Kopacs at NY Marathon finish line
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Lynne in NYC

Kopac's Corner

The Somewhat Goofy 2006 Walt Disney Marathon

by Bob Kopac

"Build it, and they will come." from Field of Dreams movie

Lynne and I traveled to Orlando, Florida to visit Lynnes sister Jan and for Lynne to run a half marathon at the Walt Disney World Marathon races (marathon, half marathon, Family Fun Run 5K and Kids Races). There were 16,000+ half-marathon and 14,000+ marathon preregistrants. The half marathon finishers would receive the Donald Duck medal, and the marathoners would receive the Mickey Mouse medal.

This year, for the first time, Disney decided to have the half marathon on Saturday and the marathon on Sunday. Since these races would be held on different days, it was possible for a runner to run both races. For all runners who wanted to attempt that challenge, Disney created the--what else--Goofys Race and a Half Challenge, with runners who completed both races receiving a Goofy medal!

During the pre-race Q&A session at the Runners Expo, Disney officials said they had thought at most several hundred runners would want to do both races. However, they were surprised when they ended up with 2,956 Goofys Challenge preregistrants. At the Q&A, the announcer asked for a show of hands of who was doing the Goofys Challenge. This unscientific poll showed that the majority of Goofys Challengers were men in the 40s, 50s, and 60s; that is, they were old enough to know better.

An attendee asked what a runner would get if he decided to run the half, the full, AND the Family Fun Run 5K. The surprised officials said they had not considered that anyone would want to do such a thing, so there was no additional medal. However, they joked that such an individual probably deserved a Dopey medal.

And perhaps you had to be Dopey, or at least somewhat Goofy, to want to run in the cold weather. Cold in Orlando? Yes! With a predicted low of 34 degrees with a wind chill factor of 25 degrees on Saturday and a low of 32 degrees on Sunday, the Walt Disney World races would be colder than both the 2005 Boston (April) and New York City (November) marathons!

The runners were requested to be at the staging area by 4 AM for a 6 AM start. This meant a lot of cold runners who resembled the Disney character Sleepy. Fortunately, Saturdays predicted wind did not appear until midway through the half marathon, so the cold was bearable--at least to Northern runners such as Lynne. Southern runners suffered, however. They could be seen huddled together in packs trying to stay warm, or heard due to their chattering teeth.

The green toy soldier from the Toy Story movie directed runner traffic at the staging area. He gave orders such as, "You runners are known for moving, so I want you to move NOW to the corrals. Move it!" It was a 20-minute walk from the staging area to the corrals. Before the race, several of the runners relieved themselves in the woods, even though course officials warned the runners of the possibility of poisonous snakes as well as other nasty creatures. Spectators were not allowed at the half-marathon starting location. Instead, Disney broadcast the race start on a large screen at the staging area.

The half-marathon course was not as scenic as the marathon course, which went through 4 Disney parks (Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Disney-MGM Studios, and Epcot). The half marathon was staged mostly on service roads, which, due to safety and security reasons, were mostly closed to spectators. Commenting on the long stretches on the course without spectators, Lynne likened it to a long training run with multiple running partners. The half marathon course did run through two parks: the Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center.

There were pockets of spectators by the Disney resorts and on the service roads. Lynne saw high school cheerleaders and a band. There also was a cheering section where the volunteers were dressed up as running brides and grooms, with the males dressed in black sports clothes with top hats and Mickey Mouse ears and the females dressed in white sports clothes with veils and Minnie Mouse ears.

Coaches for various charity teams were allowed on the restricted course to cheer the runners. One Leukemia Team in Training coach had streaked her hair purple. Poughkeepsie, NY Train to End Stroke Coach Larry Knapp and other TTES coaches cheered on the runners.

Due to the road closures, Larry had to be at his position at mile 11 by 4 AM. Since this was also of a mile from the start, he was able to see the runners going out and coming back. Larry said he probably ran a good 10 to 12 miles at the half marathon, running for 1 miles with Train to End Stroke members from around the country before returning to his position on the course.

The Train to End Stroke coach from Pittsburgh, who was an ultra-marathoner, ran both the half and the full as a pacer/sweeper while dressed as Minnie Mouse. Running at a 13-minute pace, she helped the last runners finish in 3 hours for the half and 7 hours for the marathon before the course closed down. For the marathon, Larry walked the last 10 miles as a sweeper with a Leukemia Team in Training coach.

Larry, whose father had passed away due to a stroke, started running in 2001 to get in shape, and became a TTES coach in June 2003. Over time, Larry has trained up to 100 people to run marathons for TTES. (For more information about the Hudson Valley, NY Train to End Stroke program, contact Kelly Heaney of the American Heart Association at 518-869-4046 or via kelly.heaney@heart.org e-mail address.)

In the Magic Kingdom, the half marathoners traversed Main Street, then ran behind Cinderellas castle and exited through the castle entrance, where two of the mice characters from the Cinderella movie encouraged the runners.

Spectators were allowed to take the Monorail to Main Street to cheer the runners. Lynne did not see the exotic dancing of Chip and Dale on Main Street as I did. However, she said she had the opportunity to high-five Captain Hook, which I thought would have been very painful.

While on Main Street, I photographed Bekkie Wright of Manchester, CT. She was dressed as Minnie Mouse with white gloves, mouse ears, a red dress with white polka-dots, and yellow sneakers with red bow ties. Bekkie, a member of the Hi-Tek Racing Team (see http://www.hitekracing.com), later e-mailed me, I actually did the Goofy Challenge Half Marathon on Saturday and Marathon on Sunday in 2 separate outfits (both Minnie) and did a cartwheel across the Finish Line both days. Lucky I didnt pass out on the 2nd dayWhen I did the marathon on Sunday I almost finished with Supergirl, Batman and Spiderman. Now that would have made a good picture. At least I beat the Japanese guy dressed as Minnie.

The Hansons Running Team dominated the half marathon. With their distinctive yellow and black singlets, the team members were easy to spot, especially since they were at the front of the pack. The top 3 male runners were Hansons Running Team members: Josh Eberly in a time of 1:08:12, Josh Moen in 1:08:12 (and a fraction of a second), and Jeff Gaudett in 1:08:21. On the womens side, Hansons Running Team members Melissa White and Dorothy McMahan finished 1st and 2nd in 1:18:33 and 1:19:01.

Lynne did very well, setting a PR of 2:17:49, breaking her previous PR set in 2001 (before breast cancer) by 50 seconds and finishing 13 minutes faster than her 2005 More Marathon half-marathon time. She said it was due to the track workouts of Coach Steve Perks and to runs led by Bob Dinsmore.

There was a sad event at the half-marathon finish line. 43-year-old professional golfer Willie Kane of Tucson, Arizona, collapsed and died after finishing the race. An autopsy later showed he died due to an undiagnosed heart condition.

On Sunday, 27-year-old Adriano Bastos of Sao Paulo, Brazil, became the first 3-time winner of the WDW Marathon, finishing in a time of 2:19:44. The female winner was 23-year-old Paige Higgins of Littleton, Colorado in a time of 2:51:36.

The race results on the Internet did not list the finishers of the Goofys Challenge. Understandably, the top runners of the half marathon did not appear in the list of the top runners of the marathon. However, 18-year-old female wheelchair athlete Kristen Messer received the Goofy medal by finishing 1st in both events (2:00:42 for the half, and 4:09:11 for the marathon). 45-year-old female wheelchair athlete Bobbie McKinney also was a Goofys Challenge finisher, placing 3rd in the half (3:32:23) and 2nd in the marathon (6:40:25).

In the hand-crank division, male athlete Mackey Tyndall placed first in both events (1:00:04 and 2:11:07), and Dick Pace placed 3rd in the half and 2nd in the marathon (2:00:45 and 2:11:10). It may seem strange that Dick Paces time for the marathon was less than 1 minute more than his time for the half, but since he finished the half in the same time as Kristine Schroeder, my guess is that he rode with her at her pace for the half.

Remember that I had said earlier that there were 16,000+ half-marathon and 14,000+ marathon preregistrants? The Internet results showed there were 11,761 half-marathon finishers and 10,131 marathon finishers. Lynne was surprised at the large number of DNFs. My theory is that since both races are run before the Disney parks open, and since the finish lines are outside of the parks, that meant there were 4,239+ half marathoners and 3,869+ marathoners who dropped out of the race while inside a park. They then hid in the bathrooms until the parks opened. Disney could prove my theory by counting the number of toilet paper rolls used on race days. I will bet the number will be far greater than on non-race days.

Lynnes Donald Duck half-marathon medal was serious bling bling--golden, heavy, and in the shape of Donald Ducks head. Goofys Challenge finishers received the Donald Duck medal, the Mickey Mouse medal, and the Goofy medal--enough medal to weigh down their suitcases and set off the airport metal detector alarms. So, if you are interested in heavy medal and are Goofy enough for the Goofys Race and a Half Challenge, try the Walt Disney World Marathon races.

For more information about running at Walt Disney World, go to http://www.DisneyRunning.com web site.