Don’t let a story of a cute hound dog fool you, the Hound Dog Half Marathon is a tough race. To be fair, the half marathon course is more down hill than up hill. The course is adorned with beautiful hillsides, charming goat farms and friendly volunteers. The hard part of the course is the last five miles, straight up hill on a gravel trail that once was home to the Tennessee & Alabama Central Railroad. That was before the Civil War and before a the hound Ludivine ran the course and the story went viral.
The Hound Dog Half was renamed after last year’s race. Ludivine scampered out of her yard and joined the first running of the Elkmont 1/2 Marathon. The story made national news and put the small race on the map. Saturday morning the small townhall had a line of crazed runners out the door for packet pick-up. Ludivine greeted the runners. I was lucky enough to get a photo with the famous K-9. Ludivine was there for the start of the 13.1 mile race. However, she wouldn’t run this year.
At the start of the race, Ludivine howled and moaned in sadness as the hundreds of runners started the rainy adventure. Poor dog! The runners started to chant, “let her run, let her run”. She is just a country dog, but now Ludivine is priceless to the community of Elkmont. No one would want to see the hound dog hurt. It was still sad to see her not run.
The first mile the course passes an old cotton gin. Perfect small town race. This year, I noticed the community had added permanent road signs to mark the entire course and each mile was marked by a cute dog house sign. Super classy for a second year race! Even the Limestone County Sheriff’s Deputy protected the runners from a blonde golden retriever mix. Unlike Ludivine this dog didn’t like running.
Up and down we ran as the rain fell on us. I still made friends and chatted with people along the way despite the hilly terrain and dreary conditions. A covered bridge, an old church and all the wildlife and farm animals along the way made for a great but challenging run. A blood hound made this race famous, but the community made it first class. After I finished, I had a great bowl of chicken stew and chatted with the wonderful people of Elkmont. If you get a chance to run this charming course, please do… It is tough, but run it for the community of Elkmont.
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.