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The Ultimate Dopey Challenge Survival Guide

Updated: Nov 29, 2023

You registered for Dopey, now what ...?

Dopey Challenge Medals

The RunDisney Dopey Challenge is the most difficult and longest all of the RunDisney challenges consisting of a 5K, 10K, Half-Marathon, and Marathon through Disney World on consecutive days. If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’ve registered for the Dopey Challenge and your first thought was probably “YES! I got in, I’m so excited” which was probably quickly followed by “What the heck do I do now?”. I had a very similar experience after signing up for my first Dopey and read just about everything I could get my hands on. To help you, I’ve compiled all the information I was looking for and some that should have been looking for based on my experience.


Registration


Given how quickly these races sell out, usually within the first 2 hours, some people will tell you that registration is the hardest part. So, if you got in take a moment to celebrate and congratulate yourself for a job well done!

There are a few post registration logistical things to take care of.


Presale Merch

If you like merchandise and souvenirs you may want to consider the presale option. This will allow you to order your items ahead of time and avoid the INSANE lines and virtual queues to get into the merch building. Seriously you can wait hours to get in just to look at the merchandise and see what’s left. I much prefer to show-up, get my bib, pick up my presale then go back to the resort and enjoy some relaxation time before the 4 days of craziness starts.


RunDisney Merchandise Pre-order
Presale Merch can be accessed by logging into the rundisney website and clicking on the “Buy Products” tab near the top left

If you do want to grab some of that awesome swag that they have available I recommend getting there and joining the virtual queue as early as you can in the morning. Sign up for the queue starts at 8AM and the merchandise building opens at 10AM. The more popular items sell out fast so if there is something you need to have don’t count on it being there later in the after noon.

Proof of Time

The 5K and 10K don’t have proof of time requirements, you just choose the pace that you plan to be able to hold though the race. The half-marathon and marathon require proof of time if you plan on finishing the marathon faster than 4:30. You’ll need to provide information about and a link to an official race time website for a previous half-marathon or marathon. If you plan on your time being under 4:30 I highly recommend submitting a proof of time. These are used for corral placement and the better your proof of time the better your corral placement which will mean a less crowded start for you. If you don’t or can’t submit a proof of time or plan to finish in over 4:30 don’t worry about it too much, after the first few miles people spread out anyway.

RunDisney Registration
Proof of time is accessed by logging into your rundisney account and selecting “your registrations” tab on the top left the selecting “Your Registration Information”

Waivers

There is a waiver that you need to sign after you register. Don’t forget to do this, I recommend doing it as soon as you finish registering. You can get to the waiver by logging into your RunDisney account, going to your dashboard and clicking on your registration. From there is should tell you if you have any documents requiring your attention.



RunDisney Registration
Waivers are accessed by logging into your rundisney account and selecting your registrations. If you have documents to sign it will say pending by “Your Documents”

Training


For the most part if you are reading this and you’ve registered for Dopey, it’s time to start running now. Most marathon training plans are 3-5 months long. Now consider that you’ll be adding 22.4 mile on top of that marathon for the Dopey Challenge you’ll need to add more to your training plan. I’ve found most off the shelf Dopey plans run from 4-7 months in length and most if not all of them expect some level of running fitness when you start. All of that means get out and run at least 2-3 times a week now to start building your base before your formal training starts. This is also a good time to get a gauge of the pace that is comfortable for you. Disney requires you to keep a 16 minute per mile pace through all 4 of the races or risk getting swept. It’s recommended that you train for at least a 15 minute per mile pace to allow time for picture and bathroom stops along the way.

When it comes to selecting a training plan you have a handful of generic choices that will give you a decent idea of how to train.


Jeff Galloway

Disney’s official training plan is written by Jeff Galloway and has been proven to work by many people. He promotes the run-walk-run method which can help in preventing injury and making long distances more accessible to those who are nervous about the distance or first timers. Expect to run an average of 3 times per week using the Galloway method. Coach Galloway also employs something called a “magic mile” which is a great way to gauge pace for the marathon.


Hal Higdon

The Hal Higdon’s Dopey plan is for someone who is a bit more advanced in their running journey and probably not the best choice if this is going to be your first marathon. This plan has you running an average of 5 days per week and include increasing lengths of marathon pace work to get you ready. This plan has you running frequently on back to back to back days and gradually increases the distances week over week.


Full Speed Plan

Full Speed does not have one generic plan for the Dopey Challenge or any race for that matter. Instead I tailor each person’s plan to their individual history, fitness, needs, and goals. The benefits of hiring a coach, especially for a challenge like this, is that we will establish a base plan together and continue to modify it as you progress through your training journey at the pace you respond to best. This will help account for improved fitness through some harder workouts, adjustments for injuries, individual time commitments etc. and get you better results in the end. If you would like more information about getting becoming a full speed athlete book a free consultation at https://www.fullspeedruncoaching.com/service-page/initial-consultation?referral=service_list_widget and we can decide if it’s right for you.

There are plenty of other plans being offered of varying levels of customization, effectiveness, and cost that you can find with on google. Regardless of what plan you choose; it should meet all the following criteria.

· Written and offered by a certified running coach.

· Meets your personal needs (how much time you can dedicate to running).

· Gradually increases distance (no more than 10% per week or 30% per month).

· Contains rest days every week.

· Provides for a 2-3 week taper.

· Most importantly, is achievable for you.


Once you’ve selected a training plan you want to stick to it. I recommend creating an excel spreadsheet with all the weeks of your plan listed down the left side of the sheet and 3 rows per week. All of your planned runs in row 1, actual results of those runs in row 2, and relative effort in row 3. Mine looks something like this.


Running Training Plan

By creating this you have an easy reference to what you should be doing and how you did on recent runs. This is how I keep myself accountable and what all my athletes use to track and report their progress.

Sticking to your plan is easy to say but harder to do. Understand going into it that this training program is going to be hard, you are going to be tired, and there will be days where your runs absolutely suck. For my advice there I’m going to borrow a phrase made famous by the military and undoubtedly overused by everyone else since, “Embrace the Suck”. When it’s cold and starts raining in the middle of your weekend run, embrace the fact that you can practice running in less than ideal conditions and know it will make you a stronger runner. On that inevitable morning when you wake up to run 15 miles after you were up later than you wanted to the night before, don’t put that run off or skip it, don’t just struggle through it, get yourself in the mindset of needing that run to teach yourself what it’s like to run when you’re exhausted. Keep in mind you will be waking up a 2:00 - 2:30 AM 4 days in a row for these races.

The races for Dopey total 48.6 miles but the Dopey Challenge is made up of about 548.6 miles. By the time you cross that start line of the 5K you’ll have already completed 91% of the journey. Don’t just try to survive that first 91%, enjoy every mile of it.

All of that said, you WILL have bad runs during any training cycle this long. While I encourage you to avoid it wherever possible, you may even have to abandon a run if you are risking an injury. I stopped my 17 miler after 13 miles during my Dopey training last year because of some lingering knee pain. The key to having a bad run is knowing that it is going to happen and accepting it when it does. The best thing you can do is record it, spend 5-10 minutes thinking about anything you did differently or any conditions that may have contributed to it, then let it go and move onto the next one.


Nutrition / Hydration


If this is your first marathon you may be surprised by how much water you need to drink and food you need to eat during training. I am not a nutritionist so I’m not going to get into specifics but my general advice for training diet is eat a balance of carbs, veggies, and proteins but add slightly more carbs than you normally would and DON”T try to lose weight. You will be burning thousands of extra calories a week when you get into the high-volume weeks of training and your body needs to replace those to rebuild the muscles you’ve been stressing.

During your training runs you should be experimenting with different in race nutrition. Personally, I like Clif Shot Energy Gels. They are easy to eat on the run and most of them taste pretty good. I try to eat half a pouch every 2 miles during a half marathon or marathon. This works out to every 15-17 minutes depending on my pace at the time which is right on the recommended amount of one pouch every 30 minutes. Personally, I don’t need any nutrition for a 5K or 10K but everyone is different and you might need something in your stomach during the 10K. That is why we practice with the nutrition during training. However, you will not need to bring nutrition with you for all of your training runs. First that would get really expensive and second you also want to train your body to convert fats to fuel after it runs out of glycogen stores which it can’t do if you are sucking down packets of gel.


As far as hydration goes you there are a few options you have while on training runs. You can carry it with you or you can store it along your route.

I prefer to carry it with me because I tend to space out when I’m running and would miss my water stash.


For carrying water I’ve tried countless options and I’ve landed on these Nathan products as my favorite. The belt I use for shorter runs and the pack I use for longer runs. Bonus, the pack also works well for hikes.


Disney will have water stops consistently every 2 miles during each of your races. I strongly recommend practicing drinking every 2 miles during your training runs and seeing if that is enough. If not plan to carry some with you during the race.

I also recommend doing a few sweat rate tests in varying conditions to give yourself a gauge of how much water and salt you need to replace while running. There is a great article on Training Peaks about how to perform one at home. https://www.trainingpeaks.com/blog/how-to-calculate-your-sweat-rate/


Weather


Many things have been written about the weather in Florida in January so I’ll summarize by saying its crazy and can be anywhere from 30 to 90. Ideally, pack something for warm weather, cold weather, and rain for each race to be safe. I know most people have to fly to Florida for these races so if you don’t have room for all of that do the best you can. One thing you can be fairly certain of is that it will be chilly in the coral and pre-coral area prior to the race at 4:00AM so bring some throw away cloths to wear until just before you cross the start line. Once you get into the coral and its about time to start you can shed those extra layers and throw them to the side. Disney is nice enough to collect these items and donate them so don’t feel bad about waste.

Expo

The first thing you will want to do is head over to the expo to pick up your bib. The Expo is held at ESPN Wide World of Sports and runs from Wednesday – Saturday. As a Dopey runner you MUST pick up your bib the first day of the Expo. You’ll go to the bib pick-up building where the Dopey participants typically have their own section to pick up both of your bibs (you’ll receive 1 for the 5K / 10K and 1 for the half / marathon) as well as your 6 shirts. Other runners will pick their bib up from the bib pickup building and head over to another building to pick up their shirts.

This is also where you can spend some time in the running expo and get in line / wait for your virtual queue spot for the merchandise.


Lodging


Personally, I prefer to stay onsite during the races because Disney will provide busses to and from the race from all of their hotels. I do not know about you but the last thing I want to do at 3:00 AM is navigate unfamiliar roads riddled with detours and closures while panicking about getting to the race on time. That alone is worth the extra expense for me. Plus, I’ve met some awesome fellow runners on the busses to and from the races. I would certainly be less comfortable having a casual conversation with a stranger who happened to be sitting next to me in my car at 3:00AM.

The busses that Disney provides start running around 2:30 – 3:00 depending on the race. I personally try to be on the first bus from my hotel. These are 3rd party busses so while I’ve never had an issue, they can get lost and the lines for the busses get longer as it gets closer to race time. The extra 30 minutes of sleep is not worth the potential stress it would cause me.

Which brings me to your wake-up time. You should plan to be up by at least 2:30 AM each day for the races which start at 5:00 AM. That means the maybe for the first time since you were in elementary school, you’re going to have a bedtime of 8:00 PM. I always try to make sure I have dinner and I’m back in the room by about 6:30. That gives enough time to lay all of my gear out for the next day and unwind a bit before lights out by 8:00.


Race Day(s)


The 5k is historically mostly around Epcot and is a race I recommend taking easy for a 5K and running no faster than your marathon pace. It’s not timed so as long as you keep a 16-minute pace and finish you will be fine. Take in Disney in the wee hours of the morning and the cool lights and features they have around. There will be characters out, but for the 5K I personally find the lines to be too long for me to want to wait so I typically skip them. There will be some characters in the reunion area that you can hit after the race if you want as well.

The 10K is another race that is mostly around Epcot and some of the surrounding roads. I typically run the 10K around marathon pace as well. This is a good one to stop for some character pictures in the second half of the race. As with the 5K the real goal of this one is to take it easy have fun and not burn yourself out.

The half-marathon is where the distance starts and where you need to be careful. Logic would tell you to take the half-marathon as slow as you can and just finish. While there is something to be said for that if you slow down too much you are adding a lot of unnecessary time on your feet which isn’t good either. I recommend running these just a bit slower than your training pace which should be 1:30 – 2:00 per mile slower than your marathon pace. This is also your prime race for character pictures in my opinion.

By this point your run almost half the milage for the weekend, your legs will be tired, you will be sick of waking up early, and you’ll be as excited as you’ve ever been for a race in your life. You will run through all 4 parks and get to see a number of really cool backstage areas along the way. I treat the marathon of the Dopey challenge as my target race. This is the one that I’ve put all the training in for and the one that I want to have the best showing in. By now you’ll have figured out that the beginning of these races is crowded and busy. You won’t be able to run the pace you want so use that to your advantage. Run the first 6 miles or so slower than your target pace and increase as you go, your body will thank you the last couple miles when the only thing keeping you moving is adrenaline.

If you don’t care as much about time as I do in the marathon there are some fun things you can do that you can only do in Disney. A lot of people jump on Everest, Tower of Terror, or Test Track during the marathon. You have to do some math with your pace and time it right but if you show up just as it’s opening you can ride it and get back to running quickly. Typically, the cast members will be nice and let runners jump in the single rider line or the lightning lane but not always depending on how busy it is. A lot of people will also have a beer or a margarita in World Showcase just before the finish. Again, you will need to do some math to make sure you don’t arrive too early.


More Info


For more information about RunDisney and the specific races head over to my friend Manny's youtube channel Manny Runs Disney & The Run-In-Ears - https://www.youtube.com/@mannyrunsdisney


Or check out his Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/groups/runinears





All in all, this is Disney, it’s about having fun so make sure that is at the top of your priority list. If there is any help you need along the way Full Speed Run Coaching is here to help. Send me an email at coachnick@fullspeedruncoaching.com and I’ll be happy to set up some time to chat.



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