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Disney's Dopey Challenge

Posted by randeebergen@msn.com on January 20, 2014 at 11:55 AM

by Bryan Baroffio


Our family has always enjoyed going to Walt Disney World in Florida and the marathon in January allows a nice break from the cold in Grand Junction.  I’ve run it five times previously with varying weather ranging from heat and humidity to sleet.  Their first marathon was in 1994 and the first half was in 1998, both on Sunday.  In 2006 they changed the half to Saturday which allowed runners to try the Goofy Challenge.  By running the half on Saturday and the full on Sunday, finishers would receive three medals which included the prestigious Goofy medal.  Disney races are always known for their nice medals and included running portions of the races through their theme parks, although very early in the morning.  A few years ago, Disney added a family fun run 5k to the larger events and some runners attempted all three and called it the Dopey.  Disney picked up on this for 2014 and added an inaugural 10k to go along with the 5k, half, and full to become the official Dopey Challenge.  Registration for 7000 Dopey runners began in April 2013 and was sure to sell out quickly.  The price was…don’t ask.  I was counting upcoming marathons and I wanted Boston 2014 to be #100 for me.  If I got frisky, maybe #100 could be at Disney World and my family would be present so I registered while at #86.  The rest of the year went well except that work commitments put #100 for January in doubt.  On the way back from a business trip in December I was able to get #99 at a small marathon near San Antonio, Texas.  I tried to stay in marathon shape for the Dopey, figuring that would take care of itself.  I just made sure to try to get a number of running four days in a row of increasing mileage which is what the Thursday 5k, Friday 10k, Saturday half, and Sunday full would be like.  I also knew that getting up four days in a row at 3 AM to run would be part of the challenge. 


We arrived in Orlando on Tuesday evening to make sure that I picked up all of my Dopey stuff at the expo on Wednesday.  This included two B-tag bibs.  The first (green) was for the 5k and 10k.  The second (gray) was for the half and full.  I got a 5k wrist band that would be exchanged for a 10k one.  I’d later get a half band that would be exchanged for the other medals.  (A little more involved than Paul’s desert races.)  I also got six long-sleeved tech shirts.  One for each race plus a Goofy shirt plus a Dopey shirt.  After the expo, it was off to the parks for rides and walking around.  I said that I was going to take it easy and I probably did a little more than usual but I still wanted to enjoy the vacation.  I tried to get to sleep before 10 PM to be up around 3 AM for the 5k the next day. 


Thursday, 5k run Day.  Up before the alarms, three on my watch, one for my wife, a travel alarm, and a wake-up call.  You couldn’t sleep in because if you missed one race then no Dopey!  We stayed on Disney property and took their bus to the start.  They herded us into corrals based on submitted past marathon or other race times.  It was easy to be awake with all of the lights and loud music.  The 5k was not a big deal for me in terms of the whole Dopey thing because I would probably be running 5k that day anyway.  We started off with Disney characters and fireworks on a cool morning in the low 50s.  I finished with a faster pace each mile to get ready and coast through the next two days.  Pluto was the host for the 5k and I got a picture with him and my Pluto medal after the race.  I got back to the room and since my family was still sleeping it was easy for me to take a half hour nap before heading to Epcot for the day.  I tried to get to bed by 10 PM again and my wife had to be ready too since she was also running the 10k the next day. 


Friday, 10k run day.  Up at 3 AM, just before the alarms again.  Same deal as yesterday by catching a bus to the start.  I wanted to go a little slower today to start saving something for the marathon on Sunday.  It was nice to have Sue with me to watch her reaction to all of the pre-race activities.  More characters and fireworks and the inaugural Minnie 10k was underway with temps in the low 60s.  Still running in the dark but talking with other runners made it go quickly.  No, Sue and I did not run together.  I think she insisted on running at our own pace or maybe it was me.  Finished, got my Minnie medal and a picture with Minnie before the line got too long.  There were about 9200 10k finishers.  I waited a little bit later for Sue and we took the bus back.  Sleeping kids (they stay up texting until 2AM) so we took a half hour nap before going to Animal Kingdom.  Trying for a 10 PM bedtime again. 


Saturday, Half marathon Day.  This race would be the biggest challenge.  It wasn’t short and I usually don’t run the day before a marathon and the third 3 AM wakeup.  It was also going to be the warmest morning of the week with high 60s and high humidity for the startI was going to try and take it at long-training run pace.  Lather, rinse, repeat with the bus, characters, fireworks except that the half was much more crowded than the previous two races.  I felt fine at about an 8:30 pace and picked it up a little for the last 5k.  Got my Donald Duck medal and a picture with him.  Just over 20000 finishers in the half.  Mega-marathoner/ultra marathoner Michael Wardian was also running the Dopey and for the third day was congratulating runners at the finish.  Back to nap for a half hour, maybe a little more, and then we were off to the Disney Studios park.  Again, trying to get to sleep before 10 PM. 


Sunday, Marathon Day.  I’m in the routine now but glad that it’s the last day.  I wanted to finish at about 3:30 which is an 8:00 min/mile pace.  I had planned on going just over 8:00 for the first ten miles and just under 8:00 for the next ten miles and then use what was left and try to bring it in for the last 10k.  It was a great morning for Florida running.  Low humidity and about 55 degrees.  Dopey was even at the start.  We finally started the last race at about 5:30 AM.  A similar course to the half with the start near Epcot and off to the Magic Kingdom and through the castle at about mile 5.5.  After leaving the Magic Kingdom it was off to Animal Kingdom near the halfway point.  I was on pace but I started to tire a little near that park.  I started thinking about finishing, the medals, my 100th, and enjoying the parks and dinner with my family.  I started to feel better and actually started pushing sub 8:00 at around mile 15.  In fact, I was running closer to 7:40 pace for the rest of the race.  My daughter noticed the quicker pace on the text alerts that she was getting when we crossed timing mats along the way.  We ran through the Studios and on to Epcot to finish.  When running the Disney World marathon and finishing at Epcot, DO NOT LOOK AT THE EPCOT BALL.  You can see it from over a mile away and you know that you have to finish near it.  Last 0.2 with a gospel chorus greeting and you can hear the crowd at the finish.  I heard something about my 100th marathon and I knew that my family was there and had said something to the announcer.  I crossed the finish line at 3:26:58 with a high five from Donald Duck.  I saw my wife and daughter in the crowd (son wasn’t feeling well and slept in).  I did not see Michael Wardian today.  He was probably showered and on his way to the airport with a 2:35 finish.  Dopey wasn’t there either but we got some pictures with other characters.  I exchanged my wrist band to get my Goofy medal and my Dopey medal in addition to the marathon medal.  Disney races tend to have a lot of runners doing it for fun or their first race so I was able to place third in my age group out of about 500.  No nap today, just shower and on to the parks.  I wore my medals after the race as the rest of the runners did.  Lots of clanging Dopey medalists.  We had a great meal at Shula’s steakhouse that night to celebrate.  


We would leave on Tuesday morning so we really hit the parks on Monday, and we were able to get at least three rides at all four parks.  I don’t know about Dopey next year but they’ll have a special medal for the 10th anniversary Goofy in 2015.  We’ll see.  Results and more at http://www.rundisney.com/disneyworld-marathon/

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