Race: Dopey Challenge, Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend

Runner: Amanda R

Race Date: 01/12/2020

Location: Orlando, FL

Results: Finisher

Strava Activity Link: https://www.strava.com/activities/3005275194

dopey challenge race report
Photo: RunDisney

3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

1.) It’s FUN! I love the Disney atmosphere. As an Annual Passholder, we visit Orlando and Walt Disney World at least 3 times a year. Disney does a great job being accommodating to runners. The race is run well, and with the amount of participants, things go pretty smoothly as far as the logistics of the race go.
2.) Bling is great and I live in my RunDisney race shirts year-round. Gear is great!
3.) The course is diverse and interesting with plenty of distractions to get you through the race if you are struggling.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

Because the Jeff Galloway programs are recommended by Disney, there are a lot of walkers. I have no problem with walkers, but the course can get pretty congested at times. If you have a faster corral, this problem is eliminated, but in the 5K and 10K, the corrals do not require a proof of time. There are a lot of walkers in Corral A in those two races. Plenty of people also choose the Disney races as their first, this can cause some traffic problems as well in the shorter races. If you are staying at a Disney resort, event busses pick you up and transport you to and from the start/finish line. This is a courtesy, but can come with some lines. Who am I kidding, that’s just part of the Disney experience! The Dopey Challenge is a monster. The hardest part isn’t the repeat days of running, it is getting up at 2AM four mornings in a row.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

This is weird and good. Seeing Cinderella’s castle illuminated at mile 10 of the marathon as you round the corner on Main Street U.S.A. is one of those feelings I can’t describe. I’m not an emotional person, and I tear up every time. Disney characters for photo stops is definitely weird!

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I loved the feeling of finishing all four days, and the joy at Disney is second-to-none.

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

Register early. Dopey registration starts in April the year before the race. I think that the Dopey bibs were still available in late summer, but if you have family members wishing to run the 5K or 10K, registration in April is a must-do. Staying on Disney property, in my opinion, is the best option for race week.

Biggest tip: work on getting a good Proof of Time so you get a good corral. If you are in some of the corrals at the back, it can be very crowded with tons of bodies blocking everything.

Second biggest tip for Disney challenge weekends: Go to bed early. Finish your race. Eat and go back to the hotel. Do not try to do the Disney parks when you are trying to complete the Dopey. It’s just too much walking.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

I meal prep and take most of my food with me. I stay at Disney’s Art of Animation resort. It’s a value, but you can get a suite that has a microwave, fridge and small sink. I then take an Uber to the closest grocery store and buy food for the week. It helps to have food that you fuel well with and it really cuts down on the cost of Disney food. RunDisney is about the experience. Don’t go to qualify for Boston, go to have fun. If you qualify for Boston in the process, great job! The courses are twisty and narrow in places, and many runners will say it’s really hard to run a great time there. I ran a pretty salty half there in 2018. It can be done.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

There are sweepers. The “balloon ladies” are the last ones to start and serve as the barrier to the “party bus” to the finish. The 15 minute/per mile doesn’t apply to all runners, so If you start in corral C and you run 20 minute miles, and still finish in front of the “balloon ladies” you are still a finisher. Proof of Time submissions have to be submitted in the fall before Dopey.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Parks are very interesting to run. There are some boring bits that are highway and roads, but Disney always seems to make them interesting as well. Lights, sounds, and atmosphere are fantastic.

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

The course is flat. The most difficult part of running Dopey is the fact that it can be 28 degrees to start the 5K and 78 degrees to start the Marathon 3 days later. The weather is unpredictable. The course is flat, but has some twists and turns in the parks.

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

Very well organized. The only problem is the hired bus drivers that take runners from the resorts to the start. I heard some runners were on the bus for 1.5 hours because the bus driver didn’t know how to get to the start. The marathon was delayed for 30 minutes (some of us think this is the reason).

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Yes, because of the shear volume of people. I think there were 900+ in my age group. F 45-50.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

Make your race reservation in April along with your hotel reservations. Southwest has great deals on flights. If you are looking to enjoy the parks a bit while you are there, buy a park hopper park pass. Book your dining reservations 180 days before your arrival date. Book your fast pass (skip the line) selections 60 days prior to your arrival date.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Aid Stations have water and Powerade. Med Tents have EVERYTHING. Food Stops in the Marathon: 2 banana stops and 1 chocolate stop. Food Stop 1/2 marathon: sport beans (YUCK).

Weather and typical race conditions

Can be 28 degrees to start raising to 55 or 78 degrees to start climbing to 85 with high humidity. It depends.

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?

Standard gear.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

YES!

How’s the Swag?

Medals are high quality and heavy. Shirts are ok. They were better when Champion sponsored.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

5 out of 5 STARS! Great race! I recommend this race for first time runners and runners who like to have fun. If you love DISNEY, it’s a must-do.

dopey challenge race report
Photo: RunDisney