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The Journey to the runDisney Dopey Challenge 2017 – The Training


“What did I just do?” was my thought just after clicking on the confirm button on active.com.  I had just registered for the 2017 runDisney Dopey Challenge!  If you’re wondering what the Dopey Challenge is, it’s a runDisney event held at the Walt Disney World Resort during the January Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.  The challenge is held over a four day period; day one is a 5K (3.1 miles), day two is the 10K (6.2 miles), day three is a half marathon (13.1 miles) and the last day is the full marathon (26.2 miles) – that’s a total of 48.6 miles in 4 days!  This sounds insane, but to a lover of all things Disney it’s a fun filled weekend!

So why did I sign up for the Dopey at the age of 50? I’m still trying to figure that one out.  But I did not sign up alone.  During the runDisney Princess Half Marathon this past February, I met three sisters from Minnesota: Jennalyn Jeager, Jill Crook, and Annie Pierce.  We met at the WDW Radio Running Team  photo meet up before the 10K run.  We talked for the entire 10K and the idea of doing the Dopey came up, as it was on their running wish list, too.  So, with two of the sisters planning to sign up, I could not resist the urge.  Being an Annual Pass holder and a Disney Vacation Club member I was able to take advantage of the early registration period starting on April 19, a week before regular registration opens to the general public.  I also signed up for the Castaway Cay Challenge – another 5K on Disney Cruise Lines private island the week after the marathon, which will take my total miles to 51.7!

princess-group princess-finish

All of the events start super early in the morning: I’m talking 5:30 am start time, but you have to get to the starting line located at the Epcot parking lot before 5:00 am.  That means if you are staying on property you need to be dressed and on a Disney bus around 3:30 am.  I think sleep deprivation helps to keep you from thinking about all of the miles ahead of you.

Let’s talk about those magical miles and how I trained for them.  In the past I have had great luck using the Jeff Galloway training method, which covers all of the runDisney events and has plans for all levels, from beginners to experienced marathon runners.  The plan is to run two shorter runs on Tuesday and Thursday and a longer run on Saturday.  Over the 28 weeks the longer runs get really long and eventually you run a mock-Dopey where you run-walk the four days in sequence, just like on Marathon Weekend.  It’s a good, flexible training plan, and it works for this non runner.  Plus Jeff Galloway is a big supporter of using the run-walk method in order to survive the miles your body will need to run over the four days.

In preparation for the training plan and to keep in shape, I ran in the Glass City Half Marathon in Toledo, Ohio, in April.  I ran it alone, and with no character stops or on course entertainment, it was pretty boring.  In early May, I went to Disneyland with my family and ran in the Pixie Dust Challenge with my new friends, Jennalyn and Jill, whom I met at Princess Weekend.  We had a blast and stopped for photos and a “castle jump” along the way.  In June, I started the runDisney Running Shorts Series, which was a series of virtual 5Ks during three different time periods.  This was a fun way to conquer some more miles and earn some runDisney bling.  It was fun to see the pictures from the WDW Radio Running Team as they were posted.  I signed up for the series, so I ran all three 5Ks and also earned a series finisher medal.

gcmtink-team-1tink-10k-james tink-10k-3lousinbox-rundisney-tinker-bell-half-wdwradiojump  tink-finish-jamesall-medals

June 28 was the official start date for the Jeff Galloway Dopey Training Program.  Over the summer, I participated in the Color Run Toledo with my daughters along with our local Back-to-School 5K.  I also ran a lot of miles every week.  In September, I ran the Detroit Goddess Half Marathon on Belle Island, Michigan – it was very hot and humid to say the least!  I also found several Facebook groups for the Dopey and first-time Disney Marathon runners.  This has been a beneficial way to ask questions or read other people’s concerns about running a marathon and know that I am not alone in this adventure.

color-run detroit

In November, I was fortunate enough to take the WDW Radio E-Ticket cruise with Lou Mongello and friends from New York City to Puerto Rico.  During the cruise the WDW Radio Running Team Members on board did a “12 Laps of December” run which basically was 12 laps around deck 4, totaling 4 miles.  Then in Puerto Rico, I ran the Divas 5K with Lou’s wife Deanna.  It was fun to run with our pink tutus and earn our tiara and boa at the finish.

12-laps  pr-divas

December 1 was a huge milestone for me – I hit 500 miles for the year! Ten years ago I never thought that I would run a mile, let alone 500.  As I write this post I am well over 550 for the year and still have a few more to run.  According to Galloway, I was supposed to run 26 miles one day, but I only made it to 20 – which I feel good about regardless and feel that I can finish the entire 26.2 miles.  Most of the miles have been on the treadmill since Ohio weather has been crazy cold the last few weeks.  Last week, the corral assignments were posted and I managed to get placed in “H” which is about the middle of the pack – corrals go from elite all the way to letter P, with some having 2,000 runners in them.

Another fun aspect of runDisney events are the costumes that people run in for the different events.  I have been working on mine for a while now.  I plan to run in Lou-Blue for the 5K, as Minnie Mouse for the 10K as it is her race, Daisy Duck for the half, and as Dopey for the full.  I’m excited to earn a medal for each event, plus the Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge medal for running the half and full marathon, and then the coveted Dopey medal for finishing all four races,  plus two more for finishing the Castaway Cay Challenge with Disney Cruise Line.

lue-blue-costume-17 minnie-costume-17 daisy-costume-17 dopey-costume-17 castaway-challenge-17

Will I finish the Dopey Challenge 2017?  You bet I will!  There is so much support from the WDW Radio Running Team members, and members will be in every corral, or you can move back to another corral to be with friends.  I will be run-walking all of the events so that I can finish the 48.6 miles in four days a bit more easily.  Plus, Lou and his volunteers will be on the course passing out food, hugs, and encouragement.  Be sure to look for my race recap in February!

Did you miss the first article on the runDisney Dopey Challenge – click here.

(Dopey Challenge logo ©Disney.  All other photos are from Jennalyn Jeager, Jill Crook and authors personal collection.)


Vanessa profileVanessa has been going to Walt Disney World since 1971.  She is happy that her three children and husband enjoy Disney as much as she does.  Vanessa is an Annual Passholder, a member of Disney Vacation Club, Platinum Castaway Club, WDW Radio Running Team and a runDisney participant.   Her son Andrew writes Disney on Wheels for the WDW Radio blog.  When she is not at Disney she is a stay at home mom and uses her masters in marketing background to raise money for her children’s schools.  Vanessa also enjoys planning her next trip home to anywhere Disney.