I will start by saying five simple words: “everything begins with an idea”!
My first encounter with the Run Disney races at Walt Disney World really began back in January 2014, when I signed up for the Goofy Challenge. A friend of mine had done it the year before, and I thought, how cool! 39.3 miles of running 2 days back to back throughout the Disney World theme parks! But then I thought, back to back races like that is way too time consuming to train for. I am happy with running halfs and fulls. Plus the timing of training runs through the Christmas holidays…who wants to be pounding the pavement when one can stay cozy indulging in good food and good company during this time.
So, the idea remained just an idea until I saw the medals my friend showed me. Wow, they were the biggest and cutest medals I have ever seen. That gave me motivation. However, I was still indecisive, mainly because I doubted my own abilities. 39.3 miles is a lot of mileage within 2 days. I switched back and forth from being committed to being uncertain about whether I wanted to endure such a “daring” feat. Somehow, something in my head clicked and I convinced myself to do it.
Now fast forward two years later to 2016. I not only completed the Goofy Challenge in January 2014, but I have two Dopey Challenges (48.6 miles in 4 days) under my belt as well, which I completed in January 2015 and most recently this January 7th-10th, 2016.
Travelling is not my thing these days. From Vancouver to Orlando is practically like travelling from the northern tip of the West Coast to the southern tip of the East Coast. But in addition to the already long travel time and distance, I couldn’t get a direct flight to Orlando, and so had to layover in Denver, Colorado before making it to my final destination. By the time we got to Orlando, it was way past the local dinner time. How tiring!
Wednesday morning, January 6th, was the bib pick up date. We took our time getting to the Run Disney expo, as we had not quite adjusted to the local time yet. When we got there at noon, the line ups were reasonable, but nearly all the Dopey Challenge merchandise was already gone. I was surprised that people were that crazy over this stuff! I ended up buying one of the last few items in stock – a car magnet – which I will proudly display on our SUV in Vancouver.
I picked up my bib, and my participant bag which had 6 Run Disney shirts: one for each of the 5K on Thursday, 10K on Friday, half marathon on Saturday, full marathon on Sunday; and one for the Goofy Challenge, and finally one for the Dopey Challenge. Afterwards I had my photo taken, which I personally think is the wisest thing any race directors can think of because our photos prove that we actually registered for the Dopey Challenge. Essentially it entitle us, the Dopey Challengers, to collect our final 3 medals at the end of the fourth day (one for the marathon, one for completing the Goofy Challenge, and one for completing the Dopey Challenge).
Once that was out of the way, I checked out a separate expo section, which had other Dopey Challenge merchandise, including a special edition of Disney Dopey Challenge shoes. Unfortunately, they weren’t the brand I would wear.
Outside the expo, there were big Disney signs for photo ops. See photos attached.
After all that, it was time for the real count-down.
Thursday morning, the day of the 5K race, my alarm was set for a 4 a.m. wake up. I ended waking up at 3:45 a.m. Made myself a peanut butter toast for breakfast, washed up, pinned the right bib, donned my racing gear and off I went. My husband drove, and we got to the Epcot parking lot at about 4:30 a.m. Way too early for the first day. But time goes by so quickly that by the time we bag-checked and everything, lined up for the washroom, there was not much time left before the race was to start.
I love how pitch dark the skies were – I could not see much, but I could hear and feel all the excitement and energy everywhere. The gun went off at about 5:55 a.m. for the wheelchair athletes, followed by all of the corrals from A, B, C down to G, H, I. Each corral was spaced about 7 minutes apart. It was quite chilly while waiting for my corral to be called. I spent a lot of this waiting time observing the many young families with their cute little ones, who were dressed up in costumes. Finally gun went off, and everyone was full of endless energy. At each mile marker, there were Disney characters for runners to take pictures with. Before I knew it, the 5K was done.
For finishing, all 5K runners received a cute plastic Pluto medal. I got mine at the finish line and walked back to my runners’ tent where I saw more Disney characters including the three bears. See photos. Also met up with the Runners’ World VIP crew. Coach Budd, CEO Bart Yasso, and his team of staff. We left after stuffing our faces with delicious hot breakfast.
In the evening of the 5K race, I attended a VIP function called Pasta in the Park. We decided to take advantage of the remaining daylight hours and got there around 5:30 pm to walk around the Epcot at Disneyworld. My family and I took some very nice shots of the round globe. Quite pretty when it gets lit up as the night falls. We checked out the shops and we walked past the Canadian pavilion, which was a replica of the Quebec Chateau Frontenac, a very historic building in Quebec City. Very cute building. Then we headed towards the UK pavilion, which had Irish pubs, a British fish and chips restaurant, Scotland wool & yarn shops, and a Twinings tea room. Very quaint. We lingered for quite some time in all these stores.
The lines for the Pasta in the Park event started to form at about 6:30 p.m. We lined up near the front, and the lines behind us started winding further and further around the park. The doors opened at precisely 7:00 p.m. We were amongst the first to get in. There were some more Disney characters.
Best part of the evening was that the meal included mickey’s ice cream sandwiches & ice cream bars, which, if you haven’t seen before, are in the shape of Mickey. For some reason, they tasted so good.
There were DJs playing music and an MC going around chatting with families in attendance. One little fellow was asked if he enjoyed his 5K in the morning, and he said “no I didn’t like it at all. It was not fun!” Adults were cracking up at his response.
This was definitely a very relaxing evening and a great way to wind up the first day of my 4 day running adventure.