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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Why I'm Goofy, and You should be Too!

Runners!  Disney enthusiasts!  Zany, Goofy individuals!  There is still space to register for the Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge!  I want to take a minute to tell you all about why I'm Goofy, and why you should be too.

Channeling Malificent the morning of the Half Marathon.

Earlier this year, I participated in my first Goofy Challenge as part of Walt Disney World's 2014 Marathon Weekend.  Marathon weekend is one of eight runDisney events, four of which occur within the Walt Disney World property in Florida, and the remaining four of which are run in and around Disneyland Resort in California.  runDisney enthusiasts know that the Disney Magic is amplified by  tackling the challenges - which mean committing to anywhere from two to four events and 19.3 to 48.6 miles over the course of the weekend.  The Goofy Challenge is one of the more intense multi-race events, requiring participants to finish both a half-marathon and a full-marathon within the span of two days!  Needless to say, you have to be at least a little bit "Goofy" to participate in such a challenge.

Prior to running Goofy, I had participated in two half marathons and one full.  One of those half marathons was my other runDisney event, the 2013 Princess Half Marathon, so I knew firsthand the two truths that a non-Floridian runner learns upon first running Disney World:

1. The course entertainment is unparalleled, with character photo ops at least once per mile, thousands of spectators cheering along the way, and the breathtaking scenery of castles and coasters along the course.

2. Florida is the most humid place in the world.  Period.  Even at 5:00 in the morning.  (Seriously.  We even get some pretty good humidity here in Pittsburgh at times.  I can't imagine the shock coming to Florida from, say, the aridity of Arizona.)

I knew I could finish a full marathon.  I knew I could finish a half marathon in the Florida heat and humidity.  I knew that runDisney races have the slowest median finish times of all half marathons in the US.  But I did not know whether I could complete the Goofy Challenge.

I did it!  Crossing the finish line of the WDW Marathon to complete my Goofy Challenge.

The answer ended up being "yes."  Very slowly, very carefully, but yes.  One of the most magical things about runDisney races is that very few people are in it for either a place on the podium or a personal record.  Instead, nearly everyone, even those who are striving to achieve some specific goal, is there to have fun.  Tutus, sparkles, costumes and mouse-ears are the norm!  Runners stop to to take photos with favorite landmarks and beloved characters.  Many utilize the Jeff Galloway run-walk-run plan while others, like myself, simply apply liberal walk breaks when necessary.

The Walt Disney World marathon is an unparalleled experience in itself, one that I'd recommend any distance runner or Disney-lover add to his or her bucket-list.  The marathon is the only runDisney race that allows runners to experience all 4 parks, the Atlanta Braves training field at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, and the speedway at the Richard Petty Driving Experience.  The WDW Marathon is the only race I have EVER heard of that allows runners the chance to ride a roller coaster!  (It's not advertised by Disney, but savvy runners know that the Expedition Everest in Animal Kingom could be theirs for the riding.)  The Marathon is a must-do.  So why run Goofy?   Goofy gives Marathon runners the extra challenge, extra excitement, and extra camaraderie.  Walking around the park throughout the weekend, other runners recognized my configuration of wristbands, my race shirts, even my trademark exhaustion.  There was something magical about being part of that elite club, regardless of how much I wanted to crawl back into my bed at the Port Orleans resort when the alarm went off the second morning.  If you're an achievement hunter, like myself, Goofy gives runners an extra medal and an extra shirt at the end of the line.  Bling, bling!

I loved my Goofy experience, but I will offer the disclaimer that I ran both events much slower than any of my previous races.  PR hunters need not apply for a Goody medal.  In fact, I added almost an hour on to my best half marathon time to complete my Walt Disney World Half.  Potential Goofy participants should expect a fun experience, but a challenging one.  Not only must the runners complete 39.3 miles worth of race, but they must wake up between 2-3 in the morning to reach the start line by 5:00 am!  Additionally, I would not recommend the Goofy Challenge to runners who have never run a marathon.  The twenty-six-point-two adventure is such a uniquely challenging endeavor in itself.  I would never suggest for someone to tackle that for the first time after running 13+ humid miles the day before.

Running down Main Street USA.  One of my favorite places on the WDW Courses as runners enter the Magic Kingdom.

If you are feeling prepared for the challenge, Goofy still has over 10% of its slots available!  This may not seem like a lot but, considering many runDisney events sell out within 2 hours, it must be Disney Magic that this race is still open to the hundreds of runners that will still register.  I am tempted to register myself, but don't know if the pocketbook and the work schedule will let me - I'll be journeying to Anaheim the week after Goofy to use the Force in the inaugural Star Wars Half Marathon Weekend!  As for Goofy, I hope to recap my specific memories from each individual race at some point leading up to next year's event, but, in the meantime, may you be as Goofy as I!

*All photos in this post courtesy of Marathon Photo.

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