Dopey Challenge Orlando, Florida, USA

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Dopey Challenge, running 48.6 miles in a weekend. Dopey challenge is a race from the Run Disney Series that takes place in Orlando, Florida where I had the luck to participate in the inaugural 2014 challenge.

This is my experience

2013 was a crossroads in my training method. I decided that on January 2014 I will not only race a marathon like I’ve had done every year but the Disney Dopey Challenge, a race series whose first edition was scheduled to take place on January 6 at Orlando’s Walt Disney World in Florida.

The challenge is to run 4 days in a row from Thursday to Sunday, starts with a 5k, followed by a 10k, then a half marathon and ends with a marathon on Sunday.

The routes cover all Disney World theme parks in Orlando, 48.6 miles in just 4 days! My regular training method won’t do it, so I chose a 4 days a week method that consisted on race simulation Friday, Saturday and Sunday with incremental distances and two days for core and abs workout.

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This was something new to me because I was used to run 5 to 6 times a week, always taking a rest day before running a long distance race, whether it was Saturday or Sunday. Due to the mileage, I had to run on weekends I modified my training to 4 days a week (most training programs favor running 5/6 days a week).

I wanted to prepare, not to injure myself. I wasn’t racing to set a personal best but to enjoy the event and stay healthy.

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Races start at 5:30 each day. At 3:30 am You have to be on the bus that takes you from the hotel to Epcot, from there it’s a 20-minute walk to the start line.

That means you have to wake up at around 2:30 in the morning 4 days in a row. Be aware that during those 4 days you won’t be getting much sleep and your daily schedule will be far from normal.

My goals for the challenge were simple: FINISH EACH AND EVERY RACE WITHOUT INJURY, enjoy the run through the theme parks and take lots of pictures of Disney’s characters.

Many expert Disney runners tell you, that being their races very family oriented (more than 50% walks the entire route) and due to the crowds (over 30 thousand participants) this races are not a good place to set personal best. I enjoyed the 5k, 10k and the Half Marathon a lot, but I ran slowly, holding back maybe because I was afraid as I never before in my life had run 48.6 miles on a single weekend.

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It was also the first time in 15 years as a runner that I allowed myself to run/walk a race, stop to take pictures and take restroom breaks.

After each run I’ll get back to my room, sleep around two hours and then go out with my family to walk all day and enjoy the theme parks.

That is something that you have to plan for as there is NO way to stay in your room while at Disney, so add a 4 mile walk to your day.

Run each and every day conservatively, it doesn’t matter how excited you are, slow and relaxed are the key words. The night before the marathon I couldn’t get any sleep, I was extremely nervous, excitement and fear combined. Having already completed 10 marathons I felt like this was my first!

I started to run slow, in a very conservative way, took pictures, took a restroom stop, also stopping to put some tape in a toe that was getting a blister and all of a sudden, without really thinking or suffering I was at mile 18!

Even though I had previously run 10 marathons and I usually never “hit the wall” I was afraid that it could happen this time because my body had never before experienced something like this.

As I was crossing the feared mile 18 where it’s common to “hit the wall” I realized that I’m feeling not just good, but great! as I start to run faster and realize that I ONLY have 8 more miles to run and that I feel like new, and the FEAR is gone because THE HARDEST PART IS ALREADY OVER.

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As I keep increasing my speed and catching lots of runners, thousands of them walking and suffering while I’m as HAPPY as can be. My mind and body are capable of achieving things that I never thought them capable of. All that training had really made me STRONGER. It all depends on you going beyond what you thought were your limits.

But first of all I had to open my mind to do something DIFFERENT which I FEARED.

The first 18 miles I ran 11.5-minute miles, rests, photo shoots, and restroom breaks included, and for the last 8 miles I averaged 8.8-minute miles, it was too late to compensate for and ended up with a 5h 01m time, but I FELT STRONGER THAN EVER.

I ran 48.6 miles in 4 days and also walked 6 hours a day through Disney parks and still was able to run a 5-hour marathon, a time in which lots of runners finish a regular marathon.

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I became a Disney Races fan and in August 2014 I ran DUMBO’S DOUBLE DARE in LA (5k, 10k, Half marathon) at regular race pace I ran a 2 hour Half marathon feeling stronger and fearless (additional walking miles during Disney parks visits included).

In later posts, I will talk about all of these Disney themed races due to the fact that my goal is to run each and every one

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Ilya

RRAC Running Educator, Health & Mindset coach, content creator 22 years running, 200+ races & creating magic at Instarunners

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