Thursday, February 5, 2015

Member's Race Report: Bill Shires' Dopey Challenge Experience

The Dopey Challenge is an awesome experience and a must do for every runner.

For those not familiar with the Dopey Challenge, each Jan. run Disney puts on four events in four successive days. Everything starts with the Pluto Family Fun 5k on Thursday morning at 6:15 a.m. Then, the Minnie Mouse 10k on Friday at 5:30 a.m. These are followed by the Donald Duck Half Marathon on Saturday and the Mickey Mouse Marathon on Sunday, both starting at 5:30 a.m.

From the moment I enter Disney, everything is about the experience. The flow through expo is fantastic from picking up my bib, to gathering my extra runDisney pins and meal tickets, to just soaking up the atmosphere and doing some shopping.

Each morning, I had to rise just after 3 a.m. for a bus ride from Art of Animation Hotel over to Epcot. The instant that I step off the bus, the music is blaring in my ears and the announcers are getting the runners pumped up. The excitement is so strong that I can just feel it in the air. The adrenaline is immediately flowing. It is spurred on by the view of Epcot light up in the background.

The Pluto 5k race starts from Epcot parking lot and circles through Epcot before ending back in the parking lot again. Running around the “World”, they have the huge touches light up. I can feel the heat as I pass by each one. I have walked the “World” many times at night but there is nothing like running around it.

The Minnie Mouse 10k again starts from the Epcot parking lot, then runs long some of the entrance ways to Epcot, before entering Epcot itself. There is a slight detour along the board walk through the Epcot resorts. This is one of my favorite sections to run in all of Disney.

Things change for the half marathon on Saturday morning. Instead of the starting from the Epcot parking lots, we start out on the Disney entrance ways to the park. With over 20 thousand runners for the ½ marathon, there is no other option. The new starting line  takes runners on a long walk from the runner’s village to their respective starting corrals. Since I was in corral “A”, I had the longest walk of all. The fireworks mark the official start of the race. The trip over to Magic Kingdom from Epcot is marked with water stops, music, and characters at virtually every mile. Hitting Main Street in Magic Kingdom, the wall of cheer is deafening. Every light in the Magic Kingdom is light. The castle is illuminated in a bluish tint. The view is permanently itched on my brain. On the return trip, I hear the cheers from the runners still making their way to the Magic Kingdom. We enter Epcot from the right side and run all the way up to where the “World” starts. Then, we make a U-turn and head back, flashing back by the Epcot Ball to the parking lot. Hearing announcer call my name, I feel like I am just floating along. No fatigue, no hard breathing, no stress at all, just enjoying the moment.

Sunday morning would be the ultimate test. Racing the forth event in four days would my legs have anything left. Heading away from the marathon starting line on Sunday morning, my goal was a three-hour marathon. My legs felt sluggish and a little bit sore. By three miles the sluggishness had dissipated and I had a good group of runners to lean on for support.

Contemporary looked awesome as we passed by it. Space Mountain could be seen from the distance. Just as the previous morning, Main Street in Magic Kingdom was spectator. After Magic Kingdom, we joined over of a lap around the Walt Disney World Speedway. I lost count of the number of custom cars circling on the speedway. More water stops and more characters broke up the run to Animal Kingdom. We entered through Africa, journeyed through Asia and by the Everest Ride, through Dinosaur land before exiting the park. After three more miles of running, we entered ESPN Wide World of Sports. I was just on sensory overload at this point. We ran by tennis courts. We did a lap around the track. We ran on the warning track of the baseball stadium. Getting way from ESPN WW of S I had to pass the “Sergeant”. Perhaps on the only major hill on the course, he was yellowing for me to charge it. If he only knew how bad my legs felt, he might have given me a pass. We entered Hollywood Studios from a side entrance. Hit the sections by back lot tours and Lights Motor Action. We came by the Star Wars rides, and then exited near the front. After Hollywood Studios, we take the board walk back to Epcot. I am enjoying this section tremendously. There are less than a couple of miles to run in the marathon and I know there is nothing that can stop me now. I just soak up the cheers from everyone long the course. Running by the Epcot Ball and exiting to the parking lot, I know my Dopey Rookie stripe is just about come off and I will now be considered a Dopey Challenge veteran. The crossing the finish line never looked or felt better.

For my efforts, I received 6 finisher medals. One each for the Pluto 5k, Minnie Mouse 10k, Donald Duck Half Marathon, and the Mickey Mouse Marathon. My fifth medal was for completing the Goofy Challenge, which consists of the half and full marathon in the same weekend. My sixth and final medal was for the Dopey Challenge, which is for completing all races. Of all of the medals, perhaps the Dopey Challenge medal is the most special to me. Given only to those who have raced four races from 5k to Marathon in four days, it symbolizes the mental toughness and stamina reside in each of my fellow 8000+ Dopey finishers.


  1. Thank you for the magical story! I would love do this someday... With some sort of support system along to share the experience! Fingers crossed!

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  8. It is amazing story. You made ​​me feel very excited , I hope to participate in the next race.Click here to see more information about this race.