Held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, it was open for 2 of days prior to race day. With there being so many events, they used one arena for getting your gear bag and your bib and the other arena for the Vendor Sales. You could find a booth for official Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend gear in both arenas, but the one in the gear area was a lot busier, and actually out of several items on the day I went.
I purposely chose to go on Thursday, knowing most people would be picking up their things on Friday. Parking was easy (and free) and if you were staying at a Disney World resort they offered free shuttles.
My friend Jim was wonderful enough to give me a ride the morning of the race so my parents didn't have to get up at 3am with me. Yes. 3. AM. Grosses me out too. I was slightly worried that the traffic would be a little heavy, but had no problems what so ever. Gave ourselves 30 minutes to get into Epcot and get parked, and we had no issues.
The pre-race 'warm-up' was actually pretty entertaining. Tony Horton (of P90X fame) was leading the group, and for 4:30am, people were getting pretty pumped. I knew people would be wearing costumes, but I wasn't quite prepared for the creativity out there. Some people played it 'safe' - running skirt and mouse ears, while some went over the top, and definitely had to be admired. The documentation said to allow for 20 minutes to get from the pre-race area to your corrals. I gave myself about 30, and I'm glad I did. It's quite the hike, but actually a good warm up if you didn't participate in the Tony Horton one. And there were porta-potties the entire way, which was nice, because the lines at the pre-race area one were pretty long.
One thing I loved (among the many) was the fact people were actually checking your bib for which corral you should be in. This is so helpful in so many ways. And their kept the corrals segregated by fences. Not that I'm an all-star runner, but when you get ready to take off and you some how got behind a walker? Yea, not a pretty (or motivating) experience. Once I'd gotten into my corral, had some time to kill, but they kept you entertained with several screens with videos, interviews, and music.
I did notice as our corral was moved up that several people must not have heeded the 20 minute time recommendation because people started just jumping the fences to get in our corral, but even those people had been "pre-screened" - I was in wave C, and these were all wave A-C bibs coming in.
Donald Duck (the race Mascot), Mickey, and Goofy kicked off each wave of runners, complete with fireworks. That was pretty cool. Each wave was given a 5 minute head start before the next corral was even moved up. This gave you plenty of room to find your pace from the very get go. Even at 5:30am, the crowds at the starting line were huge! One thing I think could be improved on is that the crowds are kept on the other side of a divided service road. Almost as if it were on the other side of a divided highway. So it was a little hard to see/hear them, but it was still cool that there were so many people.
Within the first mile, we hit our first on-course entertainment - a local high school band with cheerleaders. I lost count of how many of those I saw on the course, but I have to give all of them credit for getting up so early, on a Saturday, to play in the cold.
Course was relatively flat and fast - only a few overpasses, and at the last (what seemed like the most challenging one) they had one of the Toy Story army characters cheering you on.
Finish Line/Post Race
The last half mile was insane - so many people and so much excitement, I couldn't help but just get even more excited. As you turn the last corner, the crowd is even louder and you can see the finish line. Finishing the race was honestly a blur - crossing the finish line, getting my medal, and going through the refueling section was easy - everybody was moving smoothly, no issues, no running out of medals or blankets. I had signed my parents up for the Ch-ear Squad, so they had access to special Finish Line Bleachers, and the nice staff let me in to meet up with them, so like everything else so far it was smooth sailing.
Started off chilly, in the low 60's I believe - wore a cheap sweatshirt until the race started and left that at the starting line, short sleeve dri-fit tee, capri length running tights. Little chilly until the sun came up, about half way through the race. Temp at finish time I believe was about 70, partially sunny (didn't need sunglasses or a hat at all)
Loved this race, hands down one of my favorite races yet. Everything was just so well run, so easy to deal with. Loved this race so much, I'm pretty serious about signing up for the 2013 1/2.. which would extend my racing to 14 in 14 months. Oh. Darn.
Things I Loved
*Characters (both Disney and Runners)
*Gospel Choir in the last 1/2 mile
*Energy of the crowd the last mile, certainly at the finish line
Things I Didn't Love
*There really wasn't anything I could improve