- 3 miles/5K, 6 miles/10K, 13.1 miles/Half Marathon, 26.2 miles/Marathon, Other
- Road Race
- Event Website
This was my third time conquering the Dopey Challenge and as always, I am just so blown away by the level of organization and overall experience that RunDisney creates! The welcoming atmosphere makes this (and all RunDisney races for that matter) a great milestone race for conquering a new distance, and the magic of the weekend keeps experienced runners returning year after year!
Registration & Expo
I could honestly go into a whole series about the intricacies of RunDisney, as even the first decision to register can be tricky if you’re new to the experience. Registration for these races are a bit like the Hunger Games. Once registration opens, races can sell out in a matter of minutes, so be sure your calendar is marked and you’re ready in front of your computer when the site opens to sign up. Fortunately, my mother and I were able to sign up for the races we wanted. If you wind up getting a notification that the race has sold out, don’t fret! RunDisney will often release more registration spots in waves, so keep checking back over the following weeks after registration opens. Another option to consider if you have the means to do so is to run through a charity.
Normally I don’t go into the details of lodging and transit, but since RunDisney is in a league of its own, I’ll mention here that where you stay during this race can be really important. If you’re new to RunDisney, are traveling from a far place, or don’t have any non-runners in your party, I cannot stress enough the importance of staying in a WDW hotel. All on-property hotels provide transportation to and from the race for each race morning. If you choose to stay off property, be prepared and stay up to date with the RunDisney website for information regarding where to be dropped off, where to park, and possible road closures.
Once you’ve arrived, you’ll make your way over to the expo. Be prepared to be overwhelmed (in a good way!) - there’s a lot to see and do, so make sure you give yourself enough time to pick up your shirts, bibs, and get a chance to check out the booths and merchandise! When we got there there was quite a long line to get into the merchandise room. We ended up going and grabbing our bibs/shirts first (a super straightforward process thanks to the many volunteers and signs directing you!) and returned to see that the line had shortened, but only slightly. Despite arriving at the expo fairly early on the first day, we were still surprised to see that quite a bit of the merchandise had already sold out (thank you, local scalpers…). The biggest tip for the expo is to pre-order your merchandise if you can!
In order to give yourself enough time to make it to the starting line, go check your gear (if needed), get pictures with the pre-race characters and stretch, you may want to get to the race start between 3:00 and 3:30 AM. We were keen on prioritizing pictures since we chose to wear costumes (which is very common if you’re new to RunDisney!), and afterward we went over to the food tent and got a cup of coffee. In addition to fun photo ops, there was a DJ playing remixed Disney songs and hyping up the crowd. Around 4:15ish, the DJ instructed all the runners to start making our way over to the corrals. Make sure your bib is clearly visible, as volunteers will need to see it to let you into the corral that matches the corresponding letter on your bib. (Note: If you are running with someone else and they are in a different corral than you, you may only run together in the same corral as the lowest ranking corral. A slower runner CANNOT move up to a higher corral.) Once the runners started making their way to the start line, the hosts of the race came to the stage near the start and continued hyping up the crowd with videos, music, and chatting up the runners. Then, fireworks were launched and the race began!
The course starts in the Epcot parking lot, spending the first 3 miles on main entrance roads before looping back toward Epcot. Entering from the backstage employee entrance near The Land Pavilion, runners enter Epcot and cross Future World, moving toward the World Showcase before exiting Epcot near the Mexico Pavilion. Miles 4-9 take runners north on the highway to the Transportation and Ticket Center, where they turn right and pass the Seven Seas Lagoon and the Contemporary Hotel heading toward the Magic Kingdom. Entering the park from an employee gate near Main Street, racers run up Main Street USA, turn right into Tomorrowland, and loop around through Toontown and Fantasyland before passing through Cinderella’s Castle. The trip through Magic Kingdom continues west through Liberty Square before exiting the park in Frontierland near Big Thunder Mountain at mile 11. The course then follows a service road to join up with the main entrance of the Grand Floridian Hotel around mile 12. From here until mile 16, runners follow the road south, before turning onto a service road leading to Animal Kingdom. (This part can be a bit tough mentally, as there are still a number of miles to cover and not a lot to see, so it can feel like you aren’t making much progress even though you are!) The end of mile 16 has runners enter Animal Kingdom from the north end of the park through a backstage entrance near Kilimanjaro Safaris, and heading east through Asia and crossing the bridge over into Dinoland USA before exiting the park through another service gate at mile 17. (A few cool things about this part of the course - because Animal Kingdom marks the halfway point in the race, some runners choose to celebrate by either riding Expedition Everest (if it’s open) or having a halfway point beer at the bar in Asia (if you can stomach it!)). Miles 17-22 take runners back along a service road and onto the highway, with a minor pitstop (and lots of weaving) through the Blizzard Beach parking lot. This part was a bit disappointing, as the year before the course allowed for runners to actually run inside Blizzard Beach, so it was a bummer to only get to see the parking lot instead. Just before mile 23, the course brings runners through a back entrance into Hollywood Studios, entering next to the Tower of Terror. The course continues toward the center of the park before exiting out another employee entrance near the park’s main gate. Runners continue along the waterway, circling around the lakeside hotels such as the Swan & Dolphin, Beach Club, and Yacht Club to follow the pedestrian walkway toward Epcot. Upon entering through the park’s International Gateway entrance, runners run along the World Showcase moving toward Mexico before returning to Future World and exiting through a service entrance near Test TRack for the final stretch back to the finish line!
Along the way, some of the character stops included:
The Mad Hatter (Alice in Wonderland)
Jiminy Cricket (Pinocchio)
Darkwing Duck (Darkwing Duck)
Jaq & Suzy (Cinderella)
Edna Mode, Mrs. Incredible, and FroZone (The Incredibles)
Figment Photo Op (Journey Into Imagination Attraction)
Dopey (Snow White & the Seven Dwarves)
Goofy in Colonial Costume (Liberty Square Land)
Wendell (Country Bear Jamboree)
Panchito & Jose on the Magic Kingdom Cavalcade Parade Float (The Three Caballeros)
Daisy on Mickey’s Celebration Parade Float
Rabbit, Piglet & Tigger (Winnie the Pooh)
The Adventurer’s Club Gang (Pleasure Island - Former Attraction)
Historic Ride Vehicles Photo Op (20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride)
Robin Hood, Little John, & Friar Tuck (Robin Hood)
Affection Section Petting Zoo Animals (Affection Section Attraction)
Timon (The Lion King)
Carl & Dug (Up)
Chip & Dale in Dino Costumes on River Raft Float (Donald’s Dino-Bash! Celebration)
Baloo (The Jungle Book)
Jessie, Bullseye, Woody & Bo Peep (Toy Story)
Chip & Dale in WDW 50th Anniversary Costumes
Citizens of Hollywood (Hollywood Studios)
Donald in Racing Costume
Phineas & Ferb (Phineas & Ferb)
Green Army Men (Toy Story)
There were plenty of volunteers out to offer water and aid, direct runners to watch out for any possible road bumps or trip hazards, and cheer us on! RunDisney volunteers are some of the best out there!
After receiving our INSANELY large and GORGEOUS medal, runners could return to the start area for more photos, music from the DJ, and food trucks. Runners also get a snack box filled with plenty of treats to refuel with! For those completing the Goofty or Dopey Challenge, volunteers will direct you to a
Tips (Buckle up, there are a LOT!)
The biggest deadline of this whole event is the registration! So mark it on your calendar and be prepared to sign up, or you may miss your chance!
Give yourself time to make it through the expo, and if you care about getting the merch you want - order ahead.
Remember to bring a fun Disney costume if you want to participate in the fun! (And be mindful of the weather too!)
Stay on property and be sure to give yourself plenty of time to take the transit to the starting line if you want pictures.
Plan ahead if you’re running with friends in different corrals - you must run with the runner in the lowest corral, no runners can move UP.
The starting line can be a bit congested, so if you’re still mindful of covid protocols, bring a mask.
Speaking of the starting line, it can be congested and dark due to the lack of lighting along the service road. Watch your step and make sure that you keep pace with the runners around you - you don’t want to get run over, or run over someone else!
Plan your time wisely if you plan to stop for character photos - for the longer races, there are “Balloon Ladies” that will remove you from the course if you fall behind the minimum 16 minute mile! Even fast runners can lose track of time if the character line is too long or moves slowly!
Overall, a RunDisney experience is a guaranteed good time, and some of my favorite racing experiences happen at RunDisney events!