It’s been one week since the Walt Disney Marathon weekend and I finally have some time to write about it so I will start with the Walt Disney World 5K recap! The 5K was the first race of the 4 part Dopey Challenge we signed up for. Completing the Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney Resort has been on my bucket list for a few years now. Earning 6 AMAZING medals for a weekend of running seemed like a perfectly reasonable goal. And luckily the stars aligned this year for Dave and I to head south to Orlando for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend so that we could spend 4 (VERY early!) mornings running around the World. The Dopey Challenge consists of running 4 races over 4 days- Pluto’s 5K, Minnie’s 10K, Donald’s 1/2 Marathon and Mickey’s Marathon to total 48.6 miles. Call us dopey, but Dave and I were celebrating our 20th Anniversary by getting our butts kicked by the Mouse.
I couldn’t wait to run through all 4 Disney parks and also get all of those beautiful medals (one for each race plus a special Goofy Challenge Medal for running both the 1/2 Marathon and the Full Marathon AND a coveted Dopey Challenge Medal for completing all 4 races). Don’t get me wrong, you pay dearly for the experience- at $560 per person, the Dopey Challenge is NOT cheap. Do we think it was worth it? Over the next few days I will be posting a recap of the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend and whether we would do it again.
Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Health and Fitness Expo
We arrived in Orlando on Wednesday evening and since we were running the Walt Disney World 5K early the next morning, we headed straight to ESPN Wide World of Sports for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Expo to pick up our race packets. The runDisney health and fitness expo was closing at 8pm and since we were driving to Orlando from Cincinnati, I was a little nervous to be cutting it so close. runDisney is VERY clear in their race day instructions that there are NO race day packet pick ups. Contrary to this, I did see several people picking up packets at a booth set up near the 5K race entrance. Thank goodness for this as I would be despondent if a traffic jam or bad weather had made us unable to race. That is WAY too much money to spend to not get to run and I am glad they are more flexible then they advertise.Despite seeing Twitter reports of traffic gridlock and long lines throughout the day, we had no problem parking and experienced no lines at all to pick up our race packets. Since they put on so many races, runDisney is nothing if not organized, and our shirts, bibs with our names on them, safety pins and a tiny cliff bar were neatly packaged and ready to go for us after signing our waivers and showing our photo IDs to the volunteers working the packet pick up. We also received a Donald Half Marathon luggage tag to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the race. It’s these little bonuses that make Disney races so much fun!I LOVE the 6 race shirts (like the medals, you get one for each race plus one each for the Goofy and Dopey Challenges) that we received for the Dopey Challenge. While the Pluto 5K is a unisex cotton t-shirt, all of the other shirts are long sleeve technical shirts and we could choose either men’s or women’s fit at registration. I had picked size medium women’s cut and am very happy with how they fit. FYI- If the size of your shirt is not right, you can exchange for another size at the race expo. However, if registered for the Goofy or Dopey Challenge, you had to exchange ALL of your shirts for the new size, not just one. The 5K T-shirt in unisex medium is a bit big on me, but since the other shirts fit well, I wasn’t going to exchange them all for smalls.
Once we had our race packets, we spent some time exploring the Health and Fitness Expo, picking up samples of various things and checking out the numerous vendors selling race gear of ALL kinds. We also caught the end of Jeff Galloway’s talk about run/walk intervals. As this method of completing marathons has gotten me through several of them, I am a believer in the gospel he preaches! Since we didn’t really need anything and we knew we had to wake up super early the next day, we headed out fairly quickly to find some dinner and get settled in for the night at Ft. Wilderness Campground where we were staying in our Camper Van.
Walt Disney World 5K Recap – Get There Early!
Because runDisney races head through the Disney World theme parks, races start early to get runners out of the parks. So Pluto’s 5K had a first corral start time of 6:00 AM. If that isn’t early enough for you, the roads leading to the start lines close way before the races begin. For the 5K, the roads were closing by 5 AM. If you are staying offsite while running in a Walt Disney World Race, make sure you arrive to the parking lot early to avoid this headache! While runDisney encourages racers that are staying at Disney Resorts to use the provided race transportation (and I rode the resort busses during the Princess Half Marathon a few years ago), we decided that we would be driving to the start lines since we had our van to sleep in after arriving to the Epcot parking lot. To guarantee arrival by the start time, we were advised to be on a runDisney bus NO LATER than 4 AM. That is wicked early. So this is what we tried for the 5K- we set our alarms for 2:30 AM and quickly got our race clothes on before driving to Epcot’s entrance to the race start. This ensured that we were in the lot WAY before the roads closed or got crowded and had the added bonus of having us park VERY near the finish line. Once parked in the lot, we reset our alarms for 5 AM and headed back to sleep for a couple more hours. This set up worked amazingly for the 5K and is similar to what we did for the rest of the Dopey Challenge Races.
Walt Disney World 5K Recap – Corral Placement
Because runDisney races are so popular and crowded, runners are split into numerous corrals based on expected finish time. Proof of finish time from a previous half or full was required for an early Dopey Challenge corral placement. Based on my Flying Pig Half Marathon Time, I was placed in Corral C for the 5K and 10K races and Corral H for the Half and Full Marathons which was exactly in the middle of the corrals and middle of the pack is where I usually finish. Dave is WAY faster than me, but he hasn’t raced much recently so he was placed in Corral D for the 5K and 10K and Corral I for the half and full. While you are not allowed to move up in corrals, runDisney does let racers drop back corrals to run with friends assigned different start times so we both started in Corral D for the 5K. Once inside our assigned corral, runners in the 5K were further broken up into smaller groups with starts at about 2 minute intervals apart which was very helpful in eliminating the glut of runners that often occurs at the start of popular races.
Walt Disney World 5K Recap – What’s at the Start?
As I said before, we fell back asleep in our comfy camper van after arriving to the 5K and after sleeping for a couple of hours, we woke up again at 5AM and gobbled a banana before heading to the start. It was very comforting to see numerous police dogs and security at the entrance gates. Since we weren’t doing bag check, we headed through the gate with no lines and I made a bee line to get a coffee from a cart smack dab in the middle of the entrance. Gulping my coffee like medicine, we strolled around checking out all of the cool costumes and taking a few pics. Knowing I always get pre race jitters that make me have to pee, we headed over to the largest row of port o potties I have ever seen! Like I said, runDisney is organized! The start area also held the large tents for bag check which we weren’t using and Pluto was out with LONG lines of runners lining up for pictures. We decided not to wait in line, and headed to our corral to wait for the start.
Walt Disney World 5K Recap – Corral Line Up
Each corral at the Disney 5K had several volunteers guarding the entrances and checking our bibs to see if runners were entering their assigned corrals. Once inside our gated off corral, we passed the 15 minutes before the first Corral A start by checking out all of the costumes. While the costumes at Disney races are great, Dave and I decided to skip doing them and just wear the shirt given to us for that race. So Dave and I wore regular running shorts for the 5K with the Pluto 5K t-shirt. As the Dopey Challenge is already so expensive, we just didn’t feel like investing in 4 different sets of costumes to only wear one time. We weren’t alone. I would guess that half of the runners are in costumes at every level of elaboration and half are in regular running gear. So whatever floats your boat works. FYI- there are some restrictions for the types of costumes that can be worn for runDisney races, such as no masks, so be sure to check the rules before investing in an expensive get up. Once it was time for the start, runners in each corral were further divided as we walked to the start to set off every two minutes or so. All in all it took about 31 minutes before it was finally our turn to start running!
Walt Disney World 5K Recap – The Race
A 5K is such a quick race, and the Disney 5K was no exception. While some of the route was on the surrounding roads, it was wonderfully beautiful to enter Epcot as the sun was rising and head through World Showcase watching the sky light up. Even though we weren’t worried about our time, we did skip the character stops because the lines were SO long! We did stop for tons of pictures ourselves though with various Epcot backdrops. The atmosphere was festive and we were having a great time, but I did see several runners obviously very irritated that they were being slowed down by people walking and stopping for pictures. I am conflicted with how I feel about this. First of all, if speed is your primary concern, this is probably not the race for you. Or at least make sure you submit a speedy race time so you can be in an early corral before most of the other runners start. While I completely understand the feeling of wanting to run your very best race, in my experience, that is especially hard to do at Disney races. As the race takes place in Disney World where characters dot the course and photographers are there to take pictures, you can assume that people will be stopping to do so. Not only that, but there are also many people who are running their very first race EVER. Not everyone knows to jog through water stops or to look around before coming to a dead stop. You WILL be weaving around other runners and walkers when running a runDisney race, so while to each his own, my feeling is just to relax and enjoy myself. There are TONS of races out there to PR in, but not too many you can get a picture with Mickey in the middle of your run. Heck, I paid WAY to much money to do this race to blast through it without seeing anything! Knowing we had a lot more running to do in the days ahead, we kept pretty strictly to a 1 minute run and 1 minute walk intervals and before we knew it, we were heading to Spaceship Earth and the finish line just beyond. The Walt Disney World 5k is an awesome race.
Walt Disney World 5K Recap – Give Me That Medal!
As I said before, I was REALLY looking forward to getting my hands on my first medal of the weekend and it was worth the wait. In fact, the Pluto 5K medal is one of my favorites of the weekend! After volunteers placed our medals around our necks, we headed through the finish chute where we got bananas and bottles of water and gatorade before receiving our goody boxes filled with snacks. Since we were parked so close to the finish line, even with the crowds, getting to our van was a breeze and heading out of the Epcot parking lot was simple. Once out of the parking lot, we headed to the local Publix to fill our cooler up with food for the rest of the weekend and spent the rest of the day napping, snacking, swimming at the Ft. Wilderness pool and relaxing at our campsite. Even with the extra hours of sleep we caught in the parking lot, we were pretty sleepy and at one point I woke up from a nap, looked outside and saw the sun and started shouting at Dave that we had overslept for the 10K. I was obviously very relieved when I realized it was still Thursday. It is just so disorienting to be up so early in the morning! Overall, the Pluto 5K was an awesome start for Marathon Weekend and the Dopey Challenge and we couldn’t wait for the 10K the next morning.It has been such fun to write this Walt Disney World 5K Recap and look back on the super fun race. Over the next couple of days, I will share recaps for the rest of the weekend’s races. Let me know if you have any questions about running the 5K or the Dopey Challenge. As always, Happy Travels!