As I mentioned in my previous post on the Goofy Challenge , I bonked the Thunder Road Marathon in Charlotte, over-trained and suffered from a serious case of Plantar Fasciitis leading up to the big event. I was experiencing an all-time low just weeks from the Walt Disney World Marathon and I was concerned that my months of training, not to mention time and money invested, were all going to go to waste. My travel was booked, the marathon was paid for, my kids were excited about going to the most magical place on earth…..there was no backing out now. Luckily as I began to taper my running in preparation for the big event, I began to feel better.
We arrived in Disney the Thursday prior to the big day. We headed straight for the ESPN Wide World of Sports to pick up my packet. My amazing husband kept trying to buy me anything that said “Goofy Challenge” on it, including a shirt, Mickey Mouse Vinylmation with the three iconic medals and Disney running Mickey ears. As we walked around the expo I reassured myself that as much as I wanted to try out some of the “new” products, I didn’t need the new compression pants with ice packs built into the legs, gel chews for fuel during the long runs and Disney designed New Balance running shoes. I learned my lesson from Thunder Road to not try anything new before the race.
I discovered what worked for me through months of training and I wasn’t going to let the shiny new packaging throw me off my plan. People often ask me about the gear and products I use for running, so I’ll tell you what works best for me. But the most important thing to note is that you should find what works for you and don’t change anything on race day. Find your ideal product early in your training and be loyal!
After the expo we arrived at our Cabin at the Fort Wilderness Lodge. The kids bound out of the car and ran into the cabin, heading straight for the bunk beds. This was our favorite resort we’ve stayed at, and we’ve stayed at almost every Walt Disney World Resort, including Grand Floridian in November. More on that later…
The night prior to the half marathon we enjoyed a delicious dinner with great friends at the Team in Training L&LS Inspire Dinner. My friend, Christie, was running her first marathon and had trained with TNT. This dinner was truly inspiring. The keynote speaker shared his journey with leukemia and how we continued with running and marathon training through his treatments. With each story shared, I felt my spirit rise, I was ready for this.
After dinner my amazing husband took the kids out around Disney while I prepared for the race. I checked the weather and realized that all of the cold weather gear I packed would not be necessary. The forecasted high was 80 degrees, so I wouldn’t need my fleece, gloves or hat. I carefully pinned my number to my race shirt, laid out my clothes and packed my race bag, which included my pre-race meal, water, Garmin, SPI Belt, iPhone, headphones and magazine to read while I waited for the race to begin. I hit the sack early and wrote a little poem to clear my mind:
‘Twas the night before Goofy, only eight hours to go
For some reason this seemed like a good idea six months ago
My gear is laid out in advance with care
From my shirt to my shoes to rubber bands for my hair
The kids were out playing with Mickey Mouse and Tink
While I lay in bed, unable to sleep a wink
I’m ready for the challenge, the time is now here
I repeat my positive mantras to calm my fear
The alarm went off at 2:45 a.m. Well, I should clarify. Three alarms went off at 2:45 a.m. Mickey Mouse cheerfully greeted me on the phone, my iPad beeped and the alarm next to the bed shrilled. I didn’t want to risk oversleeping on the big day! I got ready and headed out to the race bus that would transport us runners to the start line.
I observed my fellow runners on the bus. Some chatted nervously with their seatmate. Some posted status updates to Facebook notifying others of the journey they were about to embark. While others silently focused inwards on the challenge that lie ahead. But we all had one thing in common – we were runners.
We arrived at Epcot around 3:30 a.m. and walked to the Wonder Lot area. You would never know it was the middle of the night by the music blaring and activity of thousands of runners. Hundreds of green porta pottys lined the Wonder Lot area, along with refreshment stands, merchandise tents and tables. At 4:30 a.m. the DJ began encouraging runners to make their way to the start line. I ignored the plea until about 5:00 a.m. when I checked my gear bag and made the trek to the start line. There was literally a 20 minute walk from the Wonder Lot area to the start line and it was jam-packed with people. There were times that we were at a standstill and couldn’t move an inch. I started to get nervous that I wouldn’t make it to the start line in time. There were 8 corrals, A-H, and I was in corral B. I finally made it to my corral with minutes before the wheelchair start, which was at 5:30 am.
Before I knew it the National Anthem was being sung and fireworks lit the sky for the start of the Walt Disney World Half Marathon. I wasn’t nervous because I knew that this was only the start of my 39.3 mile journey. I repeated to myself that this was only the beginning and no matter how good I felt, I needed to take it easy.
We inched up as Corral A took off (after another round of fireworks.) Now it was our time. At 5:40 a.m. the fireworks for Corral B splayed overhead and we began our journey through the parks.
Some runners took off like they were being chased by a cheetah. This happens every race and inevitably I’ll see that same runner miles ahead sidelined with injury or exhaustion. The rest of us took off slowly and found our rhythm and groove after the first several miles. The first mile of a race is always the most difficult. Thoughts come in my mind such as, “why am I doing this,” “I don’t think I can make it,” “I’m already tired, how will I make it through 13 miles?”
Getting through those first couple of miles can be difficult. The key to success in a long-distance race is to not think about all of the miles you have to complete. Think about how far you’ve come, or about the next mile, but don’t overwhelm yourself by thinking of the total distance.
I already had to use the porta potty at mile 1. After a quick stop I was back on the road. Music filled the air, characters lined the sides of the road and entertainment was abound. Disney races are the absolute best because there is so much to do and see. I saw Jack Skellington at mile 4, which is my nephew’s favorite character, but I decided to run straight through the race and visit the characters during the full marathon instead.
The best part of the race was Mile 5 when we approached Cinderella Castle in Magic Kingdom. When I ran the marathon in 2011 we didn’t run through Cinderella Castle until Mile 10, so this part of the race came upon me quickly. We hit mile 6 after we exited Magic Kingdom and Miles 7 and 8 brought us past Grand Floridian and down to the speedway. I was super excited when we hit the speedway because I saw a racecar sitting by the entrance. I made a mental note to get a picture with it during the marathon. As the mileage increased I felt my pace increase as well, but I kept close tabs on my Garmin to make sure my pace didn’t get higher than a 10 minute mile. I wanted to make sure I was conserving energy for the next day. I felt great and definitely felt as if I could have gone longer and faster, but I reassured myself that was the goal. I wanted to finish feeling strong, not depleted.
As we approached mile 9, they were giving away Cliff Gel Shots, but I reminded myself of my bad experie3nce with the Cliff Gels during ThunderRoad and I bypassed the fuel. Instead I grabbed a cup of water and continued on to Epcot. We entered Epcot through the back entrance, ran around the World Showcase and on to the finish line. I finished in 2:17: 41, which wasn’t by best time, but I wasn’t aiming for a time goal. The finish was actually anti-climatic, as I knew it wasn’t the end, but only the beginning. I was 1/3 of the way through the Goofy Challenge.
I held my Donald Duck medal in my hand and felt proud of my accomplishment, but also concerned about doing double the mileage the following day. Could I do it all again? Did I reserve enough energy to complete a marathon the following day? Would I be sore?
My husband and kids brought me a beautiful Mickey Mouse Rose to celebrate my acheivement. The best part was seeing their beautiful faces at the finish. Check back tomorrow when I post the fourth and final post in the Goofy Challenge series. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you! Have you ever run a marathon and half marathon in quick succession? Have you heard of the Goofy Challenge? How about the Dumbo Challenge in Disneyland ? I want to hear from you!