I wrote this article after I completed the Dopey Challenge in 2015. While the information here is still good, my running buddy has written an updated article that you can read here. He has completed the Challenge three time now so is a bit of an expert on all things Dopey.
I completed the Dopey Challenge in January 2015 along with 2 other running friends (Rob & Kristen). Overall I enjoyed the event… although if you had asked me right after completing the marathon I may have had a different viewpoint. Disney does a great job at putting on these types of events, but since this event is so new there is not much third party information available to help you plan. After completing this event here are a few things to consider that Rob, Kristen, and I came up with:
1. Plan to stay at a Disney resort. This is not a paid endorsement, but staying at a Disney resort allows you to relax and let Disney worry about getting you to and from the races. I heard that people trying to get to the event from non-Disney resorts spent a lot of time in traffic (especially the morning of the marathon). Yes, this will increase your budget for this event, but that cost will be worth the piece of mind you gain so you can concentrate on the real task… running 48.6 miles. (Rob’s wife, Michelle, is a Disney travel agent. If you need help planning your trip you can reach her at email@example.com.)
2. Time of year is not ideal. This event is at the beginning of the year. This means training starts in September, and runs through the end of December. The start is not bad, but as winter sets in getting up to run in the cold and dark is not easy. In addition, you will have to plan training around your Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year plans.
3. You will (probably) not PR Any of the races: The start of all of the Dopey races are very crowded. Essentially there are couple thousand people all trying to run down the same 1- or 2-lane road at the same time. In the half and marathon you also have Main Street USA in Magic Kingdom that gets pretty crowded (people will just stop in front of you to take pictures of Cinderella’s Castle). I found that in the 5K and 10K the course opened up after about a mile, in the half and marathon it was 5 to 6 miles in before there was much breathing room. I did end up with a PR in the marathon, but that is because my previous marathon time was pretty abysmal!
4. You only spend a few miles in the Disney Parks. Take a good look at the course. Assuming it does not change, you will spend most of the miles in the half and marathon on flat, straight, boring surface roads. If you need stuff to look at in order to pass the time, this is probably not a good event for you. That being said, running up Main Street USA, in the dark, toward Cinderella’s Castle was pretty cool.
5. The weather can be unpredictable. Everyone thinks that it is always warm in Florida. This is not true. In January the weather can vary wildly. We froze for the 5K, but the marathon was pretty warm. This is not a big issue as long as you plan for just about any type of weather (both training- and clothing-wise).
6. You will gets lots of bling. You will get the finisher medal for the 5K, 10K, half, full, Goofy Challenge, and Dopey Challenge. All totaled you get 6 medals, and 6 race shirts. If you wear the Dopey shirt to the parks, after the race of course because only a noob wears the race shirt before they complete the race, you will also get encouraging comments from the Disney cast members all day.
7. Your friends will think you are crazy. This is because you are! Running 48.6 miles over four days is not easy. For me, the last 8 miles in the marathon were the real struggle, and the fact that the course was actually 26.7 miles according to my Garmin watch didn’t help. (I know an extra half mile does not sound like much, but after all the previous miles it feels like a lot) While your friends will think you are crazy, you really know there is admiration mixed in with their sarcastic comments about hating to drive 48.6 miles, let alone run it.
I am not planning to run the Dopey again in 2016. However, Rob and I are seriously talking about a new challenge we are calling the “Scrooge McDuck” for 2017. The plan is to run every single Run Disney event. We picked Scrooge McDuck because he is the only Disney animated character that could possibly afford the entry fees for all the races! I’ll post updates here as we get further along in the planning stages.
If you decide to do the Dopey, good luck, and have fun.