This blog post was written by my good friend Rob Crabtree. He is the crazy, Frozen tights wearing guy that talked me into doing the Dopey Challenge in 2015. He is on a mission to complete the Dopey Challenge 10 years in a row. After completing this year’s Dopey Challenge I asked him to compile some tips for those thinking about giving the Challenge a try. Here are the tips he gave me to share:
The Dopey Challenge … 48.6 miles over 4 days doubling the distance ran each day. Sounds like fun doesn’t it?
Yes, I have completed The Disney Dopey Challenge three years running, starting with the inaugural in 2014. The grand plan to streak 10 is intact, and each year has been a very different journey holding its own set of surprises, from weather to training. Some of these are controllable and some are not. Which leads me to tip #1.
Tip #1: Don’t sweat what you can’t control. There will be many distractions and road blocks popping up as you train, and even at the Dopey Challenge. I have yet to have a perfect training season and doubt I will ever see one and that is ok. Remember this is an endurance event which will test you mentally and physically, but is not as terrible as it sounds (at least I keep telling myself). Remember the things you can control, like the training plan, eating, sleeping (so important during the event) and just adapt to things you cannot. It is easy to get completely wrapped up in the training schedule and forget about other things in your life. Make sure to keep yourself emotionally and mentally grounded and listen to your body. There will be days when you just can’t make the run, and that is fine. One missed run isn’t going to break the plan.
Tip #2: Be Prepared. Florida weather can be unpredictable in January. Although it is Central Florida and sweltering in August, January brings a level of uncertainty that requires planning. I have seen cold and windy in the low 40’s one year with everyone circled around like penguins to stay warm to rainy and mild and even hot in the same Dopey Challenge weekend. Pack accordingly. I bring the thermal blankets you get at the end of marathons to use as a wind break and keep warm in the mornings. You should bring two pairs of running shoes and swap between races to allow them time to spring back after the runs. Chamois butter, chamois butter, chamois butter. I can’t stress that enough. After 48.6 miles your undercarriage will thank you for it!
Tip #3: Make friends. You will need the support of friends while training and also during the Dopey Challenge itself. Trust me, at mile 18 after Animal Kingdom heading to ESPN you will need the encouragement of everyone around you. The training will be long and tiring, find people who will run parts of them with you. Not many will want to run the long distances, but you may be able to get them to join up with you later in the run to help you over the hump.
Tip #4: Stay in a Disney hotel. The Dopey Challenge races are all early in the morning (like 5:30 AM early) and the corral time is even earlier. This is a big event and parking can be difficult, so be prepared for some waiting. I find it easiest to stay in one of the Disney Resort hotels and use the bus transportation provided. It’s just one less thing I have to worry with, and a great time for making friends. Many people think they are more expensive, but the value resorts are really no more than a regular hotel, and you get the benefits of being on Disney property.
Tip #5: Registering can be tricky. This year the Dopey Challenge will be Thursday, January 5 – Sunday, January 8, 2017 and will sell out quickly. Chances are it will take under an hour for it to sell out so being at the ready is of the utmost importance. Registration for the 2017 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend will open April 26, 2016 at Noon ET! Sign up for an email reminder today! If you are a DVC or AP holder there is an opportunity to register early. This opportunity is limited as well, but will give you two additional shots at giving your money to the Mouse. Be prepared to be online when registration is opened, and be ready to hit reload as it will get bogged down. The cost is steep since you are registering for 4 races, expect somewhere in the $600 range this year.
Tip #6: Spectators welcome, and encouraged. The Dopey Challenge is my annual holiday and my wife joins me. She does not, however, participate in the half or marathon. Instead she is part of the chEAR Squad. There are different levels: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Bronze is free and gets you into the mailing list for updates on Race day. No reason not to sign up for that one. The next levels all get the chEAR Squad blanket, shirt and clapper. The differences between Gold and Platinum are in reserved seating. You need to think about how important that is to your spectators and if it is worth the cost ($40 on up to $165 for Platinum). There is also the Race Retreat in the Platinum category with tent and food. Take a look at the options when you register for the Challenge. Regardless, the spaces on the route will fill up so get there early and parking at Epcot is only free before 7:00 AM after that you pay the daily rate.
Tip #7: People will think you are crazy. And, to a certain degree they are right. It takes a special mindset and determination to complete the Dopey Challenge and it is something that no one can take from you. It is a personal battle of will and grit to complete it. The achievement is yours and yours alone. It is something to relish in when you are finished and sporting your well-earned medals and Dopey Challenge shirt. Go out and have fun with it and prove what you can do.
Tip #8: Training. People always ask about how to train for something like this. The simple answer is run, a lot. I use the Galloway plan to guide me, but have trouble sticking to it. Just ask my training buddy and he will tell you. However, it does at least give something to frame the week. Expect to be getting around 30-35 miles a week. In the plan you will complete “mini” Dopeys to get a taste of what the event is really like. Use these and the long runs to figure out what fuel works best for you and your body. The training part may be the hardest part of the Challenge since it is at least 29 weeks long and runs through Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year, and the cold season. The Dopey Challenge is over in four days, but the training seems to go on forever. Your training friends become invaluable as the weeks draw on.
Tip #9: What about the Parks? While not out of the question, visiting the parks must be evaluated carefully. It is a lot to ask of anyone to run 48.6 miles in four days and adding walking in the parka may tip the scales. I made the mistake of treating my first Dopey like a real Disney Park vacation and figure I logged close to 60 miles walking around there in addition to the 48.6 running. To say the least I was beat down by the end of it and begging for time to sleep. I have since adjusted and do go to the parks, but use park hopper and just see the important things. Epcot is bigger than you think and requires lots of walking. Again, listen to your body and remember there is a marathon on day four.
Tip #10: Bling. The runDisney store has plenty of bling to buy for training and there are special items you can purchase while registering to commemorate your race, but the big one is the runDisney New Balance shoes. The first year I was very pleased with the selection and picked up a pair of Goofy (mine), Sorcerer Mickey (wife) and Cinderella (for a friend) and waited a good four hours to get them. It was really the second year for the shoes, but first Dopey year. New Balance runs the show on these and have instituted an online queuing system where you have to grab a slot at 6:00 in the morning of the day you will be at the Expo. The slots disappear quickly and the second year our slot was late in the afternoon and almost didn’t get in at all. I registered at 6:10. You are duly warned. Check the FAQs on the NB site to confirm when you can register as it has changed each year. In previous years the designs were online a few weeks before the Expo to give a chance to decide and scrounge together some cash to buy them, but last year it wasn’t until the Expo that we saw them. Expect to pay around $140 based on last year to get a pair. I hold out there will be better shoe designs this year for the men. The women shoes have all been fun so far with Ariel, Tink and Cinderella and great colors too. The men, not so much. Still trying to figure why there isn’t a Dopey shoe for the race. Maybe we’ll get that this year.
Bonus Tip: This is your Race. Go out and make it Magical.
Are you a Dopey Challenge veteran with other tips to share, or is this your first your and you have questions? Either way, use the comments section below, and I’ll see you in January.