The Disney Race Experience

I’ve been asked one question dozens of times in the last week since finishing the Goofy Challenge. And it’s a question I had the answer to at Mile 20 of 39.3…just 7 miles into the marathon.

“Would you do it again?”


I wish I could say there was even a question in my mind, so I’ve been trying to weigh the pros and cons all week. Here it goes.


  • Disney knows how to handle the crowds, and that starts with parking. We didn’t stay on property, so that meant driving to Epcot both mornings…something you might dread with this many people. No issues! We planned ahead, we arrived early, and we parked within minutes of entering the park.
  • Volunteers make dreams come true. Never have I seen a volunteer race crew be so thoughtful and gracious. I typically thank people along any course for helping at aid stations, directing runners, or even cheering. And so many times I heard the response “No. Thank you for running!” It’s giving me chills just writing that.
  • Bananas, sponges, and chocolate? Oh my. Every race should have chocolate at mile 21. Take note race directors!
  • Perfect weather. OK…it was warm steamy ridiculously hot compared to Ohio in January. And thank God for that! I’ll take sweating in the corral before sunrise any day over the 17 degree-winchill we had this morning.
  • The best atmosphere ever. Have you seen my pictures? Check out my Day 1 and Day 2 posts for more on this. The parks are beautiful, clean, and full of characters, flashing lights and music. I especially liked seeing Cinderella’s castle covered in thousands of lights during the half, and then at sunrise during the marathon.  And the a cappella choir near the finish on both days? Perfect. Coming around the corner at Epcot and hearing those voices really pushed me to the finish.
  • There is no pressure to race. You have to start knowing there’s going to be a lot of weaving. If you’re not in Corral A or maybe B, your BQ finish is probably in jeopardy. So just enjoy it. And get used to beeping timers. At least half the field is using run/walk intervals…music to my ears!
  • Smiling. Lots and lots of smiling. Honestly, if you don’t like smiling, go run Death Valley. This won’t be the place for you.
  • Three shirts, three medals, a lifetime of pride. Need I say more?


  • Do I have to come up with cons? OK…just one. The cost. It’s DisneyWorld people. It’s pricey.

So, do you still need my answer? Haven’t you figured it out by now?


2015 is the anniversary of the Goofy Challenge. That means a special Goofy medal.

Sounds like all the motivation I need!


Tomorrow’s news: Rock and Roots Trail Series Race #1 Recap

The Goofy Challenge Day 2

Did you miss Day 1? Read it here!

2am…again? Who’s idea was this anyway? Mine? Dang.

The good news is the marathon field was less than half the size of the prior day. It was neat to run a marathon where everyone was attempting that distance. A first for me!

This was also the first race where I started sweating before the race started.With temps in the 60’s and humidity near 100%, that was inevitable. Hydration was going to be key today…the hottest WDW Marathon in the 20 years since it’s inception.


Again we started the day with Jeff Galloway. The walk to the corral was considerable faster and this time we were in the corral for the National Anthem and the 5:30 fireworks. Our corral started at 6:03am, right on schedule…thanks Mickey!


The marathon course took us from Epcot to the Magic Kingdom and Cinderella’s castle, just as we did the previous day.


Rather than heading back to Epcot, we took to the track at the Disney Speedway. I loved seeing the track full of runners, a variety of classic and race cars, and hot air balloons in the distance. Laurie and I were still sticking to the plan…a little slower than the previous day…and we had picked up a friend, Christine, who stayed with us through mile 10. I was following my run/walk schedule of 2:1, just as I had done the day before, with a little extra walking through the aid stations to ensure we were hydrating enough. By this time we were ready to stop for the bathrooms, and I knew our hydration was spot on. Just after the first Chiquita banana stop…amazing!…we found a short line and stopped.

Next up: Animal Kingdom. A few birds, a snake, and some petting zoo type animals were out neat the entrance. We passed Expedition Everest and Dinoland USA. Sadly luckily there were no dinosaurs roaming about.

On to ESPN Wide World of Sports! Familiar territory as we were here for the expo. The course looped the grounds, around the rubberized track (a nice change), and a quick trip on the gravel surrounding the baseball stadium (a not-so-nice change).


After a quick stop to get the rocks out of our shoes, we finally saw our friends and the bags of washcloths and oranges! I loved having our friends on the course…what a blessing!

And here’s everybody hanging out at Mile 20!

Last park…Hollywood Studios. The most memorable part was the tunnel…shade! It was ridiculously hot by this point, and I was thankful for a break from the sun. Laurie asked if we could take a break here…but with just over a 5k to go, I declined. A trip through the Streets of America, complete with trompe-l’œil buildings, and a loop around the Boardwalk, and we were back running through through the countries of Epcot.


I had the most energy ever at the end of this race. So much so, that Laurie told me to go, and then fell back so I would. She was probably sick of me after 36 miles anyway. So I ran…and I felt like I was flying. It didn’t hurt that many people were walking by this point. I crossed the line around 5:33, and to my surprise, there was Bart Yasso, looking like he was waiting for someone (presumably me!). Everyone was so busy high-fiving Mickey at the finish and heading for water, and he looked lonely. So I called out his name, and gave him a big, sweaty hug. And best of all? He didn’t mind. He even commented later that he LIKES sweaty hugs. That’s my kind of man!

After some refueling, we walked back to the car, and heard that sweet sound…clang, clang, clang…all the way home. The Goofy was mine.

A tribute: As you can see from the pictures, I wore my Huntsman Hometown Heroes jersey during the marathon.

photo-6I get so much inspiration from running in memory/in honor of those who both lost and won their battle with cancer.  A few of those miles were dedicated to some special people, and I’d like to mention them here. They are the real heroes.

Mile 0-4- Jeff S.

Mile 5-9- Lisa

Mile 10-14 – Christopher R.

Mile 15-20 – Grandma (Carmela)

Mile 21-26.2 – Mom (Christine)

Tomorow’s news: The Disney Race Experience

The Goofy Challenge Day 1

The Goofy Challenge takes a special kind of crazy to attempt. Most people are content with either the half or the full marathon. But both on consecutive days? Nuts.


The preparation alone typically requires layering a half and full training plan. I used a plan adapted from Jeff Galloway that I found on the RunDisney website. That meant double long runs every other weekend. The key was to take it slow and avoid injury at all costs. And keep your fingers crossed.

I’m not sure what first possessed me to register for such an event. I wanted a trip with friends, especially after I heard about the great time several of them had the previous year on a “run-cation.”

I had heard of the Goofy Challenge from a few friends that had run the event in previous years. They assured me that as long as I treated it as a fun event, I’d be fine. But it wasn’t going to be easy. It was hard work. And recovery time. It’s not something you do on a whim.

My friends will probably try to blame me for suggesting we go. Before the weekend, I tried to deflect blame. But now that we’re on the other side, necks weighted down with bling, I’ll take that responsibility. Except for the 2am wake up call. That was not my idea.

You didn’t read that wrong. 2am.

We stayed at a rental condo off Disney property,  which meant we needed to drive to Epcot both mornings along with thousands of others. Earlier was better. I’d rather drive, park, and wait, then risk getting stuck in traffic and feel rushed.


Thanks to Jeff Galloway, I secured access to the Galloway Training Programs area for our group. A place to sit before the race, drink coffee and get some inspiration from the man himself. This was a lifesaver. We sat and watched droves of participants walked to the corrals. With 67,000 people running during the weekend between the 5k, half marathon, and marathon, I’d take all the quiet time I could get.

The wheelchair start was scheduled for 5:30am, and Disney starts on time. Like clockwork. Too bad we weren’t anywhere near the corral when the fireworks signaling the release of Corral A fired. The good news is half the field wasn’t either. No worries…we were ready to go by our 6:03am start. Donald Duck counted us down…and we were off.


The key here is to go slow enough that you don’t burn out your legs on the first day…you’re going to need them for the marathon. There were plenty of points where I knew I should slow down, but smiles pushed me faster. I was lucky enough to have a friend running with me to hold me back. Thanks Laurie! My plan was to run the 13.1mi in over 2:30.

The first hour or so was prior to sunrise, but there was no problem finding our way. The half marathon course took us from Epcot, through the Magic Kingdom and back to Epcot. With about 35.000 half marathon participants, there was no question where the route was, and before we knew it, we were entering the Magic Kingdom. It’s been a long time since I’d been to Disney World…at least 15 years. Even if I remembered what the parks looked like then, they’ve changed so much, I wouldn’t recognize them. Not to mention we were viewing them in an entirely different way.


Characters around every turn. Smiles abound. Cheering spectators. Thousands of volunteers ready to help you with any need or just thank you for running. Where else are you going to get that except the place where dreams come true?

As I’ve said before, I’m not a “Disney person.” I was just as happy to take candid shots of characters as we passed, but plenty of people stopped and waited in line, sometimes for a while, to get their picture taken with every character. Not my style.

The experience was magical. Wearing my 2012 Columbus Marathon shirt meant Ohioans kept asking me if I was from Columbus. And there were plenty of participants in costumes. Around mile 8, we ran with Elvis, in a full leisure suit. A foursome dressed as Aladdin, Abu, Jafar, and the Genie. And lots of Minnies and princesses. Entertaining to say the least. Laurie and I finished at 2:35. And I felt great, especially after 2 bottles of water.


Time to rest up for the marathon…2am is going to come quickly.

Tomorrow’s news: The Goofy Challenge Day 2

Expo Madness…Where Dreams Come True

Today I was reminded…once again…that I am insane.

This is nothing new. I’ve know it for a while…at least a year…when I decided to run the Goofy. And apparently I’m a smooth talker, since I convinced a handful of friends to come with me. They say it’s my fault they’re all here. I don’t remember it quite like that 🙂

The road to Goofy has been challenging. Lots of training miles. Motivation issues. And a delicate balance between “sufficient preparation” and “headed for an injury.”

The body’s work was finished before Christmas. Then the mind game began. The madness was crippling. The expo made it real.

The Walt Disney World Marathon Expo didn’t disappoint.


But more than any merchandise I could buy, I met two people who I greatly admire. And both took time for a few words with me.

I’ve talked about both of them before…so it should come as no surprise.

Bart WDW

After collecting our bibs (I guess we have no choice but to do this now!), we attended one of the speaker sessions…an informal chat with Bart Yasso. After a short presentation where he candidly answered questions, I was more than happy to sneak in for a quick photo and get my copy of My Life on the Run signed!

What a great, down-to-earth, and humble man!

Truly inspirational.

My morning wouldn’t be complete until I found one more person.


He’s been my “coach” for the last couple years, and I’m thrilled to work with him and develop the running community in Columbus, OH.

I can’t say enough about how the words of this man changed my life.

He’s just as excited and passionate about runners as I am, and it’s a great fit!

He took the time to talk to me, introduce me to his lovely wife Barb, and I hope to see them both on the course on Sunday!

And that’s how, in one day, two of my dreams came true.

Tomorrow, the dream continues. I wonder what that will bring!


At least we’re in the the right place!

Tomorrow’s news: The Donald

The Next Mile

You’re standing at the crossroads. The race is so close you can taste it. The work is done. You’ve already won.

It’s time to look to the horizon. What’s next?

Since I started running, I’ve followed an unwritten rule:

Always set the next goal before you complete this one.

It seems counterintuitive, I know. Finish what you’ve started, right? But failing to set that new goal can set you up for disaster. Without a run or race on your calendar you’re likely to take a break…for far too long.

Don’t misread me. Take time off after a difficult race. Rest. Recover. Rebuild. Put that on your calendar too. But always know when training resumes. Otherwise you’ll sit right back on the couch.

The Goofy Challenge is this weekend. Wow…that’s tough to say. My next goal race is the Xenia Half Marathon in early April. I have a few other races here and there, including two trail races in February and March.

There. I said it.


My life is at the crossroads. Big changes have come and big decisions are still looming. One thing stands true. I’ve never smiled more that I have in the last month.

I know I’m headed the right way. And now it’s time to see what’s around that next corner.

Tomorrow’s news: Orlando or Bust!


6119_583181125041187_1655311043_nIt’s coming…are you ready?

I’ll be honest. I’m useless today. What was I thinking?

My adrenaline has been sky high. My heart rate is through the roof. Every time I start something, I quickly forget what I was doing in the first place. Or why. My temper is short. My patience for trying on clothes is non-existant.

My packing list gets longer and longer. Today, it’s 50 degrees warmer in Orlando than it is in Columbus, OH. That poses all kinds of clothing dilemmas. It’s not like you can walk into a store in Ohio and buy shorts and a swimsuit in January. And we’re flying…which I rarely do…so I have to remember not to pack explosives weapons liquids.

Then there’s other issues: packing for the kids, dropping them off for a week, tying up loose ends here. And remembering to eat! I swear I need a valium now…I imagine I’ll be a wreck by Wednesday night!

This isn’t my first rodeo either. If I can pack for Ragnar Tennessee, this should be cake, right? There are stores in Orlando…it’s not the backwoods of TN in the middle of the night. But I don’t remember being this nervous for that event. (Not until the runner before me got out of the van the first time. Then I thought I was going to be sick.)

And even if it were Thursday, that doesn’t mean the race is upon us. That just gets me in the state.

Then there’s grocery shopping, the expo, buying gifts for the kids, acclimating to the warmer weather, and “relaxing” by the pool.

Right! And eating!

I’ll likely not sleep on Friday night despite every attempt. And 3am is going to come quickly on Saturday. But it’s still more that a week from now that we hit the streets of Walt Disney World for the half marathon…and the full.

Run, Rest, Repeat. That’s the game. A week from Monday, it will all be over. Except for the fun part. And I’m probably anticipating the after-race time just as much as the event…if not more. It’s going to be great! I just have to hang on until I get there. The whole thing is goofy.


Tomorrow’s news: Galloway Training Groups