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dopey challenge castle and medals

Dopey Challenge, the race that awakens your body

Dopey Challenge, the race that awakens your body, heart and soul

Dopey Challenge is a multi-day race, organized by RunDisney, and takes place in Orlando Florida at the Walt Disney Complex.

You run 48.6 miles in a weekend. The Dopey Challenge is the race that awakens your body heart and soul and is one of the best experiences that you can have as a runner.

Your age, gender, or pace here doesn’t matter.

Its physical challenging, yes, fun and heartwarming, and I guaranty you you will feel like a million bucks after completing it.

I had the luck to take part in the inaugural 2014 challenge.

  • 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.
  • Routes cover all Disney World theme parks in Orlando, 48.6 miles in just 4 days!

Regular training methods won’t do it,  we recommend if you’re not a fast or an experience runner to run  4 days a week, with a method that consisted on race simulation Friday, Saturday and Sunday with incremental distances and two days for core and abs workout.

dopey challenge medalsdopey challenge bib pick up

My training plan for the Dopey Challenge

I was used to running 5 to 6 times a week, always taking a rest day before running a long-distance race, whether it was Saturday or Sunday. Because of the mileage I had to run on weekends I changed my training to 4 days a week (most training mid to advance programs favor running 5/6 days a week).

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

So, resting 3 days with cumulative fatigue training (race day simulation) during the weekend allows you to have a life, recover and train without injury yourself.

If you want a personalized training plan for running Dopey next year, send me and email to ilya@instarunners.com and I can help you.

Training Days for the Dopey Challenge

Dopey Challenge: The Experience

The Dopey Challenge  is a different experience.  Disney Parks are for enjoying, being a kid again and having fun. And those races help you achieve that.

Here you will miss all the fun if you run fast. The joy of the experience is taking pictures, giving hugs to your favorite characters while running and being able to run inside the parks full with visitors.

You have the parks JUST FOR YOURSELF.  That is an incredible experience that is worth every penny.

  • Guests of Disney Resort can take advantage of bus and/or monorail transportation to the starting line.  Disney Resort provide a recommended departure time to ensure on-time arrival for each race, which is 90-120 minutes prior to start time.
  • The ride busses that take you to the starting line super early in the morning are also an incredible experience as each runner is happy excited, with a cute running custom ready to have fun. There nervousness is there, as this is a hard challenge, but it’s so much difference that a normal race, that you will be more excited than worried.
  • Also, as is Summer in Sudamericana, you will find runners from Brazil, Argentina, and all over the world, so you meet many runners while having fun in this 4 day.

The EXPO

Be prepare for the MOST CRAZY LONG LINES IN THE WORLD. Yes, as you may think, there are a thousand of Disney fans that are not runners, but collectors, add 30,000 runners in the expo, and you will experience a Black Friday type of day to buy a souvenir.

  • So, arrive early, be calm, do not fight for merchandise and plan what you want in advance. Disney send a lot of emails with pre-sale merchandise. Take advantage of that, because size do not last over two hours.
  • Notice that there is a special pavilion for official race merchandise separated of the “normal all vendor expo”., the official merchandise it’s where things go crazy.
  • Save money in advance. You will find great merchandise and souvenirs but are expensive. Again, worthy, remember that it’s a once in a lifetime experience.

Dopey Challenge expo pavillion

Dopey Challenge expo waiting lineDopey Challenge expo with vendors

Dopey Challenge : The races

Races start at 5:30 each day. At 3:30 am You must 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 must wake up at around 2:30 in the morning 4 days in a row.

You will run the first race in the dark, there are plenty of lights, but think of that if you are not used to run at night.

The rest will start dark and watching the sunrise at the park it’s a great experience.

waiting for the race to start

Pacing Yourself

There are plenty of corrals over 15 and are pace groups. Check that at the expo. You must submit proof of time to start in your real pace time corral. That it’s super important to remember.

  • If you believe you will finish the Half Marathon in 2 hours and 45 minutes (2:45) or less or the Marathon in 5 hours and 30 minutes (5:30) or less, proof of time is required for start corral placement.
  • Over 2:45 or the Marathon in over 5:30, proof of time is not required. They base corral placement on your expected finish time and corral capacities.
  • Know 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 EVERY RACE WITHOUT INJURY, enjoy the run through the theme parks and take lots of pictures with Disney’s characters.

How fast you can go in the Dopey Challenge?

  • Many expert Disney runners tell you, that Disney races are very family oriented (over 50% walks the entire route) and for the crowds (over 30 thousand participants) this race are not a good place to set a personal best. I enjoyed the 5k, 10k and the Half Marathon a lot, but I ran, holding my rhythm and pace, maybe because I was a little afraid, as I never in my life had run 48.6 miles on a single weekend.
  • Be realistic that even when you decide to “race” instead of just having fun- 80% of the people slow their pace for these races, even when you qualify for an early corral, there will be many people obstructing your race- stop- so be conscious and calm

Race day Picture running inside the park

For this race was the first time in many years as a runner I allowed myself to run/walk a race, stop to take pictures and take restroom breaks.

That was a HUGE step for me in experience running and racing. I am much more relax now regarding my race strategy, and choose have fun more and race less, as my race schedule its pack every year.

RECOVER , RECOVER , RECOVER

After each run, I’ll get back to my room, take an  ice bath , back to 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 4-6 mile walk to your day.

So, try to sit at every opportunity you have every day.

Ice bath after a race

The Infamous “Balloon Ladies” in the Dopey Challenge

While it might sound festive, the term ‘Balloon Ladies’ strikes fear in the hearts of many RunDisney participants.

Runners must maintain a pace of at least 16:00 per mile throughout the race. To track the 16:00 pace, a final set of pace leaders starts from the back of the last corral and maintains a 16:00 pace throughout.

These final pace leaders are identified by the large Disney balloons that they pull along on a tether and are referred to as the “Balloon Ladies.”

Runners that fall behind the ‘Balloon Ladies’ are in danger of being ‘swept’ from the course.

dopey challenge balloon ladies

Race Strategy

Run each day, it doesn’t matter how excited you are, slow and relaxed are the keywords. The night before the marathon I couldn’t get any sleep, I was 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, without thinking or suffering I was at mile 18!

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

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.

FINISHING STRONG

My mind and body can achieve things that I never thought them capable of. All that training had strengthened me. It all depends on you going beyond what you thought were your limits. But first, I had to open my mind to do something DIFFERENT which I FEARED. This is the race that can help you change your paradigms

  • The first 18 miles I ran 11.5 minute miles,  rests, photo shoots, and restroom breaks included
  • For the last 8 miles I averaged 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 like to finish marathons strong, not depleted,  most of the times I finish  between 3.30 and sub 4 times a marathon it’s not for “having fun” but racing (with the exception for the New York city marathon, that is also a once in a lifetime experience)

I ran 48.6 miles in 4 days and walked 6 hours a day through Disney parks and still could run a 5-hour marathon, So I feel thrilled. For me that time was more than decent because I didn’t suffer at all.

TIPS

  • The 5k and 10k are always inside the parks, and the half and marathon you run inside the Disney complex.
  • You will find plenty of ID stations and it’s a first-class race.
  • There are few spectators but you don’t need it with the beautiful park, although you need to take that in consideration for the marathon, as you can image it can be very challenging after 3 days of running and walking, being running by yourself with not expectation, take that in consideration for your mental preparation.

dopey challenge medal

Disney Costume Themes for the Dopey Challenge

It’s almost mandatory that you wear some Disney costume clothing, as this is a race where it’s more about having fun than performance. Let yourself be creative.

Take in consideration that for the half marathon and marathon it’s important to be comfortable and practical in the clothing that you choose.

run disney custumes for dopey challenge disney custume disney custume for dopey challenge

Altimetry and Weather

The course for the 5k and 10k has a lot of turns and ups and down as you go to bridges and around the park. Nothing deep but it’s not a flat course.

Also, the marathon has up’s and downs that you need to be aware off. Nothing difficult but if you are used to running in flat terrain, running 4 days in a row with minor’s hills will take the toll on your legs at the marathon.

The weather its unpredictable, but Florida in January its cold, humid and cold rain and as the day progress could be hot again. For the 5k and 10k layer

altimetri for the marathon up and down bridge

The Finish lines

My recommendation is after finishing each race it’s to go back to your room, take a 15-minute ICE BATH, use compression boots massager, wear compression sock AFTER THE RACE and sleep for 2 hours. Then go have breakfast and enjoy the parks and finish the day NO later that 6 pm.

You need at least on Saturday call the end of the day at 5pm on Saturday and rest in your room for the next day marathon. You can thank me later.

The medals

The medals, BIBs and T-shirts are AMAZING. Something that you cherish for a year to come.

dopey challenge 2019 medals

202 MEDALS

dopey challenge castle and medals

BUDGET

There are tons of blogs that talk about budgeting and travel planning for Disney, go to www.rundisney.com to find the best sources and travel agencies. You can travel in a budget and if you plan with a lot of advance, you can have great rates and have the trip of your life.

Hope that this motivate you to participated in the Dopey Challenge, for me its a goal to race it again. Do you want to participate next year 2021? Email me as I will be organizing a running group and a AMAZING RETREAT FOR NEXT YEAR .  

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Ilya

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

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