Run Disney Dopey Challenge 2018!

1:20 AM

Q:  What's was the hardest part of the Dopey Challenge?  The races or the early mornings?

A:  The early mornings.

I've never #rundisney before, so I had no clue.  Hell, all of this came about from a lunch at a Mexican restaurant with Kenny a year ago in Lakeland, Fl.

It seems like an eternity ago when I first heard about the #dopeychallenge (five years ago - their ignagural run).  I was a newb to running.
I didn't know about trail running.
I didn't know about the world of ultra distances.
So the idea of running a 5k, 10k, a half marathon, and then a freaking full marathon on consecutive days, was akin to finding out there are aliens living among us!

So a year after finishing my first marathon, I tried to register unsuccessfully.  Then the following year and the year after unsuccessfully.  I didn't even try during year four, but this conversation over lunch got me to thinking again.

Word spread.  And be it fate, all of us were able to successfully register for the Dopey Challenge 2018!

Blah, blah, blah...  So how was Run Disney Dopey Challenge Weekend 2018?

Day 1 is Pluto's 5K race takes you through Epcot.

Day 2 is Minnie's 10K race takes you on a longer journey through Epcot but primarily there is quite a bit of time spent on the road.  Of the four races, this is perhaps the weakest in terms of "sightseeing" and enjoyment.

Day 3 is Donald Duck's Half Marathon race whose journey take's runners to Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom Park!  You're greeted with the main street view, a quick turn through Tomorrow Land, and then amazingly back through the castle itself!  Yes, you get to go through the center of the castle!  It's surreal.  It's adventurous, dare I say "somewhat magical?"  Runner's return to Epcot for a quick tour to the finish!

Day 4 was the 25th Annual Mickey's Marathon!  A full 26.2 miles of Magic Kingdom Park, Animal Kingdom, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Disney Hollywood Studios Park, and a final 2-mile jaunt through Epcot to the grand magical finish.  And several runners even decided to up their #badass cred by riding the Mt. Everest roller coaster at the halfway point!  Yes, run 13.1 miles or so.  Jump into line and ride the coaster.  Get off coaster and finish another 13 miles!  Yeah...  Regret I didn't seize that opportunity.

Note:  Don't expect to "run" a Disney race, unless you submit a fast seeded time which will get you in corral A, B, or C.  Anything beyond C and you're NOT going to "run" the race.  Don't get me wrong, you'll be able to hold a pace, per se.  But this is a crowded race with plenty of photo opportunitys and the courses have several choke points that adds to the congestion at times.  Plus, why run such a wonderful course.

I've been to Disney World before and there was something different and more engaging running through the empty parks.  It was a different experience that can not be put into words.  It really has to be experienced to comprehend.

The starts are all spectacular.  The shorter two distances start in the parking lot with fan fair and fireworks.  That is until they bring out the real fireworks for the half and full marathon.  Then you realize the prior two days were kids play.  Disney goes in for these events and you will be spoiled for life.
Disney characters liter the course and runners can peel off to get into a queued line to take an official photo with characters.  Or of course there's always the over the shoulder unofficial selfie from the side that seemed to be a popular move.

Speaking of photos.  Runners, please be mindful you are on a "running course" within an official "race."  Which means there are people actually moving with momentum.  I saw way too many people go into a full on stop or cut the course with reckless abandon trying to get the perfect photo for themselves.  And yes, there were casualties.

Water / Powerade stations were plentiful.  Volunteers were wonderful!  Cast members, employees, and crew throughout the parks were awesome and cheered runners on!  Trash workers on Saturday made impromptu drums out of trash collecting items and trash cans and enthusiastically treated runners to a street style performance behind the buildings!

Yes, parts of the course take you behind the scenes where the public eye never goes!  This in itself is worth the experience.  Just remember you will be treated to ALL of the behind the scenes environments, including the waste management and water treatment plant which will test your ability to endure some unpleasant smells for about a quarter of a mile.

If I had to ding RunDisney, it would be in the area of aid station food.  For the shorter races I get it!  But only bananas throughout the course for a marathon, with some candies and jelly beans after mile 22?  There were non-staff folks giving runners what should have been available in various spots.  Pretzels.  Pickles.  Jolly Ranchers.  Twizzlers.  Potato chips.  There were park patrons even passing out french fries to runners!

The food boxes at the finish were a pleasant surprise, but we ain't talking about finish food!  We talking about food during the race.  Just want to make sure we're clear.

Maybe I'm just a spoiled "grumpy" little ultra-runner that is used to having Pizza, omelettes, and soup buffet style at mile 81?  Nah, for the price that Disney charges for their races, there should have been cooks in costume every 5 miles throwing out gourmet offerings on silver coated platers.

One thing Disney does well is moving vast numbers of people around through their parks and through queues and lines.  And with these races, Disney did not fail and impresses.  You have to remember that despite hosting four races on four consecutive days with the two largest races on Saturday and Sunday, the park remains open to the general public!

The way Disney is able to pull this off is strategic placement of running routes and start times.  And that's where things get challenging.  Disney World's Marathon Weekend races start at 5:30!

Yes 5:30 a.m.

They want you there at the latest 1 hour before!  So every morning you're up at 3 a.m.  Y'all, that was the killer for me.  The three hour time change from California to Florida all in one day with a early morning rise had my internal clock on a non-stop teacup ride.

My days went as follows:
  • 3:15 a.m. alarm
  • 4:00 a.m. leave hotel
  • 4:30ish a.m. arrive in the parking lot
  • 5:00 a.m. brave getting into the cold of the morning to walk a mile to start area for 5k and 10k.  The walk was more like 2 miles for 1/2 and full marathon.  
  • 5:10ish meet crew at the porta potties past security
  • 5:30 a.m. Race starts
  • 6:00 a.m. My corral race starts
  • Finish race
  • Eat
  • Sleep
  • Eat
  • Sleep
  • Wake up at midnight wondering WTF is going on.  Force self back to sleep by 1:00 a.m. 
  • Repeat
Some brave souls took to the parks during the day and you could hear their complaints the following morning as their legs were extra tired!

The weather was frigid (thanks, winter storm Grayson)!  I don't wan't to say cold after my crazy experience with the Daytona 100.  ...hold on.  It was cold last time I came here, and then with this race...  ohhhh....  I'm a common denominator.  Oh well.

So what you should expect should you decide to take on the Dopey challenge is eratic weather!  I've heard stories from frigid temperatures, rain, to  OMG sauna hot in January!  (It did begin to get ovenly with the marathon)   Of course, there's rarely going to be perfect weather during a FOUR day event, so get over it and consider it all part of the experience.   Plus makes for better stories when you see a full grown man shivering all decked out in a full Minnie Mouse costume, mini skirt, ears, and all! Momma didn't prepare me for some of the adult costumes out there.  Let's just say there is a lot of participation.  A lot!

And the finish chutes on the half and full days?  There's a freaking gospel choir singing with .1 miles to go to give you that final spiritual push to the end!  A GOSPEL CHOIR!

It's a great destination run for friends and family to get together and hang out for a few days.  Just know, the hanging out part is only going to happen during the race and at dinner, unless you have stamina on tap.  Other times, most of the party is going to be SLEEP to recover from the days' run or jetlag (points finger at self; the jeglag was real y'all).

It's crazy and mind blowing for sure to tackle 48.6 miles in four days with start times before the morning star can guide your way on cold dark mornings.  But braving the cold mornings and early starts was totally worth it despite doing so will make one quite Goofy and Dopey by the end of it all.

Dopey Challenge Finishers earn 6 medals over the course of the event.  1 for each race, The Goofy medal for completing the half and full marathons, and the coveted Dopey medal for successfully completing all four events.

2018 Walt Disney World Marathon By The Numbers 

  • 808,000—runners have participated in Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend events since 1994 
  • 363,000—runners have tackled the Walt Disney World Marathon alone 
  • 187,000—runners participate in runDisney races each year 
  • 100,000—runners and spectators expected at the 2018 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 
  • 97,000—registrations for the 2018 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, with many runners completing multiple races 
  • 26,000—runners registered for the Walt Disney World Half Marathon 
  • 25,500—2018 Walt Disney World Marathon registrations 
  • 15,000—runners registered for the Walt Disney World 5K 
  • 14,700—registations for the Walt Disney World 10K 
  • 9,000—Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge registrants, who complete both the half-marathon and marathon 
  • 4,000—kids registered for the runDisney Kids Races 
  • 2,800—Dopey Challenge registrants, who complete all of the 5K, 10K, half-marathon and marathon 
  • 600—runners have completed every 48.6-mile Dopey Challenge since 2014 88—countries represented 
  • 76—”Perfect” runners, who have finished every Walt Disney World Marathon since 1994, are registered in 2018. 45 of them are from Florida.
P.S.  Disney World may herald itself as the "Happiest Place on Earth", the Orlando International Airport leaves much to be desired.  For an airport which has as many travellers as it does, it is sort of a mess.  Remember all those lines and people at the parks?  A vast majority of them show up at the airport.

So when they say to arrive at the airport AT LEAST 2 hours before your flight, they aren't kidding (unless you like to travel not knowing if you're going to make your flight or not).  From traffic getting to the airport, to rental return, to getting through security.

Even if you're TSA Pre-check or a Clear Member, get to the airport with time to spare.  Just saying.  Just saying.

Hoping everyone have a magical carpet ride back to their destinations.

1 comment:

  1. Great recap of your experience running Dopey. Glad you had a great time.


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