For horse-racing fans, they know that the Triple Crown is a racehorse’s greatest accomplishment as they must win three races to take the title. Like those racing horses, who must endure different distances in order to acquire the deserved medals, for runners of the Dopey Challenge it is no different – maybe even harder! The Dopey Challenge consists of 4 days of running: a 5K, a 10K, a half marathon, and finally a marathon on the final day.
Here I was, going into my final day of racing. Even though I had completed the Dopey Challenge last year, that didn’t change the fact that the Dopey Challenge is really tougher than anyone can imagine. Many runners think, if I did such a time for the first 3 days, I will be able to finish the marathon in a certain predicted time. Wrong! The last day is the most testing, and you are really running on your last reserves. You are fatigued from all previous days’ running, and body and mind begin to play funny games on you. I call it the final “crowning glory” day. You have to go into it with the same attitude and enthusiasm as with previous days; anything less, and you fall victim to a terrible experience.
The humidity at the start and throughout the marathon must have been close to 100%. From the start, I felt like I could not breathe. Every step felt like 3 steps, because my lungs and my legs had to work that much harder. I began sweating around the 2nd mile – in fact, by this point I was already drenched in sweat.
For a marathon, heat and humidity is one of the toughest weather elements any runner has to handle. We lose a lot of electrolytes, so at each water station, we have to make sure to hydrate properly. Disney was very well organized in that way. They provided drinks that contained electrolytes as well as water at each water station. Plus there were plenty of aid stations along the course.
The course took us through all four Walt Disney World theme parks and the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. However, it was slightly different from last year. Instead of running through the Walt Disney World Speedway, which closed in the summer of 2015, we ran along the back roads of the park. Running through the Animal Kingdom, the zoo animals were out and I counted a small goat, a turtle, a warthog, and a donkey. They all had their Disney bibs on! Funny!
Passing through the Wide World of Sports, this volunteer kept encouraging runners to smile, but it seemed like everyone was in survival mode just trying to get through this part. These miles were tough, not gonna lie. But when I noticed these brave, strong amputees pushing through each mile, I knew I had to tough it out. Mind over matter is what marathoning is about. Never give in and never give up!
There were parts that were so painful I really felt like giving up. Somehow, someway, I was able to renew my strength to carry me through.
Heading towards the Epcot, I knew I was almost home. But each step felt like I had chains on my feet weighing me down. With about half a mile to go, I starting feeling a bit emotional, because I couldn’t believe it…I had done it again! Another Dopey Challenge done!
Initially I was aiming for a 5 hour finishing time, but when the 5:00 race pacer passed me, I reset my goal to 5:15. In the end, I was close, went over by 4 seconds. When I arrived at the finish line, I was crowned with not just 1, not just 2, but THREE medals for completing the marathon, the Goofy Challenge and the Dopey Challenge! See pictures below.
The Dopey Challenge is one of the most unreal experiences. Four days of hard racing, four days of minimal sleep and physical recovery…but in the end, it is a magical journey through one of the happiest places on earth: Disney World – Where Dreams Come True.
I saw a spectator’s sign that said “bet this seemed like a great idea 4 months ago”. But I would dispute that and say that partaking in the Dopey Challenge is also a great idea 4 months later too! I would highly recommend the Walt Disney World marathon weekend to anyone. Great support, great atmosphere and so rewarding!
I conclude with these words:
All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them – Walt Disney