Dopey Challenge 2018: Walt Disney World Half Marathon Recap

After spending the afternoon in Hollywood Studios, we headed over to Disney Springs for some relaxation, drinks, and dinner. We shopped a bit, grabbed a drink at Hanger Bar, and then headed over to our reservation at Morimoto, where we were meeting my mom and my sister, who had just flown in from NYC to come support me for the longer races. There was a little drama with their bags via Magical Express, but it all worked out, and we even got a few extra FastPasses for the trouble.

After dinner, the runners headed back to the resort to catch some sleep, while the non-runners played in Disney Springs some more. This, coincidentally, made me question my life decisions, as I was starting to get a little cranky over these insanely early wake up calls, and I knew the heavy mileage was coming up. Play time was over.

Before I start recapping actual race day, it is also important to talk a little about my family history during Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. Up until the Dopey Challenge, the 5K had previously been an untimed race (with no “real medal!) and the 10K didn’t even exist. However, marathon weekend has been around for ages, and my family has been participating in those races for almost as long as they have been around. My dad’s first marathon was the second Disney Marathon in 1995, and he ran either the full marathon or the half marathon practically every year and turned into a family vacation. My mom joined in on the fun about 10 years later, and then so did I. In 2015, when I signed up for my first Dopey, my dad decided to sign up for the half marathon that year, too. Typically when we both ran together he would never want me to run with him – he would always encourage me to run my own race, and we would meet up at the finish. This race was really special, however, because he finally agreed to let me run the whole race with him side by side. This ended up being his final race before his health forced him to retire from running completely. This would also be the first time I would return to the course since his passing last April.

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Dad and I at the 2015 WDW Half Marathon

When my alarm went off that morning – even earlier than the last two mornings, I was not a happy runner. I was exhausted, a bit nervous for all the miles coming up, and a little emotional for reasons above. I was able to choke down some pre-race breakfast, but not as much as I probably should have. This will come back to me in the butt, obviously.

BFR and I met up at 4:30 this time. Although we were starting in C, so not right at the gun, for the longer races, we also knew there would be signiciantly more traffic and a much longer walk to the corrals then the previous two days.

Shockingly – there was actually not nearly as much traffic on the way to the start as I had anticipated. Maybe everyone else followed directions and got there when Disney told them to? Although it was a little warmer then the previous two days, it was still pretty cold. I had also dressed a little lighter – knowing that when the sun came up, I would likely warm up faster.

After a long walk to the corrals, and a little waiting, it was finally time to start running. The gun went off for the first two corrals, and then it was our turn, complete with fireworks! Gotta love Disney magic.

The first few miles are pretty uneventful – dark, highway miles, and I was just trying to settle into a rhythm. I just trying to focus on the miles ahead of me, and make sure I would NOT run too fast today. In good weather, this course can be extremely fast – which is normally a good thing – except when you have to run a full marathon the next day!

Around mile 2, I felt my stomach started growl. Dammit – I really should of eaten more. Oh well, there’s nothing I can do now except make the best of it. Shortly after – I saw the “Welcome to Magic Kingdom” sign with the infamous “caution runner, speed bumps ahead!” warnings blaring. If you know the course, however, this is actually quite misleading – there are several miles to go until you actually hit the Magic Kingdom park.

I start fueling around mile 3, like my usual plan, but it did not seem to do much for my hunger. I tried to stay on cruise control around a 9:45-10mm, but admittedly, my legs were starting to feel tired already. Waking up in the middle of the night + plus running + plus walking around theme parks all day will start to get a person, after all! While I was able to keep the pace, I did not feel like I was flying, like the other two days. There was more entertainment on the highway than the last two races, but still, character lines were super long, and not worth the stop to me.

Around mile 5, we hit rounded the corner to the Contemporary Resort, and you could see your first glimpse of Magic Kingdom, with Spaceship Earth glowing in the background. I got super emotional here thinking about running along here with my dad, but only allowed myself to wallow for a few seconds. Giddy up, Magic Kingdom awaits!

Before I knew it, we were at the turn styles for the park (was this new? I thought to myself. Yes, it was a slight course change – we do normally enter from a backstage area) and running up Main Street, with Cinderella Castle all lit up in Christmas lights. I don’t care how many times you do this, it never gets old. It is just pure joy. After Main Street, you take a right turn into Tomorrowland, which is one of favorite part of the course. I have lots of childhood and adoscolent memories of running straight to Space Mountain after fireworks for one more ride, and running through Tomorrowland in the dark just evolves that noglastia for me.

After Tomorrowland we took a joust through Fantastyland, another one of my favorite parts. Okay, I think I just love running through Magic Kingdom, no matter what! There were a ton of characters out throughout the course, but lines were just so long. I was just trying to soak up the atmosphere of running through my favorite park. We ran past tea cups, the new(er) section of Fantasyland, and then finally, it was time to storm the castle!

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Not my best castle photo, but you win some, you lose some, right?

While it only lasts about a milisecond, running through Cinderella Castle is best ever. I did stop and grab and picture in front of the castle all lit up, and even managed a jumping photo that came out, shockingly. If you are looking for a blogger who is always on point with creative poses, you’ve come to the wrong place. 99% of all my race photos are always so awkward. But, I digress.

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Isn’t the castle so pretty?

After the castle, we headed to Liberty Square, and then Frontierland, and then out backstage. I took more fuel as scheduled, but I knew I was starting to run into a problem. My stomach was really starting to growl, and I was losing energy, and I still had 7 more miles to go – not to mention, a marathon the next day!

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On out my way of Magic Kingdom

At the next aid station right outside of Magic Kingdom, I decided to grab a cup of Powerade. I normally don’t mix sport drink with my fuel (Clif Shot Bloks) but I was so hungry, and I needed to do something. I know the old adage, “nothing new on race day”, but at this point my thinking was “Welp, I need to do something, so if I die, I die.”

Luckily, my stomach did not revolt against the Powerade, and it turned out to be a lifesaver. I started sucking it down every station, and I was at least able to keep my hunger level to a more manageable level.

The rest of the way was fairly uneventful – it was the highway back towards Epcot from about miles 7ish-11.5ish, give or take. I stopped for a photo between miles 7-8 with Vacation Genie because finally, no line! Not too much long after the sun started to come up, but for some reason, it actually felt colder at sunrise then predawn.

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Vacation Genie!

Around Mile 10 is the exit ramp back into Epcot, the big “hill” of the course. Coming from CT, this is really no big deal, but as a former Miamian, I can appreciate that “pancake flat” does not mean “flat with a few rolling hills.” At this point, I was just whiny. I was tired, over it, and I knew how much longer I had to go tomorrow.

Finally, around 11.5, we got off the exit ramp, and it was time to enter Epcot. But – not before stopping for a quick photo stop with Tink and her friends! I actually couldn’t believe there wasn’t a line for this, but I guess at this point in the race, people just wanted to be done.

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You know you are short when fairies are taller than you!

We entered the park and did an out and back through Future World, to the entrance to World Showcase, and back into Future World. I’ve done this course so many times – but the out and back always feels longer than it should.

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Heading back towards Future World to wrap this race up

Finally, it was time to round the corner of Spaceship Earth (hey! that’s what it looks like in daylight) out around the bend, past the Gospel Choir, to cross the finish line for the third time that weekend. Final time was 2:11, which was exactly where I wanted to be for the first time all weekend.

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Gotta love crossing the finish line!

Surprise! Right after I finished, I heard someone call my name. Even though I had told him not to, because, early, my husband surprised me at the finish line! I took my medal and food box, found him, and immediately scarfed down a banana. I normally can’t eat right after a long run, but I was just so hungry from the lack of food all morning, I needed something in my system immediately.

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3 down, one race to go!

We found my friend, took a quick photo with Donald, and then headed back to the bus to warm up. I immediately ran to the food court to grab some cereal to help tide me over until our breakfast reservation a little later on in the morning. I had just enough time to eat, shower, and nap, before the three of us met my mom and sister for breast over Olivia’s in Old Key West. I had purposely made that reservation because I knew that resort would be out of the way of race traffic, and my planning worked like a charm – no traffic for us!

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I’m such a sucker for these matching character and medal photos

After breakfast and eating nearly everything in sight, my mom and sister headed to the outlet malls, and three of us spent the afternoon in Animal Kingdom. At this point, my legs were definitely a bit tired, and I debated if even going to the park was the wisest move. On the other hand, we had Fast Passes to Flights of Passage, the brand new ride in Pandora that everyone has been raving about, so you know, priorities.

Coming up next – the final leg of the Dopey Challenge, the Walt Disney World Marathon!

In case you missed it –
Dopey Challenge Part 1: The Walt Disney World 5K Recap
Dopey Challenge Part 2:  The Walt Disney World 10K Recap

 

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