Nick Hilton doesn’t fashion himself as a party crasher. But with the Brazilian runners poised to utterly dominate the Walt Disney World Marathon again, Hilton of Flagstaff, Arizona, threw a red, white and blue monkey wrench into those plans Sunday, becoming only the second non-Brazilian in the last 16 years to win the Walt Disney World Resort race.
Hilton, 30, won the 26.2-mile Disney marathon in 2018, spoiling another potential all-Brazilian victory celebration. This year he did it with ease, breaking away from the lead pack around the 11-mile mark and cruising to the finish line well ahead of the field. It was super excited being at the finish line when both male and female winners hit the tape.
Unseasonably warm temperatures almost certainly kept Hilton from equaling his 2018 victory time of 2:17:52, but his pace Sunday (he ran it in 2:22:19) was enough to get him to the finish line nearly five minutes ahead of second-place finisher Benjamin Xie, of Seattle, Washington (2:27:02), and Luis Barboza, of Brazil (2:27:28). And Hilton said the best part of the race was the end.
“This is the best finish line I’ve ever come through,’’ said Hilton after crossing the finish line amid a blast of confetti and surrounded by popular Disney characters. “There are just so many (Disney) characters and confetti and it’s just amazing to come through.’’
Among the women, there was no stopping Brazil’s Giovanna Martins, who was the top finishing woman for the fourth straight year and fifth time in the past six years. Like Hilton, she also ran virtually unchallenged, winning in 2:54:19 even though her winning time was almost 10 minutes slower than a year ago. Jordyn Kleve, of Urbandale, Iowa, was second (2:59:07) and Conceicao de Maria, of Brazil, was third (3:12:28).
The marathon culminated a weekend of races at Walt Disney World Resort, which included a 5K, a 10K, a half marathon and kids races. Among the more than 75,000 runners and spectators in attendance were several marquee former athletes, including Olympic legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee (5K), former NFL stars Tiki Barber (marathon) and Warrick Dunn (10K), and former Paralympian Victoria Arlen (5K). This was the second RunDisney race that I have covered and even though I am NOT an early morning guy (because I am usually going to bed at that time) it is always worth it to see the excitement with the racers and the parks in their early morning emptiness.
The Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend presented by Cigna, which began in 1994 with only one race involving roughly 8,000 runners, has evolved into a multi-race event that is among the largest in the nation, drawing runners from 73 countries. This year marked the 27th year of the race which ranks among the most popular in the nation and is widely regarded as the first entertainment-focused marathon in the country.
The race is the second of six race weekends during the 2019-20 runDisney season, with the next race weekend being the Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend, February 20–23, at Walt Disney World Resort. For more information, visit www.rundisney.com.