When Andrew first contacted me and told me about the adventure he had planned for his 50th birthday, I was beyond excited to share his experience here on RAD. Andrew and his family traveled halfway around the world as he took on the Dopey Challenge. He might have recruited them to run a bit with him as well.
How best might a runner celebrate a ‘big’ birthday and have the family join in as well? The Dopey Challenge provided the answer!
Exactly one year ago (and the date of the 2014 WDW marathon) I set the challenge for me and my family: I’m going to run this event next year for my 50th birthday and you’re invited to come with me, but there’s a catch – you have to join me in at least one leg of the Challenge each!
And with that, baited by the idea of an overseas trip (and not really understanding the 3:30 am wake-up times!) the Dopey Challenge for 2015 became a year-long family adventure. From planning the rest of the trip, raising the funds, making the bookings – and training – it was a step up for each family member. But the running was where the big steps were required;
- for the 14 year old who had never run longer than 10k to run a half,
- the daughter who isn’t into running to run a 10k,
- the 16 year old to get out of bed at 3:30am!,
- the wife to go from 0 kilometers as a runner to a full marathon in exactly 12 months.
Now the other challenge was traveling half way round the world. From Australia to Orlando. From summer to winter. From time zone to who knows what time zone it is! We joked that jet lag might actually help!!
After a white Christmas we hit Orlando and thought it was just as cold! We stayed in a family room at the All Star Resort and it was just the right size and space. We bought 6 day tickets and had marathon Sunday ‘off’. The four events made an incredibly memorable birthday experience that lasted for four days!
The Family 5K was first – and it should have featured Elsa on the medal and not Pluto… it was a truly Frozen event!
Despite the cold we had great fun. We started in Corral A which helped get the race over with faster and we dressed up as Peter Pan and Captain Hook. We met a fellow runner whose surname was ‘Hook’ and he even asked to have a photo with us! We got lots of comments about how strange it was for Peter and Hook to be doing something together to which we assured them this was a once-off!
The 10K was a heat wave by comparison!
After a day at Hollywood Studios – and the last sighting of Mickey’s hat – we got up for the 10K. Tinker Bell joined me this time and boy was she glad she didn’t have that costume on the day earlier!
A highlight was the cheerers chanting “Pan and Tink! Pan and Tink!” That really lifted us over the finish line! Another highlight was my 16 year old son racing – and winning – his age group and coming 11th overall 🙂
Magic Kingdom here we come …..
The Half Marathon was a long day! Not only because of the 3:30am start but because we started in Corral P, the last corral (because one of us didn’t have a qualifying time).
Again it was very cold but there was a lovely warm camaraderie in the very last group. Running with my two super guys was terrific fun as Captain America, Mr. Incredible and Hercules. Once the cold thawed out we got into the run but the lines for character photos were SO long by this stage we pushed on, most of the time on the grass to go around the walkers. No one complained though, they all just enjoyed the experience. For some pretty fast teenagers, this shows how the crowd experience at runDisney events is bigger than individuals.
Marathon day was amazing.
For this one I was worried about the crowds but the Disney organization really shined. We had so many character photo opportunities, often just running straight into the front of the line. Everything was well spaced and, compared to Corral P, the experience was much more pleasant.
I really enjoyed some of the different experiences – like the Speedway and Wide World of Sports (the track and the baseball ground).
A light sprinkling of rain at Hollywood Studios was refreshing rather than wet (especially compared to the next day’s thunderstorm). My wife and I ran as Jasmine and Aladdin and two of our favorite photos were with the ‘Aladdin’ characters because of the over-the-top welcome we received!
And then before you know it, Donald and Pluto greet you at the finish line and you’re wearing 6 medals around your neck and you’re officially “Dopey”. That last kilometer is really a bit of a blur!
So how do you capture the four days (and year’s journey) in words? I got the kids to wear costumes! I captured it all with (maybe) a million photos! I got to run and experience their running ‘firsts’ as well. We wore medals and enjoyed the Parks together. I still can’t think of another experience where we could do all these things as a family together. A great birthday overall with a ripper celebration dinner on marathon night at Downtown Disney.
I’ve been disappointed with some posts I’ve been following where runDisney is criticized for many things. Apparently some people think it’s possible to create a perfect Disney experience with 30,000 runners. The logistics were great, any question was answered happily, lots of goodies, great bling. In fact the next running event is going to be hard to match up to this one.
My key bits of advice:
- Get a time registered or beware of ending up in Corral P. OK if you’re a walker or slow, but if you’re anything of a runner it makes a long hard slog of an event.
- Make a dinner reservation for the night to make it pleasurable and not like some who wandered around fruitlessly.
- Get the photo pack – and take in as many opportunities as you can.
The 51st birthday celebrations are going to seem a little low key compared to this!!