Our Full Review of the Dopey Challenge (Tips, Photos, and More!)

Last Updated on October 12, 2022 by admin

Are you planning to run your first marathon ever for the Dopey Challenge? Curious if you should sign up for the Dopey Challenge if you have never completed a marathon before? Running a marathon is no easy task in and of itself. Running your first marathon as part of a 48.6 mile four-day challenge? Well, that is just dopey! We ran our first marathon for the Dopey Challenge, and in this post, we will share everything we learned about the experience!

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Tips for the Dopey Challenge
Feel free to pin for later!

What is the Dopey Challenge?

Every January, RunDisney hosts the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. Runners sign up for either the 5k race (3.1 miles) on Thursday, 10k race (6.2 miles) on Friday, half marathon race (13.1 miles) on Saturday, or the full marathon race (26.2 miles) on Sunday.

Orlando CityPASS 

Runners that sign up for the half marathon and marathon enter the Goofy Challenge. If you sign up for all four races, you enter the Dopey Challenge. That’s four consecutive days of running and 48.6 magical miles! If you complete all of the races, you will receive six medals! (One for the 5k, one for the 10k, one for the half marathon, one for the marathon, one for the Goofy Challenge, and one for the Dopey Challenge.)

The marathon route takes you through all four parks. There are special attractions, live music, and character meet-and-greets throughout the route! Running through Cinderella’s Castle was iconic, but we were just as thrilled to run through the backroads and see the parks from a different angle. (Especially the places we normally wouldn’t see during a visit to Walt Disney World!)

 


Why Sign Up for the Dopey Challenge?

People run the Dopey Challenge for all sorts of reasons. Some want to challenge themselves physically. Some want the medals. Some want to have the experience of running through the parks. All we can say is, whatever the reason, it’s totally worth it!

One of our biggest reasons for doing the Dopey Challenge was because we wanted to have a unique Disney experience. We’ve gone to the parks numerous times for the rides and food, but we had never participated in a RunDisney race. Signing up for the Dopey Challenge allowed us to have a Disney experience that was unlike any we had before! We got to see the parks in the early hours, we got to see all of Disney’s entertainment for the races, and we got to have the experience of running through Cinderella’s Castle. 

We completed our Dopey Challenge back in 2015, and to this day, we still talk about how fun it was to run those races. As a couple, it really brought us closer together. We trained hard together and when we crossed over the last finish line, it was an achievement we celebrated together. We treasure the memories from those races. We framed photos of us completing the race, and we put together a display for our medals as well.

I’ve linked my favorite running shoes for women here! (And here’s the same version for men!)
Packet pick up for the Dopey Challenge Walt Disney World RunDisney Race
Picking up race packets the day before the races

 Preparing for the Dopey Challenge

Once you decide to run your first marathon for the Dopey Challenge, you need to plan for three things:

  1. Securing your race registration
  2. Following a solid training plan and building up your running base
  3. Planning the details of your Disney trip (flights, hotel, etc.)
The race course for the Dopey Challenge
That’s a lot of miles!

1. Race Registration

The Dopey Challenge is definitely an expensive race. We recommend that you budget for the race well in advance. Calculate how much money you will need for the race registration fee, hotel, and transportation/airfare. Then start saving! In 2021, the Dopey Challenge registration fee was $600 without processing fees.

Our primary piece of advice is to make sure that you register for the Dopey Challenge the minute registration opens on the RunDisney website. Race registrations sell out quickly! Because the marathon race weekend only happens once a year, it would be a shame to miss it. I had to work the day race registration opened, but thankfully my husband was able to block that time in his schedule and purchase our registrations right when it opened. We were excited, and nervous, to be  officially signed up!

Curious about visiting Disneyland Paris one day? Read all about our experience at Disneyland Paris here!

2. Training

We recommend that you follow a training plan to help you prepare for the race. Your body will need time to adjust to that many miles of running. There are a variety of marathon training plans to help prepare you. RunDisney’s official training plan was created by Jeff Galloway and can be found here. The most important thing is to make sure that you give yourself enough time to build up your running mileage safely to avoid injury. Having to leave the race weekend early due to injury would be incredibly disappointing. I’ve seen it happen, and you will want to do all you can to prevent that scenario from occurring.

We started training for our Dopey Challenge about six months in advance. Neither of us were expert runners. We each had completed one half marathon prior to completing the Dopey Challenge.

Running Your First Marathon for the Dopey Challenge Walt Disney World
Race day!

 

3. Planning your Disney vacation

Finally, you will want to plan the details of your Disney trip.

Choosing a Hotel for the Dopey Challenge

  Booking.com

We recommend staying on Disney property so that you can easily commute to the race entrance at Epcot each morning. We stayed at Disney’s Port Orleans Resort – Riverside and enjoyed a convenient bus ride to the entrance every morning. The races start extremely early in the morning (for us they began at 5:30am), and runners needed to enter the corrals much earlier than the start time. We were getting up between 2:30-3am each day. If we could do it all over again, we would book a hotel within walking distance of Epcot. (For example, Disney’s BoardWalk Inn).

Deciding if You’ll Go to the Parks

If you’re like us, you can’t imagine a trip to Disney without going to the parks. However, be prepared to have a very different park experience during the race weekend. You will be exhausted, and your feet will likely be sore, so you’ll want to avoid logging too many miles at the parks. You’ll also want to return to your hotel for an early night’s sleep, so you won’t be out late at the parks either. We spent about four hours each day at the parks. It’s up to you to decide if that’s ‘worth it’ for the admission price. If you can extend your trip and go to the parks after the marathon weekend, I think that would be the best bet if you want to do a lot of rides and activities.

Marathon start line Dopey Challenge Walt Disney World
Dark outside when the races start!

Tips for the Dopey Challenge

1. Prepare for Early Mornings

Get used to going to bed early and waking up early well before your trip. It’s one thing to not get a lot of sleep for one day, but after four days, it will definitely catch up with you. Your body will especially need the sleep time to recover between races. We tried to fall asleep by 7:30pm each night because we had to wake up around 3am each morning. It’ll be difficult to go to bed suddenly at 7:30pm during the race weekend if you haven’t already started to gradually shift your schedule beforehand.

We spent a week or so shifting our bedtime 15 minutes earlier each night. If you’re traveling from another time zone, you’ll also want to factor in time changes and jet lag. If that’s the case, it can be helpful to arrive to Florida at least a couple of days before your first race so that you can have some time to acclimate.

2. Make Your Dining Reservations

Fueling your body is an important element of race preparation, and you’ll want to make sure that you are not scrambling trying to find an open restaurant at the last minute. Be sure to make your dinner reservations for early in the evening (for example 5pm), so that you can get back to your hotel in time to go to bed early. (If you want to go to one of your favorite restaurants and there is only an 8pm reservation slot available, don’t do it!) 

3. Stick to your Training Plan

This might be obvious, but you really really really need to run the miles to train for the challenge. Don’t do shortcuts. Life will happen and you may need to get creative some weeks during your training schedule, but make absolutely sure that your body is well prepared for a race of this magnitude by building up your mileage safely.

4. Manage Expectations

For this race, you probably shouldn’t set your expectations to achieve a Personal Record (best running time) for any of the race distances. One of the best things about the Dopey Challenge is that you can stop and meet characters and even ride a rollercoaster! For that reason, your race time might be a bit slower than your training time. If you’re trying to go for a Personal Record, you’ll probably miss a lot of fun attractions along the way. It’s definitely a trade-off, so decide ahead of time if you want to run for fun or run for speed.

One thing to make sure of is that you can maintain at least the 16:00 minute per mile pace so that you do not get ejected from the race for going too slow. If your training miles are at a 15:00 minute per mile pace, then you probably don’t have a lot of wiggle room to stop at all of the character meet-and-greets. Keep your eye on the clock during the race so that you can choose where to stop and for how long.

5. Get a Support System

This will likely be one of the biggest accomplishments of your life, and it will not be easy. Running with the support of a friend, partner, or family member can get you through the tough training miles. For us, the Dopey Challenge was an incredible bonding experience! Even if you’re not running with a partner, your support system can help motivate you each week to achieve your training.

6. Bring Lots of Layers

You might think of Florida as a warm tropical destination, but during January it can actually get quite cold! I was surprised just how cold it was in the early morning, and I was definitely shivering in the dark. Be prepared for cold weather or even rain, as well as warm weather. For our races, I wore a thick long-sleeve running jacket for the morning portion, and then wrapped it around my waist after the sunrise.

Also, be sure that you have at least 4 different running outfits. If you only have 2 pairs of running pants, then that only gives you 2 options if it’s cold out. (And believe me you won’t want to do laundry when you finally make it back to your hotel room.) 

7. Don’t Wear New Running Shoes

Race day is not the day for new running shoes. While they might look shiny and pretty, they will kill your feet. Instead, bring running shoes that have been broken in and that you know are comfortable. (These are my favorite shoes!)

8. Practice Your Hydration and Nutrition

During your training runs, practice with your hydration and nutrition products. You probably don’t want to eat new foods or drinks during the race, because you won’t be sure how they’ll feel when you run. 

9. Pack Bandaids 

There are some medic tents along the race route if you need any medical attention. But if you get a blister in between those tents, you’ll want to have a bandaid or two handy.

10. Consider Buying an Orlando CityPASS

If you’re planning on visiting multiple Orlando attractions, we definitely recommend looking into a CityPASS to save money!

11. Plan for Post-Race Photos

After we completed the Dopey Challenge, we brought all 12 of our medals (6 each) to Hollywood Studios on our last day to get some professional photos with the Memory Maker service (separate cost). They were a bit heavy to carry around, but we were so glad we did it because they became some of our favorite photos from that weekend!

lots of disney medals! Dopey Challenge Walt Disney World
Look at those medals!

Recommended Products for Dopey Challenge

Here’s a few things that we recommend for race day:

  • Running shoes: I’ve been using the Brooks brand for years and love these running shoes. (I’ve linked the exact pair that I use now!)
  • Running belt: You’ll need a place to store your cell phone, room key, water bottles, etc.
  • Energy chews: For extra calories for long runs, I’d eat an energy chew every three miles or so. These are the ones I used… I really like the orange flavor! Just practice with them during your training runs in advance of the race to make sure you like them.
  • Leggings: Make sure you have a comfortable pair of running pants or shorts.
  • Running shirt: Don’t wear a cotton shirt, which can chafe. Instead, make sure you wear something that is moisture-wicking. 

 

(Click on any of the above images for current pricing information.)


Frequently Asked Questions About the Dopey Challenge

Is the Dopey Challenge worth it?

Definitely! We completed our Dopey Challenge seven years ago and to this day it is one of the best things we have ever done. We constantly share memories from the training and the races. What we liked most about it was the opportunity to see the Disney parks from a new angle. Although the race registration is expensive, it was definitely worth the money for us. We’ve never regretted doing it.

How hard is the Dopey Challenge?

The Dopey Challenge is extremely difficult. It’s one of the most difficult running experiences you can do, and it’s definitely the most difficult challenge that RunDisney offers. Over four days, you will run 48.6 miles. It took us six months of training before our Dopey Challenge, and we were still incredibly sore after we completed the races. (It felt like I was running on needles for the last two miles of the marathon!) Although it’s hard, it is definitely an achievement to be proud of and it’s a lot of fun!


Summary

We hope that this post inspired you to train for the Dopey Challenge! 

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