Early in 2016 I hit the actual love emotion when it came to running. Coming off an injury and several races along with a half marathon PR, it was the perfect combination of drive and emotion as registration opened for the 2017 Dopey Challenge. The opportunity to push the limits, run multiple times in the most magical place on Earth, and use that as an outlet to encourage women across borders to treat their body’s the best way they can swelled up passion and purpose.
Being hooked on running + Disney and the love of providing health tips to the community, I took the opportunity and literally ran with it. The next 9 months were grueling, the training was long, the motivation came in waves, and my family was beyond gracious to put up with the inconvenient training, moments of exhaustion, and all of the emotions.
God was so faithful through that season. A season of learning, training, not always getting it right, battling the selfish ambition and forgetting the purpose of using as a way to encourage women, but keeping me safe, allowing me to have encouraging words from my community, and seeing me through to the finish line of the Walt Disney World Marathon, and the reminder that HE gets all the glory.
So mom, mimi, and I arrived on Wednesday, slightly stressed, because traveling does that to me in weird ways, basically becoming another person and not a super pleasant one. After getting the expo we battled crowds and unexpected delays for over 2 hours until we finally were able to get back to the resort room. We ate a great dinner, and got ready to run race number one the next morning.
Day #1 – WDW5K – Katie, Dad, and J got in late Wednesday evening and at 4am the next morning the four ladies hopped on a bus to head to the 5K start line. We all started back corral F to start together, it was quiet chilly, but we all huddled together and braved through it. By the time we started my legs were stiff and the anxiety of starting off four days of racing with stiff legs started to build. So mom and I stretched our legs a bit and ran out a bit ahead of Katie and Mimi, but we all had an incredible time! Since mom and I had done the Princess 5K in 2016 we knew what to expect so we made the absolute most of this experience and loved every minute of it. Mimi did GREAT finishing her first 5K we were so proud of her, and so thankful to have that memory with the four of us!
We spent the rest of the day at Hollywood Studios and enjoyed Minnie’s Seasonal Dining @ Hollywood & Vine for the first time and would highly recommend it; both the characters and food were excellent.
Day #2 – WDW10K – Dad was up to bat with me on this one. We went with a super hero theme so we hopped on the bus at 3:40am as Captain America & Black Widow. Having learned my lesson from Thursday more layers were added to shed at the start and I stayed relatively warm, and dad was gracious to let me stand in line for pics with Minnie (which ended up being some of my favorite from the whole trip) before we went to the corral Dad was all the rage and got numerous cheers from spectators along the course. The best part of this course was running the Boardwalk which we had never been on, smelling the bakery along the way, and seeing new sights. This experience with my dad was top. We sprinted to the finish together and got to experience the medals and snacks as father-daughter. Sweet time with my dad I don’t often get.
The rest of Friday was spent at Animal Kingdom, although I started to feel a little sore and tired earlier than I anticipated so by 2pm we were ready to come back in. Favorite parts of Animal Kingdom were getting a glimpse of the new baby elephant, the active tigers, and a little one on one time with Jon at Yak & Yeti for lunch- recommended by Disney Food Blog, and it did not disappoint.
Day #3 – WDWHalf – This day ended up being a little unorthodox, the half ended up being cancelled due to threatening storms, but that did not stop mom and I? Nope. We found a break in the rain early in the morning and headed out. No lie – it was brutal. Mom had a tough time, the humidity was sweltering, the motivation was challenging since it was dark and quiet, but she did it and we did it. And there were SO MANY OTHER PEOPLE DOING IT. Even spectators with fuel! And of course in the last mile dad stepped in and helped encourage mom to the end. Much to our surprise runDisney offered both refunds & transfers so it won’t be the end of our attempt. And we still got 13.1 in!
After that we headed to the expo for two reasons (1) to see if we could get mom her medal and refund – no we didn’t because it was a crazy long line and (2) to see if there were warmer clothes options for me since the start of the marathon was supposed to in the 30s – this was much more successful. Finally it was time for brunch at Chef Mickey’s, one of our favorite family traditions when coming to Disney. While usually doing breakfast we ended up only being able to get a later time slot and enjoyed a great brunch instead. The rest of the day was spent relaxing, mom and dad went off for a date night at Disney Springs and the rest of us relaxed around the resort.
Day #4 – WDWMarathon – The day was finally here, the end of the journey, getting to do it hand in hand with my sister, and seeing the finish line on the other side. It was FREEZING, really really really cold, but we bundled and were more than happy when the fireworks finally went off for the start! Our tempo wasn’t super quick, but it was super steady as we went mile by mile through parks and down long stretches of highway together. Magic Kingdom and ESPN Wide World of sports were our favorite spots to run through, and the chocolate stop at Mile 23 was probably the best chocolate that I had EVER tasted (not really but it sure felt like it).
We turned the corner at Mile 26 and surged to the finish arms in the air, embracing in a hug, and excitedly getting the best medal I’ve ever seen. She did it, we did it together, and it was incredible.
Magic Kingdom had never been more fun, and cold, but we enjoyed the rides, the characters, the castle, shopping down main street, FOOD, and the Kitchen Sink (a massive ice cream sundae) which was something I had dreamed about eating after I finished the Dopey Challenge. The actual sink now sits on my kitchen table with chocolates for us and any company.
We headed out of the park around 7pm, I was exhausted and Jon is always a good sport about going with the flow. It had been an incredible trip, but sleep was winning the battle. We stopped in for a small dinner when we got back, but were mostly just ready for bed.
Day #5 – Goodbye – I always hate saying goodbye. It might sound silly, but I really do see Disney as a second home, some of my favorite childhood memories coming from there, and the time spent with my family is always so rich. We spent the day at Disney Springs eating lunch at D-Luxe Burger (YES YOU NEED TO GO), enjoying the shopping and just the relaxing nature of the strip without all the crowds. Eventually it was time for Dad and J to take off, and shortly after for us to head towards the resort to grab the airport shuttle.
So what to take from all this? One I learned a lot about how speed isn’t always important. I love to run fast, and I love to train to get faster and see my PR’s keeping dropping, but some opportunities aren’t for that, and if I had run up during this weekend I would have missed out on so much, so many moments and memories with family.
There is a time for racing and there is a time for memories, don’t miss out!
God is good, I could have never done this without God crafting me exactly the way he did, and His faithfulness throughout training. I just pray that he continues to be glorified!
And lastly, yes I would do it again and again and again!
Publix Full Marathon in March
Chick Fil A Half in April
Peachtree Road Race in July
Disneyland Half in September
Thanksgiving Day Half in November
JG 13.1 in December
Stay tuned !!!!