It is called the Dopey Challenge for a reason. Just try to tell a friend, especially a non-runner, what it is. 48.6 miles. Four early morning runs over four consecutive days. The Dopey Challenge is Run Disney’s newest event. The first one took place last weekend at the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. A 10K was added to the schedule this year along with the 5K, Half Marathon and Full Marathon. Those who finished all four runs, received a special Dopey Challenge finishers medal.
Pretty sweet, huh? Running is becoming a hugely popular hobby across the entire country and Disney fans are treated to these wonderful Run Disney events in both Orlando and Anaheim that take you on courses through the theme parks and end with some golden Disney bling to hang around your neck. I was Dopey enough to join the other 7,000 plus runners in the inaugural challenge. And sure, I can go on about the health benefits of running. Heck, I have never felt more in shape in my entire life. And I have discovered new foods and eating habits that may extend my life. But let’s be honest here… I do it for the medals.
Before January of 2012, I was not a runner. I was the kid back in high school that just tried not to be last while doing laps in gym class. That attitude about exercise carried into adulthood. I had zero motivation to get up off the couch and jog around the block. I tricked myself to believing that walking a couple of laps around the World Showcase (while eating and drinking of course) was exercise enough. Then one day, a friend of mine who just got into running, showed me a photo of the finisher medal for the 15th anniversary of the WDW Half Marathon. The race’s mascot is Donald Duck. Being a huge Donald fan, I knew I had to get my hands on this wonderful piece of memorabilia. But as lazy as I am, I actually jumped on eBay to see if people sell their finisher medals from past races. They do… but it was at that point, I realized I had a problem. So instead, with two months until race day, I registered to run 13.1 miles. Probably more miles that I had run combined in the last decade. But you know what? I did it. And there is no piece of Disney memorabilia I value more than the precious Donald medal that I earned.
Why do I tell you this story? To talk about motivation. The human body is an amazing machine. I have done things in the past three years that I had never thought possible. The year after my first half, I ran my first full marathon. Then the following year, the Dopey Challenge. There are people of all shapes, sizes and ages out there on the Run Disney courses. And what do they all have in common? Motivation. Now, motivation may be different for everyone. For some, it is to be the fastest on that day. For some, it is to beat a personal record. For others, it is to honor a loved one and raise money for a cause. For me, it is to earn those medals. I think about them when I am training. I hang earned ones over my bed. It may sound superficial to desire these physical objects, but when they are put around my neck, I know I just accomplished something I once thought silly or impossible.
In the end, nothing is impossible. You can achieve this too. There is some training, but it is mostly mind over matter. As cheesy as it sounds, Dream about it. Pursue it. And you can achieve it. The finish line last weekend was emotional. Everything I was feeling just came out at once. For a year there had been fear, excitement, nervousness. All the running, preparation, reading. That weekend, getting up at 3am, braving the cold and the rain. Wondering if my legs would just give out. Hoping I didn’t slip on the stairs at work the day before the race. When it was done, it was one of the greatest feelings of emotion in my life. And you can feel it too. If you are reading this, you love Disney. Find your motivation there. Running through the parks. Meeting special characters. Adorning yourself with those medals. How about the motivation of being healthy, and adding a few years (and WDW trips) onto your life? Will I see you at the next Run Disney event?