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Run Disney Dopey Challenge: How To Successfully Walk Each Race

Tips For Walking Run Disney Dopey Challenge

The Run Disney Dopey Challenge is the hardest challenge they offer. Every January, during Run Disney Marathon Weekend, runners tackle the 48.6 mile challenge. It’s composed of a 5k, 10k, half marathon a full marathon that you run four consecutive days. 

I’m here to tell you that you CAN successfully walk the Dopey Challenge!

Before you get judgmental about this article, know that there are many reasons to walk a race. I love competitive runners and used to be one myself. If that’s you, then these tips may not be best suited for you. This article is for the runner who can’t get their money back after an injury and needs to walk or somebody who didn’t complete as much training as they had planned.

Whatever brings you to this article, I am going to share all of my top tips for walking the Run Disney Dopey Challenge. Don’t stress – it can be done. Spoiler Alert: you still need to train.

How to successfully walk the #RunDisney Dopey Challenge! If you're injured, couldn't train or sign up last minute, you NEED to read this. #DopeyChallenge #RunDisneyTips #DisneyWorld #Runnning #RunningMotivation #RunningTips


Related: 8 Rookie Run Disney Mistakes

Run Disney Dopey Challenge: How To Successfully Walk Each Race

You might be wondering what makes me an expert on the subject. I’ve been participating in Run Disney events since 2013. Since then, I’ve been in every corral from A to the last one in each race. Between having babies, I lost a lot of my endurance. 

I still wanted to participate in Run Disney events. Instead of being a competitive runner, I participated as a walker when I was pregnant and postpartum. My Husband and I completed the 2018 Dopey Challenge together. We walked every race, each step and crossed every finish line.

At first, I was ashamed to tell my story of walking the challenge. Then I realized I should be proud of finishing. No matter what your time – you accomplished something HUGE. Just showing up to the starting line is a big deal too. 

It takes commitment, endurance, mental strength and passion to complete a road race. I’m giving back to my fellow turtle runners and sharing my best tips.

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Train To Walk The Dopey Challenge

The biggest of all of my tips for walking the Dopey Challenge: YOU STILL NEED TO TRAIN! You can walk the entire challenge, but walk during your training. You’re setting yourself up for failure if you choose not to train. 

Life happens. If you don’t get to finish your training because of personal reasons, do your best to stay conditioned in any way possible. Cross-training and 5k walks are better than nothing at all. Yet, aim for a full training plan and complete it. I highly recommend Jeff Galloway’s Run Disney plans.

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All About The Strategy

To earn your Dopey Challenge medal, you have to strategically plan your races. That means it’s a mental game, just as much as it’s physical. You want to be sure you’re not exhausting yourself on day one. You want your stamina to last all four days, so you’re not swept by balloon ladies.

Every runner has to keep a 16 min/mile pace to complete the races. Run Disney suggests keeping a 15 min/mile pace to succeed. That gives you extra time for bathroom breaks and water stops. However, that doesn’t mean you have a lot of extra time compared to fast runners. It’s helps to have a strategy about saving time.

Plan Your Race Stops

If you have a friend who is ahead of you in the race, ask them to text you which characters are on the course. You don’t have time to stop for every character. Pick the ones, if any at all, that are important to you.

Dopey Challenge Pro Tip: Arrive to each race morning early for character pictures before the race begins.

Many runners fall behind on their pace when they’re stopping for characters. The goal is to successfully finish the challenge, so keep your eye on the bling as your prize – not photos. You can always take photos afterwards in the parks too.

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Arrive Early To Every Race

Did you know that each Run Disney corral has thousands of runners? If you’re in the “back of the pack” you shouldn’t stress about that hindering your success. The key is to arrive early every race morning. You want to be as far front in your corral as possible. 

That gives you extra space between you and the Balloon Ladies (AKA pacers). When my Husband and I walked the Dopey Challenge, we always made sure there was at least 100 people between us an the pacers. The more runners between you and them – the better you’ll be.

Related: The Best Run Disney Advice For Fall 2019


Have Support On The Course

I truly believe everyone can walk the Dopey Challenge. You need the support mid-race to help you mentally break through barriers. I highly suggest completing each race with a friend. It’s so great to have somebody who can mentally help you out when it gets tough. This is especially true for the marathon.

If you don’t have a friend to walk with, try meeting somebody in your corral. I love Run Disney races because everyone is so friendly. Don’t be intimated if you’re a new runner.

There’s something about mile 16, during the marathon, that really drags me down. My Husband was able to pull me out of my rut and help push me through the dreaded wall. I’m so thankful for his support along the course.

Dopey Challenge Pro Tip: If it’s your first marathon, take it one race at a time and don’t let that intimidate you!

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Test Your Fuel Options

Even if you plan to walk the challenge, you need to have fuel options. Run Disney provides bananas and candy along the marathon course, but you should come prepared with gels and other options. I love making these homemade running chews for my races.

Every single hour that I’m on the course, I refuel with a snack. I test what works well with my body long before race weekend. For water, I’ve never known Run Disney to run out of water – but plan for anything! If you’re in the last few corrals, bring your own water.

Have A Mantra

Believe in your ability to finish. Once you’ve trained, your body has the ability to cross that finish line. You want to mentally imagine what it’s like to finish. Promise yourself something fun if you finish. It’s all about your mental game.

I have a mantra that I use at every race: “Inhale Confidence, Exhale Doubt.” It reminds me to breathe and helps keep my confidence levels up.

I like to plan a special celebration dinner where I can toast to my accomplishments. I love California Grille on top of The Contemporary Resort. You can dine and enjoy the nightly fireworks. Don’t forget to take castle shot of your medals too.

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Related: The Beginner’s Guide to Run Disney Race Weekends

Keep Your Costumes Simple

I love Run Disney races and pageantry that comes along with the races. It’s what first peaked my interest in them! However, the Dopey Challenge isn’t the time for elaborate costumes. 

You want to keep it simple. The 5k might be the only exception to this rule. Check the weather for each race and plan for any changes. I like to plan a rain outfit for each day and pack cold weather gear that I can toss along the course.

Dopey Challenge Pro Tip: Adding your name to the front of your costume helps spectators cheer you on with personal support – make sure it’s easy to read.

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Track The Balloon Ladies

I recommend this for any race, if you’re planning to be in the last corrals. Find the Balloon Ladies before the race and look at their bib. They are participating runners as well and will be in the “Runner Tracking” system. You can sign yourself up for text message alerts and find out where they are during the race. You’ll have an idea of where you are compared to them!

Plus, introduce yourself to them beforehand. I’ve heard many runners make friends with them during the race and it helps to alleviate your stress. 

Most Importantly: Enjoy The Every Magical Mile


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