It’s day 4 of the Dopey Challenge and not going to lie, the last day has turned into a bittersweet moment. I’m excited to be done with the early wake ups and being tired but I’m also super bummed that my favorite race weekend of the year is coming to an end.
I woke up bright and early at 2am because I needed to be on a bus by 3am, so early! I got up and dressed quickly and I decided to take my PB sandwich over to Old Port Royale (OPR) and chill with some coffee before hopping on the bus. I just wanted a quiet moment. I left the room at 2:30am and relaxed with some coffee at OPR until 2:50am before getting on a bus by 2:55am.
I wasn’t feeling too sore given the effort from the day before and it being day 4 of the Dopey Challenge, but today was all about fun anyways so it didn’t really matter. I was hoping to ride Everest and maybe Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster and get lots of character pictures along the way. The goal was to PR in fun and mostly likely run my slowest marathon ever!
This morning the bus driver wasn’t as bold as the previous morning and we inched… and inched… and inched along to Epcot. I tried to keep calm but I was getting a little anxious because I also needed to go through the bag check this morning. Pro-tip: If you are running a challenge, bring your other medals with you in your checked bag to get that finisher pic, I like to wrap mine in a hand towel to make sure they don’t scratch each other.
I finally made it to Epcot at 3:47, we were on the bus for 50 minutes. The past 3 mornings took less than 30 minutes, this was a bit ridiculous. I got off the bus and made it to to the bag check line at 3:50 and it moved fairly well even though it was backed up similar to the half marathon (half way across the row in the Imagine lot) and I was through by 3:57 (yes, I was time checking at each step).
I was finally in the start area and it was time to meet up with the running Ohana, I was the last one there but we snapped a quick pic and then we all parted ways and made the walk over to the corrals which again felt more crowded than in past years. Nathan and I joined Jeff in C and we got there around 4:45 and then we waited. It was definitely warm and the announcers were reminding us all to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
My stomach had been feeling off for most of Saturday and was feeling really off as I stood in the corral. I was majorly nauseous and I wasn’t sure why. Between the travel, the heat, and all the new foods I was eating (I really wasn’t properly prioritizing eating “normal” things this trip) my stomach was not happy and so I knew this might make today even more difficult. I just had to hope that it would settle at some point and not make this marathon miserable.
We waited and waited, it was 4:50 and we still hadn’t heard the National Anthem and the announcers started letting us know that the start was going to be delayed. Given the traffic I had experienced and the fact that the marathon took us on a loop around Epcot so the roads needed to be clear by the entrance, this was not surprising. So much for that 5am start. The start ended up being delayed about 20 minutes but with another amazing singing of the National Anthem and some fireworks we were off!
The delay actually worked in my favor because it made my timing for getting to Animal Kingdom a little easier. We set off and the start was crowded as usual, Nathan and I parted ways with Jeff with some good lucks and we were on our way.
The early loop through Epcot was pretty fun. Since Epcot has so much construction, it wasn’t as much fun as it could’ve been and not looping through World Showcase was a bit of a let down but it was nice to get an early park and delay getting to Magic Kingdom. By mile 2 I was already dripping with sweat, it was 70F with 95% humidity and I already knew it was good I wasn’t trying to race this one.
Nathan and I ran the Epcot loop together and then around mile 6 he peeled off to go to the bathroom but caught up when I stopped for a picture with Stitch. We were running slightly different paces so we parted ways again and I ran ahead. My legs were feeling okay and my stomach wasn’t having too many issues yet and I wanted to capitalize on this as much as possible especially before the sun started coming up. I made sure to stop for water at nearly every water stop to make sure I was staying hydrated and in hopes of “clearing” out my stomach and getting it back in line. I did not drink any Powerade because historically it doesn’t always agree with me.
We ran into Magic Kingdom through the backstage area instead of the main entrance and turned onto Main St which just never gets old. This is my 10th WDW Marathon and I just feel so blessed to be able to run at Walt Disney World. To feel the excitement, to see all the people, and to be running towards Cinderella Castle in my favorite place. It always makes me emotional and even 10 years later it still hits me in all the feels. It never gets old.
I ran through MK, stopped for more characters, I didn’t stop for Sebastian or to snap a pic of the town crier talking with Sam Eagle in Liberty Square (where the TC was calling Sam beautiful) but got a few other good pics. After getting a pic in front of the castle (you can tell how humid it was by the haze) Nathan had caught up to me so we ran together for a bit. Running through MK was just the boost I needed, my spirits were lifted and my stomach was starting to feel more stable.
We exited and then Nathan and I split up again. I was also aware that I needed to ingest something other than water because I was starting to reach the point of no return when it came to fuel. In general, I like to take fuel every 5 miles but I was nervous to take in anything other than water in case it messed up my stomach. Since my stomach was feeling pretty good, I took a gel slowly and it went well which was another huge boost!
At this point we were nearing halfway and I needed to do a “body check-in”. My legs were definitely tired and very comfortable running around 10-10:30 pace with character stops for some “micro-rests”. Today was shaping up to be a very slow race and I was okay with that.
We made our way to Animal Kingdom and I was right on pace to get to mile 17/Everest just before 9am. We ran into the backstage area and I stopped for more characters and stopped in the same bathroom I used during my first WDW Marathon in 2011 to eat up some time. I got to Everest right around 8:40 and there was already a group enjoying some adult beverages at the bar nearby and people waiting for Everest to open but unfortunately the cast members were saying it was going to be a delayed open. I decided to hang out for a bit, eat my Mickey rice krispy bar, and see how this played out but it was 8:50am and still no ride vehicles were cycling so I knew it was still going to be awhile. Around 8:55am I saw Nathan again, so I went ahead and hopped back on course and ran with him through the rest of DAK. It’s always more fun running with friends. We stopped for a pic with Kevin, I was able to finish my Mickey rice krispy, and still felt good. This again was the exact boost I needed.
We then exited DAK and ran back out to the roads to finish the first out-and-back/loop on the course. It was really warm and there was a lot of walking/shuffling going on. This was the first time I ran the marathon with the 5 hour runners so I wasn’t sure if this was normal or not but I got the feeling that this was NOT the usual and everyone was feeling the heat just like I was. After DAK, Nathan and I parted ways because the plan from here was to pick up the pace to the finish. I was able to pick it up for a bit but then everything just started hurting around mile 20.
My legs, my feet, and my head just didn’t want to keep going. I was just so hot and uncomfortable. As we made our way to Blizzard Beach I told myself I would walk most of that since 1) I had never been in that water park before and 2) I just wanted a rest. Running through the parking lot of Blizzard Beach was boring and going through Blizzard Beach was fine but if I had wanted to run this course fast, this part would’ve been annoying because there were a tons of twists, turns, and narrow paths. I enjoyed the walk and the shade but I’d be okay if they removed this part of the course next year.
We left Blizzard Beach and it was back out to the roads to make our way to DHS. As I left, I put on my big girl pants and had a talk with myself to get myself refocused and just keep running. More walk breaks meant more time on my feet and my feet were NOT happy right now. They just hurt and I was already beyond the time that I’m usually on my feet for any race or training run. The goal was to just keep running even if it was slowly. I walked through the water stops and knew I was already getting a little dehydrated because my mouth was starting to get dry. This race was no joke and was taking a lot out of me.
I just kept trucking and giving myself pep talks all the way to DHS where I did try to go over to Rock’n’Rollercoaster but the single rider line was long and I just wanted to be done. Maybe next year I’ll run faster and get to DHS around their park open instead.
Even without riding any rides I feel like I got the most from my runDisney experience, look at all the characters!
We then made our way around Crescent Lake and it was super crowded on the course, nearly everyone around me was walking and so I just went with the flow. I had gotten a boost going through DHS and was feeling pretty good knowing I only had a 5k left. I ran around the Boardwalk and into World Showcase where some of the running Ohana was cheering and was a much welcomed boost. Plus, again when they play Disney music in World Showcase it makes for the BEST run-dancing which always lifts my spirit. I can’t remember what was playing when I entered but Into the Unknown, Touch the Sky, and I Just Can’t Wait to Be King played and were perfect!
We then exited between China and Norway and ran the super boring, anti-climatic backstage section again. What used to be a glorious run through Future World to a quick backstage section with a gospel choir was turned into a half mile trudge through a construction zone. No music, no characters, no nothing. I REALLY hope they can bring back the old finish next year!
It was finally finish line time though and I was SO ready to be done with this race and start cooling down. My legs hurt, my feet hurt, and I was exhausted both mentally and physically. Again everything just felt hard but you know what, you always throw up your hands for the finish line!
I finished in 5:07 and this was by far my slowest marathon but between running hard for the half and the heat, I’m not sure I could’ve run it much faster even if I hadn’t been trying to pace specifically to ride Expedition Everest. Still bummed I couldn’t ride but maybe a future year it will work out…
I finished around 11am and at around 11:20, runners got the alert that they were diverting runners/cutting the course short. There weren’t many details at the time but runDisney officials decided to have runners bypass Blizzard Beach, cutting about 1.5 miles, and have them keep moving. This was 100% the right call because it was too hot and humid.
As I wrap up my 10th WDW Marathon, my 8th Goofy, & my 7th Dopey Challenge here are my key take-aways:
While I don’t enjoy the cold years, this hot year was a trip. Living in Colorado we get heat but no humidity and WOW I forgot how much humidity zaps you. Not sure which I prefer but it is what it is.
PLEASE runDisney figure out a better last 0.5-1.0 mile of the course. I know Future World is under construction and would’ve been hard to route runners through, much less runners and guests, but this was a real let down this year. Fingers crossed for next year!
New marathon course – please keep/expand the first loop through Epcot, maybe just through the parking lot and then around World Showcase, and please remove Blizzard Beach. I would still love a combination of the first half of the 2012 WDW Marathon plus the Wine & Dine Half course, I think that would be an amazing course!
Things just felt off this weekend, specifically the start area and getting racers to the start. The half marathon and marathon just felt crowded and more chaotic than usual. Maybe it was the heat or maybe runDisney was trying to scale down some even though there were roughly the same number of runners (might get into these numbers more in another post but 2019 Half Bibs/Finishers: 25,145/18,419, 2020 Half Bibs/Finishers: 26,513/21,636, 2019 Marathon Bibs/Finishers: 17,907/11,936, 2020 Marathon Bibs/Finishers: 18,511/14,117)
I can’t wait to come back again next year! I just love this race weekend and maybe next year I’ll go for my age group award for the marathon! I will definitely NOT be racing the half because it made the full marathon so so hard and I don’t want to do that again 😛
The rest of the day was spent at the Magic Kingdom enjoying a late lunch at Be Our Guest and eating all the ice cream treats (Mickey Bars, Citrus Swirls, and splitting an All American Sundae!). We didn’t watch the fireworks but we got in nearly everything (including a ride of Carousel of Progress) and really enjoyed the afternoon/evening in the most magical kingdom of all. We then made the walk to the bus and said goodbye to WDW until next year.
Great job to all the WDW Marathon Weekend runners and let’s do it again next year!
(just maybe with cooler temps)