Pre-Training Tips for runDisney's Dopey Challenge!
runDisney runDisney Tips Running & Fitness Tips

Pre-Training Tips for runDisney’s Goofy and Dopey Challenge

If a credit card statement earlier this year made you clutch your chest and gasp while hollering, “I spent what????” then there’s a good chance you’ve registered for runDisney’s 2018 WDW Dopey Challenge.

Well, actually, in my household, it was my husband clutching his chest. Sorry, honey!

Money aside, AWESOME, you’re going to have an AMAZING time! Finishing the Dopey Challenge in 2016 was a highlight in my running career and I can’t wait to tackle the challenge again next January.

But back to you. So you signed up for the Dopey Challenge. Now what? With the countdown nearing 200 days, here’s some tips and things you can do now to make your experience a total success.

Pre-Training Tips for runDisney's Dopey Challenge!

For the video version, check out my Goofy and Dopey Tips video!

1.) Pick a Training Plan

This topic deserves a separate blog post on its own plus we will be discussing our Dopey training in an upcoming Jammin’ on the Run chat over at our YouTube channel. Heather Jergensen at Running with Grace will also go into detail on various training plans soon. (I’ll add links once they’re available.)

Until then, the two most popular plans are Jeff Galloway’s and Hal Higdon’s. For myself, I’m a big fan of Hal Higdon’s 18 week Dopey Plan that has you running four to five times a week with one day of cross training every other week. The highest mileage is twenty miles three weeks prior to Dopey which suits me just fine since I don’t think it’s necessary for me to do 26.

Jeff Galloway’s 29 week training plan, (which includes a recovery week,) is awesome as well and does go up to 26 miles three weeks prior to the marathon. This is a great option for those who love intervals or if this is your first marathon. Both plans can be modified, however, and can be used with intervals or running straight through. The biggest priority is getting you ready to run several days in a row with a high mileage count.

Another important element is cross training, something I did not do enough of in 2016. Strength training will help your body stay balanced, strong, and help with recovery. Yoga, pilates, or a great stretch, (one of my favorites is from P90X,) is also crucial for keeping your muscles limber and fighting off injury! One thing I would not recommend, however, is high-intensity cardio workouts such as OrangeTheory or Insanity during weeks with high mileage. This will take away much needed energy and also put you at risk of over training.

Tips for the #GoofyChallenge and #DopeyChallenge #runDisney @runDisney Click To Tweet

2.) Up Your Nutrition Knowledge

Equally important to training is learning about nutrition and what your body needs to stay fueled during hard runs. This is something you discover in the many weeks leading up to Dopey and everyone is different.

For example, I need a TON of calories to get me through the WDW Marathon. I’m talking:

  • A bagel with peanut butter and oatmeal after waking.
  • Nature Valley granola bar about one hour prior.
  • Sports Beans* thirty minutes prior.
  • One Salt Stick cap before the race and then once an hour, depending on the weather and humidity level.
  • A Gu Energy Gel right before the start and then one every 30-45 minutes during the race, depending on the weather.
  • A mini-meal such as another bagel with peanut butter at around the 17 mile mark. (Btw, the mini Lara Bar samples you can sometimes get at the expo are perfect for quick in-between snacks!)
  • One piece of Plow On gum at around mile 20.
  • A Pure Protein bar within thirty minutes of finishing each of the four races. (Normally, I would not need protein after a 5k, but during a high-endurance four-day challenge, I do.)

[Please note that all Amazon links are Affiliate ones. This does not cost you more but does give me a small commission.]

This is a lot, yes, but my body needs a ton of fuel. And in the months prior during heavy training, I also need more calories. If not, I gain weight. (This concept still blows my mind!) I’ve also learned to not depend on runDisney for my fueling needs after they ran out of Cliff gels during the 2015 Half Marathon. Nor do I depend on the snack box afterward for my recovery needs.

I’m also going to experiment with Nuun Electrolyte Tabs seeing as how runDisney offers PowerAde and after the 20 mile mark … I thought for sure that I’d chunk if I had one more sip. I’ve never felt as though it’s necessary to carry my own water, however, since there are PLENTY of aid stations, so the jury is still out with this one.

And again, this is something we will be getting into more detail about in upcoming blog posts and YouTube videos!

3.) Discover your Running and Recovery Needs

Just like nutrition, everyone has different running needs, whether that’s wearing KT tape, compression socks or sleeves, specialty shoe inserts, or what have you. Same with your recovery needs, whether that’s ice or cool water baths, continued use of compression socks, foam-rolling, using a device such as The Stick or The BFF Miracle Body Buffer.

For myself, I always do an ice bath for runs over twelve miles. Not long, five minutes will do the trick, but this definitely helps to reduce inflammation and soreness. I hate my Stick, but I love the way it makes my calf muscles feel, so I force myself to use. I’m also thinking of investing in the BFF … if so, I’ll be certain to do a review!

One thing you DO NOT want to do is switch your shoes in the fall or winter when your weekly mileage is high. Take it from the gal who’s been injured for nine months. Changing models that have different support or cushioning before long runs can lead to injury. Have caution even if you’re using the same model but newer version, because sometimes they might change the railing system or something else. So if you do switch shoes during the summer, then I’d buy two or three pairs to get you through training and the races.

You also want to get in the habit of tracking miles put on your running shoes. Most training apps such as Garmin Connect, RunKeeper, or Map My Run makes this very easy!

4.) Buy Commemorative Items now

As of today, you can still purchase commemorative items such as the performance jacket, pins, bundles, etc. To do so, go to the runDisney WDW Marathon event page, select Registration, then click on the commemorative items link where you’ll be directed to

Just don’t dally because runDisney will be closing this soon and they give no notice! (That’s something I wish they’d do.)

Jackey and I have purchased the jacket since that’s something we’ll wear all the time plus it’s fun to wear it through the race week. Keep in mind, however, that as of now, you CANNOT return any commemorative items which is a total bummer.

5.) Plan Your Costumes Early

Now is the time to start thinking about your costumes for each of the four races so you can take advantage of better availability plus some upcoming sales. For example, in the past years, Sparkle Athletic has held a Buy One, Get One 50% off sale in both July and on Black Friday. This is a great time to stock up for Dopey and any other future races. Plus, if you’re part of a group, you can combine for one order to save money and shipping.

For more tips on running costumes, be sure to check out my How to Make a Running Costume blog post. We also chatted about it in this Jammin’ on the Run episode! One thing I do want to mention now, however, is to be sure to plan for all different types of weather conditions since Florida temps in January can be quite persnickety!

If you are traveling with a group and are interested in making cute shirts to celebrate the occasion, now is also a great time to start planning before crazy training truly kicks into gear.

Speaking of planning…

6.) Prep for the Holidays Early

Look. I’m telling you right now that I won’t be following this advice. Nope, I’ve long since realized that it is impossible for me to be ready for the holidays early no matter how much I vow that THIS YEAR will be different.

Just ain’t gonna happen.

But seeing as how your longest training runs will be during the weeks leading up to the holidays, it is a good idea to start planning and shopping earlier to make your life easier. Standing in a Wal-Mart line after a twenty-mile run is not fun!

If you’re also the kind of person who can never think of gift ideas to give your family, think about what you’ll need for the races. For example, a race belt, a box of Gu gels, Disney gift cards, etc.

For other gift ideas for runners, be sure to check out my blog post or video! I’ve also shared my favorite running belts and plan on doing a video soon.

7.) Plan your Park Days Wisely and Book Fastpasses

I get it. Disney racecations are a different breed because you want to visit the parks. And I admit. During half marathon weekends, I’ve often made bad choices. There’s a certain Wine & Dine where Jackey, Rob, and I averaged about ten hours of sleep total for the entire weekend.

But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.

The Goofy and Dopey Challenge are serious athletic events. Therefore, you must behave like a serious athlete.

This means limiting your park time and making good transportation choices so you’re not putting unnecessary stress on your already-tired legs.

For the 2016 Dopey Challenge, we did tour a park after the expo and 5k, but with no park hopping. After the 10k, we went to Animal Kingdom, spending a lot of time watching the shows and lollygagging. But after the half marathon?

We did NOTHING … which I must confess did bring on a small amount of pouting when we saw pictures on social media of our friends having fun at the parks.

Tips for Disney's Goofy & Dopey Challenge

But seriously, resting was the best thing we could have done.

I’m talking we got back, took an ice bath … there’s actually a very amusing picture of Megan, Ginny, and I crammed fully-dressed in a tub … then we took showers, got into our pajamas, foam rolled, and got our butts into bed. For the whole day. Nothing but rest, rest, rest until it was time for dinner at the Wave which gave our legs enough of a stretch.

I cannot recommend this enough. Sure, there are some who say it’s okay to make a quick trip to the parks to stretch out your legs. But you know what happens. That two hours turns into three. Then four. Then there’s a long line for the bus which means you need to stand rather than have a seat.

Nope. Just rest, folks. You’ll thank me later.

Have caution, also, if there’s a hot tub at your resort. There’s a certain someone in our group, **cough, Jackey, cough** who likes to take long soaks each day. Short ones are fine, but staying in too long can dehydrate you. Plus, direct pressure from the jets can give your muscles a mini-workout, further exhausting them, so be wise with time spent in the tub. (Afterward? Knock yourself out!)

Once you have decided on your park days, booking Fastpass+ 60 days prior to your trip can be a lifesaver, as long as you have park tickets or an annual pass. Also, if you do follow a tour plan, try to keep down the amount of times you zig-zag across the park to hit major rides.

8.) Make Advance Dining Reservation 180 days prior

While you’re figuring out park days, it’s also time to start thinking about where you’d like to eat both before and after your races. The two most important elements to consider are:

  1. Will they serve food that you’re used to?
  2. And ease of transportation, since the less time you spend on your feet between races, the better.

You can find menus for most restaurants either at My Disney Experience or

One thing I would suggest is to make your Friday and Saturday night ADR’s early, at least 5:00pm. This will give you time to eat, travel back to your resort, and get your booty in bed EARLY. Trust me on the one, folks. You need that rest! It’s also a good idea to just eat at your resort that night. For those staying at Port Orleans Riverside, they have an amazing pasta meal you can customize! Yum.

Our favorite post-marathon place to eat is The Wave at the Contemporary since they can accommodate a large group and it’s easy to get there with an Uber ride. Many sit-down restaurants to offer special meals for runners and The Wave’s is fantastic: Pasta with grilled chicken, everything I need! Just be sure to ask what kind of meals they offer for runners since it has never been offered to us by the wait staff in the past.

Also keep in mind that many counter service locations can change up a meal according to your needs. For example, at the Contempo Cafe, you can get a flatbread with grilled chicken instead of beef, a meal we ate on most nights during the 2016 Dopey Challenge!

Oh, and speaking of Uber, it’s also smart to budget for Uber rides when planning your trip. During race weekends, I take Uber rides as often as possible since they can greatly reduce time spent on my feet. If you’re traveling in a group, the cost can be low and worth every single penny. The walk to buses is long enough as it is. Then you have the wait in line with no guarantee you’ll get on the next bus. Then if you do, sometimes you must stand and the effort it takes to remain balanced really works your legs.

So yeah. Uber. It will be your best friend.

Another option for those who plan on doing park-hopping … something I don’t recommend, but hey, is consider purchasing tickets for the Express Transportation bus. It costs $20.00 per day or $29.00 for multi days and can greatly reduce your travel time since you won’t have to go through security or the turnstiles between parks.

I’ve yet to try this, but according to Anne from Magical Adventures Travels, it was well-worth the price during her non-race weekend. They do run on a schedule, however, so she recommends getting there at least 5 to 10 minutes prior to the next bus.

Since we don’t plan on doing any park hopping, we’re not getting this for Marathon Weekend, but we are for Princess Half!

9.) If you’re traveling with family…

For us, we don’t travel with family for these big race weekends. This way, we only have to worry about taking care of ourselves and making sure our needs are met.

Things are different if you’re traveling with family, however. So it’s a good idea to make sure everyone is on the same page. For example, you don’t want to come back from the half marathon ready for a shower and nap only to find your family dressed and ready to hit the parks with you. And if you’re traveling with small children, your non-running spouse or partner needs to know that they will be responsible for the bulk of their care, since you’ll need your rest.

10.) Consider documenting your experience!

A fun way to remember your Goofy or Dopey challenge experience and share with others is by starting a blog or doing video training updates like Gerald did over at RezRuns. (I did ask and he does plan on doing that again, yah!) I will most likely start a video training series as well with maybe a few collaborations along the way!

If you’re not into that sort of thing, you could document your experience through journaling or with something like the Believe Training Journal. (Affiliate Link.) This way years from now, you can look back a relive every painful, frustrating, wonderful, amazing moment!

11.) Join a Facebook Group

Chances are, you’ve already joined a runDisney based Facebook group. Or if you’re like me, several groups, way too many to keep up with! But if you haven’t, they’re a great way to communicate with other Dopey runners, share ideas and tips, and important announcements, like when bib waivers have been released.

Finding them is easy. Just enter runDisney or Dopey Challenge in the search box and you’ll find many to choose from!

Tips for the #GoofyChallenge and #DopeyChallenge #runDisney @runDisney Click To Tweet

12.) Celebrate and Motivate!

The following deserves its own blog post, but here’s some fun ways to stay motivated and truly celebrate the Dopey training process!

The Etsy seller PrettySheepy has these really cute Dopey countdown stickers for $3.95 plus $3.20 shipping.

There’s also several Dopey Challenge Training shirts such as this one on Etsy or this one at

I love this idea! Melissa Acton Orr shared on the Team runDisney Facebook group how her Dopey figurine is always watching, making sure she’s getting her training runs in. Too cute!

Now’s also a great time to make a killer running playlist! I’ve chatted about my favorite running jams, my favorite Broadway Songs for running, and fun songs my son sends me before if you’d like to check out my favorites.

Oh, and runDisney has some playlists over at Spotify! For more information, check out their blog post.

Podcasts are also great for long training runs! I’ve shared my favorites before in the post and Rob has chatted about his favorites in this one.

We’ve also shared some of our best tips to stay motivated in this Jammin’ on the Run episode.

I’ve shared my love for Momentum Jewelry many, many times. Seeing your favorite mantra on your wrist is such a huge motivator! I’m loving this Dopey-inspired color combination along with my new Garmin watch face.

Speaking of that adorable picture on my Garmin…

An awesome idea that won’t cost you a thing was given by Kristen Walton over at who changed her Garmin watch face to a WDW Marathon Weekend logo. She’s going to be sharing directions plus some tips on preventing injuries in an upcoming blog post. (I’ll add the link once it’s up,) but until then, you can find instructions over at her Instagram page!

If you have ways to celebrate and get excited about runDisney’s 2018 WDW Dopey Challenge, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Also, for more tips, check out my Tips for the Goofy and Dopey Challenges blog post as well as my video over at YouTube.

Need some runDisney packing tips? I’ve got your covered with this blog post and video.

We’ve also written lots of race recap blog posts:

Plus I’ve created several video recaps for YouTube.

And as always, thanks for reading, have a joyful day, and best of luck training for runDisney’s 2018 Goofy and Dopey Challenge!

Today I’m linking up with My No-Guilt Life, Marcia’s Healthy Slice, and MCM Mama Runs for the fun Tuesdays on the Run blog link up.

Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger, vlogger, wife to an amazing guy for 26 years, mom of two wonderful boys, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that plus she can quote most lines from Talladega Nights. Shake and bake!

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  1. I got kind of stuck on the reference to Jeff Galloway’s 29 week plan. WTH? 29 weeks? That’s like 7 months of training? I can’t imagine.

    1. I know, that’s seriously long! And a reason why I loved Hal Higdon’s since it’s 18 weeks and beforehand, I did his Half Marathon plan, breaking it up into two mental chunks. Now that I’m basically starting from scratch, though, (which is both a very scary and awesome place to be,) I’m trying Jeff’s.

  2. Audra says:

    I saw where you got cleared to run again!!! Congratulations and take it easy. I am sure you are absolutely over the moon to get back to it😊

    1. Thanks so much, Audra!!! And oh yeah, I’m taking my rehab very slow, (too slow according to my doctor.) But now I’m even more excited about Dopey! 🙂 🙂

  3. Iris says:

    seems like fun, thanks for sharing. i’m also training for a half marathon with SportMe marathon app, which calculates distance, time, pace and calories.

    1. You’re welcome, Iris, and thanks for the SportMe tip! I’ll be sure to check that out. 🙂

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