Sunday morning rolled around quick. I woke up. Feeling well rested (that’s a first) and ready to go. The temperature was mid-50s but still felt a little chilly. No changes to my routine. But I couldn’t believe that this was it—The Last Race of Dopey. I had to keep reminding that fast or slow all that mattered was finishing, although ideally my dream goal was to finish in under 4:30. I braided my hair, ate my banana, and got dressed in my Snow White costume (my tribute to Dopey). Before leaving the room and heading to the bus, I remembered to grab an extra water bottle to carry with me to the start.
Since this was the same starting line, I felt familiar and comfortable, and left gear check around 5:10am. One of the things that’s great about runDisney is so many people do these races by themselves. This leads to conversations and meeting people at the start line. I’m in my garbage bag talking to a first year med student from Connecticut and a law professor from NYC, both running their first marathons. I ate my Clif Blocks, and was thankful that I brought extra to the start and a water bottle. We wished each other good luck and shortly before 6:00am we were racing.
All too soon I knew I needed a bathroom break. I tried pacing myself with the 4:30 group, but lost them eventually. The lines for the porta-potties were so long I didn’t stop till close to mile 4 as we approached Magic Kingdom. I really loved seeing all the spectators out along the course so early in the morning, especially as you run down Main Street USA towards Cinderella’s Castle. Although it is really narrow and crowded, plus all of the runners stopping suddenly to take selfies can be a bit dodgy. I think the adrenaline pump I got from feeding off the crowd carried me until mile 10 when I hit a wall. The wall came earlier than I expected. I was doing great on pacing so I got really disappointed when I started slowing down. Personally, I think it was the lap around the race track at mile 9 that pounded my body. However, I got the second burst as we left Animal Kingdom. I saw an “OH-” sign. That’s all it took.
The second wind didn’t last long and I fought walking. I was also fighting a mental battle because I knew that all I needed to do was finish. My time didn’t matter. But personal pride didn’t want to do poorly. I was also experiencing some rough underarm chaffing, and was thankful for the Medical Aid tents with their sticks of Vaseline! By Mile 16, my spirit was broke (although I was temporarily distracted by a group of men running past me with their freshly acquired McD’s breakfast sandwiches!). I didn’t think I would finish in less than 5 hours. My GPS had screwed up by the half, so I turned it off, and I didn’t like not knowing my time or my pace. Also, my legs were exhausted and it hurt to walk but I lacked the energy to keep running. So I did the only thing I could do, kept putting one foot in front of the other. But the good thing was that I knew ESPN was coming up soon and then it would be mile 20 soon. Around this you end up seeing a lot of runners going in the opposite direction, which is awesome because you get to see more costumes. I saw a lot of other Snows, and we all waved at each other.
Making that turn into mile 20 was a great sigh of relief. I had also turned off my music many miles before and I can’t remember the last time I just ran/jogged. Then the rain started and it felt awesome. Entering Hollywood Studios I knew I didn’t have much farther to go. I was doing awesome (in my mind) because I was feeling better than I had a little bit before. And then around mile 23, a blister popped on my toe. OUCH! I’ve never had that happen. It was painful and I could barely walked, and I hobbled and cried my way through that hydration station. But slowly my foot could take more pressure and then I was off running again. And at this point there was nothing about this race that was more Magical than turning into Epcot and knowing you are so close to the finish. I’m texting my parents updates, because I don’t want them to miss me finishing. As I passed the photographers for Epcot, I saw my second favorite sign of the weekend “Run like the Hunger Games just started.”
Crossing that finish line was indescribable. It wasn’t my first marathon. But it was my hardest. It was more of a mental struggle but also a physical one at times. I received my medal and saw the line for First Aid, deciding I didn’t want to sit down and wait to be treated. I also wasn’t ready to take off my shoes. Next up was a few water bottles and what seemed like a long walk to the finisher picture areas. Here they had select photographers for Goofy and Dopey finishers which of course had the longest lines, and this time when you walked through the Goofy/Dopey tent to get validated, they looked something up on their laptops, smiled and said “Congratulations!” Then it was two more medals and another picture and finally time to see my parents.
Just like that Dopey was over. It was bittersweet. I was happy I did. The marathon was a struggle, but finishing was the best reward.
Overall, I wanted to sum up the weekend for you to include non-race and race thoughts:
- This was Marathon #6, Half Marathon #13, my first 10K (I don’t know how that happened), and my third 5K of 2015. I’m just baffled at how this was my first 10K.
- I watched a little too much travel channel before this trip to Disney because I felt like I missed some things the last time.
- FastPass and Dining Reservations are a must. It isn’t as fun being on a time crunch like that but if there’s things you want to do, it’s better than waiting in line. Also, if you’re trying to fuel for a big race, scheduling out your meals is crucial.
- I would highly recommend dinner at the California Grill for the Magic Kingdom Fireworks. It’s a tad pricey, but it was one of my favorite nights. Also, character dining was such a blast.
- This time we drove down and having a car-allowed for more freedom (and grocery shopping), but we still relied on Disney Transportation for most activities
- I don’t like running or racing with other people, but during runDisney events, I really wished I had someone to share it with.
- Over the past year, I’ve been playing with my pre-race meal. This time especially with the shorter races, I was satisfied with a banana. But for half/full marathon, I wished I would’ve had something more, especially with the amount of time spent in the starting area.
- I was happy with my fueling throughout the entire weekend. And my hydration. Also thrilled that I was well rested. Those parts of my plan were on point.
- Sometimes you don’t realize that you didn’t train enough until midway through the race and the “Oh Shoot” moment happens.
- I may have overdid it on Saturday, but I had an enjoyable day so I wouldn’t change that. Although I might make an earlier dinner reservation next time.
- After finishing all of the races, I didn’t stay long at the Finish Line to soak it all in, I was ready to head back to the hotel and shower.
- The early start times were rough if you weren’t used to waking up that early. And for Dopey runners, by Sunday they had taken their toll.
- Develop a Daily Yoga practice, even if it’s just five rounds of Surya Namaskara A (Sun Salutation A). An overall increase in flexibility has been amazing, not to mention that this served as a key part of my warm up and stretching routine.
- Daily Legs Up the Wall which is a restorative yoga pose that helps relieves tired legs (aka runner’s legs). I could tell the different afterwards, and I feel like this helped me recover quicker.
- Underarm chaffing…once you apply the Vaseline, and you start sweating, it starts to create this lovely white foamy gunk under your arm, and really looks fantastic in pictures, but it stops the chaffing!
- My Favorite Race of the weekend was the Half Marathon. You got to see the most of Disney without having to spend the majority of your run on the roads between the parks.
- runDisney events are my favorite race series (along with M3S Sports). They are unique by the courses and the features, but the quality of the race itself is fantastic. I can’t imagine the organizational nightmare that planning a race can be no matter how many times you do it. Especially organizing the volunteers and managing over 25,000 runners on multiple race days in a row.
Would I do it again? Immediately afterwards I thought “never again.” But after you get over the early mornings, runDisney events are very well done and overall it’s a magical experience.
Next up…completing the Coast to Coast Challenge at Disneyland in September. Registration is February 10th.
If you missed any of the race recaps, you can find them here!
As always, thank you for reading!