Dopey Challenge – Day 4: the Marathon

Finally, the last day of the Dopey Challenge arrived. I call it the final crowning glory day of the RunDisney race weekend in Disneyworld.

This is normally the toughest day of all. Not only because of the actual mileage, but also because of having to wake up before 3:30am four days in a row. Heading into this final day, I am sure all the runners were dragging themselves out of bed just to face the challenge.

Leaving at 4am was not fun. It took twice as long to get to the Disney parking lot as there were more runners running the marathon than the previous days’ races, and the fact that the race start is farther away. When we got to our usual parking lot, it was full already. So we were diverted to the additional lots. We parked and I gathered my stuff, and walked towards the monorail that connects the parks. It was cold for a January morning in Florida. Riding the train, I began to feel nervous. We were on the train for about 5 minutes before arriving at the Epcot. Every runner got off the train and moved towards the entrance of the park.

There were lots of tired yet excited runners. We followed the same routine as the past couple of days, having to go through security where they checked everyone’s bags prior to letting us in to the park. Once we were in, there were chutes set up in alphabetical order and I went into mine accordingly. Volunteers were working really hard to make sure runners were taken care of. At this point, I was desperately looking for the potty line. There were tons of potties but still seemingly not enough given the long line ups that formed. I patiently waited and then when I got out of the potty, I realized I had left my mitts inside :(. There was no time to go back in to retrieve them, so instead I had to pull my sleeves down so my hands wouldn’t freeze.

Slowly, we all inched towards our assigned corrals. There were many runners zig-zagging through other runners, likely trying to get to their spots in the first corral. It seemed like many were off to a late start already! I was pretty close to my corral when the national anthem started to play. We all stood still until it was finished, and then there was a mad rush of runners heading into their assigned corrals. From the first corral crossing the start line mat to mine, it was about a half hour wait, because there were so many runners in each corral.

The first 10K was run in pitch darkness, so there wasn’t a whole lot to see. The half way mark is near the Animal Kingdom of Disneyworld. This year was more disappointing than previous years during this part of the race because the only animal present which runners could pat or take pictures with was a baby ram. It was cute, but nothing compared to when they used to bring out a warthog (like Pumbaa from the Lion King). Plus this year, the race didn’t include the speedway racetrack, which was something I liked. That used to be so cool, with all the fast cars and antique cars all parked around the speedway.

Maybe it was because I already knew what to expect, but the course up until this point didn’t prove to be that challenging or fun. But that sentiment changed once I entered the ESPN Sports Stadium where I kind of felt the excitement coming back. As there was a huge projection screen showing runners running in the stadium, that was kind of cool.

For the later miles, I do not recall what I passed through…I was totally zoned out! I only knew that by mile 22, I was on the trail heading back towards the Epcot and the finish line. Random strangers were handing out little chocolate bars and pretzels. I grabbed a whole bunch and continued on. There was something about that moment, but let me tell you, chocolates never tasted so good!

By the time I got back to Epcot, there were many visitors (families with their kids) in the park already. I passed by the Canadian pavilion and two of their staff were out holding out the Canadian flag. When I saw them, I wanted to weave my way through other runners to that side to say hi, but figured I shouldn’t waste any time. So on the last mile, I felt the excitement – I heard the cheers of the crowds that had gathered, and suddenly runners all around me sped up and so I sped up too. The last entertainment group on the course was a church choir and once I passed them and turned the corner, there was only .2 miles to go.

I was quite focused on just crossing the finish line. But when I saw Mickey Mouse & Donald Duck at the finishing line, a big smile grew across my face and I sped up to get across the line to give them high-fives. I walked through the line to collect my other medals, for a total of 6 medals collected. But as I said in my previous blog post, this year, I technically earned only 3 of the 6 medals I received. Because the Half was cancelled due to the weather, I could not claim to have earned the half medal, the Goofy Challenge medal (completing the half and the full) nor the Dopey Challenge medal (completing all four days of racing).

The Dopey Marathon somehow seemed like a dream. Maybe it was the fireworks at the start, or the entertainment surrounding me, but it certainly did not feel like a race. The whole marathon covers all the 5 theme parks at Disneyworld, which is very cool. A lot of the race is run in the dark, but by the time the sun rises, (for me) the Magic Kingdom is in sight and you can see it glisten and sparkle! So Magical!

I am happy to say that I completed my 3rd Dopey Challenge, and this was the 3rd year in a row doing it. This Dopey Challenge 2017 was definitely more bitter-sweet than the others since I felt that it was an “incomplete” Dopey. But the runs were still memorable and the reason for cancelling the half was out of anybody’s control.

Overall, RunDisney put on a great race as always. I look forward to running other RunDisney races in the near future!

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