Dopey Challenge: Final Thoughts

I finished my race recaps from marathon weekend, but wanted to give a few final thoughts on my experience with the runDisney Dopey Challenge and marathon weekend as a whole. Overall I had a very positive experience with a few minor snags along the way.

final thoughts on the rundisney dopey challenge

runDisney has a good track record or listening to the runners and making positive changes, so I am hopeful and snags can be fixed. I think for an event of this magnitude it was handled very well, and to be honest I feel like there is a lot of negativity in the blog and social media world  about runDisney, so I wanted to give my perspective on the good and the bad.

Courses: The half course will always be a favorite, as I love running through the castle, and turning onto Main Street still gives me goose bumps. I also really enjoyed the full marathon course. Obviously since you are running 26.2 miles there are going to be long boring stretches but I feel they did their best to go through fun parts of WDW. The 10k course really underwhelmed me. I had such high expectations after the Disneyland 10k, and was kind of bummed. The best part was running on the Boardwalk, there were so many spectators out! The 5k course is the same course that has been used many times, maybe it’s time for a new one through another park? EPCOT is beautiful in the dark, but if you ran the 5k and 10k you ran much of the same course. I LOVED that the torches were lit going around World Showcase though, way cool.


Characters: For the full marathon, I felt like there were a good amount of characters on the course. We took plenty of pictures, and didn’t even stop for every one of the characters. The half course felt like it had less than I have seen in years past (though I cannot verify this) and the 5k course I believe had 3 stops if I remember correctly, possibly 4? (I ran by one stop and there was a line but no character was out!) I would love to get some hard numbers on this to know if there really were less or if it was just my imagination. I again enjoyed having a cast member at each stop to take our photo (*and now love the addition of photopass pictures since I am an annual passholder!)


Corrals: Oh the dreaded corrals. Having one bib for the half AND full pushed me into the correct corral for the full, but put me in a corral an hour off for the half. We had to nearly walk the first 1.5 miles of the race and I was very, very frustrated. We ran in the grass several times to try to get around a very congested course, and really feel that this is an issue that needs to be fixed for Dopey  next year. Maybe have one corral for the half and a different for the full? Same thing happened in the 5k. I was in a corral where people started walking immediately from the start, 3-5 people across, right in the middle (Again please don’t misunderstand, there is nothing wrong with walking a race if you are in the right corral and stay to one side).  I also asked many, many people what times they put down for the Dopey challenge, and I would venture to say 60-70% of the people I talked to lied about their finish times to get put in a further up corral. I feel that if runDisney would have verified finish times like they claimed they would, this wouldn’t have happened. It’s a safety issue to have people in the incorrect place and it can slow down and bottleneck the course if enough people do it.

Aid/Volunteers: Were awesome as usual. SO many volunteers, SO many water stops and med tents were helpful. I loved how encouraging the volunteers were, many calling out to me by name. So thankful for these folks to help make the races run smoothly! Also loved having bananas and chocolate on the full course!

Expo: I felt the expo was much more organized and lines were not as long. I hope this trend continues. I did hear a lot of merchandise still sold out very early, so hopefully this is remedied (and for the love Pete, PLEASE make a DISHWASHER SAFE mug! Really don’t think that’s too much to ask!)


Price: Was Dopey expensive? Absolutely. But no one forced me to sign up, I did it on my own, times two. (yes I love running with Bobby but everything is doubled when we both run!) Did I cringe when I hit submit? You bet. It sucked. But I knew what I was getting into, and I knew exactly what I was getting for the money and still chose it. Because of the price, we chose to forgo any extras like race retreat, pasta party, and only bought three days of park tickets when we were there for six nights. Those are all unnecessary extras that just make the overall cost even higher. (Don’t get me wrong they are a fun treat but not necessary to have a fulfilling or successful race experience).

Questions people have asked me:

Did you go to the parks? Yes, but not every day. We decided we would go on the 5k and 10k days, and then rest on the half and full days, and go again Monday before we left on Tuesday. This worked well for us, we were able to nap a couple times, take it easy, and just relax while not sacrificing our favorite rides and attractions.


What did you eat in Disney? I tried to be a little more careful than usual, but we still indulged in many of our favorite treats, I just tried not to eat as much/overindulge. I drank lots of water during the day and at the parks, and we ate a banana and cliff bar in the mornings before the races. I didn’t drink alcohol the night before the half or full, and we went to bed as early as possible.

What are your thoughts on race prices going up and up? Do I hate it? Absolutely. Can I fault them? Absolutely not. runDisney is a business, and I wish I had a business where I could keep raising my rates and have my product sell out in 42 minutes! I will not be running every runDisney race, I will be picking and choosing, which is fine. There are other races I want to run in other destinations, but I will always try to run at least one runDisney race a year, two if I am lucky. It’s a choice we all make. Some people choose to buy expensive art for their homes, some buy expensive jewelry while others have a big wine collection. We all spend out money on something, and I choose to run races, even expensive ones. It’s just personal preference, so I don’t shun people for choosing to run or not to run. (By the way has anyone looked at the price of running an Ironman, a one day event? $400-$700 and you get one medal!! Makes a 4 day event like Dopey with 6 medals not look so bad.)

Will you run Dopey again? Probably not, and it has nothing to do with anything runDisney did or didn’t do, I simply do not enjoy full marathons (in particular, full marathon training). It is a time suck, and I always end up getting injured, so I think I will stick to halfs and fun challenges like Glass Slipper for now.

What was your favorite part? That’s tough, I enjoyed so many things about the weekend! I loved getting to hang out with so many of my friends that I have met online, meet readers, and of course spend time with my hubby in my favorite place. Being around so many like minded runners was so much fun, I simply love the atmosphere of runDisney race weekends. Crossing the finish line on Sunday is pretty high up there as well.

dopey challenge

In closing, I just want to say I think it’s fine and even good and constructive to talk about concrete things that need to be fixed with the races, but I see a lot of negativity about things that aren’t really “wrong” or aren’t runDisney’s fault. Do they have some work to do, especially when it comes to Dopey, crowding, and corrals? Absolutely. Can they control weather, drama online, or the fact that the races are so popular they are selling out quicker than people can register? No way. Let’s all remember that this is supposed to be a FUN thing and that every mile is MAGIC! I definitely had my moments of frustration over the weekend and during the races, but I chose to shake it off so I could soak it all in and enjoy the experience. I reminded myself how lucky I was to be up on two healthy legs, running 48.6 miles in the most magical and fun place.

Dopey was an AMAZING experience, and I am so, so glad I signed up and was able to race with my husband. It is a weekend we will never forget, and I hope one day you, too have the chance to run it if it’s your dream!

QOTD: If you ran Dopey, what are your thoughts? Do you want to run Dopey? How do you feel about race prices going up or about any race organization fixing problems?

***Disclosure: I paid for my ENTIRE trip to Disney World for marathon weekend myself. This includes Hotel, park tickets, race registrations, and food. I speak from my heart no matter the situation, but I felt it was important to disclose this.

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  1. I had many of the same thoughts about the 5k and 10k courses. Compared to the other two 5k races I have done at WDW, there were definitely fewer characters along the course. I have no issue with runDisney raising their prices, it is all about supply and demand.

  2. Such a great post! I feel the SAME way about the mugs haha — and I really hope they change the corral system for Dopey next year.

    I hate that races are getting so expensive, but ALL races are that way now. Yes, it drives me crazy b/c I want to do more than one big race in one year, but that’s just not realistic anymore — especially b/c Jeff likes doing one HIM or IM per year, too. And like you said, we choose to spend money on this! I can’t remember the last time I spent $400 on something else “fun”!

  3. Stacie @ SImplySouthernStacie says

    I ran the marathon this year, and am seriously considering running Dopey next year. I’m glad I saw your review. It sounds like it’s something that needs to be experienced at least once!

  4. I keep hearing about all the “drama” surrounding these events but I honestly don’t get it. Sure I’ve witnessed a few heated arguments online here and there but it is my choice to not partake on that stuff and more importantly to not let it ruin my experience which as you know by now was awesome. As far as the prices go, I try to look at the positive side of it. I think it kind of makes it more special because it’s something I have to work for and cant do regularly. I mean, if I could go to every event every single year it would lose some of its magic. And yes, I would consider doing dopey but only once. I don’t see the point of going for it every year.

  5. Like most other races, there are pros and cons to them. As with most other things in this world, costs are going up, and that includes race registrations. What’s most important is finding races, or anything else in life, that you love and that you feel are worth spending the money on. Although my husband and I would love to run multiple runDisney races in a year, finances simply won’t allow for that to happen, and we’ve accepted that. In fact, that will make the Disney races that we can run that much more special.

  6. Great post Heather. I agree people spend money on all kinds of things so I in no way feel guilty about running races even if they have a price tag. At least my addiction is good for my health!!! I absolutely loved everything about Dopey. I do agree I wish they would do a little more about the 10k course, especially bc it is similar to the 5k course but that is the only complaint (if you could call it that) that I have. I would 100% run dopey again and am already trying to find a way to do it!!! I cant understand why there is so much negativity about races and so much complaining. The way I see it, I paid alot and worked very hard to train for this race. Is being negative and complaining about the experience really going to improve it? No. So just focus on having fun:) after all you are in the happiest place on earth.

  7. Girl I totally agree with you on the fact that people spend money on all types of things….why can’t it be a runDisney race weekend if that’s what you enjoy? I know it’s expensive but I try to runDisney at least once a year because I love it so much. I DO hope Disney fixes the corrals and crowding issues next year though. It was super frustrating to me this year not being able to run when I wanted to because of the crowd and people blocking the entire run walking. I walked some too but stayed to the right of the course.

  8. Thank you for such an honest review. I was not aware of the online drama that surrounded this race, what a shame! I am surprised that track shack does not verify the race times people submit. This is just down right unacceptable! Many people do follow the rules and bust their but to get a good race time to submit when others just make one up. This is both unfair and a safety issue. If track shack needs more employees to do this, I will gladly take a job with them! Congrats to you and Bobby by the way on completing Dopey! It’s a huge accomplishment!

  9. Great review on everything that weekend. I do feel a lot of the drama is around the expo and merchandise and shoes, but I bypass all of that to have fun in the parks. I do think they need to move the 5k since they’ve done it so much at EPCOT. The 5k I did in 2010 was through MK and that was so much fun! I am starting to get priced out rD events but there are other races I want to check out 🙂

  10. Oh my goodness…YES, dishwasher safe mugs please! And I agree, the price increases are basic supply and demand, it is frustrating, but I don’t fault them for it.

    The corral placement for the Dopey runners was my biggest issue, I think I was one of the only people who was “stupid” enough to actually submit an accurate full marathon estimated finish time, it honestly never dawned on me to submit something faster for better corral placement…I am so clueless sometimes. Even if runDisney wants to use one bib for the half and full maybe put the half corral letter on the top left and the full on the top right or something…keeping challenge runners in the same corral for both just does not make sense.

  11. I was really considering running my first half this year or early next, thinking Wine & Dine or Princess. My concern is if I book a vacation start paying for it and then I can’t type fast enough to get signed up for the race I will be out a lot of money. I of course wish the prices didn’t keep going up but I get that Disney is a business and I can’t fault them for that. I love Disney and I’ve never used the word “affordable” when I talk about my vacations there! I hate that I have heard there is bullying or drama online. I’m not one for message boards so I don’t see it, but it seems like those people should go out for a run instead of griping on a message board all day!

    • When you book a trip only a $200 deposit is required and you can get it back up to 45 days prior to the trip so don’t worry about that! I can book your trip for you 🙂

  12. What an awesome experience!

  13. Great post, and very well said! Drama definitely tends to follow runDisney for some reason lol. I go to each race weekend with intentions of having fun, not over-analyzing every minute detail of every event! Loved reading your final thoughts on everything – I’m looking forward to this event in 2015!

  14. Good for you! I have a couple friends who did the challenge, and it was a blast to see their pics on Facebook. I’m not ready for a marathon yet, but I am fine with doing halfs. (Halves?) Your post makes me think about signing up for a two-race challenge next time!

  15. Jessica @ pugrunaholic says

    I really like that you state your honest opinion on this challenge! I’m not sure I could do all those races back to back, but it would be cool to have that many medals! 🙂

  16. I want to run a Disney race at least once, I’d like to tie it in to a vacation so it’ll be worth it for the whole family!

  17. Denise Laird says

    Thanks for your candid recap of the Dopey challenge, Heather! I really want to do the Challenge next year, likely as a one and done. Also, totally agree about the race mugs needing to be dishwasher safe too 🙂

  18. Your little disclaimer at the end really drove home the point – too much of the drama was around certain people getting perks because they’re in the supposed A-list crowd – you did the same process as everyone else. The whole thing isn’t cheap in any way – I’m lucky that I can bookend business trips near race weekends this year to keep the costs down, but it won’t always be that way… and as for the prices if I have thousands of people continuing to buy something even with higher prices why drop them… Basic economics and there’s nothing quite like RunDisney!

    • Thank you for acknowledging my disclaimer. I just KNEW if I didn’t put it there some mean spirited person would claim I didn’t pay for it. Have I done things with runDisney for free? yes. But that doesn’t change my opinions or reviews, I am always honest, but I just felt in particular in this case I needed to make my stance clear. 🙂

  19. Jamie Thornton says

    I love reading all your thoughts on runDisney races. I hope to run one one day! Preferably the Princess Half. Good on ya for running the Dopey! It amazes me when people can do that type of thing. 🙂

  20. I really appreciate your thorough assessment of your trip/run. My sister and I have talked about doing one of the Disney runs together and have plans for one in a couple of years (when our kids are more self sufficient and can handle us leaving them for a few days!) We’re thinking about the Princess Half Marathon in 2016. Your honesty and candid approach is so refreshing. I am a huge Disney fan but realize that no organization or event is perfect. I’m sharing this post with my sister so we can be better informed for our upcoming trip. Thanks!

  21. Great recaps. I really appreciate the time you took to give us your final thoughts on it! And, congrats on a great race!

  22. Zenaida Arroyo says

    I did the Goofy Challenge and had a better experience with the full marathon than the half marathon. The course and the weather was so much better for the full.

    Yes, their races are ridiculously expensive but to each their own if they want to pay for them. I just spent another $300 for the Dumbo Double Dare. This is the year I plan to do all of the half marathons but only plan to do them once. But I could always change my mind.

    Are you really comparing the cost of an Ironman with a Disney race? And the comment about the medals is ridiculously! So what if there is one medal for the Ironman! Do you have any idea the time, commitment, and training it takes to complete one? No, I’ve never done one but know enough that an Ironman finisher’s medal is worth 100% more than 6 medals from the Dopey Challenge.

    • You definitely took my comment out of context. It has absolutely nothing to do with the commitment of an ironman, I was simply talking about COST. 1 day event vs 4 day event and the one day event costs more, and you receive more tangible product for the 4 day event even though it’s cheaper. I am very aware of the work that goes into an ironman, my sister is one, but again I don’t see how you can take a comment about cost and twist it around like that?

  23. These pretty much echo everything I felt about the weekend! There’s definitely a few things that could be improved for next year, but, overall…it was an incredible experience! 🙂

  24. mommacorbell says

    Just read your Dopey Challenge blog. Thanks! We are preparing for 2015…reading up, starting to get pumped! Got to train 🙂 RunHappy!

  25. Jonathan Wilson says

    Heather – awesome post! What an amazing accomplishment. So inspiring.

    I am running my first full marathon this weekend at Disney and am so excited. My wife and I are also expecting a baby this summer. All of my friends with children tell me that my running days will be over for a while after having children. Having had a baby yourself, are you able to continue your marathon training? I would LOVE to do the Dopey or Goofy challenge next year, but that would require taking a leap of faith in April when registration opens and trusting that I will be able to train sufficiently in the summer and fall after baby is born. Just curious of your thoughts!

    • congrats!
      If you and your wife work together and help each other out it’s totally doable. Get a good jogging stroller (I have a bob) and take baby with you. I run a lot early in the morning before everyone is awake, and I go to a gym with childcare and run on the treadmill. It’s not ideal or nearly as easy as last year, but we make it work. You just have to find what works best for your family dynamic and get in a good rhythm. GOod luck, you can do it! I’m training for the LA marathon now!

Mentioned elsewhere:

  1. runningwithsass says:

    Dopey Challenge: Final Thoughts

    I finished my race recaps from marathon weekend this week, but wanted to give a few final thoughts on

  2. […] about my approach to Dopey, feel free to leave them in the comments. Finally, you can read my closing thoughts on Dopey in a post I wrote after coming back from the race […]

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