Surviving the GOOFY CHALLENGE

There’s the Half Marathon.
Nice distance: 13.1 miles-21.1 kms.
Longest run during training: about 10 miles – 16 km.

There’s the Marathon.
Not-so-nice distance: 26.2 miles-42.2 kms.
Longest run during training: 20 miles- 32 kms.

Then… there’s the Goofy Challenge.
Distance: 13.1 miles + 26.2 miles= brace-yourself-for-39.9 miles-around-WDW-parks.
Longest run during training: 12 miles Saturday + 22 miles Sunday.

The Goofy Challenge has been running at Walt Disney World for over 10 years.  It is held on the second weekend of January every year during the WDW Marathon Weekend. On Saturday you run the Half Marathon over two parks and on Sunday you run the full Marathon around all 4 theme parks, the ESPN complex, and the Speedway.

How can you survive this challenge?

First, you should have the appropriate fitness level. Even though you might see people of all sizes (and costumes), it is recommended that you have at least completed a Marathon before you attempt this challenge. Your knees will suffer, your feet will suffer, your muscles will suffer, your lungs and heart will suffer. Running back-to-back long races takes a toll on your whole body, but if it is used to longer distances already, you’ll be more ready to handle the strain.

Can I walk throughout the course?

Yes. Walking is allowed and the time limits for both races are enough to let you walk a good part of the way. For the HM, the time limit is 3h30m. And for the FM, time limit is 7h00. This would be about a 16.00 min/mile pace, though a good 15.00 min/mile pace is recommended both in training and race day to avoid any last minute complications and being at risk of being taken out of the course.

My recommendations for your training?

-Sign up early. Registration starts in April and spots sell out fast.

-If you haven’t done so, make sure you are building a nice base where you are at least running or walk/run 3 times a week for 45 min before starting your formal training.

-Start training about 20 weeks prior to the Challenge. This would be around mid-end of August.

-For the first 4 weeks focus on building a strong base. You were previously running or walking/running 3 times a week for 45 minutes each. Work for these 4 weeks on reaching running 4 times a week.

Sample: Tuesday: 45 minutes. Thursday: 1 hour. Saturday: 45 min. Sunday: 1h40 minutes.

-For the first 10 weeks, focus on building a good strength base. Lifting weights, using your body weight, at the gym, or at home. Now is the time to start strengthening all those muscles that will take you to the finish line. Aim for 2 times a week of 30 minutes of strength training, focusing on your legs, abs, back, and glutes.

-After the first weeks you should continue increasing your long-run distance (typically Sunday) at a no more than 10% increase per week.

-On alternate weeks, have a semi-long-run on Saturdays before your long run that is half as long as the Sunday one. E.g.: Sat. 8 miles, Sun. 16 miles.

-‘Recovery week’ every 3 weeks. Run 3 days. Example: Tue. 45 min, Thu. 45 min, Sun. 10 miles.

-One day of the week (not the long run), focus on speed training. Intervals or tempo runs are ideal. Not a fan of speed work? Do some hills.

-Cross-training one day of the week, either substituting one of your shorter runs or as an extra workout day. Can’t spare one day a week for cross-training? Go ahead and cross-train on alternate weeks. 5 times a month is better than 4, 4 is better than 2, but 2 is still better than none, right?

Are you going to suffer?  Absolutely.

Are you going to have fun? Absolutely!

My recommendations for Race Weekend.

-Plan on getting your packet before 5 pm on Friday. The Expo is at the ESPN complex. It closes at 7 pm and I have seen runners rushing or not been able to get their packets because the got there at 6.55 or at 7.05.

-‘Carbo load’ on both Friday and Saturday for LUNCH.

-Keep your dinners light and safe: a sandwich is a nice choice. Keep it light, not very fatty. Eat something you know won’t upset your stomach or make you feel super full.

-Get a good night sleep both days. At least 7 hours. Remember that for WDW races you need to wake up super early (maybe as early as 3-3.30 am).

-Wake up early and have a good breakfast both days at least 2-2 1/2 hours before the start time. An example of a good breakfast is a combo of protein+carbo+fruit for minerals. My choice: half a bagel with PB and a banana.

-After the HM on Saturday -and again after the FM on Sunday-, head to the massage tent right after the finish. You can get a massage for $1 a minute. So, carry a few bucks on your race belt.

BETWEEN RACES (Saturday afternoon)

-Walk a bit on Saturday afternoon,but do not stand still for long periods of time.

-Compression socks are a must. Wear them everywhere.

-Drink lots of water until 2 hours before going to bed.

-Refuel very well. Have a nice breakfast post-HM (low on fat and fiber, but packed with protein, carbs, and fruit)= Think eggs, white toast, a couple pieces of turkey bacon, OJ, banana). Then have a full lunch (carbo load)= some protein and pasta, but skip the creamy white sauce and the shrimp, stick with red for today.

Can I stop and take pictures during the races?

Absolutely. There is so much amazing entertainment along the course. Characters, animals, acrobats, music bands, you name it! Just make sure that you trained appropriately so you can still get to the finish line on time.

Can I dress up?

It is almost a MUST! It is very encouraged to dress up for the WDW races. Make sure that you’ll be able to cover your distance in whatever you decide to use and that you don’t carry any props that might harm other fellow runners.

Are there awards for the Goofy Race and a Half Challenge?

No, there are no awards for covering the whole 39.3 miles faster than other runners. Is this a bummer? Absolutely not, this is WDW’s way of telling you to have fun and enjoy the races!

Do I get a special shirt and medal?

Not just one. You get THREE shirts and THREE medals. One for each race and a special one for the Goofy Challenge. And they are all AMAZING.

What is this RUN/WALK method?

The run/walk method was created by Olympian Jeff Galloway, who is WDW’s official coach. Click here to go straight to his training method for the Goofy Challenge. It is a very simple method in which you have walk/running intervals since the beginning of the race, and including in your training. This is a great training program for beginners.

I did use this training method for the first time I ran the Goofy and I think that the training runs during the week are far too short for all the long running that is done during the weekend. But one of these runs could be substituted for a longer tempo run, intervals, or hills. This is, if you’ve already experienced a marathon before.

I hope these lines helped you a bit on getting a feel of this Challenge, and I hope you try it at one point. Enjoy!

Is your child too young to start running?

Children are natural runners. As soon as they learn to walk they try to master balance in order to run places. Not only are they runners, they are fast runners. Have you ever tried to catch a child who is running away from you?

I got my daughter into running as soon as she was able to walk. I signed her up for a Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend event when she was 18 months old. It was incredible. Let me tell you a bit about these races:

WDW is truly a magical place. I’ve ran several of their races, and they are incredible every time. All races are super well organized, as are the Expos. But their kids’ races are something else. The ESPN complex inside WDW is where both the Expo and the Kids races are held. My daughter was in the 1-3 y.o. group, and they ran 100 mts. She was thrilled. I thought that, because she had never seen Mickey Mouse in person before,  she would be scared as Mickey was waiting for the kids and hi-fiving them at the finish line. But she was super excited, she hi-fived him, crossed the finish line, and then ran back for a second hi-five. All the kids get really nice medals, so that is always a plus.

After this race, she has run 4 others: another 100 mt, 2x 50 mt, and a half-mile this past Sunday. She’ll be running a 1 mile long race in January, when she will be 3 1/2 y.o.

How do we ‘train’?

For natural runners, children this young do not need ‘training’ per se. I believe this could only get them demotivated. This is my advise for mommies who would love to have active kids and get them involved in running:

  1. Start Early. The earlier they start joining you on races and runs, the more natural and normal it will seem for them to run.

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A baby who has joined you in his/her stroller early on will have more of a chance of acquiring this discipline than one who has been left at home. The same goes for a toddler that you have taken to the park in a jogging stroller and who was then allowed to play and run around. Even more so for a child who you have taken to a 5 or 10k in the stroller and has cheered you on for the whole distance -or who has repeatedly asked when it would be over-… Even more so if you have a surprise kids’ races right after yours!

NOTE: If you plan on running with your infant/toddler, make sure your stroller is made for jogging.

2. Make it a game. There are two ways in which my daughter ‘trains’ (it is not training at all, but it helps us log in some running)

anab-corriendo-parqOne is in our yard. There is a tree on the far corner, so we both race to it, around it, and come back. We do that about 4 times. It is not long nor time consuming, but she loves it and she gets
to practice a bit of speed.

Two is at a nearby park. We usually go on my bike. The playground is located in the middle of the park and there is a 1/4 mile loop around it. So I let her play for a while (warm-up),
and then I ask her to join me to run a loop, which she happily agrees to. This does not mean she’ll be running the straight loop. She’s THREE, and a GIRL, so picking up sticks and flowers along the way is the norm. After that loop she goes down one of the slides and I ask her to race me. So, we do a second loop. Then, playground again for about 5 minutes and sometimes she’ll agree to a third loop, which we usually walk. Other times she just rather keep on playing. But we did log a few running minutes, which was great.

 

3. Focus on the prize. Kids LOVE prizes and new things.

So, telling them they’ll be getting a new t-shirt and a medal out of a race might do the trick! My girl feels on top of the world after a race. I think she’s starting to understand that it is actually an accomplishment… Plus, we DO make a big deal about it.

4. Lead by example. Now, after all has been said, I think this would be my most important advice. If you’re getting your child(ren) to run, you have to show them that you’re willing to go the distance too. anab-carrera-disneyChildren learn from actions, and their biggest heroes are their parents or guardians. Whatever goes on in your household, they’ll think is what is normal and what should be done. If a child has parents who wake up late, do not exercise, and who are always in front of the TV or PC, these parent won’t be able to get these kids running. Ever. Unless they are being chased by something bigger than they are.

Unless your child is a rare case, you must show him/her that getting out there and running is fun and that it is part of a healthy lifestyle. Go out there early and run, run races, run at the playground with them. Plus, running like a child could be one of the most fun you will have running.

NOTE: I use RUN because it is what I love and do. If you thing is walking, dancing, swimming, playing tennis, etc, I’m sure all of this applies as well.

My First ‘Run’

Eleven years ago I wouldn’t have dreamt of running a 5k, a 10k, or anything else. Little would I know that eleven years later, a week without running would be non-existent in my life.  Let me tell you how the story begins.

I was 23 and I had heard people talking about 10k races and about marathons -which I thought were the same thing-. I was born and raised in Venezuela and this running era had just started down there. Maybe 3-5 races per year were all we had. I heard about these people I knew who ran for 10 kilometers: ‘they must be super human!’

Then one day my brother was selling tickets for a 10k. The money would go to a wonderful charity that gave food to poor families. Always in favor of helping, I decided to buy one from him. Then he said: ‘why don’t you run the 10k? You could always walk if you get tired.’ And the more I thought about it, the less frightening it seemed. What was the worst thing that could happen? I would have to walk. The only problem was that the 10k was 15 days away.

Logging walking miles -or kms- was not a problem for me. Now, running was completely new and unknown. I searched the internet and found a ‘Couch to 5k’ plan, which had a run-walk format. The plan required 1min running, 2 min walking x5 for a week on alternating days, then 2min running, 1min W for week2, then 3min R, 1min W for week3, and so on. But with 15 days to go, I ran-walked every day and instead for weekly cycles I had to do 3-day cycles.

Come race day, I was prepared to run 5 min, walk 2 min until I could and then walk the rest. I had a very good companion by my side who pushed me from the start. I started jogging and after 5 min I was prepared to stick to my schedule and take a walk break, but he told me to push. Alright, I’ll walk after min 10. Minutes 12, 14, 20 went by and I was still running.

New plan… I will walk at the half-way mark. I was ready to stop. I was tired and a side stitch at km 6 was the perfect excuse. ‘Come on, you don’t need to stop, you’re almost there.’ I think that the moment I really believe I could do it was after km 7 (mile 4.5). After Km 7 I knew there was no point in stopping, so I just trusted and kept the pace (which I now know is called ‘pace’).

My first finish line was fantastic. Crossing it made me realize that I had discovered a new world. A new world in which people actually do something productive on Sundays before the rest of the world has woken up…

 

A New Challenge

After 15 full weeks of marathon training, I am already looking for a new challenge. A new race? Mmm… considering I haven’t even run the marathon (Sunday, Oct 9th!), and considering I already signed up for another one in January, that is not the kind of challenge I am referring to. I am looking for a new challenge for 3 reasons: I like running for FUN, I like running LONG, and I’m tired of following 16-week boring marathon trainings.

I have been running for a few years -11 to be precise, -but I’ve always tried to do it for fun. Looking for diversity in races is my passion, be it trail runs, relays, night racing, stroller running, back-to-back races, etc. But being competitive is definitely not in my nature, and I’m super happy about it because I rarely feel frustrated after a race (except for that ONE time, meh…) .

Also, I have always liked running long. I love Sunday mornings when I have an 18 or a 20 miler, I set off from home super early and run…and run… and run to my parents house, 19-21 miles away (depending on the route I take). Or setting off and then meeting my family 4 hours later for lunch at a restaurant 20 miles away. To me, this is the good life. And, believe, everything on that menu looks three times as good…

Now, the problem is that training for a marathon requires getting up at 4.30 or 5 am 3 times during the week to run before making lunch boxes and going to work to log in some miles that are not half as fun as those super long ones. But they are they only ones that will help us support those weekend 20-milers. Now, getting up early is not an issue. My problem is getting up early to run a run that I don’t really enjoy that much after approximately the 8th week of training, when the weekday runs are long.

This last part is what I’m trying to change. I read an article a couple of weeks ago (I’ll insert the link when I come across it again), about different ways to log in running miles in different ways and through different activities. This is the journey I’m taking for my next marathon training, I want to share it with you. I know I’m not the only one getting bored 4 weeks before the marathon!

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