Today I wasn’t sure if it was spam, a joke, or if I was dreaming. The London Marathon communicated its ballot results today. London is one of the six World Major marathons and a very difficult race to get into – thus, this makes it a huge bucket list item.
On April 22, 2023, I entered my information for the ballot thinking this would be the start of a multi-year process to get in. On my goal spreadsheet, I had it penciled in in April for the next twelve years, since that’s what seems to happen to most people.
Anyway, the organization communicated that results would be announced on July 6 throughout the day. Just because you didn’t hear in the morning, didn’t mean that you couldn’t hear later on. Sure enough, I was ending an 8 am call, when I glanced at my personal email from TCS London Marathon with the subject “Your 2024 TCS London Marathon Ballot result.” I held my breath knowing it would say “Sorry not this year” but alas, I saw…
But what did “You’re in Kristin” mean in British? You know those Brits have a weird way of communicating with us Americans. Did it mean I was in for a long haul of rejections? Then there was the word delighted. This is a happy email? I can pay to enter the race?! No, this mustn’t be real. There is no way I could get into the LONDON MARATHON; let alone on my first attempt. This just couldn’t be happening! It took all of my energy to not scream until I was off of my call. Talk about self-restraint!
I sent my screenshot to two running friends to ask them to verify what it said. I’ve been off lately and can’t trust what I’m doing. They confirmed that it was real, but then I thought it was a weird kind of spam, so I had to check URLs.
My grandma passed away the day before on July 5. She was my role model and an amazing woman. She lived a long 96-year life that was full of love, family, and faith. I am fully confident that she is in heaven looking down on us, and I believe she had a hand in this. She always liked to hear about my races and made me feel special that I liked to run. The only other country she ever visited was the UK. There is no other explanation for how this happened.
Bottom line, I’m going to train for the 2024 London Marathon and do it in honor of my Grandma D. I am so excited and motivated to make this my best marathon yet!
It’s hard to believe April is already here, and in two days, I am going to try to register for the 2024 Goofy Challenge at runDisney Marathon Weekend! Where does the time go? One of my goals for 2023 is to run a half marathon every month. I’ve worked hard training for the 2023 Dopey Challenge, and I don’t want to lose the endurance that I’ve built. I’m not going for a certain time; more just doing the race to have a fun way to get the miles in. So far I’ve accomplished:
January: WDW Half Marathon
February: Greenville Half Marathon
March: Jeff Galloway 13.1 (and challenge)
April: Craft Beer Half Marathon
Instead of doing an individual race recap (because I’m so behind), I figured I would summarize each of them into one post.
Read the WDW Half Marathon Recap here.
Greenville Half Marathon
The Greenville Half Marathon was held Saturday. February 25. It feels like just yesterday I did this race! I think I was still recovering from Dopey or just not in the mood to run too much. I did the Hot Chocolate 15K the weekend before, but I wasn’t feeling great about this race. Since I didn’t want to spend money on a hotel room, I drove the 2+ hours to Greenville at 5 am for a 7:30 am start time. I figured it was sleeping in compared to a Disney race. I had my Nuun and Pop-Tarts in the car on my drive.
The race is a point-to-point race that claims to be one of the fastest races in the South because it is mostly downhill. You start at Travelers Rest, and this was the part I found most stressful. In 2021, I did the 5K portion of this race (when it was called the Swamp Rabbit), so I knew about the shuttles. I decided to park at the startline then get a $20 shuttle ticket to go back to my car.
The start area was crazy! The roads are narrow, and I didn’t understand that you could park in the area then walk to get your bib and go to the start line. I tried to drive to the address where it said to pick up your bib, but that was a huge mistake and took a lot of time. I’m someone who arrives early to a race early since I get nervous, and the logistics of this race (I had to pick up my bib) were a bit much. Knowing what I know now, it would have been okay.
Bottom line: drive to the high school. Park your car. Walk to your bib. Walk to the start line.
I LOVED this race! One of the reasons I signed up for this race is to work on my side goal of completing (either a half or full or each) in every state. This seems like a fun goal to work towards throughout my life since I want to still run in my 90s. I ran the Kiawah Marathon in December but hadn’t run a half marathon yet; might as well cross off South Carolina!
Anyway, this race spends the first 4 miles on a road then the remaining miles on the Swamp Rabbit Trail which takes you into downtown Greenville. There was a chance of rain during this race which we got around mile 2. Luckily, after that, it cleared up, and the remainder of the race was very enjoyable. It was a colder day but a really good running temperature. My goal was to maintain a steady 30:30 interval for the duration of the race. If I felt good at mile 9, I would switch to 60:30. I maintained the 30:30, but I did not increase the interval.
The Swamp Rabbit Trail was so cool! All along it were old buildings, sheds, and other things that were renovated into hotels, businesses, breweries, restaurants, and shops. It has a really cool vibe and was super lively. Even though it is a downhill race, it doesn’t feel like it. There are not a lot of uphills which I found noticeable, but the downhill isn’t steep or anything.
The finish is right downtown and there is a big party with good food! They have breakfast wraps, a DJ, and lots of beer for those who are interested. I hung around the party for a little bit before getting on my shuttle to pick up my car.
My splits were incredibly even – I couldn’t believe it! My final time was 2:32:30, which I was insanely happy about. I wasn’t feeling the run beforehand, so to be 4 hours off of my half PR – whoa! I know it is possible for me to beat this time!
A friend I made through the Customized Training group lives in Greensville, so I had a chance to meet up with her and another 2023 Dopey. It was such a fun brunch to hang out and reminisce on Marathon Weekend! Overall, it was a fantastic day!
Jeff Galloway 13.1 (and Double G Challenge)
On March 18 and 19, I completed the Double-G in Atlanta, GA. Customized Training is part of the Jeff Galloway organization, which also sponsors this half marathon and 5K in downtown Atlanta. Even though I already crossed Georgia off my list, I decided to go down to meet some of the training people in person. Even though I still dislike Atlanta, I’m glad I had a chance to meet these people.
Logistics were pretty easy for this weekend because the hotel where I stayed was close to the start lines. As a side note, I had points that I transferred to Hyatt, which is what allowed me to go this weekend. Hotel pricing for the weekend was $500-$600. This wasn’t in my budget at all. Somehow, this hotel was available for 12,000 points for two nights! That is a great exchange and a great deal. Points haven’t paid off too much for me, so I’m glad I got this reward before I cancel everything.
Anyway, I had to drive to the 5K start line. In the lobby, I met Kelly who runs Jeff’s social media. I got to drive her to the start and hear her running story. I love learning about where others come from and what they have achieved as a runner.
The logistics for the half were easier because the start line was within walking distance from the hotel. If you were to drive, I imagine it would be a bit challenging to find parking.
It was FREEZING on both days. Absolutely fridged, which was the worst thing about the weekend. I never warmed up on either race.
The 5K was through Piedmont Park in Midtown. I was able to meet Bob from the Rise and Run Podcast and David who attends the Zoom calls, too. I ended up running the 5K with David. We went slow but ended up running more than run/walk because it was just too cold for us to walk.
The half marathon was a challenge. My goal was to do 30:30 intervals as I did in Greenville. This would be different because it was much colder but the course also had a lot of rolling hills. A lady in the lobby was so nice and handed out hand warmers to all of the racers – these were such a godsend!
Usually, when you run in the cold, you warm up after a while because your body gets warm. For some reason, this doesn’t happen to me and today was no different. What was worse was it got colder! I don’t know how the sun comes up but it gets colder. I was running, and it was colder. To say I was miserable, was an understatement. This race was a mental challenge because I just wanted to go somewhere to get warm. At one point (within the first mile), we passed the hotel. It took so much of me to not go back to my room or my car – I had to get that medal for March! Sigh…why do we runners do these things?
Anyway, I don’t know what else to say about the half marathon. There were some cool things to look at, but unfortunately, I couldn’t only focus on one foot in front of the other and think about my podcasts to try to not think about losing my legs or fingers. Eventually, we got into Piedmont Park again. Past mile 12, I took out my hand warmers because I wasn’t sure they were necessary.
After I crossed the finish line, I got to attend the VIP party that I signed up for. Here, I was inside and had real bathrooms. I checked a change of clothes in my gear bag so I could get out of my sweaty clothes and not have to change in the car for the ride home. I don’t understand how you can sweat when you are so cold. It felt great to put on warm, dry clothes. Then I got to socialize with the rest of the running group and have breakfast.
Craft Beer Half
Even though this isn’t technically in Q1, I am going to summarize it here. The Craft Beer Half Marathon was on April 1 in Charlotte, NC. There isn’t a lot to say about this half marathon. It was only another 2 weeks after the Double G, and I signed up for this one because it was close to my house. It was neat because I got to run on the road where I do some long runs and on the greenway where I ride my bike.
This race had some cool swag – a cup, koozie, shirt (that I really like), and the medal is a coaster. I’m not a beer drinker, but it is a big part of the Charlotte culture, so I appreciate it in that respect.
My last two races were cold; this race was very wet. I mean, very wet! We had a short downpour around mile 1 or 2, which wasn’t bad. Then at mile 8, the rain came down so much and didn’t stop. It was another race I was just trying to get through.
My goal again was to maintain 30:30 intervals, which I did. The positive thing is I’m getting more confidence around mile 9 when I usually break down. I finished the race in 2:40:38, which is a very respectable time for me. It was amazing how many people were at the finishing party (luckily rain had let up), but I didn’t stay. I was desperate to get out of my wet clothes and into something warm. We will see how my May race goes.
10K is such a great distance; it’s long enough to be a good run yet not too draining. The race course for this race made the distance even better. Add to that the amazing 90s theme for 2023 marathon weekend, and I cannot stop smiling! This was probably my favorite race of the Dopey 2023 weekend.
After the 5K, I went to Animal Kingdom with my friend and her boyfriend. We met up with another friend and had a very nice day. We rode several rides, but I only got to meet Donald and Daisy. Since it would be another early morning, I wanted to get back for an early dinner and bedtime. My goal was to have dinner at the Pop cafeteria around 5 pm each night.
After dinner, I made sure to get all of my things together. Based on my super nerdy schedule, I made sure that I:
Had my morning fuel – a cherry Pop Tart and a caffeine sport Nuun
Laid out my outfit and bib, along with my shoes. My 10K shoes were the same shoes I was wearing around the park, a different pair for the half, and then the same shoes for the 5K and the marathon.
Recovery Nuun for when I got back to the room after the race
Emergen-C. I would take one packet of Emergen-C when I got back from the park and another one before bed. I was determined to not get sick.
Protein recovery drink. I would fill up my shaker with water, Tailwind recovery powder and put it in the fridge overnight. This was something I would add to my gear check bag for after the race. The sports nutritionist I worked with really stressed the importance of getting protein and carbs within 30 minutes after a hard workout. Because Dopey is so intensive, I made it a point to do this after every race – even the 5K. I think this helped me during the week, so I’m glad I did this.
Got into bed to make an Instagram post. Originally, I wanted to do my race recaps, but I couldn’t focus enough to type them then.
The 10K course was a different course than I had done at my two previous runDisney 10K events – 2022 Princess 10K and 2020 Dopey – yet it had similarities. Essentially, there was some highway running at the beginning, but by the halfway point, you’re in the park and have a lot to entertain you until the end. On top of the fact that Chip and Dale were the new mascot, I was really excited for this race.
My 2 am alarm came quickly, but I was looking forward to the day. I wasn’t too tired yet, and as I mentioned was excited for the 10K distance. I was able to get on one of the first buses around 2:40 am or so and made it to the pre-race party in time to get a picture with Monterrey Jack! I’m so glad I watched an episode of Rescue Rangers before this weekend since the last time I saw one was when I was a child. That show was one of my brother’s and my favorite shows!
After getting that picture, I waited for my friend, but eventually got nervous and went to my corral. Why do those emotions creep up when I know I’m going to be okay on the 10K? There is no reason I should be scared about getting swept at this point, even with character stops. That is definitely part of the mental game that I need to address!
The race started promptly at 5 am after the playing of the national anthem. This is one of my favorite parts of sporting events, and Disney always has amazing performers! One day was a trumpet or something, and it may have been 10K day, but I can’t remember.
I was in corral C but believe I went off about 30 minutes after the start. My goal for the race was to take it easy with (I think 30:30 intervals). I wanted to go steady but feel strong at the end of the race – and maybe stop for a few characters!
There were a lot of characters on course! I was hoping to stop for pictures with a few of them, but the lines were out of control! If I had more confidence, I should have stopped, but I got so worried about making sure I finished. Once I entered Epcot, they had a photographer with the Figment statue, so I stopped for that since it was a shorter line.
Right before gettingo
Right before mile 6, there was a character I just couldn’t pass up; it was my brothers favorite cartoon – Darkwing Duck! Lucky for me, the line wasn’t too bad when I arrived. Since I was close to the end, I knew I could book it, if I needed to get to the finish. The line added about 20 minutes or so, I think, so it wasn’t too bad. That being said, his was one of the shorter lines that I passed. This was a cartoon I should have watched before coming in for the weekend since I hadn’t seen it in decades. We heard the theme song multiple times, and it always made me smile.
About 0.2 miles to go after seeing Darkwing Duck, and I was done with my second race. But in reality, you are only finished with 19% of the miles. I felt really good after the race and was on a complete high. The music and the course were so good, and there were still two more days of magical miles to experience!
There is something about crossing a finish line that is so exciting. If you’re someone who hasn’t done it yet, please do. Find a local race and traing for a 5K. You will feel all the feels everytime you cross one, and that feeling of accomplishment is just the best! Also, as a side note, this was my first time running wearing ears. This has always concerned me, but it wasn’t a problem at all! They didn’t move, and I never worried about them falling off, so I will definitely do this again!
After crossing through the finish line, I was able to get my medal with Chip and Dale, 2 waters, a snack box, and a banana. It was still dark, and I was so cold! Not sure what I was (or wasn’t) thinking when I packed my gear bag, but I didn’t pack my coat. For some reason, I didn’t see any mylar blankets either, so I had to find a way to warm up.
There was so much energy after the race. I was waiting for my friend to finish, and decided to get in line for the most sought-after character stop of the weekend – Chip and Dale Rescue Rangers. They are just so darn adorable. Funny enough, it took me longer to stand in line for this picture than it took me to finish the race – and it was worth every minute!
By the time I got my picture, the sun was fully up and the party area started to clear out. This was an advantage for me because Launchpad McQuack’s line was pretty short (especially in comparison!), so I got a picture with him.
So even though I didn’t get many stops on the course, I was lucky enough to get 3/4 of the characters at the pre/post-race area. Unfortunately, I can’t remember who the fourth one was.
Post Race – Hollywood Studios
After the pictures, I loaded the bus back to Pop Century for a much needed shower and warm clothes. After breakfast and getting ready, I headed out on the Skyliner to Hollywood Studios to roam around for the day. My goal was to find more characters, but also to do some rides in the park that I hadn’t done before.
Character-wise, I was lucky enough to meet Sully (a very, very long wait) and Olaf (not too bad). I’m not sure where all the characters were, but after two days in the park, I was disappointed. In 2020, I met many more characters. For attractions, the new ones I saw were Lightning McQueen’s Race Academy, Mickey and Minnie’s ride in the Chinese Theatre, Frozen Sing Along, and lunch in Toy Story world. One of my favorite shows since I was a child is Beauty and the Beast, which I also got to see. It was really fun, and is another thing that always makes me smile.
I left the park around 3 or so to get back again for my evening routine. It was quite a day and an even bigger day was on the docket for tomorrow. I wanted to make sure I got a good dinner and felt prepared for the half marathon.
Thursday morning was the first morning with a 2 am wake-up call for the 2023 Dopey Challenge where runners complete the WDW 5K. It’s definitely early, but it’s not a stressful morning because you “only” have to complete 5K, which is a normal weekly run for me. My goal was to be on one of the first buses out since I get worried about logistics. When I stayed with friends in the past, we would leave later, but I was worried about doing it on my own. The night before, I laid out everything that I would need.
One of my main concerns over Dopey was to avoid getting sick. This race is in January, there are big temperature changes, we are around a lot of people, and you expect your body to function with early mornings and high physical exertion, which all weakens your immune system. My plan was to take a sports Nuun with caffeine in the morning, a vitamin/recovery Nuun when I got back after the race, and then 2 Emergen-C before dinner. I think this plan helped me a lot, and I avoided getting sick during and after the race! Many people posted that they did get sick afterward, which is expected when you wear your body down so much.
Anyway, I had my Nuun while I got dressed in my Pluto-inspired costume. This was my first time doing a “costume” for each of the races. I didn’t do my first costume until the Princess 2022 Half Marathon when I dressed like Minnie Mouse. I love it when people wear costumes, but I don’t do them because 1. it can be expensive and 2. I’m not very clever.
This year, I decided to dress like the mascot for each of the races, with a few exceptions. For the 5K, I dressed in Pluto’s colors, which was hard because I don’t own a lot of clothes that are yellow. Many people wear skirts and hats from Sparkle Athletics, so I decided to get a yellow pair at the expo to match with a pair of pants and (luckily) we got a yellow race shirt with Pluto. To round it out, I made a green collar out of a ribbon I had at home, and voila, I was Pluto!
The 5K course for runDisney events is almost always the same, and I think the best course. You spend almost the whole time in Epcot, so there are just a lot of fun things to see. It is crowded, but the vibe is very calm and fun. This day is also when people where the craziest costumes because you can walk the entire race.
Essentially, you spend the first mile backstage and go into Epcot around Mexico then travel around the world. The lake has equipment from the evening show lit up with the marathon weekend logo, and it’s just really cool. They also play music from the speakers, so this year we listened to great 90s music and got to jam out!
Getting to the race early was a good idea, and something I would do again in the future. There are characters set up before the race where you can take pictures. In the past, I never tried to do this because the lines are so, so long. When I arrived, they were not long, and I was able to get a picture in 15-20 minutes. My goal was to get a picture with Dopey after each race, but he wasn’t around on 5K day (nor would he be there on any day!!). While I can’t remember exactly, I think Mickey, Minnie, Donald, and Daisy were there. Daisy had the shortest line, so I got my first character picture of the weekend with her. Definitely worth the early morning!
My friend Tina and I spent the 5K together, which was a lot of fun. This was her first runDisney experience, so I was excited to see her experience this fun time! We had to wait for a while for our corral to start, but eventually, it was our turn for the fireworks to take us out! The announcers are the same each year and provide a lot of entertainment. We actually didn’t have to wait too long for our corral (D) to go off, which was nice. I think we waited 40 minutes or so.
There were a ton of characters on the 5K course and all of them had a 90s theme!
The lines for the characters were so long! I regret not stopping for Tarzan. He was the first stop and the line wasn’t really that bad, but I was in too much of a rush. There is no reason to be because there isn’t a time limit, but at the same time, it is a race. The other lines could have been 30-40 minutes! And even though there isn’t a time limit, I heard they almost swept people because people were waiting in character lines for so long.
In addition to the awesome characters, they were also playing 90s music. The overall environment was just so exciting. We walked most of it and did some running here and there. There’s no reason to rush this race since it is the first of the 48.6-mile challenge and just a fun course; it’s important to savor each and every moment.
The finish line finally appeared in the distance and is always an exciting thing to see. This was the first finish line of the weekend, and it was just the beginning! I felt great and had a wonderful time doing the 5K with my friend.
Overall the course was busy, but everyone was friendly. There were a lot of Dopeys out on the course, so I think everyone was feeling the fun vibes.
After the race was over, I was able to get a picture of me at the “photo booth” with my first medal. I really liked this Pluto medal – Pluto moves across the bottom, and it is just fun! It’s bright yellow and just smiles when you see it!
Post Race – Animal Kingdom
After the race was over, I went back to Pop Century to shower and go to Animal Kingdom. There is a good amount of walking at Animal Kingdom, but it’s also a park where you can see a lot and not spend all day. I was able to go on the safari, watch the festival of the Lion King, and even as brave enough to ride Everest.
One of the main reasons I like to go to parks after the race (besides get walking in) is to get pictures with characters. I was really sad that I didn’t see many characters at Animal Kingdom. I did, however, get to visit with Donald and Daisy. Donald was very impressed with my Pluto medal.
I think I got a Genie Pass this day because I really wanted to ride Flights of Passage, which is my favorite ride at Animal Kingdom. While I was waiting for my Fast Pass, I couldn’t believe what I saw! During this training cycle, I learned about YouTube videos of people who run and record Disney races. The first channel I came across was RezRuns, and I binged on all of his videos. Lo-and-behold, there was RezRuns standing right in front of me!
He was absolutely the nicest person, even when I asked to get a picture with him. Not only did they stay and chat for a while, he and his friend even asked if I wanted to go on the ride with them! Of course, I said yes, and had a fun time talking to them about the race weekend and how they were feeling about Dopey. It was quite a highlight of the weekend – like meeting a celebrity!
To cap off the afternoon, I was able to get a picture with the Tree of Life and watch It’s Fun to be a Bug. Then it was time to take the bus back to Pop Century and get ready for bed to do the 10K the next morning. While I was done with 25% of the wake-ups, the miles were just starting…
Dopey 2023 – whew! I’m finally writing this summary in mid-February even though the challenge was at the beginning of January. This trip was fantastic and everything that I wanted it to be. After completing the 2020 Dopey Challenge, I made a goal to complete it again in 2023. This would be the 10th anniversary of Dopey and 30th anniversary of the marathon.
The 90s theme made this weekend even better than imagined – there were bright colors, fun music you hadn’t heard in ages, and characters from when I was a kid. With people in their 30s being the main demographic for runDisney, it was a hit with almost everyone! RunDisney is a positive environment anyway, but there was something about this weekend that made it even more memorable. I wish I could describe it more, but I’m not sure how to. I recently bought a video camera so I can record my journeys to try to share some of the fun.
What is the Dopey Challenge?
RunDisney currently has 4 event weekends throughout the year: Wine & Dine, Marathon Weekend, Princess Weekend, and Springtime Surprise. Marathon Weekend is held in January, and consists of 4 events:
Thursday – 5K (mascot is usually Pluto)
Friday – 10K (this year it was Chip and Dale!!)
Saturday – Half Marathon (mascots are Donald and Daisy)
Sunday – Marathon (mascots are Mickey and Minnie)
The Goofy Challenge is when participants complete both the Half and Marathon. Ten years ago, runDisney said, “what is more ridiculous than the Goofy Challenge?” They came up with the Dopey Challenge, which is when someone completes all four of these events. It is an incredibly popular challenge and has about 500 people who are “perfect” meaning they have done all 10 challenges. Just blows my mind!
How to Prepare for the Dopey Challenge
This is obviously a very physical challenge. Training not only makes the event more enjoyable, but the training actually makes it more fun! I learned so much about myself and running during this 6-month training period. I’m so proud of myself. I improved as a runner by getting faster and completing 2 extra marathons which allowed me to qualify for Marathon Maniacs! I trained with Coach Twiggs in Galloway’s Customized Training program, and I cannot recommend this program enough!
When I started training for the 2021 Chicago Marathon, I learned about blogs. My evening activity would be reading people’s stories about their running journeys. This was really great motivation for me, and it helped me get excited about the event and learned a lot. In that research, I stumbled upon running podcasts and started listening to Marathon Training Academy and Run4PRs.
Somewhere around the 2022 Princess Weekend, I stumbled upon a podcast called Rise and Run. This podcast is with a gang of people who love runDisney. It was so fun to listen to people talk about training for the same thing as me. They have a Facebook group and host bi-weekly Zoom calls. Through their conversations, I learned there was a whole world and community of people via Facebook groups, YouTube channels, and blogs. I really dove into this, and all of a sudden I found a tribe of people who had a similar interest. I love this community and being able to nerd about in this space.
Travel to Disney World
I planned a week for my trip because I wanted to have a chance to go to different parks and get pictures with characters. This was my first week-long vacation since Dopey 2020, so I was really, really excited for this trip. My teammate and I were joking around because his idea of a vacation is sitting on a beach; Dopey is my kind of vacation.
Wednesday: Fly to MCO, check into POP Century, go to the expo, have dinner with friends at Ale & Compass, then have an early bedtime.
Thursday: 5K and Animal Kingdom
Friday: 10K and Hollywood Studios
Saturday: Half Marathon, relaxing, and Rise and Run Meetup
Sunday: Marathon and celebration in Epcot
Monday: Magic Kingdom for fun pictures then dinner with Dopey at Storybook Dining in Wilderness Lodge
Tuesday: Fly home
This was a wonderful trip, and even though I was tired on Sunday, I am looking forward to doing it again one day. I am not planning to do Dopey in 2024 because it was a lot to do with training, but I would definitely do it again one day. I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on the weekend, and these are the things I would change in the future:
I need to incorporate strength training and more yoga into my training. I’ve been doing strength training for the last month, and I do think this is making a difference in my running.
Ride Everest during the marathon. I was too nervous that I would get picked up by the balloon ladies if I did because it’s a long ride, and I didn’t know how long I would have to wait in line, even though they were letting runners go in the single-rider line.
Don’t go to parks every day. The parks are really expensive, and with shortened days, I’m not sure I get my money’s worth. I went to a meetup on Saturday which kept me on my feet a lot longer than planned because I was standing at the event and then had to stand for an extra hour until the bus came to pick me up from Disney Springs. I think this is one of the reasons the marathon did not go as well as I wanted it to go.
I did a good job packing and making a routine for each day. I felt prepared and had everything that I needed for the trip. Dopey requires a lot of things, but I remembered everything for my costumes, vitamins to prevent me from getting sick, and all of my recovery tools.
As if Dopey wasn’t enough, I cannot believe I am now officially a Marathon Maniac. Number 15950, to be exact!
What are you talking about now?
Marathon Maniacs is a club of people who like to run and do crazy numbers of marathons. When I was training for Chicago 2021, I learned about blogs and discovered many cool people and their running journeys. One that I really enjoyed is 50by25 where Laura shares her journey to be the youngest person to complete marathons in all 50 states by the time she is 25. She talks about her quest to join Marathon Maniacs and all of the connections that she has made through that club.
Her story is so interesting and motivational. When I read about this, I thought she was nuts and there was no way I could ever be part of that group. Well…this is why you should never think you CAN’T do something because, in all likelihood, you really can!
How do you join?
Marathon Maniacs has several different club levels. The lowest level (what I am), is their bronze level. You qualify for this if you complete 2 marathons in 2 weeks or 3 marathons in 90 days. I qualified during my Dopey 2023 training when I completed the City of Oaks Marathon (November), Kiawah Marathon (December), and Walt Disney Marathon (January).
When Coach Twiggs put 26+ mile training runs on my schedule, my initial reaction was to freak out. I couldn’t do it, but I kept telling myself to “trust the coach.” He knows more than I do, so I cannot question his advice. I am trying to improve and get better. Then I thought, I can’t do that distance without a medal, so I researched races. Raleigh and Kiawah were perfectly placed on my training schedule, so (even though I was still doubting my ability), I signed up for both.
A few weeks after finally registering, it occurred to me that those may qualify me for membership to Marathon Maniacs. Sure enough, that is 3 marathons within 90 days.
When I go to races, I now notice people in their Marathon Maniacs jerseys and shirts. Next time I’m at a race, I am going to introduce myself. During Kiawah, I ran with a lady for a while who had done over 100 marathons (I think) and was a high-ranking Maniac.
The club also offers discounts to races and even some meetups at races. As I work on completing a race in all 50 states, I think this could come in handy for states I don’t know much about.
And, I’ll just continue to be in awe of my accomplishment!
The City of Oaks Marathon is held in Raleigh, NC. The 2022 event was on Sunday, November 6. This event has something for all distances – 5K, 10K, half, and full marathon. Originally, I signed up for the half marathon but when Coach Twiggs put a 26-mile training run on my schedule, I felt like I needed to get a medal for my efforts. I went back and forth for a long time on whether I should sign up for this race. I had a lot of fears:
It’s a lot of pressure to run a marathon. To just do one “for training” was something I could not get my mind around.
City of Oaks is not a large race like a world major or Disney. I’m a back-of-the-pack runner, so this was really nerve-wracking to be alone or maybe not even finish.
The race only had a 6-hour limit. My current PR for the marathon is 5:57, so that is barely squeaking in. I would be really upset with myself if I didn’t finish, and this limit added a whole lot more pressure than it just being a marathon.
After my successful 23-mile training run, I decided to be brave and just got for it. I changed my half marathon registration to the full, and then the pressure was really on to do it. If I could stick to my prescribed training pace of 13:15, I would finish under the 6-hour limit, but also earn a PR with a time around 5:47.
The race logistics and communication were my two biggest complaints about this race. I don’t know if I was extra nervous because of the fact that it was a marathon or because travel was required. I lived in Raleigh for many years, so I shouldn’t be nervous about that, but I know that I was.
They offered to mail your race bib to your house instead of going to packet pick up. This was an extra $6.99, which is a nice option, but sometimes I like to go to packet pickup just to see what it is. They continued to mail about the deadline, but they never communicated when and where packet pickup would be. When I emailed to inquire about this, they said they weren’t sure and would communicate details later. Well, that makes it difficult to plan!
Ultimately, I decided to have it mailed to my house. This is nice because I got a picture of Churchill with a bib, even though he wasn’t there to tell me good luck for the race.
Packet pickup ended up being at a local school until 6 pm or something, so it was good that I had it mailed to me.
Another issue I had with logistics was with parking. The race started and ended in downtown Raleigh, but they communicated 3 parking areas that were between 0.3 and 0.7 miles away from the start. Some of the areas were street parking, which I scoped out the day prior. I didn’t feel confident at all that I would be able to find a parking spot, and this stressed me out a lot. I’m not great at driving, let alone in cities. Luckily, I drove through downtown from my Airbnb to those spaces and found a paid parking spot just down the street from the finish line. This ended up working perfectly, so I wish their communication would say there was paid parking in different lots downtown.
Alll of the City of Oaks courses lap each other and turn off at various points, but they all pass some of the big sites of Raleigh like the NC State Capitol on Fayetteville Street. Something I really liked about this marathon course is that the breakaway from the half and full happened at mile 8 where the full went straight onto a greenway and the half turned around at the end of Hillsborough St. Mentally, as a marathoner, that was a lot easier to process than seeing the half marathon run to the finish line when you had to turn off and do 13.1 miles more. The Charlotte Marathon is set up this way, and I think that would make for a really hard mental game.
The other thing to note about this course is that the Raleigh course is really hilly. If you’re doing the half and shorter distances, you have a few hills, but it isn’t anything too much if you live in the Piedmont area of NC, since that is just your normal. The full marathon, on the other hand, had some HUGE hills on the greenway. I remember running down one around mile 10 or so thinking this is going to be really hard to go back around. We were around mile 21 when we had to go back up that section, but that wasn’t the only one!
The City of Oaks Marathon races started at 7 am. I left my Airbnb around 5:30 am, not sure about what I would do with parking. This would give me enough time to fumble around and figure something out. I had my hydration pack full with no-flavor Tailwind, a few Ucann gels, and some graham crackers to eat before. The time change happened that morning, so I had an extra hour to prep for the race. I was incredibly nervous, so I was trying to find ways to calm myself down.
The weather was also not looking good. It was warm (I think around 74 in the morning) and the air was THICK! I made sure to pack S-Caps and Salt Tabs to help, but I knew this would make the day that much harder. I was sweating just standing around waiting for the race to start because of the humidity – this was not a good sign! You can even see the haze in this picture from the humidity. I was scared this was going to turn into 2020 WDW Marathon again, and that was NOT something I wanted to repeat – especially on a smaller race when I was already expected to struggle.
Miles 1 – 8
Since this is a smaller race (I think about 770 registered and 565 finished the full marathon), they don’t have start corrals. Everyone (all distances except the 5K) started at the same time. There was a beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, then we were off. Well over 2,000 people registered for the half (1,700 finished) and 1,220 registered for the 10K. Imagine almost 4,000 all at the same time going down a city street. It was absolute madness! Topple that with me trying to run/walk (I placed myself towards the back, but then a lot of people came late), and it was a fiasco.
I wanted to make sure to start my intervals from the beginning because I was doing the full and needed to conserve my energy. I had to run through the first 1 or 2 walk breaks but eventually was able to get off on the side to walk. Originally, I started at 20:30, but I had to back off because I was going much faster than my 13:15 goal pace; my first 5K was under 12:00/mile!
I backed my intervals down to 15:30 to try to slow down. One or two people told me “thank you” for raising my arm to signal my walk break, as I think I was the only one run/walking at that point of the race.
It was really fun to run through downtown Raleigh to see all of my old sights. A lot of my downtown experience was the bar scene, so running a marathon is quite a difference! I even ran past the Junior League of Raleigh building where my Junior League career started, which was a fun surprise. It’s funny, one of my favorite things to do is to visit and tour state capitol buildings. North Carolina is one I need to do. Not only have I lived in NC longer than any other state, but I actually lived in the capital city for 6 years! So typical, isn’t it?
Even though I changed my interval, I was still running under 13-minute miles at the 8-mile mark. I don’t understand because running this interval is much slower when I’m at home.
Miles 8 – 22
The second section of the marathon was most of the race and all marathoners. I marked this off at where the half and full marathon split and the marathoners spend the entire time on the greenway. It was really hot and humid at this time. My goal was to stay strong on my 15:30 intervals for the whole race, which was okay at this point, but I couldn’t believe I still had 18 miles to go.
The greenway was really nice, and the noise of Hillsborough Street faded away. Little did I realize how many large hills were waiting for us! I was able to zone out here, just run, and say hi to some fellow runners while commenting on the weather. I started to struggle and chose to only walk around the halfway point. Since I did 10 miles with a power walk the day before for Mock Dopey 1, I figured if I could pull off 14-minute miles I could still finish under the 6-hour time limit. Just focus on putting one foot in front of the other. I also finished my whole hydration pack of Tailwind at this point – on top of taking water at every water stop! This was going to be really hard.
It was a really scenic view, which was really nice because of the colors of the trees. Everyone was struggling at this point. Around this point, I also saw the leaders coming back down. They were looking strong, but even the fast people were walking and looking hot.
This greenway took you up until around mile 15.5 or something, which was close to North Hills. I can’t believe that I was able to run from downtown to North Hills; seems like such a far distance! When I turned back around, I saw that I wasn’t the last person and tried to cheer people along. I had started passing people at this point because it was such a struggle. According to the race results, from the halfway point to mile 20, I moved up 29 places and I was just power walking. That’s how bad it was.
There were people with medics, too. One I saw was a half marathoner on Hillsborough St. with an IV. Another girl I saw on the greenway was flush white on the ground. I kept telling myself, just be safe and be steady. This is a training run and there is never a need to push yourself that hard.
The hills were killer. Mile 20-22 was 170 ft of elevation gain, which was quite steep. Writing it, it doesn’t seem like it should be that bad, but it was awful! My pace slowed to a slow walk where I was clocking over 15-minute miles. I was definitely feeling it!
Mile 23 – Finish
It felt like forever, but eventually, we got off the greenway and back onto Hillsborough Street. We did a weird out-and-back then were really back onto the road to get us back downhill. While 3 miles doesn’t seem like a lot compared to doing 26, these last 3.2 miles were killer. I was so, so tired. Miles 24 to the end were downhill, but I was still walking. I was trying to stay with my power walk, but I was so hot and so dirty. It was hard having an empty pack, and I hadn’t had electrolytes or calories since mile 13. I was too scared to take any of the electrolyte drinks they had on the course because of what happened at the 2021 Chicago Marathon. Maybe it would have helped, but I didn’t want to chance not being able to finish.
When I saw the 25-mile marker, I tried to run, but I couldn’t sustain my intervals. I had to just power walk. Some of the people around me were able to speed up and add in some running intervals. I was so impressed with them! I desperately wanted to, but I couldn’t. It was one girl’s first marathon, and she was doing amazing!
Eventually, we got back downtown, and I knew we were close. We crossed over Glenwood where we started, and it was just a little bit. I tried to press on and turned the final corner. There it was – the finish line! It was straight ahead and the clocked showed around 5:57 – I could finish in under 6 hours! It took everything I had but I powered in at the end. That short speed burst clocked in at less than a 12:00 mile, I think. But I finished!
My official final time was 5:57:38. It is hard to believe that I had finished my fourth marathon, and I finished it at a race where I was so nervous. The City of Oaks Marathon is the kind of race that good runners sign up for and for people who really like marathons – but I did it! I snuck in just under the time limit, and I couldn’t be happier.
This was my third fastest marathon, but that was okay. It probably had the second worst conditions, outside of the 2020 WDW Marathon. There is a lot that I can do to improve, but I had even more to be proud of. It was a challenge for me to sign up, but I did it, and I stuck it out through the conditions, and I changed course so that I could finish. The race party was over and the race food was gone, but it was okay. I earned my cool spinner medal and gained a lot of confidence – more motivation to do better the next time.
This was the first of three marathons that I have coming up. Dopey 2023 training is coming to an end, but there are still a lot of miles to go. Next month, I will do the Kiawah Island Marathon, which I am less nervous about because there is a 6.5-hour limit. Then, I will cap off my training season with Dopey 2023 in January – what I have been working towards!
If I can accomplish all of these, I am going to apply for the bronze level of Marathon Maniacs. I haven’t been able to say that yet, but if I can do 3 marathons in 90 days, I might as well. I’m not sure if I’ll do it again, but you just never know!
This was part of one of the most awful weeks of my life. On Friday 10/28, my little sister, Shadow, passed away unexpectedly when she was getting her teeth cleaned. That was in the midst of Churchill having strokes, from which he passed away on 11/2. I’m absolutely heartbroken.
This week also concluded with my first Mock Dopey. At least it gave me a good amount of time to run my blues away…except I’m still very sad. So here are the details for October 29 – November 6; training week 19.
I didn’t do much besides work and be with Churchill.
Today was my tempo run. Churchill fell asleep on the couch, so I went off for my 3-mile run and then worked on my computer next to him for the rest of the day. The run helped clear my head a little bit, but I really wanted to get back to him.
This was a terrible day. I did not do any exercises since Churchill had another stroke after going outside at 4:45 am. I made an appointment at the vet, and unfortunately, had to make the decision to put him down this day. I didn’t think it would be this fast, but he was really hurting and having strokes more often. I miss him so much. I held him almost the whole day, and I wouldn’t have had his last day any other way. I love you and miss you so much, Churchill. You are my best boy.
Today was the start of my first Mock Dopey. My very grateful that I had so much running ahead of me. Today I did my normal 30-45 minute run, but I cried a lot. It helped me to get out and run, but I was really sad.
Today I had 5 miles scheduled. I did a run/walk combination but took it really slow. I did 15:30 intervals which got me around a 13:30 pace for the whole 5 miles. again, it was good for me to get out. Running is really a positive addition to my life, and it helps in a number of different ways.
Day 3 of Mock Dopey had me at 10 miles. Coach recommends walking this, so I was back and forth between whether to listen to him or to do a slow run/walk like I did yesterday. Once I got started, power walking was feeling really good, so I just kept going with it. In the end, I finished with a 14:02 pace just walking, which made me very happy. This keeps me well ahead of the balloon ladies at that point!
My focus was on recovery when I got home, so I did a lot of massaging with my Hyperice massage gun. I was very nervous about the marathon tomorrow. Eventually, I left to go to Raleigh. I went to Mellow Mushroom for pizza as a pre-race dinner then to my Airbnb for the night. I was very, very nervous…
Of all of the races I’ve signed up for, I’ve never been so scared or nervous for a race. The City of Oaks Marathon takes place in Raleigh, NC. You can read a full race recap here. I won’t go into too many details on this page, but I did finish! Even though it was hot and humid conditions, I even finished under the 6-hour limit by just a couple of minutes. It was a rough day, but I got it done! Finished my first Mock Dopey, and I couldn’t be happier.
Next week is a recovery week except that I have the Charlotte Marathon relay planned. It will make for a fun day. This week was one of the hardest of my life, and I am glad I had some running goals to move me forward and keep me going. I love you so much, Churchill.
This was a low-mileage training week after running last week’s 23 miles, and I am appreciative of that! There wasn’t a lot to report about this week, but I do feel like I am getting better.
I hate how many weeks I don’t do yoga, but this was another one to add to the list. I know it would be helpful and valuable, and then I just can’t get myself to do it! It just seems so boring. I did sneak in a very short walk.
Today was tempo day, and I did a 3.5-mile run followed by lower body strength exercises. My tempo run was about 2 miles and at 11:22 pace with 60/30 intervals. Not too bad, and I felt really good after getting out for a run.
My exercises range from lunges, calf raises, single-leg deadlifts, and crunches.
In the morning I walked 1.64 miles, then I went to dinner for a neighborhood meeting and walked about 0.8 miles each way to dinner, which was nice.
Today was drill day, and I was really really sluggish. I kept intervals at 30/30 and hovered around a 13:00 pace for the entirety. I was able to do my cadence drills, but really bad counts, and some acceleration gliders. Then I just continued on at 30/30. I did a few strength exercises, but I just felt sluggish.
I just couldn’t get myself going in the morning. I ended up doing some things to catch up at home and didn’t get out for a walk in the morning or the evening.
Today was the Boulder Dash 5 Mile race! You can read a full recap here, but I had a lot of fun running through the quarry. My fueling was okay since I was able to have peanut butter toast beforehand and not get sick, but I should have brought my water bottle. Most importantly, I felt steady during the run, which is what I am aiming for!
The weather is absolutely beautiful! I went for a long walk (about four miles) with my neighbor, and it was nice to have the company and get my legs moving. I can understand the importance of cross-training, but it is something I am not doing enough of or doing good quality.
This was the first year of the “Boulder Dash.” Typically, the Six Pack Series ends in Rocktoberfest Half Marathon, but that was discontinued this year for a new mystery event. When it was announced, I wasn’t sure what to think about it. It was definitely different, but I wanted to give it a shot.
The race took place at 8:30 am on October 8, 2022, at the Martin Marietta quarry and was billed as a unique racing experience. They have hosted similar events at other quarries, and I think the company uses this as a marketing opportunity. This was a run during Dopey Training Week 15 which was a down week for mileage.
This was a course like no other. The Martin Marrietta quarry in north Charlotte that I didn’t even know was there. Being that I have never been to a quarry, I wasn’t sure what to think. I knew we were going to go down a mile into a “hole” and have to come up, so it would be a strenuous five miles. I didn’t think about it, but we ran on gravel the whole time. In thinking about my 2023 goals, I want to try a trail race, and I feel like this was a good transition into this type of change.
The race had two options. First was a 5K that ran around the hole. The second (which I did) was the 5K plus descending a mile into the quarry and then making your way back up a mile to return to the 5K course.
There were fewer participants doing this race than the others in the six pack series, which I expected because of the course. But of the people there – they were fast! These were serious people. I don’t know how many people did the 5K only but only 75 did the 5 mile course. It was a beauitful morning! We couldn’t have had a better day, especially since they were calling for rain earlier in the week (but they are always calling for rain in Charlotte).
The emcee started the race, and we were off. They told us to follow the white truck for the 5-miler and the silver truck for the 5K. I’m way too slow for such things, so I had no idea how that happened. My biggest complaint about the race was the lack of signage. While there was definitely a path, there were many opportunities to get loss. I’m not sure if I missed part of it because at one point some of us split thinking we were going into the quarry, but then we met up with people later only to find a sign that split the 5-miler away. I’m not sure what that was, and there is no way to know since we were following people and GPS was off.
Going into the quarry was very easy. I ran down the whole way because frankly, I couldn’t get my legs to stop. It took a while, but once we were down, we ran on the bottom until a sign told us to turn around. There was a really pretty pond at the bottom, too.
The ascent was a challenge – the whole point of the race. I was amazed at how many people I saw being able to run up all of it or most of it. I tried to run a little bit, but I think I was making better progress speed walking. It was hard, and that’s all there was to it!
Eventually, I made it up and back onto the 5K course. I tried to resume my 60 second run / 30 second walk intervals, but it took me a while to get my heart rate down. Eventually, I was able to resume my intervals and kept steady until the end.
There were many MM employees volunteering to help with the event and tell people which way to go. At one point, a man mentioned that there was a lookout if we went off the course slightly. I took him up on it and got the below picture. It was a really beautiful view! That was what we had to go down and back up! You can see the people in the distance making their way back up.
The rest of the 5K was gravel roads and nothing to specific to mention. You have to be careful running on gravel since you could turn an ankle easily.
Even though I finished 5/5 in my division, I was really proud of myself. My final time was 56:00 for a hard 5-mile course. I got my final cup as my medal and completed my challenge. Even though it was a hard course, I felt really strong at the end and was pleased. I’m starting to feel like my training is paying off and that I’m getting better.
There was a lot of cool equipment at the end of the race. I got my picture in front of one of them – a three year old boy would know what it is called, but I’m not sure!
Going forward I have some big races coming up – Cannonball Half, City of Oaks Marathon, Kiawah Mararthon, and then Dopey 2023!
Running is a great release and is something I really enjoy doing. For some weird reason, I love it. I’m glad that I’ve taken time this year to dive deeper into a hobby that I enjoy for what it is. Even if I’m not really good, I do love it, and that’s what’s important. The Six Pack Series allowed me to experience some of the most popular local races that happen (almost) annually in Charlotte. It was neat to feel like I was a part of the Charlotte running community, which is right in my backyard.