This weekend is the Disney Marathon Weekend. I have run the 26.2 magical miles x’s 4. And last year I ran the inaugural Dopey Challenge – 4 straight days, 4 straight races – Thurs 5k, Fri 10k, Sat 13.1, Sun 26.2. For all those running any of the events this weekend, or thinking about running in the future, here’s my official guide.
BE SURE TO CLICK ON THE RECAP LINKS BELOW FOR TONS OF PICS/VIDS/INSIGHT!!!!
The 6 Dopey Challenge Medals.
1. The Expo!
Yup, that’s an expo.
The Expo is Huuuuuuge. It’s takes over three buildings at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. You pick up your race packets, you get to see famous expert speakers, and you shop. You can shop for miles. It can be pretty overwhelming, but luckily there is a bar on hand where you can relax with a cold one, if you so desire.
Our boy has run the Kids’ Race x’s 3. The races also take place at the ESPN sports complex. Distances depend on age and desire, from the 100 to a mile. And yes, parents can run with their kids. And yes, it can be pretty chaotic. The start times, corrals, etc. can AND DO change at the drop of a hat. My advice: Be early, be ready, be flexible. They are a lot of fun though, and it’s great to get kids involved in the marathon weekend.
The 5k takes place on Thursday at the parking lot of Epcot. The race itself basically takes you in and around the theme park. It’s actually kind of neat to be in the park before it’s open. They still have characters you can take pictures with, and tons of volunteers to cheer for you. And just like that, it’s over. A quick 3.1 miles through Epcot.
Don’t really need gloves in Florida heat, but ya know…
2014 was the also the inaugural 10k. I gotta say, this was probably the least exciting of all the races. Again, you start/end at Epcot, but the first 3 miles you are on the dark roads outside the park. There’s a little entertainment, but mostly it’s silent. The second 3 miles you do run through a resort before entering Epcot to the finish – that part is fun!
5. The Half Marathon (or Day 3 of Dopey & Day 1 of The Goofy Challenge)
Yes, I wore a child’s Snow White apron.
The half marathon again starts/ends at Epcot. The difference is here that you do an out and back from the park to Magic Kingdom and back. The highlight is running through Magic Kingdom (and thru Cinderella’s Castle), but in between the two parks, again you’re just running on roads. Of course, they do have people cheering, characters, entertainment, and there’s more to see (resorts, etc.). And this race can be a lot of fun.
6. The Marathon (or Day 4 of Dopey & Day 2 of Goofy)
Medals 6/6 (includes Dopey & Goofy bonus medals)
The marathon is the shining jewel of the whole weekend. The granddaddy. The big kahuna. And it’s my favorite as well. Over the course of 26.2 miles, you go through all the theme parks (Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios) as well as through several resorts and also a lap on the race car track and a jaunt through the ESPN sports complex (incl. a lap on the track & baseball stadium). There is excellent support along the course & tons of entertainment. This is Disney at it’s best. They pull out all the bells & whistles. Really a magical marathon.
Of course, Disney is a big draw. Not only for tourists, but for runners as well. I’m really happy that at the Disney races I’ve run, I’ve been able to meet-up with so many long lost (and new) friends. At the Dopey Challenge, I couldn’t believe how many old friends, fellow bloggers, etc. that I had the fortune to meet up with.
Anyone who runs, knows it takes a lot of support. Months and months of early morning miles can’t happen without the support of family, friends, social media pals, etc. This was not lost on me when I was Dopey last year. And so I made sure to thank everyone – from fellow runners to fellow bloggers to the fams.
So to all you who are running in any or all of the races this Disney Marathon Weekend, I wish you the bestest of luck! Whether you’re running or not, or just thinking about running this event in the future – hit me up with any questions you have! I’ll try to help! Soooooo……
Today’s Question: What Disney Marathon Weekend questions do you have for me?
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.
Ready to go 26.2 rounds with Mr. Mile.
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.
Traditional pre-race family photo.
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!
With Sis on way to the corral!
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!
Ain’t I purdy?
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.
Mid race selfie vision.
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.
Rexy is 3rd from left in front. I’m 2nd from right in back.
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.
26.2 magical miles. Click to enlarge.
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.
Runnin Down Main St, USA!
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…
They did NOT light up the castle for the half. I wish I had the pretty lit up one to share with y’all.
…But they lost that one too. Bummer. If they find them later, I will share. They did have these though…
Still in the park.
Feelin the love.
Feelin a little fuzzy in Magic Kingdom!
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.
Suns comin up. Right on my forehead.
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.
I’m ahead of the guy that thought he could fly.
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.
I already got to first base, now I’m going for home.
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.
An angel in the outfield.
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).
The tower of terror ain’t got nothin on my towering form.
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.
Putting on a brave face.
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!
You lookin at me?
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.
That’s a big wizard hat. Where’s the wizard sleeve?
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.
I almost wore the same outfit as that chick…that would’ve been embarrassing for her.
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.
Somewhere in Disney World.
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!!!
The big spiky golf ball means we’re in Epcot.
Look kids, Big Ben, Parliament.
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!!!!
I cannot explain the Dopey expression on my face, other than we were 47.6 miles into the Challenge.
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!
I want a funny pet dragon.
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!
Waving to my fans.
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!
Waving at the boy. Pretty cool pic!
Past the bleachers of cheering spectators, I ran to the finish, and high fived Donald Duck (why wouldn’t I?)…
That guy quacks me up.
His hands were downy soft.
And finished with a defiant fist pump!
I will punch you air, in your face’s mouth!
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.
Yay for me!
They said there were somewhere between 25,000 – 30,000 people in the marathon. In the end, only around 19,000+ of them finished.
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!
Pace getting gradually faster…
…and then the wheels fell off.
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.
Finally our blingy reward!
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!
I’m screaming in triumph, or pain, either or.
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!
Finally, they are all got!
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.
It really was kind of heavy. The weight we Dopes carry is indeed a heavy burden of joy.
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.
Rumors confirmed – I am dopey.
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?
As many of you know, I’ve spent the past several months training for the Disney Dopey Challenge. It’s 4 straight days of racing. Thurs: 5k, Fri: 10k, Sat: 13.1, Sun: 26.2. I’ve been waiting patiently for them to release the course maps…they finally have!
**CLICK ON THE IMAGES TO SEE AN ENLARGED VERSION**
Here’s the 5k and 10k routes…
The warm-up runs.
The first few miles of the 10k ain’t all that exciting, but I’m glad that at least both races follow somewhat different routes (in the same area). I love variety in my running! I’m also happy that the start and finish are near each other. That way any spectators we have can at least see us twice!
Next up is the half marathon…
Half of the most magical place on Earth.
Basically a jaunt up to the Magic Kingdom and back from EPCOT. Only thing that concerns me is the round-a-bout at mile 10. I’ve been there before and it is a man made hill. It’s a swirly overpass of road, and it. is. very. angled. You can’t take two even steps because of the slant. I’ve had several friends get injured at that overpass. At least I know what to expect and can try to be safe there.
Finally is the main event, the full marathon…
26.2 magical miles. Or so they claim… 🙂
I really like this course. You get to see most of the main attractions of Disney World. I only wish there was a way they could mix in Downtown Disney.
As you can see, they take us through all 4 major parks – EPCOT, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, & Hollywood Studios. In addition, we also get to do a lap on their race car track (1 mile around) and through their Boardwalk resort.
In between we pass by various other “attractions”. Running past the golf course is cool, but in years past running past the waste water management plant didn’t smell too pleasant. But I guess you gotta take the good with the not so good, right?
I also really like how that now have us going through the Sports Complex. There we get to run through the training soccer and football and baseball fields. We also get to do a lap on the track! And the highlight is running thru the baseball field where the Atlanta Braves do their spring training. Last year, that was coolio because there was a big crowd in the stands cheering for us (and they had cameras putting us on the big screen on the outfield wall).
It all ends up back at EPCOT. Which, if you look at the map, is over a mile in itself. That just goes to show you how big the parks actually are. I can say this from experience: there’s not much more deflating than entering the final park, thinking you’re almost done, then turning a corner and seeing the “mile 25 marker”. Ugh, another 1.2 to go, all in the same theme park!!!
But it’s all good. I’ve done the Disney Marathon 3 times now, and I know how the game is played. In the coming weeks I’ll offer my tips from experience for anyone else who happens to be running at Disney Marathon Weekend.
What about you? Do you obsess over course maps before a race, or do you care? Have you run at Disney? Any tips? What do you think of the courses?