At this point in the challenge, I couldn’t believe I had 3 of the 4 races done already! Despite the lack of sleep, overall I was having such a fun time running and playing in the parks, that I couldn’t believe this challenge was almost done. However, mileage wise, I wouldn’t be even 50% done yet until about mile 2 of the marathon.
After spending the afternoon in Animal Kingdom, we headed to the Boardwalk for some drinks and dinner. At this point we sort of had the trip down to a science – run, nap, park, drink, dinner, sleep – repeat, repeat, repeat!
After our early bird special of pre-marathon carbs, we stopped in Ample Hills for some ice cream. At this point this is pretty much everything NOT to do before a marathon – run 22.4 miles in three days before, spend the rest of the day on your feet, consume multiple drinks throughout the day – sure, why not have some ice cream after dinner, too?!
We were back in the room a little bit before 9, and I don’t think I have ever gotten my stuff together before a race, not to mention a marathon, so quickly. I just could not wait to go to sleep, and be DONE with these early wake ups. I know there are runners and triathletes who wake up at this hour every morning to get in their workouts before long days in the office and family obligations, but I don’t think I could ever be one of them!
It felt like my alarm went off almost as soon as I went to bed, but, it was time to wake up and RUN! I woke up a bundle of nerves and emotions, but, I was determined to not repeat yesterday’s mistakes, and choked down as much food as I could, and even took an extra half bagel for the road.
I met my BRF outside the resort and headed to the buses. Once again, even though we got there much later than we were supposed to, we had no issues and we got the staging area with plenty of time to spare. We did the long march to the corrals, and I munched on as much of my extra bagel as I could. Thankfully, temps were a little warmer today. It ended up being practically perfect marathon conditions, weather wise.
In the starting area, they made a big deal out of the race’s 25th anniversary. This was a little emotional to me – as I had mentioned in my half marathon recap – WDW Marathon Weekend was a huge part of my childhood. My dad had ran the second ever Disney Marathon in 1995, and he still been here with us today, and healthy enough to run marathons, I have absolutely no doubt he would of been standing next to me in the corrals. However, as his favorite saying was – “it is what it is” – and I couldn’t think about that stuff right now. I had a marathon to run!
The gun went off for the first two corrals, and then it was our turn! For the first three races, my friend and I each ran our own races, but we had planned on running the marathon together. She typically runs about a minute per mile faster then me, but since no one had any plans on PRing this race anyways, she was willing to slow down a bit so we can have some fun. We did get into a bit if a tiff at the expo – I had said I had hoped to be under 5 hours for the marathon – and she said I don’t want to be out on the course longer than 4.5 hours – which promptly made me flip out. I had just run 4:29 in Philly two months ago, and while yes I had horrible conditions that absolutely affected my race, I did not think I had a chance in hell of running a marathon in 4.5 hours during this challenge. More on that later.
The early miles were exactly the same as yesterday – dark, highway miles towards Magic Kingdom. My legs were absolutely tired from the day before, but I was managing around a 10-10:15mm. Feeling self conscious, I had asked her if she wanted to go on ahead without me, but she insisted she was fine where it is. We kept on going.
Since the first 8 miles or so are pretty much a carbon copy of the day before, I won’t go into too much detail repeating the course. I got a little choked up again around the Contemporary, but at least I had my friend at my side this time, and kept going.
As I had mentioned in the half recap, my normal fueling strategy is no sport drink, just Cliff Shot Bloks (and salt pills.). However, I was so underfueled during the half, I took a gamble and starting taking in sport drink as well. Since it seemed to have helped the day before, I started taking in Powerade every other station. The stations were approximately every 2 miles, so I ended taking in either Shot Bloks or Powerade at every station. This was a TON of fuel, but I also knew my body was depleted. I also knew I had just finished a half Ironman this past August (for non-triathletes – that means 7 hours of sports food!), so my stomach was trained to handle it more than it would be on just typical marathon training. I decided to take the gamble again.
We hit the Transportation Center, then the turnstiles again, and into Magic Kingdom! Even though it was exactly the same as yesterday – it still didn’t get old. And, for the first time since our first Princess in 2010, my friend and I were running down Main Street together!
We took in the sights and the sounds of the park, but other than Cinderella Castle, we skipped all the character stops. The lines were crazy long, and based on the experiences from the previous 3 days, we figured we would have a chance to stop and get photos with much less lines as the race went on (we were correct.)
We left Magic Kingdom, and headed out to the resort area – but instead of heading back towards EPCOT, it was off to Animal Kingdom! Along the way we stopped for some friends – Penguins from Mary Poppins, and Vacation Genie.
At this point I started to want to stop for a bathroom, but every time we passed the Porta Potties, there were lines, and I was like, ehh. If I have to wait for a bathroom, I would rather just wait for the park, where there are actual bathrooms.
We hit mile 11, which made it feel like we were entering Animal Kingdom sooner than I had thought we were – but in actuality, there was an out and back to make up for missed mileage (in previous years, we had run a loop of the Speedway, but that has since been demolished.) I was still holding onto a 10ish mm, which I was sort of shocked at. I was feeling good, chatting away, and letting the miles tick by.
Just a few miles later, we finally entered Animal Kingdom. Right before the half marathon mark – score – a real bathroom! I was in out and in less than a minute, and felt much better after. Time to get going! We hit the half halfway point at 2:15 and change – which made me a bit annoyed re: bathroom stop – but what could you do? I wasn’t going to make it another 2+ hours otherwise. I was still feeling good, and joked with my friend that my family must of gotten the tracking alert, and would be freaking out that I was going faster than my barely-sub-5 prediction. I joked “So, do you think we can run the second half of a dead leg marathon faster than the 3 of them getting to the finish line on time?” She said “we can absolutely run faster!” I tried not too get too excited about the possibly of coming in around 4.5 hours, because I have run enough marathons to know that the marathon doesn’t actually really start until mile 20 or so.
We left Animal Kingdom, and then it was more highway miles to Wide World of Sports, and back. This is the part I was dreading from 2015 – the highway miles are not fun, it seems like you in Wide World of Sports for ages – and then it’s back on the highway for more miles into Hollywood Studios. Unlike 2015, however, I was still feeling pretty good. The miles seemed to by quicker than expected. We tried to stop for a quick photo with on the way to Wide World of Sports – but no photographer there! Way too much work to pull out my phone. We did get to a photo op with the Haunted Mansion Gravediggers, which I was pumped about. I lurve that ride!
We entered Wide World of Sports around mile 18ish, and that is when the exhaustion of the all the miles starting hitting me. No worries – let’s stop to take a quick photo with Joy and Sadness! We kept moving on, and I tried to not think about all the miles behind me, and just focus on one foot in front of the other. We spent the next few miles weaving in an out of a bunch of different sport fields. We spotted Mickey and Minnie in their sports gear, but since we had taken 900 pictures with them at the finish area over the previous 3 days, we did not feel the need to stop for them.
Around mile 20, we entered the baseball field, and there was a DJ trying to pump us up by telling us we had already run 20 miles. I looked at my watch, and starting to think that I would at least be able to run 4:4x, and maybe, just maybe, 4:3x if I could just hang on. Shortly, we hit an aid station, and I asked to take a quick walk break. My headphones had popped up, and I could not get them to stay, because I was so sweaty. At the end of the aid station I still couldn’t get them to stay, so I said screw it, and stuffed them in my pocket. I can manage a 10K without music. This ended up being my only walk break of the race.
On the way out of the sports complex, I started to play to break down the miles a bit. Okay – just a couple of more miles, and then we hit Hollywood Studios. Then no more highway. Then after the studios, it’s the Boardwalk. After the Boardwalk, it’s a lap around World Showcase. How many times have we run this already this weekend? We got this. We’re good.
One more highway ramp – complete with the Green Army Men from Toy Story telling us to solider up the hill – and finally, NO MORE HIGHWAYS. It is a similar feeling when you get off the last bridge in the New York Marathon – you know the end is getting closer. Hollywood Studios is under so much construction, so we were in and out of the park faster then usual. I was starting to slow down a bit, closer to a 10:30mm then a 10mm, but overall, I couldn’t believe I was still running as well as I was.
After Hollywood Studios, it was off to the path to the Boardwalk to take us to the back entrance of EPCOT. This path was filled with spectators, and someone even called out to me “Go NYC” with my New York Marathon shirt. I know the New York Marathon is a once-in-a-lifetime dream race to most, but to me, it’s my local marathon, and it like someone from home was looking at for me. Random strangers on a race course can be so awesome.
Ahh – finally – mile 25! Run Disney had advertised a “mile 25 surprise” to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the race, but I wasn’t expecting much. I mean really, what could a marathon possibly have at mile 25 to make it better? The “surprise” ended up being just a more decorative mile marker, and absolutely not worth the stop during the race. Not especially when my watch said we were going to be well in the 4:3x range.
The last mile of the race was absolutely surreal for me. This was the first the marathon that I have run in many, many years that was a “happy” marathon for me. More so, I truly felt my dad was with me that whole last mile.
If you didn’t know my dad, he was always one to tell it like it is. Now don’t get me wrong, he would of been absolutely proud of me for finishing my second Dopey, even if the marathon took me longer to finish then my half iron. However, I know he would been seriously impressed that I was able to run the whole marathon without falling apart at the end. There hasn’t been a single time I have laced up my running shoes since his death last April that I haven’t though of him almost every minute, every mile – but this mile in particular, I really felt his presence more than ever.
For my third lap of the World Showcase in 4 days, you would think I would know the distance so well. Today, it seemed EXTRA long! That last mile of a marathon is such a liar. My friend was pushing me along as fast as she could drag me, and although it felt like she was sprinting at a 8mm, the reality was that it was much closer to a 10mm. I was counting off the countries as we passed them, and then FINALLY, it was time to exit World Showcase, head into Future World, and wrap this race up.
By now the last stretch was super familiar – straight towards Spaceship Earth, around the bend, and through the back of the park, past the Gospel Choir, and to the finish line. The finish chute was coming into sight, and I started to look for my family. I spotted my husband, but could not find my mom and sister. Hrmm. Guess my friend was right – we could get to the finish faster. The finally, that beautiful, beautiful finish line.
My last Dopey, I was so exhausted and cranky by the finish, my finish line photo was just me glaring at my watch, POed at my time. Not this race! I put my arms up, raced for the finish line, with a huge smile on my face. Final finish time – 4:31, only 2 minutes slower than what I just ran in Philly, 6 minutes off my PR, and almost an hour faster than my last Dopey. I couldn’t believe it. Immediately after, my friend pulled me over into a huge hug, which the Disney photographers caught without us knowing at the time.
We collected our marathon medal, then the rest of the challenge medals, our 25th anniversary surprise Mickey Ears(!), took our finish photos, and our food boxes – and as soon as we were out of the chute, I found the first patch of grass to collapse on. Sorry family, you can come to me – I am SPENT!
My husband, then my mom and sister, eventually found us thanks to the magic of iPhones. I seriously do not know how my parents did this in the 1990s . Everyone exchanged sweaty hugs, took lots of pictures, and exchanged happy chatter. I was just so happy sit and exchange my running shoes for flip flops. Eventually my husband motivated me to get up. The line for Dopey was getting rather long, and he knew I wanted photos with him and 6 medals. We waited for about 30 minutes (compared to the 5-10 minutes we waited for the other characters all weekend) but it was worth it.
My mom and sister decided to head straight to EPCOT, but my husband accommodated us back to the hotel. I had so many needs – food, shower, bed – but we went straight the food court. Food won.
I took a glorious shower, and relaxed in bed while I was tracking my other close friend who was also running Dopey. I had so wanted to try and double back and catch her on the course, but between the traffic and all my many needs, it was just not a viable option. Unfortunately I was not able to nap – thanks caffeine and sugar overload from sports food – but it was good to just relax for an hour.
Eventually my husband and I headed back to EPCOT and met up with my mom and sister. My friend joined us shortly after. It was time to PARTY! A few drinks around the world, a few rides, a great dinner in Mexico, and fireworks to end the night. It was the perfect way to cap off an amazing weekend of racing.
But, the weekend wasn’t over yet! We still had one more day to spend together as a family, and where else we would go, but Magic Kingdom?! It was a little emotional, as this was the first time in years we had all been to the park as a family and we all missing the presence of my father, but we made the best of it. Overall, it was an absolutely perfect weekend of running and racing, and I could not have asked for a better Dopey Challenge weekend, despite everything my family had gone through in the last year together.