A Plan to Be Perfectly Dopey!

Perfectly Dopey, a phrase I will never say about myself and I’m perfectly ok with that.  But for those people, like Sparkly Runner Sarah, who inspire to be Perfectly Dopey, I applaud you.  Sarah had a great race weekend and like so many others, she makes this challenge seem downright appealing!  Check out some of her great tips on packing and rest for 4 days of Disney racing…


Last month, I had the privilege to become one of just 7,000 people to participate in the inaugural Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge. This endurance event consists of four days of back-to-back racing: 5k, 10k, half marathon, and full marathon. That equals 48.6 miles over four days. To tackle this challenge, you must be pretty “Dopey!” This event was life-changing. I enjoyed every minute of each race and I hope to be “Perfectly Dopey” and compete in this event in future years.

medals after full

My boyfriend Matthew and I had agreed to do this challenge in April 2013. Even though I’d never done a full marathon before, I knew that Dopey was the way I’d want to complete my first marathon. I knew how amazing it would be to be part of this inaugural event so we signed up the first day registration was open. Matthew has completed the Goofy Challenge three times so he had an idea of what we were getting ourselves into.

We knew that this event would require a great deal of training- both physically and mentally. We’d be getting up at 2 am every day for four days. We’d be sacrificing time in the parks to rest our legs. We’d be running in hotter and more humid temperatures than we were used to. And, for me, we’d be running double the most distance I’d ever run in my life. This required an awesome training plan.

I am a Jeff Galloway girl- I have followed his method of run/walk for the last three years and have followed his half marathon training plans to great success. If you aren’t familiar with his method, it’s really simple; you run and then walk at timed intervals. I usually run 1:1 meaning that I run for one minute and walk for one minute. However, for the Dopey Challenge, I knew that I’d need to slow down and increase my walking intervals. I downloaded Galloway’s Dopey Challenge training plan from the runDisney website into my calendar and started training on July 2, 2013.

Luckily, Galloway’s training plans are incredibly easy to follow and usually don’t require more than four days a week of running. For Dopey, the plan slowly built up the weekly mileage on a three-week rotation. For two weeks, we would run 30-45 minutes two times a week and a 6-7 mile run on the weekend. Then on the third week, we would run or walk 3-4 days in a row, with the mileage slowly building. For example, our last long run week (two weeks before Dopey), we ran 3/5/12/24 on back to back days. And actually, the 3, 5, and 12 miles were all walked! This plan required almost half of your weekly miles to be walked. It helped to strengthen different muscles and build our endurance. I would highly recommend his plan for anyone looking to complete the Dopey Challenge or any other distance race.

last long training run

When we arrived in Walt Disney World last week, we felt prepared. Packing for back-to-back races can be a challenge; especially if you are flying to the event and can’t bring everything you might possibly need. To help keep myself organized, I packed every race outfit in a different Ziploc bag- shorts, socks, shirt, sports bra, and anything else I’d need for that ensemble. I like to run in costume at Disney so there were some extra accessories packed into each bag 🙂


Sarah’s Note: LOVE this idea of organizing everything before traveling.  It’s sure to make race mornings MUCH easier to manage!  Great tip!


I also packed very little non-racing clothes. For a six day trip, we’d be running on four of those days. And, with all runDisney races, you get a race shirt. With Dopey, you actually received six shirts; one for each race and then a Goofy Challenge and a Dopey Challenge shirt. Knowing that I’d be getting six shirts, I packed as lightly as possible.

Expo purchases

Our plan for the week was to rest as much as possible. This meant no parks until our last day- Monday. It was so hard to know that we’d be staying in Walt Disney World for six whole days and only going to the park on one of those days. We were in bed every night at 6 pm. I think we really did this part well. Every morning I felt well-rested and energized for the race ahead of me. I got about seven hours of sleep each night- more than I get on a regular night!

The morning of each race, we’d get up around 2 am, get ready, pack a breakfast, and head out to the first bus we could get on. By being early, we were able to eliminate one area of stress and be guaranteed to be in our corrals well before the start of the race. We would then eat our breakfast (usually a bagel and/or clif bar, fruit, water) while waiting in the corral.

Full starting line copy

After each race, we went back to the hotel and relaxed at the pool. I did a lot of stretching and soaking my feet in ice so they would be ready for the next race. When doing a challenge like this, the more downtime you have, the better you will feel for the next race.

Our strategy for the first three races was the same- take it easy and walk as much as possible. For us, this meant using a 1:2 interval, running for one minute and walking for two minutes. This plan worked beautifully. We averaged even splits throughout each race and crossed the finish line feeling like we still had some energy. However, Matthew started to get a cold on the morning of the half marathon. He felt terrible for both the half and the full- body aches, coughing, runny nose, etc. Luckily, his training was able to carry him through the races and both he and I had very little muscle soreness after the marathon.

5k finish

10k finish

half finish

After we’d finished the 5k, 10k, and half marathon, we knew we were just 26.2 miles away from completing our goal of logging 48.6 miles in four days. Our strategy for the full marathon was simple- finish upright and smiling. We took it easy and kept the same intervals we’d used for the first three races. I felt fantastic the entire race- running through all four parks in one day was just amazing. It felt like we’d barely been running when I saw the 20 mile marker and when we were running the last lap around World Showcase, I couldn’t believe I was about to finish my first marathon. Crossing that finish line was absolutely one of the best moments of my life. We got our medals, collected our runDisney food box, and reunited with our family. Later that evening we celebrated with dinner at Raglan Road in Downtown Disney. Beer has never tasted so good 🙂

Full finish

Overall, the Dopey Challenge was a phenomenal experience. Where else can you run four races through four Disney parks and earn six gorgeous medals in just four short days? Add to that the thrill of running with thousands of like-minded Disney fans and you’ve got all the reasons you need to consider it for 2015. With proper training, a good race-week strategy, and a little Disney magic, running 48.6 miles in four days can seem like the best time of your life.


Even though she’s run over 50 races, Sarah still considers herself a newbie to the running world. What started as a way to lose weight in January 2010 has quickly become a lifestyle. Sarah lives with her 7-time marathoner boyfriend in central Pennsylvania but considers Walt Disney World to be her second home. While she’s not blogging at http://www.sparklyrunner.blogspot.com, she loves making new friends- find her on Twitter and Instagram!!

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  • The outfits in the ziploc bags idea is great. I have never needed that kind of organization but I will stow that little idea away in my mind. 🙂 Especially since race outfits usually do have lots of little components that can easily get lost – Garmin, RoadID, etc…


  • Hello, my husband and I met you guys on a magic express bus from Downtown Disney to Art of Animation Hotel in Jan. 2014. I had just purchased my first pair of Hoka shoes and you had told me about how wonderful they are and you were right! I broke the cardinal rule of not trying anything new and wore the Hoka’s during the Dopey and they worked great. My husband now wants a pair for the 2015 Disney Marathon. I enjoyed reading about your Dopey experience and I too aspire to be Perfectly Dopey. Are you guys going to do the Castaway Challenge in 2015? My husband and I are going to do it and we are so excited. I am especially excited about crossing the finish line of the marathon in 2015 and earning my official Perfectly Dopey status. I hope your training goes well and best of luck in 2015. Sincerely Chrissy

    • Hi Chrissy!

      Yes! I remember meeting you! I’m so glad the Hokas worked out for you- I’m on pair #4!

      We are actually going Goofy for 2015. After lots of thought and consideration we decided to save a day of travel and skip Dopey this year. We are also bringing two new runners with us and want to be able to give them lots of energy and attention with the races. And we are not able to do the Castaway Challenge- too many vacation days that we don’t have! But, we are taking another Disney cruise in May 2015 and will be doing the Castaway Cay 5k again 🙂 Hope to see you in WDW this January again! Good luck with the training!!

      • Sara,

        So glad to hear you will be at Disney again for the Goofy. The count down is on and I am so excited and nervous as always. I just purchased my second pair of Hoka’s and my husband purchased the Clifftons in the fall and loves them. I hope you guys have a wonderful time and the very best of luck to you and your friends during the races! It is a small world after all so maybe we will meet again! Take Care!

  • I love the information that you posted! I plan on running the Dopey Challenge Jan 2017. Where did you get your costumes?

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