I'M FINALLY A MARATHONER. Like, a full marathon. Not 13.1 but 26 point freaking 2! To top it all off, I went out with a bang and ran 48.6 miles in four days as a Dopey Challenger!
For those who don't know, Dopey is a four day event, challenging runners to 48.6 miles in four days. Broken down, it is a 5K on Thursday morning, 10K on Friday morning, Half Marathon on Saturday morning and a Marathon on Sunday morning. Also, when I say "morning" what I actually mean is a 5:30 am start time. For most, the miles is not the difficult part. Changing your entire sleep schedule for a week is the most draining part of the challenge. You've gotta really love running to commit to The Dopey Challenge!
Sooo in April 2015 I was bored one day and decided I wanted to register for The WDW Dopey Challenge. Registration had opened up early for pass holders so I went through registration and when I got to the checkout screen I had a mini panic attack. Not because the miles LOL I already knew Dopey was 48.6 miles in four days. I was shocked at the price. It was $600! So I decided it would be a good opportunity to run for a charity and committed to raising $2,500 for St. Jude like it was nothing. Yeah, I have a problem with committing to very large projects without thinking it through. For example, signing up for my first half marathon on a car trip home from Florida, registering for Dopey because I was bored... You get the picture.
fundraising page is still open. Only $400 to go! To be honest, I actually put more effort into fundraising than I did training.
I drove down to Florida early Wednesday morning on my own. The expo began on Wednesday at 10:00 am at ESPN Wide World of Sports. I scheduled my appointment first thing in the morning for the New Balance booth to purchase my Ariel Vazee Pace running shoes. My appointment wasn't until 5:30 pm so I was in no rush to arrive in Orlando for another race weekend. I didn't even head to get my bib when I arrived at the expo- I made a beeline straight for my new running sneakers. I was beyond excited to get my hands on some mermaid shoes. Plus, Ariel is my favorite Princess! I didn't want to break in a new pair of sneakers during a race so I waited until I got home to try them out.
I then went to pick up my Dopey Challenge bibs and shirts. I also bought runDisney merchandise from the expo (wine glass and trading pin are my go-to souvennirs for race weekends). A little pit-stop I couldn't help but make was to the medal rack at the exit of the expo. Princess Half Marathon Weekend medals had been released last week, but I knew I would have the chance to look at them in person! They're even prettier up close. They almost took my focus away from the six medals I would be earning this weekend. Almost.
After leaving the expo, I spent some time at Hollywood Studios and witnessed the last EVER Osbourne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights show before heading to bed around 10:00pm. I woke up at around 3:30 am for the WDW 5k at 6:00am. The weather was a little chilly, but it could have been much worse. I wore my Lilly Pulitzer Luxletic crop pants for this race to keep me warm.
Because of the short distance of this race, the course constantly felt crowded. With six corrals taking off only a few minutes apart, there wasn't much room for the 20,000 runners participating in the 5K (12,500 5k runners and 7,500 Dopey Challengers). I didn't let the crowds bother me and stopped to take pictures with characters. First up was Chip & Dale at around the 3/4 mile mark. I also ran into Rafiki when I entered Epcot. I saw other runners post pictures with Timon at the same spot, so it seems they were rotating throughout the race.
After crossing the finish line, I was awarded my 5k medal and given a snack box. This was the first time I found a pack of Oreos in the snack box, and I was excited to see that!
My Strategy for the Marathon was to start slow and finish strong. My strategy did not include stopping for pictures but I did have enough time to stop and ride Expedition Everest right before hitting the 13 mile mark. The single rider line was full of runners and only took about ten minutes to get to the front. Getting high fives from other riders and the rush of riding a roller coaster was a great enough jolt of energy to push through the second half of the race. I highly recommend riding Everest during The WDW Marathon if your pace permits it.
Once I got into ESPN World of Sports, I had a brief encounter with the balloon ladies. Before this race, I didn't think the balloon ladies existed. Well, I'm with Myth Busters: runDisney Edition here to tell you they are real. No myth behind the balloon ladies! They start after everyone else and run a 16:00 pace. There are buses along the course titled "Parade Bus" that will sweep you to the finish line if you come across that point AFTER the balloon ladies. From what I understand, its OK if they pass you on the course but you'll need to pick up the pace and ensure you're ahead of them by the next sweep point.
I saw them behind me just before crossing the 18 mile mark. I called up a friend who ran Tinkerbell with me (yeah, I was THAT person who whipped out their phone and made a call during the race). She was watching the race live and saw a hug sweep at mile 14 about 45 minutes prior. She then proceeded to tell me that maybe I could become friends with the balloon ladies. My response was "I don't want to get that close to them!" I hung up and ran my little heart out. At the next mile marker, they told me I was 3:30 ahead of the balloon ladies which was a relief since they were only about 15 seconds behind me at one point.
ESPN seemed to drag on forever. Once we finally got back on to the stretch of road leading up to Hollywood Studios, an officer told us we had just passed the safe mark from being swept for the rest of the race. This was after mile 21. Come to find out, he was wrong. So was the next guy who told us we were past the safe zone. Come to find out, you are not actually safe until you leave the Hollywood Studios parking lot- in between miles 23 and 24. A lot of runners clapped as they passed that part because they were in the safe zone to becoming marathoners. I say I never want to be that close to being swept again. Next time I turn out of ESPN, I want to see hundreds of runners turning into ESPN with the balloon ladies out of sight! #goals
The race finished its course through Epcot. I originally planned to stop and get a margarita while in Mexico, but at that point I just wasn't feeling it. Next year I'm stopping for my frozen concoction, though! I crossed the finish line without a drink in my hand but received what is now my absolute favorite medal. Disney was nice enough to put my castle in the middle! I went through the Dopey tent where they checked my photo and awarded me with Goofy and Dopey Challenge medals. Then I clanked my way to the St. Jude hospitality tent to ice my knees, charge my phone, and stretch.
Immediately after the race, some profane words about Dopey may have come out of my mouth. Some innocent ones were along the lines of "I hope someone kidnaps that little Dwarf" and "Dopey should be considered a Disney Villain." The thought of running The Dopey Challenge again never crossed my mind... until I woke up on Monday morning. Pain is temporary but those medals are forever!
I'm finally a marathoner. I may not be an elite runner, but I'm part of the 1% of people who have completed a marathon. What an accomplishment!