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Dopey Challenge: Four Days of Disney Running

When the Dopey Challenge was announced last March, I have to admit I was a bit shocked.  48.6 miles in 4 days…that sounds insane to me!  But over 7,000 took part in the challenge over Marathon Weekend and I have to admit, it looked like a blast!  Kristina is one of those Dopey runners who took on the challenge and as you will see, she loved every minute of it!  Plus, she has some great tips for any of your future Dopey runners…enjoy!

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Months ago, back in April 2013 if I remember correctly, I anxiously awaited the registration date for the 2014 Dopey Challenge. In my head I knew the prospect of running 48.6 miles over four days, waking up when some people are just going to bed to stomp pavement through four Disney parks was going to be a challenging task, but my heart was without reservation.

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This year marked my third year running in the Disney Marathon Weekend. My first year I ran the half marathon and last year I ran the Goofy Challenge.

So now on to the races. Wednesday night I was in bed before 10:00 pm to wake up at 4:20 am for the 5k race. This was “sleeping in” compared to the mornings for the 10k, half and full marathons. I caught the 5:00 am monorail to EPCOT and made it to Corral A by 5:45 am. Shortly thereafter, we were taken to the starting location.

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The race went by so quickly! We were on the roads then back in EPCOT, which is always so much fun to run in! I didn’t stop for any character photos because the lines were really long. I found the double edge sword of the Dopey Challenge was weighing the benefit of going slowly versus the benefit of getting off my feet quickly. For this race my decision to run slowly was overcome by my excitement and I ran a little bit too fast. But, I figured the 5k would not detriment me when running the full marathon.

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Tips for the 5k: run the race you want. If you want to be speedy, be speedy. If you want to walk, walk. If you want every character picture, go for it. This race, compared to the heavy training for a marathon, should feel like a walk in the park. 🙂

Thursday night was another early to bed night. The 10k race packs a little more punch as it’s double the distance of the 5k and more comparable to a training run. This race  was fun because my mom and two sorority sisters ran this race. The one sorority sister also ran the Dopey Challenge!

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This was a great first year for the race. I loved being able to run the boardwalk side of the Boardwalk Resort, and to run the Yacht and Beach Club side as preparation for the full marathon.

A downfall of the 10k was the waiting time in the corrals. I started back in Corral C with my friend and the wait was slightly aggravating. This was echoed by my mother who was in Corral D and felt her muscles tightening up waiting for her corral to start. I don’t know how or if Disney can fix this because the course is very narrow in some locations and I’m sure they planned the start times accordingly. Perhaps Disney needs to implement smaller and more corrals next year to combat this problem.  Another issue with this race, but something that can easily be fixed, is the lack of Powerade at the water stops. Because the race, like all Disney races, is early, my friend got hungry on the run. One Powerade stop would have been helpful.

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Tips for the 10k: treat this race like an easy training run. There were plenty of character stops, port-a-potties and water stops, but one stop with Powerade would have been nice. The distance is definitely manageable for someone running a marathon, but it’s best and safest to treat this as a training run in preparation for the half marathon on Saturday and the full marathon on Sunday. It’s good to give your muscles a rest.

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On to the half marathon. This race is no slouch. 13.1 miles even after months of marathon training is a long distance. This race was really important because it marked my sister’s first ever half marathon! I was so excited for her!

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My friend from the 10k was also running making this Saturday half marathon such a special time. I was in Corral C, my friend was in Corral E and my sister was in Corral F, but we all decided to join my sister in Corral F to make the waiting more enjoyable.

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The corrals started much faster for the half and that was appreciated. We started off with a nice easy pace. Even though this was the third time I’ve run the half marathon, I still got teary eyed entering into Magic Kingdom! There is nothing quite like seeing the mass amount of people along Main Street! I even spotted my friends parents so we stopped for some pictures!

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During the race I accidentally separated from my sister and friend. However, after two miles of solo running I met a wonderful lady named Dawn. She was great! We ended up chatting for about two miles. Meeting people on the course is one thing I love about runDisney races! Good luck getting your Boston Qualifier, Dawn!

I received an update on my sisters progress around the 9 mile or so mark. I realized if I sped up a little I’d be able to catch her. I gradually increased my pace and met up with her around mile 11. It was awesome to be able to finish the last two miles of my sister’s first half marathon with her! We got some really cute pictures together too 🙂

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Tips for the half marathon: if taking the 5k and 10k slowly is not your style, I, without a doubt, recommend making it your style for the half marathon. 13.1 miles is not an easy distance and running it hard will not make for much fun in the full marathon. The phrase “slow and steady wins the race” should be applied here. Run the race conservatively – about as slow as an easy run – unless you want this race to be the race you push yourself in to get a PR or a good half marathon time. When you approach a water stop, I am a big proponent of running to a cup, then running to a location off in the grass so I can walk while drinking. I have not effectively mastered the running while drinking. Nine times out of ten I end up with water up my nose, water down my shirt and a sip in my mouth. Not the best way to hydrate. Enjoy the sites because there is nothing quite like seeing Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom or running down Main Street with the crowds roaring with applause for you! Also, the walk to the half marathon start is about .7 of a mile. I always walk on the grass. It takes pressure off the feet, ankles, knees and hips and gets you to the start a bit faster.

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Finally, the full marathon, the last leg of the Dopey Challenge! Granted this is also more than half of the overall 48.6 miles. When my alarm sounded at 3:00 I was out of bed and ready to roll. My dear friend Chrissy, who was on the trip with me and my family, was kind enough to come to the start with me. I needed the company and the distraction. I was close to tears waiting for the monorail. I think all the excitement I felt from the races was about to pour out of me.

I followed my half marathon tip and walked on the grass to the start. But, I had to use the restroom. My goodness were the lines long. And, they only grew as I got closer to Corral C. So, I parked myself in a line and waited about 20 minutes to use a port-a-potty. By the time I got in Corral C I had five minutes until the official start. Talk about cutting it close! I found the 3:35 pace group and decided to hang on with that pace for as long as I could. I met another lovely runner named Andrea waiting to start the race. It was so wonderful talking with her for a few miles. I felt badly that I didn’t see her at the finish because I wanted to tell her I made it to the finish sub 3:35.

Back to the race, though. It was not easy. From the moment we took off I felt like I was running too fast. I kept thinking this isn’t going to end well. I’m going to hit the wall way too soon. The run through Magic Kingdom was a great boost as it always is and I took my first gel just after running under Cinderella’s Castle. By the time I saw my parents at the Grand Floridian, just after mile 7, I thought the crash was going to come. Fortunately, it didn’t.

The next point of near crash potential was at Animal Kingdom. I saw my sister and friend Chrissy, but not my parents. I felt defeated a little at that point. I later learned the transportation was a nightmare and my parents were stuck on a bus.

Anyway, I continued along at whatever pace felt comfortable, keeping the 3:35 pace group in sight. I got a resurgence of energy on my way to the wide world of sports complex. I felt good and knew that I had less than a half marathon left. I kept thinking in terms of training runs and knew I could make it across the finish line. The wide world of sports complex was filled with such great energy too!

I kept my pace steady and plugged along to Hollywood Studios. Making the right turn into Hollywood Studios is an exhilarating feeling. There are just over three miles left. A distance so manageable, but these usually feel like all the other miles combined. I don’t know if I hit a true marathon wall or if I was just so tired from the cumulative effect of all the other miles. I couldn’t feel my arms, my eyelids were heavy, my breathing was more labored. Not fun. Then, I heard the shouting of my name! It was my sister and Chrissy again! What an awesome surprise! Spectators deserve a medal for being such great support! Chrissy told me I was right on pace for a BQ (Boston Qualifying time) so I pushed on and knew I could do it if I made it through these last two and change miles.

They were the hardest miles of the race but certainly the most rewarding. I came into EPCOT and pushed as hard as I could to the finish. I crossed the line in 3:34:33 and met another great lady named Melinda! She told me I got the Boston time! Woohoo!!

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Tips for the marathon: I heard a number of people say they planned to take the marathon slowly. In my opinion if you’ve had a great bout of training, go hard in the marathon. I also followed the half marathon advice and walked after the water stops. It doesn’t significantly hurt the overall running time and it’s a far better way to hydrate. But, it’s important, in my opinion, to walk in the grass near the trash bins. Walking down the water stop aisle can be a recipe for disaster. A non-running tip is to MAKE FRIENDS! I had such a blast talking with so many different people this weekend and would highly recommend chatting it up on the course. One thing I love about running is how friendly the running community is to others in the sport. Whether your goal is a time goal, to do the race without walking or to just finish make sure to have fun! If you’re considering the Dopey Challenge, don’t let the fear of the 26.2 mile distance keep you from running it. This is a race in the happiest place on earth!

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Big congrats Kristina on finishing the Dopey Challenge AND qualifying for Boston!!  Wear those rad shoes with pride!!

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Kristina Drnjevich is an assistant prosecutor in Northeast Ohio. In her free time, she loves to run, do yoga, read and spend time with friends. She ran her first half marathon in 2011 and her first marathon in 2012. She’s run, including the races from the Dopey Challenge, six half marathons and three full marathons. The runDisney Marathon Weekend has become a tradition for her family ever since she ran the half marathon in 2012!
Find Kristina here:   Twitter   Instagram

4 Responses to Dopey Challenge: Four Days of Disney Running

  1. Congratulations Kristina on your Dopey accomplishment! You’ve realized my dream of qualifying for Boston in the happiest place on Earth. Thanks for your insight and tips. I am inspired!

  2. This year was my 1st time at the Disney marathon, and my husband did the goofy challenge…I have always said that I was never interested in doing a marathon…but you know what…Doing the Dopey…may just need to be a future goal of mine…
    Michelle @ 3cheaprunners recently posted..My Exciting LifeMy Profile

  3. Thank you Kristen! I am certain you’ll get a BQ in Disney! The crowd support and overall energy is enough to get you to the finish line with a Boston time 🙂

  4. AWESOME! Congratulations! I did Dopey, as well, and it was my first marathon. I didn’t worry about time…just finishing in an upright position. It was an absolute blast! 🙂
    Jennifer @ The Final Forty recently posted..Dopey Challenge: The MarathonMy Profile

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