Thanks so much, everyone, for your kind and supportive comments on my marathon recap!
So, I’ve had some time to reflect on the Dopey Challenge, and wanted to go ahead and share some final thoughts with you guys. Especially seeing as how you must be sick of hearing me talk about Dopey already!
Now that it’s over, the question I keep getting is: would I do it again?
And the answer?
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes.
The Dopey Challenge was amazing. I’m having trouble coming up with a better adjective, so, there you have it. It was quite possibly the most fun, exciting, rewarding, emotional, terrifying, exhilarating experience of my life.
However, that isn’t to say that there aren’t some things that might make me hesitate to do it again. And there are certainly some things anyone who might be toying with the idea of taking on the Dopey Challenge should think about.
1.) The Moolah
First and foremost — obviously, the cost of any runDisney race, and especially FOUR back-to-back races, is extremely prohibitive. 500 bucks is nothing to sneeze at, so until I win the lottery or somehow figure out a way to get rich as a freelance magazine writer (HAHA, YEAH RIGHT), it’s doubtful that this is something that I could ever afford to do every year.
(That being said…would I consider running the marathon every year? Umyeahdefinitely).
You have to remember that once you’ve signed up for a Disney (or any “destination”) race, that’s only a teensy, weensy little portion of what you can expect to shell out for your overall racing experience.
Between the plane tickets and the park tickets, the car rental or other transportation costs, the hotel stay, the dining, the photo packages, the official merchandise and random expo purchases (ahem Dooney purses and New Balance sneakers)…
Can you say: CHA-CHING?!
2.) The Training
Here’s another big one. I trained for MONTHS for this. I kicked off my Dopey training the second I landed back in New Jersey after completing the Dumbo Double Dare way back in September!
I followed Hal Higdon’s Dopey Challenge training plan, and while I absolutely credit the man with the fact that I completed four races AND still had the strength and stamina to walk all over the Walt Disney World resort for 6 days, I also would have to think long and hard about the kind of time and commitment that Dopey training requires before I’d hit that registration button again.
I put in months of 5-6 days of running every week, with distances ranging anywhere from 3 miles up until my last long run of 20 miles.
I had to run in the snow, the rain, the wind, the ice, the cold.
I had to run when I was still tired and sore from the previous day’s run. And the run before that. And the run before that.
I had to devote several hours, every single weekend, to squeezing in increasingly long back-to-back runs.
I had to complete a “mini-Dopey” consisting of four consecutive runs of 3, 5, 10, and 20 miles.
You have to really, REALLY want it. You have to make time to run when there just isn’t time to run. You have to force yourself to run even when the last thing in the world you want to do is run.
I had the time of my life, but still, the Dopey Challenge is no friggin’ joke. Running 48.6 miles in four days is serious business, and if you want to avoid injury and cross that final finish line in an upright position and without the need for medical attention, then you have to make a commitment and put in the training.
3.) The Sleep Deprivation
Raise your hand if you want to wake up at 3am four days in a row. And then run a whole bunch of miles immediately afterwards.
Yeah…didn’t think so.
The four early wake-up calls — mind you, this is on TOP of an early (6am!) departure flight to Florida and early morning at the expo — was pretty brutal. What saved me was strict adherence to an 8ish bedtime the nights before the two longer races, and a 9:30ish bedtime before the 5K and 10K. I was still tired, don’t get me wrong, but race day adrenaline and the excitement of running through Disney definitely went a long way.
Oh, and those pretty, pretty medals waiting for me at the end of each race also didn’t hurt.
Completing the Dopey Challenge was rough on my body, there’s no two ways about it. And, honestly, I feel like I’m STILL trying to go back to “normal” as far as my usual sleeping, eating, and exercise patterns. Which leads me to my next point…
4.) The Recovery
Yeah, so, those 48.6 miles will kick your butt. I like to think of myself as someone who is in pretty good shape, but between the physical damage to your feet and legs and the sheer exhaustion from stressing your body out so much in such a short period of time, you really have to know what you’re in for.
Again, I trained HARD for this. And at the end of it all, I felt mentally and physically prepared to take on this challenge. I spent no time in the medical tents, suffered no injuries other than soreness following each race, and I still managed to be in the parks until closing most of the nights we were in Disney! Given that it was my first marathon, I was really thrilled (and pleasantly surprised) by how well I held up.
After the full marathon, it was really only my feet that were killing me — I had some serious trouble walking afterwards, and couldn’t wait to get out of my sneakers and into some flip-flops! But it couldn’t have been too bad, because I still managed to hightail it over to Magic Kingdom for our lunch reservations with some friends.
My feet felt felt better throughout the day, and Todd and I stayed at the Magic Kingdom until the end of evening Extra Magic Hours that night. (And, yes, we enjoyed our Dole Whips in the chilly 50-degree weather, haha).
In fact, we stayed so late that we had to basically beg one of the resort bus drivers to drive us back to our car in the Epcot parking lot because the Epcot monorails and buses had stopped running for the night!
Honestly, it wasn’t until I got home that I started having the most trouble. My soreness went away after a few days, but my runs are still not what they used to be. Truth be told, I’m struggling right now. I’m skipping training runs left and right (oh, yeah, have I mentioned that I’m currently training for ANOTHER full marathon?) and I’m tired and I’m drained and every time I lace up my running shoes, it feels like a chore.
I’m waiting to feel “normal” again, but so far…no dice.
Of course, I also want to say that, again, completing this challenge was truly life-changing for me. I will never be the same, and I am so incredibly glad I did this. I know it will take time, but I will be just fine.
As someone who loves Disney as much as I do, you know it’s hard for me to look at the Dopey Challenge objectively. It was an absolute BLAST, and I loved every minute of it.
Were there some aspects of the races that left something to be desired? Sure.
I’d say the crowding on the courses and all the corral placement nonsense — Dopey Challenge runners were basically handicapped a few corrals, causing us to have to weave around crowds of slower runners and walkers even more so than usual — would be high on my list of things runDisney might consider improving for next year. Also, if I had only signed up for, say, the 5K and/or 10K, I definitely would have been disappointed by the lack of characters and overall “magic” in those races — I think they could absolutely afford to step it up a little bit next year.
At the same time, it’s also hard for me, as a first-time marathoner, to look back on Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend 2014 with anything but sheer joy at everything I accomplished over the course of those four days. I could not have asked for a better first marathon experience.
So, let me just say that if you ARE a runner looking to take on a new physical challenge in what is quite possibly the most fun, supportive — and, let’s face it, MAGICAL — environment you could possibly imagine, I would absolutely give Dopey some thought.
Plus, runDisney bling is the BEST bling, hands down, and nowhere else will you be treated like an absolute rockstar all week long for sporting your medals.
So…would I do it again?
I’ll bet you already know the answer. ‘Cuz, you know, I’m Dopey like that.
Okay, your turn! Dopey runners, what did you think? Will you be back?
Everyone else…would you ever take on the Dopey Challenge?