Dopey Challenge 2024 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend - 5K race report

 Oh man. There is so much that could be said about going to Walt Disney World to do the Dopey Challenge before even landing in Florida. Let me list a few things that happened before even leaving. Just a quick dirty list in no particular order. 

  1. The facebook groups are equal parts good and bad. I have had to mute these groups several times and the first time I did it was probably later than I should have. My lesson: if you're a seasoned runner and know how races work and don't need to learn every single detail beforehand; steer clear. Otherwise you will see the same 6 questions asked over and over again.  You will see people be really nice and very mean. Every single bodily function will be mentioned at least once and in more detail than is necessary and you will think that the every single participant will be within 10 yards of the balloon ladies from the very beginning. 
  2. Courses change so if you find maps from a previous year be prepared for things to change.
  3. The course maps and runner's guide come out middle of December so official info comes kinda late. 
Meh, that should suffice for now. Let's go over the Expo and bib pick-up

We showed up and it was pretty straight forward. It was a bit of a walk from the parking lot but welcome to Disney World. Where the bibs are picked up was in a different building than the shirts. So we had to walk around and enjoy the atmosphere. It was a nice day and it was fun. We got all of our stuff and it was fun. Lot's of picture opportunities. If you're going to do runDisney and the theme parks at the same time I certainly recommend PhotoPass. The merchandise that you could buy was in a separate building as well. We had to join the virtual queue and we were late enough in the day that we didn't have to wait but we also didn't get a chance at some of the better merchandise. No big deal for me. 

I woke up about 0230 on 5k race day and was probably parked in EPCOT by 0315. That's me. If I do runDisney again I'm still showing up that early. You gotta walk through security and then to the starting area where there are lots of things going on. Then you make your way to the starting corrals. Everyone is assigned a corral. Usually letters A-E or something. A corral goes first and is reserved for those who are fast or paid for the rundisney memberships. Being in front gets you ahead of the crowds and gives faster runners room to move. 

I had bought the photopass and there were characters at the starting area and I decided to wait inline for some character that I didn't know. Well, I waited too long. 
What is this thing?

I then made my way to the corrals and waited. They have an entertainer/dj guy yelling and playing music and trying to get the crowd hyped. No problems. 

Finally we were guided to the actual start line and then I learned that within corrals there are waves that start. The idea is to give everyone a chance to be close to the start and hear the countdown and see the fireworks. So even though I was in the first corral I had to wait for 7 waves before it was my turn to go. I have now learned why the first wave of the first corral is a special place. 

I had a very good training block leading up to this. That doesn't mean I'm as fast as ever but I had good miles and felt good. I knew that for the 5k I didn't have to go fast. I didn't want to. But the excitement was there and it's hard to just go slow when the energy in the atmosphere is pretty high. Nevertheless I'm no spring chicken and I've got nothing to prove to any other runner on the course. So I just tried to be comfortable. 

The race starts out in the middle of the parking lot, which being Walt Disney World, is a very large area and not that close to the actual theme park. So the race goes on a dark road for the first mile and the backlot isn't really that exciting. Then 9 minutes in to the run, right by Mexico the real magic starts. I was running around the world showcase and the lights and the music and the atmosphere went from high to ultra-high. It was awesome and exciting and amazing and all the other words like those. This is what I came here for and it was worth it. 

In Front of Spaceship Earth

The course goes all the way around the world showcase. There are a few character stops and a few cheers for the cast members who are out this early in the morning. Spaceship earth was actually closer and more prominent than I expected it to be and it was really cool. 

Brer Fox?

And then you have to leave the park fairly quickly after entering it and then go through some more backlot area before getting the finish line. The part that I liked most about the final section was that I wasn't really close to anyone and had the whole course to myself. 

runDisney put my finish time at 28:44 and that was perfect for me. I wasn't out there for a blazing fast time or pace.

The finish area is also the starting area. They give you a box with some treats, your medal, a bottle of  Powerade, and a banana. Then you can buy food from some food trucks and you can get some character photos if you want, too. 

I went home and tried to get some more sleep before going right back to EPCOT to spend the day at the parks. If I did get any more sleep, it was short and not very helpful. But who cares. I'm at Disney World having a great time!


2024 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 5k Race Report - Dopey Challenge

There's no doubt that I was really excited to get a spot to do the Dopey Challenge. The year prior to me getting a spot I tried but underestimated how difficult it would be and I was at work and didn't make it to the website in time to get registered before it sold out. 

No need here to get into details but once I did get a spot for the 2024 Dopey Challenge I found a new enjoyment out of running and began running more consistently - more miles per week, more structure to runs (like intervals and tempo runs). So ever since I got signed up I've been able to get consistent runs in and a few good races along the way, like Speedgoat 50k and the St George Marathon. 

And of course I followed as many facebook groups as I thought I needed to and got caught up in the excitement of finding out my bib number and trying to figure out which corral I was going to be in. Seeing what other people were doing and questions that people had. The bottom line about the facebook groups is that they are about equal parts blessing and curse, at least for me they were. 

Short rant about the facebook groups: just about every single question you can think of is asked. Some are asked multiple times. Some questions people ask are answered on the website and some answers are just common sense. Some subjects I thought weren't necessary to bring up and some people were rude and crazy. And the posts about the weather? There were like a million. So my warning is that if you are a seasoned runner and know how to sign up for a race and read the runner's guide then mostly steer clear of these groups. If you know how to book a hotel and figure out transportation sans a facebook post then there's no real need. If you like to interact and need that in your life then go right ahead. I probably got some use from them so I don't want to seem too negative. 

Race day came and I was staying about 15 minutes away from EPCOT; where every race starts. I was unsure that I really needed to be parked by 3:30 am for a race that started at 5:00 am but I took what I had read and trusted it. So I was parked and walking up to the race and standing in the corral very early and just waited. I would find out later why this is a good thing. 

The thing that I didn't realize is that within each corral there are waves. I was lucky enough to get in corral "A" but not lucky enough to be in the first wave. So you are standing and waiting while waves of about 200 runners (wild guess there) start and then you wait for another 2-3 minutes (wild guess) and then the next wave starts and they do this for the entire field of 5,000 runners or something like that. So if you're in the last corral and last wave you are waiting for an hour or more. 

In order to score a spot in the first corral you have to submit a proof of time to the race that is faster than 4 hours (I guess), or you have a runDisney platinum membership or something. Are there benefits to running in the first corral? Yes and no. I'll just share it here and now. This doesn't apply to the 5k or the 10k but for the half or the full if you are fast runner then you aren't going to be able to stop to ride any rides (yes, that's a thing) and if you drink (yes, it's a thing, too) and you're too fast then no where in the park is going be open to buy a refreshment. So starting early and finishing early isn't going to get you a spot on Expedition Everest or a drink from the Mexico Pavilion. But if you are fast and you aren't going to care about rides and drinks then being out front is less crowded. There's plenty of space to enjoy the course you don't really have to worry about running in to anyone or having issues passing someone. The aid stations are fully stocked and there are about 5 volunteers for every runner when you're out front waiting to give you a water or powerade or chocolate or energy beans. If you're in the back and faster than most others around you you're going to spend a long time passing people and risk not getting chocolate at Hollywood Studios. Oh, and if you wan't pictures with characters the being in front is ideal or you might be in lines that are too long and you could get swept from the course if you don't keep up. And if you're out front you get pictures with only you in them if the pictures are taken while you are running the course. I ran the half with my spouse and were were so crowded that there wasn't a single picture that had both of us in it that looked any good. (get the photopass, especially if you are also going to the parks while doing Marathon Weekend)

At any rate. I was only in the 4th or 5th wave and the race started. It was only a 5k and I tried to tell myself  not to go too fast and it was no big deal. I didn't need to go fast and just wanted to enjoy it. So the announcers and the starting area and the music and the people and the fireworks and the national anthem all add up to being very excited. We ran on the road for about the first mile and we eventually made it to the world showcase where we popped out by Mexico. And I think that's when the excitment really hit me. It was dark the lights were on the music of the world showcase was playing there were the fires from the torches and it was certainly magical. 

Running around the world was cool. There weren't many people and it was actually kinda dark but I didn't care. It was awesome. Then we got closer to Spaceship Earth and it was all lit up and the music was playing and I was out there running with a lot of cool people and I really enjoyed it. 

Then the race was over. I got my medal and went home. And then I went back to EPCOT.