Walt Disney World – runDisney Dopey Challenge 2017

It has been awhile since I have posted – the holiday season is always busy, and this year was especially busy because of the last bit of preparation for the 2017 runDisney Dopey Challenge, which took place January 5-8, 2017. If you’ve been following my blog, you may recall my first blog post about registering for my first runDisney race, or rather all of the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend races – also known as the Dopey Challenge. The races have come and gone, and I successfully completed the 2017 Dopey Challenge! It’s been about a month and a half and I still forget that I can say that I’ve run a full marathon! Overall it was a great experience. Disney World is “the happiest place on Earth” after all.

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The runDisney logo – found on the sidewalk outside our hotel during a pre-race shakeout run

I’ve been a huge Disney fan all my life. I grew up watching Disney movies and continue to do so today, even in my mid-twenties (I saw Moana on opening day in 2016). I was fortunate enough to take multiple family vacations to Disney World in Florida throughout my life. Needless to say, Disney holds a special place in my heart.

If you’re not aware, Disney hosts multiple “runDisney” events throughout the year at Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and most recently Disneyland Paris. The Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, in January, is perhaps the largest, and the only event that offers a full marathon. Last year, I signed up for the Dopey Challenge – which is a challenge in which you run every race during the WDW Marathon Weekend on consecutive days, starting with the shortest distance (5k, 10k, half marathon, full marathon) – totaling 48.6 miles in four days. While I had a blast (my wonderful boyfriend, Mike, ran the whole thing with me), I will not be repeating this challenge ever again (I’ve definitely said things like this before….).

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2017 WDW Marathon Weekend Race Medals – from left to right: 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon, Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge, Dopey Challenge

This particular Disney vacation was probably the most exhausting I’ve ever experienced – maybe because of all the running…but it was so much fun! Most of the holiday decorations were still up, and it was so beautiful. I’m a sucker for details, and Disney does details so well. We tried to cram in as much as we could while still staying off our feet and trying not to tire ourselves out too much for the races. This proved to be difficult and there was a lot we didn’t do because of it. But we were ok with this since the main purpose of this trip was for the runDisney races.

Running through the parks was my favorite part – especially Epcot. All of the courses brought you through Epcot – around the World Pavilion and Spaceship Earth. It was so invigorating we couldn’t help but run too fast! There is Disney music blasting as soon as you enter the parks – the most motivating of which is Mulan’s “I’ll Make a Man Out of You”. We finished the 5k and 10k at a faster pace than we intended to because we were just too excited!

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Epcot World Pavilion during the 5k

Another awesome aspect was that the races began before the sun was up, so the sun rose during the race! It was so cool!

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Sunrise on the Boardwalk during the 10k

The most unfortunate part of the trip was that the official half marathon was cancelled due to lightning. There was a lot of obvious disappointment, and some people were even angry at Disney. However, as soon as the race was cancelled, runners were already organizing group runs out of the Disney hotels they were staying at.

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Making the best out of the situation, we joined many other runners and completed our 13.1 miles on our own once the lightning stopped. I was astounded by the number of runners we passed along our run. It was amazing to see so many others out there determined to finish and earn their medals. We even passed a few makeshift water stops and there were plenty of people out there cheering everyone on. This day, in and of itself, made me so proud to be part of the running community – witnessing the unbreakable spirit and determination of so many people was truly inspiring.

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A well done, makeshift water stop we passed at the Coronado Springs resort. They were even holding up a toilet paper finish line tape for people to run through as they finished their 13.1 miles!

The marathon was quite the experience. Mike and I had never run a full marathon before – and due to a foot injury of mine in the summer months, the longest training run that we had completed was 15 miles. We were a little unprepared and therefore a bit nervous. On marathon day, it was particularly cold for Florida weather. It was 35 degrees F in the morning when we got to the starting corrals, with a 15mph wind. We had to go out and get a few things to make sure we didn’t freeze before we even started (like gloves, long sleeves, and long leggings). Waiting in the corrals was absolutely the worst part of the marathon. We got there around 4 AM, and since Mike signed up so late, we were in the last corral – corral P. The first corral went off at 5:30 AM and we didn’t start running until 6:30 AM. So we froze for about 2 hours and it was miserable. Maybe that’s why the actual running part didn’t seem so bad. Once the sun came out, though, it was perfect marathon weather – 55 degrees F.

I’m proud to say that there was minimal walking involved, however we did need to stop a few times to use the bathroom and there was always a long line so this slowed our overall pace down. They also didn’t start handing out food until the half marathon mark, so the hardest miles were actually miles 12-13. Even so, they say a marathon doesn’t start until mile 20 – and boy is that true. Once we hit that point, it was the longest 10k we had ever run.

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Space Mountain – still freezing at this point

Wanting to get a picture in front of each park’s icon (I missed the Tree of Life, but we got Mt. Everest instead), I made Mike stop with me to snap a selfie in Epcot, at mile 25. Bad idea – as soon as we started running after the 10 seconds we stopped, our calf muscles fought back with cramps.

The Dopey Challenge was fun – but I probably won’t  ever do another one. It is slightly insane – which is why they call it the “Dopey” Challenge. You need to be a real Dope to attempt it. We can officially call ourselves insane, and in the future I’m sticking to the half marathon distance and shorter….although I’m already wondering how fast I could actually run a marathon if I raced it and actually had adequate training…..

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In front of Cinderella’s Castle with all of our medals
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I’ve always wanted to try the Giant Turkey Leg before – this one was hard-earned

And now for the part that I was most excited about (aside from the actual running through Disney) – Disney encourages runners to run in costume, whether it be your favorite character, or an iconic Disney landmark. We saw so many creative costumes over the course of the four races! You may have already noticed, but we wore costumes for each race! I love making costumes, so my costume planning started almost immediately after signing up! Disclaimer: Mike didn’t sign up for the entire Dopey Challenge until a few months prior to the event, so some of his costumes I didn’t spend as much time on as I would have liked, but overall I was pretty proud of our costumes. 🙂

Tinkerbell & Captain Hook (Peter Pan) – 5K

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Princess Atta (A Bug’s Life) & James P. Sullivan (Monsters Inc.) – 10K

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Honey Lemon & Baymax 2.0 (Big Hero 6) – Half Marathon

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Mr. & Mrs. Incredible (The Incredibles) – Marathon

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Happy Running!

XOXO Dri

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