belly of pasta. I made a reservation at Terralina Crafted Italian and IT WAS DELICIOUS! We went straight back to the hotel and hit the hay for our 4 AM wakeup call!
Race day – honestly still a bit of a blur. I accompanied Mark to the parking lot of Epcot at 4 AM and even though I couldn’t get near the start line, there was a huge screen showing what was going on over there. Mark had to walk miles to the start line and even though he was early to arrive he still almost didn’t make it in time – the star-spangled banner played as he walked and then luckily, shortly after arriving to his corral the gun went off for the 5:30 AM start time.
I made the mistake of wearing pjs to see him off because I thought I could immediately get on a bus back to our room. Instead it took until after 7:30 AM for the buses to start running to take me back to the hotel to get changed and bring the bag Mark needed for after the race – I was a panicked mess because I was tracking Mark’s every move and he was getting faster and faster… he humbly told me he would probably take closer to 6 hours and for some reason I believed him… I ran my own marathon that morning – once I got on a bus to the hotel I ran from bus to room, around the room, back to bus, back to the finish line – just in time to see him blow away the time he guesstimated!
Mark’s stats are incredible (if I don’t say so myself): Finished in 4:37:58 and placed 1897 out of 11,334 runners for the entire race. WOAH!
After the race we got a Pineapple Cider in our new Run Disney cups and took photos and recapped all the excitement we both had, while sprawled out in the middle of the parking lot. Next, we got Mark changed to head into Epcot, which would end up being a huge mistake. The race continues until they hit their over 16 min/mile pace, that means runners are still running through the park even well after it has opened to the public. Therefore, many of the paths are completely blocked off, blocking you from going all the way around World Showcase – meaning you can’t get to food or drink. Once we got stuck multiple times, we headed out and back to the hotel instead and ordered food from the quick service restaurant at All Star Movies – food there was good but the experience leading to it was awful – so if you are a runner – don’t bother trying to enter Epcot unless you want to starve – leave and come back later when the race is officially done!