Last year when I ran the Goofy Challenge at Disney World, I met a girl on the marathon day (the 2nd day of racing), and started talking to her. She told me that this was her 4th day of racing, as part of the Dopey Challenge. In my mind I thought, “holy jeez!”, how does one manage to race 4 days in a row. Don’t you get tired? She told me “it’s very exhausting”. I totally thought these dopey challengers were insane.
I came home from my Goofy Challenge Jan.2014, very happy with my achievement. Never would I have thought that exactly a year later, I would have jumped into this daring feat of running 48.6 Miles in 4 days.
Dopey Challenge: name given because you race 4 days in a row, completing a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and finally a full marathon. The distance, without saying was a challenge in itself. The most brutal part was the time when the race started. Except for the 5k which started at 6:15a.m., the rest of the races all started at 5:30a.m. Not a big deal, but when you are talking about 25,000 runners all trying to get into the Walt Disney World Epcot parking lot, it’s some major logistics.
Each morning, I had no choice but to wake up @ 4a.m. (I am from Vancouver, B.C.) which meant it was only 1:00 a.m. back home (west coast time)! Not too tough, right?? But having to do this for 4 days in a row, it’s a different story.
For the first race day (the 5K), the temp. was about –2.C. It was windy and COLD. No one would have thought in Florida temperatures reach the negatives! I wore shorts, because I didn’t think it would be that cold. I froze my butt off! The race was organized so that each runner was assigned a corral. From the parking lot to the corral entry must have been a good 2-3K walk…in pitch-darkness! Kind of fun when there were big groups of people around you. The road diverged into two parts, the faster corrals turned left, and the slower corrals turned right. The walk to get to the corrals took at least 15 minutes. The corral security was very tight. No one could try sneaking into the faster corrals.
At about 5 minutes to the wheelchair start, everybody sang the national anthem, and then Mickey , Pluto, Goofy & Dopey appeared on the stage to officiate the start. Fireworks were set off for the start of each corral. How cool was that!! I Loved it!
For each of my races, I had to wait for about 30-40 minutes between the clock time and gun time. Quite a test of your patience!
January 8th – 5K started at 6:15am so I was done and finished before the sun rose. I went into the runners’ retreat and saw Mr. Bart Yasso. Popular guy, I tell you!
January 9th – Early start at 5:30am for the 10K, so again I finished before the sun rose. Pretty awesome!
On January 10th, the 3rd day of racing, my nervous energy level got more intense. It really was about strategy. I found the 3rd day most tiring – it was like you were half way, but you weren’t quite there yet! I ran my best…and saved enough energy for the crowning glory day!!
Before I get to the final day, I have to mention that I went to a pasta party in the Disney park on the evening of the 5K. There were DJs playing music, Disney characters where runners could take pictures with them individually. I got pictures with all of them! The inner kid in me!! The pasta party included a Mickey Mouse ice cream sandwich for dessert…mmmmm, YUMMY!
Plus, I met Bart Yasso, whoI had the privilege of meeting back in summer 2014, when I was a San Francisco Marathon ambassador. He was the most down-to-earth “celebrity runner” you could have ever met. Enclosed is the picture (see attachment) of my husband Alex & I with Mr. Bart Yasso.
My last day – the marathon day – had arrived. Along the way to the start, I asked myself, could I do it? There was no doubt I was going to finish the marathon, but could I get a decent time? I told myself, I had done all the training. I had to finish strong!!!
The route took us through numerous parks and areas, including the Magical Kingdom, the Animal Kingdom, the speedway track, ESPN, and the back lots of Disney World. Even cooler, for every mile mark in each of the races I ran, there were different characters shown on the marker. Lots of runners paused to take pictures of themselves in front of the markers. Along the course, Disney characters like Mickey would be dressed up in his golfing attire with a white shirt, plaid vest, golf pants, and his private Mickey golf cart (with the Mickey Mouse head) in front of the cart. I couldn’t remember what mile mark that was, but it gave me a big chuckle. He was really quite adorable!
The Magical Kingdom was really magical as I ran past it as the sun rose. With all the lights hanging down from the castle, it was so enchanting and pretty!! For a while, It made you forget you were running a marathon! Photographers were everywhere, like they were paparazzi and we were celebrities – snap, snap, snapping away with their cameras. And the spectators filled the walkways on both sides cheering runners on. Truly an unforgettable sight!
As we ran past the Animal Kingdom, I saw Pumba (the wart-hog) from the Lion King. Not many runners were interested in taking photos with him! I wonder why?!
As for passing the speedway track, there were these real fancy racing cars parked as you entered the park and inside the park, I spotted a number of flashy yellow Ferraris! Very cool! Too bad I didn’t have my camera with me!
At about mile 19-20, we entered the ESPN arena, where there was a huge screen set up as you entered. All I noticed on the screen was that there was a big group of runners ahead of me and a big group of runners behind me.
We continued running until we hit Epcot – at that point, I knew I had it. Only ONE mile to go. I didn’t slow my pace. I was totally enjoying my race! At the finish line, I gave Mickey and Donald Duck a big high-five! I DID it!!! I came, and conquered the Dopey Challenge. 48.6 miles DONE!!! Did I feel “Dopey” for doing it? Nope! I felt on top of the world! I finished with 3 medals on that day.
This resulted in 6 medals in total!!! I would have definitely strained my neck if I tried to wear them all at once! My combined time was under 9 hours for 4 days of racing. Not too bad!
Will I be back? Most likely Yes! There’s a kid in me that will NEVER grow up. It was unreal. I still could not believe I did it. Just for statistics, there are so far about 12,000 Dopey Challengers in the world. And I am one of the them! How cool is that! A race which challenged me so much at the same time provided me with so many happy memories!
Thank you Disney for giving me such a wonderful running experience.
As Mr.Walt Disney once said, “If you can dream it, you can do it”.
FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS, my friends!