Dopey Challenge 2017: Marathon

Before the Race

I seriously thought it was a joke when I woke up marathon morning to a temperature reading in the thirties. I had known that the long-term forecast didn’t look great, but I figured it would be at least a little warmer… yeah, it wasn’t. However, I had come prepared! I wound up wearing capris, compression sleeves, a Sparkle Skirt, my 10k shirt, my Incredibles shirt, a pair of socks on my hands, and my finisher hat from Richmond. I also had packed a trashbag and wound up wearing that until right before I crossed the start line.

At first, as soon as I left my hotel room, it wasn’t all that bad – in fact, I thought it was going to be okay. The ride over on the bus was fine, as was walking through the arrival area and all the way to the start line. But when I got to Corral I over an hour before the race started, I knew I was in for some pain. The cold sucked, but the breeze was even worse. I sat down on the ground at the front of the corral, made my head hole in my garbage bag larger, and basically turtled in my trash bag until the race began.

The Marathon!

According to my watch, I started the marathon about half an hour after the gun time of 5:30. I waited until the last possible second to get rid of my trash bag, and I immediately felt the chill of the breeze start to soak through all of my clothes. I started right away with my 4/1 intervals, as those had served me well through all of my training and the rest of the weekend. The first few miles seemed to fly by, and I was astounded by all the entertainment on the course near the beginning. I was clicking along at a pretty good pace for those first few miles, and I didn’t stop for anything until my eye caught an upcoming character stop.

I may have lost three minutes, but I’d say Lightning and Mater totally justify it!

That was my first character stop of the marathon, and it was totally worth it. I mainly stopped to get the picture because my grandmother loves Mater (as in, I bought her a Mater pillow pet one year) and I knew that she would love to see the pictures when we got back from our trip. I think that was the stop that made me realize that it was okay to stop and smell the roses along the course, because I had that mentality for the rest of the race.

I can’t really describe a lot of the course in words, as it was something that had to be experienced. Nothing can honestly beat coming around the corner in the Magic Kingdom to see the castle all lit up in front of me – the experience was made even better by the fact that the half the day before had been cancelled, so this was my first time running up to the castle. I made a pit stop in Tomorrowland to use a real bathroom, which was probably the greatest decision I could’ve made. I lost some time while waiting in line, but I was totally okay with that.

As we circled around the park, I took in as many sights as I could. It was awesome to just see everything while being surrounded by other runners in the sub-40 degree weather. I got my picture taken in front of the castle, and when I was headed back to get on the course, my foot hit the curb at an odd angle – I felt my ankle twist a little bit, but my mind was screaming “HELL NO!” I did not get to mile 6 of the Disney World Marathon to twist my ankle and not be able to finish the Dopey Challenge. Instead, I carried on my merry way, though I had to run gingerly the rest of the way through Magic Kingdom.

After exiting the Magic Kingdom, we entered a backstage area (which was kind of nostalgic, as we staged there when our marching band visited in 2008) and then proceeded to Cone Alley. It was a miserable little stretch of road, as I couldn’t get around anyone and there were plenty of people walking at that point. When we started going past the fancy-pants resorts, it started to clear out a little bit, so that was nice.

I liked running on all the open road, especially with some old attraction parts set up and a character stop with Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope!

We passed by the sanitation plant, which I honestly thought was kind of cool – Disney World is like a freaking metropolis on its own, it has to have something to take care of all that behind-the-scenes stuff. Also, as a total nerd for all things trivia, it was cool to see all the info signs that they had posted on the side of the course. I was a fan of the out-and-back that seemed to sap a bunch of people around Mile 11 or 12 or so, since I could admire everyone’s costumes; even though the weather had caused some people to change, there were plenty of people sporting awesome costumes. There was a guy near me through this stretch dressed as the Genie, blue body paint and shirtless and all.

It was almost time to enter Animal Kingdom, and I took advantage of some Tylenol at a med stop. They also had bananas, but I feel like I’m the only runner on the face of the planet who hates bananas. It was coming up on 9am at this point, and I was frantically trying to get in touch with my mother to let her know where I was and when I would be entering Animal Kingdom.

I came into the park a little ahead of schedule and just tried to enjoy it. I hit the half marathon point right before Expedition Everest, where my FastPass wasn’t quite valid yet – since it was in the next few minutes, they let me in and I got to hop on the second train out of the station. That was the one thing I had wanted to do during the Marathon, and I was tickled pink that I could take advantage of it. Seriously, riding a roller coaster at the half-marathon mark of a full is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done (even though you can’t really see me in the pictures).

The mile after the halfway mark took me almost half an hour, according to my Garmin. Between riding Expedition Everest and waiting to meet up with my mom to pass off my baseball cap, I had a bit of time added up there. But as I said before, this race was not at all about a time goal – just to have fun and finish.

I headed out for what I thought was the most boring stretch of the race, even though I still enjoyed it – lots of highways and overpasses as we made our way toward the ESPN Wide World of Sports. The temperature had warmed up and I really liked the vibe of the runners around me at this point. There were quite a few miles on the roads, and I wound up checking my phone more often than usual to see when the hell I was going to enter WWoS.

And then, boom, there it was! Even though so many people hate on this part of the marathon because of all the turns and when it occurs in the race, it was one of my favorite sections. There were a ton of high school drumlines, some character stops, running through the stadium, real bathrooms, and just some nice shade under the trees. I stopped in a line to referee with the best.

I’m kind of bummed that I didn’t get any pictures taken of me in the stadium, but that’s okay. I seriously feel like WWoS helped break up the doldrums of running on all the highways, and it seriously so much fun. Even though I’m a Pirates kind of girl, it was cool seeing where the Braves have training camp. I would be so jealous to live somewhere I could see spring training games. Also, WWoS gave me another version of my classic double-thumbs-up photo.

Back onto the highways for the final stretch to Hollywood Studios. I wound up taking more Tylenol because I was really feeling the need for it and my sweat made the X on my hand rub off… sorry med team, but I’ve consumed many more Tylenol in a shorter period of time before. It was super-cool seeing the Green Army Man encouraging people up over a ramp on the course before we got into Hollywood Studios, and I loved it.

At that point, I was still holding a really steady pace with my intervals, even though it was slower than anything I had run in a race before. We came in through a back entrance to Hollywood Studios by the Tower of Terror and got chocolate from some nice volunteers on the sideline. Hell yeah, everyone needs Dove Chocolate around Mile 22.

Hollywood Studios was over in the blink of an eye, and then it was along a pathway by the lagoon to make our way over to Epcot. This part of the course was really nice, but I can imagine it was a lot more crowded when faster people were finishing – I probably wouldn’t have liked that so much. There were still so many people out by their resorts to cheer everyone on as we made the final push into Epcot along the same sort of course we had for the 10k.

Because I was so late in the race, there were a few character stops in Epcot that didn’t have any lines. I was planning to take big advantage of that when I noticed! I just think it was funny that it was cold enough for Jasmine to be in seemingly colder-weather clothing.

Gotta appreciate the original, Snow White!

I came around World Showcase to head towards Future World, and I heard my name being called. I looked around and realized my mom was on a scooter with a sign someone had handed off to her, and she had a whole little throng of people cheering for me. I laughed and wound up almost crying. As I ran past, I tried to give my mom directions to where I would meet her after the race, but I don’t know how well that worked.

Around the ball I went, since I had gotten my picture there for the other races and had grand plans for after the marathon. I heard the choir singing as I passed Mile 26, went around the corner, and headed down the finisher’s chute for the last time. (Also, yes, I was near the other Incredibles behind me for like the last three miles and everyone thought we were a group costume)

To the finish line I went!

I crossed the finish line in 6:16:31, which is my slowest marathon finish, but understandably slow. At the end of the Dopey Challenge and after taking the race as an amazing opportunity to have fun, I am completely proud of how I ended. My goal was never to race any of the races, just to enjoy the amazing time I was having. And I totally did that!

I made my way to the medal tent to get 4 medals (Marathon, Goofy, Dopey, and my belated half medal), then got my picture taken. I may be smiling but this was when my legs really started to feel all the mileage that I had put on them in the last few days.

I made my way out of the finish line area after I got a space blanket and got some more refreshments. I called my mom and we wound up meeting up right outside of the finishing area. Because she was using an electric scooter because of her upcoming hip surgery, we decided to take a regular bus back to the hotel as many of the athlete busses weren’t handicap-accessible. Waiting around for the bus is when I got cold and tired, and I think I fell asleep on the ground leaning against my mom’s leg at one point.

After the Race

I grabbed a snack out of my snack box, took a killer shower (chafing always does a number on my body), and took a little nap. Then I set out on my ultimate adventure – pictures with my medals in all four parks before dinner. My mom and I separated, as she knew she would just slow me down, so I hit up Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, Epcot, and Magic Kingdom (where my mom and I met back up for dinner). I started my adventure entirely alone on a bus.

Headed to Animal Kingdom, where I had a great talk with a security guard and realized how damn far away the Tree of Life is from the park entrance.

Then I made my way over to Hollywood Studios, where I realized missed the Sorcerer’s Hat. The Chinese Theater just doesn’t have the same iconic appeal – especially because I’ve visited the real Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

Hopped on the bus over to EPCOT, my favorite park. I also internally blessed Walt Disney World for having the ball for Spaceship Earth be so close to the entrance to the park. I took about three steps to get in line for my picture.

Hopped on the monorail over to the Magic Kingdom, and got my last round of photos taken.

Then it was off to dinner, watching Wishes through the window at the Liberty Tree Tavern, and taking time to clear out of the park. It was such a magical time on marathon day, and I hope to write an overall recap soon!

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