Dopey Challenge 2015 Recap

Not that many years ago I was unable to run a single mile. I was out of shape and viewed physical fitness as a punishment. Over the years I gradually morphed into a runner. In 2011 I finished my first marathon at Walt Disney World. I have been back every year since. 2015 marks a milestone for me as this was marathon number 10.

WDW_Marathon_2015_Castle

With runDisney I went from running a marathon, to running the two day Goofy Challenge, to running the four day Dopey Challenge. This is the second year for the Dopey event, and I registered the moment I could to make sure I maintained a perfect streak. Here is a recap of my race weekend.

Walt Disney World 5K

Disney missed a golden opportunity to call this the Frozen 5K. It was cold for this race. Very cold. The biggest problem was the wind. Had it not been so windy it would have been tolerable, but the wind made it probably the most unpleasant start to a race I have had at runDisney yet.[1]

Since I was neither injured nor running with anyone this year I was able to go into my corral and run at full speed. This is the only runDisney race where I have ever worn a long sleeve shirt. The course was ever so slightly altered this year. Instead of running past the entry gate, we instead ran around the area in front of The Land. Beyond that it was the good old 5K we know and love.

Running in long sleeves...in FLORIDA!
Running in long sleeves…in FLORIDA!

I noticed that they did not attempt to put Dopey on the course again this year. I guess the line last year taught them that was a bad idea. In fact, there were very few characters on the course, and none of them headliners. Frozen was nowhere to be found on this course. I guess they want the only untimed race of the week to move along, and the characters just clog things up too much.

I finished in 30:44. Hardly my best time but definitely acceptable. It was still dark when I crossed the finish. In fact, the last corral still had not yet started. I got to see the last group start after I had already finished. This did lead to one problem. That morning the Epcot monorail was not working, so we were bussed to Epcot from the Transportation and Ticket Center. Not knowing if it was working yet, I opted to take the bus back to the Contemporary. This took some time as the course went right past the bus area. We could not even get on until it went by. Standing in the cold was not the most fun part of the week.

WDW 5K 2015 Finish

Walt Disney World 10K

Things warmed up just a bit, but enough that it didn’t feel so brutal out. It was still colder than most of the runners thought the week would be, but not as bitter as the 5K.

The 10K brought the first Anna and Elsa sighting of the races. Knowing the kind of lines these princesses usually have, they were placed way up on an overpass, inaccessible to the course. Like the 5K, it was mostly the same, with a similar alteration in front of The Land.

WDW 10K 2015 Finish

I took this one a little slower than the 5K, but still managed a 1:09:56 finish. As with the 5K, the sun had not yet come up, but the last corral was well on their way. I took this opportunity to finally get a photo with Dopey who was at the finish.

WDW 10K 2015 Dopey

Walt Disney World Half Marathon

What I think is the most difficult race of the Dopey Challenge, the Half Marathon is nearly the midway point distance wise, and a great chance to overdo it and tire yourself out for the last event.

Unlike the 5K and 10K, where the corrals are 10 minutes apart, here they are sent out in rapid fire. I was a few corrals up this year versus last year. The smaller corrals continue to help with congestion. The start did not feel nearly as congested as it did the first few years I ran. I got to see the lead males running back down World Drive as I was running up toward Magic Kingdom.

I did not take as many photos this year as last year. Even though I was trying to take it slow, not being injured forced my competitive side to kick in a little. The lines for characters were long. I think a lot of runners in the Goofy and Dopey have adopted a similar strategy to mine, which is to take all the photos during the half.

The Frozen cast was on the balcony of the Castle this time. Again inaccessible to photos. The Castle lights were on again this year for both races. In fact, Disney went so far as to continue the nightly castle lighting show[2] throughout all of marathon weekend.

WDW Half Marathon 2015 Castle

I ended up finishing the half in 2:43:56, which is slow for me but actually a bit faster than I wanted to for this race.

One additional problem, and I have run into this one before, was the monorail. From now on I will take the bus back at the end. The problem with the monorail back after the half is that it lines up with the opening of Magic Kingdom and the lines are insane. It took way too long to get back to the resort, not helped by the fact that Disney felt the need to start swapping monorails right at this time.

WDW Half Marathon 2015 Finish

Walt Disney World Marathon

The main event of the weekend, things finally returned to normal for Florida weather – good and bad – for the final race. It was the only start line where I did not need a jacket or mylar blanket.

Day 4 of 3am wake-ups.
Day 4 of 3am wake-ups.

Right at the start I knew I was tired. I think I have to give up ever doing as well at the Walt Disney World Marathon as I did my first year for as long as I continue to do the multi-day events. There is just no way you will have it in you to PR at the final event.

Running up Main Street with the holiday hangover.
Running up Main Street with the holiday hangover.

There is not too much to say about the course that I have not said before. I was not able to ride Expedition Everest this year as I was too fast and it wasn’t open yet when I got to it. This year would have been a good year to do so since getting the photo would have been as simple as tapping my MagicBand, rather than having to actually go back to Animal Kingdom the next day.

I still don’t love the Wide World of Sports part of the course, but this year was extra special not fun thanks to the rain. I guess I should consider myself lucky that this is the first rain storm I have had while running a Florida race. Thankfully it wasn’t heavy, but it did make the last six miles of the course very humid.

You can't see the rain, but trust me it's there.
You can’t see the rain, but trust me it’s there.

The rain returned for the end of the course, but heavier this time. I could not use my phone to get in touch with anyone at the end it was so bad.

Unlike last year, there were no wristbands for Dopey runners. At the end of the three previous races you just left. For the final day they matched the person in front of them with a photo taken at the expo. This was supposed to help cut down on cheating, but I am not sure how this did any good since they only matched the photo on the final day. How do they know that I ran the three previous days? Thankfully it was quick. I was worried that this would lead to a backup a the finish, but the volunteers got us through very quickly.

My marathon time was a disappointing 5:46:20. Well there is always next year.

WDW Marathon 2015 Finish

Stray Observations

  • Dress for all weather, you never know what Florida will do.
  • Why were they so stingy with the mylar blankets this year, especially in the cold? You basically had to go to a medical tent to get one.
  • I heard from some others that the sweepers were fairly aggressive this year. I didn’t even know they actually ever swept anyone during the 10K. Apparently they do.
  • Oh how I love my iPhone 6 Plus for running. The battery life is astonishing. Never even came close to running out, even with nearly six hours of GPS running in the background.

Conclusion

Weather aside, and finish times aside, I love this weekend. These races are the highlight of my running calendar. Disney does a spectacular job organizing this event, and making everyone feel special in the process. You can tell how popular they are given how fast they sell out, even as the prices continue to climb. I will be out there again, Dopey as always, in 2016.


  1. Though I will say that the race itself was better than the 2013 marathon, when it got into the upper 80s. I will take chilly over tropics for a race any day.  ↩
  2. Frozen themed of course.  ↩
Dopey Challenge 2015 Recap was last updated January 19th, 2015 by Michael Truskowski