2014 Road Races

January 1 - 1st Run 5k - 23:43 (7:39 min/mile pace) - RECAP

January 9 - Disney Family Fun Run 5k - 32:05 (10:21 min/mile pace) - RECAP

January 10 - Walt Disney World 10k - 1:05:40 (10:35 min/mile pace) - RECAP

January 11 - Walt Disney World Half Marathon - 2:22:31 (10:53 min/mile pace) - RECAP

January 12 - Walt Disney World Marathon - 4:45:57 (10:55 min/mile pace) - RECAP


February 2 - Rock 'n' Roll New Orleans Half Marathon - 1:55:43 (8:50 min/mile pace) - RECAP

February 14 - Stop Stroke Shuffle 5k *Virtual* - 26:18 (8:29 min/mile pace) - RECAP


March 1 - Black Cat 20-Miler - 2:57:59 (8:54 min/mile pace) - RECAP

March 16 - Craicfest 5k - 24:17 (7:49 min/mile pace) - RECAP


April 19 - BAA 5k - 25:08 (8:06 min/mile pace) - RECAP

April 21 - 118th Boston Marathon - 5:31:18 (12:39 min/mile pace) - RECAP

April 26 - Rock 'n' Roll Nashville Marathon - 4:42:12 (10:46 min/mile pace) - RECAP


May 11 - M.O.M.'s Run 5k - 24:14 (7:48 min/mile pace) - RECAP

May 13 - Strides Against Stroke 5k *Virtual* - 26:16 (8:28 min/mile pace) - RECAP

May 18 - 18th Annual Mystic River Herring Run & Paddle 5k - 24:39 (7:57 min/mile pace) - RECAP

May 25 - Boston's Run To Remember Half Marathon - 1:50:58 (8:28 min/mile pace) - RECAP

May 29 - Boston 5k Summer Series Race #1 - 23:29 (7:34 min/mile pace) - RECAP


June 1 - Freedom Run 5k - 23:55 (7:43 min/mile pace) - RECAP

June 7 - Runner's World 5k - 28:28 (9:11 min/mile pace) - RECAP

June 7 - Runner's World 10k - 58:49 (9:29 min/mile pace) - RECAP

June 8 - Runner's World Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon - 2:08:52 (9:50 min/mile pace) - RECAP

June 21 - Rock and Run Boston (Obstacle 5k) - 45:32 (14:38 min/mile pace) - RECAP

June 22 - BAA 10k - 51:37 (8:19 min/mile pace) - RECAP

June 30 - Summer Sizzler *Virtual* 5k - 25:21 (8:10 min/mile pace) - RECAP


July 3 - Finish At The 50 (10k for me) - 53:01 (8:32 min/mile pace) - RECAP

July 13 - Shipyard Old Port Half Marathon - 1:57:44 (8:59 min/mile pace) - RECAP

July 17 - Boston 5k Summer Series Race #3 - 24:19 (7:50 min/mile pace) - RECAP

July 20 - Iron GirlWebster Sprint Triathlon - 1:26:54 - RECAP

July 30 - F.A.S.T. (Fighting Against Stroke Together) *Virtual* 5k -27:44 (8:57 min/mile pace) - RECAP


August 14 - Boston 5k Summer Series Race #4 - 24:57 (8:03 min/mile pace) - RECAP

August 17 - Falmouth Road Race (7 miles) -1:00:49 (8:41 min/mile pace) - RECAP

August 24 - Race To The Row 5k - 23:46 (7:39 min/mile pace) - RECAP


September 4 - Boston 5k Summer Series Race #5 - 22:39 (7:18 min/mile) - RECAP

September 7 - Pumpkinman Half Ironman - 6:06:03 - RECAP

September 13 - Big Bad Wolf 5 Mile Trail Race - 41:41 (8:21 min/mile pace) - RECAP

September 14 - Buzzards Bay Sprint Triathlon - 1:27:01.3 - RECAP

September 17 - The Dani Ryan Holmes-Kirk 3rd Annual 30th Birthday 5k Run-Walk Ramble *VIRTUAL* - 26:03 (8:24 min/mile pace) - RECAP

September 27 - ZOOMA Women's Half Marathon (Cape Cod) - 1:54:17 (8:43 min/mile pace) - RECAP


October 5 - Oktoberfest 5k - 24:16 (7:49 min/mile pace) - RECAP

October 12 - BAA Half Marathon - 1:52:58 (8:37 min/mile pace) - RECAP

October 18 - Runner's World 5k - 30:29 (9:50 min/mile pace) - RECAP

October 18- Runner's World 10k - 1:01:11 (9:52 min/mile pace) - RECAP

October 19 - Runner's World Half Marathon - 2:10:35 (9:58 min/mile pace) - RECAP

October 25 - *Virtual* Pug Run 5k - 25:29 (8:13 min/mile pace)


November 9 - Boston River Run 5k - 24:12 (7:47 min/mile pace) - RECAP

November 15 - Spartan Sprint Fenway Park - 58:54 - RECAP

November 16 - South Shore Half Marathon - 1:54:00 (8:42 min/mile pace) - RECAP

November 23 - Santa Hustle New England Half Marathon - 1:52:28 (8:36 min/mile pace) - RECAP

November 27 - Gobble Gobble Gobble 4-Miler - Garmin Time: 42:24 & Mass Start Time: 43:09 - RECAP

November 29 - The Ugly Sweater Run (2.5 miles) - *NOT TIMED* - Garmin: 20:43 (8:16 min/mile pace) - RECAP


December 6 - Jingle Bell Half Marathon - 1:51:37.2 (8:32 min/mile pace) - RECAP

December 14 - Yulefest 5k - 23:08 (7:27 min/mile pace) - RECAP


Overall Thoughts On Dopey Challenge

Well well well the Dopey Challenge has now come and gone. Two weeks to be exact.

Has the excitement worn off? Not in the least!!


Do I wish I was still in Disney? Hell yeah!


But as I sit here in cold/windy/snowy Boston, it is my time to reflect back on the experience and answer some of your questions about the Dopey Challenge.

It was a life-changing experience.

If you told me a few years ago, that I would be able to run 48.6 miles in four days I would have laughed in your face.


But this experience proved that I can do anything I set my mind to. I am stronger than I think I am and leaving my comfort zone pays off. :)

I tried to enjoy every second of the journey and live IN the mile rather than think about how many miles or races I had to go. It allowed me to truly be in the experience.

Now let me answer some of the questions you sent my way:

*How did the shirts fit?


Five of the six shirts were long-sleeved tech shirts, where the 5k was a short-sleeved cotton t-shirt.

I ordered men's small for the shirts this year and they fit like a glove. Last year, I ordered a men's medium and it was HUGE and boxy. As a result, I went a size smaller this year and the long-sleeved shirts fit great.

Now the women's sizes I've heard were true to size and the ladies I know were happy with the sizes they ordered.

There is a table at the Expo where you can exchange sizes, but I know from experience that it is rare to be able to size down at that table. I tried last year and failed miserably.

*Did you visit the parks while you were there? How long per day?

You bet your BOOTY I did. This trip was the big vacation for the year for my wife and I. We were gone a full week. We flew down on a Tuesday (Jan 7) so we had six days in Florida then flew back to Boston on Tuesday (Jan 14).  We had the five-day park hopper pass.

Our breakdown:

Wednesday Jan 8: EXPO, Downtown Disney Thursday, Jan 9: 5k, Magic Kingdom, Downtown Disney (for #WDWRaceTweetup), Hollywood Studios Friday, Jan 10: 10k, Hollywood Studios Saturday, Jan 11: Half Marathon, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios (just for dinner) Sunday, Jan 12: Full Marathon, Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Monday, Jan 13: Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, EPCOT

So you can see we took FULL advantage of the park hopper pass. I spent most of the days at the park. The only time I napped was after the half marathon. After the full marathon, I made sure to ice my knees/ankles.

I actually think walking the parks kept my legs feeling loose and helped the lactic acid move on. I know "experts" recommended staying off your feet. Well, I didn't feel like I had that luxury after spending so much money to go to Disney. I wanted my money's worth for both the races and the parks.

*Where did you eat dinner? How early?

I did try to get to bed each night by 9 at the latest. The mornings wake-ups were between 2am and 4am. So our dinner reservations were set between 5:30-6:15.

Our dinner breakdown:

Wednesday - Raglan Road Irish Pub - Downtown Disney - great atmosphere, delicious Irish Bread, good beer, Irish dancers as entertainment, quick service - worth the money for me

Thursday - Mama Melrose - Hollywood Studios - standard Italian food, big portions, friendly staff - worth the money for me

Friday - Hollywood & Vine - Hollywood Studios - standard buffet, salad, pasta, meat station, dessert station - wasn't worth the money for me

Saturday - Sci-Fi Dine-In Theatre - Hollywood Studios - (wife's choice) she absolutely loved in, cool and different atmosphere, good beer selection, burger/sandwiches type place, I've heard their milkshakes are divine, fountain style cherry coke (wife's note) - worth the money for me

Sunday - Biergarten - Germany (EPCOT) - buffet style, Oompah band for entertainment, lots of kids dancing in front of the stage, family atmosphere, good food - pricey but worth it (thankfully my parents picked up the tab on that one ;))


*Are there healthy food options at Disney?

There are!! I was able to find great selections at all of the Disney parks, hotels and restaurants I visited. I made sure to always keep baby carrots and apple slices in my bag while we were walking around the parks. You can obviously bring your own snacks, but if you have to buy on site (we did) there are options!!

*Do people wear the race medals/shirts around the parks?

HELL YEAH! Be proud of the bling. Whether you participate in the 5k, 10k, Half, Full, Goofy Challenge or Dopey Challenge or any other Disney race where those medals with PRIDE!


Also, without fail, every cast member at Disney congratulated me on my race. Outstanding! Where else can you feel like a rockstar as dozens of people (or more) congratulate you on your accomplishment. I also would high-five other folks I saw wearing race t-shirts or medals. It is like a giant party for you! Or maybe I just looked at it that way.

I did make sure to bring my bag and store my medals in there when on certain rides.

Now I rarely wore more than one at a time, but I would keep the others on hand for photo opportunities. ;)


*How was running in costumes?



I am so happy I did it. Now you can see I didn't run in FULL costume like some folks do, but mine were recognizable. A great way to win over the spectators. It was so cool to hear "Go Jessie Go" or a little kid saying "Mom, it's Snow White!" It is a fun experience.

Here is a post I wrote about winning over a race crowd - click.

Make sure you test your costumes out before race day! The last thing you want is a malfunction before embarking on a run.

*You took part in Race Retreat. Was the experience worth it?

I paid $200 to take part in the Race Retreat before the Half Marathon and Full Marathon. Individually the Race Retreat is $120 for each event so I saved $40.

For me, it wasn't worth it. You have to pay extra to bring family/non-racers into the tent and we didn't have those funds/wanted to spend that money elsewhere.

While I was happy for the heated tent and special port-o-potties, the lines for me were just as long as outside. Plus I left the Retreat so early I still had to stop at the public port-o-potties anyway.

Afterwards the food was eggs with cheese, bacon, potatoes and I think something else. I don't eat cheese so I was going to pass on the eggs when a nice volunteer offered to find me some sans cheese. Oh it was so sweet of her. She did in record time too.

But for $200 I ate a couple bagels, some bacon and some eggs. I didn't spend as much time in there as I would've wanted because 1) I had to get to the corrals early being in the early ones and 2) I didn't like making my family wait for me outside while I ate.

Also the massages were extra (which I did know before), but forgot in the delirious of the race. ;)

So if I was to do a Run Disney race again, I would not bother with the Race Retreat.

*Of the four races, which was your favorite event?

Oohhhh this question is tough tough tough. I loved all of them for different reasons, but I think it would have to be the Full Marathon. I just had a freakin' blast out there. You can read the recap here.

I saw the most characters and had the opportunity to run through all four parks.


The crowds were encouraging and it was also entertaining to see the folks in the parks that were utterly confused with all the runners cutting through EPCOT. :)

*Was the Dopey Challenge worth the $495 fee?

With the prices of half marathons and full marathons increasing by the day, the price seemed fair for four races. Disney really knows how to take care of business when it comes to busses, volunteers, EMTs, water stations, GU stations, etc. Plus the organization puts the participants minds at ease.

*What was your biggest barrier to overcome during the challenge?

I grappled with this one for a while, but knew it had to be the four early morning wake-ups. To me, that is a tough thing to train for. I can try to get myself to bed early, but four days in a row is still a tough feat to overcome. It really hit me after the half marathon. After that race, I came home and actually napped for 45 minutes.

The 2am wake-up call for the Full Marathon was the roughest. I don't think I actually felt awake until I crossed the Start Line.

There are folks that don't wake up as early as I do for the races, but I get nervous with the busses. Hi I am a worrier! So I would rather be early than delayed for any reason: full bus, traffic, etc.

And the million dollar question that I get asked the most... ;)

*Will you do it again?

The wife: "NEVER!" :P Let's just say my wife was not a fan of waking up each morning to make sure I had everything ready to go pre-race.

Now my answer ... not in the near future! Between the length of the vacation, hotel costs, food costs, race fees, etc, it seriously is our only vacation for the year. Now budgeting can change all that - which we did - but still one full week was a lot of time away from home with two pups. I did enjoy every minute of it.


But, never say never! :)


If you have additional questions, feel free to send them along! I can always edit this post.

Disney Part 3: Final Day

The Dopey Challenge was over. The medals were earned.

the bling

The running was done.


So what is a girl to do with one final day left in Disney????

Why hit up as many parks as possible and show off the bling!

After enjoying a celebratory dinner and beer with the parents and wife on Sunday (January 12) night...


... it was time to devise a game plan for the final day of vacation.

Originally, we thought we would go to Harry Potter world on the Monday, but between park tickets and having to rent a car - the price tag was too rich.

We opted instead to add a 5th day to our Disney park hopper pass for just $12 a person. #WINNING! ;)

The goal was to sleep in.

And we did.

Until 7:30am!!

HEY, after getting up between 2am and 4am the previous four mornings that WAS sleeping in.

I made sure to sleep in my ZENSAH compression socks so when I woke up my legs were sore, but strong after having run 48.6 miles.

We got ready. IE I loaded up my backpack with my 5 medals and wore my Dopey medal. Oh I also allowed myself to rock the Dopey Challenge "I Did It" t-shirt. :)


We grabbed a quick breakfast at the hotel before heading to Hollywood Studios. Our goal was to knock out the Toy Story ride right as the park opened to avoid the inevitable hour long wait that the ride averages.

I ran shuffled through Hollywood Studios to arrive at the Toy Story ride with a manageable 15 minute wait. Woo!

Toy Story is an amazing ride that most folks have to Fast Pass to get into in a timely manner. We had had a fast pass on a previous trip, but the ride was shutdown for some reason. Redemption time.


Now last year when we rode this I crushed the wife's score and she was pissed. I mean she is the "gamer" not me.

She was ready to kick my butt. Well...



After the quick visit to Hollywood Studios, we were back on the bus and making our way to Magic Kingdom. It was time to catch up on the rides we missed during the previous trips.

photo 1 (24)

I immediately headed to Cinderella's Castle to show off the bling.


After having the wife snap my picture, some other folks came over and asked to take pictures of the medals.

I even found Dopey. ;)


And I learned that I need to do some extra strength training before my next trip.

photo 2 (20)

While we stopped to get some lunch, my friend Kitty found us. She lives in NYC and I in Boston so we don't get to see each other too often. She had OWNED the Goofy Challenge (Half Marathon & Full Marathon) and was glowing.

photo 3 (19)

We decided to meet up for a beer and Fireworks in EPCOT later that night. Woo! :)

The wife and I grabbed a now annual picture in front of the Castle before jumping on the monorail.


Since we stayed at the Pop Century Hotel, we didn't get to use the monorail at all during the stay so we made a special trip. We didn't really have a destination until we decided we were thirsty for an adult beverage. :) Off to the Polynesian we went.


I stayed at that hotel on my first trip to Disney back in fourth grade and loved it. It is outside of our price range, but we could handle a drink on our budget. :P

After a little relaxation, it was time to move on to our third and final park of the day!



We took our time walking around the park and hopping on all of the rides that didn't have a wait. It was most since many of the runners/families had headed home earlier in the day. We even got to hop on Test Track with a minor 10 minute wait time. SCORE!

While we decided where to grab dinner, I caught a character area in the center of EPCOT and dragged the wife inside. It said there was a 5 minute wait. I wanted to know who was in there. I hit the jackpot.







All admired their personal medals! And ignored the random cameltoe I was rocking. How nice of them?

As my phone started to die, we found a little corner behind the character meet and greet to juice up our phones. I wanted to have enough battery to capture the fireworks.

Tori grabbed dinner in England, while I got a salad in the USA. ;)

We headed over to Germany to meet Kitty and her friend for the Fireworks show.


It was beautiful, but only lasted 12 minutes. I'm not sure why I thought IllumniNations lasted longer than that, but was sad. Right after the show ended they steered us towards the exit so it was already time to say adios to Kitty.

We headed back to Pop Century to grab a nightcap by the pool with a social media friend Steffany and her husband. It was a blast, but I regret not snapping a picture. Oops! Blogger fail. We will just have to meet up another time. :)

We begrudgingly headed back to our room to pack so we would be ready for the 6:55am Magical Express back to the airport ... and real life.

The day was exactly what I needed. I shook out the lactic acid from my legs by walking around the parks, spent time with friends, beat my wife in Toy Story again and just enjoyed every single minute of it.

Now how long 'til we go back?

Dopey Challenge Race 4: WDW Marathon

"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.

photo 3 (18)
photo 3 (18)

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.

photo 2 (18)
photo 2 (18)

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.

photo 1 (22)
photo 1 (22)

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! :)

photo 4 (9)
photo 4 (9)

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.

photo (21)
photo (21)

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.

photo (22)
photo (22)

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.


Like these!

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.

photo 1 (23)
photo 1 (23)
photo 2 (19)
photo 2 (19)

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.


How beautiful!

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!

photo (23)
photo (23)

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.

the bling
the bling

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.


Celebratory beers.

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!! :)

Dopey Challenge Race 3: WDW Half Marathon

3am. The time the alarm went off for the Walt Disney World Half Marathon on Saturday, January 11th. Now by this time in the Dopey Challenge - Race 3 - you think I would've been used to the early morning wake-up... NOT!! It still hurt, but nerves/excitement kept propelling me out of bed like I won the lottery!

I was ready.

I had actually run the Disney Half in 2013 (my first Run Disney event) so I actually knew what the expect course-wise. For once. ;) I was even repeating a costume. My Jessie costume in January 2013 was such a hit and I had spent good money on the red cowboy hat that I was perfectly okay with reusing. This time however we used a different white shirt. Actually it was a tech golf shirt, which we thought would breathe in the humidity a little better than the cotton shirt I used the previous year.


Since I had signed up for the Race Retreat (which was $200 extra to attend before the Half Marathon and Marathon), which includes:

Pre-Race Amenities

  • Pre-race bagels and fruit, plus coffee, water and PowerAde
  • Temperature-controlled tent with lounges
  • Private restrooms and bag check
  • Padded stretching area

Post-Race Amenities

  • Internet access to check live results
  • Brunch with hot and cold beverages
  • Changing tents
  • Self-treatment and First Aid station
  • 10-minute massage for only $10 (based on availability)
  • Designated location to meet friends and family to celebrate your accomplishment!*

(Taken from RunDisney.com)

I headed out of the room at 3:30 and off to the busses. The bus was actually pretty packed and I enjoyed talking to a woman who was running her first half marathon. It was great to tell her about my experience on this course and share in her excitement.

I arrived to the Race Retreat and it was in full swing. I grabbed a bagel and took a seat near the "Kids Korner," which was showing Mary Poppins. As I drank water and ate my bagel, the announcements started. They asked runners in corrals A-C to head to the Start Line.

Gah, already? I just got there. At that moment, I told myself I had to get to race retreat earlier the next day to get my money's worth. It was nice to hang out inside a heated tent as it was chilly outside. Before I headed to the Start Line, I got a picture with the crew from Mary Poppins.


Yay penguins. I usually never see those guys around the parks.

The line at the Race Retreat port-o-potties was wrapping around the tent so I headed outside to use the other port-o-potties. In retrospect, I should've just waited inside, but I was worried about getting to the Start.

I actually ran into a couple of folks that were related to an Instagram follower of mine (did you follow that?) on my way to the Start Line so it was nice to chat with them.

Just like 2013, Jessie was a hit already and a few people asked to take a photo of me. Kind of odd to just pose by myself, but I was happy to spread the Jessie love. :0)

I made another pit stop at the port-o-potties after the trek to the Start (which is a dimly lit walk that is about a 1/4-1/2 mile). I headed to Corral C and started stretching.


In 2013, I was in Corral A so this was an adjustment not being the first folks off after the wheelchairs. But it was great to experience the Start a few times.



Finally it was our turn!! :)

I started out a little too fast and made sure to real it back in. I knew I needed to run my own race and not get swept up in the crowd around me. I was placed based on my 1:44 Half PR and knew I was going to run a slower race than that so I didn't want to speedy folks around me to get in my headspace.

Since I had taken part in the race previously, I knew what to expect ... a lot of highway time. But Disney does a great job of distracting you during those long patches. Enter characters tops and DJs.

Our first character stop was the same, hello Pirates of the Caribbean.


Being two corrals back from the previous year I was worried about longer lines at characters. Right off the bat I noticed a slight increase, but not as bad as I expected.

As we cruised down the highway and I jammed out to some great pop and Disney tunes, the entrance to Magic Kingdom caught me off guard. It was a happy sight though.


The entrance to Magic Kingdom hits you around Mile 3. That doesn't mean you are in the actual park yet, but the parking lot and Speedway.

There is where I spotted Launchpad McQuack. I have NEVER seen him in a park or on a course so it was a treat I had to stop for.

photo (17)

And the lovely Nightmare Before Christmas folks.


We continued on streets/high way areas until just past the 5 mile marker. At that point, we started taking the back entrance into Magic Kingdom. Taking part in a Run Disney race does give you a behind the scenes look at parts of the parks.

Just after you make it through the back roads of Magic Kingdom you take the entrance into the actual park and you take the right onto Main Street. That moment is absolutely breathtaking. The crowds are massive and the energy level is unparalleled. It is an experience that is tough to put into words.

photo (18)

What a sight, right?

After passing the Castle you take a right into Tomorrowland and work your way through the different sections of the Magic Kingdom. I easily get distracted by looking at the surroundings, thanking the volunteers and trying to spy who the next character stop will be.


Buzz & Jessie reunited



I actually really enjoyed stopping for the character stops since 1) it gave my legs a chance to rest and 2) I had a fun time meeting other runners and talking Dopey Challenge/costumes/etc.

I had to get another pic with Donald and Daisy before running through Cinderella's Castle, which is my favorite part!

photo (19)


Can you tell I was trying to hide my phone from the photograph? 


It is cool to come out from Cinderella's Castle and look out on to Main Street and the massive crowds, as well as the other runners!!

We took the right turn into Fronteirland and that is where it happened ... Jessie and Woody!

photo 1 (21)

It was just after this photo that we hit the Mile 6 marker.

You are really only in Magic Kingdom for a couple of miles before you head back on to the highway/streets to make your way back to EPCOT. This is a stretch that could be dreaded, but the crowds keep you pumped up and Disney makes sure there are characters spread out along the stretch. Including...




You can see it was still dark out. The sun finally starting breaking through as I was heading towards Mile 9. Yay! Finally the pictures stopped looking like I was running at night. :P

Once you hit Mile 9, you are on the opposite side of the highway we started out on. It was interesting to see some of the runners/walkers, as well as the Disney clean-up crew. They were right behind the last walker ready to clean up the course so roads could reopen as quickly as possible.

This stretch allowed me some time to take an in-race selfie! Pretty right? I hit send on this puppy as we hit Mile 10.


It was at that time that "Go The Distance" from Hercules came on my iPod shuffle and great motivating text messages flowed in.

It was also when I texted my Dad to let him know I was at Mile 10. His response? "Slow down. Stuck on the bus."

Ummm... okay dad. :P There was no changing my pace. Ha. I was ready to be back into EPCOT and heading towards the Finish Line.

Just after Mile 10 you hit a little incline as you do a turnaround to get off the current highway and up to the road that leads you straight into EPCOT. More highway. More DJ. Etc.

At Mile 12, I had to take a picture with the mile marker - it was the Frozen one, which had also been used during the 5k and 10k.


Yes you can see that the humidity was NOT working with the red marker/tech golf shirt combo. Oops! It was looking like Jessie had seen better days.

Right after this pic you head into the park. Running through EPCOT never gets old. Now that we were getting close to the Finish folks weren't stopping for pictures, but I was ready to keep my "stop at every character" streak alive.


photo (20)

With 1/2 a mile to go, it was time to check in with my body. I felt great. My legs felt fresh. The right foot didn't feel any worse than before.


So I decided to kick it in to a faster gear heading to the Finish Line. Why not right? So off I went.


But you know I had time to yuck it up for the photographer.


Then it was over. The third race of the Dopey Challenge - the Half Marathon - was done: 2:22:31.

What a thrill. 22.4 were done. But upon further review, we still weren't half way through the Dopey Challenge.

I even spotted my Dad and wife at the Finish Line. Yay! They had made it in time to see me Finish.

I waved and headed to grab my medal.



photo 2 (17)


I headed to the Race Retreat to grab a quick post-race meal: bacon, bacon, bacon. You know how it is! I tried to eat quickly since neither my wife nor dad could go into the tent because we didn't buy them the access. So I ate quickly and headed back out so we could go back to the hotel.

I got back to the room and crashed - still in costume. Yes the lack of sleep was catching up to me. After the nap it was time for a quick shower, change and chocolate milk time!!


We decided to spend the afternoon in Animal Kingdom including lunch at Flame Tree Barbecue, which has some kick ass pulled pork.




After Animal Kingdom, we met my parents in Hollywood Studios for dinner at the Sci Fi Dine-In Theatre Restaurant before calling it a night. Thankfully I was in bed just after 8:30pm to rest up for the BIG SHOW ... the WDW Marathon!

Dopey Challenge Race 2: Inaugural Minnie 10k

I was a part of history!!! That's right folks! Dani Holmes-Kirk will go down in the record books.

When future historians look back at what happened in 2014, they will see my name in the list of people who participated in the inaugural Minnie 10k.

Yup - that's right!

I'm in the record books. :)

After I announced that I would be undertaking the Dopey Challenge, my friend Krissy (from Shiawase Life) told me she was going to take part in the 10k and suggested we run it together! YAY! :) I love having a running partner. Plus, I knew she would help me focus on the fun and pictures and keep the pace slow.

I let Krissy know that I would be rocking the Tinkerbell costume for the 10k and she decided to do a partner costume ... which I will reveal shortly.

Let's get to the day...

On Friday, January 10th, I started the earlier wakeup calls with a all three phones (mine, my wife's and the room's) all went shrieking off around 3:15am. I once again leaped out of bed and started getting into my costume.


The outfit wouldn't have been complete without Tink's pom poms on the shoes. :)

I once again grabbed up my ENERGYBits, Lara Bar and Armpocket and headed out to the busses. My need to be on one of the earlier busses allowed me to get to the Start area with plenty of time to hit the port-o-potties, bust a little move and get in place to meet Krissy near Corral A. :)


And there she was ... my Tiger Lilly!


Aren't we cute??

We had an EASY time passing the time before the race started. Between chatting, running into other folks we knew and generally loving hanging out, the time flew. Before I knew it, it was time for us to sashay - if you will - up to the front-ish part of the corral. Yes I had learned the day before that they let you into the corral on one side and let you out the other side to actually head to the Start Line.

It is amazing to instantly click with someone IRL after building a friendship online. This was just the second time that Krissy and I had hung out in person and it felt like we've been hanging out for ages.

We did some more sashaying to try and get a tad closer up to the Start Line.


After a second day of Run Disney announcements, Cigna spokesperson and the National Anthem, the fireworks went off and we hit the road.

I hit my Garmin as we crossed the Start Line - mainly out of habit than caring about pace - and we headed out through the EPCOT parking lot.


The course mark above shows the 5k route in Blue and the 10k route in Red. Parts overlapped as you can see, but we did spend more time in the EPCOT parking lot area in the beginning.

I will say the first mile of the race didn't include any music or character sightings, which was disappointing. BUT, the first character stop we did see ... was PERFECT for Krissy and I. Here's why:


AH-MAY-ZING right?

We were probably in the parking lot/outside EPCOT for the first half of the race before...


...heading into EPCOT.

Also there were some awesomely hyper and awake volunteers cheering us on and high-fiving us as we ran through. I do not want to know how early those poor people had to be there. Ouch! I hope they know how much we appreciate their lack of sleep.

Krissy and I did a great job of stopping at every single character (yes keeping my streak alive) and got some characters I hadn't seen on the course before like



(Note: Holy sweat Batman!)


Goofy as a football player

After running through the World Showcase,


we took the bridge over to the Boardwalk.

It was cool to check out a new area that I hadn't run on before and on a different surface - wood.

Krissy and I were just talking about life, running. what I could expect from the marathon route since she had done it before and overall having a great time.


Can you tell? :)

And please don't ask if I was trying to raise the roof or something. I'm not sure what I was going with there.

I will say I expected more characters on the course since it was twice as long as the 5k and was disappointed. I know it was the first year of the race, but I thought it would've offered more.

I did like how they took us on a different route within the park (besides World Showcase) so the surroundings weren't the exact same as the 5k.

But as soon as it started it was ending. I'm not sure 6.2 miles has flown so quickly before. Now I told Krissy I wanted to do something on the Finish like holding hands victoriously. Well we were ready for a magical Finish Line photo when...


... we got photobombed. AND two guys tried to top us:


How Rude! I mean really. ;)

We officially clocked a time of 1:05:40, grabbed our medals and headed for some post-race photos.



Donald got into the flying! 


Ladies' Morning

While we were waiting in line for the photos, I actually got to finally run over and give the We Run Disney ladies a hug. I hadn't met them in person yet, but was so excited to even get a hug in. :)

Once we got our character pics, we headed back to the Finish Line to meet up with Kat (from Katrina Elle) and Linzie (of See Sharp Run) so we could all get some celebratory hugs, high-fives and pics in.


Yay lime green


#wdwracetweetup reunion

After we all got our fill of each other ;), Kat offered to give me a lift back to the hotel since she and Linzie drove. I couldn't resist more time with friends so I said yes. After a nice trip around the parking lot to find Kat's car - yes that happens when you park at like 3:30am in pitch black.

I need to give Krissy a special THANKS for being a great running partner. Let's do it again chica! :)

Once I finally got back to my room, it was time to shower, change and take this lovely medal on the road.


After refueling with Got Chocolate Milk of course!


Oh yeah I wore both the 5k and 10k medal to Hollywood Studios. After the race Minnie had a line wrapping around the Finish Line area and I just didn't want to wait. THEN at Hollywood Studios we fell into an opportunity to get a private pic with Minnie in her "dressing room" and this gem was born.


Awesome, right?

We had a great afternoon at Hollywood Studios before enjoying dinner with my parents at Hollywood & Vine. But before we made it to dinner, a Disney photographer caught Wreck It Ralph & Vanellope oogling over my bling.


I ended the day celebrating my 2-year anniversary of hitting goal weight with Weight Watchers with a beer.


Of course.

After dinner and the bus ride home, I promptly passed out in order to rest up for the Walt Disney World Half Marathon.

Catch ya at the recap?

Disney Part 2: #WDWRaceTweetup

Have I told you racecations are an awesome time to meet up with friends both long-time and "just meeting for the first time, but been friends through social media for awhile" friends? Enter the birth of the #wdwracetweetup, which I had the honor to host with my friends Kat (of Katrina Elle) and Linzie (of See Sharp Run)!!


On Thursday, January 9th, after completing the Family Fun Run 5k and getting myself cleaned up, the wife & I made a pit stop at the Magic Kingdom (like folks do)...


... before heading to grab lunch and meet Kat and Linzie at Downtown Disney for the tweet-up. :)


Thanks for sharing this pic with me Linzie!

We had a little time to set up our amazing giveaway prizes before folks arrived. I want to thank our awesome sponsors again:

Zensah Compression

The swag was TIGHT!! I knew folks would be climbing over each other to win stuff. :)

As we sat eating and chatting, the rain started to fall. Eek! I got a tad nervous that folks wouldn't show, but I knew Run Disney runners were tougher than that.

As it approached 1, we set up camp near the Carousel. I may or may not have nudged us a little closer to the outside plug I had found the day before so I could charge my dying phone. ;)

Then all of a sudden folks started showing up! YAY!

It was wicked cool to meet folks in person that I had chatted with online for so long. I also met some folks I hadn't known before. That is the great thing about having 3 different bloggers inviting folks to meet-up.


We let Linzie handle the intros and as you can see he did a spectacular job.

It was a great enthusiastic crowd of about 20-25 runners. It was great to chat strategy with other folks that would be tackling the Dopey Challenge. I loved sharing why and how I use my ENERGYBits before and during races to fuel. I may have also shared how Showerpills shared me once or twice or more when I didn't have enough time to shower between a workout and a meeting. :) Plus, I get a great thrill giving away not 1 but 5 Sparkly Soul headbands!


Thank you again to everyone that came out, tweeted, shared, hugged and made some new friends with us! We really appreciated it.

A few folks showed up just as the tweet-up was coming to a close so we stopped at the nearby margarita bar to share an adult beverage with those new friends! :)

After rehydrating? - yeah sure - the wife & I headed over to Hollywood Studios to hit up some rides and meet my parents for dinner at Mama Melrose. Mmmmm carbs! :P

Where shall we meet next? The inaugural Minnie 10k of course!

Dopey Challenge Race 1: Family Fun Run 5k

Share the normal time you wake up for a race? I'll give you a moment to share your answer.

Don't mind me.

A little bit of Monica in my life. A little bit of Erica by my side. MAMBO  Number Fiiiivveee.

So everyone's answers in?

If you guessed 4am then you are spot on for my Family Fun Run 5k wake-up time!

Which you will find over this 4-part series of the Dopey Challenge was "sleeping in."

I was a little worried about getting up on time that I set my phone alarm, my wife's phone alarm AND called in a wake-up call from the hotel. But as soon as my alarm went off, I flew out of bed. I was ready to finally start the Dopey Challenge.

For the 5k, I went simple with the costume: Minnie Mouse.

Thanks to my wife for getting out of bed to snap the pre-race photo!

I'm not gonna lie. It was sort of sad heading to the race alone. To say goodbye to the wife until I returned back.

But I pulled up my Sparkle Athletic skirt and headed out the door.

The buses at Pop Century resort were ready and waiting. The Run Disney team is wicked organized when it comes to transportation for those staying on-site for the races. Now, I made sure to be on one of the first buses out of the resort. Why? Because I had heard horror stories of folks waiting til the last bus and cutting it close to getting to the Start Area. I can't handle that kind of added pressure on a race day so I make sure I am there ready to go for one of the first buses out.

I made it to the Start Area, felt excited checking out everyone's costumes and kept an eye out for any familiar faces. The Run Disney DJ/announcer teams were doing a great job pumping up the crowd and getting people to embarrass themselves doing things like the electric slide at 5am! ;) I've never seen so many Tinkerbells busting a move at the same time.

Being on site so early allowed for ample trips to the port-o-potties ... and there were plenty to hit up. I didn't find many lines, which was great.

The 5k was broken up into 5 corrals and had about 10,000 folks participating - 7,000 of those being Dopey Challengers. I made my way over to Corral A to stretch and try to dance without too many people noticing.

They started moving the Corrals just before 6. Since I was in Corral A, I was part of the first 2,000 to head over. It was great walking past the other 4 corrals and seeing everyone dancing, cheering and high-fiving.

After a couple of announcements from the Run Disney announcers, a Cigna (sponsor) representative and the National Anthem, we were off!

Now, I wore my Garmin to keep my pace under control and to really see how many extra miles I logged running from character to character or port-o-potties stops.

I saw the Mile 1 marker, looked down at my Garmin and saw a 8:20-ish pace. AAAAhhhhhh! I immediately told my body to slow it on down and remember I had 47.6 miles to go after this first mile.

The 5k course went through the EPCOT parking lot and through EPCOT itself.

And offered character stops - which we know I love.

As soon as I noticed Dopey, I had to stop. I would wait as long as I needed to for that picture opportunity. Plus I had no idea if he would be on any of the other race courses.

I knew that I would be running around EPCOT during all 4 races, but it didn't diminish the experience it at all. Every time would be different.

As I headed to the Mile 2 marker, Disney played Frozen's "Let It Go" and I started crying. Yes folks. I was about 1.5 miles into this Dopey Challenge and I was already crying like a baby. I was so excited that the moment was finally here. I was finally tackling a HUGE fitness challenge.

Since it was so early in the morning, it looks as if I was running through the park at night. Thankfully there was enough light in the park itself that I didn't worry about falling.

Plus how could I look down at the ground with such breathtaking sights!! :)

I actually got a little sad as we approached the EPCOT ball because I knew the race was almost over. I was having a blast.

Can you tell?

As soon as it started it was over.

(Note: I never thought I would utter a sentence like that about a 5k - 3.1 mile - run!)

Phase 1 of the Dopey Challenge - the Family Fun Run 5k - was complete in a time of 32:05.

What I love about that time is that I had to look it up to find out what it was. I paid ZERO attention to pace except to make sure I was going steady, not pushing it and enjoying the crap out of the race. :)

Minnie & Mickey :)

As I was waiting in line for this sweet pic...

I FINALLY got to meet Heather (from Through Heather's Looking Glass) IRL (in real life). We have been chatting online for years and were finally in the same place at the same time. :)

Just a couple of Minnies hanging out!

I can say that being in one of the first corrals made taking pictures with characters easier both during the run and in the Finish Area. Many of the folks in my corral weren't stopping either by choice or they were worrying about their finishing time.

Overall, it was a fun run and I would totally do it again.

After snapping some photos and checking out my post-run meal box from Run Disney, it was time for me to board the bus and head back to the hotel. This medal, my wife and I had a date with: Magic Kingdom, the #wdwracetweetup and Hollywood Studios.

Catch ya at the #wdwracetweetup recap!