Going the [Indoor] DistanceIf you've been following me on this blog or Instagram for awhile, you may noticed that each January, I take part in a 4-day treadmill challenge based on the actual Run Disney event, the Dopey Challenge. For those of you not familiar with this endurance event, the Dopey Challenge requires participants to complete a 5k, 10k, half marathon, and marathon for a total of 48.6 miles over four consecutive days. After completing the official challenge in 2015, I decided to run it on the treadmill the following year. For accountability purposes, I shared my completion of each distance on Instagram, using the hashtag #IndoorDopeyChallenge. Over the course of those four days, I noticed a steady increase in the attention and support this challenge was receiving, especially after I completed the marathon on the fourth day. Best of all, some people even commented that they wanted to join me the following year!
In 2017, I stepped on the treadmill for my second #IndoorDopeyChallenge. This time, I wasn't participating alone; at least two others joined me for the challenge on their own treadmills, while some people told me that they wouldn't be able to complete all of the distances, but they would attempt to at least run on their treadmills each day. One runner who took part in the challenge did not have access to a treadmill, so he ran each of the distances outdoors. That's one of the best things about this challenge; it motivates people join in and get moving, even if they are not able to complete the total distance, or adhere to the "indoor" part.
I personally was not sure if I would be able to complete both the half marathon and marathon that year. About two months prior, I had a very upsetting experience at the Marine Corps Marathon, and had to walk much of the second half. I took some time off of distance running after that to allow my body to recover, but I was very determined to complete my second Indoor Dopey. The 5k and 10k were a breeze, as expected, but I struggled through the half marathon, and had to slow my pace way down. I had to keep reminding myself that Dopey is about distance, not speed. The following day, I completed the marathon, and had to either jog or walk the last few miles. When I finally hit 26.2 miles, I was so proud of myself for sticking it out.
A Dopey Deferral?The struggles with running I had experienced leading up to and during the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon took a major toll on my monthly mileage, and there were some months where I only ran one time. Time spent on my feet greatly decreased, and I struggled to even perform other exercises, including strength training. Some time in September 2017, however, I decided to post on Instagram that there was less than 100 days until the third annual #IndoorDopeyChallenge, and indicated that I would be participating. I realized that my mind was set on doing it, even though my body was not prepared. In the weeks leading up to the third annual event, I found myself wondering how I could ever manage to pull off the 48.6 miles when I was hardly even running. In over four years of competing, I never missed a race. Last Thanksgiving, I skipped a local 5-mile turkey trot and ran one slow mile on the treadmill instead. A few weeks later, I slept in on the morning of a local half marathon, and did not even care that I missed the race. I worried that I would lack the motivation to complete the Indoor Dopey, too.
Three days prior to the start of the 2018 #IndoorDopeyChallenge, I announced on Instagram that I had made the decision to sit this year out. At the time, I figured I would run the 5k, run/walk the 10k, and then run 1.31 miles for the half marathon, and 2.62 miles for the marathon (just moved the decimal). It sounded pathetic, but to me, it seemed better than only doing the first two events. Causing further damage to my body didn't seem worth the risk or disappointment, but I was happy to "host" the event for those who did want to participate. In addition to announcing the event on Instagram, I also posted about it on Facebook, in both the PRO Ambassadors group and the Team Run Disney group, in hopes of inspiring others to participate. Some wished me good luck, some told me I was insane, but some agreed to run at least some of the distances. Throughout all of this, I messaging Kristen (returning for her second year!) about why I chose not to participate, how I hoped to find motivation and enjoyment of running again, and for ideas about the Indoor Dopey itself. She did an awesome job taking the lead on sock coordination, and also supporting me in my decision to sit out and giving me advice for getting back in the game on my own time.
It's Off to Work I Go
One of my biggest struggles with running leading up to the Indoor Dopey was just making the time to do it. I used to run at 4:30am before work, or immediately after work, around 3:30pm. Luckily, work was closed the day of the 5k for a snow day, so ran as soon as I woke up that morning. The miles were slow, but I made it all 3 miles -- my longest run since October.
On Friday, I went home immediately after work to run the 10k. I used the treadmill in the fitness center of my apartment building, which was FREEZING. To complete the 10k, I ran 2 miles and walked 4.2 miles. It took me so long that as soon as I hit the "stop" button and began to prepare to take my photos for Instagram, a woman rushed over to me asked if I was done yet. There were two other treadmills that were occupied at the time, but she must have noticed that I spent a pretty good amount of time running/walking. I took my photos quickly and hopped off.
I spent the majority of the night after the 10k trying to decide what to do about the half marathon and marathon. Running 1.31 miles and 2.62 miles sounded pretty lame, but there was no way I could run either of the distances. I thought back to a conversation I had with a colleague a few months prior, when he asked me if I was still running. I paused for a moment before responding, and then literally burst into tears while standing in his office. He listened to me talk (cry) about how running had become such a struggle, and how when I tried to do it, my legs just wanted to give up. He asked me, "well why do you have to run?" I looked at him like he had ten heads, and he went on to explain how the night before he had eaten a Snickers bar, and to help him feel better about his snack choice, he walked a mile on the treadmill. He knew a measly one mile walk wouldn't make much of a difference, but it was better than doing nothing. I texted a few friends that night to ask what they thought about me walking the remaining 39.3 miles of the Indoor Dopey. Some were super supportive. Others indicated that it probably wasn't a good idea. Regardless of their responses, I knew I had already made up my mind.
Early the next morning, I woke up to prepare for the half marathon. I decided to complete it in the fitness center of my sister's building, because they have LifeFitness treadmills, which are my absolute favorite. I brought my iPad with me so that I could watch movies, because I had no clue how long the "race" was going to take me. I hit the treadmill before 7am, and walked the first three miles. The treadmill maxes out at 60 minutes, which is about the amount of time it took me to walk those first few miles. When I restarted the treadmill, I decided to start running and see how far I could go. After one mile, I decided to continue walking. When the treadmill maxed out for a second time, I was already at 7 miles. I decided to walk the remaining 6.1 miles, having to stop the treadmill just one more time when it maxed out. The third leg of the Indoor Dopey Challenge took me just under four hours; more than double my half marathon PR, but I reminded myself to focus on distance, not speed.
The next morning, I drove to my sister's apartment complex again to utilize their treadmills. On the way, I stopped at Dunkin' Donuts and bought the largest size iced coffee to keep in the cup holder of the treadmill for fuel throughout the marathon. I hit the treadmill just before 7am, accompanied by my iPad so I could watch the digital copies of my Disney movies, math worksheets to grade, and my phone for texting and sharing updates on Instagram as I walked. By 9am, I had already walked 6 miles and watched Saving Mr. Banks on my iPad. People were beginning to wake up, so my support system through texts and social media started to reach out to me to see how I was doing.
The first half of the marathon took me about four-and-a-half hours, as I had been keeping a steady pace of three miles per hour. During that time, both my sister and Madeline who also lives in the building came to check on me, bringing me body glide and snacks, as I had forgotten my own at home. My spirits were still high at 13.1 miles, and my body felt totally fine. Surprisingly, it would remain that way over the next twelve-ish miles.
By mile 23 (about 8 hours in), boredom began to sink in. I was tired of watching movies, had no papers left to grade, and had no visitors for several hours. My legs were starting to feel very tired, and I could tell with each step that my feet had swelled up a ton. I started getting really pumped at mile 24, knowing I had just two miles left. I was talking to several friends either on Instagram or via texts, letting them know how far I was, and relying on their encouraging comments to keep me going. At mile 25, I felt an incredible urge to run, but was worried about getting injured since my legs were hurting so badly at that point. Instead, I turned the treadmill up to 4mph, and slowly jogged. About a half mile from the "finish," Madeline showed up again and joined me on the neighboring treadmill. She stuck with me through the last few tenths of a mile, until I finally hit 26.2 miles and hit the "stop" button on the treadmill.
Nine hours later, I had officially completed both the #IndoorWDWMarathon and my third #IndoorDopeyChallenge.
Out of 48.6 total treadmill miles, I had walked about 42 of them.
Early on in the marathon, Kristen reminded me that I had initially stated that I would only be participating in the 5k and 10k. I was trying to be kind to my body, something that I hadn't done in years, and felt the best it was in my own best interest to sit this year out. And yet here I was, walking the marathon at 7am on a Sunday.
When I hit the "stop" button on that fourth day of the challenge, I realized I had just completed one of the most difficult things in my entire life. Running my sub-4 hour marathon in 2016 was easy. Two laps around Birmingham, Alabama and I was done before noon. Walking an entire marathon on the treadmill at a speed of 3 mph is freaking HARD, both mentally and physically. I knew ahead of time that this was going to be a challenge for me, because historically, I've always been in a rush to finish line. This time, however, I knew I would never make it to the finish if I didn't slow down.
For the remainder of January, I continued to walk. About two weeks after the Indoor Dopey, I flew to Baton Rouge for the Louisiana Half Marathon. I ran as far as I could on the course, and walked the rest. When I added up my total miles for the month, I had completed a total of 76.8 miles; more than half of those were walking. Early on in February, I set out for a short run, and was surprised when I was able to run the entire time. Each week, I set out for short runs with no goal in mind, and found that not only was I able to run the entire way, but I could run almost at my old pace. Toward the end of the month, I headed out to Arizona for the Phoenix Marathon. I figured I'd run as far as I could since I had only trained up to 7 miles at that point, and walk the rest. When I crossed the finish line just after 8am, I had surprised myself by running the whole way and coming in at a time of 2:08:23 (my chip time was longer because I stood in line at a McDonald's restroom and paused my watch).
I know this post is long. I apologize for that. What I hope you take away from this post, however, is that struggle is inevitable in life, but you should never lose hope. Take a step back, assess what is going on, and develop a plan moving forward, even if it includes doing things that you don't exactly enjoy, but you know will be helpful in your recovery. I know what it's like to feel stuck. To feel like you're not making progress when you've been working so hard. To want to give up every day, but something inside won't let you. Just remember that you are never stuck. You might not reach your goals in the timeframe that you imagined you would, but with the right mindset, you will get there when the time is right.
As I mentioned earlier, I do have a preference of treadmills. A great treadmill could make all the difference in completing a challenge like this. If you are interested in participating in the #IndoorDopeyChallenge next year, or are in the market for a new treadmill, please see the treadmill guide by Reviews.com here to find one that's right for you.