Sometimes, you sign up for a race, and think, “Yeah, I can do this!” Then, there are other times that you get to the race and think, “How am I ever going to do this!!” This pretty much sums my feeling as I approached the start line of the Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge.
Why is it called “Dopey Challenge”?
Complete all 4 Walt Disney World Weekend races on pace and earn not only the 4 individual event medals, but both Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge Medal and Dopey Challenge Medal—for a grand total of 6!runDisney
That’s a total of 4 races in 4 days. Day 1 is a 5k. Day 2 bumps up to a 10k. Day 3 shoots you up to a Half Marathon. Day 4: The Disney Marathon. 4 races, 4 days. That’s a total of 48.6 magical miles!
This whole crazy idea started as my Pastor hinted that he and a friend were thinking of signing up for this race. I’d been training for my first marathon in the fall of 2016, so adding a few miles between my October race, and “Dopey” in January was not too big of a deal. So, in December of 2016, I noticed that there were a few openings left. I entered the race, and in the words of, “The Emperor’s New Groove” “Boom Baby” I was in!
In an earlier blog, I eluded to my experience with the Disney 5k. The 5k ran on a Thursday. It was a nice easy way to enter into the Dopey challenge. 3.1 miles of fun, entertainment, with very low key pressure.
The 10k took off at 5:30am. Yep, an early bird race. No issue for me,. as I am always at work by 4:30a.m. At the starting line, I ran into my Pastor from Michigan. Yes, Pastor Ken was the one that dropped this crazy idea into my head in the first place. We met up before the race. Had a time of prayer and encouragement, and we went to our separate corrals. It was a chilly morning by Florida standards, but great for running. 6.2 miles of fun, characters, pictures, and an amazing sunrise. Oh, and that sunrise, accompanied by Phil Collins’ “You’ll Be In My Heart” from the movie Tarzan was breathtaking!
As I finished, I noticed a fellow runner limping. I asked if she needed help. “If you could hold this little meal box, that would be great.” I gladly held it for her, as she was walking with an ice pack wrapped around her leg.
We chatted for a while. “My name is Joy”, she said. An interesting name for a woman who was in severe pain. She never complained about her knee. She was simply excited to be at the finish line, ready to see her husband and kids. She was choosing, Joy!
Disney does an amazing job helping to set the stage to an unforgettable experience. Complete with magical Disney music pumping through Epcot Center. Torches blazing around Epcot Center. And, smiles galore! That’s a two day total of 9.3 miles completed!
Then came Friday night…
We kept a close eye on the weather, as things were looking pretty stormy for Saturday Morning. We were to report to the starting line near 4:30am. Severe Thunderstorms were in the forecast. I thought, “Eh, no big deal!” Then, it happened. I received an email saying. “Due to severe storms, the Disney half marathon is cancelled.” Say what!?! How am I going to complete my Dopey challenge? This is my mission! My reason for signing up! So, I did what all committed runners would do, I mapped out my own 13.1 miles, and got my half marathon in!
I sent a text to my Pastor, and we decided to meet up and get our own 13.1 miles in. The funny thing is, we saw several runners out on sidewalks doing their own thing. Some of them were even wearing their bibs! Yes, I had to stop and grab a pic of this fellow Dopey runner!
Here is where things get quite interesting
I went to the Dopey Challenge at Disney with my friends DeWayne and Tony. DeWayne didn’t run, but Tony wanted to do the half marathon. But, when the half was cancelled, the amazing people at runDisney gave runners the option to bump up to the marathon at no extra charge. So what did Tony do? He bumped up! Now, Tony had only run as far as a 7 miles during his training. But, he still wanted to attack the full! Uh-mazing!!
We arrived at Disney by 5:00am, which in hindsight, was probably too late. So late, that Disney put us on one of their shuttles and whisked us to the starting line. Which, by the way, had a windchill warning in effect that morning. The windchill was 29 degrees. No biggie for this Michigander, but for others, it was a scene out of Frozen!
What an incredible 26.2 miles. Attractions every .5 miles. Treats, water, electrolytes, and FUN! Tony and I stayed together for about 22 miles of the race. We stopped quite often to take pictures of the scenery, the characters, and to soak in the ambiance. Then it happened.
Tony was spent! Tony fought cancer, and now he was fighting “the wall”. The wall is the moment in which runners experience a moment in which they feel like they just can’t go any further. I was super impressed that Tony had made it this far! “Go ahead. I’ll be alright”. Tony told me to leave him, and go finish the race. I struggled with this. We runners don’t leave friends behind. But he insisted. He just could not go any further. So I took off.
I loved running near, “The Green Army guys” from Toy Story. Snapping pictures, and shouting encouraging messages to fellow runners, while (spoiler alert) enjoying magical pieces of Dove Chocolate!
As I crossed the finish line, I teared up. Yep. I cried. No shame here! 48.6 miles in 4 days is NO JOKE! It was tough like Tarzan. Tiring, like Sleeping Beauty. And, magical like Tinkerbell.
Tony? Yep, he finished! He fought cancer, and he did what very, VERY few people have ever done – run a marathon without training! Now that’s Dopey!
48.6 miles of memories. 48.6 miles of smiles. 48.6 miles I would happily do all over again!