Saturday, January 12, 2008

Goofy Challenge, Part 1

This whole idea came up over a year ago when I heard about the Goofy Challenge. I needed to get a Florida marathon still and I had heard from a couple of people in our running group that the Disney World Marathon was a blast. Upon doing the research for the race I found out that they hold the Half on Saturday and the Whole on Sunday and that the Goofy “Race and a Half” Challenge was to complete them both, so I thought that I would try it…I recruited a few of my fellow runners…although their story sounds a lot like I really pressured them but in the end we all signed up for the event.

I really hate getting up early in the morning and for both the half and the full it was required that we be on a bus no later than 4 AM. This meant that I was up and getting ready by 2:55 AM on Saturday morning…this was nuts!!

Thankfully we had prepared a lot the night before so I had everything laid out that I needed. The resort we were staying at (Disney’s All Star Movies) had prepared runners boxes that we purchased the night before so that I would have a good breakfast before the run. I donned my shorts, socks, shoes and shirt. I ate my banana and bagel and washed it down with half a Powerade. Grabbed my water, granola bar, and drop bag, kissed my wife good bye and headed out to meet the group.

My wife and I had talked at length about how we were going to handle this race and we decided that there was really no place for her to meet me along the course so I would just catch up with her when everything was done and over.

We planned to meet in the lobby of our hotel at 3:30 and get on the 3:45 bus, but at 3:40 we were missing one…Kristen, Rich, Bill, Andy, Melissa…’where is Jodi?’ Kristen called Jodi’s husband who said that he dropped her off at 3:15. We were perplexed but we got on the 3:45 bus and decided to look for her at the bag drop.

The bus ride was rather quite and only half full. The bus took us straight to the drop off area at Epcot. There were so many lights that it was nearly daylight. Like sheep, or moths to a flame, all of us on the bus, as well as all the other buses walked toward the light and the runner’s area.

As we entered into the runners area we started to realize that finding Jodi in this mass of people was going to be an achievement and virtually impossible!! We slowly started to walk to the bag drop area and we all kept a close eye out for our friend in hope of catching her. We got all the way down to the end and realized that this might take quite a while. We devised a plan…we would walk back toward the front gate one last time and them make our way back to drop our bags.

We slowly walked and as we approached the gate I hear “BILL!!!” I look toward the yell and there was Jodi…she looked like she was about to cry. I called the rest of the group over and we found out that her husband had indeed dropped her off at 3:15 but at the All Star MUSIC resort. By the time she realized the error she figured we would have already headed to the start and she had hoped that she would find us. Thankfully I always try to wear a bright shirt and she said it made it easy to spot me.

With all of us together we headed to the bag drop and the restroom. The first was rather quick the second not so much so. The line for the porta-potty was huge…but I stuck my head through the other side of the bag drop tent and noticed that the ‘runner’s area’ had nearly 4 times as many porta-potties as the meeting side. I did my business without having to wait in line and then headed back to the group…all of them were waiting in this line that looked like it would take hours to go through so I told them about the other side and they all took off!

After a little time of lingering around the bag drop area we started following the crowd to the starting line. What a walk?!?! It literally took us a good 15-20 minutes of walking to get to the starting area. We of course stopped again to use the rest room but quickly moved along and found our respective corrals.

Rich and Andy were a few corrals back and I was somehow in the same corral with Kristen and Jodi…I kept thinking that there must have been some mistake but there wasn’t. Melissa dropped back a corral to start with us.

The action at the starting line was amazing. They had a huge screen so that everyone could see what was going on stage. They had tons of music with video to keep us entertained while we waited for the gun. As the start time approached Mickey, Minney, Donald, and Goofy got on stage and with a 10 second count down we saw the wheelchair racers head off. 2 minutes later we were doing our 10 second count down…this one came with bursts of fireworks with each number and a big burst of color for the ‘GO!’

We wished each other well and headed off into the darkness that was the early morning of January 12th. I really had to go to the bathroom again and decided I would stop at the first porta-potty but it looks like 100’s of runners had the same idea so I waited until I was a mile down the road and I ducked off the road and head for the trees. I wasn’t the only one here either.

I quickly took care of business and headed back for the road only to find a number of not so kind runners just feet off the road doing what I was doing in the trees…I had to be fleet of foot and watch where I was heading otherwise I might have ended up with a wet leg!

Back on the road I was greeted with the sounds of a huge marching band. I was happy to hear the up beat music and it kept me moving. The music on the course was fantastic. We had marching bands, DJ’s, a steel drum band, the music of Disney, and a choir! I was very happy to have the distractions when they came and the tempo was great.

If I have one complaint about either race it would be the condition of the roads. This is a flat race for the most part but there are areas especially on the on and off ramps to the highways that could use some help…there are pot holes but the biggest issue for me was that that road was not level. It slopped sometimes as much as 20 degrees and caused me a bit of discomfort.

On the main highway to the Magic Kingdom I passed Melissa and Jodi when they stopped to use the rest room. I was happy to see that I was not that far behind them and that I was feeling really good. I continued on. When we neared the Magic Kingdom the race directors had a little fun with the route and allowed us to choose which way we wanted to go in the parking lot. To the left you would get to listen to Disco and to the right Heavy Metal…I loved the idea…but it would have been a good idea for them to tell the runners about this because I saw a lot of confused people when they saw the split! BTW…I went the Heavy Metal route…only because it looked shorter!!

We entered Magic Kingdom from a side employee entrance but once in the park we ran right up Main Street and turned toward Future Land. The streets were lined with people, characters, and employees all cheering us on. We entered the Castle with a bit of fanfare and exited the Castle with pictures being taken…unfortunately none of mine must have turned out since I don’t have any from this spot on the course.

We wind our way through the rest of Magic Kingdom and exit through another employee area. We end up on one of the major roads that connect the hotels and find a beautiful golf course…that sport is so easy in comparison to this!! These roads lead us right back to the main highway where we start heading back toward Epcot.

Along the roadway back I noticed some signs off to the side…now I told you that there was a lot of music along the route but as time went by it became a bit of noise to me so I needed something to distract me, these signs were just the thing. Sharpe was one of the sponsors and the signs were theirs…they contained useless facts such as “285 times: is the number of times that Kramer entered Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment.” They kept me entertained the rest of the race.

We entered Epcot and did a simple “out and back” where we ran to the lake made a u-turn and ran right back toward the front gate…where once again we were ushered out an employee gate. Around the corner there was a full gospel choir!! It was fantastic! Upbeat, loud, and inspirational for the final stretch, we turned to go out another gate and saw the crowd for the finish line. The stands were packed with people and the volume was high. We had to run about 100 yard to the finish line with people all around screaming and cheering. WOW, what a feeling.

I made sure to take my time and save some energy for Sunday but I still was able to run a fantastic race: 13.1 miles in 2:17 (chip time)!!
Made my way to get my medal and have my wristband swapped out for tomorrow’s race. Sat in the sun with the other finishers and waited for the rest of the group to come in. We all finished so we are all ready for tomorrow!!


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