THE DISNEY DOPEY TRAINING PROGRAM
5K+ 10K + 13.1 + 26.2=MAGICAL!
And 48.6 miles over four days!
Disney Races are truly magical events. After all, where else can you start under fireworks, kiss Prince Charming, joke around with Phineas and Ferb, and Let It Go with Elsa, then cross a finish line and receive some serious bling?
There’s always a but, though, and this is a big BUT.
46.8 miles over four days will not be magical if you are not properly prepared. If you’re slogging through the miles and barely able to muster a smile—let alone a bicep curl—for a shot with Wreck-It-Ralph, your Dopey extravaganza will be truly memorable. Just not for the right reasons.
Preparation for such a unique event isn’t just about the running, although we certainly have plenty that in this Challenge: it’s about also proper nutrition during training; foam rolling, strength training, and self-care over the months leading up being Dopey; sleep strategies (four days straight of 2 a.m. alarms, anybody?); and having a game plan when you hit the parks, post-races.
With this 26-week, very hands-on Challenge, we’ve got your back and are laying a white-glove-clad, oversize hand firmly on it. The training plan we’ve created emphasizes endurance and time on your feet: the two keys you’ll need to run every mile with a smile. We’ll cover nutrition, so when you come home from a 20 miler, you’re not hangry and don’t gobble up everything in sight. We’ll make sure your hips and glutes, typically the weak spots for most runners, are rock solid. We’ll have some fun too, brainstorming costume ideas and ideas for family time at the parks, post-races. We'll entertain and educate you with exclusive weekly podcasts. And of course we’ll hit race strategies so that you not only enjoy your Dopey Challenge, you’ll nearly fly during each mile. You feel primed and totally ready to run a 5K, then a 10K, then a half-marathon, then a marathon—no pixie dust required.
The end result? 48.6 magical miles, six well-earned medals around your neck and a smile on your face that will remain for weeks post-Dopey.
This plan fits nearly any runner who is going 48.6 miles in Disney: advanced beginner; experienced; coming back from injury; just had a baby; irritated by running because of said injury, expectations, aging.
You do not have to have previous marathon or extensive running experience, although we won’t lie: We kind of hope you have run a marathon and have been running for a few years before taking on Dopey, which challenges all athletes.
At a minimum, you need to be able to jog for 60 consecutive minutes to be able to thrive on this plan.
With the exception of long runs on the weekend, every workout is measured in minutes, not miles. You’ll run five days a week, with one day of optional easy cross training like a yoga or Pilates class. Most of your weekday runs will not go over 60 minutes, but your long runs are, not surprisingly, long. You’ll cover 20 miles twice, and hit an 18-miler, as well as 19 miler. Don’t freak; all are an easy effort and surprisingly doable. Speedwork is minimal in this plan, as it focuses on maximizing your endurance. You'll also have three weeks where you run four days in a row, to mimic the mental and physical demands of Dopey.
For 16 of the 26 weeks, we are going to cram in as much cardiovascular preparation as possible without risking injury. How are we going to do that? Evening walks, which will range from 20 to 60 minutes. The walks don’t require you to change your outfit, although you might need to change your shoes. In fact, they’re perfect for time to catch up with your family or a friend or a four-legged.
Because Dopey is all about endurance, this plan is based on heart-rate training. For nearly every mile, you’ll aim to keep your heart rate at or under 140 beats per minute (bpm). Why 140? Based on Maffetone’s Formula (180-age, with a few qualifications), 140 is a solid number that works for nearly every body. Keeping your heart rate under 140 greatly expands your cardiovascular/aerobic base, greatly decreases your chances of injury, significantly lessens post-run fatigue, and makes running feel very doable and even fun. (Even 48.6 miles! Truly!)
Fair warning: Your initial pace at 140 bpm will surprise you. You will likely be 2-3 minutes slower than your current average run pace, and you’ll walk quite a bit to keep your heart rate within range, especially when you climb hills. You will be frustrated and possibly teary and maybe even think about dropping the program.
We’ll keep you going, though, and your average speed at 140 bpm will begin to increase. Over the following 26 weeks, you will morph into a cardio monster who can run for hours and hours with no pain and no anguish. Your Dopey experience will be a blast because you’ve committed the time, effort, and resources to maximizing your four events.
Mentally, you’ll feel like you’re flying as high as Tinkerbell and physically, you’ll be compared to Snow White’s Happy—at least until you layer on your six medals. At that point, your neck might be a wee bit uncomfortable!
You need to please:
- Be able to currently jog for 60 minutes without stopping.
- Own a heart rate monitor and wear it all the time while training. The majority of your time, you’ll be training with a heart rate <140.
- Be able to say adios to your ego and put your pace expectations away for this training cycle. Your training splits will likely be 2-3 minutes slower than they currently are. You will be passed by other (#uncoached, #unloved) runners who have no idea of the physiological magic you’re creating. You will think people in cars are talking about your turtle-like speed. (They aren’t, but it’ll feel like that.) For at least the first six weeks, you will likely walk up most hills and take regular walk breaks. Race pace will be a different thing, and we’ll cover that in depth, but your training is going to be s.l.o.w. Remember, you’ll have a group of #motherrunners doing the exact same thing, so you’ll have plenty of camaraderie and compassion.
- Have time—and patience—to devote to 26 weeks of training. During week one, you’ll run for 2 hours, 50 minutes over the course of five workouts. During weeks 16 and 20, the biggest weeks of training, you’ll be running for three hours, forty-five minutes plus 20 miles. The longest run distances are two, 20-mile runs.