I did it. After training for months, I completed the 2020 runDisney Dopey Challenge. I set my sights on this goal back in 2018 and just over 3 weeks ago, I crossed 4 finish lines: a 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon. 48.6 magical miles through 4 Disney World parks over 4 days.
This was one of the most awesome and challenging experiences I faced and the marathon was the final race of the weekend. Get ready to go on the full journey running 26.2 mile through all 4 Disney Parks and even the Blizzard Beach water park! Just a warning…there are a lot of pictures ahead!
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Full Marathon – 26.2 miles
Just like the half marathon, the morning of the marathon was very warm and extremely humid. At 5:00am it was 71 degrees with 93% humidity. You could feel the air around you. Luckily, Rachael and I trained in the heat and humidity of Houston, but many participants did not. Even when you train in this type of weather, you’re still not fully prepared for it come race day!
A quick bit about our costumes. We ran as the painted mural walls also known as the selfie walls! Rachael was the Galactic Wall from Magic Kingdom and I was the Bubblegum Wall from Epcot! Our pants are from Fairytale Athletics and our shirts were made by us. I actually loved the tank I wore because you can wear it loose or tie it up. You can purchase it on Amazon for only $16 and it comes in 20 different colors!
This year runDisney changed up the marathon course quite a bit. We started in the usual spot, ran through just a bit of Epcot and continued on the highways between the parks for the first several miles. With the new course changes, we didn’t get to Magic Kingdom until mile 10! We then set out along the resorts and golf courses before arriving at Animal Kingdom just before mile 17. This year they cut out running at ESPN Wide World of Sports and instead sent us through Blizzard Beach around mile 21. Finally we made our way to Hollywood Studios at mile 23 before heading back to Epcot and the finish line.
Miles 1-8 and Epcot
Here we go! We got to the race start and our corrals with plenty of time to spare as we usually do. Unfortunately traffic getting to the race was absolutely insane. Since there were so many runDisney event buses coming from resorts that still hadn’t made it to the race, they ended up having to delay the race by 20 minutes. I know that doesn’t seem like a lot, but it is when the weather is this warm and you’re expecting it to get even warmer. It was surprising because I’ve done dozens of Disney races and this was the first one to be postponed!
Luckily it was only 20 minutes and shortly after 5:30am, Rachael and I were on our way and running around Disney. We knew we had to start slow and conserve our pace and energy to get through the full 26.2 miles, so we did just that. We used the Galloway method run/walk/run that we used through all of our training with 4:30/1:30 run/walk intervals.
At mile 2 we came across our first character stop, Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde from Zootopia! It was just over a 5 minute wait and totally worth it since I’ve never met them together before! You can tell from the picture above that I’m super excited.
After a quick photo, we were on our way into Epcot. This part of the race had a very short bit in the park which was just enough to get you excited for what’s to come.
We ran in through a back entrance that brought us right by Figment’s ride! You can see him lit up behind us in the photo above. We also ran by the construction around Future World which gave us the perfect opportunity for a quick selfie in front of Spaceship Earth at mile 3!
Our goal was to take a selfie in front of the major attraction we ran by at each park. Our shirts say “But first, lemme take a selfie” afterall!
Right after this photo, I veered slightly off course for a potty break while Rachael continued on. I’ve had two babies, what can I say? It worked out perfectly as it gave me a chance to run a little quicker to catch up to shake out my pent up energy!
After our quick in and out at Epcot, we were back on the Disney highways that seem quite endless when you feel like you’re running around them aimlessly. This stretch of the race was definitely long and not as exciting as the second half. I’d rather have more of the attractions and excitement on the second half of my marathon though!
One nice this is that with the course change, we ran a different route than the usual one from Epcot to Magic Kingdom that I’ve come to know so well. This at least kept things interesting.
At mile 8 we came upon the Contemporary Resort where Rachael’s friend “other Amy” was waiting for us with some of our fuel! It was nice to see a friendly face at this point and of course, we snapped a selfie.
Shortly after seeing Amy, we spotted Frozone and Mr. Incredible with a short line, so we jumped into that and showed off our muscles!
Miles 9-14 and Magic Kingdom
Around mile 9, we were still feeling good and strong, but the sun was coming out and it was starting to get warm. We were dumping water on ourselves at every water stop, and alternating between fueling with water and gatorade. Our nutrition and pace were on point, if only the weather had gotten the memo!
By mile 10 we were slowly coming upon the Magic Kingdom park area and about to enter the parks! This part of the route I know and love well. First you come in through Main Street USA with the street lined with people cheering as loud as the can. As you come through, you get your first glimpse of Cinderella’s Castle. It never gets less magical. Every time I see it, I get excited goosebumps, and this time was no different.
After a quick selfie, we continued on into Tomorrowland where we saw Stitch and opted not to stop for photos, but instead veered off course ever so slightly to snap a photo in front of the Galactic Wall! I mean, Rachael was literally wearing the leggings!
We continued on through Tomorrowland into Fantasyland! The White Rabbit was near the tea cups, but other than him, I don’t remember any other characters out. We had our sights set on the castle!
Running through the castle is always fun, but snapping a photo in front of it is my favorite and something I have ALWAYS done at every single runDisney race! We were feeling brave and even though we were already almost 11 miles in we went in for a jumping shot! The photopass photographer nailed it! I love how Rachael is so delicate and dainty and I’m a crazy person. It’s perfect.
Once through the castle, we continued on through Liberty Square and into Frontierland. I love running down the park streets and looking at the rides. It brings back so many awesome memories.
As we were exiting the park, we saw Jafar! I’ve only met him once at a Mickey’s Not So Scary event, so it was definitely a fun stop for us. He’s so creepy!
After Jafar, we had Magic Kingdom in our past and the resorts coming up in front of us with Animal Kingdom on the horizon.
Right around mile 12, I saw Pluto! I missed a photo opp with him during the half and decided that we should jump in his crazy short line. It worked out perfectly because Rachael was feeling the heat and decided to go shirtless from this point on. During our hot Houston runs, we don’t wear shirts, so why not now! I contemplated joining her, but ended up sticking with the shirt for the rest of the run.
Oh and do you see that fan in my hand? Rachael and I both have them for hot Disney days and long runs, but I completely forgot to bring mine! Luckily Rachael had hers and she shared with me!
You can find our fan here on Amazon for only $15 and there are 5 fun colors to choose from!
After Pluto, we spotted Donald and Daisy in front of the Grand Floridian. We snapped a pic with Daisy during the half, but had to get one with her beau as well. How dapper do they look in their fancy outfits?
Next we ran by the Polynesian which is where Rachael and her husband Joe were staying, so Joe was out there cheering us on! It’s always great to see someone you know cheering you on the course.
After Joe at the Polynesian, we were back to the Disney highway miles. This time, they were carrying us on to Animal Kingdom. The neat part about this for me is that I’ve never run over there before, so it was all new to me.
Funny story time! At mile 15, I lost one of my Invisalign retainers. (In case you didn’t know, I’ve been doing Invisalign for a little over a year now!) I was putting my retainer into my Fitletic race belt because it was time to fuel with my Sports beans, and I completely missed and dropped it on the ground. Luckily I was supposed to put a new set in that night, so it was no big deal. I’m sure some people saw them on the ground and had a WTF moment!
Miles 15-18 and Animal Kingdom
As we approached mile 16, Animal Kingdom was coming up. Going into the park, they have some animals out for you to pet and take photos with if you want! We decided to keep trekking on, but it was neat to see them.
At mile 16.5, we came into Animal Kingdom! The energy was up and there were people cheering all around again. The excitement always perks me up! As we ran by the back of the Tree of Life, we had to grab our selfie!
I’m no selfie expert, but I feel like I was on point for this race! After our selfie, Rachael said, “Alright, you’re doing it. You’re riding Everest. Do it for both of us!” In that moment, I felt nervous and I contemplated my sanity. Right at mile 17 was the single rider entrance, so I veered off and Rachael kept on. The plan was for Rachael to get a little extra walking recovery time and I would have the chance to speed up after the coaster to again, burn some of my pent up energy off!
So I did it!
There I am living my best life riding a roller coaster in the middle of a marathon. How many people can say they did that? Luckily the line was crazy short since the park just opened, so I walked right on. I have some awesome videos that I’ll post on my Instagram stories today for you to see!
I was on such a high after riding Everest! There was a new pep in my step as I ran through Animal Kingdom trying to soak up everything! As I was headed towards Dinosaur USA, I saw KEVIN! Kevin is from Up, one of my favorite movies, and you never can get him to stop and take a picture with you. He’s always just roaming the parks! So I jumped in his crazy short line and was on my way to catch up to Rachael.
Miles 18-21 and Blizzard Beach
After my Kevin encounter, the course took us out of the park and back to the highways of Disney. This time there were only a couple of miles between us and the next park. I caught up to Rachael shortly after we exited the park. It was perfect timing because she was on our walk break and I was ready for one after running faster to catch up!
From here, we ran by Coronado Springs resort where we got a photo with Flamenco Minnie! As I’m typing this, I’m realizing that this photo didn’t show up in my Memory Maker, so I need to find it!
It was getting really hot as we came to the Blizzard Beach area. We ran around the parking lot and into the water park. I’ll admit, this was my least favorite part of the race. The sidewalks that we ran along were incredibly narrow, the chlorine/water park smell was very strong and it was so hot and humid. It was mile 20 and the sun was in full force!
The good thing is that there was a restroom right along the course for us to take a potty break! Then we were able to selfie in front of the mountain and big pool before fighting our way out of the park. We were super disappointed that there was only one character at the park. It was Olaf and I would have stopped if I wasn’t so hot and his line wasn’t off to the side and harder to get to!
Because of the weather, some runners that were further behind us actually had this part of the course cut out! It was getting too hot and the water park brought extra heat and humidity. I would have been so upset if my marathon mileage had been cut short, but they had to do it. It was over 85 degrees at this point!
Miles 22-26, Hollywood Studios and Epcot
At mile 22, we saw Rachael’s friend Amy again and it was awesome to see her! She had our applesauce fuel which was desperately needed. I highly recommend applesauce pouches for fuel during hot runs. They’re easy to digest and quick you quick energy!
After seeing Amy, we were feeling the heat. We both stopped a couple of times to stretch our legs that were getting tight and almost crampy. It was hot and there was little shade or cloud coverage for us. Luckily we were nearing the end and Hollywood Studios was coming up quickly.
We entered Hollywood Studios around mile 23.5 and were only in there for a minute. If you blinked too many time, you would miss our run through the park. This was super disappointing!
At least we were able to get our selfie in front of Tower of Terror and feel the energy from the crowds for a minute!
As we exited Hollywood Studios, I got to see the face that I was most excited to see the whole race, my husband! I picked up my pace and ran at him for a big, sweaty hug. My eyes got teary as he told me how proud he was and that he knew we could do it.
We really were doing it y’all! As we left Hollywood Studios, we realized there were no more highway miles! We ran along the lake with views of both Hollywood Studios and Epcot around us. We got to the Boardwalk around mile 25 and we knew it was all downhill from there. The final mile would be in the park surrounded by cheering people!
At some point, we came across Max, Goofy’s son, in front of his clubhouse and snapped a super quick photo. Since we were nearing the end of the race, the character lines were so short because most people just wanted to finish. While we wanted to finish, we also wanted to have these memories!
In Epcot, Rachael had to reel me in because the excitement and energy had me fired up. I kept speeding up since I knew the finish was so close!
As we came around World Showcase, there were PRINCESSES with practically NO LINES! This was magical y’all. Aurora and Belle were together in France, and we tried our best to look princess pretty despite having already run 25.5 miles in the Florida heat!
Next we found Jasmine in Morocco, again with no line! It was awesome!
After Jasmine, we were ready to hit the home stretch. We were super disappointed that the course no longer went through Mexico, so we weren’t able to get a margarita to cross the finish line with!
As we neared the finish line, the music and cheering was loud and clear. And guess what? Just like with the half, Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off came on as we came in. I got teary eyed and excited because we really did it y’all. This was it, the moment we had been training for.
But first, lemme take a selfie.
We saw Donald at the finish line and snapped a quick picture before we grabbed hands and crossed the finish line together!
6 months of hard work, training and dedication all came together in this moment. We both cried as those medals were placed around our necks. This was EVERYTHING.
We gave each other sweaty hugs as we gathered our waters, Gatorades and snacks and made our way to get our challenge medals and finisher photos.
Check it out y’all! We did it and we have the medals to prove it! 48.6 miles in four days. Four races, a 5K, 10K, half marathon and full marathon, all completed!
We came out to the post race celebration area and saw our amazing, supportive husbands with champagne glasses in their hands telling us how proud they were. It was perfection. I cried, laughed, sipped champs and took too many pictures with 6 medals around my neck!
WOW. If you made it this far, bravo and THANK YOU! This was an amazing experience that I originally said I would do only once. After crossing that final finish line, I knew I would do it again one day. Probably not next year, but it will happen. I highly recommend this challenge to anyone who loves running and wants to push themselves physically and mentally.
Now it’s time to figure out what my next challenge and adventure will be!
Don’t forget to check out my other Dopey posts!