Three days had passed, which meant I had already completed the first three legs of the 2016 Dopey Challenge: the 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon. I had those three medals hanging on a doorknob back at my resort, Bay Lake Tower, not too far from where I was currently running. It was at about the 12 mile mark of the 2016 runDisney Walt Disney World Marathon where I thought: “Okay, yeah, this was a really dumb idea. I need to get through 21 more miles? Today?!” Here’s my Recap of the 2016 Dopey Challenge.
Tuesday & Wednesday – My family and I landed at Orlando International very early on Tuesday morning. After a day of meeting family and tackling the parks we all didn’t get to bed until pretty late. Wednesday was an exciting day since I had the opportunity (after more park hopping, of course!) to head over to the runDisney Expo and pick up my race packets, runners’ bibs, and race shirts. I love the Expo. There’s always SO MUCH excitement (of course, no one has run a step just yet, so that helps!)
Thursday – The Walt Disney World 5K – When my alarm went off at 3 AM, I jumped right up out of bed. I was ready to roll and ready for the first leg of the Dopey Challenge to get started! After getting dressed in the dark so I wouldn’t wake our daughter who was sleeping on the sofa bed, it was off to the bus and then eventually the race staging area. If you’ve never run a runDisney race before, the staging area is MASSIVE! There are tents, stages, DJs, music; it’s a lot to take in at 4 AM! I had plans to meet with some running group friends before the races, and I barely made it. But once we met up we eventually made our way to the corrals (yes, you feel a little bit like cattle!) and got the race started! I had never run in a Disney 5K before so I didn’t really know what to expect, but as usual Disney put on a fantastic event! There were great character spots, awesome music, and going through Epcot’s World Showcase is always the highlight of any race! By the time the 3.1 miles were over, I was just getting warmed up and I definitely didn’t want it to end! After grabbing my medal, I stood in an extra long bus line to get back to the Contemporary (way longer than the race took!) and eventually made my way back to our room for a shower and breakfast. Then it was off to the parks with the family again until about 7 PM (now you’re going to start seeing the mistakes that I made!) I got to bed around 10 PM that night with visions of 10K glory dancing through my head!
Friday – The Walt Disney World 10K – The alarm went off at 3 AM once again, and I have to say despite my lack of sleep I still jumped right out of bed! I was meeting a friend in the lobby of the resort and we were going to head over to the race together that morning, so I was pretty excited. Then I looked at the weather and radar apps on my phone. Rain. And a lot of it. That seemed to dampen (pun intended) my spirits a bit. Oh well, the race had to go on. I grabbed my running jacket and a banana and was out the door at 3:30 AM. I met my friend in the lobby and we again made our way to the staging area and eventually the corrals. That’s when the rain REALLY started coming down. It was such a relief when those fireworks went off and I started running, just to warm up from the cold rain even a little bit. The temperature was in the low 60’s so as soon as I got moving, the cold didn’t bother me (anyway), it was just the constant rain for the entire race. I still had a lot of fun though and was able to snap some pictures of some rare characters, eat my banana (delicious, by the way) and finish in a somewhat respectable time for someone who was really planning on holding back pace-wise until the Marathon on Sunday. After I had my medal firmly around my neck I half-jogged to the bus line to get out of that rain. I got back to the resort, ate some Mickey waffles (more deliciousness), and headed out to the parks once again with the wife and kids (mistakes, mistakes). We stayed in the parks until after 5 PM, came back and had dinner at our resort, and I was in bed by around 10 PM.
Saturday – The Walt Disney World Half Marathon – My alarm went off. I didn’t jump. I slowly slinked out of the bed. My legs were just a little bit sore. Honestly, I was just really tired and the lack of sleep was starting to catch up with me. I texted the same friend from the day before who I was supposed to meet up with and told him that I was running late and I’d catch up with him in the corral in a little while. By the time I got out the door it was already 3:45 AM and I was running a little bit late. Luckily, the monorails were running for the WDW Half & Full Marathon days so after hopping on two monorails I was back in the staging area for the third straight day by 4:45. After grabbing a cup of coffee, I was off with the massive herd of runners for a half mile walk to the corrals (a little different than how the 5K & 10K corrals are set up). By then any soreness and tiredness I was feeling was gone, the caffeine was running through my veins, and I was ready to crush (or at least finish!) 13.1 miles. Once Donald Duck counted down the last few seconds and the fireworks went off, I was itching to get out and get running. Honestly, this race went really well! The weather was nice throughout and it’s always an AMAZING experience running down Main Street USA and throughout the lands of the Magic Kingdom. You really need to bring your smartphone and take pictures though, because before you know it you’re through MK and back out on the roads on the way back to Epcot. Running through Epcot’s Future World toward the end of the race, I was really feeling great! My legs felt good, I wasn’t breathing all that heavily (of course I wasn’t running very fast either!) and when I saw the Gospel choir toward the last quarter mile of the race, I couldn’t wait to get my Donald medal! Crossing the finish line of a half marathon is always a rewarding experience, especially when you get to high five a Disney character on the way through! Just a few minutes later I was wearing my new bling and headed back to the Contemporary by bus. This time when I got back to the room, however, I had a little bit of a different plan (after destroying some Mickey waffles, of course). Before my nice hot shower it was ice bath time! If you haven’t experienced the wonderful feeling of an ice bath, let me just tell you, it’s wonderful (I’m lying…it’s super uncomfortable but helps to speed up my recovery). After the ice bath and shower it was foam roller time (more fun where you roll something over every aching leg muscle you have just to torture yourself a little bit more!) Then it was off to the parks for a few hours (another mistake but I have kids, what can you do) and I was back and in bed by 11 PM and don’t even remember my head hitting the pillow.
Sunday – The Walt Disney World Marathon – The alarm (that darn alarm!) went off at 3 AM once again. I don’t want to say I slinked out of bed this time…it was more like a slide. My legs were SORE. I was tired. I didn’t have the best attitude, honestly. Before I had even finished getting dressed and eating my banana and bagel I was regretting this Dopey decision! By the time I met up with some running group friends at the staging area around 4:45, I was still pretty down. It’s not that I didn’t want to run the race and finish the challenge, of course I did! It was simply a feeling of “what the heck did I get myself into.” Then I got to the corral and started feeling better. People around me were excited. Like really, really excited! For many, it was their first marathon. It was their first Goofy Challenge. Hey, it was my first Dopey Challenge. The fireworks started going off, eventually it was my turn to go, and away I went. One mile down, three miles down, seven miles down, ten, no problems. Then I was close to mile twelve, and this is about where we came in at the beginning of this recap. This was when I started telling myself how dumb of an idea this really was. But then something happened. Up not too far ahead of me was a man running with a guide runner who seemed to have a lot of support around him. That wasn’t strange, there’s a ton of support from people all along the course during runDisney races. What really hit home for me though was this man was a double amputee, missing both legs and running a darn marathon! Later I found out that this gentleman is a war hero who lost both legs and part of his right arm and hand from an IED explosion during his second tour of duty in Afghanistan. His name is Cedric King (read his story HERE) and at the time of his injury he was a Master Sergeant in the Army Rangers. I also later discovered that this was the FOURTH marathon he’s completed since the loss of his legs. After seeing the look of determination on this man’s face, I realized just how easy I had it. Here I was complaining about how tired I felt, and one of our nation’s finest was doing the same thing, not complaining at all, on his two artificial legs! After that moment of inspiration, I knew that I had to shut out all of those negative thoughts. I was fine, I was going to make it, and I was just in awe of the sheer will and pride that I saw in Master Sergeant Cedric King. I finished the marathon in my slowest time ever and I ended up walking a good portion of it, but none of that mattered. As I was scarfing down my banana, water, and Powerade and walking toward the tent to pick up my Goofy & Dopey medals, I couldn’t stop smiling. I had done it. 48.6 miles over four days was an incredible journey. It was so inspiring watching all of the other runners around me finish and seeing how proud they were once those medals were placed around their necks. I may never run another Dopey again, but I know one thing: I’ll be there again over Walt Disney Marathon Weekend 2017, and I’ll be running in something. The moments of pride, joy, and overwhelming excitement will always trump those moments of pain and self doubt. See you on the course next year!
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