This year, I ran the inaugural Dopey Challenge in Walt Disney World. For the uninitiated, that’s a whole four days of racing. You do a 5k on Thursday, a 10k on Friday, a half marathon Saturday and a whole marathon on Sunday. The fun part of it is that you get to run through all the Disney parks. I did Goofy (which is just the half and whole) last year. This year, I decided to sign up for the whole thing. Would I do it again? Probably not, but I’ll post my reflections on the whole thing on the last day.
We drove right in for the expo. The Disney Expo is the most horrible expo ever. Packet pickup is a cluster. You have to get your bib in one place, shirts in another and to get there you have to traverse the huge expo. Those doing Dopey had to go to a different building after that to get the 5k shirt. It is so annoying. By the time you pick up your packet, you’re pretty much not in the mood to do the Expo anyway.
It’s probably a good thing you are not in the mood to shop, because people descend on the Disney expo like vultures to buy up things and sell them a premium. Most of the good items are gone within hours. Dopey and Goofy stuff is normally hard to come by. I thought I had ordered pins with my registration, but didn’t. I fought the crowd and managed to get them. I had promised myself to give the expo a good look this year, but I just couldn’t do it.
I’ve been to quite a few race expos and I think Disney is the least organized I’ve been to. It’s not about the expo, but there could be more “magic” there too.
Dinner at T-Rex
After the expo, I headed to T-Rex for dinner. I had never actually eaten there and it was pretty cool. If you have kids, they’d love it. They have animatronic dinosaurs (we set by a triceratops) and meteor showers every 15 minutes or so, where the lights dim and flash. It was pretty fun and the food was good. I had Triassic tortellini and a piece of chocolate extinction.
This restaurant isn’t owned by Disney, but it is on the Disney Dining Plan. With the dining plan, you get a drink, an entree and a dessert at T-Rex. Yum!
The first day was a slightly late wake-up, compared to the other days. The 5k starts at 6:15, but using Disney transportation you probably need to wake up at 3 or 4 a.m. if you want to shower and get ready before. The other races start at 5:30 which means a 2 a.m. wake-up. Part of the fun of running Disney is the costumes, so I packed 3 and maybe a fourth, but I hadn’t decided if I would wear the fourth one or not. I decided to wear Ariel for the 5k.
There were rumors that it would rain all weekend. I hate running in the rain. It misted a little at the start for the 5k, but quickly let up. It would rain pretty hard later that day.
The 5k almost takes place completely in Epcot, which makes it a great, fast race. Some of the most boring parts of the other races are getting between parks. Once you get in a park, it’s magical. Disney is great about making parks a full sensory experience. The roads are different textures. There’s music and sound, and lots to see. It’s hard to be bored in a Disney park and running through them is no different.
The worse part about the 5k is when I saw Dopey. If you don’t know, Disney races have characters along the route. Runners can pull over and take a photo with them if they want to. Most people do with at least one character. Most of the lines aren’t that bad (maybe 5-10 minutes). I ran past Dopey and noticed the line was pretty long. I told myself not to stop, because I was making pretty good time and ran on a little past his line, then I decided that I might never see him on the runs again. I might not have the chance to get a photo with him, or it could be the marathon where I am a lot slower. Disney also has sweepers who will take you off the course if you’re too slow.
I ran back to get in line. The line was pretty long at this point and I clocked it at 25 minutes from the time I got to the back to the time I got to the front. That’s about the time it should take to run an entire 5k.
But still, it turned out to be the best chance to get a photo with him, so I’m glad I did it!
After the 5k, my mom and I headed to Epcot. I was supposed to DiveQuest, where you jump into the big Disney Aquarium and swim around with the sharks and fish. We also had reservations for Coral Reef restaurant that night. It was raining so we didn’t hit Epcot very hard. It started pouring and we wandered into Coca-Cola’s Ice Station. I have been to Epcot a lot, and didn’t even realize that was there. We wasted some time sampling sodas and then headed to the Living Seas, so I could show my mom where I’d be. I headed to the front of the park to meet my DiveQuest cast member.
DiveQuest as a lot of fun, but it was crowded and your actual time in the tank is about 40 minutes. I had 17 people on my trip and the tank, though huge, was pretty crowded. It is fun to wave to people in the restaurant and make little kids laugh. It’s also pretty neat to dive with sharks. You can purchase a video at the end, and almost everyone did.
Coral Reef restaurant was also nice, but you’re paying mostly for atmosphere. We ended up on a table right next to the tank. The cast member said, “How lucky! You are close as you can get to the tank sitting here.” I said, “That’s not true. I’ve been closer. I was diving in there just an hour ago.” He laughed and asked if that was expensive to do, and how much training you had to have to do SCUBA.
To be honest, the food was only so-so. I don’t know if I would have eaten here at all without the dining plan. I got the marinated grilled vegetables and the chocolate wave. That would have been around $30 without the dining plan. I guess by Disney sit-down standards, that’s average, but I am not sure I would pay that without the plan. It is definitely a cool place and I love sitting by the tank and watching the animals swim by.
After an early dinner, we decided to go back to the room and rest up. Tomorrow was the 10k and that means a super early wake-up call.