On Thursday morning, my alarm went off at 4 AM. I wasn’t thrilled about the hour especially since I did not get a very good night’s sleep. I think I woke up every hour afraid that I had missed the alarm. A series of hour long naps is not the best rest going into a race let alone the start of the Dopey Challenge. I got out of bed and started getting ready for the Walt Disney World 5k. It took me several attempts but I finally settled on an outfit that I thought would keep me warm. Did I mention that there was a wind chill advisory?!?
At 4:30, I kissed Pete goodbye, left the room, and headed to the monorail station at the Contemporary Resort. I also grabbed something small from the room to munch before the race. When the monorail arrived at the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC), we were told that we would need to catch a bus to Epcot because the monorail to Epcot wasn’t working. I was not exactly thrilled to be standing outside in the freezing cold with crazy wind gusts waiting for a bus but I also wasn’t about to miss the first race. Thankfully, we didn’t have to wait too long for the bus to pick us up. Once we were at Epcot, I headed over to the staging area to find my running buddy for the weekend. Neither one of us trained as hard as we wanted to so our only real goal for the weekend was to survive and finish each race under the 16:00 min/mile pace requirement.
After I found my running buddy, I realized that we still had quite some time before we needed to be in our corrals. In an effort to stay as warm as possible, we hung out in the gear bag check tents until they made the last call for runners to head to the corrals. They blocked the wind and kept us from freezing before the race got started. As I stood there waiting and freezing, I couldn’t remember the last time I had been that cold during a race (or even a run). Then my friend reminded me of the Rock ‘n’ St. Pete Half Marathon we both ran a few years ago. That race was also cold and windy.
When the announcers made the last call for runners to head to the corrals, we reluctantly left the relative warmth of the gear bag check tents and headed over to Corral D. For this year’s race, an extra corral was added and that allowed for an extra 2,500 runners to participate in the event. We weren’t the only ones who were freezing while waiting for the race to get started. Everyone standing in the corrals were huddled closer together than I have ever seen at any other race. At 6:15, the race got under way. While I envied those who were in the first corrals, I also didn’t want to finish so early that I would have to wait for the buses to be ready. About 25 minutes later, we were at the start line and getting ready to the first leg of the Dopey Challenge.
Mile 1 – 16:42 min/mile
As we crossed the starting line, we discussed what our goal was for this race. Simply put, we wanted to cross the finish line in less than 49:36, which is would give us an overall pace of 16:00 minutes per mile. We had such high hopes for ourselves. There were a lot of rumors about how they were going to verify the Dopey Challenge finishers and we didn’t want to have any issues on Sunday after the marathon. We started off walking at a brisk pace mostly to stay warm but also to stay close to the required pace. Unfortunately, our pace was interrupted twice by my shoe laces that simply did not want to stay tied. I think they came untied the second time because my fingers were frozen and didn’t work well in the gloves I was wearing. We made our way through the parking lot and into the backstage area. Right after the security gate, we spotted the Mile 1 Marker.
Mile 2 – 16:14 min/mile
Once we passed the first mile marker, we started making our way through the backstage area of Epcot. We entered the park near the Mexico pavilion and then started heading around the World Showcase. It was absolutely beautiful seeing the countries lit up and the fires of IllumiNations burning as we made our way past Norway, China, Germany, Italy, the American Adventure, Japan, Morocco, and France. My shoe laces caused our pace for the first mile to be a bit slower than we wanted. We were able to make up some time in the second mile even though we were still walking. As we approached the International Gateway and the Mile 2 Marker, we started discussing whether or not we wanted to start running a little bit just to make sure we hit our goal.
Mile 3 – 13:51 min/mile
We passed the Mile 2 Marker just after we left Epcot through the International Gateway. We ran through another backstage are before heading back into the park near the United Kingdom pavilion. As we left the World Showcase, we were finally ready to start running. We continued walking until we reached the entrance to Future World and then we started our run/walk intervals. At first, it felt a little strange to be running but we eventually fell into an easy rhythm. We made our way around Future World and realized quickly that the course was different from last year. We made a loop around Imagination, The Land, and The Living Seas before we cut across Future World to head to the finish line. Last year, the course made a loop around the turnstiles at the park’s main entrance instead of running past The Land. We passed the final mile marker and started making the final stretch towards the finish line. As we crossed the finish line, we realized that we hit our time goal and actually came in 10 seconds under our goal.
After the race, we gathered our medals and post race snacks. We made our way through the finisher’s area and tried to find the wristbands for the Dopey Challengers just like last year. We checked with the runDisney staff and found out that we weren’t getting any wristbands this year. I was a little disappointed because those wristbands were like a security blanket for me last year. Once we left the finisher’s area, we said our goodbyes and I went in search of Pete, who was waiting with a warm cup of coffee. He and I went back to the hotel so I could take a hot shower and start to thaw out. Then we headed over to the Kona Café at the Polynesian for a post race breakfast.
Walt Disney World 5k by the numbers
- Official Finish Time – 49:26 minutes
- Average Pace – 15:54 min/mile
- Total Weekend Miles – 3.11 miles
- Total Running Time – 49:26 minutes
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