48.6 miles in four days: there’s a reason they call it the Dopey Challenge. I don’t know what came over us when we thought registering for the challenge was not only a good idea but a fun one a year ago! But after running the marathon down in Disney with my dad and his best friend last year, we decided to give Dopey a shot this year and I’m so glad we did!
First of all, for those of you that don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, the Dopey Challenge consists of a 5k on Thursday, a 10k on Friday, a half marathon on Saturday and a full marathon on Sunday.
Running 48.6 miles through Disney World over the course of four days required commitment, discipline and time — three things I didn’t always have over the past eight months. But with the right training plan and teammates, it was not only a doable challenge but one that was incredibly fun and even more rewarding.
This year, the weather wasn’t necessarily on our side, waking up at 4:00 a.m. for a 5k is hard enough, nevermind getting to the starting line and realizing it’s 40 degrees with a windchill in the teens and 20 mph winds. Not to mention that you’re not even starting for another hour and a half, which only makes it that much harder. It did progressively warm up for each race but was never particularly great weather for the weekend. It certainly didn’t feel like Florida until the afternoon of the marathon when the heat and humidity finally kicked in!
So here we are, about 600 training miles and one completed Dopey Challenge later, and when asked if I would do it again the answer is absolutely yes!
This year my mom and sister joined us providing us with the best cheer squad around. It was a lot of fun to have them there; it was also one of the first family vacations we’ve taken in a few years. It was great!
The first three races went well. They were fairly easy — our training plan had us running a half almost every week and at this point we can all run a 5k or 10k in our sleep.
The beast of the Dopey Challenge is getting through the marathon after having already run three races in the days leading up to it. I opted to take it easy for the half marathon, in hopes that the marathon would be a little bit easier.
Unfortunately, my knee had other ideas and the full marathon was far more challenging than I hoped it was going to be. After six long months of really hard training, the picture above pretty much sums up how I was feeling about my nagging pain. I decided to spend a little bit of time pacing with one of the more inspiring runners who is something of a runDisney legend.
This weekend, Sid ran his 178th half marathon and 198th full marathon, he runs carrying that flag in honor of all the active duty military members and all of our fallen members of the military. Last year I figured out that running a marathon is about 70% a mental game, and when you’re struggling sometimes you just have to get out of your own head. Running with Sid was how I got out of my own way this weekend — he helped give me the inspiration I needed to get through the race and across the finish line.
The great thing about runDisney races is how fun they always end up being. Where else can you stop on the side of a course to take pictures with Disney characters along the way or cross the finish line and get a picture with none other than Dopey himself (word to the wise: he’s an elusive little guy — if you are doing the Dopey Challenge, find him early and just accept the fact that you’ll have to stand in line for a while). The key to finishing a challenge like this one is to have fun with it.
And if that doesn’t work, just keep reminding yourself of all the bling you’ll get at the end of it. Six gorgeous medals in total! I’m still not sure what I’m going to do with them all but they’re pretty awesome!
The hardest part of the entire Dopey Challenge was getting up so early four days in a row, we had to be at the start line by 4:30 every morning which required a 3:30 wake up call.
By the last day I could barely keep my eyes open before the race started, and by the time we got to dinner to celebrate I think I was a little bit of a zombie!
My exhaustion was nothing a great glass of bubbly and some amazing deserts couldn’t fix though.
Citricos at the Grand Floridian is the best place to have a celebratory meal! Look at those desserts: creme brûlée, lemon scented cheesecake and a warm chocolate banana torte. Definitely an over-indulgence that felt well-deserved after the weekend we had!
I think next year I’ll just have someone drive me around in this gorgeous car instead of running…
Overall, it was an absolutely amazing experience. I pushed myself harder than I ever thought I could, I think the immense struggle made it even more rewarding.
My main tips for this challenge is to run it with other people. Having my dad and John on my team was beyond amazing, we shared in each others successes and struggles all throughout training and on race days were able to celebrate with each other! The next big one is to get rest and resist the urge to spend all day in the parks. Those early morning wake up calls come quick and 48.6 is a lot of miles without adding another 20 walking miles on your feet! My final tip, and I know I already mentioned it, but don’t forget to have fun. You’re running through the happiest place on earth after all!
What do you think? Would you do the Dopey Challenge?