After posting recaps of all four races that we ran during the 2017 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, this post is a Dopey Challenge recap as a whole. Dave and I ran 48.6 miles around the World over four days but would we do it again? Or is this a one and done for us? In our Dopey Challenge recap, I will also give tips about what worked for us during Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend running the Dopey Challenge to make it the most enjoyable experience possible.
Dopey Challenge Recap – Running 48.6 Miles Around the World
The Dopey Challenge consists of four races – Pluto’s 5K, Minnie’s 10K, Donald’s Half Marathon and Mickey’s Marathon. If you haven’t read the recaps for the individual races that we ran during Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, check out the following links before reading the Dopey Challenge recap.
Dopey Challenge Recap – What We Loved
- One Of A Kind Experience– As I’ve said in each of the race recaps, runDisney puts on some amazingly entertaining races. In what other races can you stop for photo ops with popular Disney characters, run through iconic landmarks like Cinderella’s Castle, or take a mid race ride on an awesome roller coaster like Expedition Everest? There simply isn’t any other race like it. If you love Disney World, you will love experiencing this.
- Volunteers- The sheer number of volunteers who helped in events throughout Marathon Weekend was impressive! And not only were there tons of people helping out, they were wonderfully kind and enthusiastic and helped make the weekend of running the Dopey Challenge even more special.
- Crowd Support- The crowd support during the Marathon was absolutely amazing. Waking up in the cold at the crack of dawn in the middle of a Disney vacation takes some serious dedication and there were tons of people out there waving signs and cheering all of us runners on. It’s hard to describe the feeling of turning down Main Street in Magic Kingdom and hearing the throngs of people making their support heard. It was CRAZY loud! Not gonna lie, I totally choked up during this stretch. Even on the remote areas along the route, we passed by little groups of people out offering goodwill and support. Not only that, I saw all kinds of makeshift fuel stops with beer, soda, candy and other treats being passed out. I’ve experienced this in small town races, but at Disney? For me, this was totally unexpected. Add the support for the “half marathon” which wasn’t even an organized race and the crowd support during Marathon Weekend was second to none.
- The Challenge- No matter what pace you run, powering through 4 very early morning races to run almost 50 miles is quite a challenge. And that’s why we were doing the Dopey Challenge, right? Because we like that sort of thing? Well, it turns out that we DO like that sort of thing and we really enjoyed the struggle of it and feeling like we were pushing ourselves and doing something hard to complete.
- runDisney Organization- From an organization standpoint, runDisney is a powerful machine at putting on races. Their experience with crowd control, communication, transportation, and thoughtful route set up is simply amazing. Large groups of hungry runners at the finish line? Put together an easy to pass out snack box for each participant. Boring stretch of road? Add a jumbo screen and blast music. Huge numbers of runners at the start? Make numerous starts complete with their own starting fireworks. And while you might not like being separated into corrals, it definitely keeps the start smooth. From security checkpoints to receiving our medals, we never waited in line which seems impossible with so many race participants. Even when the Half Marathon was cancelled, the organization of runDisney to communicate the options we had to be reimbursed (when frankly they didn’t need to offer us anything) was terrific. No doubt about it, runDisney sets the standard for putting on races.
- The Hardware- Ahh- the medals. Race medals have really evolved in the last decade. I ran my first marathon about ten years ago at the Flying Pig, and when I look at the small medal on a plain black ribbon that I received at the end, it is very evident how things have changed. And the Flying Pig Marathon was famous for their medals at the time! At marathons across America, the medals have gotten bigger and flashier and combined with the ribbons, they are practically works of art. And even with this standard, the medals we received for the Dopey Challenge are amazing. We had to laugh at our outright gluttony when we put all of our medals on to take a picture in front of Cinderella’s Castle. It almost seems indecent to receive so many for one weekend! But I’m not complaining. I love our 6 Dopey Challenge medals and they hang proudly on my medal rack. If you like collecting cool race medals, you would be hard pressed to find better ones than the medals you earn for the Dopey Challenge. I also really like all six of the shirts we received including 5 long sleeve tech shirts available in both men and women’s fit.
Dopey Challenge Recap – What We Didn’t Like
- Cost- No way around in, running the Dopey Challenge is EXPENSIVE! According to runDisney, for 2018, you can expect to shell out 560 bucks to register for the four race Dopey Challenge. And on top of race entrance fees, you are sure to spend a great deal more between lodging, food and park tickets. If this isn’t bad enough, runDisney races are non-transferable and this year they started being non-deferrable too! Since other large races (including the Marine Corps Marathon) offer these options, I wish that runDisney would too. As registration opens almost a year in advance for the races, A LOT could change in your life in that amount of time and if you no longer want to or are able to run the Dopey Challenge, you are out of a large sum of cash.
- Wicked Early Start Times- If riding runDisney transportation, you can expect to be waking up around 2:30 each day of the Dopey Challenge and that is ROUGH! While I understand the need to have such early starts due to accommodate park opening times, I sincerely wish that there was a way around it.
- NOT Races to Try to PR in- For me this part of the Dopey Challenge recap could go in either the things I like about it or the things I don’t like about it. It just is what it is. All of the races we ran in during the Dopey Challenge were crowded with runners of every ability. If you are sincerely trying to get your best time and are in any corral except the front of A, I would imagine that running in any of the Dopey Challenge races with time being a primary goal would be an exercise in frustration. People WILL come to a dead stop in front of you to take a selfie in front of something they find interesting. People WILL be walking 4 across while chatting about anything and everything. People WILL swerve in front of you to get in place in line for a character stop. If you understand this before signing up, you will be MUCH happier for it. Dave and I just took our time and didn’t even look at our watches to check pacing and this made running the Dopey Challenge much more enjoyable for us.
Dopey Challenge Recap – Tips For Runners
- Park and Sleep Before the Start- I cannot stress enough how much we LOVED having our Camper Van to sleep in before the start of each race. Getting an extra couple of hours of sleep each day really added up. As an added bonus, it was wonderful to have a place to shelter from the windy weather on Marathon day for as long as possible. I’ve run in runDisney’s Princess Half Marathons before and rode race transportation, and doing it the way we did for the Dopey Challenge allowed us much more rest. Even if you don’t have an actual van with beds to sleep in, you can get good rest in a regular car and we saw tons of people arriving early to the pre race parking lot and doing just that.
- DRINK UP!- I cannot stress enough how important it is to make sure you stay hydrated over the four days of running. I felt like I visited every bathroom I was around over the weekend as I was drinking so much, but it was totally the right thing to do. Except for the Marathon, it was much warmer weather then the Ohio winter I am currently running in and drinking enough water made in bearable.
- Eat Regular Food- Dave and I were camping at Ft. Wilderness which made cooking some of our own meals easy and we definitely felt better for it. Eating out for every meal over 4 days of running is a hassle, not to mention expensive, and it would have been hard on our stomachs that are not used to so much restaurant food.
- Rest When You Can- While this won’t work for everyone, Dave and I didn’t spend any time in the parks until after we were finished with the 4 races of the Dopey Challenge. Instead, after running each morning, we would head back to our campsite at Ft. Wilderness to nap, swim, read and relax. It was heavenly to have so much down time and made the weekend somehow feel leisurely in spite of the 48.6 miles we ran.
- Bring Extra Shoes- Our “Half Marathon” was rainy and I was so glad that I had packed an extra pair of shoes to run it in so that my shoes for the marathon were perfectly dry.
- Prevent Chafing- I used Body Glide everywhere where anything was rubbing every single morning as I didn’t want to deal with painful chafing and thankfully I didn’t have any problems. For guys- make sure you have some surgical tape to cover your nipples. Trust me on this! Years ago, Dave learned this the hard way.
- Pace Yourself- Know your limits and accept them. Don’t go out crazy fast for the first three races just to bomb the full marathon. For us, this race was about accepting ourselves as tortoises and not hares and our slow and steady pace made the 4 days fun and enjoyable.
- Be Prepared for Any Weather- As I wrote in the Marathon Recap, an unexpected cold front blew in over the weekend bringing with it much colder temperatures. While we were able to pick up inexpensive cold weather running gear at TJ Maxx and Target, if we hadn’t had our van this would have been a hassle. Florida weather is CRAZY and you need to be ready for weather of all types.
- Relax and Have Fun- This is our most important tip of our Dopey Challenge recap. We had such a blast running the Dopey Challenge because we were there to have fun. Don’t worry about pace or PRs, there are tons of other races to do that! Stop and take the pictures you want, take the time to look around at all of the cool diversions runDisney puts on the course and remember to soak it all in. And once you’re done? Have a beer (or two) and revel in what you just accomplished.
- Want to Make Your Medals Even More Special? – One final tip for the Dopey Challenge recap that I learned during the Princess Half Marathon, get your medals signed! After the race we brought a sharpie and our medals to the parks with us and got each medal signed by their respective host. So Pluto signed our 5K medal, Minnie signed the 10K one, Donald signed the one for the Half Marathon, Mickey signed our Marathon Medal and Goofy signed the medal for the Goofy Challenge. Sadly, we never saw Dopey the day we were at the parks so that medal didn’t get signed. But I LOVE having signatures on the rest of them!
Dopey Challenge Recap – Would We Run it Again?
Our final verdict in the Dopey Challenge recap is would we run it again? Heck YES we would! We absolutely loved running the Dopey Challenge at Disney World and if money was no object we would sign up again immediately. That being said, money is a consideration. And time is a factor as well and running four races plus attending the expo and allowing for some park time used a week of vacation. So we won’t be signing up again next year. But I would imagine we might have another Dopey Challenge sometime in our future. If you’re on the fence about signing up, I would give the Dopey Challenge an enthusiastic thumbs up.So that’s a wrap and the Dopey Challenge recap is complete. If you have any questions about running the Dopey Challenge or Marathon Weekend let us know.
Have you run in any runDisney Events and have a tip you would like to share? I’d love to hear about it!