Walt Disney Goofy Challenge: 39.3 Miles of Magic

2012 began with the biggest physical challenge of my life – the Walt Disney Goofy Challenge! While celebrating my birthday, and a vacation at the “happiest place on earth,” I decided to take on the Goofy Challenge: Running the Disney Half Marathon on Saturday, and Running the Disney Marathon on Sunday. Yes, that’s 39.3 miles within a weekend.

Because I had no idea how my body would hold up, and wanted to have the energy to walk around Disney after the races both days, I decided to go into the weekend taking it easy on both races and to simply enjoy the experience. Both races had Disney characters set up for photos along the course, and so I brought my camera with me and stopped at almost every character for photos.

Both races began at 5:30am, resulting in waking up at 3am both days. Chris and I ran the Half together, and had so much fun running and posing with characters. With the race starting so early, we ran most of the race in the dark. The sun rose around mile 9, and the Half Marathon course took us through Epcot and Magic Kingdom.

Before even getting to the 5K mark, I experienced my first race accident ever! As we entered the main entrance to Magic Kingdom, I took my eyes off the dark course in front of me and looked up toward the castle, and the path ahead. This decision caused me to completely miss the small speed-bump in front of me, and I entirely wiped-out! I went flying so fast, I didn’t realize I was falling until I was already on the ground. My right knee instantly hurt, as did my right elbow and both hands. Luckily Chris was holding the camera, so it was saved from the fall. A volunteer jumped to my rescue, and helped me up and out of the way. I took a few minutes to get myself together, and to hobble on my busted knee. I shook it off, and Chris and I started back on our Half Marathon adventure.

When we crossed the finish line for the Half Marathon (with my accident and stopping for characters, we finished in 2:12), I felt completely fine – except for my injuries from the wipe-out. The medics pulled me over to their tent and cleaned up my bloody knee and elbow. The knee had swelled, and was quite uncomfortable. However, the overall race was fantastic, and Chris and I went back to the hotel, got cleaned up and went to Magic Kingdom for the day.

Our day in Magic Kingdom didn’t last too long, as we were both exhausted from being up so early and running a race. We had some amazing pasta for lunch, and decided around 3pm that we were both read to head back to the hotel. I was in bed and asleep by 4:30pm!

Going to bed early ended up being a fantastic decision. When the alarm went off at 3am again, this time for the full Marathon, my body felt fresh and ready to run. The knee was still swollen, and so I took an ibuprofen before we left for the starting line. Chris, though not running the Marathon, woke up with me and had a plan to hop around the parks and cheer me on. (Did I mention that he’s a great guy?!?)

I started the Marathon very close to the starting line, and unlike the Half Marathon, I was in a field of males – which is what I am used to. I wore my signature race outfit: racing glasses, sports bra, arm sleeves, knee high compressions and short racing shorts – only I also wore my Mickey Ears! I had worn them for the Half the day before, and with a few bobby pins had stayed on my head with no problems. Sometimes, you can’t take running (even Marathons) too seriously. I was here for fun.

I started out my 5th Marathon with my camera in hand, and kept reminding myself to take it easy, go against my instincts to push the pace, and to relax and enjoy the ride. After all, I still had 5 days of Disney vacation ahead of me, which equals lots of time walking and standing.

Having fun, I did. I took photos with TONS of characters, made friends with fellow runners along the course, and felt incredibly loved as I’d pass Chris at his multiple viewing spots. I’d slow to exchange high-fives and kisses with him, and really enjoyed every moment of the journey. The Marathon course took the runners through all four Disney Parks, and characters were stationed all throughout the course.

To my surprise, with taking it easy and stopping for almost every character, I crossed the finish line for the Marathon in 3:34:01. Another Boston Qualifier, even with the new time requirements. What surprised me was how great my body felt after 39.3 miles, and how in the days to come I still felt entirely fine. In contrast, I had felt like I had been hit by a bus after some previous Marathons. The human body is truly amazing, and can adapt to anything. Four years ago, 6 miles seemed like a LONG way to me, and here I had completed 39.3 miles within a weekend and felt fit as a fiddle. Dumbfounding.

If you are a Disney fan, and are looking to enter your first Half or Full Marathon, I highly recommend entering the Disney races. As far as organized races go, the Disney races were the most relaxed, non-competitive, easy-going, non-pressured races I’ve ever completed. There were many people who walked the races, so if the best you can do is jog, you won’t finish last. I promise you that.

As I take a major leap from the Goofy Challenge and look ahead to the Lone Ranger Ultra, a 100 Mile Race within 24 Hours, I plan on using what I’ve learned during the Goofy and applying any wisdom I can to the biggest challenge of my life: The Lone Ranger.

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~ by Elizabeth on January 19, 2012.

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