Dopey Challenge Race Report – The Marathon

Dopey Challenge Race Report – The Marathon

The day of the marathon started bright and early! Not really bright, but certainly early!  (Maybe I should stop calling it the start of the day and just refer to it as the continuation of the previous night’s party!) 

Surprisingly, I wasn’t feeling nervous. All my nervousness was spent the day before during the half marathon, when I could barely get my breaths straight in the beginning! I was feeling surprisingly good for having run 22.4 miles over the past 3 days and having walked atleast another 10 miles. 

But I was a bit annoyed at something that had happened (or not happened actually). A “bit” is an understatement. I was VERY annoyed. And Shawna, who I was rooming with, heard an earful about my annoyance the night before. Kudos to her for hearing it all calmly (wonder if she has considered a second career in counseling!).

Dopey Challenge Alarm
Yaaaawn …

And the usual drive in even more traffic than the day before. And one last meetup at the JDRF tent. And one last portapotty visit.

And just as I was coming out, Lane, a fellow Disney junkie from Atlanta and triathlete, spotted me for a quick photo! 

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Easy to spot  nervous little Indian girls, Lane says!!

The usual hoopla about huddling in the corral (slight morning chill and the garbage baggie was out) and we were off.

We didn’t stop for pictures until we got to the parking entrance to Magic Kingdom. It was a sad moment knowing that this would be the last time until the turnstiles for a very long time for me πŸ™ (No Disney trip planned in the future unless some magical fairy dust takes me back for another runDisney race.)

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 I was still super sleepy!! 

I might've been a zombie for all the midnight wake ups!!
I might’ve been a zombie for all the midnight wake ups!!

Entering Main Street of Magic Kingdom was an emotion to be seen to be understood. People lined the streets 4-5 deep, like they were waiting for the parade!! In fact, a few people did have signs that said “This is not the 3:30 parade” and “Best Parade Ever”.

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We stopped at our little alcove for a castle photo. (I wonder why not many people have discovered this secret alcove. It has the best castle background without the people behind. And it’s tucked away so us stopping is not interrupting other runners).

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We stopped for a few more photos inside MK.

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Before heading to that long stretch next to Grand Floridian where we saw Mary Poppins and Posse (skipped it today since we’d met them on the half marathon day). Might’ve skipped Mary Poppins, but I wasn’t going to skip these guys πŸ™‚ And seriously, no lines for the guys in tux?!!

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Again today, instead of golf Mickey, I choose to take some time chillin’ and for downward dog!

No planking for this girl. Downward Dog. Namaste.
Downward Dog, not planking for this girl.  Namaste.
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Forget glass slippers, this princess wears running shoes.

It was mile 8. And that was the last bit of fun I had for a while because after that we entered the Speedway also dubbed as the circle from hell (by me and plenty of other marathoners). It starts out with a steep downhill and a steep uphill to put us onto the speedway itself.

Notice the steep line of lights going down into the tunnel.
Notice the steep line of lights going down into the tunnel.

In normal circumstances, I’d say it is pretty cool to be able to run on the tracks where cars are usually zipping by (memories of the F1 Grand Prix at Albert Park in Melbourne)! But actually running on the surface … was hell. It was a hard surface (concrete?) and a HUGE circle. You could see people as tiny points as far out to your right as you could see. 

The Florida Corvette club had come out to support with all their cool cars.
The Florida Corvette club had come out to support with all their cool cars.

But even the awesome cars could not distract me from (a) the boredom at that point, (b) the camber which I wasn’t happy about and (c) the pain in the ball of my feet that was starting up. We passed the Juggler or he passed us or something like that. I didn’t really care at that point. We were doing 30sec:30sec of run:walk intervals and I started lagging behind a bit on the walk breaks. 

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It was Mile 9. 

The awesome group of villains attracted long lines and instead we decided just to loot and run away with their gold. (Haha!!) But even all that gold couldn’t take my mind off the discomfort I was feeling. The boys were speeding up while I was at the same pace and trying to catch up.

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It was Mile 10.

I had always looked at Dopey as a base building for Augusta 70.3 later this year and tried to overcome some of the swim fears by battling this alligator. But even feeling like Crocodile Hunter didn’t help with the pain that was searing up.  

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It was Mile 11. 

And that gnawing annoyance that I’d felt the previous day reared up. In my already frustrated with the foot pain mind, that annoyance made me absolutely hopping mad with a lot of pent up energy that I couldn’t dispel because I was hurting. Hurting with a pain that I never have had before. Neither in training, nor in a race. The boys were a ways in front of me by now and they had to stop to let me catch up.

Neither the country gamboree bears nor Robin and his merry men could help me.
Neither the country gamboree bears nor Robin and his merry men could help me.

It was still mile 11.

It was ONLY mile 11 ! Of a 26.2 mile marathon!

When I get too frustrated with my running, it escalates very quickly into a downward spiral (Luckily, it doesn’t happen often).  And it is very very ugly, especially on race day. 

I had tears under my glasses that I was trying to not let through. There were factors other than just the pain bothering me. And so it got really ugly really fast. The boys noticed me lagging behind, but more importantly, noticed that I had stopped talking for the past few miles. 

At the next aid station, they forced me to stop and get BioFreeze. And I popped in a Tylenol. Two things I’ve never done before. I was a bit embarrassed and a lot sad at having to. I put my heart into training, never taking anything for granted and for what? Mile 11 and stop for pain management? That’s not the stuff that marathoners are made of and certainly not 70.3ers. πŸ™

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Ajit helping me while Barry makes sure that the moment is captured for all eternity.

But that stop made a HUGE difference.

Within half a mile, I had a physical reboot and gave myself a mental reboot.

I stopped doing the run-walk intervals and chose to just run straight out like I’d trained. And I stuck to the pace I intended. The boys and I played tag quite a bit, but we were all mostly ‘together’.

I let go of my pent up annoyance and started talking to the boys about what was annoying me. Talk is an understatement. I b!tched about it, I got sad about it, I got ‘whatever’ about it, I got angry about it. The people running around me heard an earful too! 

But the best part of it all – it helped my mind clear up, I had some therapy session (more like the boys nodding and making sympathetic noises at appropriate times) and I could really “shake it off”.  

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The shift in my mood was also helped when we neared Animal Kingdom and the cast members had animals out cheering for us. The cutest part – all the animals had race bibs!! 

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We could be BRFs!
We could be BRFs!

I had talked of riding Expedition Everest, but decided to forgo it. The disadvantage of being a slow runner – there was a 20minute wait for the ride. Also, I wasn’t sure how a rollercoaster at Mile 13 would sit with my stomach and after that hump I had just gotten over, I wasn’t going to take that risk.

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But no Expedition Everest meant, more time to hang out!

In which marathon do you get a chance to stop and pet a tiger?  (well ... to stop and pet a photo of a tiger)
In which marathon do you get a chance to stop and pet a tiger?
(well … to stop and pet the 3D photo of a tiger)

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Another drawback of being a slow runner – all the food was gone by the time we got to the “food stop” at mile 15.X. They were folding up tables and cleaning up. Oh well. I feasted on the Goldfish that I’d brought along, while enjoying a short dance stop groove with Phineas and Ferb.

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Great guys to meet. Always dancing!

And some fun shenanigans along the way as my perkiness level was increasing. 

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Heading towards the ESPN Wide World of Sports, William Baez, a Sub-30 fellow member spotted me as he passed by in the opposite direction! I have absolutely no idea how he recognized me since as we’ve never seen each other before and I hadn’t posted about my “costume” for marathon day anywhere. (He pulled in a huge marathon PR!)

Apparently this section is not a favorite with runners, but I didn’t mind it at all. I was on perkiness level 9/10 and feeling great.

Great and silly enough to pretend to be one of the cheerleaders.

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And silly enough to take a nap.

Several people remarked that they wouldn't be able to get up if they had stop to lay down at that point.
Several people remarked that they wouldn’t be able to get up if they had stop to lay down at that point.

And I suddenly realized how strong I was feeling when I saw this cheering sign about the Wall. I wasn’t hitting the wall, I had gotten through my wall at miles 8-11.

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I got a bit emotional as I leaned in for a sweaty hug from the two awesome girls holding the sign.

But this was no time to be tearful! It was time for me to be happy, enjoy and just marvel at the way human body (and mind) responds to what I ask of it.

In it to WIN it!
In it to WIN it! For Victory!

Although, I was a bit confused. I wasn’t too sure that I was doing this race thing right – 20 miles seemed an awfully long warmup for a 10k race.

Running strong, but I wasn't too sure that I was doing this race thing right - 20 miles seemed an awfully long warmup for a 10k race.
Running strong, but I wasn’t too sure that I was doing this race thing right – 20 miles seemed an awfully long warmup for a 10k race.

But with all the fun I was having, who cared! I was running strong. And I *knew* I was running strong. Maybe it was runners high, or maybe it was the sheer joy of running. The sprinkles of rain throughout didn’t bother me. Everything just came together.  I could feel myself picking up pace (unconsciously) and running ahead of the boys and we’d regroup at photo ops. 

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Escaped the push ups again!

Chocolates greeted us as we entered Hollywood Studios at about mile 22ish. “Will run for chocolates”? Any day!! 

By the time we reached the Incredibles, I was feeling pretty incredible myself. 

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 And the pain that had brought me to my knees earlier, was super super low.

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Could that smile be any bigger?!!

Not to brag, but this candid shot from MarathonFoto shows just how much I was having fun! No slump, no looking at the ground. Always moving straight ahead and smiling! 

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I actually look like a real runner! Just a little bit.

There was a ton of crowd support through Hollywood Studios and the path wasn’t as crowded as I’d think it would’ve been. And some awesome characters too!

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So sad that my photo with Mike & Sully is missing πŸ™

Out of Hollywood Studios and a final wave to the Sorcerer’s Hat (Literally. As the hat was brought down after the race weekend).

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Hollywood Studios was my first park during my first visit in 2001 (then called MGM Studios).

That put us on to the Boardwalk to the Swan, a tight bottleneck of people walking with hardly any space to weave around. And I spotted Julie, recognizing her by the Team in Training shirt and the skirt she’d posted that she’d be wearing! I walked/ran with Julie for about half a mile before a TnT coach took over and I let the run-itch take over my legs again. 

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Congrats on your first marathon, Julie!

The BEST cheering signs were on this Boardwalk stretch, including my “Don’t Stop Believing” guy from the Half Marathon

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There were actually pretty awesome signs all throughout the course! The lady on the left has been there since the 10K (and I have photos with her all the days).

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Entering Epcot, I couldn’t see the boys behind me. But they had said that they weren’t going to stop anymore. So I hung around for a bit at different countries and waited for the boys so we could all run in together..

Sharing a joke with Alladin and Jasmine in Morocco

I tried to convince Mulan to be a warrior with me, but she said “Wars can be won with words instead of the sword” (or something like that). Sigh, ok. I’m officially a Princess reject now. I had always identified myself with a warrior Princess if I was ever to be a Princess. Nope. Need to find myself a new alter-ego identity.

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Working towards World Peace with words instead of war in China with Mulan.

 Then I decided to get myself a margarita at the Mexico pavilion (the perks of carrying a card & cash!).

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The boys caught up to me just as I was beginning to enjoy that frozen drink in the heat of the day!

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Ajit (in red shirt) in the far right just about done with our antics!

Again, not to brag, but a fantastic candid photo at mile 25-26

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Drink in hand while running – I’ve got some mad skillz!

One last photo op in front of the ball and it was the choir (wish they had used a music system for the choir; could hardly hear them unless we got right in front of them) and the turn to the finish line. 

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And then, just like that, we were done. But not before stopping for another photo at the finish.

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The Dopey Challenge was conquered.  

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4 races, 4 days, 6 medals.


Barry topped off a incredible experience with this wonderful gift.

A hand blown glass designed by a local artist. One of a kind. With 4 Mickey fingers.
A hand blown glass designed by a local artist. One of a kind. With 4 Mickey fingers.

 This massive 48.6 mile journey that started out not the Thursday before, but on July 15th (the day I did my 5K run test and got my training schedule into Training Peaks) was complete. All the miles, all the fun, all the tears, all the 5am runs, all the costumes came to an end. It was a bittersweet moment but I’m very happy to have gone through with it all in the company of friends.

We started this together and we finished it together. 

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The Fab 3, Cruella & Henchmen, The Jolly Pirates and The Incredibles complete the Dopey Challenge of 48.6 miles over 4 days.

Disney puts on a great marathon that is certain to distract from the the toughness of the distance (which could also be a drawback as I could never be disciplined enough to run this for pure time). It is a great first time marathon, especially for someone who loves the mouse!

A little bit of Trivia
A little bit of Trivia

A lot of people have complimented me on having so much fun on the course. Yes, the photos show the fun we had. But what the photos cannot capture is all the camaraderie we shared through the four days (and training).

People have also asked how I could be having so much fun and smile so much towards the end (also remarked by a few spectators/visitors at Hollywood Studios and Epcot). But how could I NOT be having fun? I was having the best day of my life – running a marathon! With friends!

One of the best days of my life!
One of the best days of my life!

Don’t miss the Dopey Challenge blog entries

Day 0: The Expo

Day 1: The Fab 3 take on the Family Fun 5K

Day 2: Cruella deVille chases down puppies at the 10K

Day 3: The Pirates have a jolly good time at the Half Marathon

Day 4: Humbled and Strengthened at The Incredible Marathon

 Connect with me on other social channels as I take on the Dopey Challenge over the week! 

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