Brittany Charboneau’s Instagram handle is @funnyrunner26.2. Once you know that, it’s not surprising to learn that she chose to race at Disney World this month in costume – four costumes, actually. She was competing in the Dopey Challenge, which consists of a 5k, 10k, half marathon and marathon on four consecutive days. Her goal was to have fun, which she did, but she accomplished more than that – she won all four races, becoming the first person in the series’ 29-year history to do so.
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“The beauty of this whole race experience was I got to do exactly what I wanted to, which was race in costume.”
When Brittany pitched her coach on the idea of running the Dopey Challenge, she explained that it was “about keeping the joy and the fun with all of it.” Her coach supported the plan, providing that she upped her costume game, which she did, running as Elsa from Frozen 2, Bing Bong and Joy from Inside Out, and breaking the marathon tape as Cruella de Ville.
“I’m such a big believer of everything happens for a reason and hindsight; you get so many golden nuggets of things that are like, oh, you are on the right path.”
It was a freak accident that led to her running the Dopey Challenge. She was 10 days out from the Boston Marathon and crushing her training when she was knocked down by an off-leash dog while on a run. She suffered a concussion and injured her back, but was determined to power through the race. But by mile 15, she had to start walking, and she ultimately dropped out at mile 18.
She took a week off and started thinking, “what do I want to do that’s gonna bring me joy? How can I still use this fitness, but just go play and kick off the year in a different way because my 2021 ended this way; how can I kick off 2022?”
Brittany runs with different themes for different days, and on the day that the dog collided with her, the theme was Disney. Looking back, she says, “I take it as it was putting me on my right path, because if I had run Boston, I would never have run Disney.”
“There are lots of roses but there’s a lot of weeds too, that are part of this whole story and whole journey.”
When she first started racing as an elite, Brittany didn’t anticipate all of the pressure that would go along with it, even though she acknowledges that in her case, much of it is self-imposed. She struggled with imposter syndrome after she got a contract with North Face, asking herself, “Do I deserve this? Like, why me? There’s a lot of other fast people; was this a fluke?”
“I have a lot more to offer as a person and what I can do vs. just my times or just winning certain races.”
In her moments of doubt, she reminds herself that “people get invested in different athletes just for who they are. Like my favorite athletes, if they have a bad race, it’s like, yeah, but overall she’s a badass and I think she’s amazing and she’s funny or something like that.”
She finds it hard to believe that people feel the same way about her, though. At Boston, she was sure that “the cameras are going to be on me as I’m sobbing on the sidelines.” They weren’t, and she realized that nobody cared except to reach out and make sure that she was all right. “It wasn’t this whole dramatic thing that I had played out in my head of this big story of ‘breaking news’ that I dropped out of Boston.”
“When I started racing elite, I thought if I can just look like everyone else, I will race like everyone else. And for me, that meant being severely under-fueled.”
Dealing with imposter syndrome hasn’t been Brittany’s only struggle. For years she was determined to maintain a shredded physique, even though it was detrimental to her running and her health. She finally started working with a dietician, who has helped her change the way that she thinks about food. She recalls, “I had to print out this mantra for myself and I put it on my fridge when I first started working on fueling, that said, ‘do you want to look like an elite athlete or perform like one?’ because there’s a big difference.”
She knows that she’ll probably never conquer her feelings about food, but she won’t let them control her. Instead she tells them, “you’re gonna sit in the back seat, you’re gonna be on this ride, you don’t ever get to drive, but you’re probably just going to be here and I acknowledge that.”
“It’s not been like running on a rainbow and I’m just shooting glitter out of everywhere and I’m just like ‘this is so easy, this is wonderful.’”
Brittany’s goal is to have fun with her running, and not allow her intensity to take the joy out of it, but that isn’t always easy. She explains, “if you think about an artist, as they’re creating different pieces, they’re having to put a lot of intention and thought behind the pieces that they’re creating and I feel like it’s the same for my running.” However, she says, “the fun is work, but like anything that is really hard work, it’s so much more worth it if you can just stick it out and stick through it.”
“ I hope [the listeners] chase their own joy. I hope they have a really great year, as well. I’m just putting all of those good vibes out for everybody in the running world too.”
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“Thank you” to Brittany. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on the show.