How To Train For And Run the RunDisney Dopey Challenge

Are you ready to take on this fun four-day feat?

Like many runners, when I first started running, I had fantasies of someday running a marathon, yet I certainly lacked the confidence in my ability to do so.

A full marathon, which is 26.2 miles, takes tremendous physical and mental preparation and requires months of dedicated marathon training after a longer initial base period of building your endurance as a runner.

While running a full marathon in and of itself is an inspiring feat that any runner should be wholeheartedly proud of, some runners aim for even more challenging running endeavors such as ultramarathons and multi-day stage races.

The runDisney Dopey Challenge is one of the most popular running events in the United States.

The runDisney Dopey Challenge event is a four-day race held at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida that starts with a 5k on day one and involves four progressively longer races that culminate in a full marathon on Sunday.

As such, the Disney Dopey Challenge isn’t for the faint of heart or novice runners, and it requires following a special Dopey Challenge training plan so that you are ready to race on back-to-back days. 

In this guide, we will discuss what the Dopey challenge consists of and how best to train for it.

Dosney castle.

What Is the Dopey Challenge?

The Dopey Challenge is one of the most popular runDisney events. It is held during the preeminent Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend, which is typically the first weekend in January at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida.

The Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend spans four days and includes a 5k on Thursday, 10k on Friday, a half marathon on Saturday, and the full Disney marathon on Sunday.

While plenty of runners participate in just one of these iconic Disney races, the runDisney Dopey Challenge involves running all four races on four consecutive days for a total of 48.6 miles.

In this way, the Disney Dopey Challenge event is somewhat like an ultramarathon or an ultramarathon stage race because you run almost two full marathons back to back over several days.

For this reason, training for the Dopey Challenge is much more involved than training for a regular marathon because you need to get your body (and mind!) prepared to race four days in a row, particularly with the killer combo of the half marathon and then the full marathon on consecutive days.

Still, while the RunDisney Dopey Challenge isn’t for everyone—and can be wholly unappealing to some—the Disney Dopey Challenge running event is exceedingly popular and consistently sells out within an hour of registration opening.

One of the reasons runners love the Dopey Challenge is that you get a lot of race swag and bling! 

RunDisney finishers get six total race medals:

  • 4 Individual Events Medals (5k, 10k, half marathon, full marathon)
  • Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge Medal
  • Dopey Challenge Medal

To get all the Dopey Challenge medals, you must register specifically for the Dopey Challenge during race registration and then run all four races during the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend.

You also get four technical shirts at the expo.

Epcot, where the Dopey Challenge begins.

What Is the Difference Between the Dopey Challenge and Goofy Challenge runDisney Races?

In addition to the Disney World Dopey Challenge, there is the runDisney Goofy Challenge, more commonly referred to as “Goofy’s Race,” over the same Walt Disney World Marathon weekend in Orlando, Florida.

The runDisney Goofy’s race is similar to the Dopey Challenge in that it involves multiple races, but you only have the half marathon and full marathon with the Goofy Challenge, instead of the 5k and 10k races as well.

For this reason, when comparing the runDisney Dopey Challenge vs Goofy’s race events, I like to say that the Disney World Goofy’s Challenge is the little sister to the Dopey Challenge.

I had the opportunity to participate in the 2024 runDisney Goofy Challenge, which was truly an unforgettable experience.

How Do You Train for the runDisney Dopey Challenge?

If you are one of the lucky runners able to score race entries for the Disney World Dopey Challenge, you want to make sure that you follow a good training program so that you are ready for all of the magical miles come race day (or, in this case, race days).

One of the cool things about all of the runDisney events is that accepted participants get a free Jeff Galloway training plan to help prepare for whatever runDisney race you have registered for.

Runners also have the option to register for the virtual Dopey Challenge, and those race entries also come with the free Jeff Galloway Dopey Challenge training plan.

One of the most important things to consider when following any training plan for the Dopey Challenge is that properly training for numerous Walt Disney World Marathon weekend races requires practicing back-to-back longer training runs.

This allows your body to get used to handling the total distance and racing on consecutive days.

Unless you are specifically following a training plan geared towards a multi-day half marathon and full marathon race situation or you are a seasoned ultrarunner, getting through four races on consecutive days will be more than your body can handle.

Therefore, it’s very important that you decide you want to train for the runDisney Dopey Challenge or Goofy Challenge well in advance so you have plenty of time to stack longer training runs during your build-up.

After all, you want to be confident that when you are standing on the start line at Epcot, you are not only ready to get through the 5k but will also have the fitness to bounce back with a 10k, half marathon, and then full marathon for the next three days.

The good news is that if you have followed a training program to prepare you to run a full marathon, a 5k, and 10k race are essentially easy grounds regarding distance. 

As long as you are conservative with your goal race pace for these shorter Dopey Challenge races, you really only have to worry about the half marathon and full marathon double.

Most popular marathon training plans geared towards a single full marathon do not take the back-to-back long run approach because it is exhausting, tough on your legs,1NILSSON, J., & THORSTENSSON, A. (1989). Ground reaction forces at different speeds of human walking and running. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica136(2), 217–227. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1748-1716.1989.tb08655.x and can be mentally taxing to do consecutive longer training runs.2de Jonge, J., Balk, Y., & Taris, T. (2020). Mental Recovery and Running-Related Injuries in Recreational Runners: The Moderating Role of Passion for Running. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health17(3), 1044. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17031044

‌It also requires more time for recovery and can increase the risk of injury.

Therefore, the Dopey Challenge is recommended for advanced runners unless you plan to take several of the races very easily.

Do I Have to Be Fast to Run the Dopey Challenge?

One of the best things about the Disney Marathon and runDisney races is the generous cut-off time.

You only need to maintain a 16-minute-per-mile pace for all the races, making them great for beginners.

If you want to get a better bib number and be seeded into a fast starting corral, you can submit a “Proof of Time” for the half marathon and marathon during registration.

This is highly recommended if you are a faster runner because otherwise, your bib number and corral assignment will be random and in one of the slower corrals behind all participants who sent in a proof of time.

Here are the runDisney Dopey Challenge proof of time rules:

runDisney Dopey Challenge Proof of Time Rules

  • Proof of time is required for start group placement for any runners who believe they will finish the Half Marathon in 2 hours and 15 minutes (2:15) or faster or the Full Marathon in 4 hours and 30 minutes (4:30) or faster. 
  • Proof of time is not required for runners who have an anticipated pace that will be slower than 2:15 finish time for the Half Marathon and 4:30 for the Marathon.
  • Start group placement is based on your projected finish time (which you fill in during registration) and start group capacities. 
  • Proof of time must be submitted from an official race (not a virtual race, trail run, self-timed, or relay) on a USATF-certified course reflecting results from a 2-year window leading up to the race (specific dates are provided when you register).
  • You will be placed in the last start group if you don’t follow the proof of time rules, if the data provided is incomplete, or if the race results cannot be verified.
  • For the Full Marathon Proof of Time, you can use results from a 10-mile race, half marathon, or full marathon.
  • For the Half Marathon Proof of Time, you can use results from a 10K, 10-miler, half marathon, or full marathon.
  • You must submit your proof of time during the window before the deadline (usually September before the race in January) via your participant account.

Overall, the Dopey Challenge is a great way to inject fun into racing and experience magical miles through Epcot, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios theme parks with an extremely well-organized race weekend.

The finish line is truly a fun party, and there is tremendous crowd support!

Ready to start your training for the Dopey Challenge? Check out our database of free training plans:

References

  • 1
    NILSSON, J., & THORSTENSSON, A. (1989). Ground reaction forces at different speeds of human walking and running. Acta Physiologica Scandinavica136(2), 217–227. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1748-1716.1989.tb08655.x
  • 2
    de Jonge, J., Balk, Y., & Taris, T. (2020). Mental Recovery and Running-Related Injuries in Recreational Runners: The Moderating Role of Passion for Running. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health17(3), 1044. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17031044
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Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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