It’s called the Dopey Challenge, and while the name is supposed to pay homage to one of the Seven Dwarfs, the folks competing in it sometimes start to wonder if it applies to them.
Held last weekend as part of the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend in Orlando, the Dopey Challenge dares participants to run all four of the weekend’s events: a 5K on Thursday, 10K on Friday, half marathon on Saturday and the marathon on Sunday. That’s 48.6 miles of legwork in all.
“You get excited,” said Carlos Font, who this year competed in the challenge for the fifth time. “The gun goes off, and everyone’s running. You tend to forget that you have to run the next day.”
The challenge was first held in 2014. Nearly 6,300 challengers entered this year out of the total of 50,000 runners representing 47 countries who signed up to run over the weekend.
The challengers’ attitude is different from other races, said Leah Moroney, who has competed in all six of them. During the marathon, for instance, she took a break to try out Expedition Everest, a thrill ride in Animal Kingdom.
“We literally stopped running, paused our watches and got on the roller coaster,” she said. “Riding roller coasters just gives you a little adrenaline push, and it does. I was like, ‘Oh, man, I feel ready to keep on going.’ ”
The runs are held before the park opens to the public, which means there are no lines to get on the rides. The downside of that is that the starring gun goes off at 5:30 a.m.
“The most difficult part is getting up so early four days in a row,” said Tricia Carbone, another six-challenge veteran.
Nonetheless, she keeps coming back.
“I find the challenge is actually easier to do the four [races] than it is to do just the one or do two,” she said. “I know that makes no sense.”
The motivation behind attempting the challenge varies, but the medals are a nice bonus. Dopey finishers bring home six of them: a medal for each of the four races, one for completing the Dopey Challenge and another for finishing the Goofy Challenge (the half marathon/marathon combo). They also get six participant T-shirts.
“I love getting lots of medals,” Moroney said. “That’s kind of what started it, and now I have this weird obsession.”
While the physical and mental toll is undeniable, crossing that finish line on the final day provides a jolt more profound than any coaster and emotions able to cancel out most discomfort, at least in the moment.
Font called it “a euphoric feeling.”
“It’s the feeling of knowing I did something that I wanted to do for a long time, and I didn’t know if I could do it,” Carbone said. “When I did, I was just really proud. I felt like I could do anything at that point, because I made it through this.”