By Stephen Ruiz

Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, Fla. — Midway through the Walt Disney World Marathon, Leah Moroney stopped.

Moroney did not slow down for a drink of water or a nutritional boost. The bathroom didn’t beckon. Cramps or fatigue were not the culprit. And no, the need to snap a selfie did not impede Moroney’s progress.

Expedition Everest, a thrill ride in Animal Kingdom, called her name, and Moroney answered.

“We literally stopped running, paused our watches and got on the roller coaster,” the nurse said.

“Riding roller coasters just gives you a little adrenaline push, and it does. I was like, ‘Oh, man, I feel ready to keep on going.’”

Like that rockin’ roller coaster, the Dopey Challenge — part of the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend that began Jan. 9 with a 5-kilometer race — has its highs, lows and catch-your-breath moments. The event ended Jan. 13.

Dopey was introduced to the world in 1937, the youngest dwarf in the film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

The challenge that bears the character’s name only has been around since 2014 and refers to runners who follow the 5K with the 10K on Friday, the half marathon Saturday and the 26th annual Disney World Marathon on Sunday.

Nearly 45,000 Dopey Challengers have signed up over the years, including about 6,300 who endeavored to complete the 48.6 miles of legwork this year.

Carlos Font, of Orlando, participated in the Dopey Challenge for the fifth consecutive year. Some, such as Moroney and Orlando residents Dennis Colby and Tricia Carbone, registered for all six.

The races started at 5:30 a.m. daily, and runners were required to arrive way earlier because of road closures.

“You get into a rhythm,” Colby said. “I find the challenge is actually easier to do the four (races) than it is to do just the one or do two. I know that makes no sense.”

The motivation behind accepting the challenge varies. For some, it is personal. Font lost 56 pounds in the year before tackling Dopey for the first time.

The medals are a nice bonus. Dopey finishers bring home six tangible prizes — a medal for each of the four races, one for completing Dopey and another for finishing the Goofy Challenge, the half marathon/marathon combo.

“I love getting lots of medals,” Moroney said. “That’s kind of what started it, and now I have this weird obsession.”

That obsession comes with a collection of valuable memories. They all have them.

Colby recalled the uplifting voices of a gospel choir, providing runners with a nice push.

Fans cheering as runners approached the Cinderella Castle impressed Font. Carbone enjoys taking pictures along the route.

As far as Moroney is concerned, her ride on Expedition Everest might not be her favorite memory. Her mother ran the marathon with her last year. It was the first marathon of Sharon Hultin’s life.

“I felt like a giddy 3-year-old going to Disney World for the first time,” said Hultin, who lives in Montana.

While the physical and mental toll is undeniable, crossing that finish line on the final day provides a jolt more profound than any coaster and emotions able to cancel out most discomfort, at least in the moment.

Font called it “a euphoric feeling.”

“It’s the feeling of knowing I did something that I wanted to do for a long time, and I didn’t know if I could do it,” Carbone said. “When I did, I was just really proud. I felt like I could do anything at that point, because I made it through this.”

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