This is it. The last race of four on consecutive days. If you missed my recaps of the earlier races, you can see them here: 5k then 10k then 13.1 half marathon.
Now we have the 26.2 full marathon to complete the Goofy and Dopey Challenges. I had stuck to my plan of running personal worsts (PW) for the first three races. Now I wanted to go for it in the final race.
My “A” goal was to break 4 hours (9:10 per mile). Considering my pace at shorter distances, I should be able to shatter 4 hours, but I have yet to do it. My “B” goal was to PR (PB). I would accomplish one of the two goals.
We got a gift this day from the Weather Channel gods. The temps went from hot and humid the day before at the half, to chilly (and a little humid) for the full!!! It was in the 50’s (American) at the start!
Even thought it was chilly, I knew my body temp would warm up once we started running, so I wore light clothes – including a new Ohio University tech tee that the wife got me for Christmas!
I also carried the GoPro camera with me. Looking back, it probably was a bad decision considering I was going for a PR. It definitely took energy and brain power (I don’t have much to spare) to use it throughout the course. But I decided to take it anyway, and I don’t really regret that. We did pass some cool attractions along the way.
The edited down video is a bit blair-witchy, but I think it shows the race experience. It’s funny to watch how I go from cracking jokes and getting somewhat stable shots, to gradually having zero sense of humor nor the energy to hold my arm out straight! Haha!
The night before the full I spoke via phone with my “coach” – My good friend (and awesome endurance athlete) Rexy. We actually have history of sports at Disney World. In college, we were cheerleaders and competed in the National Championships there my senior year.
Anyway, she gave me a pep talk and helped work out the race strategy. She said to stick to exactly 4 hr pace for the first half. Then evaluate how I felt and pick up the pace if I could for the next 7 miles. Then let it all hang out the last 6.2. She told me to leave it on the course, and that if I crash, it’s better to do so the last few miles knowing that at least I tried.
Again, we had a 2am wake up call. And the race started at 5:30am. The course began and ended at Epcot. It immediately went from there to the Magic Kingdom.
The first few miles were a bit crowded. I wasn’t able to go my normal pace, and I had to do some weaving. By the time we got to Magic Kingdom, I knew from the clock that I was going too slow. But I also knew I had time to correct that. 5 Mile in 47:39 – 9:32 per mile.
We got into the park – which is the highlight for me. It’s still dark out, and the whole park is lit up. Main St. is lined with tons of cheering spectators. And Cinderella’s Castle is all lit up! We get to run right through the castle, which is neat. The MarathonFoto folks had some pictures of me at the castle, but they lost them. I had even stopped for the official Castle photo – like I took with my sis during the Half the day before…
…But they lost that one too. Bummer. If they find them later, I will share. They did have these though…
After we left the Magic Kingdom, we then headed past the Polynesian Resort and the golf course. There was a glow in the East and I knew the sun would be rising soon. The weather was still cool, and I felt GREAT! I was actually smiling and having a really good time. My pace was steadily fastening.
Then we headed into the Speedway – their race car track. We did the mile lap, and there were a ton of classic cars out. A childhood fave – Herbie the Love Bug – was there, but for some reason the characters from the movie Cars weren’t out this year. Where’s Lightning McQueen???
I think running on this race track is a pretty unique experience though – how many people get to do that? Again tho, the MarathonFoto folks couldn’t find my photos from that locale. Sorry dude.
Then it was on toward Animal Kingdom. Still feeling great. Still picking up steam. 10 Mile in 1:32:49 – 9:17 per mile.
*Side note. My sis works at AK, so I happen to know a few other of the zoo keepers there. I was glad to see some of them at the entrance to the park. They were there to cheer for us, very cool!
AK also had some animals and characters out. And some marathoners would stop to ride the roller coaster, but I didn’t have time for that.
Once we left the park, we reached the halfway point. I was almost EXACTLY at 4 hour pace. Right at 2:00:06 for 13.1 miles – 9:10 per mile. I had made up the time I lost due to the slow start.
Now was time to reevaluate. I still felt good, so kept picking up the pace. We were on the way to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. There we got to run through the sports fields, along with a lap on the track where we had been before for the Kids Race.
The highlight here is getting to run a lap on the baseball field. This is where the Atlanta Braves of Major League Baseball do their spring training. It’s a really cool experience, especially with people in the stands cheering! It was in WWOS that I had my fastest mile, but that would soon change.
Looking back, I think all the energy I spent trying to make up the time took it’s toll. I started to feel it around this point. But at mile 20, I was still on pace to break 4 hours. 3:02:30 – 9:07 per mile.
From there we headed toward Hollywood Studios. Getting closer to home, but like they say, the real marathon starts at mile 20. I was really feeling it and took short walk breaks at the drink stations to grab a little powerade (and one port-a-potty stop to get rid of the old powerade).
But then I felt doing that worked and I got a second wind! Awesome!!! But then at mile 21 I think I made a bad choice. Instead of continuing on with my new energy, I decided to stick to my recent pattern and grab a quick drink at the drink station. After that brief walk, I never recovered. I should’ve just kept running past it.
Also at this point, I think the cumulative miles from the previous 3 races started to kick in. My legs started to cramp. Every step I could feel my quads tense, and when I pulled over to try and stretch them, my hammies cramped into a giant ball. OUCH!
My pace slowed considerably as I tried to deal with the cramping. Kept running, but had to take a few walk breaks. Mostly at drink stations, but also on a hill or two. Speaking of which….
…This is supposed to be a flat course. It is decidedly not! Sure, it’s not super hilly, but it does have it’s fair share of long steady inclines and declines. Mostly from the bridges and overpasses we had to traverse.
Anyway, at this point I could see my “A” goal slipping away. It was frustrating, and I felt like I was letting people down who I knew were following along with the auto text/facebook/twitter updates runDisney was sending of my splits. I also felt like I was wasting a great opportunity because of the weather and all the training I had put into it. But I couldn’t control the leg cramps. Maybe I wasn’t mentally tough enough to fight through it this time. Ahh, the stuff we think when we look back.
By now the sun was up and the parks were open, so there were lots of people there. I’m sure they were annoyed that they had to wait behind a rope for us to pass before they could get to the churro stand, but many of them still cheered, and I appreciated that. And I had made it through the Studios.
We then made our way to the Boardwalk Resort. I know that we’re close to finishing, as it borders Epcot. I was slowing even more, but still going.
Finally we enter Epcot. You’d think we’d be right at the finish, but get this – we still have 1.2 miles to go before getting to the parking lot finish. That’s how big those theme parks are!!!
By now I knew my “A” goal was gone. And when I saw some characters with virtually line (queue), I decided to take the opportunity to stop for a photo – especially with DOPEY!!!!
Disney puts characters ALL along the course, but this is the first time I’ve ever stopped for a photo. Then I got a second one with one of my Asian wife’s fave movie characters – Mulan!
One of the highlights, right before you leave Epcot, hidden from the general public, is a gospel choir. When I ran past them, I turned to look at them and had one final big full body CRAMP! I stopped in my tracks and doubled over in pain. A race attendant asked if I needed the medics. I shook her off, sucked it up and ran toward the finish!
About 100 meters to go and I see my boy! My sister’s roommate and her boyfriend graciously agreed to babysit him while we ran, and they made it just in time to the race to see me finish! That was the final boost I needed to finish strong!
Past the bleachers of cheering spectators, I ran to the finish, and high fived Donald Duck (why wouldn’t I?)…
And finished with a defiant fist pump!
Yes, I was disappointed that I didn’t break 4 hours, but I still PR’d! I broke my previous personal best by 2+ minutes to finish at 4:07:47 – 9:28 per mile.
They said there were somewhere between 25,000 – 30,000 people in the marathon. In the end, only around 19,000+ of them finished.
Overall Place: 2249/19,225. Division Place: 344/1602.
It’s too bad, I had a nice negative split going on until I bonked. But hey, at least I finished the challenge! Next time I run a Full Marathon however, I will NOT run 3 races in the days leading up to it!
After we crossed the line, I collected my Mickey medal for the full. Then on to the Goofy station to get that medal. Then finally to the Dopey station to get that medal.
It’s funny, as soon as they put that medal on my neck, I felt real emotional. Instantaneously. I guess it finally kicked in all those months and months of training, all the early hours, all the miles and miles, all the preparation. But sadly, the Disney folks don’t let you stop and enjoy the moment. They.keep.you.moving. “You can’t stop here. You can’t stretch here. Keep walking. Keep moving.” If only I had the energy to tell them that I can’t walk right now. My legs are a ball of lactic buildup!
Funny story after I collected the medals and walked past the medical tent, a medical person started screaming – the other medics all thought someone was really hurt, but it turns out she went to Ohio University too. You have no idea how many “Go Ohio!” and “Go ‘Cats” I got on the course. Such great support!
After a chat with her, I then retrieved my gear bag, which had the other medals ready for their photo op!
Later on after all our friends and family members finished, we wore our 6 medals into Epcot to cheer on the later finishers and to ride some rides and get some Guinness and grub. People commented that we sounded like robots with all the clinking that accompanied each step.
So there it is: 48.6 miles done. It was a fun challenge, and I’m glad I did it. It’s always a treat to run through all the parks that we would visit as kids. And they do a good job of having characters and volunteers along the way to keep your spirits up! Also, I’m glad I followed my “coach’s” plan the best I could, and even though I crashed toward the end, at least I left it all on the course.
In the future I’m not sure if I’ll do it again. But I would like to do another full with this same training. I think if I put in the same mileage, but with only one race as the goal, then I can slap that timing clock around!
I will say this though, the thing I’m most proud of is that while I was doing the Dopey Challenge, and posting about it on Twitter and Instagram and such. That I had people message me that I had inspired them to get out and run themselves! That’s probably the best result of this whole thing!
Did I leave anything out? Any questions about the inaugural Dopey Challenge? You have any desire to do it? What’s up?
SO, so awesome. Great recap! I am ashamed to say this out loud…but your story makes me feel better. I’m terrified if I agree to do a full marathon and I walk any of it, I automatically “fail”. But that’s so not true! You did awesome and I can’t even imagine going that far all on foot in so few days. Next time you full marathon, you’re going to punch air right in it’s dirty mouth and totally sub-4. I’m sure of it!