Dobyns-Bennett High School Assistant Principal Brian Tate, left, and swim coach Nathan Love are shown at Disney World in January.
KINGSPORT — There's nothing like a challenge to egg a guy on. But this challenge, well, it was just Dopey.
Dobyns-Bennett Assistant Principal Brian Tate and Indians swim coach Nathan Love were having lunch with one of their colleagues when she showed them a medal she'd gotten for running in the Disneyland Marathon. Their reply, "We can do that."
"No you can't," was her response.
"That was it," said Love. "We told her we were going to sign up and she told us we couldn't do it."
So in 2012, Tate and Love signed up to run the Goofy Marathon at Disneyland. The catch was that it was a half-marathon one day followed by a marathon the next.
"We're run/walkers," said Love. "But we didn't really do a whole lot of training prior to taking this on."
"We didn't really understand how important things like your shoes would be," said Tate. "No thoughts of hydrating or nutrition ever crossed our minds."
While they did finish both races, Tate paid a heavy price.
"My feet were a wreck," he said. "It was a pretty rough experience."
But there were medals after they crossed the finish line, and that was big.
"We're all about the bling," joked Love.
Next up, a half-marathon and marathon at Disneyland in California.
"It was the first time that they had one out there and we knew we just had to do that," Love said. "And there were added medals for folks who had done the one at Disney World. You got Coast-to-Coast medals, so we wanted them, too."
In September 2013, the dynamic duo took on another challenge.
"This one was called the Dumbo Double-Dare," said Love. "It was a 10K followed by a half-marathon and then a marathon.
"We did pretty well in that so we decided to sign up for the Dopey."
The Dopey was another level entirely. Over four days, the event included a 5K, then a 10K, followed by a half-marathon and finally a full marathon. Altogether it would be 48.6 miles over four days.
Quite a daunting challenge.
"This time we really did do some training," said Love. "We knew we had to be ready."
They set up mini-Dopeys as a way of preparing themselves for the real thing.
"We'd do four days of training trying to simulate the Dopey," said Tate. "We didn't go the exact distances, but the idea of doing four days in a row of running and walking seemed the best way to get ready.
"For one of our long runs, we went the entire length of the Greenbelt, back and forth. That's 18 miles."
The strategy for the actual Dopey was simple.
"We took our time in the 5K," said Love. "Then we picked up the pace in each of the next three races. By the time we got into the marathon we felt good and were able to move along pretty fast, for us. Finishing the marathon in under six hours was the goal and we accomplished that."
There were 25,000 participants in the marathon with 9,000 of them doing the Dopey.
"What we like is being a part of a smaller number of people who have accomplished something like this," said Tate. "You think, how many people have done the half and full marathons at both Disneyland and Disney World.
"We're not elite runners by any stretch of the imagination, but we're among an elite group who have done something special."
Along the way the pair have developed quite a bond.
"On our runs we have time to talk a lot," said Love. "It starts out with us talking about work, then we talk about our families. That's been a wonderful experience.
"Of course, after a while we both start to focus and it becomes all about the running."
"After the first time we did one of these I swore I'd never do it again," joked Tate. "But we'd start training and I'd forget about all the pain and suffering.
"Honestly, we really have had a lot of fun doing this stuff," added Tate. "It was a challenge that a lot of people didn't think we could accomplish. We did and we feel good about that."
Next up for our intrepid runners?
"Asheville has the Royal Trifecta Challenge at the Biltmore," said Love. "It's a half-marathon in March, a 15K in May and a 10K trail race in September. We don't like hills and trails much, but the medals are awesome."
"We're all about that bling," added Tate.