Now that I’ve completed each of the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend race reports, I thought I’d follow up with some closing thoughts about the overall experience of doing the Dopey Challenge, as well as other assorted runDisney thoughts.
I had a ton of fun doing the Dopey Challenge. After last year’s Walt Disney World Marathon, I was pretty confident that I’d do the Dopey Challenge this year. I’ll admit that I was jealous of all those medals I saw people sporting last year.
I felt like Ozzy Osbourne while tons of other runners were strutting around like Flavor Flav. It didn’t hurt that registration was in April, so the pain of the race was a distant memory by that point.
Before I get ahead of myself with recapping the Dopey, in case you’ve missed them, here are my reports from the four individual events comprising the 2016 Dopey Challenge at Walt Disney World:
You should read those before this recap. They are (hopefully) at least marginally entertaining. However, for those runDisney enthusiasts on the go who simply don’t have that kind of time, here’s a 90 second video recap of the Walt Disney World Marathon:
If you were wondering why I had so few photos from the parks in the Marathon reports, or why I was holding out my phone in photos of me from Epcot in the final installment, well, that’s why. It’s pretty shaky, but keep in mind that I was running and doing kung fu kicks while recording the video!
It’s an okay (impromptu) initial effort, but I’m already trying to think of ways to push the envelope with something cooler and better produced for the next race.
After completing the Dopey Challenge, I’m glad I did it at least once. With that said, I would not recommend it to everyone. I will probably do it again. I’m crazy, fiercely competitive, and I like foolhardy challenges. I also like all DAT BLING. The most compelling reasons to do the Dopey Challenge are (honestly) the medals, the thrill of the challenge, and the sense of accomplishment.
The biggest downsides are the cost and the time commitment. The former is self-explanatory, but the latter is something many people may not consider (I know I didn’t). You’ll be getting up at around 4 a.m. on 4 consecutive mornings. Not only is that really draining, but it (should) mean early bedtimes on each of the evenings before the race. That really cuts into park time, and means that your trip will essentially revolve around the races. Perhaps not a big deal for Annual Passholders who visit multiple times per year, but the Dopey Challenge would be way too intrusive to folks visiting once per year (or less).
Then there are the courses. There is a lot of overlap in the various courses, which is understandable to a degree. In hindsight, this might be part of the reason why I really felt the boring stretches of the course during the Marathon. I didn’t feel that way last year (nor did I feel it during the Disneyland Half), and I think that’s because there was a newness and novelty to the run. That likely would have been the case this year had I only run the Marathon, too. Doing Haunted Mansion once per trip keeps it fresh and exciting, but doing it 4 straight times makes it–actually, bad example. You can never do Haunted Mansion too many times.
Of course, more and varied entertainment along the way could remedy this, but so too could just running one of the races. Even though I’ve devoted a lot of text to it in these reports, this was admittedly only a minor issue for me. I enjoyed a lot of the entertainment, and the vast majority of the time, I just had a smile on my face being out there.
There’s a reason for this, and I have to fess up: I’m starting to enjoy running. (Don’t worry, I’ll be going to the doctor to get this issue checked out.) I think anyone who enjoys running would likewise enjoy the Dopey, whereas those who enjoy Disney and see a runDisney event as a conduit for enjoying a different side of Disney should probably just stick to the Marathon or one of the other individual events.
I’ve made a lot of pejorative comments about running and the fact that I don’t like running, but rather, I like runDisney events. I don’t know to what extent this remains true. I’m still not ready to run my first “real world” marathon because I’m concerned about how much I might (or might not) enjoy it, but I’m really tempted by the U.S. National Park Half Marathons, and those are probably my best bridge to real world events since I also love the National Parks. There’s one through Death Valley that I witnessed last year that I think would be cool for bragging rights (“Oh, you did the Boston Marathon? Well, I only ran 26.2 miles through the hottest place on earth. NBD.”), even if the course looks boring and it’s actually during the coldest time of year in DVNP.
Given that, I’ll probably do the Dopey Challenge again. I have no problem admitting that I feel an intense pride in having finished, and I enjoy pushing myself. I without a doubt intend upon doing the 2017 Walt Disney World Marathon, and I fear that I’ll feel a diminished sense of accomplishment if I “only” do the Marathon. I know that’s absolutely absurd as completing a marathon is a huge accomplishment, but I know me…and sometimes my thinking is absurd. (At least I have self-awareness. Points for that, right?)
The only reason I say that I’ll “probably” do it comes down to money and time. The entry fee for the Dopey Challenge is pretty steep, and it was tough to swallow once. (Maybe if my “Couch to Couch” training plan sells well, I’ll be able to justify it more easily next year! 😉 ) Then there’s time. The Dopey Challenge requires a longer trip, and frankly, this trip was too long. It seemed like we had just gotten back from our December trip and we were back again. I know, #firstworldproblems, but I do like to space our trips further apart so each has a greater emotional impact.
I will say that the trip was still pretty awesome. The races were a ton of fun in themselves, but we also spent a lot of time with friends, and they helped “make” the trip. From our celebratory dinner at Trail’s End to eating Baked Alaska at The Boathouse until 1 a.m. to a huge group at Skipper Canteen (wow, all of my favorite moments revolve around food), we had an awesome time. Most impressive is that this was a pretty awful trip for photography, so for the trip to still be that fun says a lot, I think.
After this trip, I can see why running groups are so popular. While I didn’t (and likely never will) run with other people during the race, it was a ton of fun to hang out with our posse before and after the races, and then after the events had concluded. Virtually everyone else in our group is heading back for Princess Half Marathon in February, and now we are wishing we were going. I know hanging out with friends is not something unique to runDisney weekends, but race weekends do seem uniquely conducive to hanging out for whatever reason. Maybe it’s some weird team-building thing?
One additional benefit from having friends who are serious about running and have been into it longer than me is benefitting from their knowledge. When I did my first runDisney post here, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, until several commenters “corrected” things I said and did (sorry, but after wearing running shorts, I’m still going to run in basketball shorts…running shorts suck). To me, running seems like it should just be a matter of moving your feet…but not only is it much more complicated than that, it’s much more expensive than I think it should be.
Both through my own research and in talking to others, I feel like I’ve gone from totally clueless to slightly less clueless. I literally learn something new each time I do an event, and I really enjoy that. It’s great that running is not as simple as I expected, as I tend to get bored with simple things that are easy to master. My big revelation for this race was about compression gear, and while it might be placebo effect (per some studies I’ve read), count me as a huge fan of compression gear.
Speaking of which, when it comes to recovery after the Dopey Challenge, I feel like I fared surprisingly well. Many of you seemed to revel in the fact that I had trouble getting out of an inner-tube at Typhoon Lagoon following last year’s WDW Marathon and could barely walk the following day. Well, I was very sore following the Marathon on race day itself (the only thing that “enabled” me to get out of my seat at Trail’s End was the prospect of unlimited fried chicken and soft serve ice cream), but I felt mostly fine the next day (sorry to rain on your parades!).
Along those lines, I want to touch on the comments I’ve made about my training, or lack thereof. I’ve said this before, but I really want to stress the fact that my training regime should not be followed by anyone, anywhere, ever. Many readers have commented that my runDisney posts have piqued their curiosity and made them less intimidated by these events. That’s great. Anytime mileage is involved, there’s bound to be a segment of people who find the events daunting. RunDisney is very accessible to everyone, and I hope my posts elucidate that.
What worries me is the comments from other registered participants who find my lack of training reassuring. While I do enjoy a copious diet of In-N-Out (during the off-season) and only ran a few times before the Dopey Challenge, it’s not like I spend all day sitting in a lawn chair watching cars drive by and guzzling Bud Light (gotta have the light beer to stay healthy!) until I pass out. I hike. I go to the beach. I’m active. I’m also very fortunate to have the metabolism of a hummingbird. Even still, my lack of training isn’t pragmatic. As my grandma often lectured me, “do as I say, not as I do.”
My (personal) problem going forward is reconciling my lack of training with my possible desire to do real world running events. I am fiercely competitive, and if I’m going to keep running (and I am) I want to keep improving…but I also don’t want to take the time to train. I’m not going to simply claim that I don’t have the time–you can always make the time for something if you really want to do it. Rather, I don’t want to reallocate more time towards training because there are other ways I’d prefer to use my time, and I know getting serious about running would make for a tremendous time-drain.
Plus, if I get serious about training, my sense of competitiveness that I’ve thus far managed to contain will spill out. No longer will I be happy with an okay time, I’ll want to finish in the nth percentile. I’ll want to beat all of my friends. I’ll suck all of the fun out of the race reports because I’ll stop taking photos along the way in a quest to shave seconds off of my time.
Instead, my plan is to improve my overall fitness level without running (there are also some semi-dangerous hikes I want to do, so this should help with that), so I can improve my personal times to work my way forward in the corrals. My goal with this is to get to character photo spots earlier, before lines form, so I can start getting photos with the characters and me, rather than the characters and random strangers. That seems like a win-win compromise: I become quasi-competitive with myself and the quality of the race reports improves. That is, unless you considered them higher quality when you were laughing at my expense…I think/hope there will probably be less and less of that.
The good news is that I plan on applying this newfound knowledge to future posts. For many Disney fans, runDisney is a great unknown, something that is unnecessarily intimidating and difficult to master. I’m not a total moron, and there are many aspects of runDisney that it has taken me a while to fully grasp. I’m already working on a comprehensive “Idiot’s Guide to runDisney” with info and the answers to FAQ that have arisen as I’ve been writing these reports. That post probably won’t be done for a few weeks, but I’m hoping that it demystifies runDisney and makes it more approachable for those Disney fans whose interest has been piqued by these reports.
I think that about covers it for the Dopey Challenge Recap. We’ll have much more on runDisney in that Idiot’s Guide; if you have any questions in the meantime that you’d like to see addressed in that, please post them in the comments.
If you’re planning on getting into runDisney, read my runDisney Race Reports (plus other running-related posts). Also be sure to check out my runDisney Packing Tips post for what you should use to train, and what to carry on race day.
Planning your own Walt Disney World trip for a runDisney event (or otherwise)? The best place to start is our comprehensive Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide to make the most of your experience!
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Have you done the Dopey Challenge? Would you do it again? What’s your motivation to do it? Any other thoughts about runDisney or Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World? Please share your questions or thoughts in the comments below!