A long time ago in a land far, far away (let’s call it New Zealand) I was quite a serious runner. Not a fast runner, but a persistent one. In the years I lived there I ran 20+ half marathons, one marathon……and something called the Goofy Challenge.
This takes place each year, at Walt Disney World in Florida around the second weekend in January – yes that right, it’s on this weekend – and it is possibly THE thing I am most proud of doing in my entire life.
Part of the WDW Marathon Weekend, the Goofy Challenge sees you run a half marathon one day and a full marathon the next.
For the kid who was always picked virtually last for sports at school and cried during PE crossing the marathon finish line was a ‘ya boo sucks’ to the nasty netball girls.
Only 2 per cent of the population ever run a marathon, even less do an ultra-distance, I was one of them – who cares if I can’t catch?
It was also a sign of a determination I didn’t know I had.
The training for the Goofy Challenge consumed my life – you HAVE to do back to back runs.
For me, a 6hr marathoner, by the end of training that meant two hours run one day, and five the next. I’d run Friday morning and Saturday morning then go out Saturday night and arm-dance from a stool placed by the side of the dancefloor as my legs ached so much.
Even now if things get tough, I look at my Goofy Challenge medal and remember that if I can train to run 63km in a weekend, I can do anything.
Of course, you don’t need to go Goofy to run at the Marathon Weekend. There’s a 5km, a half marathon and a marathon. I’ve run them all – twice! The marathon is my favourite. Everyone talks about London or New York as the great marathons, but to me, WDW is a great FIRST marathon. Here’s why…..
1) It Runs Through Four Theme Parks
This makes it feel like four 5km runs with a short trot through a theme park in between. You can run 5km right?
2) It’s Fun
There are fireworks at the start, you can have your photo taken with characters as you go and it has been known for a few hardy types to hop on the Expedition Everest ride en route (queues willing). NB: if you hate Disney, this won’t tempt you but if you love it, it can make the difference between sitting on the sofa and becoming a runner.
Check out the stories in the WISH team forum if you don’t believe me. A nicer group of virtual training partners you couldn’t hope to meet.
3) It’s Okay to be a Slow Runner
There’s a maximum 16-minute mile pace you have to maintain and back of the pack in this race is as busy as the front – unlike my first half marathon – where 99% of the runners had finished, showered and had lunch by the time I came in.
4) The Medals
Got to be the best out there. The marathon one is a huge shiny Mickey head. And the day after the race everyone wears theirs to the parks on Monday.
Yes it’s hokey, yes ‘real’ runners shudder, but hey, I just lost a toenail, I have bathed in ice for the last 20 weekends, and I won’t be able to sit without wincing till Wednesday, let me show off for a day.
Entries for next year’s marathon weekend open when this one is over. Find out more about it and other Disney races here
Who is The Wellness Nerd?
My name is Helen Foster and I’m a health journalist and wellness author. Publications I’ve written for include Women’s Health, Reader’s Digest, Body and Soul, Good Health at the Daily Mail and more. I have also written 16 books on health and nutrition.