January 16, 2022
Ready to run?
Sunday Runday, and just over a week after rolling through the finish line of three Florida Disney World races, I did a (socially distanced) ten klick run back with the crew through the icy streets of Edmonton.
Amazing. Crazy. Chaotic. Nostalgic. Insane.
What other words can one use to describe the first international mega race back after a multi-year break from the same.
Exactly eight years ago I was standing on the same set of start lines getting ready to run (that time) four races. Back then I’d signed up for the inaugural Dopey Challenge, four days of four races starting with a 5k, ending with a full marathon, and tucking a 10k and a half in the blurry middle of it all.
This year, I cautiously signed up to do the first three of that series.
So, on that Thursday about ten days ago, all three of us, my wife, my daughter and I, woke up at 3am, found our way to a shuttle bus stop, trotted through the security mayhem outside Epcot, and queued up to run the five kilometer loop through that parks winding walkways.
My wife and daughter are not runners, but they are not out of shape either. We followed the crowd and dashed along the route and crossed the finish line to applause and medals.
I repeated the next day, but solo. Bus. Security. Race corral. Ten kilometers looping through two parks instead of one, past our first hotel of the trip, and ending with a musical pre-dawn dash under the glowing blue orb of Epcot’s Spaceship Earth as we pushed to the finish line.
I wore a mask the whole run. I wore a mask for all the runs. There were crowds and people and more crowds and on top of it all there were even more crowds. I have not been around that many heavily breathing runners in years and I’m surprised I didn’t bring home a viral souvenir from the experience.
Did I mention crazy and insane?
On the third day I woke up at 3am one last time and made my way to an even bigger starting corral with an even bigger crowd. It would be fair to say that somewhere between ten and fifteen thousand people stood at that start line, and if more than ten or fifteen of them were wearing masks I would have been surprised.
I went out in the second wave, with another dozen or so behind me.
We ran up the dark highway to the sounds of Disney movie soundtracks blasting from speakers. The path brought us under the park gate and through the parking lots and past the Contemporary resort and between the turnstiles of the Magic Kingdom. I held my phone out in front of me recording video as I ran onto and up Main Street:
I paused at a few spots for photos.
I absorbed the moments.
I kept on running.
Did I mention amazing and nostalgic?
In a short kilometer or so we were out the back gates of the park, running past some utility buildings and behind Splash Mountain as we disappeared back onto another Florida highway.
The sun rose as the view of the castle faded into the distance behind me, and I plodded along to finish the race back at Epcot.
My time wasn’t so great. Running 20.5 of the 21.1 kilometers in a surgical mask didn’t do much for my endurance. Stopping for photos and dodging crowds and slowing down to video or record a bit of it here and there left my pace a little dodgy in the end. Neither the pace nor time was the point, anyhow. The point was the experience.
And then it was over, and we flew home, safe and negative, and a few days later I was plodding along once again through icy streets with friends pondering the next year and wondering if maybe it had all been some kind of dream.
Amazing. Crazy. Chaotic. Nostalgic. Insane.
Ready to run?
October 4, 2021
How I had decided many months earlier in 2013 to take on the Dopey Challenge, a four race series consisting of a 5k, 10k, half marathon and full marathon in four days, is a long, winding tale full of hubris and running confidence tangled up in my wife’s love of all things Disney.
In retrospect, and now knowing numerous people who routinely run eighty-plus kilometer single-day ultra races, my seventy-eight point two kilometers of theme park jogging hardly seems as epic in comparison.
Yet, for me, running through Disney World (four times) was probably one of the highlights of my running life.
A five kilometer run with my family around the walkways of Epcot.
A ten kilometer jog in the rain on a similar but longer path a day later.
A half marathon that led us all to the Magic Kingdom and back with poses in front of the castle and along roadways cluttered with a dizzying array of Disney decor.
And on the last day, a full marathon through all four Disney World theme parks, a race track, a ball diamond, taking dozens of photos, and crashing across the finish line to hang multiple finisher medals over my neck.
I rested with a much slower, much more meandering wander through Disney World over the following days.
Fast forward to early twenty-twenty and with no intention of running on another vacation, we had booked a two week Florida trip over spring break… due to leave just days following rumblings that a global panic had started to emerge around a novel coronavirus and a contagious outbreak was leaping from country to country.
Disney World closed the Friday before our flights were due to leave.
The Canada-US border slammed shut a few days later.
Our flights were cancelled for credits.
Our hotel was spun into a chaotic series of emails and phone calls and future stay vouchers.
Our park tickets were suspended indefinitely.
We obviously never went to Florida in spring 2020, and we have been sitting on a heap of travel credits for the better part of two years since.
Time definitely does not fly when you’re sitting around not travelling.
Registration for the 2022 Disney World Marathon series is pretty much full up now.
While I am in no shape anymore (thanks, COVID.) to run the Dopey Challenge, at least one of those races would be another exciting way to kick off 2022, right?
So, if, say, I had been on the ball and had registered for, for example, a half marathon in Florida in January… and, say, I found an excuse to use a bunch of those travel credits… and, say, I was fully vaccinated for travel across international borders… that would make a much more interesting part two to this post, wouldn’t it?