"It's just a marathon Dani."
That is what I fell asleep telling myself the night before the fourth and final race in the Dopey Challenge.
When would I ever use the word "just" and "marathon" in the same sentence.
Nerves were running HIGH!
When we last left off in the Dopey Challenge saga...
Is it really a saga? Can it be a telanovela? Or maybe a series on Netflix only? That way you can all binge-read my recaps.
Woah Woah! I am getting off topic and basically making myself think my Dopey Challenge recaps are binge-worthy ... like Arrested Development or Orange Is The New Black.
Okay they are masterpieces. And entertaining. And fraught with amazing photographs. My odd yet humorous thoughts during races.
But I digress.
We left off from the WDW Half Marathon with me falling in to bed just after 8:30pm. To say I was going to bed peacefully would be a complete lie. I was - as previously stated - a nervous wreck over the marathon.
Now going into this marathon I had completed three other full marathons so I know I could complete it. BUT, after the stress reaction and my lack of long runs (nothing longer than 13.1 since The Boston Marathon back in April 2013), I was worried I wouldn't make it.
I had dreams of being swept.
Now, in reality, I knew that wouldn't happen. Even if I had to walk the entire marathon, I had to keep a 16 min/mile pace. Which for a Bostonian isn't that difficult. If there is one thing I can do well, it's walk fast! :) So I kept that in the back of my mind as I slept and when I woke up.
I flew out of bed at 2am. I felt the day before that I didn't get my money's worth in the race retreat so I made sure to wake up earlier before the Marathon (Sunday, January 12) so I could enjoy what I shelled out for.
It seemed I had decided the order of my costumes from easiest to most difficult to get into. Don't ask me why. But I woke up the wife and she helped make sure Snow White looked perfect before heading off to the race.
Thank goodness my wife can sew. Right folks?
I had once again laid out everything I needed the night before so I was out the door quickly and hoped the wife would be back to sleep soon.
I think I was the eighth person in line for the bus. Yes I was actually on the first bus out of the hotel. :) I tried my best to squash the nerves and I did that by finding the one and only Linzie from See Sharp Run on the bus and saddle up to him.
Thanks for the photo Linzie!
Seeing a familiar face was helping. We chatted and hung together until we got to the Start Area.
As Linzie made some last-minute Dopey Challenge purchases, I headed to the Race Retreat. I grabbed a bagel and pulled a chair up to once again watch Mary Poppins.
My stomach was not taking well to the bagel. I wondered if it was because it is a plain bagel and I don't really eat those anymore or if it was nerves taking over. Since I was there so early I just ate half before taking one of a zillion trips to Race Retreat's private port-o-potties (score!).
I decided a little later to try another half of a bagel, but with peanut butter this time. It seemed to sit better and I just tried to drink as much water as possible. I knew the humidity would be picking up and I wanted to be as hydrated as possible.
I was having a tough time connecting with the bloggers and runners I knew running the marathon so I needed something to distract myself. I thought why not make a poster to thank all the supporters I have - aka YOU GUYS! :)
So thank you again for following this journey and all of the messages I received before, during and after the Challenge.
Before I knew it, they were announcing Corrals A-C to the corrals. I hit the private Race Retreat bathrooms again before heading out. I was alone, which is not my preferred way to hang around a race because I get to in my head, so I was trying to distract myself by looking for people I knew.
And then it happened. Out popped Stephanie from Run for Fun. Stephanie and I met through a mutual friend when she was living in Boston before she relocated back to New Jersey. Gotta love how in a race with over 20,000 runners sometimes you luck into meeting someone you know.
Stephanie and I chatted while we meandered over to our corrals. We parted ways as I headed to Corral C and quickly sat my butt down and tried to stay warm. I think they said the temps were in the 40s, which should've been a heatwave for this New Englander, but I was freezing.
I tried to make myself as small as I could, while I listened to others around me talk about their excitement. I was just trying to calm my nerves. I couldn't remember the last time I was as nervous as I was in that moment.
So it was time to have a heart to heart with myself. I reminded myself that "I am stronger than I think I am," "I was trained enough for the event," and "I was there to have a blast." That was it. I was there to have fun.
As Tedy Bruschi had said before. The Start Line is the Finish Line and the race itself is the party ... and I was ready to get my party on!
The Run Disney announcers were doing a great job entertaining the crowd as best they could. It was FINALLY time to send the wheelchairs off. I could tell my stomach was starting the settle. I was ready to just get out there and run.
A went off ... B went off ... and it was time for Corral C.
As we walked to the Start Line
I caught my friend Carissa's eye, a Run Disney announcer, and she gave me a shout out. I looked around as if anyone in my corral knew who I was, but it made me smile and put me at ease. So thanks Carissa! :)
I was checking out the folks around me and caught the Pacer. It said 3:35 on it. I actually laughed out loud. Yes I was placed in my Dopey corral based on my half marathon PR of 1:44, which would make sense that I would end up near a 3:35 marathon pacer. But I know I will never get a time close to that (unless 3:58 is the new 3:35) so I was feeling out of place.
I KNEW I had to focus on running my own race and not get swept up in the speed demons around me. I kept myself tucked to the far left to make sure I stayed out of people's way.
Then it was time for Mickey to count us down! 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... GO!
And there it was. No matter what I was feeling. All I had to focus on in that moment was putting one foot in front of the other.
And locating the first port-o-potty. Hey nerves plus waiting forever in a corral weighs on a girl's bladder.
The marathon starts out just like the half marathon so I knew I had some highway time in front of me. They also use some of the same Disney character stops (bound to happen), but I committed to stopping at duplicates. I mean Hello I am in a different costume.
First stop again was Pirates of the Caribbean.
While waiting in line for this beauty, I chatted with a Perfect Marathoner. That means she had taken part in the previous 20 Disney marathons and this marked 21. It was really cool to hear her thoughts on how the race has changed over time. Year One the race had 2,000 runners and didn't include any of the frills (aka characters, etc) that the race does now.
Shortly after that stop we hit the Mile 2 marker, which meant all Dopey Challengers were officially halfway through the Challenge. WOO! It was all downhill after that, right? ;)
I had also decided I would have fun with the race photos ... can you tell?
We made our way to Magic Kingdom just like we had the day before, but Cinderella's Castle looked even more electric.
Plus do you like the Chuck Norris sign photobomb in the bottom left corner.
It was in Magic Kingdom that I had to do some back running and that means I ran past a character and had to double back for the photo.
We then made the turn to heard towards the Castle. Instead of Donald and Daisy, it was Mickey and Minnie. I assume since the marathon's mascot is Mickey.
How amazing did the Castle look?
I was chatting with women in line and one actually had recognized me from my Jessie costume the day before. :)
And as you emerge from the Castle, the photographers are there to capture your photo and usually get some of my favorite moments from the race.
I took a couple more character photos before we left Magic Kingdom.
After MK, it was back to highway/parking lot running but not before stopping at the Speedway. Friends, we ran on an actual speedway!
The entrance was slightly scary as you went down a sharp decline, which was shockingly followed up a steep incline. Thank you photogs for being at the top of that incline so I had to act like I was owning it.
Holy Sweat Marks Batman!
The speedway gave me a chance to see fellow runners outside making their way towards the Magic Kingdom. I love cheering folks on so I was trying to yell and clap them along as best I could.
It was cool to run around the track. It was lined with race cars, as well as old school cars that people had driven in. The folks were even sitting outside them cheering us on. And some were already BBQing. Ohh the food smelled good.
We hit the Mile 9 marker while on the Speedway and then made our way to Animal Kingdom. I was wicked excited for the rest of the race since it would all be new to me. We headed down Bear Creek Road and that is when I spotted her. The Evil Queen. I got too giddy for the people around me when I spotted her.
I got quite a few compliments from folks around me for the photo. I loved it.
I had been told you hit Animal Kingdom around Mile 13 so I knew we would be on the road for a while. I used this time to check in with myself and strike up conversation with runners around me that would talk. ;) I had a great time chatting with two gentlemen doing their first marathon. They were impressed with how upbeat I was for being so far into the Dopey Challenge. How could I not be upbeat? I was running through freakin' Disney and having a blast.
I will tell you I was stopping at every water station and having water and powerade. I wanted to keep myself as hydrated and energized as possible. Note with that much liquid, I was also visiting ever port-o-potties. Between bathroom breaks and character stops, my legs were feeling great. I was shocked and relieved.
I felt like a giant next to Jiminy Cricket
I posed with King Louie just before the halfway mark. As I hit the line for the halfway mark, I got a little sad. I only had 13.1 miles left in this amazing journey.
I was getting the text updates for my splits while I was running and saw that I was projected to finish in 5:06:43 at that moment. I was slightly disappointed. I wanted to love the run and not care about time, but I still wanted to try and finish under 5 hours.
I put the phone back on airplane mode to save battery and to take my focus off the splits.
And to apparently pretend that I was flying?
And at that moment I saw the lovely ladies of We Run Disney - Christine and her mom Pam. I was sooo happy to see familiar faces. It was great chatting with them and snap this selfie.
I was also working as PR. Telling everyone around us how they should check out these ladies on social media.
Now I had noticed folks passing me all along the course as I stopped for pics, but it hit me when I saw these ladies. I started in Corral C and they started in Corral G. Now they were both going for PRs so they weren't stopping for photos. Either way it made me realize the folks I started with were probably almost done. Eh! I was having fun.
We bid our goodbyes and I stopped to take more photos on my way out of Animal Kingdom.
The Mile 14 marker was just after this photo. Nothing too exciting happened between Mile 14 and 17. We were out on the highway making our way to the ESPN Wide World of Sports.
Apparently without a ton of character stops my pace picked up.
Mile 17-21 included the trip into, around and out of ESPN Wide World of Sports. I can tell you this was the most boring stretch of the marathon. There were no character stops and no real entertainment besides a brief spell running through the Ballpark where the Atlanta Braves spring train.
The highlight of this portion of the race was catching back up with the We Run Disney ladies and having Pam pay me one of the nicest compliments I've ever received. :)
I do want to thank Run Disney for having cold rags available here as well. It was wicked necessary.
I made up some serious time here since at Mile 20 I got the notification that my estimated Finish Time 4:53:37. That was a 13 minute jump from the previous prediction.
If you recall, this Frozen Mile Marker design was seen in all 4 race recaps. We love Frozen!
Now at Mile 20 it hit me. I only had 6.2 miles left in this sweet race. With Mile 22 being one of the last stretches of highway we would have. Woo!
The last 4 or so miles of the race went through Hollywood Studios, the Boardwalk and finally EPCOT.
Around Mile 23 we were in Hollywood Studios and a volunteer handed me this glorious treat.
Now Special Dark Chocolate is my favorite chocolate in the world. It was a great treat to snack on while I waited to grab a pic with Wreck It Ralph!
Now by this time the parks are open to the general public so it was my first experience running through the crowds. Obviously Disney does a great job of patrolling the traffic and making sure the runners stay on course. It was funny running past people that were clearly confused as to what we were doing.
In Hollywood Studios, we got to see some behind-the-scenes stuff like the costume department.
I loved it.
Again I know everyone is running their own race, but I was surprised more people weren't stopping to take pics.
We ran past the Hat and towards the exit of the park.
The miles were ending and I was getting sad. Post-race depression was sneaking in before the race even ended. I tried to push it aside and continue with the mantra I had used all race long: "Live IN The Mile."
Just before Mile 25 as we headed into EPCOT, I saw him. He was being escorted from an apparent break by a Disney cast member. It was DOPEY!
I 100% GEEKED OUT! It was the picture I wanted at the perfect moment. Plus the Cast Member grabbed this shot on my phone.
Right after this photo I entered the World Showcase and hit Mile 25. Oh man, this glorious morning would be over in just over 1 mile. I had to soak in EVERYTHING I could.
It was cool to see Mulan and Mushu outside Japan.
We left the Showcase and headed back towards the Ball. I checked in with my body, which felt great, and decided to kick it into gear and run a little harder.
While in the World Showcase, I was texting with my dad and my wife to find out where in EPCOT they would be. My dad and mom were going to be on my left as I passed the Ball to exit the park and the wife would be at the Finish line.
I approached the Ball and there they were. I high-fived both my parents and kept going. I started crying. I was so happy to see them and so excited to finishing this challenge.
There were a ton of photographers coming down the pike and I just hoped I looked as happy as I felt. :P
With a high-five to Minnie right before I crossed the Finish Line ... it was over.
The floodgates opened and I started the ugliest/happiest cry I have ever shed.
Glad they caught me stopping my Garmin. :P
Just after the Finish Line I turned to my left and in the huge crowd I spotted the wife ... and started crying harder!
The wife captured the moment on her phone.
I had the volunteer drape my marathon medal over me as I headed to pick up the final two medals: the Goofy Challenge and the illustrious Dopey Challenge medal.
My official Finish time was 4:45:57.
I was bawling. A volunteer said "Don't cry. It's over." I responded: "That's why I am crying."
I finally tuned in to my body and it was feeling the 48.6 miles. I was walking slowly, but I kept moving forward. I headed to the Race Retreat tent to grab food. The eggs only had cheese in them and a volunteer offered to locate me some without cheese. I thanked her about 10 times. It was a sweet gesture that I needed.
A different person came over to me. She was worried I was alone. I explained that my wife was outside. But she took a couple photos for me and gave me a big hug. It was exactly what I needed.
I headed over to the Runner's World portion of the Race Retreat tent so I could check in on Caitlin - a RW employee I met in 2013. She rocked Dopey!
It was finally time to run outside and be reunited with the wife. We waited a couple minutes so I could snap a photo with the lovely We Run Disney ladies before heading back to the bus.
As we headed to the bus, I spotted a champagne tent. Yes after finishing the Dopey I was content with spending $10 for a glass of champagne.
It was delicious!
I hobbled up the steps of the bus and just stared at the medals. I couldn't believe it was over. It hadn't sunk in.
I signed up for this race in April 2013 and now it was over. I was one of a certain number of people who had completed the inaugural Dopey Challenge.
The 4 hours and 45 minutes of the marathon felt like 20 minutes. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. Taking the route I did - stopping for every photo - helped me more than I could have expected.
Once back at the hotel, we stopped so I could get some chocolate milk to refuel with AND so that I could put all six medals on at the same time.
Ahhh!! The moment I had waited so long for.
After a shower, some social media work and a change, we were off to Magic Kingdom. And yes the six medals came with me.
We had an amazing afternoon before heading to EPCOT to join my parents for dinner in Germany.
Walking around the parks was the smart move as my legs felt refreshed rather than sore when I turned in to bed that night.
This race was more than a marathon. This Challenge was more than 48.6. This experience was life-changing!! :)