This is my race report for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend that I just completed a week ago. Why so late in getting this done? Because honestly, I do not even know where to begin. I still don't, but I am feeling the need to share about this amazing experience. Just a note ahead of time: this is not going to be your average race report. So here we go!
First and foremost: I FINISHED all three races!! WooHoo!! The Family 5K, the Half Marathon, and the Full Marathon are all in the books -- all 42.4 miles of them! In doing so, I completed what's called the Goofy Challenge (running a Half and a Full marathon in two consecutive days). And because I ran the 5K also, I completed what is unofficially called "The Dopey". Because seriously folks, only someone who is totally Goofy and Dopey would do such a thing and call it "fun"! LOL
Last January, I watched my teammates from WISH, and my good friend Beth, finish the Walt Disney Marathon. I was so excited for them! Several had completed the Goofy Challenge, and a few had even gone "Dopey". As we celebrated, and later that same evening spent hours in the Magic Kingdom going on rides, I thought "Gee, I wonder if I can do that." They all looked so 'okay' -- no limping, no complaining, looking comfortable, and with broad smiles all around. I was like "Really? You just ran 42+ miles and you're walking the park like nothing happened? Wow!"
I wanted to have that experience. I wanted to 'be like them' because they were all so awesome. I had just completed my first Half Marathon, and as exciting and fulfilling as that feat was for me, I couldn't help but yearn for that next milestone: The Full, and maybe even The Goofy! By the end of January, I had made the decision to train for my first Full Marathon, and even crazier yet, set my sights on the Goofy.
So I got serious. I decided to run the Chicago Marathon first so that I would know how my body would handle that distance, and what it would take to recover well. Then I decided to sign up for the Goofy Challenge, figuring I might as well "Go All In". Go Hard or Go Home, right?
So I trained consistently in 2012 In fact, it seemed like all I did last year was run races and train. It was a huge commitment of time and energy. My family indulged me through this whole thing. I am not sure they really understood why I wanted to do this, but they supported me anyway. So 1,132 miles and 20+ races later, the time had come for me to put all this work to the test.
So we went to Disney World. I felt prepared. I was confident that I could do this. I was resolute. I remembered my elation at finishing the Disney 5K & Half back in January, and I couldn't wait to have that 'new' feeling of finishing the Full and donning that coveted Goofy medal. And, I succeeded! It was a truly magical moment when I crossed the finish line of the Full Marathon. It really was.
But what I realized during my Disney experience this time around, was that even more than the actual running -- and finishing -- of the races was the joy of being able to share the experience. The most significant memories I have of WDW 2013 have everything to do with family, my racing teammates, and the friendships forged and deepened during the six days at Walt Disney World.
Memories that will be with me forever:
- Starting the 5K race with my son and my running partner's whole family, including his young son Robert who already had three medals from the day before (and would finish his first 5K that day).
- Trying to catch up with my son, who finished the race four minutes ahead of me and was there when I crossed the finish line. This was his second Disney 5K race, and I am so proud of how far his running has improved in just the last four months
- Meeting up with my WISH running team on Friday afternoon -- 30-40 of us. Such an awesome reunion! Especially members of our racing group Hakuna Matata who I have gotten to know so well over the past year via social media, text messaging, and the occasional phone call.
- Meeting Joe Taricani of The Marathon Show podcast face-to-face for the very first time! What an amazing person! I can't even count how many training runs I have done while listening to Joe keeping me company via his podcasts. Joe, it was an honor to meet you!
- Getting to meet Rudy Novonty, the announcer for RunDisney and a fantastic runner and advocate for the sport, while at the Expo. Rudy, what a privilege! And do you know that he called out my name at the start of the Half as I passed by? Wow!
- Chilling out in the pool with my son after I finished the Half Marathon. It was a good alternative to an ice bath, and it gave Ryan and I some awesome time together.
- Getting into Corral B!!!! LOL
- Running dressed up as Woody for the Half, and having so many people get a kick out of that! And having the good fortune to run into Jessie and Bullseye inside the Magic Kingdom and getting a cool photo with them during the race!
- Running the Half with my teammate Vicky and running the Full with my teammate Kimberly. With all seriousness, running with these two ladies was the best part of both of those races. We had a total blast during the races, and when it was tough going, the feeling of mutual support and shared purpose kept us moving forward together. Bonds were forged in sweat and laughter during those races and team Hakuna Matata is simply the best!
- Running into various friends along the course was simply amazing! Running into my running partner Mike right after the Speedway and hanging with him through Animal Kingdom. Folks from our WISH group -- scream teams -- who were there with food, water, cold washcloths, hugs, and encouragement right when I needed it most. Running into Beth, and later Liz, while running through Wide World of Sports. Seeing friends like Eddie McCoy who always seemed to be there towards the end of the race to cheer me on and grab a quick photo. It seemed like there was always someone around to say "Go Rick! Looking good!" It was kinda like magic, really.
- Seeing my wife and son cheering for me around Mile 25.5 as I was running to the finish of the Full Marathon. They had to leave to catch their flight home so I did not see them at the Finish, but seeing them right before it was a major energy boost for me!
Oh, I could go on and on, and I am not even sure I can adequately convey how special this race weekend was for me. All I know is, it may have been the best race experience I have ever had. Way better than in January 2012, and I thought that one was pretty awesome!
So, did I enjoy the racing itself? Yes, I did. Was it difficult? Yes, the last ten miles of the Full was quite difficult. Was it worth it? Absolutely!!!
But if you ask me what the most memorable thing about running The Dopey was, it was the sense of shared purpose and friendship that I experienced with my teammates, and knowing that we all just achieved something pretty unique. And doing it at Disney World just made the whole thing that much more magical!