This race marked my 8th marathon and 2nd Dopey Challenge!
For those just tuning in, the Dopey Challenge is for runners who think the below sounds magical:
2016 Dopey Challenge posts (2015 Dopey Challenge posts found here):
Dopey Challenge Day 4: The Marathon
A little bit of Disney magic mixed with complete exhaustion that had me snoozing by 8:30 pm made the 3:15 am wake up feel easy-peasy. All of our running gear and nutrition was out and ready to go from the night before so Nicole and I were, once again, ready in under 20 minutes. Damn it’s nice to be low maintenance.
The nice thing about not “racing” a full marathon is that you can worry a little less about pre-race nutrition timing. Who cared if I had to pee during the race? Not me (luckily, Nicole didn’t care either and we made a port-a-potty stop once during the middle miles).
We had no issue getting onto a bus and making it through security once we reached the start village. With the warm temps, the wait didn’t feel bad at all and we relaxed a bit before starting the 15-minute walk up to the corrals.
Once the race was underway, we began our “8 and 2” run/walk method immediately to keep our legs fresh and feeling good as long as possible. Just like in the latter miles of the half, we adjusted the 8/2 to account for the time we waited for photos or if we were running a particular stretch where it made sense to extend our running time (such as the track in ESPN WWOS).
Just like last year, I was anxious to get to the 2 mile mark because that meant we were halfway through the Dopey Challenge miles! In a marathon, these little things make a huge difference mentally.
After the 2 mile mark, I anxiously awaited the first park of the day, Magic Kingdom. Once we turned onto Main Street, ALL THE FEELS came pouring down and I practically pranced through the entire park with the goofiest of smiles on my face.
Naturally, I sent pictures to my family group chat during these miles (and even John was awake to respond to them!). This was my first marathon that my parents weren’t at and I wanted to make sure they were being updated with all the fun they were missing back in cold NYC.
Going through Animal Kingdom was fun and I found myself dancing to all the tunes they had blasting through the speakers. Because Nicole and I thought that Safari Mickey would be outside the park like in previous years, we elected to skip the character stops in Animal Kingdom. But Safari Mickey or Minnie was nowhere to be found so we kept on our way, wondering where we’d spot Mickey on the course.
Our plan was to get to mile 16 and then change our 8 and 2 run/walk into an 8 and 3 run/walk. There’s a long highway stretch during these miles and that extra minute proved to be more of a mental benefit than a physical one (although it was that too!). Knowing that after every 8 minutes of running, we would be “rewarded” with 3 minutes of walking was HUGE in keeping us strong mentally.
Maybe because I had a run/walk strategy this year or because I had amazing company (or the combination, probably), I found ESPN WWOS less of a struggle than I did last year when I started bargaining with myself during these miles (“you can walk for 5 minutes once you get to that tree”).
Also, I spotted Mickey! He was kind of hidden and I think a lot of people missed him because the line was so short in comparison to other characters. Thankfully, I essentially have a degree in spotting hidden Mickeys 🙂
It was also during these miles that I saw a sign with Psalm 26.2 on it (“Test me, Lord, and try me.”) and I may have teared up a bit. Thank you, random spectator.
Next up was Hollywood Studios! Last year, making it to this park was huge for me. I had seen Alec here during her first marathon and I jumped in because OMG ALEC LOOKS AMAZING AND SHE PASSED MILE 23 AND AH DISNEY IS SO MUCH FUN. Also, last year this meant that I was only about a mile away from seeing my family. I <3 spectators.
Hitting mile 23 is such a rush. The absolute best miles are ahead (Hollywood Studios, Boardwalk, Yacht & Beach Club, Epcot) and the atmosphere along these miles is exhilarating.
We felt so incredible that we adjusted our plan… get to mile 25 and run it on in to the finish line!
I made sure to send the family a pic of the 25 mile marker. ONE MORE MILE UNTIL MY SECOND 48.6!
Just like last year, I experienced every emotion while running through Epcot and at times had to hold back tears. It truly felt like we were running on air this last mile. Mile 25 (or, well, mile 47) was our fastest mile of the entire challenge (around a 9 minute pace) and we ran the last .2 around an 8:30. Whaaaat?!
I knew once we passed the famous choir, the finish line would be in view and this amazing journey would be over. It’s a mix of emotions because you’re so happy and proud but you’re also bummed because the magic is ending. Yes, all 48.6 miles are magical.
I felt amazing during the entire challenge (yet again!). We trained well (oh hey there, Philly Marathon) and ran smart. And I got to spend 48.6 magical miles with a pretty awesome lady. #luckypants
After a quick recovery lunch, we were off to the spa at Saratoga Springs for a post-Dopey massage and then took the riverboat over to Disney Springs for some shopping.
For dinner, we had a reservation at the restaurant in our hotel, Boatwright’s Dining Hall. My family and I ate here last year after the marathon and it was perfect because not only is the food delicious, it requires zero travel to get back to the room and get in bed after what is a very, very long day.
We cheered to 48.6 miles of magic with good beers and good food before moseying on back to the room to pack. Side note: packing to leave Disney is not nearly as fun as packing to go to Disney.
You’d think that after 2 Dopey Challenges that I’d want to retire from the early mornings and running a ridiculous number of miles while on vacation but no, not even close.
Disney, you were incredible. See you in 23 days for my first Princess weekend.