It’s been over a month since I left for my first runDisney trip at Walt Disney World to take on the Dopey Challenge. The name was a complete understatement. It was more like the What-Kinda- Get-Up-At-3am-24degrees-run 48.6miles-Idiot-Are-You Challenge. It was insane. I did wake up every day at 3 am Eastern Time (12 am in California). It was freezing in Orlando. It was the one year Florida actually had snow. I did run nearly 50 miles. But you know what? It was awesome! So, I thought I would share some highlights of this crazy race located in the most Magical Place on Earth.
Vanessa and I set out for Orlando on January 2nd. We landed the next day in Orlando, and the unexpected wind and cold hit me hard. The days before we left, I was sure the weather report for Orlando was wrong. Florida doesn’t get cold. I don’t need a coat. I certainly don’t need a scarf, gloves or hat. Luckily, as we were about to get in the car to drive to the airport, I ran back in the house, grabbed my coat, scarf, gloves and hat, and carelessly tossed them in my suitcase. My brother and cousin, who flew out the next day, didn’t heed my warning: ‘Pack your warm stuff. It is cold”. Nope. They didn’t.
We chose the All-Star-Movie Resort to stay, a perfect dream for a 7-year old, with favorite characters towering three stories high. After checking in to our room, we hurried on a bus taking us to the ESPN Center for the runDisney Expo. We picked up our race bibs and all our race shirts. I, myself, collected a handsome 6 shirts commemorating each race and challenge: 5k, 10k, half-marathon, full-marathon, Goofy Challenge (people who are running the half and full marathons), and the Dopey Challenge (racers running all 4 races (that was me. Im a huge dope)). The race expo was very crowded, and I had no idea there would be so many runners, rumored to be over 80,000 registered racers.
Exhausted from a long travel, we went back to the room and clicked on the Disney Channel (of course), and into dreamland ZZZZzzzzz….. And then 3:30 am came and by a miracle I sorta woke up. I slept through my alarm that was set for 2:50 am. The good Lord somehow woke me up naturally. I shook Vanessa out of her slumber and without thinking, threw on our clothes and hurried out the door and ran towards the bus. They recommend all racers be on the bus from their resort no later than 4 am to make it to the race. Droves of busses were headed to the same place, Epcot, where each of the four races would begin and end.
After walking through a heavily secured area, we were welcomed with cheerful volunteers and entertainment to warm us up. Not too many people can say they danced the YMCA with thousand of other people before 5 am. This did help keep our minds off the frigid temps. I along with the other people in my corral, shivered with crinkly, silver nylon blankets (this space blanket did little to keep me warm) all the while telling myself ‘what the hell was I thinking’. Once we were all situated, we all waited anxiously for the fireworks to signal each corrals release. My heart burst with excitement each time the fireworks went off prompted by cheers of a crazy crowd.
Boom!! Me and Vanessa were off. I held her cold little hand as we ran through World Showcase in Epcot. Every building was lit up, beloved characters were out to take pictures with, and our favorite Disney music was blazing through the park. Runners were dressed in costumes and people were cracking jokes. It couldn’t have been a more cheerful race. We were laid beautiful medals after crossing the finish line.
My 10k, half and full marathon were no less exciting with even more fireworks, characters and people cheering. The half-marathon leads runners from Epcot and through the Magic Kingdom. I did start to cry as I ran through the castle, despite furiously telling myself not to shed a tear. Characters were on the trains welcoming us in and cheer teams lined the sidewalks motivating us to carry on.
The next day I took on the full marathon. That was hard. Despite sleep deprivation, the excitement of running through all 4 Disney parks kept you going. Coming up to the end of my 26.2 miles, I looked over to see my cousin and my brother propping Vanessa up over the crowd watching me cross over the big word FINSIH!!! I did it!!!
I knew I always wanted to do the Dopey Challenge, and when I signed up the year before I said I’m doing this no matter what. It was worth all the freezing cold 3 ams. I would do it again in a heart beat. We will see what next year brings, but I hope to be back again for Dopey Challenge 2019.