I finished my race recaps from marathon weekend this week, but wanted to give a few final thoughts on my experience with the runDisney Dopey Challenge and marathon weekend as a whole. Overall I had a very positive experience with a few minor snags along the way.
With any inaugural event you can expect there to be some issues, so I try not to judge too harshly the first year. The test will come next year when we see if runDisney fixes any of the problems. They have a good track record or listening to the runners and making positive changes, so I am hopeful. I think for an event of this magnitude it was handled very well, and to be honest I feel like there is a lot of negativity in the blog and social media world right now about runDisney, so I wanted to give my perspective on the good and the bad.
Courses: The half course will always be a favorite, I love running through the castle, and turning onto Main Street still gives me goose bumps. I also really enjoyed the full marathon course, I am so glad they decided to re-use the special 20th anniversary course, it was way more entertaining than the “old” course. Running on the speedway and adding in the sports complex helps break up those long stretches of road. The 10k course really underwhelmed me. I had such high expectations after the Disneyland 10k, and was kind of bummed. The best part was running on the Boardwalk, there were so many spectators out! The 5k course is the same course that has been used many times, maybe it’s time for a new one through another park? EPCOT is beautiful in the dark, but if you ran the 5k and 10k you ran much of the same course. I LOVED that the torches were lit going around World Showcase though, way cool.
Characters: For the full marathon, I felt like there were a good amount of characters on the course. We took plenty of pictures, and didn’t even stop for every one of the characters. The half course felt like it had less than I have seen in years past (though I cannot verify this) and the 5k course I believe had 3 stops if I remember correctly, possibly 4? (I ran by one stop and there was a line but no character was out!) I would love to get some hard numbers on this to know if there really were less or if it was just my imagination. I again enjoyed having a cast member at each stop to take our photo.
Corrals: Oh the dreaded corrals. Having one bib for the half AND full pushed me into the correct corral for the full, but put me in a corral an hour off for the half. We had to nearly walk the first 1.5 miles of the race and I was very, very frustrated. We ran in the grass several times to try to get around a very congested course, and really feel that this is an issue that needs to be fixed for Dopey next year. Maybe have one corral for the half and a different for the full? Same thing happened in the 5k. I was in a corral where people started walking immediately from the start, 3-5 people across, right in the middle (Again please don’t misunderstand, there is nothing wrong with walking a race if you are in the right corral and stay to one side). I also asked many, many people what times they put down for the Dopey challenge, and I would venture to say 60-70% of the people I talked to lied about their finish times to get put in a further up corral. I feel that if Track Shack would have verified finish times like they claimed they would, this wouldn’t have happened. It’s a safety issue to have people in the incorrect place and it can slow down and bottleneck the course if enough people do it.
Aid/Volunteers: Were awesome as usual. SO many volunteers, SO many water stops and med tents were helpful. I loved how encouraging the volunteers were, many calling out to me by name. So thankful for these folks to help make the races run smoothly!
Expo: I felt the expo was much more organized and lines were not as long. I hope this trend continues. I did hear a lot of merchandise still sold out very early, so hopefully this is remedied (and for the love Pete, PLEASE make a DISHWASHER SAFE mug! Really don’t think that’s too much to ask!)
Price: Was Dopey expensive? Absolutely. But no one forced me to sign up, I did it on my own, times two. (yes I love running with Bobby but everything is doubled when we both run!) Did I cringe when I hit submit? You bet. It sucked. But I knew what I was getting into, and I knew exactly what I was getting for the money and still chose it. Because of the price, we chose to forgo any extras like race retreat, pasta party, and only bought three days of park tickets when we were there for six nights. Those are all unnecessary extras that just make the overall cost even higher. (Don’t get me wrong they are a fun treat but not necessary to have a fulfilling or successful race experience).
Questions people have asked me:
Did you go to the parks? Yes, but not every day. We decided we would go on the 5k and 10k days, and then rest on the half and full days, and go again Monday before we left on Tuesday. This worked well for us, we were able to nap a couple times, take it easy, and just relax while not sacrificing out favorite rides and attractions.
What did you eat in Disney? I tried to be a little more careful than usual, but we still indulged in many of our favorite treats, I just tried not to eat as much/overindulge. I drank lots of water during the day and at the parks, and we ate a banana and cliff bar in the mornings before the races. I didn’t drink alcohol the night before the half or full, and we went to bed as early as possible.
What are your thoughts on race prices going up and up? Do I hate it? Absolutely. Can I fault them? Absolutely not. runDisney is a business, and I wish I had a business where I could keep raising my rates and have my product sell out in 42 minutes! I will not be running every runDisney race, I will be picking and choosing, which is fine. There are other races I want to run in other destinations, but I will always try to run at least one runDisney race a year, two if I am lucky. It’s a choice we all make. Some people choose to buy expensive art for their homes, some buy expensive jewelry while others have a big wine collection. We all spend out money on something, and I choose to run races, even expensive ones. It’s just personal preference, so I don’t shun people for choosing to run or not to run. (By the way has anyone looked at the price of running an Ironman, a one day event? $400-$700 and you get one medal!! Makes a 4 day event like Dopey with 6 medals not look so bad.)
Will you run Dopey again? Probably not, and it has nothing to do with anything runDisney did or didn’t do, I simply do not enjoy full marathons (in particular, full marathon training). It is a time suck, and I always end up getting injured, so I think I will stick to halfs and fun challenges like Glass Slipper or Dumbo for now.
What was your favorite part? That’s tough, I enjoyed so many things about the weekend! I loved getting to hang out with so many of my friends that I have met online, meet readers, and of course spend time with my hubby in my favorite place. Being around so many like minded runners was so much fun, I simply love the atmosphere of runDisney race weekends. Crossing the finish line on Sunday is pretty high up there as well.
In closing, I just want to say I think it’s fine and even good and constructive to talk about concrete things that need to be fixed with the races, but I see a lot of negativity about things that aren’t really “wrong” or aren’t runDisney’s fault. Do they have some work to do, especially when it comes to Dopey, crowding, and corrals? Absolutely. Can they control weather, drama online, or the fact that the races are so popular they are selling out quicker than people can register? No way. Let’s all remember that this is supposed to be a FUN thing and that every mile is MAGIC! I definitely had my moments of frustration over the weekend and during the races, but I chose to shake it off so I could soak it all in and enjoy the experience. I reminded myself how lucky I was to be up on two healthy legs, running 48.6 miles in the most magical and fun place.
Dopey was an AMAZING experience, and I am so, so glad I signed up and was able to race with my husband. It is a weekend we will never forget, and I hope one day you, too have the chance to run it if it’s your dream!
QOTD: If you ran Dopey, what are your thoughts? Do you want to run Dopey? How do you feel about race prices going up or about any race organization fixing problems?
***Disclosure: I paid for my ENTIRE trip to Disney World for marathon weekend myself. This includes Hotel, park tickets, race registrations, and food. I speak from my heart no matter the situation, but I felt it was important to disclose this.