Marathon Not Enough? Try the Goofy Challenge?
There's a reason they call it the Goofy Challenge. Every January Disney World hosts the Mickey Mouse Marathon weekend. For those who are willing to step up to the challenge, you can sign up to run both the Donald Duck ½ on Saturday and the Mickey Mouse full on Sunday. In all seriousness, it's not that goofy of an idea. After running a number of marathons it was clear that breaking any speed records is beyond my ability, additionally pursuing goals of ironman races still needs a bit of time to transition into, and ultra-marathons...well that's just crazy! The goofy run seemed to be the right "next move".
Somehow I was able to convince my running buddies to sign up with me and months later training started. Like all marathon training, I have found that training with friends is the key to success, if not more so for the goofy challenge. I took my typical 16 week training plan and moved the medium mid-week run to the day before the weekly long run. The biggest challenge we faced was dragging ourselves out of bed early on both weekend days to run. Surprisingly, only the first couple back-to-back runs were bad. Amazingly enough our bodies got used to this schedule pretty quickly and after the third or fourth week we were physically comfortable with this schedule. The one noticeable difference in these runs was that the long one was not as fast as they were when they were the only weekend runs we did. Our medium runs we'd run at our normal pace and then on the long run back off about 20-30 seconds/mile, which seemed to help a lot. Honestly, the slower run was probably more of a natural response from our bodies than a mental decision to slow down. Of course, our best runs were those that were cut short and ended at IHOP instead.
The actual race itself was "memorable". As most of those in the southern states dealt with the Arctic freeze by staying in bed, we (along with 17000 other people each day) spent it waiting to run. As we stayed at a Disney resort, we had to be on the bus and over to the start area by ~4am for a 5:50am start. Saturday we spent the 2 hours sitting under ponchos getting nailed by sleet. The run itself was not bad, although only ~2 miles were through Disney parks, the majority was spent in parking lots and streets. I believe what made the runs so much easier than expected was keeping the mentality that �??Saturday�??s run was nothing but a training run and we did that every week, so no biggie.
Sunday was slightly better in that there was no sleet or rain. Unfortunately the temperature was quite colder. Sitting around huddling under mylar blankets that we got after the ½ marathon run, we shivered our way through 30 deg F weather, only to have the temps drop to ~27 (plus wind-chill that came near the end of the race) during the run. It was so cold that by the time we got to the water stops, the PowerAde drinks were icing over and all the spilled water at the water stops turned the streets into an ice rink. The full marathon took us through ~4-5 miles through all four Disney Parks, entertainment by a number of Disney characters and music kept us going. Mad props have to go out to the spectators and volunteers who all battled the cold to support our runs. The last mile through EPCOT was run to the theme song of the Olympics, which is the greatest song that exists to put some kick into very tired muscles. Overall I think Disney did a very good job organizing the race (sans the cold and lack of heat lamps). I'm still trying to decide if shaking hands with former President Bush at Houston's 23rd mile or high-fiving Goofy at the end of 39.3 miles is more memorable.
It may have been goofy, but running the Goofy Challenge was a great experience. If anyone is looking for a step up in challenges after a marathon, I highly recommend it. 39.3 miles in two days seems daunting, but with some slight modifications to one's training schedule and of course, good friends to keep you company, it is worth taking on that challenge. And if that still isn't enough, may I suggest dressing up in a full blown costume of your favorite Disney character, you�??ll be the most popular runner out there�?�and it may keep you warmer! -Barry Tobias (4:21:12)