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!

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