Goofy Challenge Part 1 – The Half Marathon

Last week I ran the Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World in support of Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy and their Run For Our Sons campaign. This was our third year heading south in January to participate in the Marathon Weekend. In 2013, I ran the half marathon and last year I ran the full marathon. Initially we were going to skip going this year but Anne joined in the fun last year doing the 10K with her childhood friends Maggie and Kris they weren’t interested in taking a pass. We didn’t really need much (or any) convincing. Soon after, Anne’s high school friend Carolyn and her husband joined the team. We were six strong and looking to tackle over 100 miles of the Disney Marathon Weekend.

goofy-expoThe marathon isn’t my best racing distance and last year’s Disney Marathon got tough early and I was toast by the end. I would have been wise to acknowledge that running a marathon after walking around Disney parks for almost 4 days wasn’t a great idea. Well, this sort of wisdom is in short supply with runners and I not only signed up for the marathon, I signed up for the half marathon too.

Two days. Two races. One Goofy Challenge.

Along the way we received support of numerous family and friends making this our biggest fundraiser yet! For that we are very grateful. Every dollar will be put to good use advocating and funding research for boys like William. The shirt says “I run to EndDuchenne” and that was our primary reason for going.

Anne, Maggie, Kris, and Carolyn were up first with the 10K on Friday. Somehow (despite delayed flights and forgotten race bibs) they all met before 5am and were off to get lost winding their way around Epcot for more than 6 miles. It was barely 40 degrees and dark at the start so they moved quickly to keep warm, finishing almost 20 minutes faster than last year. I’d like to see that kind of year over year 10K improvement so I could quit my day job.


Leading up to the Goofy I spent more time thinking about how to run it than anything else. Should I run the half fast and hope I can still run a marathon? Do I run the half really slow and try to run the marathon faster? I even went as far as downloading last year’s results into a sortable spreadsheet and quickly discovered the fastest Goofy runners ran an even pace over both days so in short order that was my plan.

Leading up to the races was an extremely busy work and travel week and I didn’t run for 5 days. The night before the half, I was so eager to get started I only slept about 2.5 hours before the alarm rang at 3. Disney races start at 5:30 in the morning! For this reason alone I can’t imagine why so many people sign up for them. In my mind it’s easier to run a half marathon than get up at 3am!

Prior to heading off to my corral, I spent some time at the PPMD tent and chatted with the other Run For Our Sons runners. There are many reasons to run with PPMD at Disney and community is one. It was nice to meet some new faces. A familiar face in the tent was Brian Denger from Maine. He’s a great running partner and we’ve run together several times, including half of the 2012 Boston Marathon with temps soaring towards 90. It turns out we were looking for about the same time in the half so off we went.

Waiting for the Half Marathon to get started with Brian Denger.

I’m sure Brian and I were in the small minority of runners happy with the 44 degree race temps. With the calm winds it couldn’t have been much better for comfortable winter running. We started in the B corral which provided a slightly slower start than planned. Not willing to do any aggressive passing, we passed the first mile in 7:45. After that it was smooth sailing up the dark highway to the Magic Kingdom.

I’m not one who needs or cares much for crowd support in a race but my pace always seems to surge when entering the Magic Kingdom. That quickly ended when we ran into the 1:40 pace group  in Tomorrowland. They were clearly ahead of pace and probably backing off a bit. It seemed to take almost a half a mile to get past them leaving us with another slow mile.

Seemed like a good time to check the phone.

It seemed like a good time to check my phone. — Actually I’m just taking bad photos.

Through the Magic Kingdom I was really beginning to enjoy the run. The pace was very comfortable and the sun was soon to rise. After a quick visit to the loo we ran the final 4 miles back to Epcot dropping the pace.

Runners barely swoop into Epcot before heading back out to the finish. Despite having run the half at nearly a training pace I didn’t let myself get caught up in racing to the finish. There was a marathon to run in less than 23 hours.

It was just about the most comfortable and easy half marathon I’ve run, all business turning in 13.1 miles about 13 minutes slower than the last time I ran this race. Perfect and on plan! I’m grateful to Brian for running with me. Without him I’d probably have gotten carried away and put my marathon in jeopardy. We quickly gathered our stuff and headed back to the hotel.

Most of all I’m grateful and fortunate that running has been so good to me and I’m able to share that gift by Running For Our Sons.

To be continued….

Walt Disney World Half Marathon by the numbers:

Time: 1:36:29
Place 257/22081
Age Group 32/1623

Splits 48:50.36 / 47:40.64
5K split in 23:03
10K Split in 45:28
15K Split in 1:09:11

Brian finished one place ahead of me and 14th out of almost 1000 in his age group!

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