“You are now headed to the most magical place on Earth, a place where dreams come true!” – Disney Marathon Weekend, Part 1

I would apologize for taking so long to write this, but the fact of the matter is I’ve been crushed by exhaustion from this epic weekend. Sorry I’m not sorry. Nick, Robin, Chuck and I set off on Friday morning to Walt Disney World to run the Disney Marathon for Team in Training.  For those of you who have never had the pleasure of arriving at Disney World by plane, you get to take Disney’s Magical Express everywhere you want to go as long as you are staying at the park. These people take their jobs seriously. When we finally got on the bus to head to our hotel, the bus driver proclaimed, “You are now headed to the most magical place on Earth, a place where dreams come true!” He was so excited. It was like it was the first time he had ever said that. Naturally, I snickered like an asshole. On Disney’s Magical Express, they play a movie that shows home video of kids finding out they are going to Disney World. While I probably shouldn’t admit this, it makes me tear up every time. They are just SO EXCITED. See? Even the T-Rex has a heart, even if it is two sizes too small and it is only affected by Disney magic.

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We checked into the hotel and then boarded Disney’s Magical Express and headed to the Expo (Yes, I will be calling it Disney’s Magical Express instead of simply “the bus” every single time. There’s a big difference between a bus and a magical express. Get with it.).  It was one of the biggest expos I’ve ever seen.

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As  you all know, I love a race with a mascot. Fortunately, Disney has a lot of mascots so it was pretty much the best thing ever. I love Disney World, but I can’t really wear a lot of Disney apparel in normal life. I feel creepy doing that. So I bought a marathon pint glass and a little mascot, since stuffed animals obviously aren’t creepy when owned by a grown-ass woman.

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While walking around the Expo, I saw Trista from the Bachelorette. I reported this to Robin and she’s like “Oh, really? That was her? Her hair looks terrible!” BAHA. You may note that this is quite a lot of celebrity sightings for one week. The TNT inspiration dinner was starting at 5:30, so we had to head back to the hotel aboard the bus Disney’s Magical Express.

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The inspiration dinner is probably my favorite thing about Team in Training. Basically, it’s a big pasta party the night before the race with all of the different TNT chapters together in one room. They do a presentation about how TNT has changed the lives of thousands of blood cancer patients, including how much money runners from just that race have raised (more than $3 million raised by the runners at Disney alone!), how much has been raised overall (something like $1.4 billion in 25 years), and there is always a keynote speaker. This year, the founder of TNT was there. He founded TNT when his daughter had leukemia as a toddler, and he was at the race because she is now my age and was about to run her first half marathon the next day, with who else? The organization her father founded in her honor. When you head into the dinner, the staff and volunteers are all cheering for you – it’s a really cool experience. Of course at this one, there was some Disney magic.

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Our program this time featured Ethan Zohn, who won Survivor and competed on Amazing Race. He is has Hodgkin’s lymphoma and is currently under treatment for it, but he ran the half marathon. Amazing! A lot of people are seemingly impressed that I run a lot of marathons, but when you look at the hardships that someone fighting cancer is facing, there’s no reason to be impressed by anything I’m doing (there isn’t really anyway, but you know what I mean). And he can fight cancer AND run? Wow.

We had a really fantastic time at the dinner, where I briefly met my roommate, Cynthia. We had been friends on facebook for a few months but never met in person, but she is awesome. She didn’t get to Disney until just a few minutes before the dinner started. She’s 46 and has done three half-Ironman triathlons! This was her second marathon and she wanted to break 5 hours. Although we weren’t running the half marathon in the morning like Nick, Chuck, and Robin were, she wanted to wake up at 3 am to see the other TNT members off. I am not so charitable, so I wished them luck the night before like a normal person. When we eventually got up on Saturday morning, Nick had already finished the half marathon in a ridiculous 1:37. At the same time as I find this out, Cynthia says, “I wasn’t wearing pants last night, but don’t worry, my shirt is pretty long.” So apparently I was in a pants-optional room. My life is not pants-optional. I’m pants-mandatory, but dammit, it’s Disney World, so I let it go.

After everyone finished the race, Robin, Chuck, Nick and I headed to Downtown Disney to grab some lunch. While looking at the directory, I spotted a restaurant called “T-Rex.”

NO WAY, I thought. SURELY NOT. No place is this magical. But it was true. Oh sweet, sweet baby Jesus, it was true.

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I was almost too excited to breathe before we ever even went in. The outside was decorated with dinosaur skeletons and I about had a breakdown. You know how around 3pm, most children at Disney World have a meltdown because they’re tired but still excited so they throw a fit? It was pretty much at that level.

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I don’t even have the words to describe this place. It was truly out of control. In addition to the restaurant being decorated with basically museum quality animal replicas, there was an ENTIRE STORE INSIDE of just T-Rex stuff, including a Build-A-Dino area where, much like Build-A-Bear, you could make your own dinosaur stuffed animal. I’m sure you can imagine the situation. While we were waiting for a table, a nice Disney employee approached me while I was in the store freaking out and I told him about my blog. He thought I was so hot liked the idea of it so much that he wrote the address on his hand. Hi, Christian! Before I could buy anything, we got called to our table.

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There were T-Rexs everywhere.

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After lunch, I finally got to go to the store. Christian excitedly told me he had found a shirt that reminded him of me. It said “Here Rexy Rexy!” with a picture of a T-Rex on it. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but I went with it. I was too busy worrying about picking out and stuffing my own dinosaur. Nick got to watch the entire experience.  I approached the station where you put the stuffing in and I had to pick a heart for my dinosaur. The following is what happened:

Stuffing girl: “Do you want your T-Rex to be strong?!”

Me: “Uh, I’d rather it be fast.”

Stuffing girl: “We’ll get there. Make a muscle and rub the heart on your arm so your T-Rex is STRONG!”

I awkwardly do this.

Stuffing girl: “Do you want your T-Rex to be smart?!”

Me: “Absolutely.”

Stuffing girl: “Rub the heart on your brain!”

I awkwardly do this.

Stuffing girl: “Do you want your T-Rex to be fast?!”

Me: “Well, yeah.”

Stuffing girl: “Run in place as fast as you can and rub the heart on your leg!”

I do this and look back to see Nick nearly in tears from laughing so hard. While the girl is filling the T-Rex with stuffing, I casually say “This must be a really fun job. Do you like it?” To which she looks right at me and says, “To be honest, I mostly like working with children.”

Awkward.

After that, it was time to pick out an outfit. Yes, I’m serious. I ask Nick if I should get shoes for it, and out of nowhere, an excessively cheerful male employee comes swooping in and exclaims “Of course you should! You sure don’t want his feet to get cold!”

I recovered and then started working on the birth certificate. Yes, it was born.

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I go to checkout and I had some other things that I wanted to buy as well. The very enthusiastic male employee carefully placed Tiki in a carrying box with holes for her head and tail, I shit you not. As I pay for my other items, he chirps “Would you like me to place the other items in your condo?!”

Me: “I’m sorry, my what?”

Employee: “Your condo! It’s where Tiki lives!”

…of course it is. I should have known. And this is why I could never, ever, ever work at Disney. I couldn’t live with myself.

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After walking around Downtown Disney for a little while longer, we boarded Disney’s Magical Express and headed back to the hotel, where my mom had recently arrived and was waiting for us. She had come in to watch the race the next day. As an added bonus, we could finally eat some reasonably priced food off of the Disney campus since she had a car. I was excited to find out that my Aunt Betsy was going to come up from Tampa and eat dinner with us!

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After dinner it was time to try and get a few hours of sleep before the 2:45 am wake up call came for the marathon the next morning. So now here’s a picture of me looking happy, which is not how I felt the next morning.

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