Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge

Walt Disney World – Jan 7/8 2006

I never really had the desire to run the Walt Disney World marathon, until the “Goofy Challenge” was announced. For the first time, the marathon and half marathon were to be run on separate days, and it was therefore possible to run both. Disney, the mastermind of all things commercial, therefore devised the “Goofy Race and a Half Challenge” – a half marathon on Saturday, followed by a full on Sunday. Of course, I’m always up for a challenge, so I asked my parents if they’d be interested in meeting for a belated Christmas in Florida. They were receptive, so the decision was made!

I’ll admit, training for the Challenge was definitely lacking. I needed some time off after October and never built up a really great base. I did manage three weeks of back-to-back long runs, which was good. But I ran roughly 52 miles this week, which was higher volume than I’d hit since probably August or September. Nonetheless, I’m content with how things turned out.

I was checking the temperature Thursday night before the trip, and they were forecasting 35F for 6am on Saturday. I decide to pack pants, but was quite distraught at the idea of wearing pants for a marathon in Florida!

I arrived in Orlando Friday afternoon, checked out the Expo and went to dinner in Downtown Disney (my folks had arrived Thursday and found a nice restaurant). We were back in the hotel reasonably early, and I was in bed by 9:30pm.

Woke up at 3:10 the next morning, suited up in pants, a tank top, jacket, gloves and a hat. I had bought new shoes two weeks before, but when I put them on there was a hot spot near my heel, so I woke my old shoes (that had already seen me through the Columbus and Detroit marathons in the fall). Met Bob at the food court at 3:45 where I had a muffin and coffee. We caught the last bus to the staging area shortly before 4am. We arrived at the Epcot parking lot, where it was cold and dark. We happened to run into Mike, Cindy and Kaylie in the bag check line. We huddled together for warmth, and soon enough I had to strip off my extra sweatshirt to check it, and after a porta-potty stop we were being herded towards the corrals. Bob, Mike, Cindy and I were all in corral A (right behind the elites), Kaylie was in corral B. Made a pitstop in the bushes (we’d mistakenly believed there may have been portapotties by the corrals), and shivered for a long time before we were finally greeted by Mickey et al. We did a countdown, they set off fireworks, and we were off! Bob had asked me about running together, and he wanted to do a 1:45, but I told him I wasn’t sure. Right when we started, Mike and Cindy took off. A mile or so in (after I’d already stopped once to take off my shoe to unbunch a sock), I told Bob I didn’t think 8s were happening. He stuck by me, nonetheless. It was very dark for the first hour. A few times there were spectators on the side of the road we couldn’t even see. I messed up my watch at a few markers b/c I couldn’t see the buttons. By mile 4, I’d figured it out.

Mile 1: ?? (9:45)
Mile 2: ?? (9:25)
Mile 3: ?? (9:10)
Mile 4: 8:27
Mile 5: 8:15
Mile 6: 8:29
Mile 7: 9:24 (bathroom break)
Mile 8: 7:59
Mile 9: 7:46
Mile 10: 7:58
Mile 11: 7:41
Mile 12: 7:50
Mile 13: 7:35
.1:.37
——
1:49:07

I was actually surprised by the number of spectators on the course. There were people who’d been bussed out, standing on the side of the road. I’d often heard that Disney was a lot of miles of boring highway, but I didn’t actually mind it too much.

We hit the Magic Kingdom in good spirits. I was excited to High Five Chip and Dale, and Bob took a picture of me running backwards with Cinderella’s castle behind me (couldn’t keep that up for long!)

For whatever reason, I was very emotional and teared up when we encountered the wheelchair participants. I was so happy for them to be there.

They had some neat areas set up – one place was based on the Disney Cruise lines, and they were announcing “water and powerade available on the upper deck”. Captain Hook and the pirates were off to the side, yelling after us and hurrying us along. It was silly, but it was something different.

On the way back from the Magic Kingdom, I started to get bored. The true test would be the next morning; I just wanted to be done for the day. I think that’s when we (I?) started to push the pace. I saw my folks as we headed into Epcot,that was really nice, and I started to speed up for the whole last mile, but that was short lived. I did sprint at the end though, and finished in 1:49:07 – not too much slower than some other halfs I’ve done.

We got food/water, checked in at the Goofy tent (we had to wear armbands to identify us as Goofy participants to ensure we completed both runs), then waited for a VERY long time for our bags. Naturally—the bag check was by bib number, and bibs had been assigned by projected finish time, so there were a lot of us waiting at the same tent Once that was done, I was thoroughly chilled, so I met up with my folks and we headed back to the hotel so I could get a quick hot shower before the 5K with Mom – but that’s another story!

**************

We got back to the Epcot parking lot late Saturday morning where Mom and I were to run the 5K. It started 25 minutes late, but it was fun. We went directly through Epcot, which made me even more excited about visiting the park.

Saturday afternoon it was still quite chilly. I had a short nap, and we met Bob, Joan, Haile, Mike, Cindy, Gene and Amanda, and Emily and Eric in the food court. We ate, and swapped running stories and advice. Headed back to our room and I think I was asleep by 8pm.

**************

3:10 came early again on Sunday. I dressed warmer; shorts over my pants to hold my gel packs, and a long sleeved shirt under my jacket (as well as hat and gloves). Walking to the food court, it seemed warmer than the day before (despite the forecast of 34 – a few degrees colder than Saturday). I spoke with a woman en route, she said that the forecast was for no wind, which would effectively make it seem warmer.

I had some bagel difficulties in the cafeteria (hey, this was pre-coffee) and we were rushed onto the bus before I had a chance to eat. I’d also decided I wanted to wear only shorts, but hadn’t had time to change. I ended up stripping out of my pants rather handily without bearing all to my fellow runners, and checked them as well as my extra sweatshirt. On Sunday, the staging area was much more appealing than the day before; things were well-lit and the bag check was more efficient.

After checking everything and using the (much cleaner!) portapotties, we sat for awhile before heading to our corrals. Bob had brought a garbage bag for me, which I used around my legs as a makeshift skirt. Perfect!

I was alone in Corral E (again, right behind the elites), so I edged myself on up near the front. It was much more enjoyable than the day before, with portapotties and videos and entertainment on the video screens. A guy next to me in the corral struck up a conversation. It was his second marathon; the first had been 8 weeks prior. He asked if this was my first marathon. As we talked, and it came out that I had run Boston and my PR was an hour faster than his, he wished me well and sorta moved on to speak with others, and that was that!

Finally it was time to go. I was amazed, being up so close I was able to run at a decent clip right away. It was still quite dark (the race started at 6, sunrise wasn’t til 7:20), but it was nice; the runners were quite quiet and it was really quite peaceful. I kept my garbage bag skirt for a few miles before tearing it off mid-stride (I felt like a super hero). The participants had been split into two streams for the first 3.4 miles; my stream got to run through Epcot beneath this neat lit arch Bob had told me about (his stream took another route). By mile 4 my stomach was feeling upset and I knew I was going to be too warm with my jacket and long-sleeved shirt so I stopped for an extended break and stripped down. Gee, I did a lot of clothing removal that day..

By mile 5 I felt it was going to be a long day. I messed up my mile split, and my quads were already feeling sore. I started moving off the road to run on the berm wherever I could.

Because I’d gotten hungry during the half, I carried along a builder bar sample. I took a couple small nibbles, but not a lot. I definitely think I was having some energy issues because around mile 16 I was feeling sluggish, and I stopped for an orange slice and a banana, and immediately felt 100% better. Oh, and I also stopped at a medical tent offering up biofreeze, and a volunteer slathered my quads with the stuff. I think it was the pseudo-massage more than the blue goo that felt pretty darned good at the time!

The course also got more interesting at this point. We went through the animal kingdom and they had lots of characters out cheering us on. They also brought a llama out to the course! I said I wanted my picture taken with it – “or better yet, I want to ride it for the next 10 miles”. Around this point, a girl with “Starshine – 3:50” on a clif bar pace sign on her back ran by. I wondered if that was Starshine Blackford from Columbus. But seeing as how I don’t actually know her and I wasn’t feeling too strong at this point, I didn’t say anything.

Mile 19 was another orange/banana stop. By this time I was in “enjoy the day” mode so I chatted with volunteers as I took their offered wares. Oh! And I also had a few hershey’s kisses and lifesavers when they were offered, and felt an immediate rush after the lifesavers – Mike (Richardson) may be onto something with this sugar thing!
Ok, back to mile 19. I passed the powerade, grabbed a water and then someone said “beer in the red cups on the right”. Well I got rid of that water pretty darned quickly! I headed over to the woman with the red cup and asked if I could hug her J Had just a couple sips (I learned my lesson in Detroit), then headed off. Ran into Emily, who I’d met the day before. She didn’t recognize me at first. She had originally planned to run 4:15 but had decided to try for 4 hours. When I saw her, she was ahead of the 4 hour pace group, but seemed to be fading.

Around miles 20 and 21, we had an out and back stretch. I teared up passing another wheelchair participant.

The last few miles went by pretty quickly. We went through MGM (through costuming, where I asked a fellow runner if we’d be dressed in fresh, cleaning running clothes upon exit), which lead directly onto a stretch on a boardwalk by a beach, right into Epcot. By mile 25, I knew sub-4 was not in my reach. I was a bit disappointed, and stopped for the first time away from water stops. Another runner came up next to me, “those extra 13 yesterday are sure taking a toll, aren’t they?” He’d noticed I was sporting a Goofy wristband, as was he. I agreed. “yes, and knowing I won’t make sub-4, I have no motivation left”. “Yeah,” he said, “I have 13 minutes to bring it in”. I looked at my own watch. I had 6. I started pushing again shortly after that.

The last two miles were those endless miles where well-meaning spectators tell you “you’re almost done”, “only a mile to go”, “less than 1.5 miles to go!” when really they have no idea, and it’s demoralizing. Finally I came down the final stretch , for the third and final time in two days. I pushed a bit harder to get that last ounce of running energy out of me, high-fived Pluto and hit the mat at 4:02:08.

My slowest marathon time thus far, but this was no regular marathon. That was obvious at the Mickey Mouse medal around my neck was supplemented with the inaugural Goofy medal. In just under 6 hours of running, I had become one of the few, the proud, the Goofy.

The sun shone brightly and the lines were short as I filed out of the finish area to change, and meet up with my folks. We ran into Bob on the bus and we shared stories. That afternoon I relaxed by the pool, and looked forward to a well-earned post-race vacation!

Mile 1: 9:43
Mile 2: 8:59
Mile 3: 9:06
Mile 4: 11:25 (changed out of shirt)
Mile 5: 8:57
Mile 6: 8:45
Mile 7: 9:03
Mile 8: 8:17
Mile 9: 8:48
Mile 10: 8:50
Mile 11: 8:51
Mile 12: 9:05
Mile 13: 8:39
Mile 14: 9:58 (bathroom)
Mile 15: 8:45
Mile 16: 10:36 (food/biofreeze)
Mile 17: 9:13
Mile 18: 9:08
Mile 19: 9:21
Mile 20: 11:23 (mmmm beer)
Mile 21: 8:44
Mile 22: 8:57
Mile 23: 9:34
Mile 24: 8:13
Mile 25: 9:15
Mile 26: 8:53
.2: 1:33

4:02:08