Last weekend I had the chance to run at Walt Disney World again, and like each time before I was consumed with anticipation. Disney World has always been a special place to me and having the chance to run races there makes it that much more special. This year I took a step back from the Dopey Challenge that I ran last year and opted for “just” the Goofy Challenge. For those unfamiliar with these challenges, the Dopey Challenge is a 5k on Thursday, 10k on Friday, half marathon on Saturday, and marathon on Sunday for a total of 48.6 miles. The Goofy Challenge consists of only the half and marathon for 39.3 miles.
I went for packet pickup on Wednesday after work, but pretty much breezed past the expo, except for meeting up with my friend Megan who was working in one of the booths. Next up in my preparation was Friday evening. While I was putting my bib on my race shirt and getting my gear ready, my daughter was making a sign. She had decided that Saturday’s half was a good time for her to make her first cheering appearance. So when 3:15am came we were both ready to leave for EPCOT. Her plan was to take the monorails from EPCOT to the Magic Kingdom and then find a good spot on Main Street. Mission accomplished as she ended up at the end of Main Street just before the bridge to Tomorrowland, an easy place to find her. While she was settling in there I made the 20 minute walk to the starting corrals and then waited for the start of the race. Right at 5:30am the wheelchair competitors were off, followed closely by corral A, then B, and by 5:35 the 500 or so runners with me in corral C were watching the fireworks go up, signaling for us to go! The WDW Half Marathon was underway.
For the first eight minutes I watched my heart rate spike as high as 178 but then settle in to the 150s for a half mile, then low 140s. This was a good place to land considering I had been training less than I wanted to after my two recent marathons. The first five miles took us down the road toward the Magic Kingdom, through the MK toll plaza and parking lot, past the Transportation and Ticket Center and the Contemporary Resort. In the sixth mile we entered Main Street in the Magic Kingdom, where I remembered to look for my daughter. I found her right where she said she’d be and she quickly flipped her sign around from the side that said “Motivational Sign” to “Go Daddy Go”. She yelled some encouragement and I quickly made my way into Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, through Cinderella’s Castle, through Liberty Square and Frontierland, and out of the park.
The next 6 miles take runners from the back of the Magic Kingdom past the Grand Floridian and Polynesian Resorts, over a couple of bridges, and to a side entrance into EPCOT. The last mile or so took us through the Future World portion of EPCOT, past Spaceship Earth (AKA giant golf ball), and out into the parking lot for the finish. Knowing that I still had 26.2 miles to run the next day I did not push the pace at all, though I did speed up for the last half mile or so. My splits were right about where I planned them to be: 30:37 for 5k (9:52 pace), 1:01:11 for 10k (9:51 pace), and 2:07:14 at the finish (9:43 pace). I did not feel any aches and pains in my legs, though the bottoms of my feet were still sore from the previous two marathons. My feet would be my only question going into day 2 of the Goofy Challenge.
Between races I met up with Steph who was working at the expo. I also met up with Gelcys and a bunch of other runners at Disney Springs before enjoying a quiet evening at home. Before I knew it, my 2:45am alarm was going off. Soon I was headed back to EPCOT, this time without my daughter. The car ride, parking, bag check, walking to the corral, and waiting – pretty much the same routine as the day before. We did get started a few minutes later on Sunday, with corral C not entering the course until 5:42. Although I had done a bunch of training to make a run at a sub-4:00 marathon, this was not going to be the day because I knew it would be a mistake to even try. I set off at around 10:00 per mile with the first 8.5 miles being pretty much the same as the half marathon course, though there were a couple of different turns inside the Magic Kingdom. We ran right past where the WDW Speedway used to be. In previous years the marathon included a lap around the track, but this past fall the speedway was taken out.
My official splits had me at 50:43 for 5 miles (10:09 pace) and 1:41:34 at 10 miles (10:10 pace) so I was pretty much just running along at my easy, long run pace. Miles 8.5 through 12 were uneventful on the road to Animal Kingdom. In and out of Animal Kingdom brought me to the halfway point in 2:12:55 (10:09 pace). This is where my race started to unfold. I stopped to walk for a minute, then back to running. Six minutes later I walked again followed by ten minutes of running. I was just past halfway and had already taken a series of walk breaks. I continued to walk/run all the way to and through ESPN Wide World of Sports and then back to Hollywood Studios. I passed the 20 mile split at 3:38:27 (10:56 pace) and at that point was just hoping that I could hold on to beat my slowest marathon time to date.
Around the end of mile 23 we headed into Hollywood Studios for about a mile then it was along the boardwalk back to EPCOT, around World Showcase, back through Future World and out to the parking lot for the finish line. I was not able to stay below my previous slowest marathon time of 4:53:47. I finished in 4:57:00 after a second half in 2:44:05. Needless to say I was disappointed, especially considering that I finished better a year ago while completing Dopey AND had a long marathon training season this past year. Someday I’m going to figure this marathon thing out!