So this was it, the big one. Just 26.2 miles stood between me and completing the Dopey challenge. When I first signed up back in April, it was always just about completing the races and not about times. However in my mind I had the 7 hour mark, which I wanted to be at or within. By my calculations from the other 3 races I needed to finish in 3.50 or less.
Up early again, dressed, headed up to the Race Retreat again, to relax and fuel up. After the (long) walk to the start, began to warm up, and instantly started to feel off. I was sluggish, tired and it was extremely muggy. Checked the weather forecast on my phone, and the humidity was pushing 100%. Hmm maybe this was going to be just more a case of finishing.
As the starting fireworks went off, I felt in a daze. Four days of 2am alarm clocks were starting to have an effect. Fortunately the training kicked in and my legs seemed to know what to do, even if me head didn’t. Within the first mile I was drenched in sweat, hydration was going to be key, and from then on I took water at every station, with Powerade at every other. It seemed to work and the brain kicked into gear as I settled into a nice pace. By the 5k mark I was well within my target time and feeling comfortable.
The first half of the course mirrored the previous day’s half, heading up to the Magic Kingdom. Easily my favourite section, running up a lit Main Street towards the castle, with the crowd cheering you, cannot be beaten for an experience. A slightly longer loop round Fantasy and Frontier land before heading out away from the Magic Kingdom. It was then a long haul down to Animal Kingdom. Studying the course before hand, this looked a difficult stretch. To be fair runDisney do all they can, with Character stops, entertainment and amazing volunteers.
At the expo I’d picked up one of those bracelets that show the splits needed for a certain goal (I’d picked 3:45). I used one of these at the Paris Marathon and find it helps to take the focus away from the whole 26 miles. Instead I simply focus on what time I need for the next mile marker. This one also highlighted suggested energy gel points, every 4 miles, which I deceided to follow. At it seemed to be working, I was building a nice time buffer.
Animal Kingdom was great, you got to see areas not open to the public as you entered the park. The route then looped past Expedition Everest and Dinoland before we left and headed off to Worldwide Sports. Another long road section, which as I could see the leaders on the other side, we’d have to run back along. Worldwide Sports was fun, despite intial misgivings, and included a lap of a running track (I resisted the urge to sprint round for 400m) and a loop of the baseball stadium (great crowds here). Then before I knew it I was at 20 miles, with approximately a 10min buffer over the 3:45 time.
The next 3 miles were tough. I was physically struggling, as we pounded out the miles along the roads. Mercifully the sun had risen and with it the humidity had dropped. Finally after what seemed like an age we turned into Hollywood Studios. By now the Park was open, adding more supporters and with it encouragement. From here we followed the lake path round to the Boardwalk area and into Epcot World Showcase. One final push round the lake and past Spaceship Earth and there was the finish.
Official time – 3:34:55. Not only was I well within the 3:50 and 3:45 target pace, I’d also managed to knock 2 mins of my marathon PB! Final results for the marathon have me in 317th place out of 19,838 finishers.
Pretty pleased with that! The blings not bad either..