Blood, sweat and tears had led to this day. Months of training. Thousands of dollars spent. Injuries, pain, elation and joy; this was the moment I had been waiting for: The 2013 Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge and a Half Marthon. 39.3 miles in two days.
As the alarm sounded at 2:45 a.m. the first thought that went through my head was “Second verse, same as the first, a little bit longer and a little bit worse.” It felt like deja vu, since I had ran the Walt Disney World Half Marathon the previous day.
I got dressed silently in the dark, brewed my cup of coffee, pinned my number to my shirt and double checked my gear bag. I walked in silence to the bus stop at the Wilderness Cabins trying to gauge the soreness in my legs. Did I have DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) or was this typical early morning fatigue?
The practice of the previous day made getting out the door a breeze and I was on the bust by 3:15 a.m. and at Epcot’s Wonder Lot by 3:45. I had more time to kill before the race this time, so I sat down at the bench, ate my banana, protein bar and water. I decided to head over to my corral when they actually told me to this time since there was so much congestion the day before. I checked my gear bag and decided I most definitely didn’t need my coat or even my light, long-sleeved running shirt that I brought in case it was chilly while I waited. It was already 60 degrees and still the middle of the night!
I was in my corral by 4:45, so I had about an hour of waiting before my corral left the gate. This gave me time to observe the runners around me. Many of them had come with a partner and it was interesting to watch the interactions. I saw best friends, dressed like Minnie Mouse helping each other stretch. I saw a couple with matching shirts that announced they were running together to celebrate their anniversary. There were some first timers, some seasoned runners and everything in between. We all had one thing in common: We were embarking on a 26.2 mile journey at the most magical place on earth.
I looked around and saw that there were many other Goofy Challengers. This put me at ease because I realized I wasn’t the only one “goofy” enough to take on that challenge.
The fireworks burst overhead and we were off. My last thought before starting was, “Why am I doing this?” I reassured myself that I was going to take it easy and I could walk if I wanted to. Given that this was the second leg of my journey and I had just run 13.1 miles the day previous, I was cutting myself some slack.
This first mile is always the most rough. I slowly increased my speed, keeping a close watch in my Garmin. I had never kept tabs on my Garmin more closely than I did during the two-day Goofy Challenge. I made sure I didn’t go any faster than an 11 minute mile during the first five miles.
I decided that I would take a picture with the characters that were meaningful and dedicate each of them to a loved on, posting it on Facebook. At mile three I took a picture with Jack Skellington at mile 3 for my nephew Cody.
At mile five I clocked in at 1:03:04 with a 12:37 min/Mile. I had a bit of sticker shock when I saw this time, as it’s a lot slower than I normally run, but I told myself that was the goal. Take it easy and just finish.
At mile six I ran through Cinderella Castle, which is the absolute most magical moment of the race. It is the moment that everyone who runs is waiting for and the reason why many of us participate in Disney races.
At this point we exited Magic Kingdom and head on a long stretch of backroads past Grand Floridian and Polynesian.
I mentally chunked the race into the first 10K, 1/2 marathon mark (13.1), mile 20 and then the last 10K. The mental component of a marathon is huge. Breaking down the 26.2 miles into manageable chunks is huge. I had gotten through the first 10K and only had three more legs to go.
I downed a GU because a lesson that I learned the hard way during the ThunderRoad Marathon (as I posted about on my everything you SHOULDN’T do before a marathon ) was not taking in nutrition during the race.
The chocolate outrage GU has always worked for me in the past, so I decided not to change anything on race day (check out my post on my favorite products for marathon running for more of my tried and true methods of what works for me.)
At mile 8 1/2 we approached one of the most awesome parts of the race: running around the Walt Disney World Speedway! I LOVE cars and so does my husband, so I dedicated this round to him. I took pictures of all of the amazing cars that were around the speedway. It was like a car show and a run at the same time. I’m from Charlotte, NC, home of NASCAR, so I guess that explains why I was so hyped up about this part. Runners around me seemed to ignore the beauty of the cars while they slogged their way around the track, but I took it all in and took tons of pictures.
But, all of that picture taking took its toll. My iPhone buzzed that it only had 20 percent battery at mile 12 1/2 and I turned it off so I could reserve battery to find my family after the race. This was a total bummer though because it meant that I couldn’t listen to music, post on Facebook or take pictures with the characters during the race!
At mile 10 I clocked in at 2:06:48 with a 12:41 min/Mile pace. We ran through more backroads and we ran past a sewer plant, which made me sick to my stomach. Not the best landmark to pass when you’re running.
They gave out bananas around this point and I gobbled it up happily. I typically don’t eat while I’m running (except for GU) and I normally don’t get hungry while I’m running or for hours afterwards, but I think because I was going slow and taking pictures with characters, my body wasn’t experiencing the effects of intense exercise.
We approached Animal Kingdom right at the 1/2 marathon mark. They had animals greet us at the entrance, which was cute, but also a bit smelly. I noticed at this point that there were not a
Miles 14, 15 and 16 went across the Osceloa Parkway and was an uneventful leg of the journey. At mile 16 we could see other runners coming back from the loop around ESPN Wide World of Sports. It was great seeing them come off of that part of the loop and realize that we were entering it. The only thing is that when I ran the race in 2011, the loop was a quick little loop that led us to our mile 20 mark. Even though I knew we were at mile 16, mentally I felt like I only had a quick jaunt before reaching mile 20. The mind plays tricks on you when you are running. That is why they say that running a marathon is all mental – because it really is. I kept thinking that I would be turning around any moment, so it made for a long run to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, which was actually at miles 18 and 19. Also, when you are running 26.2 miles or 39.3 over two days, four miles doesn’t sound like a lot, but it still is about 45 minutes of running (given the pace I was at.)
They had a jumbotron up at the complex and we ran around the track and were able to see ourselves on the screen. It was an awesome part of the race! I was feeling awesome and decided to pick up my pace. I picked it up to about a 10 minute mile, which is what I typically run my LSDs (Long Slow Distance) runs at. I even found a pace group behind me that was aiming to complete the race in 5:00 and I tagged along with them to try to aim for a time goal.
As we turned around and approached mile 20, I saw the energy of those around me dipping. Mile 20 is one of the toughest parts of the race. Again, with the mental component, mentally you think you are almost finished, but you still have a 10K to go. This typically takes about an hour, so even though you feel done, you still have an hour more to run.
Eminem articulates it perfectly in his song “Till I Collapse”
Cause sometimes you just feel tired.
On a similar note, I find that Eminem always has the right words of wisdom or advice for any occasion. He is a lyrical genius – I absolutely love him!
I had to use the restroom right before mile 20 and I was so pissed because there was a line, which kept me away from the pace group I was trying to follow. I literally waited ten minutes and I was going to just go on, but, when you have to go, you have to go. This is when being a man would come in handy. I just had to pee, but decided to wait it out. However, I had a great conversation with a couple who was waiting in line with me. I discovered that they were actually celebrating the “Perfect 20” which means that they’ve run ALL 20 Walt Disney World Marathons!! Can you believe it? There were about 90 runners who had completed all 20 WDW Marathons. That is an amazing accomplishment and I was honored to meet them!
I hit the road again and reached the 20 mile spilt at 4:06:18 with a 12:25 min/mile. I was hoping to make up for lost time and complete the marathon in 5 hours, so I tried to pick up the pace. At this point we reached quite a steady climb at the only hill I noticed on the course. In front of me was a couple with shirts that read “Tweedle Dee” (with an arrow pointing right) and “Tweedle Dum” (with an arrow pointing left.) As they struggled to get up the hill someone passed them and said, “Your arrows are pointing the wrong way.” because they had shifted and flipped sides. You should have seen the look they gave that runner. At 21 miles into a marathon, there is no joking. This is when shit gets real.
Finally we were approaching Disney’s Hollywood Studios, which is a fun part of the race. They gave out chocolate at mile 22, which I gobbled up. Luckily it wasn’t melted when I ran through, although I heard that for some runners who came through after me it was all melted and gooey. We were able to run through the Studio Backlot Tours area, which is one of my favorite attractions.
We left Hollywood Studios as quickly as we entered and then headed over to the Boardwalk area to enter the back entrance of Epcot. I was getting excited becaues wee were at mile 24 and I knew I only had a couple of miles to go, but it was also getting very hot around this time and my energy was melting. I felt sunburn on my back and it was about 80 degrees. I had stayed hydrated, but the sun was starting to take it’s toll on my energy levels. We entered the back area of Epcot and I swear I was tempted to get a pretzel from the Germany Pavilion! I was actually feeling hungry (again.)
The World Showcase never felt so long as I ran that last 1.2 miles through Epcot and into the Wonder Lot. I appraoched the finish line and saw my awesome husband and two beautfiful kids and I felt elated! As I crossed the finish line and the volunteer put the Mickey Mouse Medal around my neck I felt like a million bucks! I headed over to the Goofy Tent and got my Goofy Medal and I stared at them in awe! Two days – Three Medals – Priceless! I finished in 5:25:28 at a 12:25 min/mile pace, which was almost an hour slower than the Charlotte ThunderRoad Marathon, but boy did I feel MUCH better! I consider ThunderRoad a failure, while I consider Disney a success. It’s not about the time, it’s about how you feel and the experience throughout the race.
I took a picture at the finish line with my two medals and beamed as brightly as I could.
I grabbed a few extra bags of fruit snacks for my kiddos and silently thanked myself for not using the last twenty percent of my battery so I could text Shane and ask where they were. They ran over to meet me in the Family Reunion area. I gave them a huge hug and was so happy to see them.
I got my bag and then sat down with the family as we waited for my friends, Christie and Tracy, to cross the finish line. It was their first marathon and I was so happy for them.
I followed Christie and Tracy’s journey, subscribing to their alerts as they crossed over the key mile makers in the race, and I was cheering them on the entire time. Tracy finished in 6:19:41 and Christie finished in 6:53:52. I was so incredibly proud of them!!! Seeing them experience their first marathon touched me deeply and I was honored to be with them at such an occasion. My Disney Moms Panel friends also crossed the finish line that day with amazing times! I was so proud of all of my friends who completed the event!
After the race, Christie and I headed over to Senses, the spa at Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, for our massage. WOW is all I have to say! The spa was incredible! We were able to shower at the spa and we changed into fluffy robes. I sank into the whirlpool and relaxed in the sauna while waiting for my appointment. I was even able to lay on the heated lounge chair in the waiting room. After our massages, we ate dinner at my FAVORITE Walt Disney World restaurant: Ohana! Christie, and her husband Stephen, joined Shane, the kids and I at this delicious meal, celebrating Christie’s first marathon and my first Goofy Challenge.
In the weeks leading up to the Goofy Challenge I swore I would never do a marathon again. The last thing I said before I crossed the start line was, “Why am I doing this?” But the first thing I thought after I crossed that finish line was, “When can I do this again?”
I am a runner. But sometimes I don’t feel like one because I don’t run everyday. I would be bored out of my mind if all I did was run. I like to lift weights, do yoga, dance in Zumba, work my core in pilates and I even did some kickboxing today at 9 Round. I have a love-hate relationship with running. Some days I don’t feel like running. Hell, some days I don’t feel like doing anything except for sitting on the couch and watching 30 rock while surfing the Internet on my iPad. But I’m a runner and I can’t deny it. There is nothing like hitting the pavement and logging miles. There is nothing like crossing the finish line and feeling a medal around your neck.
I’ve already signed up for my next challenge, which is the Rock n Roll Half Marathon in D.C. My goal is to complete at least two Rock n Roll Marathon’s this year so I can get the Encore Medal. I also want to compete in triathlon’s again this summer. Have you done the Goofy Challenge? Are you a runner? If so, I’d love to hear about your experiences!