In most areas of the world, mice are shrieked at and met with immense disapproval. That is unless you’re at Disney World! My family and I just returned from a fantastic trip to the happiest place on earth where we rode rides, hugged Disney characters, ate junk food, hugged each others, met new people and then hugged those people too. Oh, yah! I almost forgot. I also ran a very very long way in costume!
My family is very often described as “goofy.” We are cheerful, outgoing, happy and …. well… sort of crazy. So when my Dad and I heard about the Goofy Challenge at Disney World we started making plans to take a good old fashioned family vacation to visit the big mouse himself. To earn a Goofy Challenge metal you must run a half marathon, followed the next day with a full marathon. It’s stupid. It’s dumb. It’s a nutty idea…. So naturally we had to do it.
In addition to the two Goof-balls, my sister signed up to run the half marathon and my brother-in-law registered for the full marathon.
As if running 39.3 miles in two days isn’t crazy enough, I decided to pay homage to the queen of Disney herself; Minnie Mouse. I donned a puffy polka-dotted skirt, mouse ears and white gloves during my 384 minutes of running, earning cheers and high fives from hundreds of strangers.
A warm ovation followed me throughout both races as volunteers, spectators and even fellow runners yelled “Go Minnie!” as I came by. I’m considering wearing the costume every day. The positive energy and words of encouragement were intoxicating.
The first race was the half marathon. The race started at 6:30 a.m., but we were required to be in our starting corals by 5:30 a.m. Disney races are HUGE so getting everyone organized, herded into the right starting positions and ready to run takes hours. According to our race instructions, we were asked to arrive by 3:30 a.m. That made our wake up call 2:30 a.m. I had definitely never been awake on the front side of 2:30 before. Sure, I’d seen 2:30 after partying or getting entranced in a particularly enthralling game of Snood, but getting up in the “morning” at 2:30, that’s just absurd.
I got a surprisingly restful night of sleep. I was able to fall asleep before 9 p.m., so I wasn’t exhausted. I got dressed, shimmied into my Minnie skirt and hopped in the car with my fellow runners; Erin and Dad.
We arrived at Epcot at about 3:30 a.m. As we approached the runner’s staging area I quickly realized this wasn’t going to be like any other race I had run before. We walked into a hopping party! Music was thumping and people were dancing. It was like walking into the weirdest rave ever: spandex, water slamming contests, people in costumes, random Disney Characters. It was like the best dream ever! If only there was a swimming pool full of marshmallows!
You’ll never guess who was there to party with us: Pluto and Scrooge McDuck! Scrooge thought me and Erin were a little too loud for 4 in the morning, and plugged his ears as we pummeled him with hugs. Naturally, he lived up to his name.
After our photo op, we started making our way towards the starting line. It was about a 20 minute walk from the staging area. Our packed herd marched together in a slow, cold waddle. It was only about 40 degrees catching many runners off guard including Miss Minnie. My shivering caught the attention of some very nice fellow runners. They gave me their throw-away blanket. When was the last time you saw someone help a mouse in need? I love runners. They are all so nice!
The starting area was HUGE. There were eight corrals holding more than 15,000 runners. There was a huge jumbotron broadcasting inspirational short stories and panning the crowd. I separated from my Erin and Dad, as they were assigned to a different corral. I arrived just in time to see Mickey, Minnie and Donald arrive. They were decked out (or in Donald’s case: Ducked out) in track suits. It was adorable. The first wave started promptly at 5:30. Donald counted them down and the race started with a bang, literally, as fireworks filled the air. Another wave started every six minutes, to a whole new round of fire works. I was happy to be in corral D so I could see half of the show! I waved to Mickey and crew on the stage as I ran past the start line where I promptly stopped.
The runners in my corral were much slower than my pace. In fact, the 2:45 pacer was located at the back of my corral. I typically run under 2 hours! I spent the first several miles running around and through much slower runners as I tried to keep my natural cadence. In addition, it was still dark, so finding footing was challenging while trying to pass. I was a bit frustrated, but before I knew it, the Disney magic kicked in and my crankiness melted away. Within the first mile we saw a high school band, and some stilt walkers. Throughout the course there were Disney characters on the side of the road cheering and posing for photos. I saw Launch Pad (Duck Tales) the Tangled princess, the Queen of Hearts (Alice in Wonderland), Woody (Toy Story), Chip and Dale, Captain Jack Sparrow and Duffy! My new BFF.
Despite the frustration of having to constantly pass slower runners the entire race, I had a blast.
I gave Mickey and Minnie a high five as I crossed the finish line. A volunteer draped the Donald metal around my neck as I started to cool down to a walk. Only a few steps into my cool down I realized, uh-oh, my quads are already sore and I have to run another 26.2 miles tomorrow! Yikes!
After getting some post race snacks, I entered Epcot to watch the rest of my clan finish. Dad came next, running towards the finish line at a comfortable pace.
I met up with the rest of my family and waited for Erinto finish. We cheered like crazy when she came around the corner! I hopped back on the course (illegally) to walk with her for a bit. She was tired, and her knees hurt, but she was doing it!
I was overcome with pride as she crossed the finish line and achieved one of her bucket list items. Way to go Sis! We’ve drug another person into the running cult!
We returned to our condo and took a quick nap and spent the rest of the day at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Despite my sore legs, I spent several more hours on my feet walking around the park. Thankfully I ran into Tigger who gave me some advice about bouncing to the finish on my tail. Sadly, I left my tail at home!
The following day we awoke at 3 a.m. and relived the same morning routine.
I said a quick hello to Daisy Duck who complimented my skirt and bow.
After the national anthem and firework start, we were off. Despite being in the same corral, the pace of my fellow runners was much better suited to my preference.
I locked into a slow steady pace and held onto it throughout the first 20 miles. I walked through some water stops and took one bathroom break along the way. Disney characters, bands and DJs lined the course as we traveled through all three Disney Parks: The Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Epcot. Running down main street of the magic kingdom was overwhelming. People screamed and cheered as I ran towards Cinderella’s iconic castle. I cherished the parts we were running inside the park. It was like running in a dream, or more appropriately: a fairy tale. “Go Minnie!” echoed from every angle. My legs hurt. My quads were screaming at me from the very start. They must have gotten caught up in the Disney experience too, because after a while, the quieted down and allowed me to finish the race with only moderate discomfort.
When I hit the 20 mile mark, it was time to burn through the rest of my energy reserves. Unlike every other marathon I’ve done, I did not start fast, so I had more gas in the tank to use up. I picked up my pace for the last six miles, passing hundreds of runners. I felt great given the context, and finished with a huge smile on my face.
On most occasions running 39.3 miles in two days sounds like torture, but at Disney I was sad to be done!
Despite the back to back races coupled with extensive walking on the days leading up to the race, I clocked decent times:
Half Marathon: 2:02:19, 181 of 1889 in my division
Full Marathon: 4:18:34, 162/1114 in my division
I am now officially Goofy! Although I’m sure most people would claim that I didn’t need to run 39.2 miles to prove that.