As previously indicated, the wife and I had been training for a few months to run in the Goofy's Race and a Half Challenge at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. This event consists of doing the Half Marathon (mascot: Donald Duck) on Saturday and the full Marathon (mascot: Mickey Mouse) on Sunday. We did the Disney Marathon as our first (and only, up to this point) 26.2mi race two years ago and looked forward to going back. So, down to Orlando we went. I should point out that our entire trip is documented over at my Travel Log; this entry is only about the race so head over there if you're interested in reading more about our trip.
We went to the expo on Friday, the day before the Half. Check-in was as efficient as possible, just what you'd come to expect from Disney as they have operations management down to a finely-tuned machine. We picked up our bibs (with integrated D-Tags this time...wahoo!) and then went to check out the available merchandise (the official merchandise is available both in the building where you get your bib and the other building that has the expo and goody bag pickup). Last time we did this, we were unable to buy any of the cool marathon jackets (that were really nice as they had sold out of them early; this is why we went to the expo early on Friday morning). However...the really nice Goofy Challenge jackets had sold out, with only XL left (way too big for either one of us!). Nuts. We checked the other merchandise area and they were out too. We did end up buying a bunch of stuff (how often does one do an event like this?), including a marathon (not the Goofy) jacket and a really nice sweatshirt for me two jackets and a pullover for the wife. We got a couple other things too. We then picked up our actual goody bags (you get tech shirts for each race and one for the Goofy, so three in all, and they are really nice shirts...high quality). We also ran into an old friend who was there to run, which was nice to catch up. After we completed our purchasing, we left the expo and spent the rest of the day relaxing. Dinner was at the Yachtsman Steakhouse (their webpage is here and their TripAdvisor page is here), which was fantastic.
Saturday, Half Marathon day. Up at 3am. Dressed and out the door. We had some food from the Runner's Breakfast Box we obtained from our resort (prepackaged bagel, peanut butter, granola bar, banana, and water), which is an excellent thing to make available. We rode the bus over to the start, at Epcot, with no issues. We did the bag check, hung out for a little while, and then began the ~0.5mi walk to the starting corral. being in Corral F, we had to wait quite some time to get going. Each corral gets its own start, with a start from Donald Duck, fireworks, etc. Pretty cool stuff. By 6am, we were out and running. We took this race pretty easily and ran it in nowhere near a PR for either one of us. We stopped and took pictures with some of the characters (there are a lot of characters out on the course, which is awesome!) and the wife videotaped some of the cool parts of the run, including going into the Magic Kingdom. For this course, you run directly from the start outside of Epcot to the Magic Kingdom, around that park, and then back to Epcot, circling through some of it and ending where you start the day, in one of the big Epcot parking lots. The roads between the two parks are pretty uneventful but there are lots of characters to see, other entertainment including bands every so often, etc. Running down Main Street USA in Magic Kingdom is awesome. The course is almost all flat, with the major hills being the ramps to/from various roads during the interpark portions. You don't spent too much time in either park, but when you are in the parks, it's awesome. I will say that this run felt very tight, making it hard to run around slower-moving folks in the more narrow areas. This is made more complicated by the number of people that walk the whole thing and do so four or five people abreast, despite the rule to do it only two abreast. Not cool, folks. Overall, this was quite a fun run; I would not, however, ever try to set a 13.1mi PR here due to the congestion and very crowded conditions.
After the Half, we headed back to our resort, ate some breakfast (Mickey-shaped waffles!) and spent the rest of the day relaxing and doing some walking around Downtown Disney. We had an early 3pm dinner at Portobello there (here is their webpage and their TripAdvisor page). This place was OK but not as good as the other Italian options that Disney has, in Epcot and at the Swan and Dolphin hotels. We went to bed early, around 8pm, tired from the 3am wakeup call and dreading the repeat of that the next day.
Sunday, Marathon day. Up at 3am. Dressed and out the door. Same foodstuffs as the previous day. The ride over was just an quick and relaxing and it felt like we were standing in the corral for less time this morning. Mickey Mouse started this race, and off we went. This course is a little different as you start by running a loop through Epcot, looping back to the starting line area at mile four. It's somewhat depressing to run four miles and end up right back at the start, but oh well. :) Then the course is similar to the Half Marathon course up to the Magic Kingdom, with only a few changes to add some distance. Once through that park, the course changes and you run down to the Animal Kingdom. This stretch is hard, because it's all on back roads with not much to see. There are still characters and bands, but it's a lot less of an event than the rest of the course. It also runs past the water treatment plan and the composting plants, which stink to high heaven. Plus it's a long stretch, something like 5 or 6 miles. During the first half of the full marathon, we felt great and were running well, faster than our time from the actual race the day before. Then, at about mile 18, the challenge of the Goofy really kicked in and we both hit a big energy drop and soreness in the legs. It really sucked that this was about when we were getting close to Animal Kingdom, but not there yet. Here is where you dig deep.
The run from Animal Kingdom over to Hollywood Studios is not much better. It's long, it's all on roads, and there isn't much to see. At this point in the race, it's hard. But we just kept going and eventually turned into Hollywood Studios, right behind the Tower of Terror (the best ride EVER). Then you hit the chocolate stop (I had a Krackle :)). Here is where the race picks up again, as you run through Hollywood Studios, out to the Yacht and Beach Club resorts (our favorite ones) and then through to Epcot. It's pretty much nonstop with lots of spectators cheering and lots to see. We entered Epcot, ran through the World Showcase, and to the finish line, with just enough energy to sprint to the end. We received our Marathon medals and turned the corner, where we received our Goofy medals. Full marathon, and the Goofy Challenge, completed.
The full is a challenging course. Like the half (and all of Florida, really), it's mostly flat with the hills being the ramps connecting the roads. The parts through the parks are wonderful and amazing; the parts on the connecting roads are much like any other running race. This race was a lot less congested than the half marathon was. The first half was really good and were were surprised by how good we felt...only to be challenged quite a bit in the back half. We were only a few minutes off our time from two years ago, when we did the full marathon, so that's good.
After the race, we went back to the room, dealt with some built-up GI issues, celebrated with some champagne, ate some lunch, and napped until dinner. We had dinner at Citricos (here is their webpage and here is their TripAdvisor page), one of our favorite restaurants in Walt Disney World, which was fantastic. I had some braised beef short rib, which was amazing...probably the best dinner I've had in months. Then, off to bed, very happy to be done.
So that's it. The Goofy Challenge was the big event for the wife and me. We knew this was going to be hard, and it was. We learned a lot about the challenges of this type of unique event and how the half affects the full. We learned that the two 3am wakeups in a row affected us moreso that the running did. We learned that we like training together as it gives us a lot of disconnected time just for the two of us (the wife has a great post about this). We also learned that if we decide to do something, we can get it done. I don't think we'll be doing this event again; once is probably enough. It was a great event and Disney does it well; if you're looking for something fun to do in addition to a full marathon, I highly recommend this. It is appropriately named...the Goofy Challenge.
jeffsix.com / All content created by Jeff Six and may not be used without expressed permission.