The main event of the Dopey Challenge (which is a 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and Full Marathon) was the full marathon. After three days of waking up at 3:00 a.m. the alarm sounded at this unfathomable hour yet again. I felt like singing, “second verse, same as the first, a little bit louder and a little bit worse.” Today was the day. The big day of the full marathon. This was the event that culminated the entire Dopey Challenge. If I could get through this, I’d be an official Dopey finisher.
I was a pro at getting my gear together and I was out the door quicker than the three days previous. I was on the bus by 4:30 a.m. and headed over to Epcot. The mood on the bus was different than the previous three days. Instead of loud chatter, there was a lot of quiet solitude. It seemed like most runners were contemplating the 26.2 miles ahead and were reserving their energy for the race itself rather than giggling and chatting. Several racers quietly looked out the window, others were on their phones, already texting early in the morning and others were munching on their bagels. We arrived at Epcot and we all made the trek down towards the bag check area and corral start and the mood lightened. Cast Members cheered us on and were joyful and cheerful, even early in the morning.
I checked my bag and headed towards the corral area. For the full marathon there are corrals A through P. There are so many corrals that there are huge electronic road signs that direct runners to turn left for earlier corrals and right for later corrals. The start time for the late corrals can be an hour or more after the first corral takes off. Corral A takes off at 5:30 a.m. and Corral P takes off at 6:30 a.m. You may think that if you are in a later corral that you can arrive to the race later, but that’s not true. You must arrive an hour or more earlier than the earliest corral takes off, or you may miss the start of the race. The race is congested with all of the participants, so don’t stress yourself out being late. You need to save that energy towards running the race.
There are fireworks at the start of every corral and the fabulous five showed up on stage. Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto and Goofy. There is a DJ, great music and a fun atmosphere, so waiting for the marathon to start is actually a lot of fun. Just be careful not to play on your iPhone too much, or your batter will die like mine did and you won’t be able to find your family at the finish line (yikes!).
The course followed the half marathon route in the beginning, running up the street, then to enter the Magic Kingdom, Tickets and Transportation Center, Bay Lake Tower and then entering the Magic Kingdom park. We ran down Main Street, then caught a glimpse of Cinderella Castle prior to taking a right into Tomorrowland. We then ran through Fantasyland and there were loads of characters prior to Cinderella Castle. All of my favorites were there! Rapunzel and Flynn Ryder and the Fairy Godmother. I was so excited to run through Cinderella Castle that I didn’t stop for pictures. I ran through the castle and felt my heart skip a beat. There is no better feeling in the world than to run through the most magical place one earth! This was approximately mile six. We then ran out of the Magic Kingdom and there was a beautiful castle float set up with princesses out front. We then approached mile 8 around Grand Floridian. After running through Cinderella Castle, we had several straight away miles. The next stop was Animal Kingdom, but first we ran past Grand Floridian, Richard Petty’s Driving Experience and a straight-away road. We entered Animal Kingdom, which is one of my favorite parks to run in. They had live animals on the side as we ran into the park, which was super cool. I love the roads in Animal Kingdom and approaching the Tree of Life. This was approximately mile 12. We ran past Expedition Everest and Dino-Rama. Pretty quickly, we hit the 13.1 mark which told us we were half way through! Mile 6 (Cinderella Castle), mile 10 (A landmark mile) and mile 13.1 (Half Marathon mark) were big milestones in the race, so the next few miles were tough mentally. After leaving Animal Kingdom we were headed to the ESPN Wide World of Sports. We also were able to see a classic car show, which was extremely interesting.
I also was tricked at about mile 18 because I thought we were going to have a quick turnaround, as I saw other runners running towards us, but the turnaround wasn’t for several mile. This was tough mentally because I kept thinking I was turning around. Hitting mile 20 is a huge milestone because at this time, I know I’m going to finish. We hit mile 20 near the turnaround section, then entered 23 was at Hollywood Studios, then we ran past the Backlot Studios Area. In this area, Disney was giving out chocolate bars, which was so awesome! I actually couldn’t eat it because I get tummy troubles if I eat something unexpected on a run, but I grabbed some for my kiddos at the finish line. At this point I told myself that I only had a 5K to go and I knew I would finish feeling good. I tried to pick up the pace a bit and I ran through with renewed energy through Hollywood Studios and then back through Epcot. The crowds got think in Epcot as spectators crowded to find their loved ones. Their cheers, signs and energy gave me a renewed sense of spirit. As I ran in the World Showcase, I seriously considered stopping at the Germany Pavilion for a pretzel, but then I decided I better not stop or I wouldn’t be able to go again.
Next thing I knew, I could see the finish line ahead of me. I saw my husband and kiddos on the sidelines and I was filled with joy. I was waving like a lunatic to make sure they could see me. I then crossed the finish line and got not one, but THREE medals! I received my Mickey Mouse Marathon Medal, Goofy Medal for the Goofy Challenge and my Dopey Medal for the Dopey Challenge! I was so ecstatic! This was the grand finale from the four events and I had a great sense of satisfaction.
The best part about the event was spending time with my family. We went to ‘Ohana for dinner and I ate my body weight in chicken, salad, bread pudding and ice cream. I even wore my medals around my neck at the dinner. Running the Dopey Challenge was one of the best experiences in my life.
Would I do it again? Definiitely! Next week I’m going to write about the experience as a whole and give you my best tips and tricks. Have you run the Dopey Challenge or a Walt Disney World marathon? If so, I’d love to hear from you!