Serendipitous WDW Marathon Cheering

Brooke and I weren’t planning on going to any of the parks on Sunday. However, I sort of had Disney non-visit remorse on this short trip (I know, I know) and since Brooke has an annual pass, I suggested an Epcot visit.

We were about halfway there when I said, “Hey, wait a minute. Doesn’t the marathon go through Epcot?” (You know, because we live in a bubble and didn’t think about it prior!) After a brief glance at the course map we realized that it did, indeed! Not only that but it was at the very end of the marathon, miles 25 and 26.



Brooke and I are VERY big into the rah-rah! I mean, if we had the supplies in the car, we would have whipped up some signs on the spot. But since we didn’t we had to rely on our big mouths.

No problem-o!

We knew quite a few people running the full marathon. Naturally, we were tracking exactly zero of them.

But everyone is a friend in Disney, right? Knowing that everyone deserves a good cheer, we decided to just cheer for everyone and hoped that maybe we’d stumble across pals!

I’ve got to say, the way that Disney handle crowds while the park is open is very impressive. They had a couple of different routes so when they routed runners one direction, the park goers would wait. Then they would change the runners directions slightly so that the crowds could cross. It works very well (as long as you wait at the crosswalk and don’t dart out in front of runners).


It started raining a little after we arrived but it wasn’t as cold as it had been the past few days. We made our way over to Mexico, cheering as we walked.

Figuring margaritas were in order for cheering, we grabbed yummy beverages. Some of the runners had the same idea. Because, why the heck not? (This nearly made me say, “Hey, we should run the marathon so that we can drink at the end.”) (Nearly. Then I realized I could just do that anytime in Epcot and NOT run a marathon.)


This awesome guy was drinking around the world! He’d already gotten an Orange Slush and beer and was rounding it out with a margarita.

We hung out around the Mexico pavilion for awhile, cheers-ing and cheering the runners!


We made sure not to say that they were almost there or that the finish was just around the corner. Instead we emphasized how much they all rocked and were looking good and strong!


Of course, while we were there we made our way to Norway! We needed to give a Scoot a Doot shout out to our favorite statue of Grete Waitz!

Around this time, we started wondering if we would be able to track down Kristen and Suzanne. We did a little social media stalking (I feel only slightly weird saying that; after all, we were looking at people’s skirts yesterday to find them!) and knew we were looking for peach colored shirts and that Suzanne was wearing a cool superhero skirt. We continued to walk and cheer until…

I don’t even know HOW to describe the noise we made when we all saw each other. I really don’t. I mean, we were excited when we found each other during the half the day prior. But this? This was a whole other level!


We offered them our drinks and they took sips before they were once again on their way! Oh my word, it was seriously awesome.

I’d been texting with our friend, Meredith, and told her we’d be by Morocco. It was her first marathon and my hope was to see her to cheer her on at some point because we’d missed each other the rest of the weekend!

Brooke and I grabbed some yummy food and sat down outside to eat when I heard Meredith yelling my name. We were falling down on the cheering job!


Mer and I had met each other at the 2013 Wine and Dine meetup and it was especially awesome to see her again, right where we had first met. She was running for Team Noah and she ROCKED it!

We sat and ate while watching more running streaming through the World Showcase. We saw awesome costumes, people who looked like they were hurting (but they were persevering!), and family members cheering on their people. It was all wonderful!


After awhile, we saw the balloon ladies come and go. For those not familiar with the term, the balloon ladies are the very last people to start a race and they keep an exact 16 minute mile pace so people know how fast or slow they are going. The goal is to be in front of the balloon ladies to keep an accurate pace and avoid being swept.

I’m not sure what mile you have to get to in order to be “safe” but I know that we spent a good amount of time right near the balloon ladies in Disneyland and it seemed like mile 10 was the key mile there.

Brooke and I continued to walk along the course while the runners became more sparse. Finally, the last runners made their way through the course while we were in France.


What wound up as spontaneous cheering for the marathoners was a great treat for us! As runners, it was wonderful to be out there, supporting our tribe.


You’re all out of this world and we give you two thumbs up! Way to rock!

Don’t be dopey about Dopey

I’ll admit it. I’m intrigued.

Much of me wants to run the inaugural runDisney Dopey Challenge in 2014, which was announced last week. That’s four races totaling 48.6 miles over four days of the annual Walt Disney World Marathon weekend in January.

The challenge includes a 5k race on Thursday, a new 10K race on Friday, a half-marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday.

I’d like to run it. But should I?

My concern – training.

Yes, some runners will simply register for Dopey because they adore runDisney events and its accompanying medals. Dopey will reward finishers with six medals. Six. That’s a lot of bling for a long weekend.

But runners will also need to log a lot of miles to gain that prize.

But all runners – novice through experienced distance runners – must do one thing to prepare for such a mission. They must respect the distance. They must prepare properly for the race.

Earlier this year, I ran the Goofy Challenge – a marathon and a half over two days. The experience was just that – a challenge. But I trained for months. I ran slowly. And I walked far more of the course than ever before.

And it was fabulous. 39.3 miles followed by another half-marathon one week later. I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world.

I don’t know if I should say the same about 48.6. I’d like to. But should I?

Former Olympian and distance runner Jeff Galloway, who is also a marathon and endurance training consultant for runDisney, said he is creating a training plan for runners wishing to attempt the new series of races.

“While almost anyone can adapt to this series of runs, it helps to have been running regularly, starting April 1,” he said.

Galloway said his Dopey training plan will alternate between minimal running one week and four running days in a row the subsequent week.

Minimal: This week will include 30 minutes of running on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 30 to 45 minutes on one weekend day.

Four-day prep week: Mileage will start with minimal amounts and build every two or three weeks, to race distances in December.  The first three days of these weeks will be mostly walking.

“The Dopey has created an amazing response,” Galloway said. “I’m already looking forward to the weekend.”


Jeff Galloway in January, as he runs the WDW Marathon using his run-walk-run method. I ran into him on the course.

Runners considering Dopey should also consider whether they can finish each race within the challenge within the allotted time frame. Disney races give runners a more generous cushion than most distance events of up to 16-minute miles.

Galloway offered a training tool, his magic mile formula, to help a runner  to determine his or her predicted race times, based on a one-mile run. While obviously the tool does not factor in stops to pose with dozens of Disney characters along the course, it gives runners a basic idea of her or her finish time – and a glimpse at whether or not the runner should attempt the challenge.

Upon running the Goofy Challenge in January, Galloway offered some advice: Walk as much as possible, drink lots of water, and slow down.

It’s not about speed, he said. It’s about completing all 39.3 miles.

The same is true for Dopey.

Registration opens April 9 and Dopey’s registration fees starts at $495.

Will you be participating in the new Dopey Challenge? Why or why not?

Part 2 of the Goofy Challenge – the marathon

This is it, Marathon Day. Also, it’s the final part of RunDisney’s Goofy Challenge – 39.3 miles over two days.

Yup. You read correctly A marathon and a half – 24 hours apart. Goofy it is.

We started off with the same routine as for Saturday’s half. We woke at 2 am and were again on the first bus out of the Saratoga Springs resort. Once at EPCOT, we walked to the holding pen and camped out on the exact same bench we used the previous morning. We like routine.

We were nervous about running a marathon one day after completing a half. But we were ready. After all, we were Goofy.


A little pre-race silliness with my Jennifer

Soon enough, we checked our bags, hit the bathrooms and walked to the corrals. We had a fourth crew member in tow until we reach Corral A. Our friend Ray was gearing up to run his fourth Disney marathon, with a goal of 3:40. More on Ray’s journey later. He went to the front of the corral with the speedy speedsters.

Aaron, Jen and I sat and stretched near the back of Corral A. We were there about an hour before the 5:30 a.m. start. Better early than late – I learned that in 2012 when we barely made it to our corral before the start of the Princess half marathon.  Holy moly! Not the way to start a distance run, for sure.

After a quick pit stop in the woods (classy girl I am) I returned to the corral with time to spare and an extra surprise – bramblies on my lulu running skirt and inside my underwear. Sigh. Fortunately I had enough time to remove the burrs, but what a cluster! That could’ve been a fatal error.


Soon enough, fireworks sounded and the race was underway!

The day’s forecast called for extremely hot and humid weather, so we decided to slow our pace and to hydrate as much as possible.

We ran and ran and ran. This year’s marathon course was different. Like previous years it passed through all four Walt Disney World theme parks, but for the first time runners also zipped along the speedway and spent several miles on the heavenly fields at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex. Aaron ran the marathon (his first) last year so he outlined some of the differences as we ran.

I won’t rehash our journey mile by mile, especially since much of our first hour was a repeat of Saturday’s run. But I’ll say there’s no race like a Disney race, which includes characters, floats and thousands of cheering spectators as you ran past some of the places where you made some amazing childhood memories.

But here are a few of my fave pics:


Jen, Aaron and me in front of the castle


Running THROUGH Cinderella’s Castle


stunning fog and sunrise on the golf course – again

As we approached the speedway, a flashing sign warned “STEEP HILL AHEAD.” Not something a marathoner ever wants to see. We laughed off the warning, since we couldn’t imagine anything to warrant such a dramatic sign. We were WRONG. Ouch.

Soon we were rewarded with the sunrise over the speedway, which was lined with all sorts of vintage cars, sports cars and characters from the movie Cars. Awesome!

After leaving the raceway, we passed the waste water treatment plant (shudder) and came across a gaggle of villains. Jen and I jumped in line to pose:


Jen and I pose with the villains!

Miles 12 and 13 sent us through Animal Kingdom. It was my first time inside the park and it did not disappoint. I met some goats as we entered the park:


(Me and a goat)

And we ran into RunDisney’s marathon training expert Jeff Galloway who graciously smiled as I snapped his photo:


Yep, that’s Jeff Galloway!


Everest! My first glimpse inside Animal Kingdom

At our halfway point, we returned to our run-walk-run plan for the remainder of the marathon. We paused around mile 15 to visit some gravediggers. HAHA!


It was wonderful to get off our feet, even for a few seconds

We made our way to ESPN’s Wide World of Sports, where we received a lovely drenched sponge at an aid station that put some pep in my step. We ran through soccer fields, baseball fields, the track and ultimately rounded the basement in Champion Stadium. That pleasure was wasted on me because I kept obsessing over the possibility of getting rocks in my shoes here. Ah well.

Soon enough, we approached the 20-mile spectacular, in which several oversized puppet-type characters lined the street and classic Mickey, Minnie and Pluto were on hand for runners to meet. Just before we rounded the corner, Jen suggested the event should include money or free park tickets to indeed qualify as spectacular. HA! Nothing compared to that suggestion, but we danced our way past the celebration.


dancing our way through Mile 20

Miles 21 and 22 took us past the little Green Army Men to Hollywood Studios, where we received chocolate at an aid station, zipped through the backlot and the tour tunnel and wound our way through the park and out the gates.


In the backlot tunnel at Hollywood Studios


Running down the streets of America at Hollywood Studios


Still running through Hollywood Studios

I high-fived a slew of spectators outside the park. Boy did that feel fantastic!

We ran and we walked. We zigged. We zagged. Now repeat.  We passed the Boardwalk and entered EPCOT.

One mile to go! We zipped past the world showcase, passing France, Morocco, Germany and loads of other runners and we headed toward Spaceship Earth, the gospel choir and the FINISH LINE!


Nearly at the finish with Jen


We crossed together — and I high-fived Goofy!

I still cannot believe we ran a marathon and a half over the course of a weekend. But we did and I had the time of my life.

It was incredibly hot, so we took it easy, finishing in 5:31. Well over our expected time, but we didn’t care in the slightest. We finished and we stuck together and that was our true goal. I’d love to do it again and let her rip… 2014 perhaps?

(NOTE: I promised a recap on Ray’s race: He finished in under 4 hours, but walked a bit, something he doesn’t like to do when racing. But the heat was a factor and he listened to his body.)


From left, Aaron, Ray, Vic and Jen

Part 1 of the Goofy Challenge – the half marathon

We were ready to run.

After a fabulous carb-loading dinner (gnocchi for me!) at Downtown Disney Friday evening, we slept for several hours before our 2 a.m. alarm sounded.

Now let me say, my running pals are Type A  early birds who would much rather arrive at the race site early rather than rush to our corrals just before start time.  I agree wholeheartedly.

I should introduce you to my race partners for the Goofy Challenge Jen and Aaron. Jen is one of my closest friends and was my first “real” friend in college. I met Aaron a few years back here in Rochester and we run together regularly.

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(left to right, Jen, me, Aaron at our pasta dinner!)

So to sum up the next few less-than-exciting hours, we prepped, headed out the door for a shuttle pickup and were on the first bus out of the Saratoga Springs resort, arriving at EPCOT shortly after 3 am. We sat on a bench for a while, then checked our bags, made our way to Corral A, where we waited some more.


Finally, the fireworks went off and we started running. Within a mile, my glasses fogged up from the humidity. Awwwesome.

We zipped into the first toilets we saw – no lines! Huzzah!! But otherwise, we ran and ran and ran some more. Around mile 3, came up to the toll gates for Magic Kingdom and started chanting; “Caution runners, road narrows, speed bumps ahead.”


We got a few other runners in on the action – Hey, we had to entertain ourselves SOMEHOW.

We ran through the parking lots, past cheering crowds at the kingdom’s transportation center, toward the contemporary resort.  And there it was, our first glimpse of Cinderella’s Castle on the predawn horizon.

It always takes my breath away, just for a second. We’ll be there soon!


We passed by Space Mountain – and a rather dark stretch just outside the park – and then we passed through some back gates and entered Magic Kingdom! After a loop behind the scenes at the park, we entered Main Street USA. This is always my favorite stretch of any Disney race: it’s a bit like stepping onto a stage.

Crowds of cheering loved ones and many Disney cast members lined the street. We, of course, stopped for several photos on Main Street and in front of the castle, which was covered with stunning wintry lights.


Jen and me running along Main Street USA! (jazz hands!)

We hung a right and headed into Tomorrowland – and straight to a lovely restroom with flushing toilets. One member of our crew needed a rather lengthy pit stop here. (We didn’t time it, but it was well over 10 minutes.)

Soon enough, we were again on our way. We ran toward Fantasyland, stopping by the teacups, a favorite ride of mine and Jen’s dating back 15+ years.

We passed a few more characters before it was time to run through Cinderella’s Castle! Such a magical feeling to cross through to the other side!

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Cinderella’s Castle still in its winter splendor.

We ran down the ramp and veered into Frontierland. We waved to Princess Tiana, saluted Woody and Jessie, cursed Splash Mountain (for being closed for repairs) and were spooked by the idling train on the tracks as we left the park just past mile 6.

The sun peeked over the horizon as we passed parade float storage, which now also housed all of Splash Mountain’s unused log boats.

Queue the Disney-induced mist and fog over the Magnolia golf course – breathtaking! (More on that in the full marathon post.) We ran past several more resorts and headed back to the highway.

Starting mile 7, we launched our run-walk-run  plan to conserve energy, our legs and our sanity for Sunday’s marathon. We walked 1/4 mile and ran 3/4 mile for each remaining mile through the end of the race.

The miles clicked off and soon enough, we entered EPCOT. The last mile loops through future world, past Spaceship Earth to the finish line in the parking lot. Just before mile 13, we passed a gospel choir jiving and singing Hallelujah!

Jen and I joined hands in the last stretch as Aaron whipped out his camera. Together we crossed the finish, hands in air.

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Medal number one!