What Is The Dopey Challenge?
The Dopey Challenge is the epitome of the runDisney challenges. It happens during the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend and includes four early (5:30 am) mornings of running, with corral times even earlier. The runs include: 5K (3.1 miles), 10K (6.3 miles), Half-Marathon (13.1 miles) and a Marathon (26.2 miles). When you complete the 48.6 mile challenge, you will have a medal for each race, as well as a medal for completing the Goofy Challenge (half-marathon and marathon) and a medal for the Dopey Challenge (all four races). That is six medals!
How Much Does It Cost?
The race series alone for 2019 cost just under $600 US. That included race entries for all four races as well as six shirts (the 5k was a short-sleeve regular cotton shirt and the other five were long sleeved tech shirts), and six medals. That did not include having a Disney PhotoPass, so you did not have to bother handing off your cell phone again and again. That also does not include the cheer squad, that can cost up to what was $180 CDN for Darcy to watch me from special designated areas only on the Marathon day. There is also the added cost of making a vacation out of it if you are not local. Save, Save, Save and have a plan.
Take care of them the best you can. You only get two race bibs. One bib is for the 5K and 10K and the second for the Half-Marathon and Marathon. That second bib can really take a beating.
It is highly recommended that you have a marathon under your belt before you arrive for the Dopey Challenge. However, it is not necessary. Put in the proper training and you’ll be fine. Having a closed course to run through is a huge perk of doing a marathon before the Dopey. It is also a good idea to try to do as close to a “mock” Dopey as you can. Even if you do not get in the total mileage of the last day, test your body. The farthest I tested was a half-marathon and 32K on back to back days.
In December 2017 I decided that I was going to set a big goal for the next year. As soon as January 2018 hit, I was going to start training for the January 2019 Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World. I have always been pretty hard into fitness, but I have never been a born runner. Other than the odd 5K or 10K races or fun runs that I did years apart, I had not really done too much running outside of a half hour run on the treadmill at the gym — and everybody knows how boring that is! Having just started running again, it was a bit of a ballsy idea to have such a big goal, but I “hit the ground running” and nothing was going to stand in my way. I like to always do things in a big way — go big, or go home. Even crazier was signing up for a marathon that was a short five months later. The BMO Vancouver Marathon was a great first attempt, finishing at 4:40 after a fast five months of training. I went on to run 13 half-marathon or half-marathon-plus distances (anything over a half but less than a full marathon) over the year to get in my time pounding the pavement; I did not keep track of any training runs under a half-marathon.
Running outdoors is totally different than running on a treadmill. Lace up in the sun (earlier the better to avoid the heat), lace up in the pouring rain. Heck, lace up in the snow if you have a path. I proudly only used the treadmill a couple times during my training when I was stuck having to do my training late at night (safety first) or had the kids that I could not very well leave alone. Running outdoors, even in the pouring rain, really helped me build up the amount of stress my legs could take. It also allowed me to figure out how best prepare for a run in different weather scenarios. By running outside I felt that I improved faster and the after-run soreness started to fade faster. I am also in love with Kickboxing and 9Round has really helped me to improve my endurance. Cross training can really help improve your running.
I am really competitive. I figured I would take in some character photo opportunities during the 5K and 10K races, but the lines felt really long. I ended up giving into the Disney magic, with some shorter lines, in the Half-Marathon and Marathon. I figured that I could not run a Disney race without enjoying the extra perks of it being a Disney race. I gave myself a rough 20 minutes to stop for whatever photos I could. Even WITH stopping for photos, I finished the half-marathon in 2:08 and the Marathon in 4:15. One of my goals this year after breaking a 2:00 half marathon was to break a 4:00 marathon. Knowing that if I had not stopped for photos, I officially would have broken 4:00 on the marathon, is an incredible feeling. I’m glad I stopped for photos and did not let myself miss out on that part of the experience. Even at 4:15 WITH photos, I still made a new personal best from my last marathon at 4:40. I sure cannot complain about those results!
“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” – Walt Disney
My recommendations after completing the Dopey Challenge in 2019:
- Registration: Register early and ensure you get your confirmation email so you know it worked. While the Dopey did not sell out this year, I have heard that it possibly will for the upcoming 10th Anniversary. When I initially registered, something went wrong and it did not go through. Luckily, I was able to get help with it fairly fast so I did not risk losing out.
- If you’ve been thinking about signing up, do it. Once you have paid the money, you will not want it to be a waste. Let all that money you spent fuel your fire for training.
- Get some “body glide”! Put it anywhere that you’ll end up with chaffing or blisters: the inside of your thighs, your toes, and for ladies, around/under your sports bra. You will be happy you did. I forgot a couple times for some distance training runs in the pouring rain and it was not pretty.
- Bring throw away shirts so you can take off a layer once you warm up. I learned how different January Orlando weather can be from one day to the next, especially in the mornings. The first race day (5K), I could not believe how cold it was. By the last day (Marathon), I was just in shorts and a tank top to start. Also, when they hand you an “emergency” thermal blanket after the finish line, take it if you did not bring your own. You’ll likely want it the next morning. IMPORTANT NOTE: Don’t take the thermal blanket over the start line. You have to throw it aside over the railing before you cross or it could interfere with the tracking on your bib — and you do not want that! Also, on the topic of clothing, bring two pairs of runners. If it rains one day, it will be nice to have a fresh pair so you are not starting with wet shoes. Also, it gives the shoes time to spring back after the runs if you can switch them out.
- When you start telling people what your goal is, you will be told you are crazy over and over. To be honest, maybe they are right. I lost count of how many times I was asked: “Why would you ever want to attempt that”? Don’t listen to them, rather use their negativity to fuel the fire. Remember that you’re working towards conquering what most will not even attempt to do. And that you’re awesome. The mindset and determination you must have to complete the Dopey Challenge are like no other, taking everything you have, especially in that last mile.
- You will have to be at the “start” at least a couple hours before the waves will actually begin to cross the start line. This is important. They start to close the roads down, so listen to the arrival times. Time goes faster than you think when you are waiting around and you do not want to miss your race. Also, make sure you leave plenty of time to get to the start. We had a rental car that would not start the first day (5K) and it could have ruined my chances at a Dopey if I was not able to get an Uber in minutes. I was so relieved and glad that I woke up extra early; not that I was able to get much sleep anyway with all the excitement.
- Find friends to run with during your training, even if they do not do your entire training runs with you. It will help take away the boredom. Since I have three kids five and under, it is hard to schedule training runs because someone has to be around to watch them. That made it hard to find people to run with and when you are doing distance runs, it can become really boring by yourself.
- Cheer squad: You have to judge how important it is to have someone somewhere on the route cheering you on. We paid $180 CDN for Darcy to be able to see me run past the castle in Magic Kingdom and he was given a cheer package with a blanket and cowbell. He was told “breakfast” food would be provided. When he walked into the tent before heading to the cheer line, he found that breakfast was only bagels, bananas, apples and oranges. He did not expect a massive feast, but it was a real disappointment. It was a great feeling to see him standing there cheering for me as I ran down Main Street towards the castle, and when I came out of the castle minutes later, but at what cost? Know you get nothing for the extra cost of “breakfast”.
- Training: So many people have asked me how I was training for this. I ran, a lot. I use tried to use the Galloway plan to guide me, though I wasn’t able to stick to it because the length of my run was determined to how long I had someone to be with my kids. In the plan, you will complete “mini” Dopeys to get a feel of what the event will be like. They are a great opportunity to figure out how to best fuel yourself. Also, realize the mental toll it will take on you once the training starts to feel like it is going on forever. And ever.
- Life happens: As important as getting in your runs is, make sure you are well emotionally and mentally grounded. Listen to your body. Self-care includes knowing when to take a break; something I still need to work on.
- The Parks: We made it a family vacation and did not want to miss the extra time in the Parks. I found that the extra walking and fun kept my muscles loose and helped me not really be sore at all after the Marathon (except when I had to walk DOWN stairs). It made the Dopey Challenge extra Dopey waking up early to run and then taking the kids to one of the parks until closing, and doing it all again day after day. I would not recommend it if you are uneasy about it. Listen to your body and do what it says. The two-hour nap I had after getting back from the Marathon was heavenly; having a couple of extra naps in there would probably have been a good thing.
- Photos: There will be Disney photographers in each of the parks taking photos and you can get a photo pass to claim them, or for character photos, you can also hand off your cell phone for them to take one on there as well. Photo pass is usually reliable and I did not bother with my cell phone since we had a Photo Pass from the park days as well. Technical difficulties can occur though and my photo with the Queen Of Hearts was lost somehow, unable to be recovered. From what I have seen online, I’m sure a lot of others that had their photo taken around the same time had the same issue. Keep in mind that even though it is Disney, which is such a well-oiled machine, mistakes can still happen. For the character photos, also make sure your bib number is visible.
Take a look at photos from my incredible Dopey Challenge experience:
If you go to the parks after completing the Dopey, or any runDisney race, you’ll find a ton of other competitors wearing their race medals around their necks. When I completed the Dopey I wanted to take my medals to the Magic Kingdom for photos and it was fun wearing all the clang, though a little heavy around the neck. Wear your medals and you’ll be asked a lot of random questions and congratulations; which is half the fun of showing them off!
The Dopey will test you mentally and physically, but this is your race. Go out and make it Magical.