January has always been a very busy month for me. January 2016 was different in many ways. However, I still did a lot during the month. I ran five races and volunteered at two other races. This compared to never racing in January. My focus has typically been pencil and teaching about astronauts. In January of 2015, I ran a total of 20.26 miles. This year, I beat that mark by 73.43 miles, for a total of 93.69 for the month. That is not my best month, however it shows what a difference a year can make. I wanted to share a few of my favorite things after running and volunteering for some epic races!
I started the month off in recovery mode and quickly shifted gears to Disney for Dopey. It is interesting to think running four races during four days straight wouldn’t be the most epic thing during the month? Running around Walt Disney World was fun, but how can a mouse beat a hound dog named Ludivine. The very next weekend after Dopey, I ran my second half marathon of the month. The Trackless Train Trek was a small first of the year half marathon in the rural community of Elkmont, Alabama. Race with a difficult name to pronounce, produced a world record for the half marathon distance and hundreds of social media posts about a random dog running 13.1 miles. The story made the Today Show, Good Morning American and written articles from every news outlet with a URL. But wait this wasn’t the most epic thing I did!
When snow hits the ground in Alabama, all heck breaks loose! Add to that craziness one of the best known 50K trail runs in the southeast, Mountain Mist. Hundreds of people were trying to make their way to the event which was scheduled to be held on Saturday. The snow fell on Friday. Guess what didn’t happen on Saturday? The race directors convinced the city police, the state park officials and the local community of volunteers to reschedule their Sunday brunch from the comfy confines of their homes to the trails of Monte Sano State Park & the Land Trust of North Alabama. I volunteered and loved every moment of the day. Maybe one or two moments I could forget. The race is epic all by itself. Add snow and ice with a skeleton crew of volunteers. It adds excitement. I applaud everyone who finished and who helped reschedule Mountain Mist.
I volunteered for one more race, The Mardi Gras 5K. The race featured a charming and hilly course through historic downtown Huntsville. I didn’t run the race and this afforded me front row seats to the finish line. It was a glorious day where hundreds of participants ran, walked and danced their way to the finish line. I also got to hangout with my buddy Marcia! I would clean toilets in a prison if I got to hangout with Marcia. Volunteering on a chamber of commerce day in downtown Huntsville… BONUS! There was one downside, the finish line arch was blown over by a strong gust of wind… lesson learned!
The first of the month started with me running races and ended with me volunteering. There is sweat and toil in both roles. But I really loved the last two events more than the first five events. Yes, volunteering is more fun than running through the “happiest place on earth”. The bigger take away from running or volunteering at an event is the adventure along the way. No matter what you find yourself doing, enjoy it!
PS – Since I did talk a lot about about numbers, I should point out… This is my 200th blog post!
The last 80.9% of the Dopey Challenge would take me through all of Walt Disney World’s theme parks – over 39.3 miles. I ran a half marathon on Saturday and then a marathon on Sunday. The final two races were completely different than the first two. The crowds were large, and the distance longer. During the last two races I was in coral P. So here are my three P’s from running with a purple bib and starting in coral P.
I met a lot of great people along the way. Erin in corral P, from Boston, who owned a service dog. But, the service dog was on vacation on a sheep farm in Connecticut. I think this is great! People get vacations, dogs should too! I ran the first 7 miles of the marathon with Brittney & Molly from upstate New York! Fun girls and they helped me pace myself during the start. My most memorable person I met along the way was a tall, cowbell ringing, Mississippi State alumni. Coolest thing was seeing him at ESPN Wild World of Sports cheering for his runner. I took it upon myself to ask to ring his long handle, maroon cowbell! Six miles later, I arrived at the finish line, there he was with bell in hand. Didn’t get the man’s name, but he remembered my name from the bib. He shouted, “Hail State, Ruth Marie”, as he rang his cowbell above his head!
I had fun! It took me a while to get the pleasure part of running lots of mile with thousands of people. It took me until Sunday to start having fun, after meeting Brittney and Molly and sweating three gallons before entering the Magic Kingdom. I told myself to chill out and enjoy my surroundings. Each mile I met new people, saw Disney characters and classic landscape. One suggestion to make the pleasure a little greater! They need Coke on the course. Disney does a fantastic job of logistics during their races. However, the only had lemon lime Powerade on the course, other than water. Give us a little Coca-Cola! Don’t fret, CK had a Coke for me at ESPN!
The whole day was driven by a purpose. I wanted to see if I could do four races in four days. Each day the race was twice as long as the day before. When I began running to get in shape, I remember saying “can’t” a lot. The negative thoughts of I can’t or couldn’t do something was far gone. I can do it! Everyone running Dopey signed up for different reasons. Some people ran because it was a Disney event. Some people ran to recover from injury or illness. So people did it just for fun. I did it to complete the goal. I had a lot of friends who encouraged me from a distance… cheering me on through text messages and Facebook posts! Thank you to all the people on the course, friends back home and around the world! It was a fantastic adventure.
I think it was during the crazy snopocalypse during the winter of when I signed up for the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World in Florida. I must have been thinking, “I can have a runcation in early January in Florida… Bonus”! Little did I know what I was getting into. Since I signed up for this adventure, much has happened, especially shifting career fields. Undiscouraged by change, I am here and have successfully completed two races or 19.1% of the total challenge miles. Here are a few things I have learned about the Dopey Challenge.
It is an exercise in sleep not a running competition. A good friend gave me this advice before I left for the Land of Mickey Mouse. It is true. Sleep is your best friend! Don’t go out bar hopping or watching the fireworks over EPCOT or The Magic Kingdom. Put your pajamas on and sleep as much as you can. I feel like Ragnar Relay has been a valuable training excersice for this endeavor. I told someone that the Dopey Challenge is like Ragnar with a hotel room involved. It will be bed time soon!
If you don’t like Disney, don’t waste your time! You have to understand the magic of Disney and the wonder in the hearts of its fans to be able to bear the grumpy nature of the novice runner/walker. I mean no disrespect by saying this. However, etiquette is not high on the participant’s list. I have only seen 3 participants who have raised their hands before making an abrupt change from run/jog to walk/dead stop to take a photo of Elsa! I just let it go! There was one lady that I tapped on the shoulder because it was dark and I was about to buldoze her. She turned and spoke words that are not in Disney movies. Mickey would not have been happy! However, it is enjoyable seeing all the costumes, lines to have your photo made with characters and the volunteers out in their oversized four finger white gloves directing the race participants. I have to remind myself to”HAVE FUN”! It is really difficult for me to just let go and enjoy myself.
You will encounter some interesting characters. And I am not talking about Mickey & Donald! On the bus trip to the 5K on Thursday, we sat behind the grown version of the redheaded “appearently”. You know the kid I am talking about. The cute kid who had appearently never been on live television before and his grampa makes him watch the Powerball! This individual talked about everything at Disney in a span of 40 minutes in the exact same speech pattern as the kids. Apparently they are related! The next human to catch my eye was the middle school girl who shuffled the entire race while texting on her Samsung Galaxy. I passed her at the 3 mile mark and then again after I made a pit stop. She was shuffling both times. I saw her finish… She was still shuffling and texting. Maybe she was reading from her Kindle app. The event makes for great people watching.
Go see Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center! This has nothing to do with the Dopey Challenge but everyone should see her! They should visit, see Atlantis and then write a letter to their congress person to fund human space flight more robustly! I think if Walt Disney could visit us in 2016, he would be frustrated with the level of progress we have made since the 1960s. I think he would want The Walt Disney Company to help fund human space flight. Can you imagine the push to Mars if space flight was as popular as Walt Disney World! The Disney magic is fueled by innovation.
To conclude, just remember to have fun if you find yourself running the Dopey Challenge, enjoy the ride! You will meet many interesting and creative people who may or may not have ever run before. But more important, it is our job as adults to inspire the next Walt Disney or Werner Von Braun so we can get the heck off this rock and go to Mars in the not so distant future.