Welcome to the first part of my Dopey Challenge 2019 trip report! This was one of the craziest weeks of my life and I can’t wait to write all about it. To make it a bit easier to digest the trip report will be split into 5 parts:
- Expo and 5k (this part)
- Half Marathon
- Final Thoughts
This trip actually started the day before the expo so I’ll just briefly go over my travel day. I flew out to Orlando on the 8th January flying in economy with Virgin Atlantic from Gatwick.
The flight was on time and comfortable, really all you can ask for! I got really lucky with immigration and baggage and found myself heading to Magical Express about 45 minutes after landing. Unfortunately there was a fairly long wait for a bus and my resort, Art of Animation (full review coming), was the last drop off. I had plans to go to Epcot that night to watch Illuminations but by the time I got to my room that realistically wasn’t going to happen. Therefore I decided just to head to the Landscape of Flavours food court for some dinner before bed. I settled on the Asian Chicken Bowl for $9.99.
This was genuinely delicious and definitely one of my favourite and best value quick service meals at Disney World. The portion was huge, the chicken had a nice slightly sweet sauce and it had actual fresh vegetables with it. A total winner, especially when a little bit of sriracha sauce was added to it.
That was pretty much it for my travel day. I had my first night tradition of watching the must do’s at Walt Disney World on the resort TV and headed to sleep just before 11pm.
Part 1 – Expo and 5k
Wednesday 9th January – Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend Expo
As is typical for the first morning in Florida I woke up at about 4am, then 5am, then 6am. I eventually got out of bed, had a quick bagel for breakfast and headed to the expo buses at around 7.30am. The Run Disney merchandise was due to go on sale to the public at 10am but as I had purchased the Race Retreat package (which I will review fully in the final thoughts blog post) I had access at 9am.
The check in process was quick and seamless and I joined the not too long queue to enter the merchandise area.
We were actually allowed in about 8.45am and I was immediately overwhelmed when I walked in. My only previous Run Disney experience was in Paris for the 2018 run weekend and the merchandise experience there was lackluster at best. Pins aside, the merchandise was either lacking in choice or just downright awful.
This however was a completely different ball game. They had tshirts, jackets, decorations, pins, mugs, spirit jerseys, hats, sweat bands, running phone holders and so much more. Not only that, for some of these items they had different ones for every race and challenge. The choice was incredible and it took a huge amount of self control not to just spend myself into bankruptcy. In the end I settled on the following things (apart from the pins the prices are before tax and before my 20% AP Discount).
Run Disney Spirit Jersey – $64.99
Marathon Jacket – $89.99
Dopey I Did It! T shirt – $36.99
Run Disney T shirt – $39.99
Marathon Weekend Tervis Water Bottle – $29.99
Dopey Challenge Statue – $26.99
Dopey Challenge Pin Collection – $69.28
Marathon Weekend Passholder Pin – $17.18
With my credit card well and truly on ice I headed over to collect my bibs and race t shirts. Again this process went incredibly smoothly and quickly, but unfortunately when I received my shirts I found that the long sleeve tees were way too big for me. I joined the queue for shirt exchange but ended up being at the mercy of the other people trading their shirts in too. It took a long, long time for someone to trade in a set of mens small shirts but after an hour or so I got lucky and was on my way.
I’d read in the expo guide that a character meet was scheduled to happen at the expo and from asking a cast member found out it was due to start at about midday. At this point that was only 20 minutes away so I grabbed a drink and waited for my first character meet of the trip – with Mickey! He loved my tshirt and was very amused at the fact he was on the back as well as the front!
My day got a bit weird after this. I stupidly thought that I could go straight from the expo to Magic Kingdom for the rest of the day, despite having a frankly ridiculous amount of shopping on me. The expo buses weren’t running straight to the parks so I got onto a bus to Wilderness Lodge with the intention of eating lunch and going to Magic Kingdom from there. I’d never visited this resort before and oh my it is stunning!
The quick service option at Wilderness Lodge is Roaring Fork. Still mourning the loss of the chicken and waffles at Backlot Express there was only one thing I’d be ordering here.
This was fantastic although I actually prefer the chicken nuggets to these chicken strips.
At this point the reality of trying to get on stuff like Space Mountain with all this luggage was starting to dawn on me so a quick change of plan was needed. I jumped in a Lyft back to my resort, dumped the bags, and was finally at Magic Kingdom just after 3pm.
This is a Run Disney trip report so I won’t go into my day here too much. It was a quick few hours full of hitting up my favourites (Splash Mountain, Space Mountain, Carousel of Progress etc.) but as it got into the early evening I couldn’t get my 2.30am wake up call for the 5k out of my mind. Because of that I ended up leaving the park just after 6pm and headed back to the resort for some perfect pre-race fuel – Disney chicken nuggets!
Thursday 10th January – Oswald 5k
My alarm went off at 2.30am and, after briefly questioning my life choices for the first time this weekend, I was up and getting ready. I had another quick bagel and was on the bus right around 3am. The buses weren’t meant to start leaving for Epcot from the resorts until 3.30am but mine actually left about 3.10am. This meant the whole area was nearly deserted when my bus arrived. I took advantage of the almost non existent character lines and met Minnie and Dopey before heading to the corrals!
The corrals opened at just after 4.15am. I was in the same corral as Steven and Christian for this race and we all “briskly walked” to the corral and made it to the front of A without too much trouble. Then the long wait began. Disney tried their best with the entertainment but there was no escaping the fact that it was pretty cold that morning. Those foil blankets really come in handy. Eventually though we were led round to the starting position and, after some announcements and the national anthem, we were off!
This morning’s route wasn’t too complicated. We started in the Epcot car park, staying outside the park for the first mile before heading around World Showcase and finally through Future World to the finish line.
I started off at a good pace, quickly working my way through the first mile and only stopping for my first character meet of the weekend – Atta and Flik from A Bug’s Life!
The rest of the first mile was fairly nondescript, backstage roads are backstage roads at the end of the day. Thankfully though we were soon off the backstage route and into World Showcase.
Before I get into the characters I met I just have to say Epcot looked absolutely beautiful. It was so early in the morning that the nighttime lighting was still in full effect and I just ran around the lake in awe of how stunning World Showcase looked.
Back to the characters! I didn’t stop for all the characters inside Epcot, skipping those I’d met several times before like Genie. I did stop for these though:
Pinocchio in Italy
Scottish Goofy (!) – an actual dream come true
And finally, near Test Track in Future World, Racing Donald!
One of the benefits of being at the front of corral A is there was almost no wait for any character on the whole route. The longest I waited was about 30 seconds to meet Scottish Goofy. Because of that I finished way quicker than I had intended, coming across the line in just under 28 minutes including stopping for characters.
Finishing near the front of the pack meant that the character lines were virtually non existent, so I had to get a quick medal picture with the main man for this race – Oswald.
I’m glad I went when I did, the line reached over an hour later in the morning as more people crossed the finish line.
I wandered over to the bus area where I was confronted with the one downside to finishing early. The final corral hadn’t started setting off yet, and the running route blocked the bus route. That was a cold half an hour or so waiting for the final wave to be on their way.
A quick bus hop back to Art of Animation and I was tucked in bed again before 8am. I had a few hours sleep and then spent the rest of the day in Epcot which was quieter than I’ve seen it in years and years. Many fastpasses, snacks, and a sad last viewing of Illuminations later, I was back in bed just after 10pm – ready for another early wake up call and the 10k which was awaiting me the next morning.
Thanks for reading, be sure to keep up with my social media posts on Twitter (@davidatdisney) to find out as soon as the next instalment is posted.