Two Erie runners, Mark Dombrowski and Jenny Turak, recently completed the Dopey Challenge — a 5K, 10K, 1/2 marathon and a marathon in four consecutive days — in Disney World in Orlando, Fla.
I had to find out more:
1. What made you want to do the Dopey Challenge? What appealed to you?
MARK: In 2013, I completed my 4th “Goofy Challenge,” which is a 1/2 marathon on Saturday and a full Marathon on Sunday. I remember telling my wife “that’s it for the Goofy; not much more to prove at Disney.” Soon after I heard about the Dopey and signed up almost immediately. It was a new challenge. I’ll never be an ultra-marathoner. But string almost 50 miles together in 4 days and I’m in.
JENNY: Ever since I started running it had been my dream to run the Walt Disney World Marathon. I’m in love with both running and Disney, and 2014 was the year! I had requested my time off of work and saved up my money, and was planning on running the Goofy Challenge until I found out about the Dopey Challenge. I love running races and race every chance I get, so it immediately appealed to me. Thank goodness Mark told me it was 90% sold out after 2 days. I got in just in time!
2. What special things did you get for doing the Dopey Challenge? (discount on the package, special medal, etc.)?
MARK: Six race shirts and six medals. One shirt and medal for running each of the races; a shirt and medal for running the 1/2 and full (Goofy) and a shirt and medal for running all 6 (Dopey).
3. Have you run at Disney before? If yes, what keeps you coming back. If no, would you go again?
MARK: This was my fifth trip to Disney World Marathon Weekend. It’s a first class event. Considering the number of runners—10,000 each for the 5K and 10K and 25,000 each for the half and full—the races are incredibly well organized. The entertainment along the course is great, typical Disney. Running through the parks is hard, but awesome. Mainstreet USA in the dark, 6:30 in the morning, and the street is lined with cheering spectators and “Cast Members” (Disney employees). For the full marathon, runners get to run through all four theme parks plus Wide World of Sports and Disney’s NASCAR track. Once again I told my wife I’ve had my fill of Disney races, but who knows!
JENNY: I ran the Disney Wine and Dine half marathon in 2011. I had the time of my life, and at the time I wasn’t as into running as I am today. It was just incredible—from the fireworks at the start, to the characters, concerts and entertainment on the streets, to running through the parks and the cheering crowds, to the medals and Disney swag available to purchase. I’m a kid at heart and love just being in Disney. There is something so magical about it. Disney really knows how to do races right, and I plan on signing up for the Wine and Dine half marathon in November 2014 as soon as registration opens.
4.How do Disney races compare (or stand out) from other marathons?
MARK: All races have unique characteristics that make them appealing. I’d say Disney races are more social and casual. In 2013, my goal to to get as many character picture as possible along the course while still getting a respectable finish time (result in the marathon was 31 photos with a 4:11 finish). While that was fun for me, many others at Disney seem to have even more fun. I have a friend who stopped for a beer and did some shopping at Epcot before finishing the marathon. At Disney, there are also a lot of “highway miles” between the parks. Disney works to make them entertaining with characters and music, but it’s a lot different that running through downtowns and neighborhoods that you’d find in the majority of races (PA Grand Canyon excluded). I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that you’ll never see as many port-a-potties as you see at Disney in the runner’s village at the start and along the course.
JENNY: At Disney they say Every Mile is Magic, and it really is. Like I said previously, there are just so many aspects that make Disney races so special. The course entertainment goes above and beyond any other marathon I’ve been to, and it’s more like a party than a race. They even have fun DJs and music to pump you up, and they make you feel like a true champion when you finish. They give you a treat box, take your picture, cheer for you when you pick up your bag, and they have character pictures after and you can get your picture with your medal. The Dopey Challenge was the best experience of all my life! I’d recommend Disney races to anyone… Even if they are not an avid runner, because it is just an incredible amazing experience and the miles fly by. Especially since you run through the parks and it keeps it so exciting! The most magical part for me was running through Magic Kingdom at the marathon. The castle looked like something out of a dream, and all the lights on mainstreet were mesmerizing. Plus cheering crowds like you wouldn’t believe! I felt like a superstar and was dressed up like Cinderella and everyone was yelling “go Cinderella” such a rush!!
5. Which was the hardest race for you?
MARK: Usually it’s the marathon, particularly the second half. This year, it was definitely the half marathon. Orlando had a record high temperature on the day of this year’s half marathon—86 degrees.. Even though I finished around 7:30 a.m., the temperature as already 80 degrees with 80 percent humidity. It was tough. Thankfully the next day the temps for the marathon were in the low 50s and the humidity was gone.
JENNY: The hardest race for me was actually the 10k. It was soooo humid that morning and hot and my body was in shock after the negative windshields I was used to training at in Erie. The half marathon was the same way, but I was saving myself for the marathon so ran slow and got my picture with every character and just made it a fun experience.
6. Was there ever a point at which you thought….what have I done? I can’t do this!
MARK: Nope. There’s way too much going on around you to keep you occupied.
JENNY: I loved every mile and was smiling the whole time!
7. What is it like to run four progressively longer races in four days? Did you conserve energy in the first couple?
MARK: I’d say I moderated my pace for all four. With the shorter races, I tried to stick with 9 minute miles. Normally, I’d be about 30 seconds a mile faster. For the1/2 marathon, I started with 9:15 & 9:30 miles, but I knew the heat was going to take a lot our of me so I slowed down considerably. The full marathon was a crap shoot this year. I felt good for the first 18 miles and kept decent sub 10-minute pace. I slowed down the last 6 to 8 miles because I needed to walk away without injury since my next marathon is Boston.
JENNY: I knew I would complete the challenge no matter what, but I conserved on the half marathon because the marathon is such a long way to run and I was exhausted already after the 10k with the early morning wake up calls (3a.m.!) and the humidity. I’m the worst heat and humidity runner! I think I ran the 5k too hard also, and my legs were sore. It’s hard to know how to pace yourself for so many miles. Luckily the marathon was perfect ideal weather and it was the best I felt of all four races! I was on such a high and it was the best experience of all my life, and I even got my picture with all the characters.
8. If you don’t mind, would you provide times for each of your races?
MARK: 27:13 in the 5K; 55:38 in the 10K; 2:07 in the half marathon; 4:24 in the full marathon
JENNY: I did Disney solely for fun. I dressed up as a different princess every day and felt like I was back in my childhood. I started off trying to run the 5k for time, but it was so crowded and got stuck behind walkers from start so decided just to get pictures with characters and have fun with it. Lines for pictures at half marathon were insane! I was in corral F so people were running way slower than my half marathon pace… I usually run around a 1:45 half and they were running 9:45 pace. Again, got frustrated from start, so I decided to conserve energy and waited 5-10 min for each picture. The pathways were so skinny so it got pretty frustrating after stopping and getting stuck behind walkers. I learned a lot for next year, and will definitely do some things different because I’m pretty competitive and was not happy with my times. But anyways here are my times: 24:45 in the 5K; 56:23 in the 10K; 3:04.30 in the half; 4:17.37 in the full marathon.
MARK: Anyone planning to run a Disney race should consider it a chance to have some fun. Stop and take pictures with characters. Enjoy the parks. The second time I did the Goofy Challenge, I had a sub two-hour half and a sub four-hour full marathon. So, with the rest of them, I had little to prove. I still wanted to have respectable finish times but I also wanted to have a “magical” experience. Disney does it right.
JENNY: Disney is really such a wonderful experience! For how many runners are involved, it is really well organized and it is so convenient staying at a Disney resort because they have buses to take you to start and back to the resort after you finish. I had the time of my life and am already planning on for sure running the Dopey again next year, and, like I said earlier, the Wine and Dine in November. I can’t get enough of Disney . Lived up the whole experience and went to 3 parks while I was there as well and just had such a blast! They also have the best running expo at ESPN Wide World of Sports — walking in there felt like Christmas morning. I didn’t want to come home and can’t wait to go back again!