Crossing the finish line a little bit Dopey
The soreness has faded and my race medals are neatly tucked away in a shoebox, but the joy of crossing the finish line and completing the 2018 Dopey Challenge will forever stay with me.
I didn’t grow up running—in fact, when I was in my early 20s, I couldn’t even run a mile. The word “marathon” was not in my vocabulary. But due to a strong family history of cardiac disease, I knew I needed to start exercising, so I decided to try to run a mile. I set a goal to run at least one 5k race per year to prove to myself that I was healthy. For several years, I ran one 5k “fun run” each year, but eventually some friends challenged me to run a half marathon, which I did in 2012. In 2014, I completed my first marathon along with several more half marathons. I’m not built like a runner nor am I the fastest one out there, but I run!
In early 2017, my running coach and friend told me about a race he signed up for called the Dopey Challenge. Runners must complete four races in four days: 5k (3.1 miles), 10k (6.2 miles), half marathon (13.1 miles) and a full marathon (26.2 miles). In case you’re counting… that’s 48.6 miles total!
The Dopey Challenge taught me many valuable lessons, but here are my top four tips for anyone who wants to get into running:
- Set a big goal (and lots of small goals) – After nearly six months of not running due to injury, I needed a big goal to motivate me. With my big goal of completing the 2018 Dopey Challenge set, I needed smaller goals along the way to get me to the finish line. My first small goal was simply to start running again. This meant lots of 3-4 mile runs at a slow pace. Once I was comfortable with that, I needed a stretch goal to get my mileage up to 13 miles by September. Then, with a few 10+ mile runs under my belt, it was time to start my official 18-week training plan. I took it one day at a time, checking off my daily goals until race day. Rest days were my favorite!
- Don’t train alone - As the weeks passed, I grew tired and weary of all the early morning runs and constant soreness. I would not have survived my training if it wasn’t for the countless friends and family that paced me (and prayed for me) mile after mile. When I trained for my first marathon, I joined a local running group based in Sacramento. ACME Running Company is a community of runners that not only came alongside me, but encouraged me every step of the way! An additional source of encouragement came from my family, including my cousin, Nicole, who signed up to run the half and full marathon with me—a combination referred to as “Goofy’s Race and Half Challenge” (two days, 39.3 miles total).
- Focus and finish – One month before the Dopey Challenge, I participated in the California International Marathon in Sacramento, California. Not only was this a great confidence booster a month before Dopey, it was also an opportunity to be paced by Steve, a 74-year-old “streaker,” someone who has completed every CIM since it started in 1983. After crossing the finish line for CIM, I knew I could complete the Dopey Challenge.
- Be prepared for the unexpected - Four days before the Dopey Challenge, I suffered from a bout of food poising. As I lay on the couch, doubt crept into my mind that after nearly a year of training, I might not be able to get to the start line. With my prayer warriors working overtime, I regained my strength by race day. Food poising was not the only obstacle I had to overcome. Throughout race weekend, the temperatures in Florida were unseasonably cold. While running in the cold was not a problem since we trained in 30 degree temperatures, I was unprepared for standing in the cold for 90+ minutes at 4 a.m. waiting for the race to start at 5:30. This was one of the toughest mental and physical challenges in all four races. Knowing I had overcome the biggest challenge of simply getting to the start line after months of training prepared me to overcome the final obstacle and nothing could stop me from completing my goal.
As I crossed the finish line of the final race and realized what I had accomplished, I teared up knowing that my hard work and dedication had paid off. In that moment, the lyrics to “One Shining Moment” (played each year at the end of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament) filled my head.
The ball is tipped
and there you are
you’re running for your life
you’re a shooting star
And all the years
no one knows
just how hard you worked
but now it shows…
(in) One shining moment, it’s all on the line
One shining moment, there frozen in time
*Words & Music: David Barrett, Hodges Song Supply/ASCAP