Dopey 2019: 5k day

Today is 5k day. The first of 4 running days making up the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend and the Dopey Challenge. That thing we’ve been training for, that thing I really wanted to do again for some unknown reason, well that thing starts here.

Before we fell into bed after Expo day we got sorted. I woke up at 1am again but dozed off for the alarm to wake me at 2.30. We are still pretty much on UK time so it really didn’t feel that bad. We had a drink in bed and a bagel we’d picked up yesterday. They were dry though so not that nice. Normally I wouldn’t eat anything before a 5k but as we had to be there such a long time before actually running I didn’t want to be really hungry by the time I set off. We got on the first coach at 3.30 and tried to find our inner zen. It was cold! I had planned on long sleeves anyway but I was so glad I decided to wear the official 5k t-shirt over the top. I was still cold.

From the coach parking area we walked a short distance to the security, we didn’t have bags so walked pretty much straight in. I remember last time we did Dopey I was completely overwhelmed on half marathon day because I’d presumed the crowds would be the same as for the 5 and 10k races so I must remember that things will step up significantly on Saturday. Anyway, in the waiting area they had characters for pictures but the lines were really long and we didn’t want to stand in a queue for half an hour minimum. We went to the loo. Event organisers take note – no queues! There were sooooo many loos. We found a bench and huddled together trying to keep warm and watched people and listened to the DJ until it was time to move on to the corrals. There were only 3 for this race and we were in B. It was actually nice to be in a crowd, it made it quite a lot warmer.

We went through about 4.30am and waited and waited some more. The hosts, presenters, whatever you call them did a pretty good job of entertaining us. Just before 5.30 there was the usual National Anthem and then we were off. Once we started moving from the corral it seemed to just move along ok. It probably took us just over 20 minutes to cross the line. They released little mini waves from within each corral at two minute intervals. So, I thought as I came to the line, this is it, Dopey her we go.

The run was amazing. The first couple of hundred metres were a bit stop/start and very slow because people were still clustered together and many were walking but it soon thinned out and people found their pace. I settled in. I had no idea how fast I was running at all. I didn’t care. I felt good and the pace felt comfortable. We made our way out of the Epcot parking lot and into the backlot entrance and then into the park. There is something truly magical about seeing Epcot in the pre-dawn darkness. I was in danger of being overwhelmed again but instead I realised I was grinning like the Cheshire Cat. We ran a chunk of the world Showcase and turned left after France and round a little backlot and came out in the UK. I don’t even remember now what the music was but I was humming along as I ran.

There were quite a few characters on the route but I didn’t want to stop, I was having too much fun running and soaking it all up. We turned towards Future World and the ‘golf ball’ looked spectacular as we did a loop away from it before returning and exiting the park into the parking lot and across the finish line. I know I loved the 5k last time too but this was even better. It was easy running, I was just having fun, running confidently and comfortably, not worrying about pace or anything. It was the perfect start.

We picked up our medals. I love the Oswald medal. Obviously I haven’t seen the others properly yet but I think this one might actually be my favourite. Again, race organisers take note, there was lots of space, there were lots of volunteer to first give you the medal, then water and Powerade, then space blankets, then snack boxes and bananas. Once we’d got all that we headed for the buses and encountered a rare Disney logistics fail. The buses could not depart until all runner’s had started and cleared the parking lot section of the race. This seemed idiotic. We waited longer for a bus than it had taken us to run. We had thought about going straight to the animal kingdom which opened at 8am this morning but there was no way of doing that. Given that we had to go to a Resort first we thought we might as well dump our stuff and get changed.

We had a lovely morning in the Animal Kingdom and then came back to the hotel. We’re both really tired and are trying to stay off our feet. Today’s a 21000 step day, that’s very light for a Disney theme park day. Apart from being cold pretty much all day, today has been a great day with lots of fun and smiles. Anxiety levels crept up a little as I got more tired later in the day and I had a few really self-conscious moments today too but overall another really good day. I’m about ready for sleep (it’s about 8pm) and ready for another 2.30am alarm. 10k tomorrow. We are all set. I’m excited about it and a little nervous but really only a little.

Dopey 2019: Arrival and Expo Day

Well Dopey 2019 is underway. It’s 5k day. I meant to blog last night to tell you about travel and expo etc but I was too tired! So today you’ll get two posts. Let’s start with getting here. We actually set off on Monday afternoon and drove to Manchester airport. We’d booked an airport hotel just in case the weather was going to be bad. As it turned out we didn’t really need it but it was still nice to get our Disney World adventure started. We had an early dinner in the hotel, watched TV for a while and then got an early night.

In the morning we had a cuppa in bed and an apple, showered and wandered down to check out of the hotel and into our flight. Everything went smoothly and even security was pretty fast- unusual for Manchester. Then we sat in the lounge and had breakfast. Eventually it was time to board and we got settled in. Then we sat on the tarmac for ages because there was in issue with one of the luggage containers. We finally took off an hour later than we were scheduled to. Otherwise the flight was fine. We watched Deadpool 2 and a little while later we watched Christopher Robin. Then I listened to music for a bit but eventually got bored and we watched Solo. Then there was just an hour to go. Just after we landed we saw a heron as we were taxiing to the terminal building. Herons are my good omen birds, they are majestic. This trip is going to be fabulous! Immigration was fast but luggage took ages to come and then there was a little wait for the Magic Express to take us to the Contemporary Resort. We were also the last drop off. So by the time we got here it was 6.30pm or 11.30 pm at home- way past our bed time.

Tired as we were, we still had a little walk over to the Magic Kingdom. How could we not. I was excited to see the Christmas decorations still up. I had expected them to be gone. We walked up Main Street USA to the castle and back through the shops. It’s funny how a place can be so so far from home and yet so utterly familiar. I always find it overwhelming. I don’t understand why I like it, I shouldn’t. This icon of corporate America should not work on me. But it does. It makes me happy in a way that is impossible to describe. It makes the Magic of life tangible, it makes dreams come true and it makes me cry happy tears every time. This time was no different.

Then I unpacked, we had a bit of food and then we crashed into bed and I was out like a light. I woke at 1am and didn’t think I’d get back to sleep but then it was suddenly 3.30 and after dozing a little while we decided there was not point pretending that we weren’t wide awake. I made coffee and we sat in bed talking, reading and catching up on social media etc. I suddenly felt a bit anxious about the Expo, a bit daunted by what was to come but also excited. I finished unpacking and we began to sort what we would need for the day. At 6am we went downstairs to the Contempo Cafe where Kath got a snack of 2 boiled eggs (I took a porridge bar with me) and we filled our Resort mugs with hot drinks and had a mini breakfast watching the world go by. After that we walked the Contemporary Resort running track, saw another heron and got ready for a proper breakfast at Chef Mickey’s shortly before 8am. After filling our tummies and saying hi to Mickey and friends (again, why do I have fun here? It’s utterly ridiculous) we headed for the bus to take us to the Expo at ESPN Wide World of sports.

There are always horror stories about long queues and merchandise being sold out etc but that is just not our experience. If you want to learn how to do a huge event, ask these guys. As we got off the coach we could already hear an announcer giving out info about where to find various aspects of the Expo. Signs were everywhere and clear so we quickly found the arena in which to pick up our bib pick up area and didn’t need to queue to get ours. Kath nearly ended up with the wrong half and full marathon one though, luckily she checked just as we were walking away. You have to have your picture taken with one bib to avoid cheating so they can check that you really are running all 4 races I suppose. Then we picked up our shirts, all 6 of them. Again it was clear where we needed to go and it wasn’t far for us Dopeys. In fact ours was in the same area, I think all others had to go to a different building. Somehow though even these simple directions appear to be rocket science for some. We kept tripping over lost looking people who needed to be pointed in the right direction by volunteers. We tried our shirts on while we waited in line for a Dopey picture. The sizing is odd. None of the shirts are the same size and the 5k t-shirt is way bigger than the long sleeved Tees for the others but of course they only swap them in batches. I was happy to keep mine but the men’s small was too big on Kath and there was no extra small available so she swapped for a woman’s cut.

Once sorted we headed to the exhibitors bit, walked through, looked at a couple of things but didn’t see any good gloves, no soft bottles at all and race number magnets that were really expensive. So we didn’t spend anything there but I was impressed with the space again. It was busy but the booths had all been given space and the paths between exhibitor stands were wide enough to accommodate people. Impressive!

Next we left the second arena and entered another – this one to pick up our pre-order commemorative things, check in for race retreat and look at runDisney merchandise. This was a bit frustrating because nobody could tell us where we could check in for race retreat but once checked in we would get priority access to the merchandise area. Eventually someone let us in and pointed us vaguely in the right direction. This was the closest we came to a sense of humour failure but we were soon back laughing at people getting all stressed about getting absolutely all merchandise for their race distance. We looked at the runDinsey stuff. In the end we each bought a vest and I bought a jacket. There were some nice t-shirts too and mugs and wine glasses and all sorts of stuff but I really do not need more stuff. We found the pre-order pick up, got our things – silly things that will hopefully make us laugh as well as remember our achievements in the future- and then finally found someone who could point us to the race retreat check in. We got that sorted and then headed back to the bus.

I had honestly expected it to be much more frustrating and for it to take longer. On the bus back I reflected on the task ahead. I’m not sure my brain has registered exactly what it is we are doing this week. I was getting excited but I was also not really allowing myself to think about the marathon. We will see how this mental game plays out. Once we dumped our things we decided to have lunch at the Wave in our hotel, one of my favourite Disney restaurants and one of the few you can get a table without booking in advance. We didn’t want to risk getting grumpy because we were hungry. After amazing crab cakes and a beef and onion roll we were ready for some theme park adventures and headed to Epcot. We stayed in Future World leaving the World Showcase for another day. Some of my favourite rides/attractions are here, Figment, Soarin’ and the manatees in the big aquarium. Then we had dinner in the Coral Reef restaurant and had an amazing table right by the fish tank. We weren’t far off falling asleep in our non alcoholic cocktails though!

We were in bed by 8pm ready for Dopey Day 1. 20000 steps for a Disney Day was taking it very easy indeed and it was lovely to do some of our favourite things without any pressure to do everything because we have a full week after Dopey to enjoy the parks. I even got to sit in the warm sun for bit while Kath did Mission Space. It was a really good day and even with the crowds my anxiety levels stayed low. I was excited to get Dopey started!

Controlling the Controllable – Well, Disney food Planning

I’m still ill. In fact I am worse than I was – I’ve actually felt poorly today – not just coughing and having a really sore throat and snotty nose but I’ve felt feverish and out of it today. I have way too much quite urgent work to do to be ill and I have tried to do bits today but it it’s been rather futile. I drifted in and out of fitful sleep for most of the morning and in between I read the running magazines that had piled up. At lunch time I felt a little more with it and moved downstairs where I tried to clear some work stuff but soon gave up, my brain can’t do anything much today and then dozed watching IMG_7111 copyhighlights from the World Equestrian Games and the show jumping phase of the eventing.

I am not good at being ill. I have been panicking about missing training runs. I really thought I’d be able to be back tomorrow but I don’t think that’s realistic given how I feel today. I have half an eye on the weekend distances and am already worrying about not being able to go out for the long runs and the knock on effect…. STOP. Just Stop. Maybe because I’ve been watching the equestrian stuff and thinking about my riding days or because I was reading the magazines earlier which featured some stuff about controlling things you can control, I figured that I can’t control what I can’t control and worrying about what I can’t do anything about is not exactly useful. So instead of worrying about when I will be able to run again and what impact that might have, I started to think about the things I can control.

At this stage of course things I can do to positively influence a good Dopey Challenge are fairly minimal – once we get there, I’ll be able to control a lot more like hydration, fuel, my pace… – for now it’s the really basic things. I can plan the trip so that’s one less thing to worry about, I can make sure we get there without major stresses, I can make sure we fuel right for the days before and during the challenge and that we can have fun without overdoing it. So yes, I have a spreadsheet! Controlling these things has the added advantage that it takes me away from reality for a while and allows me to immerse myself in Disney magic. I can escape, well at least until my own coughing fit brings me back to reality every now and again.

IMG_7297So, here’s the plan. We have now booked an airport hotel for the night before our trip so we can get to Manchester without worrying too much about the weather and having to leave really really early. We have booked our restaurants for during the Challenge so we can eat where we wanted to and more importantly, eat at a sensible time for us that fits in with our running and training. So if you’re not interested in Disney at all, stop reading now.

We arrive the day before Expo Day. We have booked breakfast at Chef Mickey’s for Expo Day morning. Let’s face it, we’ll need a good breakfast before braving the insane people who seem to feel the need to buy everything at the expo. Our strategy has always been to get in, get our bibs, pick a souvenir from the RunDisney merchandise, possibly walk through the other stalls and then leave. It’s worked well in the past. The rest of Expo day is unplanned so far. 5km Day will, like all of the run days, start stupidly early but that’s part of the Challenge really, so we will have breakfast afterwards. We’ll be spending theIMG_7207 day in the Animal Kingdom. Last time we stayed in Epcot but we walked way too much. We tend to walk less at the Animal Kingdom and there are lots of places to sit and watch the animals (and people) although we’ll have to try hard to resist the mojitos. They’ll have to wait until after Dopey. We’ll pick up snacks in the Animal Kingdom throughout the day and then maybe head back and eat at the Wave – still one of my favourite Disney restaurants, particularly when I’m in need of a bit of quiet.

10km day is similar in structure and we’ll have breakfast after the run again, this time in the Magic Kingdom at the Crystal Palace. 10km day will require real discipline. The run won’t make us feel really tired and the temptation will be to spend time in the parks, too much time. So I’ve kept us in the Magic Kingdom for breakfast and for dinner so we are close to our hotel at the Contemporary. Dinner is at the Diamond Horseshoe. I don’t think we’ve been but the menu looks great and should work well for fuel for the half marathon. The reservation works well for eating and then slowly making our way back to the hotel catching the fireworks on our way out of the park and heading for bed.

IMG_7154 copyHalf marathon and marathon days means we don’t have breakfast as such. We’ll have our porridge pots probably. I’m trying both porridge pots and bagels with peanut butter in training. Both are easy to sort when there because we can take porridge pots and they have bagels and peanut butter there, from memory even at the race retreat which we have booked for the half marathon and marathon days. Although I need to work out the timings of when we are likely to actually start running so I can work out when I need to eat – can’t do that until we know what corral we’re in. I can of course guess but this is about controlling the controllable. For after the half marathon we have booked a very early lunch at the Wave and then Tony’s for the obligatory pasta before marathon day. So we’re not venturing far and if the weather permits a dip in the cool pool will definitely help. The plan is simply to be around the hotel, relax, stay off our feet with just a couple of gentle strolls to and from dinner to move a little.

The Dinner reservation at Tony’s is early because we’ll need an early night. I will of course be terrified – we’ll deal with that later. Marathon day will be the 4th very early start, it will be overwhelming and I’d be tired enough with just that, throw in what may well be 6-7 hours of running (I would of course like it to be far less but I will have run a half marathon the day before and the last Dopey marathon was just under 7 hours so…) 7C1000C1-2CFA-454E-B8F7-91362B358279and I am going to be cream crackered when we’re done. Last time we went out after the marathon. It was all a bit of a rush by the time we had got back to the hotel, had a bath, changed and then headed out to Disney Springs. This time we’re not doing that. We’ve built in some time to maybe even have a little nap and then we’re just heading upstairs in our hotel to the California Grill to celebrate. That way we can have a glass of wine (and that chocolate volcano pudding – it was rather lush) and then get them to gently roll us into bed.

The plans for after the Challenge are coming along nicely too but I’ll tell you about them another time. For today it was nice to spend time looking at menus and think about where we might be when and what would keep us active enough without overdoing it. So tomorrow I hope will be a better day and maybe I can go for a walk at least even if I can’t run and hopefully by the weekend I’ll be well enough to have a go at the mileage. I’ll keep you posted!

Registered for Dopey Challenge Round 2

So those of you who have been following this journey for a little while (or have looked in the archives) will remember the complete madness that is the Dopey Challenge. The Dopey is a 4 day event at the Walt Disney World Marathon weekend which takes place annually at the Disney World resort in Orlando, Florida. Here’s the deal:

Wednesday: Survive Expo and all the crazy people who buy EVERYTHINGToy story

Thursday: Run 5km

Friday: Run 10km

Saturday: Run Half Marathon

Sunday: Run Marathon

It sounds insane because it is a little bit insane. It is also an amazing running adventure and experience. It is a great reminder that even road running does not have be taken that seriously (although some mad people do take this extremely seriously) and that you can seriously challenge yourself without taking the fun out of things. Running at Disney isn’t like running everywhere else. It has its own magic and dose of pixie dust and I can’t imagine having run my first marathon anywhere else.

Keep calm run disneyI’m not sure what possessed me to want to have another go. Maybe I have unfinished business. It’s not that I particularly feel the need to do it faster than last time but last time I really enjoyed the first three races and then marathon day was just a bit miserable because it was so humid and because a marathon really is just a bloody long way and I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. I don’t need to do it faster, I just need to do the marathon better. I need to focus more on taking it in and enjoying the experience – yes even ESPN Wild World of Sports can, so Kath tells me, be quite fun. I want to have another go to focus on the experience and not on just getting to the end. Although I have to say I only really remember the good bits – I think that’s how marathons work in your brain, you forget. I know I was miserable on marathon day but that’s not how I now remember it.

We booked the trip ages ago and were anxiously waiting for registration to open. Of course it opened while we were in Australia so we worked out the time difference and set our alarm for 2am and sat in bed with the iPad to register. It didn’t work for the first attempt as the screen froze before we entered our credit card details. We had to crash out and start again. I sort of knew Dopey wasn’t likely to sell out immediately but you just never know so we persevered and got lucky; second attempt and we got our Dopey registration and the race retreat booked and confirmed. We’re doing it. What have we done. I’m not sure whether knowing what I have let myself in for is better or worse. Either way, it’s a lot of miles over 4 days!




DNF. Did not finish. Did Not fucking finish. Yes that’s right. The last race I attempted I didn’t finish. I got to mile 5 of the Disneyland Avengers Half Marathon. I didn’t get my coast to coast medal, I didn’t complete the Infinity Gauntlet Challenge. DN Fucking F. It was a big deal at the time. I was gutted. That was the race that was going to bring all the running efforts and achievements of the year together. It all started going very wrong at about 3 miles. I felt a bit dizzy and sluggish. By 4 miles I needed to walk because my vision was blurred. By 4.5 miles it was clear I was going to have to stop. I felt dizzy, sick and couldn’t really see. There was a water station at mile 5 with a medic there. Kath took me to see her, she got me to sit down at the side of the road, got a wheelchair and with the help of a police officer who just stopped the traffic got me across the road and to the medic’s car. Then we got a little ride round Anaheim backstreets and back to the medical tent at the finish line. I’ll never get to the finish line of a half marathon that quickly ever again. I quickly started to feel better and all medical checks were fine. The doctor suggested that maybe I needed to fuel with more than just water for longer distance. I’m not sure about that – fuelling and hydration felt good. Anyway it is what it is and we had a lovely day in the Disney Parks and somehow it doesn’t matter anymore.

The running wasn’t all bad during our holiday. We had a lovely little jog along the boardwalk along Moonstone Beach. We walked miles in San Francisco including across the Golden Gate Bridge and the 10k race of the infinity gauntlets challenge was loads of fun – genuinely just fun.


I haven’t run a single step since we got back. Not a single step. But I will, eventually I will.