Celebration is only a short distance from Disney World in Orlando and most of the participants in the full and half marathon here, perhaps 98%, are from Florida. This is bound to change as word spreads about this neat set of races. Last year I did the inaugural marathon and enjoyed it so much that I decided to do it again.
The race this year did not disappoint. Although the weather was colder than last year (mid-40’s at the start and only 60 by the time I finished), it was sunny and dry. The dryness was important because the wooden boardwalk bridges which are so easy on the feet and legs become treacherous when icy and wet. I discovered this during the first loop when I could feel my shoes slip while crossing the bridges. While the bridges were dry, the cold chilly weather during the night must have caused them to freeze. I came across two people in two separate places who had fallen and needed medical assistance. I wasn’t going very fast to begin with but I slowed way down as I became aware of the slippery nature of the course in those wee hours. As the sun rose, the bridges became much less of a problem.
My posting from January 28, 2014, gives more details on this race and the local area, so I will just summarize here and note several positive changes. We stayed at the host hotel, the Bohemian Marriott. It is pricey, even with the marathon discount, but you cannot beat the convenience. It is right in the heart of downtown Celebration and the start and finish are within easy walking distance. In fact, I could see the starting line area from my hotel room window.
There were several major improvements over last year’s event, including:
- A larger expo with more vendors (though it is still small compared to many larger race expos)
- The tee shirt is gender specific and a women’s medium fit me fine; even better, the fabric this year is a soft blend of cotton and bamboo in a pretty light green. I will actually wear this shirt
- The course is very well-marked and this year had large signs with red arrows to keep racers moving in the right direction. Since this is a double loop course for marathoners, it gets pretty lonely on that second loop, so it was good to have those directional arrows as well as plenty of volunteers to make sure we didn’t get lost
- The dangerous section between mile 12 ½ and 14 was altered so racers were directed to the sidewalk instead of to a street closely packed with parked cars and traffic – an important safety measure
- There was more food at the finish line for back-of-the-packers. I am not sure how people fared at the very end of the race, but when I finished at 6:16, I was able to have my choice of pizza, beans and rice, chicken and rice, bagels, and fruit as well as mimosas, beer, and water
There were plenty of well-stocked aid stations with gracious volunteers, some offering gels, orange slices, and bananas. The 7 hour time limit makes the race a good choice for walkers.
My only concern as I traversed that second loop was the lack of volunteers monitoring the course in case someone needed help. On that first loop when several people fell, there were many racers around to assist and medical aid and volunteers on bikes were plentiful. On the second loop, however, if I had fallen between miles 14 to the finish, it would have taken a while for someone to realize I was hurt and to get help. Since I was aware of that, I slowed my walking pace considerably. Despite this, I enjoyed the race immensely. My guess is that this marathon will increase in popularity and will draw more runners and walkers from around the country.