Here is the Walt Disney World Marathon Recap and the completion of the Dopey Challenge. (In case you missed them here are the links for the Pluto 5K Recap, the Minnie 10K Recap and the Run Your Own Half Marathon Recap.) As I wrote in earlier posts, I’ve been wanting to do the Dopey Challenge ever since it debuted 4 years ago so I was extremely hyped to finally be doing it. And it was even more exciting to be running it with Dave to celebrate our 20th Wedding Anniversary!
Walt Disney World Marathon Recap – Getting Ready
After the amazing experience we had running our own half marathon the day before, we were energized and excited for the big shebang- the Walt Disney World Marathon. And since we hadn’t needed to wake up in the middle of the night to run our half marathon, we had the added bonus of feeling fairly rested as we headed to bed the night before the race. I did make sure to stretch and use a foam roller before hitting the sack as I was feeling somewhat sore from the 22.4 miles we had run over the last 3 days. We also had been forced to make a run to TJ Maxx and Target for warmer running gear as the morning thunderstorms had brought in MUCH cooler temperatures than the forecast had previously called for with potential wind chills in the 20s. What the heck? Isn’t escaping running in the cold why we were running in Florida? I already had some cool weather gear with me so I picked up a cheap pair of running tights that I planned to ditch when the sun rose and Dave needed running tights, gloves, a hat and a fleece sweatshirt. Our cashiers at both stores told us that they had been selling warm clothes to runners all day. Thankfully we were able to get what we needed although Dave did end up wearing a kids pair of gloves with Elsa from Frozen on them as they were the only gloves left in the store. Ironic, right?
While I was really hyped for the full Marathon, I now have a confession to make. Dave and I were not especially trained to run the Dopey Challenge Miles. I’ve probably written this before, but the truth is that I am much more of a hiker who also likes to run than the other way around. So when training for a marathon, I sometimes have trouble making the time to get every single long run in. Sure, I get plenty of hours on trails but I am hiking those trails way more often than I am running them. And Dave has a pretty demanding work schedule so he even gets less time to train. I knew going in that we were absolutely ready for the first three races and were going to just have to buck up for Day 4 of the Dopey Challenge to complete the full marathon. While I was sure it wasn’t going to be pretty and was definitely going to be slow, I also was confident we would be able to finish since we have both completed several marathons previously. (You can check out my New York City Marathon Recap or Marine Corps Marathon Recap if you want to read about those unforgettable races.) So why do I keep entering marathons if I sometimes don’t fully train for them? Because they are FUN! And an amazing way to experience a city. And maybe I also kind of enjoy the torture of it? I don’t really know for sure, but I do know that I really love running them.
Walt Disney World Marathon Recap – Pacing Requirements
Because the parks need to open for other guests besides runners, runDisney races have strict pacing requirements. Every race there are numerous participants who are forced to quit racing if they fall behind pace and must board busses to the finish line. That being said, runDisney is very generous with the pacing requirement of 16 minute miles which is a 7 hour marathon. As an added cushion, the earlier corrals have an additional time cushion as the LAST person who crosses the start line starts that 16 minute per mile pace clock. To help make sure you know whether you are in danger of falling below this pace, the famous Balloon Ladies start last and walk a steady 16 minute miles as a visual reminder that if they pass you, you are in danger of being asked to board the sweeper bus.
Without any running, I generally walk at a 14.5 minute mile pace, and Dave and I were planning to do 1 minute running and 1 minute walking intervals so I wasn’t worried about lagging behind pace. However, it is VERY tempting to stop for every picture stop in runDisney races which as lines are pretty long, you could potentially fall behind pace just because of waiting for pictures. Because we didn’t want to waste a ton of time, Dave and I decided that we would take our own photos wherever we wanted but would only choose one or two special character photo spots that we had to wait in line for. That way time wouldn’t be an issue. As I said before, I knew we could get it done, the question was how much was it going to suck to get it done.
Walt Disney World Marathon Recap – Waking Up Early
As it had worked so well for us for the 5K and 10K, we followed the same routine for the Marathon. Our alarm went off at 2:15, we drove to the Epcot Parking Lot, and we got back into the bed of our Camper Van to sleep for a couple more hours. When our alarm went off at 4:20, we ate breakfast in the van as it was cold and WINDY outside. From the front seat, I saw several runners climbing out of cars, vans and SUVs from piles of blankets and air mattresses doing just what we had done, staying warm and getting a couple of precious hours extra of sleep in the warmth of their vehicles. If doing multiple races over several days, I HIGHLY recommend doing this as the extra sleep each morning really adds up.
Once I had finished eating my go to pre-marathon breakfast of a peanut butter and honey sandwich, we bundled into our extra clothes and headed through security straight to the coffee cart for our caffeine fix. And just like with the 5K and 10K, we visited the never ending line of port o potties. However, even with so many toilets there were LONG lines. It was definitely MUCH more crowded for the marathon than it had been for the earlier races. After waiting for 10 minutes or so and starting to get antsy because the line wasn’t moving, the clock was ticking and we had a decent walk to get to the start line, I got out of line and said forget it. We had only started walking to the start when we saw ANOTHER long row of port o potties and thankfully this one had no line at all.
Walt Disney World Marathon Recap – It’s a LONG Walk to the Start!
We thought we knew what we were doing since we had already run two races that weekend but the Marathon, and I assume the Half Marathon are much more crowded than the 5K and 10K. Not only that, the starting lines are also MUCH farther away from the parking lot and security gates because even though you can see the starting line through the bushes adjacent to the lot, you are forced to walk around them. And they are serious about this with security keeping watch and chasing down those who tried. Honestly, the brush was two thick for cutting through to be a good option anyway.
Once we finally had walked around and back up to the starting corrals, we headed to Corral I where we were assigned to start. We could see the starting line WAY down the road with a sea of people between us. Even though the first wave of runners took off at 5:30 right after we entered our corral, we had a long wait before we would get to go. With Corrals lettered A-P, there was a lot of standing for runners before the marathon. It actually took us 34 minutes until we were at our own start complete with our own Mickey send off and fireworks.
Walt Disney World Marathon Recap – Thank You Jeff Galloway!
As I wrote in earlier posts, I am a firm believer in the Jeff Galloway approach to completing marathons which features run/walk intervals. In fact my marathon PR at the Flying Pig in Cincinnati was done with intervals. Not only am I faster overall by taking walk breaks, I also feel much better doing them as well. Dave usually sticks to straight running during races but since we were doing the Dopey Challenge together he decided to do intervals this time. Besides the first half mile of each race which we ran the whole time in order to get out of the crowds, we settled on 1 minute run/1 minute walk intervals for the entire marathon and throughout the Dopey Challenge. This ended up working perfectly for us.
Walt Disney World Marathon Recap – Magic Kingdom
If you are planning to run the Disney World Marathon, I promise you this- you will NEVER be bored! There are so many people out cheering, bands, character stops, video monitors with cartoon, DJs, and of course the parks you run through that you will always have something to entertain you. As I said before, we didn’t stop in many character lines, but I did take photos of my favorites including the crew of Pirates of the Caribbean right at the beginning of the race. Before we knew it, we were heading through the gates of Magic Kingdom where not only are there LOTS of characters, it is awesome to run by Space Mountain and of course run down Main Street where you get your first glimpse of Cinderella’s Castle. The crowd support here is amazing and I dare you to try and not get choked up at this part of the race. It is SO exciting!
Another benefit of entering Magic Kingdom is that you have access to real bathrooms! Since the sun was rising, I headed into one and pulled off my running tights. Clearly I was not alone in stripping down here as there was a mountain of clothes inside the bathroom. runDisney donates any clothes left by runners during races so I bet local thrift stores have some serious cold weather running gear in stock right about now. From there we headed straight through the Cinderella’s Castle where Anna, Elsa and Kristoff from Frozen were waving from the balcony.
Walt Disney World Marathon Recap – Animal Kingdom
Our Magic Kingdom mile was our slowest of the race because there is so much to see here. From characters to memorable backdrops, you will want to absorb it all. And make sure you do, because the next several miles are the most boring of the route before you arrive to Animal Kingdom and the 13.1 mile halfway point. Greeted by actual animals on the course including an owl and a small goat, Animal Kingdom is such a beautiful park and it was so exciting to run through it. We had the option to stop and ride Expedition Everest, but the line was immense and I’m truly not a roller coaster fan so we just took some pics and jogged on.
Walt Disney World Marathon Recap – Wide World of Sports
By this point we were flagging just a bit so we ate some snacks for an energy boost. Dave had some dried mango and I had a handful of trail mix that I had stashed in my Sparkle Skirt pockets. By the way, I’ve mentioned sparkle skirts before, but let me repeat. They are AWESOME to run in. Not only do the shorts underneath not ride up, the pockets are amazing which is wonderful during a long run to hold snacks, chapstick, your keys and whatever else you need to carry. And they are also so cute! Since there had been water/powerade stops every mile or so, we were plenty hydrated as we entered ESPN Wide World of Sports for several miles. Here we waited in our only character line just before mile 20 because we had to stop for Mickey and Minnie! The line was pretty long, but it was worth it to us and pretty soon we were heading into the home stretch and entering Hollywood Studios for a short jaunt through the park.
Walt Disney World Marathon Recap – Hollywood Studios
Once in the park, the street actors here were out harassing runners and are absolutely hilarious! There was also a candy stop here and a Snickers bar has NEVER tasted so good. Between my trail mix, the two Cliff Shots stops, the water and powerade stops and the candy, I wasn’t feeling the empty feeling that I usually get during long runs.
As we left Hollywood Studios, we headed down the trail we had run the day before and into the Boardwalk area where there were throngs of people out cheering, passing out candy and pretzels and encouraging runners to the finish line that was getting tantalizingly close.
Walt Disney World Marathon Recap – Epcot
Once we entered Epcot, we knew we were almost finished and by now, we were pretty beat. But running through World Showcase is such an awesome experience and it helped carry us to the final stretch where we heard the beautiful sounds of the Gospel Choir that are right before the finish line. Dave grabbed my hand, and we ran down the finish chute together. It was AWESOME!
Walt Disney World Marathon Recap – The Finish Line
Once across the finish line, we stopped for a picture and my face shows exactly how I was feeling. I was TIRED! Our time was 5:59 which was a 13 minute 42 second mile and included all of the stops we had taken. That was just fine with me, we just like that, we had finished the Dopey Challenge.After grabbing a bottle of water, we were ushered into a special area for those finishing either the Goofy or Dopey Challenges. Once they checked us into the area, we received all four of our medals for the Donald Half Marathon we had done on our own, the Mickey Marathon Medal from today’s race, the Goofy Challenge Medal for completing both the Half and the Full, and the Dopey Challenge Medal for completing all four races. That is a lot of hardware!We then walked down to grab our banana and snack box and headed straight to the van to decompress a bit. Despite the lack of training for the Dopey Challenge, we felt pretty darn great! When we got back to Ft. Wilderness we hit the showers and then drove to Port Orleans where we parked to take the shuttle boat to Disney Springs, eating dinner at Wolfgang Puck Express before checking out all of the shops. It was an excellent way to end the day!In finishing up the Walt Disney World Marathon Recap, I want to emphasize what a fantastic race this was and how special it was to celebrate 20 years of marriage with Dave by running it together. There is no one else in the world I would rather struggle through 26.2 (or 48.6 miles!) with and I am so grateful that we had this experience together.
Next up- completing the Dopey Challenge had been on my bucket list for several years. I’m putting together a Dopey Challenge recap and will let you know our thought of do we think it was worth it and would we do it again?
Have you run a runDisney race? I would love to hear about your experience!