I loved absolutely EVERYTHING about the 2016 WDW Dopey Challenge. The sense of community and excitement in the months prior. Being able to eat lots of cookies during the holiday season because of training. Running in four amazing races with tons of character photo opportunities. The athletic challenge of it all and I even loved the early mornings!
Completing the Goofy Challenge in 2015 was just as great and I’ll be bummed about missing 2017’s due to a foot injury. But you know what they say: Those who can’t, teach! So here are my best tips for surviving runDisney’s Goofy and Dopey Challenge.
Note: there will be no training tips in this post. That will come next year after registration … which I’M TOTALLY SIGNING UP FOR!
Oh, and want to see the video version of this? Click this link to go to our YouTube Channel.
Place an order with Garden Grocer …
… if there are specific foods and drinks you’re used to. For Dopey 2016, I packed plenty of peanut butter packs, granola bars, recovery protein bars, and energy gels. But thanks to Megan’s Garden Grocer order, we also had milk, bananas, bagels, Smart Water, Gatorade G2, a case of water, laundry detergent, and more. Everything was waiting for us once we arrived, easy peezy!
If it’s too late for 2017’s race, then pay a visit to your resort’s gift store, where they sell Gatorade, and larger bottles of water at a cheaper rate. If you have an annual pass, you’ll also be able to get a 10% discount.Tips for the @runDisney #GoofyChallenge and #DopeyChallenge #werunsocial #wdwmarathonweekend Click To Tweet
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
Now it the time to start hydrating, not right before the first race. Increase your fluids about a week prior to ensure your urine is the color of light straw.
On that note, you also want to make sure you’re hydrating enough throughout your vacation. For me, I drank an entire G2 every morning since water first thing in the morning makes me nauseous plus it gave me time to … you know … get rid of it before the race.
*Try* to Avoid Germs
Yes, I am a bit of a germaphobe. But when you’ve paid hundreds of dollars for a race event, I think it’s perfectly fine to be extra cautious to stay well. So two weeks prior, I start taking Emergency-C daily along with daily vitamins and I use antibacterial hand gel often. I also do any shopping for toiletries, etc., in advance so I can better limit my exposure.
And yes, I am that person on the plane who tries to avoid anyone who’s coughing and wipes down all surfaces with an antibacterial wipe … and without shame, too.
It’s not just the miles that will be challenging. It’s also waking very early four days in a row. Plus, if you have a morning flight on Wednesday for the expo, that’s another early morning. For that reason, don’t start your vacation robbed of sleep because you had to stay up late packing the night prior. Try to pack days beforehand so you can relax instead!
I list some packing tips soon, but here’s the full version at my Packing for runDisney tips post that also has a handy packing list you can print out!
ODDBALL TIP: This might seem very weird, including this tip here, but if you currently using Retin-A or Retinol skincare products, you might want to discontinue their use a week prior since it makes your skin more sensitive to the sun.
And while I’m at it, pedicures are fantastic, but don’t go to town buffing down callouses that you’ve developed from running. I did this before the Disneyland Half, and ouch, I got a nasty blister as a result!
Be PREPARED for all types of weather!
Florida might be the sunshine state, but it’s also extremely persnickety. You can’t depend on forecasts since things can change quickly, like they did for us during 2015’s WDW Marathon Weekend, leaving Jackey and me unprepared for the chilly weather. So now, I pack for EVERYTHING. Cold weather, warm weather, rainy weather, hot weather, weather that starts out cold but then heats up until the rain comes in. I also make sure to plan alternatives for each running costume.
Gallon-sized baggies come in handy for this. I use a separate baggy for each set of emergency clothing, then store them in its own packing cube. I also bring plenty of throwaways to bundle up in before the race, such as sweatshirts, sweatpants, a robe, fleece blanket, gloves, and a knit hat. A mylar emergency blanket purchased cheap at Wal-Mart is also invaluable. runDisney will collect all items tossed and donate them to charity.
WARNING: In my Race Day Mistakes post, I share how I left my throwaway sweatshirt and yoga pants on for the first mile since it was chilly. But then I started to sweat and after I ditched my throwaways, the wind hit that sweat and made me colder than ever! So even though you will be cold, it’s better to toss them before the race.
ANOTHER WARNING: Be sure to NOT cross the start line wearing a mylar blanket, since it will mess with your timing chip! The announcers will be sure to mention this several times in case your forget.
Both challenges can be stressful, especially for someone like me who has anxiety issues. One thing that helped calm my nerves was being super organized right from the start by:
1.) Separating each race’s costume in gallon-sized baggies.
2.) Using Packing Cubes … oh my gosh, they’re AMAZING!
3.) Bringing a hanging shoe rack so I can find things quickly rather than sorting through drawers or my suitcase. (Jackey also brought a sweater rack which worked out very nicely – she was able to use the top four sections for each individual race’s gear.)
4.) Also, my new love is this handy tote organizer that I use to store ponchos, emergency blankets, an extension cord, (good for if you want to charge your phone while catching up with social media in bed,) Gu gels, Nuun, medicines, ear plugs, and so much more! This makes finding small things very easy to find and can be stored on a shelf.
OTHER THINGS TO PACK:
- A multi-outlet or surge protector, since you will have lots of electronics to charge.
- A wrist strap for your phone if you plan on carrying it throughout the races.
- A portable muscle roller or stick … although a spray sunblock bottle can work in a pinch!
- An array of running belts in case you change your mind on which to use. Which I do. Often.
- A sewing kit and scissors to make any last-minute costume repairs.
Bring at least two pairs of shoes
This way, you will have a back-up in case of wet conditions. Throwing some newspaper in your suitcase can also be helpful to dry one pair out while you’re wearing the other!
And we all know by now that it’s a good idea to pack a pair of running shoes plus an outfit for at least one race in your carry-on.
Oh, and don’t forget your recovery shoes or flip flops! I bring along a few to choice from, since sometimes my Teva Mush ones are more comfortable than my Oofos. Check out my Best Flip Flop for Running Recovery post for more ideas!
Need some more packing tips plus a handy, dandy packing list? Don’t forget about my Packing Tips for runDisney post!
Study the Official Event Guide
The WDW Marathon Weekend Event Digital Guide is now available here and offers valuable information about the expo and race hours, expo maps and details on packet pickups, course descriptions, race etiquette suggestions, running form, recovery tips, and hydration tips, and more. I like to view this on my phone and take screenshots of the most important pages, ones I want to reference to later.
There will also be a poster in the lobby of each Disney resort giving race times and when the bus services begin. I also take a picture of this as well. Not that I really need to. It just makes me feel better.
ODDBALL TIP: I recommend not asking resort CM’s any race-related questions, because they most likely won’t know or they could have dated answers.
Make an Expo plan
runDisney expos can be hectic, so I always make a list beforehand on my iPhone while my mind is clear and focused. On my list would be any runDisney merchandise I wanted to buy, items to purchase from vendors, commemorative items that need to be picked up and of course, picking up my challenge race packet and shirts.
Also, be sure to print out your waiver and sign to save time, although there will be computers there at the Field house in case you forget.
Make a list of what to bring for each race
Yes. I like lists. Tease me if you will, but seriously, making a list of what to line up for each race on your phone at home while you’re calm and relaxed is much better than trying to remember when you’re stressed the night before! For examples of what I pack for each type of race, check out my What’s in Your Race Belt post.
For me, this includes what to pace in my race belt as well as in my gEAR bag for before and after the race.
ODDBALL TIP: If you plan on buying a beer or glass of champagne after a race, be sure to include your license on that list! One gal, God bless her, would not serve me after the WDW Half without me digging out my license. Granted, she was only doing her job, but come on …
ANOTHER ODDBALL TIP: Since carrying things in the plastic gEAR bag is awkward, I always throw in a small drawstring bag or backpack that I can later use to carry everything, (including my folded gEAR bag,) after the race.
SKIN SAFETY TIP: Since my lily-white skin burns like crazy … and I have enough sun damage, thank you very much, I always pack a small tube of sunblock in my gEAR bag to apply right before the leaving for the full marathon corrals. (For the half marathon, I apply at the resort and it’s usually enough to get me through.)
Create a photo album for informative screenshots
This might be overkill, but I like to make an album in my iPhone for screenshots of my boarding pass and important pages from runDisney’s official digital event guide that shows race start times, when the buses start, etc. This way, if you forget a race time, it will be much easier not having to access the guide or page through your photos for the screenshot!
Get Your Smart Phone Ready
Since I take TONS of video and pictures throughout a race weekend … W&D was around 6 GB alone … I always make sure there’s plenty of room by deleted non-favorite photos, getting rid of apps I don’t use, etc.
If you’re a social media lover, be sure to also learn the official WDW Marathon Weekend hashtags!
To make posting easier, I also use the TFL Pro app where I can customize a file for each race, and then just copy/paste. (I remove the default tags for likes hashtag since they are tacky.)
Before the race, it’s also a great idea to make some changes to ensure a longer batter life, by making sure you don’t have lots of website windows open, lowering the brightness, turning off Wi-Fi or Bluetooth if you don’t need it, switching to Low Battery mode, etc.
Still, I always pack a phone charger to use pre/post for half marathons, and for the full, I pack a small portable charger and 8″ cord in the pocket of my Fitletic Ultimate Belt, with the cord safety pinned to make sure it doesn’t fall out. This way, I can store my iPhone in the large pouch and charge while running.
Become familiar with the course by watching video recaps
A great way to get to know the courses is to either read blog recaps, or my personal favorite, watch video recaps! This also gives you an idea of what kind of character stops to expect and how many. Here’s a playlist of our videos:
Stock up on ice
If you are a fan of ice baths and you have a fridge/feeezer in your room, then stock up on ice at the beginning of your trip. That way, you won’t run the risk of the ice machine being emptied by other runners, plus you won’t have to fill the bags up after the half or full when you’re tired.
We used the gallon-sized baggies that previously stored our costumes on Saturday, but had we thought ahead, we would have filled the freezer with them earlier in the week.
Prepare for each race early
We’ve already established my anxiety issues, correct? Good. But taking the time to organize for each individual race after arriving on Wednesday really was a great way to keep my stress level down.
Plus, you DO NOT want to wait until late in the evening the night before to prepare. Ask Megan, Jackey, and Brooke. They will tell you about the time I was still up at 9:00pm the night before the Disneyland Half, sewing my costume. Not fun. Plus, it was really hard settling down afterwards and going to sleep. Instead, try to…
Keep your evenings peaceful
If you’d like to be asleep by … say, 9:00pm, then try to get into bed by at least 8:00pm, giving your mind time to unwind and relax by reading, catching up on social media, or watching TV.
Before getting in bed, however, set your alarm! No, set two! Using a white noise app or ear plugs to block noise will also help you stay asleep, especially if you’re staying at a value resort where the walls are thinner. Be sure to also turn off your phones notification.
And look … if you can’t sleep because of nerves and excitement, it’s okay, you’ll survive. Yes, sleep is awesome, but as long as your body is resting, things will be fine. I’m saying this from experience. I got ZERO sleep the night before the 2015 WDW Half Marathon, causing Jackey to wake to find me crying. She did an amazing job calming me down, though, by relaying a story told by Jeff Galloway about how he got one of his best times after a sleepless night. Just be sure to get in a great nap after the race!
Choose your arrival time wisely. It will be crazy crowded first thing in the morning with runners, eBay sellers, and personal shoppers. Things will definitely cool down by the afternoon, providing a more relaxed, calm expo experience. However, Dopey merchandise will most likely sell out on Wednesday, so if you have your eye on a Dopey pin or other merchandise … then you’ll have to brave the crowds. Things will be especially crazy for the Dooney & Bourke bags, since there was no pre-orders.
IMPORTANT TIP: Make sure you get a photo taken of yourself after receiving your Goofy or Dopey bibs. There will be volunteers making sure you don’t forget, but still, keep this in mind since it will later determine whether you get your challenge medals after the full.
NOT-SO-ODDBALL TIP: Be sure to try on all your race shirts! Since they aren’t manufactured at the same time, there could be size differences. If there is, you can exchange your shirt, (usually in the Josten Building,) but you will have to exchange all four, not just one. Which means … you’ll need to check them all again!
ODDBALL TIP: In the past, you were allowed to return pre-purchased commemorative items and then repurchase using an Annual Passholder, DVC, or Disney Visa discount, but I’ve heard rumors this is no longer allowed.
ANOTHER ODDBALL TIP: If you did not pre-order a commemorative jacket but would like to buy one, get to the merchandise tent before the full marathon super early. They usually sell any that were not picked up, returned, or exchanged for different sizes.
They will also be selling banners that have previously been on displays at the expo, but you will have to be lined up EXTREMELY early to score a Goofy or Dopey one, since they’re hot tickets.
LAST ODDBALL TIP, I PROMISE: If you regret a runDisney merchandise purchase made at the expo, you can return it at a park or at your resort. However, if it’s a hot ticket item that has sold out, consider checking on a WDW Marathon Facebook group or with your friends if they’d like to buy it from you.
Set Realistic Expectations
It will be difficult getting a PR for each race. Not impossible, but difficult. Instead, if your goal is to get at least one PR, decide which race is the most important to you and then adjust your pace and expectations for the other races.
I never try to PR at Disney, especially during a multi race challenge! Instead, Ginny and I took it very easy during the 5k and 10k, stopping for every photo opportunity. We then ran at a pleasant pace for the half, saving most of our juice for the half, getting pictures with most of the characters that didn’t have a super crazy line. (We did wait for Goofy, since he represented the Goofy Chalenge. And we had to see Elvis Stitch!)
Don’t let the miles overwhelm you
Look at it this way. Many training plans call for a light shakeout run a few days before a marathon. That’s your 5k. The 10k is only two 5k’s, easy peezy! By the beginning of January, the high mileage training runs you’ve already done will make the half seem measly and since the marathon is just two measly half marathons combined, it’s will be no problem, you’ve got this!
Okay, okay, perhaps I’m oversimplifying things. But seriously, it is a lot of miles. It is a huge challenge. That’s why we signed up, right? So breath. Take it one race, one day, one mile at a time.
Make a Game Plan with your Running Partner
If you’re running with someone else, it’s a good idea to discuss your goals and strategize before the races. For example, do you want to stop for character photos and if so, how many? What’s your goal pace for each race? And is it okay to separate if your goals no longer align during the race?
For the 2015 Goofy Challenge, since the first 12 miles of the half and full repeated, I decided to stop for all characters for the half marathon and then skip them for the full. The wait for Goofy was INSANE, but since it was a must-have, I waited.
This strategy worked in 2015, but for 2016, they had different characters out, so Ginny, Rob, and I had to stop for Chicken Little, the Festival of Fantasy Dragon, and more. Oh, and we had to stop for Jack Skellington, though, despite the long line. Worth it!
ODDBALL TIPS: Character lines near the end of the full marathon will be extremely short! Especially through World Showcase, when runners are more focused on hauling rear to the finish line.
Also, while lines might appear long, if there are two Cast Members rotating taking pictures, it will go faster than expected. Be sure to have your camera ready before your turn and turned the right way to show whether you want a landscape or portrait photo.
And if you want more tips on how to get Great Race Photos, click on the link!
Arrange a Family Meeting Place
If you are bringing your family, it’s a good idea to arrange where to meet after each race, in case cell service is shoddy. A few good locations are at the A-Z banners, outside of your gEAR bag check line, or for the full, where the tables or lounge chairs will be set up.
Throughout the Weekend
Get to the Races Early
My co-bloggers like to give me a hard time about always wanting to arrive early, but I’m still mentally scarred from getting stuck in hideous traffic before the 2013 Princess Half Marathon and having to sprint to my corral in order to make race start.
So yes, I like leaving early, since so many things can go wrong. Traffic. There not being enough buses at your resort. Or like we experienced before the 2016 Half Marathon where there was a massive back up at security check. Plus when you arrive early, there’s plenty of time to get character pictures, grab coffee, go to the bathroom, take care of bag check, visit with friends before taking the long walk to the corrals, or be interviewed by John Pelkey!
ODDBALL TIP: If you are meeting friends, have whoever gets there first wait in a character line so you all can get a group photo. (Not individual photos, because that’s rude to those behind you.)
There will be coffee … but it stinks and they’ll only have half-n-half. Still, it’s coffee!
Make sure you eat enough!
There was a point during the 2016 Dopey Challenge when Megan looked at me and said, “Were not eating enough.” She was right, so we consciously started to consume more calories in order to keep our stamina up. Many restaurants will make getting enough carbs and protein easier by offering specials for runners. Our favorite pre-marathon meal is at the Wave where they had a yummy grilled chicken and pasta dish for a reasonable price. Some counter service locations are also very accommodating. At the Contemporary Cafe, they substituted the beef on a flatbread pizza with grilled chicken. You just have to ask!
And right about now is when I should remind you to ease up on the alcohol, although I’m not exactly one to listen to that good advise.
Get Plenty of Rest!
Yes, you’re at Disney and maybe you’ve been able to get away with spending lots of time at the parks during other three-day challenges. But the Goofy and Dopey Challenge is a different beast. It is a serious athletic event so you must behave like a serious athlete rather than relying on pixie dust to get you through.
We did causally tour Animal Kingdom after the 5k on Thursday and Magic Kingdom after the 10k on Friday. But on Saturday after the half, we came back to the room, took an ice bath and showers, got in our pajamas and rested the entire day until dinner!
There was some pouting, though.
After the Races
Be sure to recover properly each day by getting in enough protein and stretching. For my own recovery, I had a protein bar after each race, ones I brought from home since I’m reluctant to rely on runDisney for my nutritional needs.
If the weather is chilly, they will pass out Mylar blankets, but I always pack yoga pants, a jacket, knot hat and gloves since I’m a big head sweater who chills easily.
Dance away that lactic acid!
After the marathon last January, Ginny and I hung around, enjoying the post-race festivities … and some celebration sarsaparillas, while all our friends finished.
If was rather chilly, though, so our legs got very stiff and sore … until a Beyonce song came on and we danced with our #BeyonceBuddy. Afterwards, our legs felt much better from shaking out the lactic acid, so don’t just sit there! Dance!
Oddball If Tips
- If you purchase a souvenir beer mug at the Expo, you are allowed to bring it to the races for a discounted refill! So be sure to pack that bad boy in your gEAR bag.
- If the sloped angles on overpasses hurt your angles, run on the grass at the top where the surface is more even. Just be careful for dips!
- If you think you’ll need a caffeinated drink for a pick-me-up, there should be some vendors open in Animal Kingdom if you arrive there after 9:00am.
- If the wart hog is out near Animal Kingdom … don’t pet it. Seriously. Unless, of course, you’d like your hands to smell like wart hog for miles.
Best of luck to all of those who will be participating in the 2017 WDW Marathon Weekend! I hope these tips for the Goofy and Dopey challenge were helpful and be sure to let us know how it goes!
Thanks for reading and have a joyful day!