Running has not always been a passion of mine. I ran one track meet in high school but quit the Monday after because I hated training. I ran the 100M, 200M, and 400M but our practices often began with three mile “warm ups”. As a sprinter, three miles seemed torturous. If I had wanted to run long distance, I would have signed up for cross country.
In 2010, I agreed to start training with a friend for our first 5K- the Princess 5K at Disney. I began with intervals of walking/running and slowly increased the length of my runs. I kept a slow pace (a 12 minute mile) until I felt comfortable enough to challenge myself. By the time the 5K arrived in February 2011, I had been running the entire distance for months.
That fateful decision to lace up my sneakers changed my body and mind. As a gymnast, I was taught dedication, determination, and perseverance all of which I use in running. As a runner, I learned to lose myself in thought while pushing my body as far and as fast as it can go.
Though I continued to run on a consistent basis, it took me a whole year to enter another race. Again I signed up for the Princess 5K with a friend and my mom. The spark had been ignited and after that race, I tested longer distances- ten miles and half marathons. Running became my stress reliever, my weight controller, my motivation, and my time to bond with others.
2013 began with my first ever full marathon during the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. On a whim, a friend and I decided to sign up because it was the 20th Anniversary of the race. Our motivation to sign up was knowing that the medal would be extraordinary. Neither of us had listed “to run a marathon” on our bucket list. I blame the bling for momentarily clouding our judgement just long enough to register. I finished in 5:22 and hugely surpassed my anticipated 6 hour finish. In actuality, crossing the finish line was my only goal. Finishing in under my desired time and feeling great afterwards, filled me with pride.
That marathon started a year of running highs. I completed the “Coast to Coast Challenge” (running a half marathon or greater at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland) while also fundraising for Muscular Dystrophy; I ran my fastest timed ten miler; I ran my fastest timed half marathon and then beat it by 17 minutes a few weeks later finishing in 2:08; I expanded by running experiences by completing obstacle races and half marathons outside of Disney. I’ve experienced a greater sense of joy and accomplishment with running this past year than I ever thought possible. Honestly, who would have guessed that I would learn to enjoy running?
I’ve come full circle. A year after running my first full marathon, I am running what is called “the Dopey Challenge” taking place during the WDW Marathon Weekend. This is not for the feint of heart or non-runner. Those of us who are crazy enough will complete four races on four consecutive days- 5K, 10K, Half Marathon, Full Marathon. We will run a total of 48.6 miles. This is the inaugural Dopey Challenge and I’m pretty sure I was not the only person blinded by bling when signing up. Six medals will drape over our necks throughout the course of the weekend. Six medals clanking as we walk around Epcot post-race. With pride (and because we are show offs), we will wear those medals until our necks become distorted. Then we will just wear the singular Dopey medal to promote our insanity.
First, let’s hope my knees don’t crumble and hips don’t break before finishing the challenge. I’m 31 and a former gymnast. That’s about 71 in regular people years… Who cares though. This weekend’s adventures will be challenging and exhilarating even if they push me to the breaking point.
Here’s to putting the “dope” in Dopey!