Disney Goofy Challenge

Exiting Cinderella’s Castle.

Exiting Cinderella’s Castle.

This past weekend I ran the Disney Goofy Challenge – a half marathon on Saturday and a marathon on Sunday for the grand total of 39.3 miles. I tackled the same feat two years ago, in 2012. This time the Goofy Challenge seemed like the perfect way to celebrate my milestone 30th birthday. What better way to turn 30 than by running in my Mickey ears, stopping for photos with Disney characters along the course? Time was never a factor. Fun was all that mattered.

Due to a few circumstances, I ended up going the Goofy alone. While it was disappointing and sad to not have Chris by my side, he was out there cheering. With the races starting at 5:30am, I greatly appreciated his enthusiasm for waking up at 3am to cheer me on! Folks, that’s love.The morning of the Half Marathon started with 100% humidity and 70 degrees at 5:30am. By the time I hit the 5K mark, I was drenched in sweat and felt like I was running through soup. I was thankful that my journey that day was “only” 13.1 miles. As soon as I crossed the finish line, I knew hydration was key for getting my body ready for the marathon the next morning.After I got cleaned up at our resort, we went to Animal Kingdom for the day. Keeping my legs moving has bode well for me in the past with back-to-back races, and so we took advantage of the park. An early dinner at Tusker House, and we were back at the resort and in bed around 6pm. Nothing like being awake since 3am and a humid 13.1 mile journey to wipe you out.

The morning of the Marathon, I woke up with a chest cough and a scratchy throat. I was surprised by my change in health, as I had gone to bed feeling totally healthy. For a brief moment I debated going back to bed, but quickly put that thought to rest. As long as I could go out there and have fun, I was going to finish the marathon. Thankfully, the weather was a bit better – 80% humidity and in the low 60s.

I told myself to settle into an easy pace, which was alarmingly slow. Breathing was an issue, as my chest felt heavy and seemed to rattle, and the humidity didn’t help. I felt so bad that I decided if Chris made to the mile 4 marker to cheer as planned, I’d DNF there. When I got to mile 4, I was hoping to see Chris. I was ready to be done and climb back in bed. However, Chris wasn’t there, so I decided I’d truck on for another 22 miles – a long way to go when your body and brain are asking you to stop. I decided to just take it a mile at a time and to look forward to photos with characters. Thankfully, around mile 8, a runner named Andrew pulled up beside me and struck up conversation. For the next 14 miles, this Masters runner and I kept each other company. We stopped at every character, helped each other refuel, and exchanged life stories. Around mile 22 Andrew dropped back to run with his wife, and I pulled ahead and finished my journey solo through Hollywood Studios and the finish at EPCOT.

Outside the Castle on Marathon Day.

Outside the Castle on Marathon Day.

Obviously at the end of my 39.3 mile weekend I was tired. Hours after the marathon I felt far more ill, and was even worse the next day. I am just thankful I didn’t completely get sick until the demands of the race weekend were over. A marathon, even on the best day and at an easy pace is a difficult journey. Throw in humid weather and illness, and it takes all you’ve got to put one foot in front of the other.

There are some things I really like about the Disney Marathon weekend: The focus is on fun. Combining a vacation and a physical challenge is something I enjoy. The support from the volunteers and amount of fuel and medical stations is fantastic. After putting so much energy into racing and a big PR in Philly, it was really nice to toe the line for a race with absolutely no care in the world regarding the time on the clock.

There are also some things I didn’t like: There didn’t seem to be as many characters out on the course as in previous years. There were many repeat characters from Saturday there on Sunday, which was disappointing. The lines were LONG for some of the characters. I timed over 3 minutes to wait for a photo with Pirates of the Caribbean – which two years ago never happened. My major complaint, and something that may keep me from considering Disney races in the future was the corral assignments. Disney asks for registrants to give proof of previous race times, but apparently pacing has NOTHING to do with your corral assignment. I was place in corral F, while thousands of walkers and joggers were placed in front of me. In the dark (the race starts before sunrise!) and with some narrow parts of the course, weaving around runners was not only frustrating, but dangerous. RunDisney has a policy where you cannot change your corral. For a race that’s all about fun, I did NOT have fun during the first 10 miles of the Half Marathon because I was constantly fighting the crowds. Two years ago I was in corral B, and only felt crowded for the first two miles. In 2012 I stopped at every character and STILL ran a BQ. If had been feeling healthy and going for a BQ, there is no chance it would have happened this past weekend.

Safari Minnie and Donald in Animal Kingdom.

Safari Minnie and Donald in Animal Kingdom.

So there you have it, my Goofy Challenge as I jump into my 30th year. If you do decide to run a Disney race, I highly recommend staying at a Disney Resort. It makes the getting to/from the race and the parks incredibly smooth and stress-free. I also recommend keeping your legs moving and avoiding the temptation to crawl into bed or into a hot tub post-race. I also recommend running with a camera in your hand, as Disney staff members will happily take your photos with characters. Oh, and have some fun and wear some Mickey ears! Ladies, a few bobby pins will keep those ears locked down for a marathon with no problems. If you are looking for some fun, and not worried about pace, Disney can be great – assuming you aren’t weaving around runners. I do NOT recommend it as a PR course, as the whole corral system could screw you over.

If you are wondering what this Coach has her eye on next, I’ll tell you: bettering my time at the 10-mile distance. I have the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler in April, and hopefully the Broad Street Run 10-Miler in May – assuming I get in via the lottery system. Long runs will take a back seat, and track work and temp runs will be front and center. And lots of recovery miles will happen as I run with my clients and pace them on their runs – long and short alike.

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