Not why, but ‘how’ I run

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Over the last three plus years since I began running many people have asked me why I run. We all have our reasons how we began and why we continue to do so and I am only to happy to share my story with them. But very often people ask me questions like:

  • Don’t your knees hurt running all the time?
  • I don’t know how you have the energy to do it?
  • How can you run that long and not be bored?

These are generally accompanied by statements like:

  • I’m not in shape, I could never do that!
  • I have (insert problem) so I wouldn’t be able do what you do!
  • I wouldn’t last even a mile running!
  • I would get bored after ‘X’ miles/minutes!

Here I am going to share the ‘HOW’ and see if these questions and comments can be answered. Here goes…

1. Set attainable goals 

I never thought that when I started the Couch to 5K program that I would ever be a marathon runner? I didn’t. But I set myself a goal. Finish the 5K program. This program took me from being a non-runner to being able to complete a 5K (3.1 miles) in 9 weeks. It was hard. I had shin splints, I had a hard time with stairs for a while. I had to repeat week 5 at least twice. I struggled. But you know what? I finished. I was amazed I went from nothing to running a 5K. I had started a new habit of running 2-3 times a week and built on my progress from there. Now I run 5 days a week.

2. Get fitted for shoes at a proper running store

Once I had run up to 3.1 miles it was time to get some real runner’s equipment. Shoes. I went to a local running store where I had my running gait analyzed by an experienced runner. Don’t concern yourself with looks and colors. Take their advice. Be prepared to spend a bit…but not too much…to get a good fitting shoe that will serve your needs.

3. Find a race

As I completed my Couch to 5K program I started to look at what I wanted to do next. I set my sights on completing a local 5 mile race that the local running club holds every Thanksgiving. It wasn’t easy, I didn’t manage to run the whole way but I completed the race with a decent pace (for me at that time). At that point that was the longest distance I had ever run. I then targeted what was is one of the major running events near me, the Philadelphia Broad Street Run. As part of my training I started running more and more 5K races to get used to racing and also as a dress rehearsal for ‘big events’. I’ve built up my race experience with longer distances since then.

4. Celebrate the little successes

By Thanksgiving in 2010 I had finished my first race (the 5 miler) and had at that time lost around 20lbs. I headed for a family vacation in Florida and took all my new running gear with a goal of running 30 miles over the vacation. On my final day of vacation I ran 6 miles (my longest run to date at that time). I achieved that and made sure to reward myself. I hit up the Nike outlet for some goodies.

I’ve used this success and reward cycle to keep building myself up. These successes were running 3 times a week, running 4 times a week, running 8 miles, running 10 miles. I’ve always made sure to celebrate in some way however small. Now after every marathon I treat myself to a new pair of shoes (typically just a different color of the same model shoe) as this inspires me to get out there and keep training.

5. Take some chances

So having registered to run the 2011 Broad Street Run I continued to build on my mileage. As I had recently completed 10 miles in training my wife encouraged me to sign up for my first Half Marathon (the Bucks County Half Marathon). It was held in Tyler State Park where I now do most of my marathon training although it was new to me at that time. The week before the race I decided to take a trial run to see how I might do on the course. I printed of a map and started running. Unfortunately I had the map upside down but it taught me how hilly the park was!!! So with only a couple of weeks between signing up and running my first half marathon I felt great that I took that leap (or push) and took that chance. Now it gave me the confidence for Broad Street.

Every race distance I complete, every PR I earn now gives me the confidence to step up my game and toe the line for a new challenge.

6. Maintaining the motivation

Now what? I had completed a Half Marathon, I had run Broad Street, what was next on the plan? I hadn’t looked too far forward at this stage as I had still been running for less than a year. I set a new challenge. Break 2 hours for a Half Marathon. I set my sights on another local race, the 2011 Rock and Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon. This meant that I couldn’t slack off during the summer as I was still a newbie and needed to build up again to a half marathon distance. This is what got me out of the door after Broad Street.

Today I look to plan my race calendar for at least the next 6-12 months in advance so that I can plan my training, have set goals and keep myself committed.

7. Listen to your body

Early in my running as I was continuing my training and increasing my distance running I started to become more and more uncomfortable with my right knee and ultimately I went to see a doctor. I did not want to stop running but I was waking up in the middle of the night with discomfort and it was getting painful on my daily 110 mile round trip commute.

I was referred to a physical therapist who had me run on the treadmill and she analysed my problem. I was an over-pronator. Although I had stability shoes I needed additional support and was recommended for some shoe inserts (over the counter were sufficient for me). I visited the physical therapist for a 6 week period twice a week and performed a series of exercises to build up the stability muscles around my knees, to learn how to stretch and to focus on my running form. I was also recommended as part of this to get re-fitted for shoes which I did. I have been in Brooks Adrenaline shoes ever since. (Over time as my body has got stronger I have moved away from the need for the inserts and now run with shoes straight out of the box).

By the end of the 6 week treatment I was stronger, my knees were aligned and I had a new focus on my running form that would go on to be a go to mental technique I now incorporate towards the end of races when I am getting tired. I was a fitter and renewed runner. I’ve learned to listen to the aches and pains when they occur and know when to rest and back off. I’ve also come more accustomed to the training. Where I once would have hurt or struggled for a couple of days after a long run I know how to self treat post run for better recovery. A lot of this is just experience and building up your own endurance.

I also started reading about running and training methods. Through my research I came across Jeff Galloway and his ‘Run-Walk-Run’ method. Learning about the method and applying it in training and racing has enabled me to achieve goals that at the beginning of my journey seemed out of touch. His methods have also allowed me to stay pretty much injury free as it changes up the muscles I am using through the intervals and also has allowed me to recover quicker.

8. Set bigger goals

After these little successes I set my sights on a bigger challenge, completing my first marathon. I signed up with the Runner’s World Challenge to run the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon which provided me with a training plan, supporting community and a daily e-mail providing encouragement (plus a cool shirt and a book on road racing).

Training for a marathon is a life changing experience. Never did I think that setting the alarm for 3am, strapping on a headlamp and a reflective vest would be something I would do but you get to a point where your habit becomes your lifestyle and something just ‘clicks’ and you do it because you want to do it. To date I have done 8 marathons (including a couple of multi-day distance events at Walt Disney World).

9. Preventative care

It’s not just putting in the miles that makes be a better runner, I have to look after my body as that is my tool to achieve my goals. I had already started dieting to lose weight prior to starting running but to run distance you have to fuel right. It isn’t about cutting out calories for the most part I probably eat more than I used to these days but it is eating the right foods at the right time in the right quantities. It’s about keeping the metabolism going.

I definitely eat more healthily than I used to. I seldom eat fried food or red meat anymore, anytime I do I definitely feel a difference. I seldom drink alcohol these days although I will partake in moderation. I guess that is the word, ‘moderation’. I still have a very sweet tooth. I look to satisfy my cravings with healthier alternatives but I also don’t beat myself up if I indulge from time to time. I journal all my food in the LoseIt app. I’ve been using that every day for almost 4 years now. It keeps me focused and in check.

I also get regular chiropractic adjustments. I go every 3 to 4 weeks to visit Dr Bagnell who has seen me go from being unfit and overweight to 50lbs light with my current fitness levels and he has commented on how different and beneficial it has been to my overall health. It is like a regular tune up for my body. A little realignment goes a long way. I’m pounding pavement for hour after hour, then I sit at a desk all day and drive a car for at least 2.5 hours a day. If I didn’t get myself in alignment regularly I would just be creating problems for myself and lead to long-term injury as I tried to over compensate for any discomfort. Training pushes your body to the limits, but if you can maintain your engine then your body will be kind to you and your recovery will be faster.

10. Have fun

You may have noticed from some of my previous posts that I like to have fun when I run. One of the best things that resulted from me running is that I get to run races with my wife. We are a good team. We both have somewhat different training schedules but we do run events together. I guess I am lucky that my wife is also a keen runner (we started within months of each other) and we get to share experiences together, visit new places and have a unique opportunity to sight see when we travel, for example running through all four Disney Parks at Walt Disney World, running along Niagara Falls and running across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

Running across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA

Running across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco

Running also happened to allow me to be a big kid again. I think you may have been able to tell that I am a big Disney fan. Well running has allowed me some unique experiences (through runDisney) like running races in full costume It has also enabled me to raise over $8,000 (to date) for charity.

Running in EPCOT at the 2013 Disney Family 5K

Running in EPCOT at the 2013 Disney Family 5K

Running through EPCOT at the 2014 inaugural Walt Disney World 10K

Running through EPCOT at the 2014 inaugural Walt Disney World 10K

That’s how I got to be where I am and how I stay motivated. What do you do differently? Share your methods and motivations in the comments below.

Thank you for reading 🙂

January 2014 – month in review

Janaury 2014 - Nike+ Summary

Janaury 2014 –
Nike+ Summary

Wow. What an incredible month. I cannot believe it is over so quickly. I’m actually sad to see it go as I had some of my best memories since I began running this month.

As you will probably know if you follow this blog or have read any of the recent race recap posts my big event this month was the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon weekend and namely the Inaugural Dopey Challenge. What an amazing time I had down in Orlando. Although my family was not able to make the trip with me I met up with so many wonderful old and new friends and fellow bloggers. I had the most incredible 5 days from the Expo to the Marathon. Even with the 4 days of early wake ups I was feeling great and even at the end I felt I could have gone on for another day. All the training I had put in paid off and I felt fresh a couple of days after the race.

You can read the recaps here (Expo, 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and Marathon). You can also check out the following episodes of the Mickey Miles Podcast (Episodes 138 and 139) where Kimberly Markey and I shared our experiences with Michelle and Mike.

Showing off the hardware

Showing off the hardware

From the event I raised $3,805 (so far) for Autism Speaks. I hope they will have me back next year as I aim to take my three year fundraising total to $10,000 (2013 through 2015).

I also signed up for a running team, the ‘Mickey Milers‘, set up by Michelle and Mike of the Mickey Miles Podcast with a goal of raising funds for the ‘Give Kids The World Village‘ in Orlando, Florida. Please take a look and consider joining whether you are a runDisney fan or not.  Thanks.

So what is next for me? Well, I’m back in training for the New Jersey Marathon coming up at the end of April. I ran this last year and had a bit of a disappointment as I missed my goal. This is a revisit of sorts but also they hope to have the course back to the pre-Hurricane Sandy route. I look forward to that. I also have the Philadelphia Love Run Half Marathon at the end of March and the Hot Chocolate 15K in early April so a lot to look forward to. I am considering another couple of local races, the Bucks County Half Marathon in April (which I ran in 2011 and 2012) and Chasing the Unicorn Marathon in August, but I have yet to make the decision (giving my Visa card a rest for a few weeks).

Also looking ahead I plan to become more involved where I can with the local chapter of the Achilles Foundation. I hope to be able to run as a guide for some upcoming events. I met with the chapter in Philadelphia just before New Year and I will be taking my first training run as a guide this weekend. I will keep you posted on that as I am very much looking forward to sharing the run experience with some new running friends.

It’s been a busy month and a great way to start the year. Now the only thing to deal with is the weather. I have taken most of my runs indoors over the last couple of weeks. Hopefully it will not be an extreme winter but whatever happens we know that Spring is just around the corner.

Looking forward to February. Thank you for reading.

2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – Part 5 – Full Marathon – January 12, 2014

Today was the main event, the Walt Disney World Marathon. This was the last event of the Dopey Challenge and the culmination of 24 weeks of training. Did I mention that it was the last early wake up of the event too (score!!!) I guess with the excitement and adrenaline due to this being the big event I didn’t feel really tired despite all the previous days of running and park time. Also, with the thunderstorm the night before it cooled the temperatures quite a bit which would be great (as compared to the 2013 Marathon) So again today I dressed in my Team Up gear and coordinated my Pro Compression socks to match Dopey (you can see it was pretty close later in the recap) and headed out for another early arrival at EPCOT for the start of the race.

Cooler than yesterday and still dropping before the start

Cooler than yesterday and still dropping before the start

It was cool with a slight breeze as I walked towards the bag check area. After last year of bringing down throw away gear I got smarter thanks to a very helpful tip. I tend to keep those mylar blankets they give out after marathons and they are small and light enough to pack with no problem. I wore my blanket from essentially the time I got out of the car until the start of the race. It was easy to pack up in my gear back and doubled as something to sit on later in the corrals while we waited.

Excited for the race and wearing my Dopey colored socks

Excited for the race and wearing my Dopey colored socks

I didn’t see many familiar faces in the starting area this time around although I did bump into a new Facebook friend (Jennifer) who spotted me as I arrived. She was running her first marathon as part of the Goofy Challenge. I headed through the bag check very early as like the day before I wanted to get over to the corral and sit for as long as I could to rest up before the 26.2 miles which lay ahead. I will admit that this was probably the most calm I have ever felt during a marathon. This would be my 7th marathon so I knew I could do this but I think due to the continuous high from the weekend I was just relaxed. Anyone who knows me well (read ‘my wife’) will tell you I am always a little uptight before a big race. Today was just, in my head anyway, a long run and I was going to treat it that way and have fun. Time didn’t really matter to me much. It was day 4 of the Dopey Challenge and I was there to have fun and make it to the finish line.

Keeping warm before the race

Keeping warm before the race

As we all started the long walk to the corrals (via ‘Backstage Lane’) I started chatting to a few folks, some doing the Dopey, some Goofy and some running their first marathon. With words of encouragement being shared among us it really felt more of a communal long run than a big city race. People running a Disney race bring with them an expectation of fun and camaraderie that I have not experienced in many of my other races. Sure you say ‘hi’ to people but people just seem more open to chat about the events. It could be the nature of these multi-race events which is unique and everyone is checking to see how other people are doing and sharing thoughts. Just my opinion really.

As we approached the split between corrals A to H and I to P one of the people I was talking to suddenly said, “Hey, you’re Ian from ‘Philly2Goofy’. I thought you looked familiar”. I was totally taken by surprise, especially being as dark and so early in the morning. They said they had followed the blog and actually printed out the training plan I was following and stuck it up on their wall. I was flattered (although all the credit must go to Hal Higdon and Jeff Galloway as I wouldn’t be here doing this without them). That totally lifted my spirits higher and I cheerfully headed to the corrals. I didn’t see Mark or Rob who I knew were supposed to be in my corral so I took a seat and waited while watching the pre-show. Various folks were brought up and interviewed including Dave McGillivray, race director of the Boston Marathon and Jeff Galloway. Both were running Dopey along with me and the other 6,999 folks.

Waiting in corral F

Waiting in corral F

During the pre-show one of the race announcers (or interviewers I forget which) ask who was ‘just doing the Marathon’. Let me say now for all readers and runners…THERE IS NO JUST…anyone out there running a Full Marathon is a champion and just because there are other challenges out there that runDisney has made popular should not in any way diminish the awesome experience and success of a person training, running and finishing a Marathon. I guess it is only at a Disney event when someone says of themselves I’m “just doing a Half or a Full” or even “I’m just doing Goofy”. Everyone is a runner and a champion for just toeing the line. There, I said it!!! I’m of my soapbox now. 🙂 Soon we would hear the ‘National Anthem’ and we knew we were ready for the start. Mickey (and even Dopey earlier before the race) was there to count us down and with fireworks shooting off we were starting. Yes, I got my fireworks today 🙂 All was good in the world. And then we were off.

The countdown was given by the 'Mouse' of the hour

The countdown was given by the ‘Mouse’ of the hour

I got my fireworks!!!

I got my fireworks!!!

Like yesterday, Bart Yasso was waiting on the left of the start line cheering everyone along on their way. I said a quick ‘Hi Bart’ and settled in for the first mile. Now at this point I want to do a little number crunching. At this point we had finished 3 of the 4 races that make up the Dopey Challenge which might sound like were 75% of the way there but in reality when you looked at the actual distance we had at this point run a 5K, a 10K and a Half Marathon which totaled 22.4 miles. As the Dopey Challenge would actually end up being 48.6 miles that mean we wouldn’t actually reach 50% or half way through the total mileage until we hit mile 1.9 in the Full Marathon. A little warped but, hey, we’re Dopey aren’t we 🙂

What we had ahead of us

What we had ahead of us

My strategy of stopping for photos early the day before worked well so I could maintain a steady pace going towards the Magic Kingdom where I knew I would be spending lots of time today. It wasn’t long before I saw that we were approaching the start of the way towards the Magic Kingdom and the Ticket and Transportation Center.

Nearing the park. Through the turnstiles to the Ticket and Transportation Center

Nearing the park.
Through the turnstiles to the Ticket and Transportation Center

It was encouraging again to see so many folks out cheering the runners as we approached the Ticket and Transportation Center and as we moved onwards towards the side of the Contemporary Resort we got our first view of the day of the Magic Kingdom. You will know from my recap from the Half Marathon yesterday how much I enjoy running into the Magic Kingdom and up Main Street USA. It is always magical. Today was as magical but also special. As soon as I ran onto Main Street I bumped into Joe Taricani, the host of ‘The Marathon Show‘ podcast. Joe runs holding an ‘On Air’ sign and speaks to runners as they experience their journeys. Today I got to run up Main Street with Joe and even made it onto the podcast. Another great experience and one that adds to the memories of this weekend. Check out Episode 228 to hear the recap of the day. In all of this I still managed to get my Main Street USA photo to make the day complete.

Main Street USA during the 2014 Marathon

Main Street USA during the 2014 Marathon

I had a specific goal for the Marathon this year in terms of photos in the Magic Kingdom. For the last two years I never got a shot of Mickey at the Castle. This year no matter the lines I was going to do it.

Am I late?

Am I late?

The one and only Tigger

The one and only Tigger

With Royal Minnie and Mickey outside Cinderella's Castle

With Royal Minnie and Mickey outside Cinderella’s Castle

Every race or trip or famous landmark that I go to with my wife she always takes a ‘jump shot’. I have albums from vacations where my wife is doing a jump shot on almost every page of the book. It has become her trademark and although I do participate in the fun from time to time I never do so during a race, especially a marathon. Well, I was having so much fun over the course of the last few days I threw caution to the wind and just went for it. I was at mile 6 of the Marathon (mile 28 of the Challenge) and while normally I would be anxious about my knees I was feeling good so it seemed a given that as my wife wasn’t here I needed to ‘represent’ 🙂

Running through the Castle

Running through the Castle

I do look like I'm having fun

I do look like I’m having fun

I did notice as I ran through Fantasyland and the New Fantasyland that there were less characters out this year. Last year it was all Princesses outside New Fantasyland but this year there were none. I ran through Frontierland but didn’t stop for photos this time but headed backstage to exit the park. I finally found a Princess and stopped for a quick photo.

With Rapunzel and Flynn Rider (that's Eugene Fitzherbery for those that know) :-)

With Rapunzel and Flynn Rider (that’s Eugene Fitzherbert for those that know) 🙂

Coming out of the Magic Kingdom we are around mile 6.5 and begin our little trip up Cone Alley past the Grand Floridian towards the Speedway at mile 8. Again, no Mary Poppins today. She was hanging out with the Penguins in Race Retreat. There were a couple of character stops along the way. I even stopped for the Villains this year which was a first for me.

Hanging with Goofy on the golf course

Hanging with Goofy on the golf course

With Maleficent and Dr Facilier

With Maleficent, Scar and Dr Facilier

We hit the Speedway just after mile 8. I remember last year the sun was up at this time and the heat was already up high. This year was much cooler but there were some wet patches under foot which wasn’t great around Cone Alley as you sometimes run along some grassy areas trying to get around other runners. As we approached the Speedway I noted there were no characters outside like there were last year. Again, less characters throughout the course this year. When entering the Speedway there is a really narrow and steep downslope and upslope onto the circuit. As it was still wet underfoot the runners ahead had slowed down and there was a slight bottleneck at this point but once out on the track it opens up. The trick is to stay on the inner circuit of the track as it is flat with no banking. As was the case last year there were car clubs represented as you ran around the circuit. Different from last year was that there were no ‘Cars’ characters out on the track. This was fine with me as it allowed me to just keep running. I had spent a lot of time in the Magic Kingdom and although I wasn’t going for a time goal at all it was nice to just get a nice rhythm going.

Keeping within the speed limit

Keeping within the speed limit

As we excited the Speedway there was a quick trek over a grass median and we were off towards the Animal Kingdom. This is the part of the race that takes us past the Water Treatment Center. Well, the good news with the cooler temperatures and the slight breeze, there was no smell when I ran past this year. BONUS!!! I’m usually taking an energy gel around mile 10 so glad I didn’t have to deal with any added ‘extras’.

Together with Captain Hook and Mr Smee

Together with Captain Hook and Mr Smee

As I approached the Animal Kingdom I heard my name being called. It was Mark my fellow Team Up teammate. I hadn’t seen him earlier in the day while waiting in the corrals so I actually headed back to catch up with him to check in. He was nursing a leg injury which he had coming into the Goofy Challenge but he looked strong and I know that he did finish as I saw his results later on. After saying good luck I headed into the Animal Kingdom just around mile 12.

Wishing upon a star with Jiminy Cricket

Wishing upon a star with Jiminy Cricket

As we entered the park we ran past a variety of animals with their handlers. I found out later that the animals were all wearing special Marathon bibs with their names on. Cute. At the time that I arrived in the Animal Kingdom the ‘Expedition Everest’ ride was not yet open for the day. Some of my fellow runners behind me took the opportunity to stop and ride ‘Everest’ on their way through the park. It’s a Disney race, when else would you stop mid marathon to ride a coaster? Awesome.

Stopping to meet King Louie

Stopping to meet King Louie

We were very close to the halfway point at this stage of the race and we cleared the Half Marathon timing mat just after the water stop leaving the park. This was also the location of the Autism Speaks cheering section today so I made sure to say a big thank you to everyone for coming out and supporting the team.

Cheering on my cheering section

Cheering on my cheering section

I hit the half way timing mat at a time of 2:27:55, this was 15 minutes quicker than I had actually run the Half Marathon the day previously including all the photo stops. It was a complete adrenaline rush. I don’t know where this energy was coming from especially 4 days and 35 miles in at this point but I felt really good.

For the last two years I have avoided a photo stop with the Gravediggers from the Haunted Mansion. Each year I have seen runners lay down and have their picture taken with them. Every year I have looked at these people and thought they were absolutely crazy. How could you get up off the ground having run 14 miles already. This year I was feeling good and became one of those crazy people…it was fun. Luckily the cast member helping out was a pretty strong guy. I guess he had to be for this particular stop. He pulled me up with zeal and I was grateful I didn’t have to try on my own to get up 😉

Just kidding

Just kidding

The next stop on our journey would be the ESPN Wide World of Sports it is a long stretch (well 4 miles) from the Animal Kingdom to ESPN and there isn’t much to see around here. It is pretty wide open at this point and runners spread out. It’s nice to have some space after running in some tight lanes through the parks. During these part of the race Scott who I had met at the 5K spotted me and we ran together for a couple of minutes. We are both Galloway runners and we were running different intervals so we said our goodbyes when the timers went off. Scott looked like he was doing fine. Glad to know that everyone I had met up with over the weekend seemed to be doing fine. The weather today was definitely a positive factor for everyone today.

The ESPN Wide World of Sports is the one part of the course that I just find takes too long. I know it sounds silly as it’s only 3 miles but with all the twists and turns we take, maybe it’s just psychological, but when you think you are close to leaving you hit another turn and it is not the way out. At least this year was cooler (I’ve said that before a few times). As I entered the ESPN Wide World of Sports I made sure to grab a wet towel that they were handing out. Last year I missed it and regretted it. This year the towels were ‘ice’ cold. I squeezed the towel over myself and immediately regretted it. There was still a slight breeze and I started to get the chills. Eek!  I knew I would warm up but for the next mile I was shaking my shirt to try to dry it out a bit and warm up. Oh well, live and learn.

One of the cool things about running around this part of the course is that you get to see all the athletes getting on with their day of training and games. We ran past a soccer game in progress and there were many spectators on the course at this point. The ESPN Wide World of Sports also includes a lap around the outfield of Champions Stadium (spring training home to the Atlanta Braves).

Here I am going to share my biggest tip from running through the Wide World of Sports. As soon as you leave the stadium if you suspect at all that you have any gravel in your shoes stop and empty your shoes. You still have over 6 miles to go and you don’t need anything that will annoy you or irritate you. I’m talking from experience. This year I stopped and took out plenty of gravel. Phew.

Taking a lap around the running track at the ESPN Wide World of Sports

Taking a lap around the running track at the ESPN Wide World of Sports

Running the outfield of Champions Stadium

Running the outfield of Champions Stadium

Leaving the ESPN Wide World of Sports is just before mile 20. You’re beginning the home stretch. Mile 20 is usually where I slow down a bit but I was feeling fine so I knew now that I was going to make it. There is a 2 mile stretch back up towards Disney’s Hollywood Studios and there is not too much to see. They had the big screen out playing movies as they had during the 10K on Friday and all along the route back up (a very slight incline) they have motivational signs along the course. I had to stop for this one:

Walt said it best

Walt said it best

At the end of this 2 mile stretch there is the final ‘big hill’ of the course, the overpass to Hollywood Studios. Each year I have run this event they have had a toy soldier from Toy Story yelling out to runners to get up the hill. Again, this is one of those places that in previous years I have seen runners doing push ups with the drill sergeant (the crazy folks I liked to call them). Well, welcome me to the crazy club. I was feeling good and had the energy and I got down and did my requisite push ups to earn my photo opportunity.

Not kidding

Not kidding

At this point I know I’m 4 miles to the finish. I was getting very excited at this point. I knew the rest of the course from prior years and I knew I felt better than I had the last two years that I had run so I just went for it. I picked up the pace a little. We entered Hollywood Studios just behind Tower of Terror and rounded the corner to head through the tunnel alongside the costume department. Then you have the amazing view when you run up the Streets of New York and head towards the front of the park past the Sorcerer’s Hat. Other than Wreck-It Ralph as we entered the Studios there were no other character opportunities here. Last year there were three. A little disappointing but at this point in the race with only 5K to go you just want to keep going.

The parks were now open and guests as well as supporters were now cheering us on. I have heard many stories of guests being inspired by the runners to look into running a runDisney event in the future. I hope that we inspired one or two (or more) today. After the Studios we head along the Boardwalk through the International Gateway and head towards World Showcase.

Just outside of the entrance back into the United Kingdom Pavillion there was the main guy himself. Dopey. I stopped to say a quick hello and get my picture. Best photo of the week for me (can you say ‘Profile Picture’?)

The shot of the week for me

The shot of the week for me

When you hit the United Kingdom you are reaching mile 25. You are almost there. Essentially, barring a major disaster you can run, walk or crawl your way home. No one will take you off the course once you make it to here. 🙂 As I ran through the Magic Kingdom I heard my name being called out. I wasn’t sure from where but I later found out that it was Jill (one of my Facebook friends) who sent me a note later to confirm I wasn’t just imagining this.

I ran through World Showcase stopping for a photo with a couple of French-speaking ladies in the France Pavillion and then headed towards future world and the finish line.

Aurora and Belle

Princess Aurora and Belle

Running through World Showcase

Running through World Showcase

Almost there

Almost there

Completing the Dopey Challenge

Completing the Dopey Challenge

The home stretch

I did it!!!

I cannot tell you much about that last mile other than it being a blur of complete and utter happiness. I was doing it, completing the Dopey Challenge. Feeling great and realizing 9 months of fundraising and 6 months of training. In the process I recorded over 700 miles of training and raised over $3,800 for Autism Speaks.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!! I even ran the second half of the Marathon in around 2:12:30, 10 minutes faster than the first half for an overall time of 4:40:26.

I got my Marathon medal and headed over to the self-treatment area to ice down (I had a plane to catch in a few hours) before heading out to pick up my Goofy and Dopey medals.

With my Mickey medal

With my Mickey medal

Showing off the hardware

Showing off the hardware

Seeing as I had to leave later that evening I didn’t really have too much time to wait around after the race. I headed back to the hotel to shower and finish packing with the goal of spending as much time in EPCOT before I had to head to the airport.

*BLING* *BLING* *BLING* *BLING* *BLING* *BLING*

*BLING* *BLING* *BLING* *BLING* *BLING* *BLING*

My new ‘Ear Hat’ to celebrate my accomplishment.

My annual souvenir. My 'Ear Hat' with my milage.

My annual souvenir. My ‘Ear Hat’ with my mileage.

I spent the next few hours stretching my legs walking around EPCOT. I went straight to Innoventions West to have my photos taken with Mickey, Goofy and Minnie with all my medals.

Celebrating at EPCOT

Celebrating at EPCOT

A closing highlight of the trip

A closing highlight of the trip

I walked around the park congratulating my fellow runners who were all proudly wearing their medals. It is a great feeling of camaraderie which is really only experienced at a runDisney race. People hang around after the races and enjoy their post Marathon time. It feels great. Congratulations to all my fellow runners.

In summary, would I do the Dopey Challenge again? Not sure. I enjoyed it but I have done it now. I’d love to run Goofy again as I really enjoy the atmosphere of the Half and the Full. Racing on 4 consecutive days with 4 early wake ups and early nights was tough. I travelled solo this year as 4 days of running would really have imposed on my family. I missed them greatly. This is the first year they haven’t been there for me at the finish and that is perhaps why I didn’t stick around too long once I finished. I love running at Disney and I love Disney Parks. It is better when my family is with me. That is probably my ultimate reason for not doing Dopey in the future for now (but never say never).

What a great week. I met so many good friends this week and had a really special time running with everyone. I want to thank runDisney, the volunteers and the cast members as well as my Team Up teammates and all my fellow runners for making this a week to remember.

So, my final Fitbit stats for the day. I ran 26.2 miles and ended up showing 34.68 miles. For the whole of the 5 days I ran 48.6 miles and ended up walking another 44 or so miles. I think I need another medal 😉

Thank you for sticking with me through what has been a ‘marathon’ recap. I hope you got a sense of how much fun I had during the Marathon and the whole weeks events.

2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – Part 4 – Half Marathon – January 11, 2014

Wake up number 3 for race number 3. I did actually feel like I needed to use the foam roller to get my eyes open today. Nevertheless I was up thanks to my 2 alarms and hotel wake up call and got up and dressed into my ‘Team Up’ gear. Today the closest I was going to get to a costume was my Pro Compression Marathon Socks were coordinated with my ‘Team Up’ colors. No more costumes this weekend. Looking at the forecast the day before there was a chance of rain and runDisney had already posted a heat advisory for the weekend. We would just have to wait and see how this would impact today. The goal was to take it easy so there was enough left in the tank for tomorrow’s marathon.

Bright and early again at EPCOT. Look at the temparature!!!

Bright and early again at EPCOT. Look at the temperature!!!

Day 3 and excited for the Half Marathon

Day 3 and excited for the Half Marathon

Again I arrived early at EPCOT and as you can see from the photograph above it was already quite warm. I headed over to the entrance to the ‘Race Retreat’ for today’s Team #runDisney meet up and after a quick photograph with the group I headed through bag check. I was definitely earlier than I had planned but I recalled last year’s Half Marathon where it was absolutely jammed getting to the corrals. This year was a little different as runDisney had reduced the number of runners which made it easier getting to the corrals.

Heading to bag check.

Heading to bag check.

As I was walking to the corrals I started chatting with folks around me and bumped into Mark who was also running for Team Up. I didn’t have the opportunity to meet him the previous night so we chatted all the way to our corrals (we were both in corral F). Chatting away with someone is a very good way to relax before the start of a race. Mark and I grabbed space in the corral and sat down waiting for the start. Getting there early allowed us to have enough space to sit and get off our feet. Incidentally the speakers around our corral were not working so although we couldn’t hear all the excitement of the pre-show we were able to sit and have a nice chat.

Without the speakers working we suddenly noticed that the crowd had become quiet and we heard the start of the National Anthem so we got up knowing that our start was minutes away. runDisney had reduced the number of overall runners and increased the number of corrals this year. Last year I started in corral B and this year I was in corral F. When I first got my waiver I was a little shocked by the change in corrals but thanks to some great research by the blog ‘Run, Knit, Travel‘ it seems that by the numbers I was pretty much in the same place I would have been last year. We watched the first few corrals leave giving me a good opportunity to get some good firework views as we waited for our corral to be brought forward. Soon it was our turn…

Donald waiting to give us the word.

Donald waiting to give us the word.

So we were called to the start line…Donald counted us down…3…2…1…GO!!!!!!

Wait…what happened? Where were the fireworks? No fireworks? Really? That’s why I’m here? Can I get a refund? What?

So, no fireworks for our corral. A little disappointed I set off for the start of the race. Just past the start line on the left was Bart Yasso cheering on the runners who were part of the Runner’s World Challenge. Bart is a great guy and was friendly to all the runners passing by. Just as an aside, I ran the Philadelphia Marathon with the Runner’s World Challenge back in 2011 and would recommend the experience. Okay, back to the race.

Due to the timing between corrals a couple of minutes later I heard fireworks. Yup, corral G got them 😦 , nevertheless I was on my way and looking forward to the day. As I approached the first mile marker I bumped into Kimberly from ‘Mother Maker Marathon Runner‘. Kimberly and I have been Facebook friends for a while but we had yet to actually meet up despite some attempts during the previous two days. Some of you may know Kimberly already but for those of you who don’t she is truly an inspiration. She is a cancer survivor and has continued running through her chemotherapy treatments. Since undergoing surgery and her treatments she has run the Dumbo Double Dare in Disneyland, the Chicago Marathon, the New York Marathon and was running the Dopey Challenge…and also was scheduled to run the Tinkerbell Half Marathon the week after the Dopey. Amazing.

Meeting the amazing Kimberly Markey

Meeting the amazing Kimberly Markey

Meeting Kimberly was a great start to the day. We chatted while standing in line to have our photo with Captain Jack Sparrow. I said my ‘so long for now’ and wished her luck and headed off for the Magic Kingdom.

Aaaargh!!!

Aaaargh!!!

You approach the main entrance to the Magic Kingdom and make your way up to the Ticket and Transportation Center. That is a great place for supporters to gather and see their runners pass through. Today was no different and the crowds were out in full force. Also, the Ticket and Transportation Center has nice indoor bathrooms. Just at the right time having been in the corrals for so long 🙂

Heading through the main gates on our way to the Magic Kingdom

Heading through the main gates on our way to the Magic Kingdom. No charge for being on foot.

I took the opportunity today to make stops at as many characters as I could with the plan on taking it easy and so that I could bypass the same photo stops during the Marathon. This worked out well as sometimes depending upon the time you arrive at a character stop there are different although related characters, for example Peter Pan and Wendy might swap out with Captain Hook and Mr Smee. Today gave me the opportunity should there be someone different there tomorrow. As always I tried to get the pictures of the characters that my sons will most want to see.

With Jack and Sally. Both my boys love 'The Nightmare Before Christmas'.

With Jack and Sally. Both my boys love ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’.

As you pass through the Ticket and Transportation Center you start to approach the Magic Kingdom. First you pass ‘under’ ‘Bay Lake’ via a small underpass and them run alongside the ‘Contemporary Resort’, round the back of ‘Space Mountain’ and then enter ‘Main Street USA’ just past ‘Town Square’.

Outside the park just behind Space Mountain

Outside the park just behind Space Mountain

My very favorite part about running at Walt Disney World comes when you enter the Magic Kingdom and you run up ‘Main Street USA’. This is truly one of the most unique opportunities in the most special of locations that I can think of. As a self-confessed ‘Disney Head’ I admit that I absolutely love this part of the race and it wouldn’t matter to me if it was mile 1, mile 6 or mile 20 (although it would be cool if it was mile 26.2!!!) This was the 4th time I had experienced this and it was still as ‘magical’. The crowds line the street left and right, the street is all lit up and Cinderella’s Castle is all aglow just in the distance. You cannot beat it for atmosphere. As you can see from my pictures, I’m in my element here.

Here I am on Main Street USA - Magic Kingdom

Here I am on Main Street USA – Magic Kingdom

You don’t spend too much time on Main Street but you run up and make a right turn into ‘Tomorrow Land’ where I encountered the real ‘Buzz Lightyear’ as compared to my fake Buzz from the 10K. This was the first of three character stops in a row where just as I ran up to have my photo taken the character went inside for a quick break (I assumed Buzz had to re-energize his fuel cells, Pooh Bear needed a quick shot of honey and Daisy Duck had to re-arrange her feathers). However, all was well despite this becoming a ’19 minute mile’ that included these character stops.

Buzz Lightyear

Buzz Lightyear

Pooh Bear

Pooh Bear

Viewing the Castle from Fnatasyland

Viewing the Castle from inside Fantasyland

Donald (minus Daisy)

Donald (minus Daisy)

Then comes another fun part of the race which is running through the Castle and the chance for a great photo opportunity in front.

Hey, look where I am!!

Hey, look where I am!!!

After running through the Castle we make our way out of the park through Liberty Square and Frontierland and then backstage out onto Floridian Way (a.k.a. ‘Cone Alley’). I took one more character stop to have a photograph with Woody on the way out of the park.

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He’s got a friend in me

At this point in the race the sun had started to rise although it wasn’t what I would call sunny. I guess daylight is a better way of saying it. Thankfully there was cloud cover as it was already warm and very humid at this point however once we left the park a cool breeze was blowing which made the run a little more comfortable. It as at this stage that I always look forward to seeing Mary Poppins as she is usually located just outside of the Grand Floridian. However this year she was not there (on either day). I later learned that she was with Bert and the Penguins in the Race Retreat tent on both days. So I settled in and with the exception of a few character stops maintained an even pace from here on out until we started to approach the overpass that would lead us to EPCOT.

There is not too much to see on this part of the course as it is basically a retread of the route to EPCOT from the other side of the Magic Kingdom but it does give opportunities for some character stops. This year however those were few and far between on the way back. Generally I noticed less characters out on the course than in prior years. That may well have been part of runDisney’s plan to help get foot traffic flowing along with reducing the number of runners and the changes to the spacing of the corrals.

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Aloha

There are a series of rolling hills (this is Florida…don’t get the wrong idea…they are still pretty flat) as you make your way back to EPCOT. While running towards the overpass along World Drive I heard my name being called and turned to find Jonathan who started with me in the 10K the day before. We had a little chat during my walk break and then parted ways as I began to run again. He looked to be having as good a time as I was so that was great to see.

Having fun out there

Having fun out there

Once you have gone around the ramp up to the overpass you are only a couple of miles out and as you cross over the overpass you can see the sea of runners coming up behind you. It is a pretty cool sight to see so many of your fellow runners out there and is encouragement to know that you are within a couple of miles from the finish line. It was at this time that I ran alongside Sid Busch (who I actually had lunch plans with that day). Sid has run 19 of the 20 Disney Marathons and is ‘Perfectly Goofy’. He was out here running the Dopey. Sid is a retired naval officer and runs carrying the American Flag in support of our Armed Forces and runs in memory of fallen soldiers. He is kind of famous out here at the Walt Disney World Marathon (and other races too). He was looking good.

Great to see Sid out there on the course. Getting lots of crowd and runner support for all his good work.

Great to see Sid out there on the course. Getting lots of crowd and runner support for all his good work.

There is a sharp right turn at mile 11.5 and that leads you straight towards EPCOT. Once you have made the turn you can see the park and you know you are close to the finish. From there on in you run through Future World and out towards the finish line. As you can see from the photos I was enjoying myself alot. Actually I felt much better than at this point the year before where I almost had injured myself ‘racing’ to the finish line. I took it nice and easy this year. Experience shows.

The home strectch

The home stretch

Made it!

Made it!

I made it through the finish line with a chip time of 2:43:54. Not fast by any means but considering my goal of taking it easy and all the character stops (including the ‘disappearing’ characters in the Magic Kingdom) I wasn’t too disappointed with my time. I had said to myself at the start that anything around 2:30 would be fine. WIth 26.2 miles to run the next day I was feeling good and that was what counted.

I got my medal and headed over to the to the self-treatment area to ice down my legs. As I was travelling solo this year I had actually taken a studio apartment rather than a one bedroom like usual which meant that there was a shower but no bath tub where I would have soaked in cool iced water. I took extra time at the self-treatment area to ice down my quads, hamstrings, knees and calf muscles. I looked a sight for sore eyes. I have to thank the folks from the medical team for volunteering and for wrapping me up in ice and clear wrap.

It may not look good but it did the trick.

It may not look good but it did the trick.

I then made my way out to the bag check and headed back home to shower up for my lunch reservation in the Magic Kingdom.

Medal number 3 for the weekend

Medal number 3 for the weekend

The 'Donald' medal

The ‘Donald’ medal

Again, the wrist band process was much better today as it had been at the 10K even with the added runners who were participating in the Goofy Challenge.

Three races, three wrist bands

Three races, three wrist bands

So now I was adding to both my bracelet and medal haul. Not bad for three days.

Bling Bling Bling

Bling Bling Bling

So after a quick shower I headed back to the Magic Kingdom for lunch (at ‘The Crystal Palace’) with Sid and new friends Rob and MaryJane where we chatted for almost 2 hours and refueled before the Marathon on Sunday. After we said our goodbyes I spent the rest of the day in the Magic Kingdom. I had a checklist of rides and attractions that I wanted to hit that I had planned would be a little restful (i.e. off my feet) before watching the ‘Main Street Electrical Parade’ and heading off home for another relatively early night.

Obligatory post Half Marathon celebration

Obligatory post Half Marathon celebration

Dole Whip - this is magical fuel...

Dole Whip – this is magical fuel…

I was getting a bit tired around 6pm and headed to my last attraction (the ‘Carousel of Progress’) and had actually decided to skip the Electrical Parade and head home early. It’s not like I haven’t seen it a few times 🙂 Well, what a good choice that was. As soon as I was back at the Transport and Ticket Center the heavens opened up. Rain was steadily coming down and I was driving home through a lightning storm that lasted a decent amount of time. Getting home early gave me the chance to also FaceTime with my family. I got to show them some of the gifts I had bought for them and also read books to them in bed. It was great. The boys seemed very pleased with my purchases. I think they even missed me while I was gone.

The boys seemed very pleased with my purchases. I think they even missed me while I was gone.

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I got my gear ready for the next morning and headed off to bed. My Fitbit stats for the day? Well, considering I had run a Half Marathon (13.1 miles) I racked up a total of 21.27 miles. Again, how that would play out the next day was anyones guess. With that I turn out the lights and tried to get some sleep knowing that in a few hours the main event was going to be here.

2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – Part 3 – Inaugural ‘Minnie’ 10K – January 10, 2014

After a reasonably early night (reasonable for Disney park visits) I woke up early for the 10K. Race day number 2 and the debut of another Disney themed costume. Today I would be running as ‘Buzz Lightyear’ and hoping that running with a jetpack wouldn’t be as annoying as I thought it might be. So I climbed into my one piece Buzz body suit (developing an irrational fear of needing to go to the bathroom during a race) stuck on my jetpack and headed to the elevators hoping that no one would actually see me and headed to EPCOT for day 2 of the Dopey Challenge and the inaugural ‘Minnie’ 10K.

Earlier than the day before but somehow I am still awake.

Earlier than the day before but somehow I am still awake.

Upon arrival at EPCOT I headed over again to the bag check area hoping that today I would be in the right place at the right time for the Team #runDisney meet up. I got there a little early and not many people were there at the time, at least not where the meet up was to occur. Having second thoughts about the jetpack attached to my back I walked up to a complete stranger and asked her if she wouldn’t mind taking some safety pins and pinning my jetpack on me. The things you can only get away with at a runDisney race. Having taken a couple of towels from the hotel to I made a place to sit down outside the race retreat and waited for folks to turn up for the meet.

Today I was in the right place and folks started turning up. I met Marc (who makes those great slide shows for the Team #runDisney Facebook page) and Greg from ‘Why I Run Disney‘ and his wife Brooke, Megan from ‘Running Toward The Prize‘ (also the co-author of ‘Magical Miles: The Runner’s Guide to Walt Disney World‘) and her husband and Matt from ‘Dad’s Got The Runs‘ who is also the Team #runDisney page administrator. A nice bunch of folks to meet.

To Infninity and Beyond

To Infinity and Beyond

After the photo I headed to the corrals and again met my fellow Autism Speaks team-mate Rob and also Jonathan who I help administrate the ‘Goofy Challenge 2014’ Facebook group. Again, I was easy to spot today.

Minnie was there at the start line to get us going and counted us down to the fireworks. Once we were given the word to go we headed out onto this new 10K course. I didn’t quite know what to expect as I really could not picture from the map how the course would turn out. I knew there would be an out and back and thought there would be a repeat of the 5K course but that’s pretty much it, so here is my recap.

Firstly, running with a jetpack takes time to get used to. At first the flapping was getting a bit annoying and I was going slow so as not to aggravate the situation but I soon settled in to the rhythm and the fun began. The first two miles of the course were an out and back from the EPCOT parking lot to the back of World Showcase. I didn’t mind the out and back but I heard complaints from others that it was a bit boring and that they did not like the hairpin turn which lead to in incline. I probably didn’t notice this too much as I had decided to stop for a character photo opportunity just after the turn. I also stopped as it was very warm and humid that morning and I hadn’t helped the situation by dressing in a polyester jumpsuit.

Peter, Wendy and I 'flying'

Peter, Wendy and I ‘flying’

At the character stop I bumped into these two fine gentlemen from Saskatchewan, Canada dressing (for both the 5K and 10K) as Dopey and Grumpy. Awesome costumes although they admitted that they were a bit warm. They were running the Dopey and said they planned (like me) to run the first two days in costume. They also told me as it -50 degrees back home they hadn’t really trained this year but as past Goofy runners they were relying on ‘experience’. I am not sure what happened over the course of the weekend but I hope they had fun and finished.

Dopey and Grumpy from Saskatchewan

Meeting Dopey and Grumpy from Saskatchewan

There was not much to see during the second mile back towards EPCOT except for a giant TV screen showing Minnie cartoons set to modern music. It would have been nice to have had another character out there during that stretch.

Once back into EPCOT I assumed we would follow the same course that we had for the 5K the previous day but had we done that our course would have been about 5 miles so I was interested to see how we would get that extra mile in. As we made our way around World Showcase we took a turn out of the park just after the France Pavillion through the ‘International Gateway’ which took us on a loop around the Boardwalk past the Yacht and Beach Clubs and then back into EPCOT via the United Kingdom Pavillion. From there it was back to the finish line but going through Innoventions West and then to the finish line area rather than a circle around Spaceship Earth as we had in the 5K the day before.

2014 Walt Disney World 5K 10K Course Map

2014 Walt Disney World 5K 10K Course Map

I really enjoyed my time on the Boardwalk. I had only ever run this partially as part of the Marathon course and today, even at this early hour, there were crowds out there to cheer everyone on. They had characters out on the Boardwalk and that allowed me to cool down during the last couple of miles as I was beginning to get warmer and warmer dressed as Buzz (consideration of costumes will be given greater scrutiny next time). Due to the humidity and warm weather the Boardwalk was pretty damp which also caused me to run a little slower as I didn’t want to slip and get hurt with two more races to go.

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My best ‘Genie’ impression

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Always nice when you are not the only one dressed up 🙂

As you can see from the pictures I really had fun out there. You can also see from the ground how wet underfoot it was.

Flying around the 10K

Flying around the 10K

Enjoying myself out there

Enjoying myself out there

There were plenty of folks out there cheering for Buzz. Many shouts of ‘To Infinity And Beyond’ were being traded back and forth. I was having a blast out there. As I rounded the corner to the finish line I heard someone call my name and was pleased to see Rhonda who I had met the day earlier. Again, I was easy to spot in costume. We took a quick photo together and headed on to the finish.

Coming up to the finish line I heard the announcer say over the PA system that ‘Here comes Buzz Lightyear’ to which I responded with outstretched arms and ‘flew’ over the finish line. The announcer then said that if I was caught flying and my feet had left the ground I would have to be disqualified!!! That made me chuckle 🙂

My feet never left the ground

My feet never left the ground

Heading through the finish line area to pick up my second wrist band today was much smoother. This time they had set up aisles to pass through where at the front a volunteer marked your 5K band with a Sharpie and a second volunteer at the end of the aisle put on your 10K finisher band.

The second medal of the Challenge

The second medal of the Challenge

This was the photographers idea LOL

This was the photographers idea LOL

So now I had two wristbands and two medals. I was building quite a collection of memories so far.

My 5K and 10K finisher wristbands.

My 5K and 10K finisher wristbands

My medal haul after the 5K and 10K

My medal haul after the 5K and 10K

After a quick shower I headed back out to spend a day at EPCOT where for the first time (despite many visits to EPCOT) I rode the following attractions: ‘Soarin”, ‘Test Track’ and the ‘Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros’ as well as seeing for the first time: ‘Captain EO’, ‘Ellen’s Energy Adventure’ and ‘The Circle Of Life’. Talk about keeping myself busy without the family in tow. I spent the day in EPCOT as that evening there was the Team Up with Autism Speaks team dinner being hosted at ‘The Living Seas’. This was a really cool private dining area behind the aquarium in ‘The Seas with Nemo and Friends’.

Some post 10K, pre Half Marathon fuel (the best kind of fuel)

Some post 10K, pre Half Marathon fuel (the best kind of fuel)

At the dinner that night I sat with Rob and his family and got to meet up with other Team Up runners. This year they had 100 runners for the weekend including 40 Dopey runners. It was announced that as of the date of the dinner the team had raised approximately $140,000 with a final total expected to be approximately $165,000 (Go Team Up!!!) I was awarded a certificate of appreciation for being the second biggest fundraiser this year. I came in second place last year to the same person who beat me out of first place the year previous. I’ll beat him for sure in 2015!!!

As of the date of the race I had raised enough to be the second highest fundraiser this year

As of the date of the race I had raised enough to be the second highest fundraiser this year

Top fundraisers this year

Top fundraisers this year

A group photo of some of the Team Up runners

A group photo of some of the Team Up runners

After the dinner (and quite a lot of dessert) I headed home for an early night to get ready for the Half Marathon tomorrow. A quick look at my Fitbit stats (I shouldn’t have looked) showed my daily mileage to be 17.22 miles. Oops. 11 miles more than I actually ran that day 😉

Preparing for the 2014 Dopey Challenge

8 weeks from today I will be heading down to Orlando to take part in the 2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, specifically the inaugural Dopey Challenge. This is a four day event from Thursday January 9th through Sunday January 12th and consists of a 5K (3.1 miles), a 10K (6.2 miles), a Half Marathon (13.1 miles) and a Full Marathon (26.2 miles) for a total of 48.6 miles.

This weekend I am running the 2013 Philadelphia Marathon and after this I have less than 8 weeks between this event and the Dopey Challenge in which I need to build in recovery time, ramp up my distance and taper again. This is a pretty short span of time (unless you are one of those folks who runs multiple marathons a year). I actually have done this process twice before, I ran the Philadelphia Marathon in November 2011 and the Walt Disney World Marathon 8 weeks later in January 2012 and I ran the Philadelphia Marathon again in 2012 and ran the ‘Goofy Challenge’ 8 weeks later in January 2013 (Philly2Goofy!) and will pretty much be using the same approach this time.

The first time I did this I used Hal Higdon’s 8 week back to back marathon plan just as Hal designed it. I changed it up a little for the 2013 Goofy Challenge so that my Saturday runs would be exactly half the distance of my Sunday long runs to try and mimic the Half plus Full scenario. Training, in addition to building endurance and general well being, is the place to simulate and practice race conditions. The small modifications for the Goofy were simple to slip into the plan as it just meant adding a mile or two the day before the long run. Dopey training calls for a somewhat different approach.

Although I plan to similulate the 4 day event by doing 4 consecutive days of running, I still need to build in some recovery time, some rest time and some taper time. With that in mind I adjusted Hal’s program slightly to similuate race week just twice during the training plan but these will be on the longest distance weeks to make the training most effective. See below.

Back to Back Marathon Training Plan Philly to Dopey

Back to Back Marathon Training Plan
Philly to Dopey

I think the key to this training plan is to take advantage of as much rest time as the plan allows. I have used Hal’s Intermediate 2 Marathon Training Plan for my last 5 marathons and the back to back plan follows a similar pattern with the exception that Mondays are rest days vs cross training days. The plan still calls for 5 days of running each week with the same pattern of a semi-long run each Wednesday and the long run on Sundays. I also allowed myself one race (the Thanksgiving 5 miler for the Bucks County Road Runners).

I’m getting pretty excited about this now. I have reached my fund raising goal for Team Up with Autism Speaks so that pressure is now gone (but not the pressure of completing the 4 day event of course) and I have chosen to run both the 5K and 10K in costume (yeah…not sure how that is really going to work out) and the Half and Full Marathons in ‘Team Up’ gear. At the end of the day very few people are running these events to PR. This is a Disney race where there is so much atmosphere and entertainment along the courses to take in. Not to forget the toll that 4 very early mornings will take on the body in addition to the events and some park time (I know, that is all my personal choice). My goal is to finish the event with a smile on my face with great memories and most importantly knowing that I raised money for a worthy cause. PRs can wait for other times. This event is going to be fun.

My planned 5K costume

My planned 5K costume

My planned 10K costume

My planned 10K costume

I’m not saying that this plan works best for anyone other than me but having used it a couple of times I am comfortable with the approach and hope to stay fit and healthy enough to get to the start line and to finish the event. My travel plans are fixed, I have my advanced dining reservations (including a character dine) and I am looking forward to buying lots of presents for my two little boys who will be cheering my on from back home in Pennsylvania). I look forward to meeting up with all my Facebook friends who are also taking part in the Marathon Weekend and look forward to meeting new people and seeing my favorite characters out there on the course and in the parks. This will be my third consecutive Walt Disney World Marathon and ultimately my second Goofy (as a matter of doing the Dopey too). Lots to look forward to over the coming weeks.

Thank you for reading.

2014 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Medals

Photo courtesy of runDisney

Photo courtesy of runDisney

So this is what I am working towards. Today runDisney shared this picture on Facebook. It shows all the medals that will be awarded for completing the ‘Dopey Challenge‘ in January.

The 5K run this year is a timed run. They actually did away with the stroller division this year which is a shame. Runners receive the Pluto medallion for completing this race.

Pluto 5K medalliion

Pluto 5K medalliion

The new inaugural 10K has a Minnie Mouse medal.

Minnie Mouse 10K medal

Minnie Mouse 10K medal

As in prior years a Donald Duck medal is awarded for the half marathon and a Mickey Mouse medal is reserved for the main event, the full marathon.

Donald Duck Half Marathon medal

Donald Duck Half Marathon medal

Mickey Mouse Full Marathon medal

Mickey Mouse Full Marathon medal

The Goofy medal is awarded to folks who run the half marathon and the full marathon on the Saturday and Sunday for a total of 39.3 miles (‘Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge’).  Goofy runners receive the Donald, the Mickey and the Goofy medals.

Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge medal

Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge medal

This year the new event is the inaugural Dopey Challenge. In prior years people claimed an unofficial Dopey by running the 5K along with the Goofy Challenge. This years addition of the 10K marks the begining of the official Dopey. In order to receive this medal you run all 4 races on 4 consecutive days for a total of 48.6 miles. Dopey runners receive the Pluto medallion, the Minnie, Donald and Mickey medals plus the Goofy medal (they did run Goofy) and the Dopey medals for a total of 6 medals. Not to mention the official race shirts. I’m going to need a bigger suitcase for the journey home.

Dopey Challenge medal

Dopey Challenge medal

This week my wife and I (plus my 6 year old son) hung up our race medals received to date. Judging by this new collection I will hopefully earn we are going to need a bigger wall, another curtain rod or another house.

Our family medal collection 2011 to 2013

Our family medal collection 2011 to 2013