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. 

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